Since I’ll spend all future posts reviewing future restaurants, I wanted to take one post to look at the past and talk about the places I never say no to (and the places I never say yes to). So without further ado, here is the permanent positive list:
- Boundary Stone: OK, so I am a regular here. It’s my neighborhood place. It’s where I go when I want to go where everybody knows my name. But the food is always on-point and the whiskey list is only topped by a few other places (ahem, Jack Rose). They deserve an A- in food, A in whiskey, A+ in proximity to my home.
- Mandalay: While not technically in DC, my husband and I stumbled on this place by accident a few years ago and it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I take all out of town guests here for the spiciest food they’ve ever had. Special props go to their Nan Jhi Thoke, their signature Burmese dish. It is worth the drive/metro to Silver Spring for this place. Mandalay earns an A in burning your mouth off.
- Panda Gourmet: Yes, the sketchy-looking place next to the Day’s Inn on New York Avenue. This is the only places to get authentic, or really even good, Chinese food in DC. Come here with a bunch of friends so that you can try a little of everything–the menu is extensive. A-.
- Daikaya: Do you like ramen? Do you like Backstreet Boys sing-alongs? Then this is the place for you.
- Steel Plate: The service is slow, but I like to think of it as European. Enjoy the food, enjoy the company, and ask for the check when you’re ready. Their rabbit poutine is oustanding.
- Cafe Berlin: Great service, authentic food from a real German chef, and ridiculous portions.
- El Centro DF: I first came here not too long ago, begrudgingly, and expecting it to be overpriced faux-Mexican food prepared and served by gringos. I was pleasantly surprised by how it defied every assumption I had made about it. Mezcal flights are a big draw too. A for authenticity.
- Komi: This place is in a different league than the others previously listed, but I had the greatest meal of my life here several years ago and I’ve been chasing that high ever since (not to be found at any other place). A+!
- Iron Gate: The food is always incredible and the atmosphere can’t be beat. We had a particularly great time here during a Christmas Eve prix fixe meal. Solid A. Never had a bad dish here.
- The Sovereign: This is a bit of a lie because the last time I was here, the service was incredibly negligent considering that there were only two tables seated in the entire restaurant, but I’ve always been blown away by the food and the beer list. Definite A- for food, potential B in service but will give them another chance.
And now, the permanent B-list (“B” stands for “Banned”):
- Big Board: This was the first place to be permanently banned in my household. How can a place that cooks only burgers not figure out how to cook a burger? The variable beer pricing is also gimmicky, and the beer is never actually cheap, it just wavers between kind of expensive and really expensive. C for food, D for stupid gimmick.
- The Pub and the People: I don’t get the hype. Perhaps this place isn’t so bad, but with the crowd they constantly attract, it should be better. B for food, B- for service.
- Sally’s Middle Name: This place is the Zooey Deschanel of restaurants; all quirky style, no substance. All of their food tasted like it was made my someone who skipped Seasoning 101 in culinary school. Why did they waste perfectly good ingredients on something that wasn’t salted?
- The Brixton: I’ve never actually eaten here and I never will. One night, while here with my friends, I ordered an Old Fashioned from the bar. The bartender told me that they couldn’t make me an Old Fashioned because it was “too busy.” What. It has 4 ingredients (if you count ICE) and you don’t even have to shake it. Also, YOU ARE A BAR. Brixton earns an F in serving alcohol, the thing that is literally their entire job.
- Minibar: Controversial, yes. I’m a Jose Andres fangirl, but this place charges $1000 for a weird (and, at times, uncomfortable) experience, not for good eats. It’s interesting, I don’t regret it, but never again. A for effort (?), C in cost-benefit analysis.