The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Feta Dip, Meatballs and Grilled Bread

Washingtonian’s food team shares their favorite dishes from their past seven days of dining.

Bar Pilar is one of critic Todd Kliman's favorite places to eat on 14th Street right now, especially for the meatballs. Photograph courtesy of Bar Pilar via Facebook.

Garrett Graff

Feta dip at Little Red Fox

This newish neighborhood store offers sandwiches by day and prepared foods at night, ready for a busy Washingtonian’s takeout dinner. On the Connecticut Avenue strip with Politics & Prose and Comet Ping Pong, between Friendship Heights and Van Ness, Little Red Fox also includes a small, thoughtful collection of local beers and wines, available by the bottle or on draft to drink at the store’s big picnic table. On a recent evening visit, the spread included roasted whole Amish chickens ($18), baked salmon ($8.50 a portion), mac and cheese ($6.50 for a generous serving), and delicious assorted salads by the pint or quart: beet, kale, roasted red pepper. The warm sweet potato curry with raisins was perfect for a cold evening, but nothing beat the feta-and-olive-oil dip in the refrigerator case, heated a bit and served with one of the store’s tasty, fresh baguettes. And don’t forget to grab a coconut macaroon for dessert.

Todd Kliman

Meatballs and grilled bread at Bar Pilar

This is exactly what you want out of a dish this time of year, when it’s brutally cold out and you need something to warm you up, and quick. I mean, besides that Negroni that goes down with its sweet-and-bitter burn.

It’s also exactly what you want from a dish that consists in its entirety of meatballs, sauce, and bread—a lusty simplicity, with all the flavors knitted tightly together. There aren’t any twists in the meatballs: The chef, Jesse Miller, hasn’t slipped in cumin to give an Italian classic a Moroccan spin, or, I don’t know, added some lemon zest in hopes of lightening things up—one of the things restless chefs unable to resist putting their stamp on a great dish tend to do. They’re old-school and perfect, and the tomato sauce has the sweetness and depth you always hope for and seldom (well, seldom around here) find.

Here’s one measure of just how good this dish is: I’d have been perfectly happy with just sauce and bread.

Miller replaces Justin Bittner in the kitchen, and is off to a promising start. I’ve been in twice over the past month: One meal was great, another good. I’ll be writing more about this on next Tuesday’s chat, but for now let me just say that I’m hard put to think of a place on busy, bustling 14th Street I’d rather be eating in right now.

Ann Limpert

Butterscotch pudding at Ris to Go

As it’s filled out, Union Market has become quite a dangerous place, especially if you’re an impulse shopper like me. Even after gorging on burgers at Red Apron Butchery and pork buns at the Maketto pop-up, stocking up on wine at Cordial (a $30 Bandol rosé? Why not!), and then dropping some cash on gorgeous-smelling Sydney Hale candles and Liber & Co. cocktail mixers at Salt & Sundry, it was hard to walk away. One reason I’m glad I wandered around a little longer: the takeaway counter from chef Ris Lacoste, which stocks bottled salad dressings, sweet and savory mini pies, and grilled cheeses, among other goodies. My favorite find was a small plastic cup of rich butterscotch pudding, which has been a staple on the dessert menu at her West End restaurant Ris since it opened. It’s as salty as it is sweet, and a spoonful of cool whipped cream, dolloped on while you check out, makes it even better. At $5, it was one of the cheapest things I came across on that latest credit-card-weary shopping trip—and the tastiest.

Anna Spiegel

Falafel at DGS Delicatessen

When most people think of DGS, a thick stack of corned beef or pastrami comes to mind, and justifiably so; the deli’s house versions are some of the best around. Still my go-to order of late is chef Barry Koslow’s superb falafel. The patties are tough to get right. Often they’re over-fried or packed into a puck-like consistency. Koslow’s are the opposite, whether you order them on a platter with cauliflower tabbouleh or, as I most often do, at the sandwich counter for a quick-grab lunch. The thick rounds are perfectly crisp but give way to a moist, tender center with discernible bits of chickpea and onion. Instead of golf-like balls, the falafel are fashioned into discs for easier eating, and stuffed into warm pita bread with hummus, feta, pickled beets, and marinated cucumber. Koslow may be known for his meats, but the vegetarian option is one of the most satisfying on the menu. (If you’re going meatless, the shakshouka egg dish is also standout.)

See also: Previous Best Things I Ate

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.