First, mega brownie points for anyone who recognizes the title reference.
Even though I don’t live in DC anymore, I frequently read Tom Seitsema’s live online chats through the Washington Post website. Without fail, there’s always some killjoy whose sole purpose of writing in is to bitch and moan about how much DC’s restaurant scene sucks, and to complain about how we don’t have good burgers/pizza/ethnic food, and to haughtily claim that everything was superior back in New York/Chicago/San Francisco. I have two things to say to those people:
1) See the title of this post. Seriously, if you hate DC (or any other city, for that matter) so much, get the hell out.
2) Obviously, you’re not asking me for restaurant recommendations. Because in my humble (read: expert) opinion, DC is a fantastic dining destination with oodles of choices for every taste and budget.
Take last weekend’s visit. On Friday night, my friends and I went to Proof for dinner. In terms of atmosphere, it doesn’t get much better for me–Proof is chic without being fussy and upscale while still being accessible. We started with the jamon serrano, the speck, and the housemade pate from the charcuterie list. I focused on the pate, and it was rich and incredibly flavorful. We also had two hot appetizers, the pumpkin gnocchi (with sage, spinach, and yummy yummy wild mushrooms) and the pork belly confit. The gnocchi was outstanding, as has been every other seasonal preparation of that dish. The pork belly was tender and flavorful, and my friends really dug the Asian slaw that accompanied it (it contained peanuts, to which I am allergic, so I didn’t formulate an opinion). In terms of main courses, the seared scallops, in addition to being perfectly cooked, were served with a delicious wasabi-onion emulsion that I would like to buy by the bottle. The duck breast was also impeccably cooked and had an amazing spicy crust. Both plates were practically licked clean. We ordered the new cookie plate for dessert, and we were pleasantly surprised by the wonderful fruitiness of the strawberry meringues. The salty oatmeal cookie was probably the table favorite, though I also liked the madelines and the chocolate chip cookie. The flavor of the ginger-molasses cookie was intense and would have been delicious at my holiday parties. Service was excellent, and all of the wine recommendations were spot-on (Proof, as its name would suggest, has an insanely varied selection of vino and other beverages). We left the restaurant trying to pick out our favorite part of the meal, but it was just too hard, since everything was so fantastic.
Then there was Saturday’s lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso. I expected Georgetown to be a madhouse with inauguration crowds, but we walked in and were seated quickly by a very friendly host. The aromas in the restaurant were just heavenly, by the way. Their beer selection is INCREDIBLE, and it was just what we needed after a night of heavy drinking (what, you’ve never heard of “hair of the dog”?). The pizzas also hit the spot, with their cheesy carby goodness. I ordered a veggie version, with tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms, and it was a delicious way to trick my body into thinking it was eating healthy. My friend’s four-cheese pizza with pine nuts had no such illusions, but it was amazingly flavorful. The crusts were perfectly cooked on both–tender, but with a little charred crunch. There are lots of mediocre restaurants in Georgetown, for sure, but Pizzeria Paradiso is a nice place to enjoy a casual, tasty bite.
The final taste treat of the weekend was in Arlington, at Ray’s Hell Burger. When I lived in DC, I visited Ray’s the Steaks as often as possible, as it is both affordable and yummylicious. My inaugural (pun intended) trip to the sister burger joint didn’t let me down, either. Just like RTS, the atmosphere is…minimal, to say the least. But who cares about decor when you have cow juice dripping down your chin? I ordered the Soul Burger (with bacon, a cheese I cannot remember, mushrooms and onions, lettuce, and tomato), cooked recommended, and it was the closest thing I’ve ever found to my dad’s backyard burgers–thick, juicy, TASTY (as in, you can taste the meat), and immensely satisfying. The bun handled the patty and the toppings with minimal issues. My friend got a burger with blue cheese, mushrooms, and onions, cooked medium, and she really enjoyed it. They have a bunch of cool, retro sodas (like Cheerwine!), which is a nice touch. They also have sides and chips, but you don’t really need them with a 10-ounce burger. Honestly, if that doesn’t fill your tummy, just order a second one. Having RTS and Hell Burger in one strip mall is possibly the only thing that could convince me to move to Arlington.
These are just three of the HUNDREDS of quality dining options available in and around DC. I lived there for three years, and I didn’t even come close to trying all of the city’s great restaurants. So before you start judging our nation’s capital by its proverbial cover, give it a real chance. If it doesn’t impress you the way it did me, see the title of this post again.