Tuesday, July 28 at 11 AM

Todd recommends places near Ikea to dine, talks about if Ray's Hell Burger has fallen off, and lots more.

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype?

The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 a.m. on Kliman Online. From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

Did you know you can now write your own restaurant reviews on Washingtonian.com? Read here to find out how.

>> Get our full Cheap Eats Guide

Read the transcript from July 21.

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The Current List: Where I'd Spend My Own Money

Komi, DC
Nava Thai Noodle & Grill, Wheaton
Honey Pig BBQ, Annandale
Palena and Palena Cafe, DC
The Source and The Source Lounge, DC
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Siroc, DC
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Vidalia, DC
Batik, Gaithersburg
Pete's Apizza, DC
Four Sisters, Falls Church
Poste Brasserie, DC
La Caraquena, Falls Church
Oval Room, DC
Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis
La Fondita, Hyattsville
Sushi Taro, DC
China Bistro, Rockville
Sushi Sono, Columbia

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Shaw, DC

I have to go to Ikea tonight in College Park (bleh).

Do you have a suggestion for something good to eat near there? Hole-in-the-wall cheap eats are as good as anything else?

Thanks!

There's lots.

If you go north a little ways toward Beltsville, there's Myoung Dong — for Korean noodle bowls and good mandu. Also in Beltsville: Da Rae Won, where they make their own noodles for the noodle bowls. It's Korean Chinese, and really good.

There's also a pho place, before you get to the Korean places, called Pho VN One. Pretty good, and a pretty place, too.

Ikea, by the way, is in Beltsville, but I think they really wanted to be able to say they were in College Park. (Which isn't "bleh" in my mind.)

Anyway. South a little ways into College Park, and you've got the really good Jungle Grille and the equally good Food Factory.

JG makes its own potato chips, fresh, and they're amazing (we wrote about them), and they also do good turkey burgers, etc.

FF has a bad name, but it's not fast food and factory-like; in fact, it's slow, because it cooks to order. It does good kabobs — get the bone-in chicken or the lamb chops, and ask them to make you a fresh naan to go with it. And if they try to direct you to the prepared foods, say no and tell them you want a kabob from scratch.

Silver Spring, MD

I am a long time friend of fried chicken. After reading your review I rushed out to the General Store/Post office and ordered the chicken,mac and cheese and collards greens.

The chicken was under-seasoned and dry, the mac/cheese lacked cheese and the greens were great. Boy, was I disappointed!

Tell it to Gillian Clark.

What can I say? I'm inclined to call it an off-night (or off-day). Between me and the rest of the staff, I would say we've eaten at General Store eight times since it opened. And only once was the fried chicken not so worthwhile. 

BBQ at Whole Foods
Have you had the barbecue at the Whole Foods near Fair Oaks? Its as good as any i've had in this area.

I haven't.

What kind of barbecue are we talking about, exactly? Ribs? Pulled pork? Both? Neither? Do they cook it over an open pit somewhere else and truck it in? Do they smoke it? Smoke it and grill it? If they do smoke it, is there a smoke ring to the meat? Is it luscious but with a little bit of give? Is it luscious but with no give? What's the sauce like? Tangy and vinegary? Tangy and sweet?

Just curious … ; ) 

Staycation in Georgetown

Todd,

Can you recommend two or three good breakfast places in Georgetown? We will be spending a romantic staycation in and around Georgetown over a weekend in a couple of weeks.. Brunch recs in the area would also be great. Thanks so much, Young at Heart

Sounds like a fun get-without-getting-away getaway.

I can think of a few places for you.

Leopold's Kafe + Konditorei for a pretty good Euro-style breakfast and pastries, etc. The Four Seasons also does breakfast, and really does it up — as a four-star hotel is supposed to do. A pretty high tab, though. Which I think ought to make you think twice about spending the money and calories, since it will cut into your ability to indulge later, with more interesting food.

There's also La Madeleine, which I'll no doubt be blasted for, later, and which isn't special but which I think fits the bill nicely for a tasty, inexpensive meal to start the day. 

 

Penn Quarter

Have you been to a chicken place out in Annandale called Bon Chon Chicken?

They're a chain but they do an amazing Korean Fried Chicken. Wonderfully seasoned either with soy garlic or spicy.

The only drawback is that it takes them a long time to make the chicken, so you need to call and order in advance, sometimes up to an hour beforehand. They have other things on the menu, but I only get the chicken whenever I go.

Same here!

I think the chicken's pretty terrific.

And it's weird the way these things work, because as soon as I read your mention of the place, my mouth started watering. 

Arlington, VA

Todd,

Your answers every week are great and I really enjoy trying the restuarants and dishes you suggest.

My question really stems from my recent visit to Ray's Hell Burger…The burger I received was soggy and not cooked the way I requested.

Given all the recent accolades they've received, I think the quality may have fallen off (not sure if you agree or not), but can you point me in the direction of an up & coming burger place in Arlington?

Thanks A-OK chris

I'm hearing this more and more lately.

I talked recently with Michael Landrum about life at RHB post-POTUS (and, lest we forget, VPOTUS; I've always liked Joe). 

A number of readers have written to me to ask whether RHB is pre-cooking its burgers (a step in the cooking/grilling process whereby the meat is given a sear or a char, then cooked through later), and whether that could be the culprit in the dropoff of quality they've noticed.

I don't have those notes in front of me, but his answer was something to the effect that RHB was always pre-cooking its burgers, even back before everything blew up, and that what they are doing now is pre-cooking them at a different time in the process — earlier in the process, if I'm remembering correctly.

It's one of those things, I suspect, that is hard to get a real sense of unless you see it up close.

The salient point, of course, is that people — and not a few — have noticed something.  

As for other burger joints in Arlington … no, sorry, I don't know of anything that's coming up, or that's already there that's promising.

On the other hand, if you're looking for good and cheap, you've got a wealth of options at your disposal. Arlington is loaded. Every other town in the area should be so lucky. 

 

Dupont Circle, DC

Hi Todd. I love your chats – they are a highlight of my Tuesday!

I'm sure you will get this question a lot in the next few weeks, but what are your top picks for restaurant week?

My boyfriend and I go out to eat pretty frequently, but usually to spots on the "cheap eats" list. I would love to hear some of your top picks on the pricier side that are great for RW.

Thanks!

You're way ahead of me. I haven't taken the time to go through the list of restaurants and make my picks.

But I will, soon. So stay tuned.

Believe me, I know what it's like to wait all year for the places you've heard so many terrific things about but couldn't really afford without a deal like this coming along. I know what it's like to want to maximize your experiences, particularly at a time like this when everybody's a little pinched. And I know what it's like to think that so many restaurants are taking part in this promotion but not really intent on following through with any passion or commitment, and that you're bound to come up short or come up empty if you don't do your homework. I know.

Alexandria, VA

Hi Todd,

Let me ask you, do you follow the craze of new restaurant openings? I'm just wondering if you have already been to Columbia Firehouse yet. I am looking forward to checking it out. Also, I know that you tweeted from the JG Steakhouse the night it opened, so I just wanted to see how deep in the trenches you get. Thanks!

Have I been to the new Columbia Firehouse? Maybe I have, maybe I haven't. Who wants to know? ; )

As for how deep in the trenches I get, I'd say pretty darn deep — although I have to confess, I have no idea what you mean by deep in the trenches.

But I can tell you, I'm eating out constantly, more — much more — than any sane human being ought to. I'm always working. Every meal is an assignment.

This is a vast and sprawling area, with lots of well-established pockets and lots of unexplored nooks, too, and I'm on the road a lot. 

And the tweeting … I'm doing more of it every day, sharing inside dope, little tips, observations and even wine recommendations — I've got a fantastic pick, a terrific cheap wine I'll be tweeting about after this chat. A friend recently said it drank like a $35-40 bottle of wine. It's $11.49

Anyway, I'm having fun with it. I'd encourage you — and anyone else — to sign up if you're interested in being barraged by a lot of food and drink notes every day. : )

WDC

Todd,

Just tried Zorba's Cafe for the first time based on your inclusion of it in the Cheap Eats list. I really enjoyed it for its unpretentiousness and its charm. Have you got other within the District Cheap Eats recommendations like it? I found it charming in the same way I find Taw's place and Levi's Port charming — something casual and authentic. Seems like most of the time to find that sort of a spot, I have to leave the District, but I'd really like to find more spots that fit that bill. Thanks!

Thanks.

That's not a first time thing for Zorba's, I want to point out. They've been on the list ever since I came aboard to run the section a few years ago.

Casual and authentic and charming is in very, very short supply in DC. It's the rents. They're prohibitively high, snuffing out the possibility, in most cases, of interesting and affordable places popping up. 

Himalayan Heritage meets your specs. Give it a try. I think Malaysia Kopitiam does, too. And of course, the king of casual, authentic and charming — CF Folk's on 19th St., the anti-Palm as I call it, which now has a new chef in the talented George Vetsch.

Cafe Ole in Tenleytown is a very nearly; I enjoy it.

But for the most part, DC just can't compete with what's in Maryland and Virginia. There are many, many places that are cheap, but aren't all that good. The few ethnic restaurants that exist are, in general, either take-out joints with no ambition — or commitment to quality — or starry-eyed spots that amp up the decor in an effort to woo yuppies but don't pay much attention to the cooking.

 

Gaithersburg, MD

Todd,

So I noticed from your Twit and your Current list, Batik in the Kentlands is mentioned favorably. I am going to try Batik tomorrow night, any good recommendations?

Well, dumplings for one. They have a dumpling bar with seven kinds.

I like the pork dumpling with cabbage and green onion.

The skins are not made in-house, they're bought, but that's not a deal-killer, so long as the kitchen takes care with its steaming, making sure not to leave them in the steamer too long or too little. Lots of places are guilty of one or the other. Not this one, at least not what I've seen.

There's also a page of hawker-style dishes, basically, street cart eats. The skewered, glazed pork is rich, juicy and absolutely worth your while. It also comes with a little salad of pickled veggies, to cut the fat of the meat.

I'd also consider the Nasi Goreng, a Malaysian dish — the menu draws upon Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, and Filipino cuisines. An amazing dish? No. But a deeply satisfying one, and with everything, from the fried shallots on top to the matchsticks of carrot, properly and carefully cooked. It's also a lot of food for ten bucks.

Prices are cheap — I don't think anything tops $13; the dumplings are $6-7 — and the atmosphere has some of the  sophistication of Fatty Crab and Kampuchea Noodle Bar in Manhattan, some of that lightly evoked exoticism.

What's smart, here, is that the emphasis is on the food, which I wasn't expecting, given the name and given the aim of the restaurant. I feared, initially, that the decor and mood were going to carry the day.

Points, too, in my book, for playing hard-bop on the sound system. I may be biased — okay, I am biased — but nothing sets a mood like jazz, real jazz. More places should be reprogramming their iPods. 

 

Arlington, VA

Good morning Todd. Love the chats!

I am going to Paris with a friend for a few days in two weeks. Do you have any recommendations there for a splurge (for 20 somethings-around 50 euros before wine each)? We will be staying at least one night right near the Arc de Triomphe.

Thanks!

You'll be in the 8th arrondissment, which is where the fabulous Senderens is. Right near the Place de Madeleine.

What I'd do is, I'd go for lunch, make that your big meal of the day, and sit at the "Le Passage" bar.

It's cheaper than the dining room, and you'll still dine wonderfully well. I love Senderens. The cooking is so controlled, so effortless-seeming, so subtly imaginative, so exquisite.

If you go, I'd love to hear a report on what you ate and drank. Deal?

Arlington, Va

I'll be celebrating my 28th birthday on Saturday, Aug 29th and while I'd LOVE to go to the new rooftop bar at the W I hear it can be hit or miss with crowds, staff and cost.

I'd love to go to a wine bar but worry that it may be too low key.

I'm too old for clubs and would like to do something different than the usual Arlington bars.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Group will probably be about 20. Looking forward to your suggestion(s)!

You know, I'm kinda stumped on this one.

You want more excitement than a wine bar, but not a club. And not an Arlington bar, if you can help it. You didn't say anything about food, so I'm guessing that's not a priority. And a place that can accommodate 20 people.

The Park on 14th — or is that too much of a club? Chi-Cha Lounge on U St.?

Chatters? 

Producer's Note: We recently rounded up several restaurants that are good for a birthday celebration. Check out the guide here

Fairfax, VA

Is it just me, or does the increase in dinner prices for RW seem a little steep? It seems like I can pay $35 easily for any compination of an app/entre/desert at many of the participating restaurants.

To me, at least, it sort of takes away from the spirit of it all… I guess there are a few gems in there. When can we expect your recommendations?

Soon, soon. I promise.

And I'm with you: I think $35 is too high to ask. I'm not sure that qualifies as a deal, or not as much of a deal. For $35 I don't want to see menus that offer a choice between a soup and a salad for a first course. I don't want to see  chicken breast and salmon among the entrees.

You know what? Here's the rub:

For $35, you could dine ALREADY at many of the top restaurants in the city if you simply opted out of dessert. 

At $35, Restaurant Week might as well be renamed Free Dessert Week.

 

Rockville, Md.
Where can I get a good gyro near Rockville? I tried going to the Fallsgrove Moby Dick's but found it to be very dry and not appetizing. Bonus points if there's a more mom+pop type place around.

Athens Grill in Gaithersburg.

Mom 'n' pop and good gyros, too.  

RE: Ikea
If you don't mind driving a bit further to Laurel, Pasta Plus is a gem with homemade pasta and Red Hot and Blue in Laurel is tastier and better than its other locations.

Pretty far afield of Ikea, but yeah.

Although I have to say that I want to like Pasta Plus more than I do. I like it, but I don't like it like it. My most recent visit there was about three months ago, and I ordered very simply, staying away from the too-rich cream sauces (which are everywhere) and the more cluttered, ingredient-heavy pasta preparations, and did well and enjoyed my meal. There were four of us at dinner. One followed my tack, and did well, too. The other two went the way of cream and clutter and were not particularly impressed.

I like their desserts, particularly their zabaglione and their cream-filled pastries.

And I like their market next door, where you can buy marinara, tomato sauce, fresh pasta, and roasted veggies for take out.

As for Red, Hot & Blue: yes. Agreed. It's the best of the various area locations, and one reason has to do with the staff, which is terrific; many of the servers have been around since the place opened. 

 

Washington DC

I'm having some out-of-towners come in for a birthday dinner, I'm treating. It is going to be about 10 of us.

Where should we go that is about $50 to $75 a head including wine and liquor, that is a lively and fun atmosphere. I want to be in DC, so that the out-of-towners can get a feel for the nightlife and great restaurants this city has to offer.

Any suggestions?

The new J&G should fit the bill.

I was there on opening night and Tweeted my first impressions

New Restaurants in DC

Todd,

I am having a dinner get together and want to try out one of the newer restaurants that opened.

If you had to choose between Policy, Eatonville, Potenza, or Sei in terms of the quality of food (service and decor doesn't matter as much), which would you choose?

Interesting call.

I'd probably give Sei the (slight) nod over Potenza.

They couldn't be more different, though, and if I were in the mood for something rib-sticking and rusticky (good breads, some good pastas, killer cannolis), I'd go with Potenza. 

Shaw, DC

Good Morning, Todd!

My boyfriend just moved his offices to Georgetown and is excited to try new restaurants that have been under our radar. One of them is Sea Catch. I say it's an over-priced tourist trap, but he still wants to try it. Your thoughts? I've lived in DC for 6 years and can't find anyone who has been there!

Boy, it's been a while.

And the last time I was there, it wasn't for a meal, it was for raw bar-type stuff. I enjoyed myself. But as I say, it was a few years ago.

WDC

Thanks. Malaysia Kopitiam and CF Folks are exactly what I'm talking about and I look forward to trying Himilaran Heritage. 

By the way, have you heard about any good promising restaurants coming to H Street NE? That area is really taking off, but still counts the overcrowded Dr. Granville Moore's as the closest thing to fine dining. Someone is going to put a restaurant in and

And –? 

And what?

And really show Joe Englert how it's done?

And really make good food, for a change?

H St. is interesting, it's fun, but there's really not a whole lot there right now that I'm that excited about. 

I like the Argonaut, just not for the food. Granville Moore's has slipped. Taylor Gourmet shops well, but I don't find myself craving any of their sandwiches, and I think their hoagies are yuppified and stinting and not exuberant. I haven't gotten to H St. Country Club yet.

DC to Annapolis
Hey Todd – I'm going to look at places to live in Annapolis tomorrow (work related) and I need somewhere to eat. No crabs on this trip, as I need something a bit neater for my mid-week lunch. Any ideas?

Yes!

Potato Valley on State Circle. Terrific baked potatoes, hot and fluffy and minerally, and topped with all sorts of good things. I love this place. 

Or Joss on Main St. for sushi. It's in the top 10 in the area in sushi, in my book, and I love the atmosphere of it.

I could talk some more about Hell Point Seafood, the new place from Bob Kinkead, and how it still is not living up to its great promise, but I won't. There's always next week. 😉 

Be well, everyone, eat well and let's do it again next Tuesday at 11 … 

Submit your question in advance to Todd's next chat, Tuesday, August 4, at 11 AM. 

 

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