Dear PoP/Friday Question of the Day

IMG_4439, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

I watch the this show on The Food Network called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, hosted by Guy Fieri. The places featured are recommended by viewers. I have often wondered, if people around here (DC and surrounding locales) could recommend a restaurant to be featured on the show, what would that restaurant be? I struggle to think of place that is as eclectic, charming and also ahs amazing food as the places on the show. Could you ask your readers what they think? I ask because I would love to go places like those featured on this show.

If I am being vague or did not describe this well, let me know and I will clarify. Here is link to the show:”

I would vote for the Florida Avenue Grill (photographed above). Can you think of restaurants in the DC area that are “eclectic, charming and also have amazing food”?

93 Comment

  • I agree with places like Florida Avenue Grill and Ben’s, but I’m afraid this post is just gonna elicit the negative hater comments about how DC sucks compared to their random hometown bla bla bla. Ill check back tomorrow knowing I’m right

  • Have you ever been to the florida avenue grill? I assumed it would be amazing given the ‘world famous’ moniker on the sign and the fact that it had been around for so long, but I still talk about the place to this day as the most disgusting meal I’ve ever had. Try the chicken sandwich. And by sandwich I mean a fried piece of undercooked chicken, cold, on the bone, on top of a single slice of dried out white bread.

  • I’d vote for Bob & Edith’s Diner by the Pentagon.

  • Horace & Dickies was featured on a Food Network show, but the name escapes me. They do one thing (fish sandwiches) and they do it pretty well. Pasta Plus in Laurel was also featured, but that’s hardly DC. Ben’s has been done to death. I lost track of how many shows that’s been on. Samantha Brown did Etete, but I wouldn’t call it eclectic or charming. Oohs & Aahs gets mentioned a lot, but I prefer the food at Levi’s Port Cafe and Wilson’s near Howard U. How about Henry’s at 17th and U? Kickass fried chicken and sweet potato pie. And it’s pretty divey, too.

    I think Deli City is it: the place used to be a gas station, but they turn out THE BEST reuben sandwich this side of Katz’s. The customers are either workers at the Metro repair shop or foodies, the lady at the cash register is older than God, the staff is painfully sweet, and the dude roasting the brisket is about as gruff as they come. But the sandwich is obscene: fall-apart tender corned beef, russian dressing, sauerkraut, melting swiss on buttered and grilled rye bread. If you haven’t had it, you’re missing out.

  • Ahoy !

    If they could get some local help in their struggle opening up, Matt Ashburn and Patrick Carl’s Capital City Diner could use the publicity after dragging an authentic prefabricated diner from Avoca in up state New York early this Spring to our Trinidad neighborhood -nice local story.

    The Tastee Diner greasy spoon just North of Petworth up Georgia Avenue on Cameron Street in Silver Spring is show worthy. SInce 1946, it’s our only remaining genuine prefabricated diner in the Washington area built by the Jerry O’Mahoney Diner Company.

    Another good show story line and a shorter drag:

    Reformed Somali Pirate “Tantum Eruditi Sunt Liberi”

  • There’s always Jimmy T’s on the hill.

  • I agree about the Florida Avenue Grill…we went to grab breakfast, and it was really gross. Seems to have lost some of it’s charm/edible food.

  • Florida Ave Grill is absolutely disgusting and i agree with all of the prior posts…my clothes stenched for the rest of the day of the dirty deep fryer clean-once-a-month smell…. I still cant get the picture out of my mind of my friend ordering a coffee and when he went to take a sip, notices that the pink plastic cup hasnt been washed properly (or at all) and has dried egg on the sipping part….ughhhh…

  • It goes against the grain, I know, but I now offer a positive vibe. Don’t be afraid, this won’t hurt a bit:

    Florida Ave. Grill still has some love over here…
    [stands at attention, faces south, salutes rigidly, tear in corner of left eye]
    The Florida Avenue Grill remains good and solid and wholly awesome, in my experience, let the record show. Particularly the breakfast.

    I have spoken.

  • Totally agree on the love for Deli City and Wilson’s by Howard.

    Oohs and Ahs has a number of consistently awesome dishes (I love that blackened trout) but it falls down on others. Plus, with only three stools by the kitchen, it is hard to call this a diner.

    Anybody remember Nick Rinaldi’s bowling alley on South Glebe Road in Arlandria? There was a diner a few doors down from that which had basic diner food done just right. It was run by a Russian family, I think.

    I used to live a block from Florida Ave Grill and I really wanted to love it. I gave it about a dozen attempts and, while I liked the staff and enjoyed sitting at the counter with a paper and a cup of coffee, the food was just not good.

  • The Hitching Post (200 Upshur St. NW) blows Florida Ave Grill out of the water!

  • A bit farther afield, in Annapolis is Chick and Ruth’s Delly

    Also, in Baltimore, Pete’s Grill (recent fame for feeding Michael Phelps during his early training days).

  • Mangialardo’s.

    Go there any day during the week and be prepared to line up behind construction workers, emts, cops, and firemen. On one of the walls is a board decorated with all types of service-people patches. To be fair, there were also regular folks from the neighborhood and hill staffers.

    I’ve lived in the neighborhood for years and my only disappointment is that they close at 3pm during the week and are closed on weekends, and that it’s a cash only business.
    But, the Meatball sub (with peppers, onions, cheese, on a hard roll) makes up for their flaws. Friendly staff, fast service, great subs, instant food coma.

  • I would add Tastee Diner in downtown Bethesda. It’s a good ole’ fashion greasy spoon, which immediately makes you forget that you’re even up there.

  • Ah…Triple D, one of my favorite shows! Not sure of many places in DC that fit the mold for this show. The FAG and Ben’s are decent enough, but I don’t think they do anything special enough to fit on the show. Ben’s has chili and they put it on stuff. FAG serves decent breakfast food and few other items. Through my travels for work I have gone to about a half dozen of the places he has been to and most of them had really exceptional food.

  • I forgot; Granville Moore’s was on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and actually won the mussles contest.

  • I’m a big fan of the Lincoln House Restaurant & Deli. Its on the same block downtown as the tourist bait souvenier shops but every time I’ve been in there the service has been great and the food has been good, cheap, and plentiful.

  • Woodside Deli on Georgia Ave in Silver Spring, right before the beltway is pretty good. Also the Parkway Deli on Grubb Road off of East-West Highway in Silver Spring. The Parkway Deli has a pickle bar! Yum!

  • As stated before, DC is simply not a foodie town. I don’t know if i attribute that to the transplant/transient lifestyle or what but everything here with the exception of the Etophian and 3am giant slices of pizza is subpar.

  • Taking DC separately from Baltimore (which I feel is necessary for this discussion because the food cultures, particularly in this regard, are pretty different) I’ll second many mentioned here: Grubb Rd. Deli, Deli City, Jimmy T’s (which I wrote about here:, Bob & Edith’s, Horace & Dickies… I’d add Amphora out in Vienna, I don’t think I’d include Mangialardo’s (mostly because I just don’t think it’s that great. It’s fine, but Litteri’s does it better, and then at that point, do you add the Italian Store in Arlington? I don’t know). The Waffle Shop, maybe? If they were still in their old location they’d be a shoo-in (@ Flipfloppirate, is that what you’re talking about?). There’s Pete’s on the Hill, on 2nd SE and while their sweet potato pancakes don’t suck, they’re nothing to write home about either. The Royal in Old Town keeps coming to mind, but I’m not sure they qualify (although, my dad is a fan and he pretty much hates everything that isn’t a diner, a dive or a drive through).

    I need to think more on this.

  • Jason…

    Sorry to sound like a turd BUT you must be an idiot… no doubt DC is different from some older east coast burgs but my god if you think DC is not a foodie town these days you really have to get out more…

  • I second Jason’s comment. DC is just simply not a foodie town. There are plenty of wannabe’s, and it’s certainly improved in the last decade, but it still falls way short. I’ve dined at just about every single place in the metro area over the past 25 years and again, it’s better than it used to be but completely behind most other major cities in the country and some smaller ones. Richmond for example is a much better eating town than DC.

  • Richmond for example is a much better eating town than DC.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHA! AHAHAHAHA! HA! HA! Stop it! You’re killing me!

  • Oh I also forgot to plug MGM Roast Beef on Bladensburg Road in NE near the main post office — this place makes a mean sandwich — with very high quality meat — and serves breakfast all day as well. It is also clean and has counter and booth service — check it out next time you swing by the Home Depot in NE. And here is a question for the PoP crowd: Does anyone know of the sandwich speakeasy on Rhode Island Ave NE in Brookland? According to a source there is a place near the MD line that doesn’t have a sign — the only sign of life is the line out the door — the owner apparently can make one hell of a sub…

  • I got to show some love for the Argonaut here.

  • That TV show seems to focus more on “marquee dives” a la Ben’s Chilli Bowl. I think it’s unlikely they’d go anywhere near a place as obscure as Hitching Post or Florida Ave. Grill (even if the food was great). And does Ben’s need any more pub?

    My theory on the reason DC is such a bad food town is because there are not enough middle class folks willing to open and operate unique, small restaurants living here. That’s the biggest difference between this city and most others with good food traditions – the middle class leaving took more than the tax base, it took a lot of the businesses too. There just is not enough incentive (i.e paying patrons) to lure them in from the ‘burbs. Maybe if the middle class grows more in the city we’ll see a change because hardly anyone who can make six figures sitting at a desk is going to run a grill 80 hours a week. I’ll admit that the pathetic state BBQ in this town has caused me to daydream about Oden’s Icehouse and Pit BBQ, but I am too fucking lazy to do it. I’d rather just have BBQ nonpareil for my compadres in the backyard smoker.

  • The Hitching Post and Wilson’s get my vote.

  • @oldmanclem, I love the Argo too, but by no means is it a diner, a dive or a drive in. It’s sorta’ divey, but not in the vein of what I think the questioner is looking for. The menu definitely doesn’t qualify. (But, I’ll give you the crooked floors and the booths in the downstairs bar!)

  • @Nichole

    Affirmative, Lincoln House Restaurant = Lincoln Waffle Shop. (Per Google: 504 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004-1401)

  • Anon 9:48…

    Are you kidding me? You have dined in almost ALL the restaurants in the DC area in the past 25 years — gimme a break! Not only have hundreds (if not thousands) of places opened/changed during that window BUT even so… You have no credibility after that comment… Look the bottom line is that DC like every other city has strengths and weaknesses — get over it! But really I have to question how much you have been around — DC has incredible food variety and, more importantly, it gets better year over year. And, for what it’s worth, DC is eating everyone else’s lunch right now since unlike most other towns quality chefs and restaurants are still opening new places here… On as serious note, it is sad and amazing how many people casually dis this city.

  • The DC area (including MD and VA) has a lot of food variety, but in many cases it takes a lot of work to seek them out (ie: they’re not easily accesible via Metro, don’t deliver, etc). I would recommend Tyler Cowen’s Food Blog for inspiration.

  • Al, I’m glad you like what you get around here. Continue to enjoy it. I’ve been eating out in DC for a long time, and I do it a lot. I try out pretty much every new place and I seek out the best of all kinds of food in the city and the suburbs. I’ve truly eaten at just about every establishment (of course not ALL of them). I stand by my comment. Celebrity chefs do not a good food town make. It’s the food that matters, and while there are a smattering of really good spots around here, most other cities of note are head and shoulders above. Maybe that will change over time.

  • Anon 10:23…

    We agree to disagree then BUT “smattering…head and shoulders…” Balderdash!

  • ‘Nonmiss: If you have to resort to “seeking them out” then using the term “a lot” is pretty ironic. Since I’ve lived here the common cop out is “well all the good stuff is in the suburbs,” but I’m growing even more dubious of that statement on some fronts.

    For example, the WaPo and other “authorities” have raved about Urban BBQ over in Maryland. It’s pretty dire. Their brisket appeared to be baked in an oven. I’m not kidding. They slathered the brisket with sauce before they served it to try and cover up this travesty, to no avail. The pulled pork was dryer than a John Kerry speech. The two sauce selections ranged from sickly-sweet to pucker-up almost straight vinegar. Their portion sizes were pathetic. Their sides pretty much like what you’d get at KFC. As a final insult the two iced tea selections were either a peach-flavored froo-froo option or something laughingly labeled “Sweet Texas Tea.” That’s like calling Boston Baked Beans “New York Legumes”. I recognize that some retarded Texans, possibly including members of the Bush family, relish drinking sugared water – but typically this sort of behavior is more prevalent in the deep south where an massive sugar high might be called for to help forget you live in Alabama. Granted, the meat at Urban BBQ was not inedible or the consistency of shoe leather like what you get at Rocklands, but it was no better than the “BBQ” you’d get a cafeteria like Luby’s back home. Just awful.

  • The homemade mozzarella sticks at the Tune Inn are fudging amazing (combined with animal heads, Cap Hill drunks and cheap Natty Boh, it is a dining experience!)

  • Just out of curiosity, I was wondering if someone could explain what it is, specifically, that the DC food scene seems to lack. I’m not being snarky–I’d really like to know, because the criticism is a bit vague–“DC is not a foodie town, it’s gotten better but it’s not great, there are a smattering of good spots, etc.” These statements don’t have much meaning to me and are not very helpful. Having spent the better part of the last 15 years as a broke undergrad/grad student/person starting a career, I’m just grateful my options are no longer limited to happy hour at Applebee’s and the crappy Indian lunch buffet off-campus. Or the “stinky Arby’s”. I admit that means my bar is set pretty low, but I’m not 100% sure what the beef is. Just askin’. Thanks, and have a great weekend, everyone!

  • Odentex…

    I honestly will be interested to see your review of Hill Country downtown on 7th Street. I admit I don’t know Texas bbq to save my life… At least in this case I know the chef is from the lone star state.

  • Seconding Jason’s comment: DC is NOT a foodie town. Anyone who says it is doesn’t get out much. In four years (to the week!) I have had exactly one interesting, innovative, tasty restaurant meal, at Poste in Chinatown. Sure, I’ve had other nice dinners out, but nothing that really got my attention, or struck me as different or special.

    Also in agreement that Florida Ave Grill, while authentic as all hell, doesn’t have very good food. I still go, though, ’cause I like diners.

  • I keep meaning to try Henry’s, between 16th and 17th on U…the Post loves it.

  • I agree with Rachel. I’m not sure what people who post “DC is not a foodie town” think a foodie town is. I am a transplant from Boston–like about 30 percent of the city. Head over to Boston and then tell me DC is not a foodie town. No, we are not New York or New Orleans, but I think the variety and quality of the restaurants in DC is amazing. The high end stuff is exceptional and there are tons of hole-in-the-wall places that make great food for cheap. There is also just a general appreciation for food that you don’t see in a lot of cities. I’m thinking of places like Granville Moore’s, Zatinya, Pizzeria Paradiso (great pizza, but mainly the beer list), and any number of places in Adams Morgan or Dupont. I also have to defend Florida Ave Grill–on the food. The breakfast I had there was great and the staff was incredibly nice. However, I have not been back because I smelled like a fryer for 2 days.

  • Rachel: Fresh ingredients, good flavors, proper cooking, proper use of seasoning, authenticity with creativity, did I mention fresh ingredients (I can’t believe how bad the actually freshness quality of the food is around here), attention to detail. For starters.

  • “There is also just a general appreciation for food that you don’t see in a lot of cities. I’m thinking of places like Granville Moore’s, Zatinya, Pizzeria Paradiso (great pizza, but mainly the beer list), and any number of places in Adams Morgan or Dupont.”

    Huh? Every major city has a handful of places with moules and frites, belgian beers, tapas, and above average pizza and beer lists. And most places in Adams Morgan and Dupont are mediocre. I don’t get it. The bar is so low here.

  • Ok, Anon, that’s a start. What are examples of places around here that get it right? What are examples of places that are thought to get it right but really don’t? I’m not trying to be a pain, I’d just like to know.

  • Asian Al: I’m keeping an open mind. But laughable gimmicks like stocking Blue Bell ice cream (what? no long-neck Lone Stars??) won’t make up for bad brisket. Good BBQ is tough. To do it right you have put in even more hours than the average restaurant. Good pitmen will regularly be up at 2 and 3 in the morning to start the smokers – that’s a real commitment. And frankly, if most of your clientele don’t know the difference and happily pay too much, what’s the point of putting in the work? In a way, DC is the perfect place to open a mediocre BBQ or Tex-Mex place since past experience shows you can do well with bad product – how else can you explain Rocklands? They’d be out of business in a week in NC or Texas yet in upper NW yuppies crowd that place like they’re giving out free BMW’s.

  • Zorbas – at Dupont Circle! Some hits and misses, (like every place) but overall tasty food, good for non-carnivores, plus the best patio & people watching.

  • The biggest foodie town at the moment is Philadelphia. Ask any professional. I know it’s popular for DC to hate on Philly, or to conveniently ignore the last 20 years of urban renewal, or to make some frat-boy har-har connection between quality of life and sports teams… but that fact is, there is nation-wide buzz among culinary professionals about the restaurant scene in Philadelphia.

    Having lived there for years, having experienced one amazing, eye-opening, so-fresh-it-walks-off-the-grill meal after another, I can’t get real excited about yet another round of tapas. “Ooh, this hummus is amazing! I think they used LEMON JUICE!!!”

  • I second Henry’s, though it doesn’t have a sit-down area. Some of the best soul food around, and cheap too.

    Another one I’d like to mention is Miss Charlotte’s Crab Cakes on Minnesota Ave, near the Aquatic Gardens. It’s a little intimidating to see all that bullet proof glass, but the crab cakes are awesome, the collard greens even more so.

    The DC is not a foodie town crowd is full of BS. there are certain things it lacks, like good Cuban, but makes up for it by having other things, like Ethiopian. There’s always haters, as someone posted earlier.

  • The Obama Special at Fl Ave Grill is the best greasy spoon breakfast in town. And this is from someone who loves Bob and Ediths and the Tastee Diner as well. I don’t understand the FAG hate.

  • wait does hitching post serve breakfast?

  • The biggest foodie town at the moment is Philadelphia.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA! God, this thread just keeps getting better!

    I fully expect to read something totally insane, like “The women in Barstow are the hottest in the NATION!”

  • Wow Anonymous, it must be really hard being you, constantly wanting what you can’t have and living your life through a lens that is forever focused on how green the grass is everywhere else.

    I’m not a DC food apologist by any means (read anything I’ve written on food, and there will be a lament for our utter lack of good sandwiches, and proper European immigrant food), but this schtick is tiresome. Particularly on a thread about freakin’ diners, dives and drive-ins – places that by their very definition are not – and should not – be using the freshest ingredients, employing “authenticity with creativity” (seriously, who talks like that? Do you describe wines as “precocious” too?) or doing a lot of the other things you’re anonymously elucidating on.

    I enjoy my monthly, at times verging on weekly, visits to Restaurant Eve as much as my trips to the Parkway Deli, and I do so without an eye constantly looking for something to compare them to in this, or other cities. That’s an exhausting way to live. Do I wish I could buy every piece of fish fresh off the boat like I did when I lived in Half Moon Bay? Sure, but it doesn’t make everything else crappy.

    Look, I lived in Budapest for a long time, but how miserable would I be if I were constantly looking for every city to recreate the gulyás at Kisharang Étkezde or comparing every cold summer fruit soup to the meggyleves at the Fészek Klub? There’s no point.

    Komi, Eve and Minibar would hold their own in any city, low bar, high bar, or uneven parallel bars. But a discussion of that has nothing to do with diners, dives and drive ins, which I will agree DC is lacking, but there’s good grease to be found everywhere, and DC is no exception, even if you might have to look a little harder than you would someplace else.

  • Amen, Nichole. Amen.

  • You’ve convinced me, Anon 11:38. Such artful rhetoric! I am humbled.

  • The lack of decent restaurants is a conspiracy by the DC government to get all the obnoxious people in town to move away and leave the rest of us in peace.

  • Nichole, you’re settling for less. That’s cool, if you enjoy it. Enjoy it. Me hating on the food here shouldn’t take away from your enjoyment of it. My philosophy is that I know how much better it could and should be, so I don’t put on a delusion and brag about how wonderful the food is here. I’m not miserable, far from it, I cook at home as often as possible now and travel as much as possible to get good food, it’s wonderful! What I don’t do is eat the mediocre stuff here and call it good.

  • Rachel @11:23

    First, I don’t agree with a lot of the haters on here regarding DC’s food scene. Sure, we aren’t SF, Chicago, or NYC, but we really aren’t as bad as many posters think. The main problem I see with DC is moderately priced meals. In the previously mentioned towns, you can stumble into a neighborhood haunt, not have to wait for 30 minutes, and get some high quality meals. And it seems those low-key, unknown gems are everywhere. Here, it seems like moderately priced neighborhood restaurants are on the upswing, but we aren’t where we should be for a city of this size. (Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with the population density, but I digress.) As such, we get meals that should be moderately priced, but are slightly higher than I feel they should be. All that said, I would say that DC is definitely in the top ten cities in America as foodie destination.

    My main issue with the food scene here is the dearth of decent Mexican restaurants within DC. Just throwing that out there.

  • Nichole: Most people don’t eat at Komi, Eve, and Minibar except when they graduate from college, have an anniversary, or just got acquitted by the jury. What this city lacks is just what the topic of this post is about: decent and cheap diners, BBQ joints, taquerias, and greasy spoons. Saying “you might have to look a little harder” only confirms the dearth. People who have lived in other cities notice this difference, and also feel like they’ve just been rolled every time they get the check, so excuse the hell out of us for pointing out the obvious facts when the topic is being discussed.

  • @Anonymous – Let us know when you finally find that place where all the food is beyond compare and nobody settles for mediocre food and calls it “wonderful.” If you find such a place, you can put me down for a contribution of $100 towards a one-way plane ticket.

  • No, Anon (can I call you Anon, since we’re being all friendly-like here?) I’m not.

    A friend of mine has a “no shrimp in Indiana” rule. Basically, it holds that he grew up in Southern Mississippi, and he’s not dumb enough to try to find decent shrimp in the US Midwest, so instead he looks for what’s being done well where he is and living in the moment, rather than holding everything up to some standard that simply can not be met.

    I know how much better lots of things could be: sandwiches, boyfriends, the weather, public transportation, what have you – but to always be holding out for a mythical apex is only going to lead to constant disappointment.

    I’m not calling anything mediocre good. But, you take as it comes. All I’m doing is saying that if one eye is always focused on the “other” you won’t ever be able to enjoy what is in front of you.

    Basically, what you’re saying is tantamount to saying that because someone enjoyed a meal at French Laundry at Keller’s peak, means that food is basically ruined for them forever. That’s absurd. Besides that fact that dining is about more than the food. I go to Eve so frequently not just because of the great stuff coming out of Chef’s kitchen, but because I enjoy the other regulars and the folks behind the bar. The same can be said for why I go back to the Red Derby, or the Argonaut. Best food I’ve ever had? No way. Enjoyable? Absolutely. I feel sad for you if you can’t glean enjoyment from anything but a pie-in-the-sky notion of what’s “the best.”

  • @Odentex, that is exactly my point. Anon is talking apples to oranges and trying to lump it all into some “foodie culture.” (Whatever the eff that means.) I’m not from here – in fact, I come from a place that is overrun with diners, dives and drive ins. I bitch all the time about how DC could use a little Pittsburgh- or Baltimore-ification. But, DC is DC and Baltimore is Baltimore and Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh. Why try to turn one place into another? I’ll be the first one at the bar at the Cap City Diner (and yeah, I’m going to push Monkeyrotica out of the way to get there), but I’m not going in hoping it’s going to recreate Jersey diner culture. Why? Because we’re not in Jersey.

  • The dearth of midrange dining options is a direct result of DC’s dearth of midrange clientel. It’s either fastfood slop or high-end small plates. You don’t have any “joints” because DC has made clear, through it’s small business tax code, that only franchises and high-end dining can afford to exist. You do not have this problem in, say, Baltimore, where you have lower property taxes and cost of doing business. So you’ve got decent diners and holes-in-the-wall and roadside pit beef stands. You also have a mix of low-to-mid-range dining options as well as higher-end eateries like Rocket to Venus that are still quite affordable.

    Also, no Mexican enclaves=no Mexican food. You need to go to Kenilworth Avenue for that. There’s no Koreatown in DC but you’ve got one in Fairfax because that’s where they chose to settle. You’ve got Chinatown, but it’s about as Chinese as David Carradine in Kung Fu.

  • Thanks Odentex for trying to get everyone back on point. This was not meant to be a hate or love DC food question. All I wanted to know was “what are the types of places that would qualify and fit into the Triple D concept on the above mentioned FoodNetwork Show. I was merely curiuos and also thought it would be cool to nominate a place if we could.

  • @Nichole – The hell you say! I claim that first diner stool on the right! That’s the monkey stool! Try and take it and I’ll huck it at you!

  • I love food in DC and do not miss the cuisine of my hometown, Greensboring NC, one bit!

    So perhaps a bit too new to fit the bill for this post, but I think Busboys + Poets has the best potential here.

  • Being a foodie town is not just about and numbers but quality and frankly enjoyment/lifestyle and its part in an overall culture. I will admit I am from New Orleans which has a very distinct food that DC doesn’t, so for me DC just sucks in comparison. I do grade on scale so I don’t expect DC to be the same. I have been here since 1992 and I will say that DC has improved A LOT on all metrics.

    I do wonder if the fact that real estate is so expensive and how the city zones may not come into play. In New Orleans some of the best places to eat are in the neighborhoods surrounded by houses like Domilise’s and Frankie & Johnny’s. They are not on major through fares with a score of other restaurants and retail with high retail/real estate prices. Lower overhead costs may encourage dives with great food, I don’t know.

    Another observation that never ceases to surprise me, is that restaurants with mediocre food seem to stay open as long as there is outside seating – NOLA wouldn’t put up with that shit.

  • Nichole: That’s fine, but the topic isn’t “Damn, it’s a shame no one can list more than three reasonably priced places that serve edible food, so let’s talk about trees and doorways,” it’s “Could you recommend a DC dive that could be featured on a national TV show?”

    To which, the answer is seemingly “no”.

    So any exasperation at people pointing out what a shame that is shouldn’t be taken as a judgement on anyone else’s choice to continue living here.

    I personally like it here. I like the trees. I like the marblely buildings. I like the 22 year olds that think their hot shit because Sen. Crackerfarber lets them open up the mail. I like (most) of the people. I like Petworth. I like walking. I like blowing shit up on the 4th of July. I like half-smokes. I like laughing at you yankees when you say it’s “hot” here. I like smoking my own brisket in my own smoker. I like my house and I like my job. But I’m still disappointed in the city’s lack of good and cheap food. It’s a noticeable omission. I see signs that it may be changing, so “yay”, but when the friggin’ topic of the post is “where’s a good dive in this city?” the answer really isn’t an indictment of everything else DC has to offer.

  • It’s ok, DC defenders. You don’t have to defend the city to other residents. We live here too. I’d be standing side by side with you if someone was flaming the metro or the arts scene.

    But, with the exception of the DC farmers markets, which are among the best in the country, you cannot defend the food scene. period. Having split the last 20 years between Philly and DC, I can tell you that you are being had. Ah…philly, where you can bring your own wine – with no corkage fee – to the majority of restaurants, most of which are housed in unassuming row homes with as little as ten tables and with a chef who survives only by the quality of his/her food and not the breadth of the liquour license. I feel like I am robbed everytime I eat in this city.

    But, it’s ok! Here’s why: For a long time a lot of DC was a gutted shell (and a lot of it still is). Downtown was occupied by lobbyists and lawyers who dined on expense accounts in conservative venues. The steak house was king. Then, as the city began to re-gentrify, neighborhoods began putting up roadblocks to development in order to preserve a sense of atmosphere. Not a bad thing, all in all, but it certainly prevented budding, young restauranteurs from coming here, because declaring an intention to open a hip new spot in DC requires an incredible amount of representation. Add that to the fact that strict commercial zoning limits the amount of availalbe property, and you are looking at seven figures before you can even start renovations.

    Thus, most of the restauranteurs who thrive in this city are not the ones with exceptional talent or a flair for the je ne sais quois. Instead, they are the ones most versed in the system. They know the bureaucratic and civic roadblocks, they know how to navigate them. This is also why the modern architecture scene sucks here too. We end up with new restaurants like Policy, which is owned and run by people who own and run other restaurants and plan to open more. Local 16 cum Local 14 cum Marvin cum ESL. All owned and run by the same people. This is why all those ‘hip’ places on H street are owned by the same person. Or why Busboys and Poets goes viral while a wonderful places like Vegetate or Domku barely scrape by, constantly embroiled in some legal battle with a church over an alcohol license.

    Some of these places are great, others are not. Either way, the city is starved for good fare, so mediocrity thrives.

    You want good food? Stick around long enough to out gun the ANCs and others who work their asses off to keep commercial venues from opening up outside of the designated corridors. I, for one, would welcome with open arms a hip boutique restaurant that wanted to set up shop in my english basement. Too bad it’s against the law.

    It’s time to liberalize our development policies and remove obstacles to new business. This will open up a huge supply of vacant homes to restauranteurs and others who want to come here and start a scene, but can’t.

    You and I both know that this city has the potential to be the most desirable place to live in America. Let’s make it easier for others to come to the same conclusion!

  • Another observation that never ceases to surprise me, is that restaurants with mediocre food seem to stay open as long as there is outside seating – NOLA wouldn’t put up with that shit.

    I can mention several NOLA restaurants that should have gone out of business long ago, starting with Mother’s and Camelia Grill. Like DC, many of these places cruise by on tourist cachet and little else.

    Also, I’ve been to a couple of the dives mentioned in DDD. Just because it’s on the show doesn’t mean it’s any good. Most Baltimorons will agree that Chaps Pit Beef in Baltimore makes some of the WORST pit beef. And the coney dog place is just mediocre. The only thing they have over Ben’s is that their chili doesn’t come out of a can. It’s still pretty flavorless. People keep going there because it’s a kind of local institution, they serve tons of food, and it’s really cheap, unlike Ben’s.

    When examined in this light, I’d have to agree with Odentex: there’s nothing I could really recommend that should be on DDD, with the possible exception of Deli City. There are, however, LOTS of mediocre but cheap places in DC that would fit right in on the show.

  • Nichole, it’s not an indictment on all things DC to recognize how lacking the food scene is here. And I disagree with you about holding the city up to a standard it can’t meet. It absolutely can meet the standard of other cities across the country, it just hasn’t done so. I choose not to settle for whatever comes. Taking it as it comes, as you say, is a sin to me when what comes could easily be much better. But again, I’m not trying to take away your enjoyment of wherever you go. I’m just refusing to describe places as something they’re clearly not. It’s dishonest.

  • Monkey: Or what about Emeril’s place across Canal near the Riverwalk? That place sucks now and only makes it because of star-struck tourists that crowd around it. I was forced to eat there twice in ’07 while on bidness and it’s no better than a Red Lobster. And some of the Brennan family places are pretty mediocre last time I stopped in. Sadly, the Brennan’s in Houston was actually pretty good spot until it burned down during the hurricane.

  • Some places with good, cheap food in DC that I frequent:

    Adam Express in Mount Pleasant
    Taqueria Distrito Federal
    Sandwiches at Litteri’s in the Florida Ave. Market
    The tiny Korean dive in the Florida Ave. Market
    KOTOBUKI- the Oshizushi is awesome!

  • I nominate anon 12:55 for the horse’s ass award… You certainly sound like the kind of guy whose crap doesn’t stink…

  • For those that are real DC residents here and not just passers thru, I’d like to add my 2 cents of what was best about DC dining, cheap or otherwise, taste or ambiance.

    We have lost some great places to eat:

    Montego Bay (Jamaican eatery in Adams Morgan (AM)…best home made salad dressing in DC and the meanest Negril Chicken sandwich on the mainland (spicy). Ambiance was great and the drinks were tropical. All night enjoyment inside and out. The current Ethiopian joint is nothing in comparison.

    Fish Wings & Tings (Caribbean food in AM)…best coconut chicken dinner on the east coast, this place rocked in the 90s and the foolish owner moved to Georgetown and was never the same again.

    Trios (Pizzaeria in AM)..this really was the best pizza slice in town. Their crust and cheese had its own distinct taste. Adams Mill Bar & Grill has done well to replace it. The fries were great too and very cheap.

    Cosmos Deli (AM)…best steak & cheese I have tasted in DC in 20 years but for some reason it never made any money on that death corner of 18th & Columbia. Starbucks just holding it down now.

    Across from Howard Business School on Georgia was a Persian Rice cafe. They had a chicken and rice dinner that just blew your mind. The meat melted off the bone it was so tender and the rice was amazingly seasoned. The vegetables made me want more okra daily. The fish was amazing too and the homemade yogurt was like a dairy heaven. They just closed down one day and never opened again. Family biz.

    C&Js (Jamaican carry out) on Georgia Ave was easily the best Caribbean food in DC since Montego Bay. Their stew chicken, rice and peas, with cabbage was delicious. You will never taste cabbage like that anywhere. If a place could sell cabbage, then imagine how their meat tasted. The chef went into construction and the best Caribe food was lost forever. Negril and Mambos don’ compare.

    Rita’s (Trinidadian food) on Georgia Ave. They used to make the best chicken, fish or goat roti in the city. People from all over came to DC just for the roti. Curried potato, tamarind sauce for sweetness and a filling of your choice in a beautifully wrapped shell. Hmm, mmmm. The fish made me crave for it daily. Kingfish direct from the Caribbean. This was real meaty fish, not the rubbish you get in supermarkets. Only Red Snapper can compare. Sadly, Rita’s quality has dropped significantly as their prices grew. Even their mac and cheese sides were well spiced for an amazing taste. Not now.

    Howard China (Chinese Carry Out) on Georgia Ave…look when you are in DC and hungry, and want the cheapest food you can buy, there is always HC. For the ethnic among you, especially African American, there is a sauce that simply defines DC. It’s called Mumbo Sauce and you put it on basically anything; Fries, Chicken wings, fish, burgers, you name it. Mumbo Sauce is a DC legendary recipe but only certain Chinese carry outs can make it well. The fake ones make it like spicy ketchup, but the real ones, like at HC, make it sweet. HC has the best Mumbo Sauce in the city. Howard Freshmen become addicted to the taste of HC Mumbo Sauce every Fall. It is a guaranteed 15 pound adder to your system in one semester. The food is horrible, but when you try that Mumbo Sauce, you are lost in what you are eating because this sauce is addictive and will turn the hardest french fry into a sweet tasting treat. For those of us who have been HC Mumbo Sauce free for many years now, beware, we believe the stuff has some crack in it that makes you want more.

    Indian food is a growing culture in this city (which amazes me because most of it here is so badly made and priced too high) but Pakistani food is rarer. So on 14th and Ust corner there was a 24 hour Pakistani food cafe that made your mouth water with their delicious breads, meat, veg and curries. It was easily the most affordable Indian sub-continent food you can buy. I guess all the nightly abuse they got on that corner forced them to quit. But their meals were about as good as you get for under $10.

    The Aditi in Georgetown was an Indian food treasure. Good service, decent prices and food that was authentic. No idea how things changed.

    To this day, I can’t tell you where the best burger is, or the best ribs, or even best beer. Belgian restaurants make some of the best fries you can eat, while The Beer Keller has most beer options. Finally a couple of shawarma places are getting it together for an authentic lamb or chicken sliced kebab, but they need to improve the bread and the most important element, the garlic sauce. None make a proper onion relish topping either.

    My personal fav, the traditional English pub and English chippy is simply non-existent in DC and with 15,000 Brits in the metro area, I find that astonishing. What does it take to set up a pub that is not Irish for goodness sake? English pubs are the best for drinking and entertainment in the world. A good ole chippy would be good for those after hours in Adams Morgan.

    So this is what we have lost and what we miss. I guess we don’t have a pizza slice at the level of New York’s Rays Famous either. So go figure. But we got good Brazilian food on Columbia Rd, just head to the Ipanema any day. You’ll pass a great Greek cafe on the opposite side as you do and their lamb shank and potatoes are irresistible. May people like Pasta Mia’s in AM but since my uncle is from Rome, I have never found a good Italian place in DC. I guess we need some Italian mafiosos to reside here instead of these Ethiopian and Etrian bourgeois.

  • My crap stinks plenty, especially when I eat the food around here.

    One place that is reasonably priced and very good though is the Greek Deli for lunch on 19th Street between L and M.

  • I know DC restaurants extremely well and know Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives very well also. I have definitely seen every episode at least once and many more twice.

    There is no restaurant in the entire DC area worthy of going on that show, however there are some decent places:
    Mediteranean Bakery in Alexandria was on the Food Network and it’s pretty righteous, but not ENOUGH cool stuff for The Triple D.

    Generous George’s in Alexandria is passable and funky with their pasta on top of a pizza shell.

    Louisiana Express, now closed, could have worked in the early 1990s

    Yuan Fu vegetarian is pretty funky, but outside of the Triple D style

    There was a place in College Park called the Food Factory that served MAMMOTH styrofoam boxes of simple curries starting at $4(!!!) that would have worked on the show, but I think it’s closed now.

    The quick answer is that there is no Triple D restaurant in the entire city.

  • I read all the comments. Here are the places that gave me food poisoning:

    Horace and Dickies
    Florida Avenue Grill
    TRIO PIZZA IN ADAMS MORGAN- everything I ever got there was crap and made my stomach turn. But do people know that it was a favorite restaurant of Martin Luther King?

  • I thought of one!!! Not a DDD, but an awesome restaurant that is unique to DC, that other cities would be lucky to call their own… and it’s a (local) chain no less! Drumroll, please, for: MOBY DICK HOUSE OF KABOB!

    Those are some great kabobs. Authentic bread. To-die-for rice.

  • Tee hee! I just posted about my favorite kabob place, named after a white whale, and the comment is awaiting moderation. I guess PoP’s software filters for Melville references.

  • Friends opened a chippy in another city and barely breaks $50k profits for. that’s fine to live on in a cheap city, but a family living on that money in DC is virtually poor. You’d basically have to open like 3 of them to make it work.

  • I will admit that I didn’t realize we were actually looking for a nominee for the show. That’s just crazy talk. I thought we were just trying to help the poster out with some divier joints around town in the vein of what you might see on the show.

    I just skimmed the show list though, and now I’ve got a serious hankering for stuffed french toast at Blue Moon in Baltimore. I used to hit that place every weekend when it was a block away from my house. Now, with the lines and all… it requires the same amount of planning and strategy as invading a small country to not end up sitting outside exposed to the elements for hours on end before finally getting a table.

    I’m still not a fan of defining things based on what they are or are not relative to other things, but it’s a difference in personal outlooks I suppose.

  • Eammon’s in Old Town is a passable, if pricey, chipper. (I swear I’m not Chef Armstrong’s personal cheerleader.) It’s also wildly hit or miss, which is frustrating for the price. But when it’s good, it’s very good.

  • “I’m still not a fan of defining things based on what they are or are not relative to other things, but it’s a difference in personal outlooks I suppose.”

    Fair enough. Easy to respect. However, if you don’t consider relativity, how do you have standards?

  • “Did I enjoy my meal?” yes/no
    “Is this fish fresh?” yes/no
    “Was this icing too sweet?” yes/no
    “Were the flavors of this food pleasing to me?” yes/no
    etc, etc and on through life extending to as many things as possible. Of course I slip from time to time and find myself sipping a cocktail or eating a piece of meat that’s reminiscent of another and longing for the “better” one, but generally, I try to avoid that sort of thing.

    It’s just a different way of going about things.

  • Eammon’s is about as good a chippy as you will find inside the Beltway. The chips are excellent and fish is OK. I am just glad to find the real Lilt and Tizer sodas from England. Nice, but way so overpriced in that place.

    Best chippy on the East Coast would have to be A Salt & Battery in the Village in NY…everything is authentic.

    But sticking to DC, a town with 6 major colleges, it is still amazing that we don’t have a proper chip shop, English pub and a kebab/showarma joint in either AM, G-town or nearby.

    The success of these places worldwide is that they are cheap and fast. But in the US, these places want to act like they are serving some level of Graham Ramsey cooking and charge the price…much like these pretentious Indian restaurants, where they forget curry is a cheap meal for poor people and they do not use exotic spices from the holy waters of a spring in a mountain top only reached by foot and 10 days climbing. Rice and bread are the cheapest foods on the planet but they will swear you must pay $5 for a portion because of how they cook it. Yeah right! There’s not an Indian meal that cannot be prepared for under $3 but you’ll see $18.95 on the menu.

  • I love Basmati Rice when I go out to dinner. Any body eat Basmait Rice and Roti.

  • Another vote for the Hitching Post.

  • Oohs and Aahs on U St.

  • The Ohio and The Tune Inn

  • Amsterdam Falafelshop

  • @Sully, the Ohio is gone. It’s been empty for a few years now. The Tonic folks bought it, but redevelopment is on hold.

  • Try Thai X-ing on Florida Avenue, around 5th street. It’s a one man show who cooks out of the basement of his townhouse. It’s not the best thai in the city, but it’s delish and definitely worth checking out (there’s only one table, which makes it really cozy for a small gathering of friends or a first date- just make reservations and be ready to wait a while).

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