Tuesday, July 6 at 11 AM

Read the transcript of today's chat with Food & Wine Editor and restaurant critic Todd Kliman.

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.

Read the transcript from June 29th.

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TK's 25: Where I'd Spend My Own Money

Afghan Famous Kabob, Gainesville

Bistro Bis, DC

Black Market Bistro, Garrett Park

Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore

Buck's Fishing & Camping, DC

Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis

Central Michel Richard, DC

DaMoim, Annandale

Gom Ba Woo, Annandale

J&G Steakhouse, DC

Jackie's, Silver Spring

Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, Columbia

Komi, DC

Kushi, DC

La Limeña, Rockville

Minh's, Arlington

Palena Cafe, DC

Poste Brasserie, DC

Rasika, DC

Ray's the Classics Bar, Silver Spring

Ray's the Steaks at East River, DC

Silver Diner, Greenbelt

The Source and The Source Lounge, DC

Taqueria La Placita, Riverdale

Zentan Sushi Bar, DC

Montgomery Village, MD

To the poster headed to the Eastern Shore – my grandmother lived in Easton all my life up until a couple years ago when she had to move to VA to be closer to family due to health issues.

We used to go to a restaurant called Suicide Bridge out past Secretary. It's a nice little drive out to the middle of nowhere, and it's not at all fancy, but they have some great seafood. They make my grandmother's favorite crab cakes. They have a seafood buffet on certain nights.

t can get crowded on weekends though so be forewarned- and it's not really the tourist crowd, mostly locals. Also I remember them advertising riverboat dinners on the choptank…which the restaurant sits on, but I don't know if they still do that or not because I haven't been there for a couple years.

Sure, Suicide Bridge, good call. Crab bisque and crabcakes.

I haven't been in a while, but if the crabcakes are as good as they used to be, you'll be in for a good time.

Good sweltering morning, everyone …

Before we go too much further, I just wanted to announce the winner of last week's contest, Richard Elbar, of Fairfax, who will receive a free copy of my new book, THE WILD VINE. Congratulations, Richard! …

Washington, DC

I just returned from Germany and was excited to finally have some spicy, authentic Chinese food (the heat generally gets tamed down for German tastes). Some friends and I went to Joe's Noodle House this past week, and I was disappointed.

We ordered tofu-wrapped shitake mushrooms, noodles with ground pork and spinach, spicy duck with konjack stew, and a calamari dish with "Chinese celery" and pickled peppers. The mushrooms were nothing special. The noodles were surprisingly bland and totally lacked the promised Szechuan peppercorn tingle. The pickled peppers barely perked up the chewy, overcooked calamari. Even the complimentary hot tea tasted stale and lukewarm.

The only thing I really liked was the duck, which was served up in a rich, dark gravy. Did we order wrong? I was surprised that a place billing itself as a noddle house serves what seems to be run-of-the-mill spaghetti topped with bland sauce. I know this restaurant made the 2009 Cheap Eats list…but why?

Can I say it? I think you ordered wrong. ; )

It's not a noodle house, it's nominally a noodle house — meaning, not at all. Speaking of nominally, it's also nominally owned by Joe — and there's no Joe.

It's a long and sprawling menu, and there are ways you can go wrong. It's not a perfect place. But there's a lot that's good. I find it odd that you consulted the Cheap Eats list, but didn't take a single recommendation for what to get! Those are the dishes that we, after lots of ordering and experimentation, have singled out as the best to order.

When I'm at Joe's, I build everything around the whole sea bass with sour Napa cabbage and peppers. I almost always get the hot, pickled peppers, almost always order the diced leeks with black beans and ground pork, almost always a soup or stew of some kind, and almost always the dan dan mien, which is authentic and fabulous. 

Silver Diner?
Say what?? Did I read that wrong??

You didn't.

The Silver Diner has completely revamped its menu and, as much as a diner can, gone local. I am impressed by what I'm seeing. In fact, I can't believe I'm eating in a diner, except for the easygoing air of the place, the liveliness, the simplicity.

They've got three local beers on the menu, and four wines by the glass from local Virginia wineries, including Chateau Morrisette, Barboursville and Horton. Four. At a diner. Compare that with the lists at most 3-star and 4-star restaurants in the area.

The coffee is from Greenberry.

A number of breads are from local and regional bakers. 

Burgers are made from hormone-free beef.

There's a soft shell crab sandwich, with soft shells from local sources. Right now, they've got a summer Greek salad made with local greens and tomatoes.

This is a sample of what's on the kids' menu: whole wheat spaghetti, vegan coleslaw, steamed edamame and brown rice.

Clearly, the owners are paying attention to the larger culture, and they have responded in a big, big way. In many ways, this is a bigger statement than what the fine dining spots are doing, because the prices are so low and because Silver Diner is a place that reaches more, and more kinds, of people. If the revolution is going to happen, it's going to happen because of developments like this. If a chain like Silver Diner can rethink its entire mission, then who knows what will come?

Philosophy is nothing without taste, and I should also mention that the food I've been eating there has been tasty, too. I've really enjoyed it.

so what happened to Ray's the Steaks Arlington?..it doesn't appear with the other Ray's on your 25 list.

Nothing "happened." I've only got 25 spots, and I want to feature places that I'm excited about at the moment.

You'll notice that Hell-Burger is not on there, either. And really, two spots on the current list is more than any other restaurateur in the area can lay claim to.

Bethesda, MD
Todd, would you advice trying the fare at Citronelle via the more cost-friendly upstairs lounge, or should we pony up for the sit-down dining experience?

I think downstairs is one of the great meals in the city, so yes. Go.


Wash DC

Hi Todd,

I'm an intern working on Capitol Hill and living on an incredibly small stipend, and I was wondering which restaurants and take out places in the Foggy Bottom/K Street/Dupont area would give me the most bang for my buck. I'm used to pretty fancy dining at school (classy food, atmosphere, etc), and the abrupt change from expensive dinners to ramen noodles has been a difficult one for me!

I hear you.

Here's my list. I wish it weren't so brief:

* Zorba's Cafe in Dupont Circle. A perennial pick for Cheap Eats. I adore this place. I don't think I've ever had an off or disappointing meal.

* Greek Deli on 19th St., near L. Good for takeout, huge portions, the kind of homestyle fare that you don't think you can find around here, but which is abundant in Chicago and NYC.

* Maoz Vegetarian on M St.

* Best Sandwich Place, on L St. between 19th and 18th. Inside the building that also houses a Borders. Sandwiches made from scratch, on real bread, including fresh-carved turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce.

* Breadline.

Hope that helps. I have the feeling I'm forgetting a couple of good places, so I'd welcome any others to add to the list … 


HELP! I have a short-notice visit from my in-laws and other family in town this weekend, and need a Friday night reservation for 10.

My in-laws are not adventurous eaters (no ethnic) and are not comfortable with fine dining. Price is not restrictive, but would like to keep it reasonable. Where could accomodate us in the District on such short-notice, but still be a good place to eat? (Can't go to the suburbs due to logistics.)

Hm. That's tough, because what's interesting about the dining scene right now is the great ethnic spots at the low end and the exciting developments going on at the high end.

How about Buck's Fishing and Camping? It's casual for what it is, and I don't think the menu would make your family feel alienated in the least. 

Hankering for Oysters

.. and king crab legs, and mussels! But mostly, sweet, juicy oysters. After spending the day on the water, the only thing I can think about were fresh oysters.

Can you lead me to some places where I can find them? I'll be bringing my appetite, so preferably a place where I can order a few dozen without breaking the bank 🙂 Thanks!

I realize I'm going to be spit-roasted in some quarters for saying this, but I prefer West Coast oysters right now to what's currently coming out of the Chesapeake and local waters. I like the cool, creamy, cucumber-y flavors of the West Coast varieties, particularly those coming from British Columbia. I like the firmness, I like the clean salinity.

So, with that in mind, I'd send you to Central Michel Richard, J&G Steakhouse and Poste. I think all three are putting out beautiful platters of oysters — well-shucked, sweet, perfect oysters.

If you want more of an oyster bar setting, I'd hit Old Ebbitt Grill. It's a madhouse at prime time, but if you go early  or late, it's a little less of a bustling, touristy scene. Ten varieties to choose from, and after 11 the raw stuff is half-price. 

Advice sought …


I would love to know your opinion about an "incident" at my restaurant before I call the lady back.

On Thursday night, a woman asked her server if she could have a sample onion ring before deciding whether to order them. The kitchen said no because they are cooked to order unlike the samples of beer and soup we give out on a regular basis. When the server told her that we could not oblige her request for a sample onion ring, she demanded to see the manager on duty.

When the manager tried to explain our policy, the lady went ballistic and walked out. (leaving her wine unpaid for).

The lady called Saturday and wants to talk to me personally. Yikes. Are we wrong in how we handled this? In the kitchen's view, we can't back down when customer requests are unreasonable. Should we cook one mussel or piece of calamari as a sample, if requested?

Thanks, Mike

Absolutely ridiculous. Where does a person get the idea that this kind of thing is acceptable? 

Besides the fact that it sets a strange precedent — why not just go ahead and cook samples of all the dishes and pass them around to see if diners are interested in ordering them — it puts the kitchen at a big disadvantage, because cooking a sample takes time and throws off the rhythm of a busy operation. 

Columbia Heights Eats
Early report on the new Meridian Pint: meh. Wanted to love it. I will cut them a break on the food and service (since it opened last week) but I genuinely didn't really like the decor and vibe. Should the food and service even out I'll keep checking it out since the neighborhood definitely needs more more options.

I say give it more time.

Decor won't change, and vibe's not likely to, either — but service might and so might the food. And those things might change the way you view everything else. Places, particularly small, independent places, need time to find themselves. 

Wash, DC
What are your top 5 restaurants (any price range) that an out-of-towner must experience in DC?

Interesting question, and harder than it sounds. Because what's the Top 5 supposed to stand for? Great places. Great, distinctive places. Great places that do something — or somethings — that restaurants in other cities don't?

I take the latter as my mission.

Here you go:

* Central Michel Richard. I don't think there's any other place like it. For that reason, I give it a slight edge over Citronelle, which serves one of the most distinctive cuisines in this or any city.

* Komi. A very singular, very personal, night of dining.

* Etete. Best Ethiopian in the city, and you simply don't find Ethiopian cooking in many big North American cities.

* The Source. Some of the most exciting, exacting food you're going to find in the city right now, and the happy hour deal — 3 dishes for twenty bucks, including the marvelous mini banh mi — is a steal.

* Minh's. Best Vietnamese in an area that has no shortage of good Vietnamese spots. 

Washington, DC

Wanting to impress a cocktail-loving dearly beloved, would you choose PS7's, Wisdom, the Passenger, or venture elsewhere?

Normally, I'd opt for the Gibson, but would like to bring the birthday boy someplace new. We'll stop by BGR on Conn. Ave. for dinner beforehand.

Either PS 7's or Proof.

I can't imagine you'd have a bad time at either … Enjoy yourselves … 

arlington, va

My husband and I just moved to Pentagon City and have not found too many nearby places to eat that we like. We're not huge foodies but appreciate good food when we see it, and he likes to stay pretty local.

So far we have liked: Pupatella, BGR Burger Joint, Lauriol Plaza, Ray's the Steaks. We thought Kora, Cafe Pizzaiolo, Lebanese Taverna, Landini Brothers were alright, nothing special, and La Sandia (Tyson's), Ristorante Murali were disappointing. We tried to go to Ray's Hell Burger twice but the lines were obscene, we'll get back there though.

Any other places we should try? We prefer to stay in Arlington/Alexandria but are open to traveling for something good!

I'd put Athena Pallas, in Crystal City, on your must-stay-local list. Good, reasonably priced Greek food.

Arlington is a gold mine of reasonably priced places. Minh's is special — great Vietnamese, in a simple, comfortable setting. You've also got Liberty Tavern for mid-level American. Ray's just opened its offshoot of Hell-Burger, in the old Hell-Burger location. Among the beguiling items on the menu: a wild boar burger.

Also in Arlington: the tasty Chez Manelle, for good Tunisian cooking. I really think they're doing an excellent job over there. 

Oh, and also in Arlington: the little gem El Charrito Caminante for tacos, etc.

Just so you know, I'd make a point of hitting La Caraqueña in Falls Church for the arepas, black bean soup and peanut soup.

Vienna, Virginia
Dear Todd: Can you please list some cafes and restaurants that we can bring our well behaved dog? Thanks, Beth and Jim PS If there are any articles on the this, that you have covered already, please direct me how to find them on your site.

How Parisian!

You know, I can't think of any restaurant in the area that allows this, but I'll toss it out there and hope that some restaurateur or manager pipes up and lets me know it's okay to bring a pooch to dinner. Or, alternatively, maybe some chatter out there knows of a place that it's not verboten.

Thanks, everyone.

I'm running late for lunch. Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …





[missing you, TEK … ]

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