Lots of Cleveland Park residents use Spices for takeout and delivery, but the food is at its best in the warmly lit dining room. We dug into a tangy salad of green papaya, mango, and red cabbage, and another Vietnamese classic—grilled shrimp over cold vermicelli with nicely crunchy spring rolls, cucumber, mint leaves, and peanuts. Less inspiring: gummy drunken noodles with flavorless minced chicken and the limp, over-steamed edamame. 3333-A Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-686-3833. —JV
Ray’s to the Third
We took the casual route at Michael Landrum’s latest restaurant. The enormous Mack burger—with American cheese and tangy “heck” sauce—was juicy perfection. Tender slices of rib eye elevated a sandwich that included melted American and provolone and grilled onions on a Lyon Bakery sub roll. A side salad lent lovely contrast to the sandwiches, and a boozy shake with bourbon and bacon bits made an indulgent ending. 1650 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-974-7171. —JV
Spike and Amy Gjerde may have their mind on new projects, but that hasn’t diminished anything at their farmhouse-cool flagship. Our table became cluttered with terrific snacks: cucumbers seasoned with fish pepper, crab dip with a shot of sherry, a crisp salad of charred sugar-snap peas. Excellent desserts—from a blackberry meringue pie to a marshmallow-and-malt sundae—helped make the meal one of the best we’ve had here. 2010 Clipper Park Rd., Baltimore; 410-464-8000. —AL
This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.