Friday Question of the Day – What Ethnic Restaurant is Your Neighborhood Missing?

アジア食堂 那覇 沖縄 Asia Restaurant in Naha, Okinawa, originally uploaded by 瑞士大龙.

In a previous thread one of the commenters mentioned that there isn’t a great diversity of ethnic restaurants in our neighborhoods. I think downtown and in some neighborhoods there is a pretty good variety but it got me thinking – what type of ethnic restaurant do you think your neighborhood is missing? Personally I’m a huge fan of Italian and Greek restaurants and would love to see some a bit closer to home. I’m excited for some more Pho options. But in a perfect world – what type of ethnic restaurant would you like to see closer to home?

71 Comment

  • From Mt. Pleasant, so I’d say any of the following within a mile or so radius would be welcome:

    – Authentic Chinese / Dim Sum (not really anything great in the whole city).

    – BBQ

    – Indian (closest one is Jyoti, in AM, which is average)

    – Greek

  • Petworth: JEWISH DELI

  • Chinese/Fried Chicken/Subs combo joint.. ?

    Even though legit ethnic food usually pops up where it has a expat community to patronize/staff it.. I wish one street would get populated by a dozen great ethnic places (Connecticut kinda gets at it.) I don’t know, we have an international little city, it’d be cool if we had a low key long-term little international food ‘district.’ I don’t know how you get something like this off the ground w/o laws/rules barring developers from buying out Mom & Pop places and turning it into a really trendy mess, but it’d be dope.

    I want XinJiang/Uighur/Chinese Muslim food. Nova has the largest Uighur expat community, but no restaurant as far as I can tell. There’s actually only one Uighur restaurant stateside, in Queens… The food is unbelievably good — its like Afghan food that graduated primary school, went to college and got a real personality.

  • An authentic NY style pizzeria ($4 slices at Pete’s do not qualify)
    Agree with Anon 3:10am – a Kosher deli would be nice. I’d take a non kosher deli, too. I have to go all the way out to The Italian Store in Arlington, VA for some decent rye bread and russian dressing.

  • my wife’s constant complaint is that there is no decent chinese food anywhere. if someone wanted to start a GOOD chinese restaurant, they could put it in our neighborhood, if they wanted.

    But I would actually like a nice sitdown soul-food kind of place that would attract everybody in the whole neighborhood.

  • Yes, a real kosher-style deli with hot pastrami on rye, brisket, beef tongue, pickles, excellent bagels, knishes, lox, nova, memories of childhood…

  • This sorta forces the question: why does DC lack the really good ethnic restaurants in the first place? There used to be a substantial Jewish community up until the 1950s, and an Italian community as well (many were stonecutters who worked on the Cathedral and the Federal buildings). When they left, they took their ethnic cuisine with them. All you have left is a Disneyfied Chinablock. These places can still be found, but they’re not localized in any specific neighborhood. There’s good soul food at Wilson’s and Levi’s and Oohs and Aaahs, and the best corned beef and reubens in town is at Deli City, but even in the suburbs, it’s hard to find good dim sum. But that’s the nature of changing neighborhood demographics: upscale rents yield upscale tenants, which tends to marginalize low-to-mid-range ethnic dining options.

  • Bagel store, Greek, Indian, Lebanese. How is Shwarma King on Columbia? It’s a little over a mile for me, worth the walk?

  • Is arby’s ethnic?

  • well … all of them. But in general I’d like to see more Korean BBQ in DC.

  • Does U Street have an Indian(esque) type joint? If so, we need one! Luckily, Himalayan Heritage delivers to my place…

  • I’d love a good greek or turkish place in Petworth, but I doubt the neighborhood could keep it in business. I think even Fusion struggles to stay open, and they have great Indian fusion food. Unfortunately, once you head north of the Petworth metro, a Subway or a Central American, Jamaican, soul food or imitation Chinese carry-out restaurant seem to be the only places the area supports.

  • A good chinese joint would save me a lot of trips to VA

  • I’d like a GOOD chinese food place and Indian Food.

  • Dim Sum (I holding out for Ping Pong Dim Sum) and two block walking distance deli would absolutley make my day even though I can’t complain with Taylor now down the street from me.

  • i’m in petworth and though i doubt that neighborhood demand would support it, i would love to see a place that served some good Mediterranean food.

  • I live in Fort Totten, so I’ll start with American.

  • I’ve been looking for a good pit beef stop, there are plenty around Baltimore but not DC. It makes it easy to throw a party when you can pick up an assortment of meat for people to make sandwiches.

  • Good lebanese or GOOD greek – most of the greek food around dc is not really that good…

  • indian in logan/14th st

  • Park View/Columbia Heights here, and I must have Indian food closer to home. Fusion was a huge leap forward, but it’s all a bit too glam for everyday use. Just gimme a decent, no-frills curry house (family style dammit, not spice-neutered for timid melanin-challenged people) and I’ll be the happiest frickin’ kid in town. Guaranteed customer for life.

  • MTP – Indian!

  • This sorta forces the question: why does DC lack the really good ethnic restaurants in the first place?

    A long-term hippy resident sort of explained it: The mom and pop places, the Jewish Delis and little soul food joints were all burned down in the 1968 riots. The only place that wasn’t burned down was Ben’s Chili Bowl.

    think about an entire 5-10 blocks of Ben’s Chili Bowls.

    My parents abandoned DC after the riots so they aren’t a lot of help on the issue but they said that bakeries and local candy shops were shut down, etc.

  • dong bei Chinese. I could really use some hot pot or a disgustingly huge bowl of jiaozi. And good Chinese food is not the same as expensive “gourmet” Chinese food.

    oh…and we really need some good bagels.

  • I’m excited about the cuban restaurant coming to 9th and H.

    FYI, Shaw is getting a Burmese restaurant at 9th and P Streets (it will occupy the first two floors of a beautiful building about to break ground there; the building is 100% pre-sold — the restaurant will be on the first two floors and the restaurant’s owners will live in a condo above). The restaurant is called Mandalay; it’s currently located in Silver Spring and is supposedly fantastic.

  • I’ll take any sit-down restaurant on North Cap. Although Subway has reasonably vagrant-free seating

  • H St. NEEDS PHO!

  • What about a complete re-thinking of the idea of a restaurant? Even those who crave ethnic food are unlikely, realistically, to patronize one place more than 2-3 times a month, and they want good cheap food. $12-13 a head, not $15-25. Unsustainable for small ethnic restaurants with DC rents & costs.

    I’d like to see a “blank” restaurant – think more like a catering hall – each night could feature a different ethnic offering, cooked on site or brought in from existing restaurants. Korean barbecue wouldn’t really work, but many cusines would. Deli meat is easy to haul around, and many dim sum offerings are made off-site anyway. Churches routinely produce “soul food” dinners – bring them in too.

    Take the idea of the weekend outdoor food stalls in Adams Morgan, expand the variety and bring it indoors.

  • Mike, skip Shwarma King. Go to Old City Cafe. Much better.

    As a person who grew up in a town where people thought Italian was “ethnic” food and there wasn’t a Thai or Indian joint in sight, I think DC is pretty international. Then again – I’d love to see the options everyone’s listing above.

  • Take away curry place. Doesn’t even need to have seats, just a sliding window to the street.


  • Bloomindale could use A restaurant. Just one, to start. Please, pretty please.

  • Ray Swore – There’s plenty of Muslim Chinese food stateside. There’s one on Rockville pike but the building was kinda dumpy and i don’t remember the name. But they do exist – there’s chain Muslim Chinese restaurants in So Cal.

    Other “ethnic” cuisines I would enjoy in Columbia Heights:
    1. Moroccan/N. African (something akin to couscous cafe downtown – casual)
    2. Chinese/mongolian hot pot place like this place:
    3. Hawaiian lunch plate place
    4. German – like cafe mozart downtown

  • I second FH. Bloomingdale will take anything – anything at all.

  • I’d like a Russian place – not many of those anywhere in the city. Something French in Mt Pleasant would be nice.

    I also like Victoria’s idea – not a fusion restaurant but one that has distinct offerings. The management would have to get along if it involved two distinct (ethnic) groups going in on one restaurant.

    The closest thing that comes to mind is an Eritrean restaurant on 18th and U. It has Italian and Eritrean (Eritrea was briefly an Italian colony).

  • I too vote for Bloomingdale. That pizza pub can’t get here quick enough!

  • Rainforest Cafe, that’s what the area needs.

  • think about an entire 5-10 blocks of Ben’s Chili Bowls.


    Surrounded by another 5-10 blocks lined with port-a-poties.

    Pho will hold me for a while. I love Pho 14. And while I love the booze, not having the option to order it there is saving me a good chunk of change.

    Ditto the Jewish deli. Tough without a good business lunch crowd though. Too bad. I would also love to see a German place in CH.

  • From the CH/Petworth border: bagels. Definitely bagels. And a deli – kosher or Italian, I don’t care. Bonus points from me if they have hard rolls and can make a sloppy joe – NOT the kind with ground beef.

  • Petworth and CH: good Chinese and good Italian (pizza and a sporadic pasta does not count).

    Lauren, its a bit outside your area, but you should try Fusion on Georgia Ave in Petworth – lighter than your usual Indian as they don’t use the fatty stuff many sauces usually have.. can’t remember the name of it now. 🙂

  • The thing is ‘real’ ethnic food sorta requires that ethnic community in place to stand in judgment of its quality. Thats why the vietnamese and chinese in DC are not that good. Those communities are out in the burbs now where they can operate for less cost. Dealing with the nightmare and ridiculous cost of opening a restaurant in DC vs the burbs is simply not worth it especially after said nightmare you find out the guilos have no interest in eating authentic “Pheonix Talons” a.k.a chicken feet.

  • Indian in MtP would be great!

  • Lebanese Taverna (if they can have one hidden away in Pentagon City mall, they can put one on U street), Indian, Afghan Kabob, I MISS the NYC street carts that sell grilled kabobs on a stick. And the best breakfast in the world is still found in the carts in NYC: bagel, untoasted, with real butter, hot tea with two sugars and milk. YUM!! (that’s a hint to Cafe Collage, if they read this.)

  • SW CoHi — Mt. P

    (1) Mexican (Jalisco) not texmex, Mexidorian, sea bream foam-more than tacos

    (2) N. Indian (Jyoti’s paneer makhani is too sweet; they’ve been slacking lately)

    (3) BBQ this may be impossible as this is a crab cake area

    (4) Seafood – preferably Calabash style, no more tilapia a la Veracruzana

    (5) So. Italian

    (6) Chinese/dim sum (sans fusion-y maki, spring roll stuff)

    (7) Sandwich shop (w/ good meat, cheese, fresh bread)

  • How could I forget: BAGELS. Bruegers please!

  • From Mt P, just about anything would be welcome (although we don’t need another Mexican or Chinese place). In the Mt P/Columbia Heights area, I would love to see an Ethiopian restaurant.

  • Bagels — real bagels, like the make in montreal or NYC (Montreal style prefered). Open all night. Hot, fresh, made in a big old oven right on site. Place also sells various type of cream cheese, white fish spread, lox, OJ, coffee, half-n-half.

  • A great sushi place that is one price and all you can eat. I know, can the two go together but believe me, they can. We have experienced it time and time again:-)

  • All of this bagel talk is making me think that I would love to have a Montreal bagel place on the Hill.

    Also, sushi that isn’t Sticky Rice. Sticky Rice is great and all, but I’d like something more traditional (and just another choice).

  • Bloomingdale definitely needs a restaurant, but since we’re being asked what kind, I have to go with Latin cuisine. Salvadorean/Mexican/Peruvian- bring Mt. Pleasant to Bloomingdale.

  • what does ethnic mean?
    non corporate and non anglo saxon?

    i’m sure i have an unpopular view, but
    i think its odd that we all want to live in a cosmopolitan city, but we want communities to exist that live in a vacuum from each other? traditional? no thanks. authentic? does that rhythm with stagnant? give me borrowing, stealing and sharing. the best things in life come from when people break down their traditions and cross pollinate ideas.
    if you want traditional, DCA aint far away.

    that said i wouldn’t shy away from places ya’ll recommend though….

  • 14th needs more salvadorian, peruvian, Quetzalcoatl chicken joints. Love em to death but there are only 50.

    I miss the place on GA that delivered horrible chinese and horrible mexican from the one place, one menu. How else can i get Tacos and general tso’s with one phone call.

  • I wish the guy who opened (and closed) the Cajun Bangkok restaurant in Alexandria would reopen it here. The cajun-thai food combination was off the scale. I second the longing for a decent Dim Sum place and a decent deli. I wish they’d reopen the Wonder Bread factory and serve those little mini-loafs that you can hold in the palm of your hand. We’d slit them open and the steam would warm your face and the staff would dribble in real butter which would melt down the side of your hand. Ah.

  • Good bagels in DC are hard to find. Bethesda Bagels make the best in the area by far. If you can’t make it all the way up to Bethesda, they supply So’s Your Mom in Adams Morgan which also is a pretty quality deli.

  • Anon at 12:57. Ethnic food generally refers to food that comes from a particular historical ethnicity, anglo saxons included. So traditional English food would work, but seeing as CH already has Commonwealth, it’s not surprising we dont have people calling for more of them.

    I would also say the point is not that we shouldn’t combine cuisines and styles – DC definitely doesn’t have a shortage of “fusion” menus, in fact, it is probably the most over “done” style in the area – it’s that the traditional foods offer another option for the foodies. I find that some of the best foods are the ones that have been perfected over generations. It reminds me of an episode of Full House, where the guys have to explain to Stephanie, who was then learning to cook, that sometimes just because you like two things independently, it doesnt mean that they will work together in one dish.

  • jimmy d,
    i do agree with your take, and definitely think more variety is better, but “ethnic” doesn’t necessary mean “perfected over generations”.

    also, fusion may be overdone as you say, but fusion is our culture in dc. its our ethnic food so to speak.maybe in as much as “fusion” was they style of renaissance italy. tomatoes, basil, pasta…..
    ( yeah, i know i’m reaching…but theres something there.)
    and just blathering… maybe i should go have lunch.
    ; )

  • NY Deli and Greek

  • Isn’t all food ethnic food?

    (Hint: it is).

  • Haha yea unfortunately bagels are a foreign cuisine down here it seems. Its pretty embarrassing when I have friends visiting from New York who request a no frills “bacon-egg-n-cheese-on-a-bagel” breakfast and I bring them to dunkin donuts on 14th. Once a year I drop my guard and go to Heller’s for said breakfast and leave wanting to rip my goddamn hair out.

  • My dream —

    One or two blocks of 3+ story row houses w/ basements apts converted into small narrow restaurants (like the smaller cubby restaurants tucked away on side streets in Japanese cities.) All properties owned by a single party, offering the space at reduced rent to subsidize the restaurant and keep it profitable for a small space (one, two cooks max.) Offer the space to small Mom & Pops or good proven restaurants interested in a second small satellite. No chic noisy nonsense. A block or two from Metro, on a street w/ rear alley so residents can relax and live apart from the stuff out front if they like. Put the project on a 50 year plan to keep it an interesting but relaxed thing.

    It’d be awesome to have street with a ton of cozy little restaurants (i.e. – cook and single waitress places) representing food from around the world (Lebanese/Mediterranean, Uighur, Russian, Bavarian/German, legit Thai or Burmese, Jewish deli, Szechuan chinese, Canton chinese, Korean BBQ, Sushi/Japanese, Ethiopian, Viet/Pho, Afghan/Paki, S. Indian, Cajun, Italian enoteca, Brazilian BBQ?, Uruguay/central S. American meat fare, etc etc etc). Open late for relaxed drinking, but no out of character music/dancing like Adams Morgan has become, just a sleepy cozy intimate stand by.

    Anyone got a magic wand? or $30 million?

  • Bagel lover in CH…. I recommend a quick bus trip over to Van Ness for H&H bagels and amazing whitefish salad from the Calvert-Woodley wine store. A “buy 6, get 6 free” coupon from the back of your Giant receipt makes it taste even better.

  • A real Anglo English Pub would be nice.

    Good, full Cuban creole with the hearty cocido stews with malanga, not just the citrus marinated pork, yuca, rice and black beans.

    Portuguese; old Lisbon, not Brazilian.

    Puerto Rican is also absent in our nation’s capital; good Mofongo and Asopaos.

  • ray swore,

    fantastic dream!
    buy all the shiloh churchs property and do it!

  • Carn, it’s no different than getting “Southern BBQ” in Manhattan. I’m tired of people thinking that a bagel breakfast is simple anywhere outside of the NYC area.

    pick something else on the menu, sheesh.

    Ray Swore: Brilliant idea!

  • regarding all you can eat sushi- there were several locations in NoVa but they all converted to pay by the piece or pound- they were losing money in all you can eat.

    One I used to pay $15 for and the other was, I think, $18.95.

    There are a handful of downtown DC sushi by the pound places that are acceptable and some that aren’t.

  • Yeah, it would be cool wouldn’t it.

    Its an idea definitely cut out for an upcoming neighborhood near a thoroughfare and metro stop — like a neighborhood interested in turning one street-face into daytime commercial office space, w/ basements as tiny restaurants. Its cut out for this city — row house street accessible basement apts, high diversity/international. Maybe you could even get the embassies to subsidize the tiny restaurants (what’s a few thousand $ per quarter to have cool little ethnic representation in an iconic mini-Embassy Row ‘food district’, along w/ the ‘VIP’ perks the diplomats would get)

    Not a restauranteur, its just something I’d love to have here. Little Embassy Row, Little Embassy District.. something like that. how cool does that sound? That’s a unique little idea well suited for D.C.

  • You keep the little restaurants very profitable and keep the actual people presence down in the neighborhood by having them pool bicycle delivery service. System could be developed for pairing orders from multiple restaurants.

    If anybody wants to take on the idea, have at it — I’d be happy to help (for free.)

  • There are still several AYCE sushi places in NOVA. For example, Matsutake, Il mee, Hee Been.

  • You all need to get out and explore more:

    NY Slice – Cappucinos on Wisconsin is affordable, thin, slightly burnt crust – delicious
    NY Deli – Loeb’s Deli at McPherson Square is a pretty decent place, and they’ve got the attitude to boot

    As for Shawarma King – it’s very different from Old City Cafe, contrary to what one commenter may have suggested. You go to SK for the meat slow-roasting on the kebab (beef or chicken), and they’ll put the toppings on it for you. Old City Cafe is better for its falafel, but you might as well go three blocks down to Amsterdam Falafel for the original restaurant, with higher quality and product turn-over.

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