Blood, Hearts, and Brains: 7 Adventurous Eats in Washington

Take your Halloween dining to the next level.

Fancy of bowl of brains? Delicious lamb brain karahi does the trick. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Halloween is full of creepy eats, but look beyond sugar spiders and “mummified” hot dogs to take things to the next level. Washington restaurants serve a witches’ brew’s worth of exotic ingredients, many of which are downright delicious. While you won’t find eye of newt or toe of frog, there’s plenty of brains and blood to go around.

Lamb brains
at Khan Kabob

4229 Lafayette Center Dr., Chantilly

One of Todd Kliman’s favorite dishes, lamb brain karahi, can be found at this Chantilly kebab spot. Don’t worry, you’re not going in Indiana Jones-style. The organ is diced beyond recognition and stewed with an aromatic mix of chilies, tomato, and ginger. Trust me, this is way better than that time your mom mixed pumpkin guts with baby marshmallows for “brains” at a Halloween party.

Calf’s hearts at Mintwood Place

1813 Columbia Rd., NW

It may seem heartless (ha!), but this appetizer is one of the best on the menu. Don’t be shy: The muscles are confited until tender and then wood-grilled and tossed in a salad with dark greens, thin bread crisps, and a poached egg. Is it hearty? Yes. Can we stop with the cardiac punning? Yes. Look for “lamb fries” (testicles) in season, as well.

Duck testicles at Rice Paper

6775 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church

Shredded, ginger-sauced duck arrives with an off-menu surprise: the bird’s “dangly bits” (and no, they don’t taste like chicken). Slightly less adventurous eaters can opt for a boneless-duck-feet salad instead.

Pig’s blood at Bangkok Noodle

7022-B Commerce St., Springfield

Going vampire never tasted so good. Order a bowl of yen ta fo, or “pink lady soup,” and expect a heaping tangle of rice noodles, shrimp, squid, fish balls, and watercress in a spicy, pork blood-tinged broth. The flavor is a bit funkier and the aftertaste more metallic, but a tasty dish overall.

More pig’s blood from the Pig

1320 14th St., NW

While the restaurant’s pig’s blood sundae was a tad gimmicky, this dessert riffs on sanguinaccio, a traditional Italian chocolate pudding made with pig’s blood (which, yes, is still a little gimmicky). Expect to taste more cocoa than the red stuff, with a bonus root beer-poached pear.

Bullfrog at Hong Kong Palace

6387 Leesburg Pk., Falls Church

This Falls Church Chinese is a treasure trove for offal eaters, with dishes like braised intestines, “tripe-delight” soup, stir-fried kidneys, and more. Those with a taste for amphibians should try the stir-fried bullfrog with pickled peppers.

Skin at Jack Rose

2007 18th St., NW

Fried chicken skin isn’t exactly exotic, but starting your meal with a bowl of crispy epidermis isn’t everyday eating, either. It should be. Chef Russell Jones’s preparation is downright addictive: airy, super-crunchy puffs dusted with paprika and dunked in lime aïoli. If you’re squeamish, think of it as poultry popcorn.

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.