Food Editors Share Their Best (Worst?) DC Restaurant Hot Takes

QR codes are great, and Georgetown Cupcake is better than Baked & Wired

Are Georgetown Cupcakes actually better than Baked & Wired? Photograph by Jai Williams.

Some days, we just like to cause a little internet chaos. We asked the Twitterverse for their DC restaurant hot takes and got burnt to a crisp by the hundreds of fiery replies. Now, it’s our turn. Here are our food team’s best (or worst) DC dining hot takes:

The best half-smoke in DC isn’t at Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Ben’s is great—don’t yell at me yet!—but its appeal is entwined in its history and character. If you actually want the best half-smoke, head on over to Meats and Foods (247 Florida Ave., NW). They make their own smoked and slightly spicy beef-and-pork sausages in-house, which you can top with all-beef or vegan chili, cheese, and onions—or if you want, some excellent house-pickled jalapeños. Think cheffy quality but still sloppy and unpretentious. —Jessica Sidman

The cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake are better than the ones at Baked & Wired.

While lame tourists wait in an around-the-corner line for M Street’s Georgetown Cupcake, in-the-know locals queue up on a quiet Georgetown side street in front of Baked & Wired. That’s always been the prevailing wisdom. There have been few trends locals loved to hate more than the great cupcake-shop explosion of 2008, and Georgetown Cupcake was the telegenic face of it all. Meanwhile, Baked & Wired was a cool, quirky upstart which was operating more thanks to word-of-mouth than the press.

I love Baked & Wired for so many things: the best chai in the city, its amazing pies, and the s’mores-like OMG bars come to mind. And while I appreciate the creativity behind some of its cupcake flavors, my last visit found that the actual confections are just too big, too dense, and topped with too-heavy icing. The ones at Georgetown are springier, more delicate, and a size you’ll actually finish in one sitting. Not that I’m saying you should stand in line—I always get mine at the far more chill Bethesda location. —Ann Limpert

QR codes are great!

You already use your phone to send emails, read the news, check your bank account. Is looking at a menu and ordering with your phone really that much more annoying? Paper menus are sometimes lovely, but more often overrated. If the restaurant is constantly changing its offerings, they can be wasteful (and expensive). If the restaurant never changes, they can get sticky, germy, and stained. Sometimes, they’re too big and get in the way. Other times, there aren’t enough for everyone in the party. Plus, ordering and paying via QR code gives you more control over the pace and timing of your meal. No need to flag down a disappearing server to order or grab the check. —JS

It’s very hard to find a good crabcake in DC.

Crabcakes have always been more of a Maryland thing. But DC largely has an absence of major regional specialties—I’m talking on the level of Philly cheesesteaks or New York pizza—and it became closely associated with the District, too. Plus, the ‘90s were boom times for crabcakes in the city: top quality Chesapeake blue crab was plentiful, and chefs were turning more toward local flavors and ingredients. We were a crabcake town as much as we were a steakhouse town.

No more. Most of the city’s most noteworthy chefs have been ignoring them for years. Chesapeake blue crab is increasingly expensive—a plate of crabcakes at BlackSalt will currently run you $59—and not as abundant as in years past. I still see them pop up on menus here now and then, usually as an obligatory move at a restaurant run by a chef who lives somewhere far away.  —AL

$20 for a good sandwich is totally reasonable.

A quality sandwich is more often than not comprised of multiple time- and labor-intensive ingredients. Consider the freshly baked bread, the meats slow-roasted or cured in-house, the made-from-scratch condiments and pickles. And you’d rather have ripe locally grown tomatoes than flavorless commodity ones, right? If all these components were presented as an entree on a plate, $20 would be a deal. But because they’re stacked together, the price expectations are somehow different. Cheap sandwiches still exist out there. But if you care about sourcing and quality and fair wages? Pay what it’s worth. —JS

The best Cobb in DC is at the Cheesecake Factory.

Have I had every Cobb salad in DC? I have not. But I order them a lot, and at a lot of places, and the best I’ve found is at the Cheesecake Factory. The chicken is nicely grilled, not dry and cubed. It’s a salad that’s easily thrown out of whack by too much or too little of an ingredient, but there’s exactly the right amount of vinaigrette, blue cheese, egg, bacon, and avocado here. And because it’s the Cheesecake Factory, even the shrunken lunchtime size is giant. —AL

One of the hottest up-and-coming dining scenes is Centreville.

DC neighborhoods like the Wharf, Shaw, or Navy Yard tend to get all the attention when it comes to hot new restaurants. But have you been to… Centreville? If you live in the District, the strip mall-filled Fairfax County town is definitely a trek. But I’ve found myself increasingly making the drive, particularly for some destination-worthy Asian restaurants. Luxe Korean barbecue restaurant Honest Grill was a recent entrant to our 100 Very Best Restaurants list, while Kazone is serving some of the region’s best katsu (and next-level panko-crusted mozzarella sticks). Okaeri Japanese Cafe is a cute spot for trendy souffle pancakes and fruit-cream sandwiches. And recently, I had some of the dreamiest soft-serve in ages at matcha specialist Bon Tea House, from the owners of DC’s now-closed Bon Matcha—JS

Cinnamon raisin bagels are pretty good.

Don’t mean to rain on the hot take parade, but I am firmly in the “you do you” camp when it comes to eating. I do not consider it an affront to civilization if you eat pizza with a knife and fork, or put jalapeños on your peanut butter and jelly, or if you prefer your $75 steak cooked to the texture of shoe leather. People like what they like. Simple as that.

Cinnamon raisin bagels are seen by some bagel aficionados as an indicator that you do not know what the eff you are talking about when it comes to bagels, and probably food in general. It’s the rube order. Remember when Cynthia Nixon ordered her cinnamon-raisin bagel loaded with lox, capers, and onion? The combo launched a thousand think pieces, including in the New Yorker and Atlantic.

But Nixon and everyone else should be able to eat their bagels however they want, and without fear of judgement. I think cinnamon raisin bagels are pretty tasty myself, especially toasted (another culinary “sin”) with butter. —AL

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

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.