Del Ray’s neighborhood pizza joint turns out the same pies that made a success of its older sibling, Café Pizzaiolo in Crystal City. There’s the thin but sturdy Neapolitan version, its crust infused with olive oil, and the more substantial New York style made with a whisper of sourdough. The options with fewer toppings keep the crusts from wilting; the basic Caprese and the Diavala with sausage and peppers are good bets. Families should stake out a table in the 60-seat dining room—stocked with a collection of board games—while other customers can take advantage of a smaller bar area with flat-screen TVs and a Tuesday two-for-one pizza deal.
3112 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-837-0666. Pizzas $12.99 to $19.50, pasta and panini $7.99 to $14.95.
The nearly 2,000 domestic and imported bottles lining the shelves at Planet Wine (2004 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-549-3444) include 60 red and white options for less than $15 as well as a section devoted to Virginia labels. Round out a party spread with charcuterie from Red Apron—a fellow member of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group—as well as artisanal cheeses.
There are lots of ways to indulge a sweet tooth at ACKC Cocoa Bar (2003-A Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-635-7917), where truffles—made at the store’s DC location—are packed with fillings both elegant (Provençal lavender with pistachios and almond with amaretto) and unusual (Brie with black sesame seeds). Other gift-worthy treats include chocolate-dipped Oreos, maple-caramel popcorn, and fudge.
The long cheese case at Cheesetique (2411 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-706-5300) holds more than 200 varieties—each neatly labeled with provenance, milk type, and flavor profile—and shelves are packed with anything you’d ever want to pair with them.
One of the area’s best butcher shops is just down the street. At Let’s Meat on the Avenue (2403 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-836-6328), Steve Gatward procures a good range of carefully raised meats, such as free-range veal, hormone-free tri-tip steak, and freshly cut bacon. The shop makes its own sausage, and if you need a whole pig for spit roasting, Gatward will special-order it.
1. Chanterelle mushrooms and summer corn at Bar Pilar.
2. Buffalo-milk ricotta with rose honey and almonds at Bibiana.
3. Veal sweetbreads with celery-root mousseline and diced veal tongue at Bistro Bis.
4. Spinach-and-olive tian at Bistro Provence.
5. Seared Nantucket Bay scallops with root vegetables and date purée at Blue Duck Tavern.
6. Prime-steak burger with cheddar at Bourbon Steak.
7. Shrimp and roast-beef po’boys at the Cajun Experience.
8. Corned-beef sandwich at Central.
9. Fried chicken with curried lentils at Circle Bistro.
10. Peekytoe-crab tart at Citronelle.
At our Best of Washington party last night, restaurants pulled out all the stops, serving everything from octopus carpaccio (2941) to lobster salad (the Palm) to an Indian spin on Scotch eggs (Rasika). While we were very impressed with the entire spread, some dishes really shined. Here’s a roundup of our favorites from the night.
>>For a slideshow of more dishes from the night, click here.
Best version of a low-brow dish by a high-brow restaurant: Citronelle’s fried chicken rounds with a Dijon dressing were a far cry from Mickey D’s nuggets with honey-mustard sauce.
Best use of summer corn: Chilled Silver Queen-corn soup with crab, tarragon oil, and crispy tarragon leaves from Charlie Palmer Steak.
Best way to beat the heat: Masa 14’s mixture of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon/basil simple syrup, ginger liqueur, and Dos Equis beer.
>>To build up an appetite for the Best of Washington party, we're reading through our July issue. Up today? Our favorite milkshakes:
Toasted-marshmallow shake at Good Stuff Eatery. The most adventurous of the region’s milkshakes, the one from this Capitol Hill burger joint comes with a marshmallow on top.
Peppermint shake at Ted’s Bulletin. There’s something almost medicinal—in a good way—about the bracing mint in this Capitol Hill diner’s shake. Feeling edgy? Get the spiked White Russian.
Chocolate shake at Chick-fil-A. The fast-food chain’s “hand-spun” shakes will please any milkshake connoisseur.
Vanilla shake at the Tombs. This Georgetown bar has great summer foods—such as its tomato salad—but nothing is as refreshing as the oversize vanilla shake. It’s served with a spoon.
Chocolate shake at the Silver Diner. Ordering a shake at this 1950s-themed area chain—with tabletop jukeboxes—will make you feel as if you’ve come from a sock hop.
Flavor of the month at BGR the Burger Joint. Each month, this local chain offers a seasonal shake. May’s Chocolate-Covered Strawberries was excellent, although January’s Coffee and Doughnuts was better in theory than reality.
The simple description on the menu at Cedar, a subterranean Penn Quarter dining room, didn’t prepare us for what arrived at the table—a luscious stew of meaty oysters, which usually hail from Virginia’s James or Rappahannock River, plus leeks and sweet Jerusalem artichokes. Oh, and one more thing: “I don’t really want to tell you how much butter I put in it,” chef Andrew Kitko laughs. The recipe was inspired by the more traditional pan roast served at the Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central Terminal as well as flavors from Kitko’s New England upbringing. But we’re pretty sure this beats anything from his Connecticut childhood.
This article appeared in the April, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.
Tea takes a back seat at many restaurants, and considering the way most places regard tea service, it’s little wonder. Who wants a cup of bagged Constant Comment you can have at home? But Ris, chef Ris Lacoste’s new West End restaurant, has made tea a point of pride by investing in handmade blends from Laurie Bell and her excellent Great Falls Tea Garden.
A great deli pickle—the kind that lands on the table at places like Katz’s in New York City—isn’t easy to come by here, especially in a grocery-store aisle. So Arondo Holmes, a coffee vendor who grew up making homemade pickles with his mom in Northern Virginia, set out to elevate Washington’s spears. His Oh! Pickles creations are now a presence at local farmers markets. Half sours and—our favorites—the ones simply called sours are the most Manhattan-like, but Holmes says upstate New Yorkers go for red-hots, made with a fiery brine that lives up to its name. Most popular are his mom’s pickled beets—“the first thing I sell and the last thing I sell,” Holmes says. Now all we need is some worthy pastrami.
Have a restaurant recipe you’d like sniffed out? E-mail email@example.com