Jackie Greenbaum—the streaked-hair restaurateur who brought mini–Elvis burgers and other trendy comfort food to Silver Spring at her restaurant Jackie’s—nearly caused a neighborhood revolt when she took over the venerable tavern the Quarry House. Here come the yuppies! But two years later, the subterranean bar is still a local hangout, the often-live music is still loud, and the grub is still greasy. Only now the grease has some thought behind it. Hot dogs are imported from Wisconsin sausage maker Usinger’s. Potato chips are made in-house, hash-brown poppers are kicked up with Old Bay, and the fried pickle spears show up the flimsier versions at upscale Southern restaurants. A new beer list offers not only Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can but Abita Turbo Dog from Louisiana and Delirium Tremens from Belgium. And you can still find a good half-pound bacon cheeseburger—no miniature versions here. 8401 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-587-8350.
Do-It-Yourself Restaurant Dining
Why go out to a restaurant to cook for yourself? Because at Bob’s 88 Shabu Shabu, sticking to the menu of plated dishes means missing out on the fun of shabu-shabu. Each diner gets a burner and a pot full of stock—think Taiwanese fondue. Once it starts boiling, you throw in some Napa cabbage, tofu, tomato, and enoki mushrooms, then swish a piece of meat, shell-on shrimp, or even lobster around the pot until cooked. It’s hard to keep your shirt clean but easy to whip up something delicious. 316 N. Washington St., Rockville; 301-294-5888.
Warm Winter Comfort Food
True New Englanders might scoff at Michel Richard’s refined mussel chowder at Central Michel Richard—but not once they’ve put spoon to mouth. A deep bowl arrives empty, aside from a handful of plump mussels, perfectly diced potatoes, and braised leeks. The golden-hued soup is poured in tableside. Richard was trying to copy the clam chowder “that Americans love” when he created this dish. “But I’m a Frenchman,” he says. “It’s American food with a little French accent.” The accent comes from saffron and a pinch of turmeric, the pungent spice that lends yellow-orange color to Indian curry and to this elegant version of an American classic. 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-626-0015; centralmichelrichard.com.
New Georgetown restaurant Hook has gotten lots of attention for its ecofriendly philosophy and simply prepared fish. It’s not exactly the first place you’d look to find a decadent Gallic treat. But each afternoon, pastry chef Heather Chittum bakes madeleines—the butter cakes that a nostalgic Proust made famous—to order. Flavored with orange, wildflower honey, and butter that’s browned until it takes on a whiff of nuttiness, they’re terrific dipped in the accompanying pot of seasonal marmalade but are delicious with a cappuccino, too. A $9 order brings you five shell-shaped cakes, though Chittum usually bakes an extra for the line cooks: “They smell them, and they know.” 3241 M St., NW; 202-625-4488; hookdc.com.
Kati rolls—the popular Calcutta hawker snack—bear all the hallmarks of great street food. The roti roll-ups, filled tightly with bite-size chunks of chicken and shreds of mixed vegetables, are one-handedly portable and easy to eat without making a mess. Our favorite versions are available for takeout at the colorful Loudoun County cafe Rangoli (24995 Riding Plaza, South Riding; 703-957-4900; rangolirestaurant.us) and at Maryland’s Indique Heights (2 Wisconsin Cir., Chevy Chase; 301-656-4822; indiqueheights.com). We haven’t yet found a version worth praising in DC—street vendors, are you listening?