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Best of Wilson Boulevard: Dining
Comments () | Published November 15, 2010
Northside Social uses fair-trade coffee beans. At night, the two-story space turns into a casual wine bar/cafe. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

CLARENDON

Delhi Club has been inconsistent, but its neon-red tandoori chicken wings are as good as ever and the Bengali curry with shrimp still radiates an impressive level of heat. The paneer makhani, a creamy curry with cubes of semisoft Indian cheese, is a dish for the spice-averse.

Call well ahead if you want a seat among the dramatic velvet curtains in the dining room at Eventide, where chef Miles Vaden puts out a seasonal American menu with unexpected touches. Pumpkin soup is garnished with balsamic-pickled chayote squash, bison tartare comes with cranberry mustard, and raw oysters have a tomato-horseradish gelée. The lounge, where seats are also hard to come by at prime time (there are no reservations), has upmarket bar staples such as house-made bratwurst, French fries with apricot-horseradish mustard, and barbecue-bison sliders.

At Liberty Tavern, a cozy bilevel restaurant and bar, chef Liam LaCivita regularly changes his American menu, a roster of dishes that pulls from his Italian background. That means that house-made gnocchi—surprisingly delicate—come with corn and tomatoes in summer and apples and ham in fall. His time in New England kitchens is evident, too, in a plate of crispy fried clams with fennel and lemon. LaCivita puts lots of labor into his food—nearly everything, starting with the bread basket, is made from scratch. He also oversees Lyon Hall, a German-influenced brasserie with buttery pork schnitzel and a terrific house-made hot dog, and Northside Social — quaint coffee shop by day, wine bar/cafe by night. Regardless of the hour, don’t miss the wonderful coconut-pecan cookies.

Bar fare and Southern cooking get an upgrade at 3 Bar & Grill, where Art Deco architecture meets rustic-chic decor. The menu can be hit or miss; the dishes that sound the most caloric (food from the fryer) are generally the best. Reliably good are chips covered in blue cheese and house-cured bacon as well as a great rendition of chicken and waffles. Cornmeal-crusted oysters, paired with a spicy rémoulade, come out crispy, and doughnuts arrive hot with a chocolate-coffee dipping sauce.

Falls Church Vietnamese restaurants get all the attention, but some of the area’s best renditions of that cuisine can be found at Minh’s, a friendly dining room on the ground floor of an office building. The kitchen is skilled at many things: pork-and-shrimp-stuffed pancakes, cool vermicelli bowls, caramel hot pots, and grilled meats. It’s especially deft with the fryer, as shown by the greaseless sweet-potato-and-shrimp fritters and spring rolls.

Chef Barry Koslow's house-made cavatelli with sausage, escarole, and chilli flakes is a good reason to visit Tallula. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

In the mood for a burger? Head to Harry’s Tap Room, a casual modern saloon that does a great job with challah-sandwiched patties and turns out nice pots of mussels. It’s also a good Benedict-and–Bloody Mary stop on weekend mornings.

Tallula exudes refinement in both its dining room—rust-orange walls, simple dark-wood furniture—and its ever-changing menu. A recent meal turned up a disk of blue-crab sausage over fregola, an Italian couscous; a Portuguese-inspired plate of haddock with clams, mussels, and linguiça; and duck with Brussels sprouts and figs. One dish chef Barry Koslow hasn’t pulled from the menu: a terrific bowl of house-made cavatelli with escarole and veal sausage.

Former AOLer Wendy Buckley combined her business savvy with a love of wine when she opened Screwtop Wine Bar earlier this year. The cheese and charcuterie selections are limited, but small plates such as a buffalo-meatloaf sandwich and grilled-cheese sliders with tomato soup bulk up the menu. Check the Web site for a calendar of regular winetasting classes.

Pastry chef Justin Stegall quietly arrived in Washington with a custom-cakes business in 2006 and made pastries for a few coffee shops. A year ago, he entered the cupcake wars with Bakeshop. His cupcakes are small but have a good cake-to-frosting ratio. We’re fans of the almond, anchored by a spongecake-like bottom, as well as his chocolate-based options such as cookies-and-cream and devil’s food. Stegall’s “oatmeal cream pie” is made with delightfully soft cookies.

>> Next: Food trucks and Ballston restaurants

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 11/15/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles