Boulevard Woodgrill and the Changing Face of Clarendon

So right out of college I lived in Clarendon.  I lived in a massive group house in this bizarre attic space, where I paid $500 bucks a month and was eternally waging war against THESE. Yes, it was a sh*thole.  At my lowest, I watched the same video for 2 weeks on my computer, no internet, sitting on a box, and ceded half my room to one of those things. Well it wasn’t my absolute lowest. That was either when I managed to get locked INSIDE my house (our locks deadbolted from the inside) and scared the living hell out of a poor delivery man, OR when I was suddenly evicted from said house in December. Awful. 

it puts the mushu in the doggy door

 Anyways, back then, my go-to “eating out” restaurant was the Boulevard Woodgrill. Since I am a slave to routine, it still is today. Boulevard Woodgrill is on the Clarendon main drag. The decor has a bit of a steakhouse feel to it with big windows and entrees run about $10-$15. The restaurant is named for its technique of cooking dishes on a wood grill, something that I failed to piece together until last week despite the 72502096 references to it on their menu. The fish and chips, mac n’ cheese, lamb salad, ribs, meatloaf and salmon are some menu standouts. DELICIOUS. And yes, notice all the best dishes are hearty and most have meat. It’s a carnivore’s place. Sorry PETA. 


Despite only opening in 2002, it is also among the old guard in a rapidly changing Clarendon. You see, Clarendon was always know for its village-like atmosphere. Small stores, low buildings, walkable shopping etc. However it seems that intimacy is eroding. The area is awash in copycat brick and tan high rise construction projects and chain restaurants, while the entire “village-y” strip of small shops on Wilson between Garfield and Highland has been torn down and replaced by another high rise space. It looks frankly, like Ballston. Sigh. And so many of us lived in Clarendon exactly because it wasn’t Ballston. 

Ballston. I mean, Clarendon

Hopefully Clarendon is able to retain it’s identity amidst this development push.  But who knows. Seeing that new building was the saddest I had been since the closing of Dr. Dremo’s in Courthouse. And that was a goddamn tragedy. Here’s to hope!

Restaurant Week and Food Porn: August 16-22, 2010

Watch out blue bloods, Restaurant Week is upon us! Yes, August 16-22, 2010 marks the start of the 16th Biannual DC Restaurant Week, the beloved time of year when we common folk are welcomed into fanciest of fancy DC restaurants, such as Bourbon Steak, Vidalia, Adour, and 2941, through strategically fixed price meals and sponsorships.  


You MUST click the larger version of these photos (via foodporndaily) 

Over 200 DC area restaurants are participating this year, offering a $20.10 three-course price-fixed lunch menu and a $35.10 three-course price-fixed dinner menu. Tax, tip and beverages are not included. All the restaurant and reservation information is listed on open table, and is admittedly quite daunting. However, just do your research and make your reservations early. There have to be some places you’ve been dying to try. 


Oh and me? I am actually missing the ENTIRE restaurant week because I will be on vacation. I KNOW. Same old staring in the window of Komi, bitterly watching the wine and laughter of its patrons. So just do restaurant week for me. I will live vicariously. 

Finally, the food pictures. They are from foodporndaily, i.e. the most delicious looking internet blog ever created. Although not DC pics, I figured that would help set the restaurant mood. Unlike the food “porn” cookie photo I attempted to take on my iphone, which just depressed me further.

saddest cookie in the cubicle

Happy Restaurant Week!

(UPDATE: Apparently the restaurant links did not work at first. Stupid stupid internet. They work now. Thanks to Matt for the heads up. Apologies!)

DCspy appeals against burger-pocalypse

James and the Giant Burger

 Yes. That was the lead local story on the Washington Post website last night. A “We found the beef” headline accompanied by the following media items:   

  • An article (via AP) on DC becoming a burger mecca
  • An article on Obama’s burger spots
  • An article on the Post’s own burger recommendations
  • An article on burger joint expansion plans
  • A quote by Medvedev saying his Ray’s Hell burger was “very tasty” but “not quite healthy.”
  • Arguably the most unappetizing burger photo I have ever seen (above)

Sure, it’s good press. I’ll admit it. DC Burgers are delicious and Medvedev proved himself to be both Captain Gazprom and Captain Obvious. However, this type of press frightens me. Why? Because DC entrepreneurs have NO SELF CONTROL  when it comes to food trends. They just don’t. First it was Pinkberry-inspired nuevo-yogurt joints, then the 2007 cupcake revolution, then the food truck armada and now…BURGER-POCALYSE.   

Future DC Enemy #1

 Yesterday I read that the old Garden District storefront on 14th Street may become a burger joint. So although we already have BGR, Five Guys, Good Stuff, Z Burger, Ray’s Hell and a whole host of other restaurant burgers along the affordability spectrum, restaurateurs feel we could use another goddamn trendy burger.   

The rival burger gang

Sigh. PLEASE DC, don’t ruin burgers for me. As soon as we get notoriety for something, it seems we always go and beat it into the ground. The DC burger market is already pretty saturated as it is, no?  Not to mention, burgers are not the healthiest snack to enjoy at every corner. So my fair city, how about we just accept the compliment and work on making DC known for another type of snack?! Like pie. Or pho. Or crab cake sandwiches.   

Cheers to food diversity! 

*Thanks to freerepublic and triciawd for the pics!

Top Chef note-taking after 5 glasses of wine produces slightly inaccurate results

Reader(s), I failed you yesterday. I failed to write a recap of wednesday night’s Top Chef, which was the one consistent thing I claimed this blog would do. Well that, and show pictures of kittens on occasion to brighten the mood. Like this: 


And now we are happier. Anyways, I wanted to explain why I didn’t recap. You see, I did watch Top Chef and I did take notes. However, I did so after one…or five glasses of wine. My brain at the time thought these notes were excellent. Turns out they were, well, this: 

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Tabard Inn Brunch: One of the Best…Around!

So after years in DC, SPY finally made it to Tabard Inn for brunch. I know, it’s about damn time. For those that don’t know, the Tabard Inn is one of the most well-respected brunch places in the city. Built in 1922 as a Romanesque-Revival row house, it blends in perfectly with the townhouse neighborhood (a stark contrast to the tacky Topaz Hotel next door I might add), has a classic yet quirky interior, and a beautiful outdoor patio.

Beautiful shots of the grounds

Then there is the food. You see, the Tabard Inn is one of the best brunch places in the city for a reason, and that reason is DONUTS. The Tabard Inn makes their cinnamon sugar donuts and vanilla whipped cream fresh every brunch and they are SPECTACULAR:

photogenic donut

Honestly, I crave them even now. Since you must order the donuts, I recommend you get one donut and a savory entree. The menu changes each brunch, but I ordered a goat cheese, bell pepper and squash frittata, which was excellent, while ironcityspy had a sardine nicoise salad, which although an order FAIL (sardines really?), he did love. Wonkette also cited a savory tart that I covet but wasn’t on the menu that day.

Finally, as if the food and historic location weren’t enough, the Tabard Inn is eco-friendly. With beautiful green rooftop gardens and solar panels, it is modern in the ways you hoped it would be.

green roofing!

Yes, my illustrious readers, SPY fell in love with the Tabard Inn that day and I think you will too. Just make sure to get reservations. Walk-ins are possible (we did) but unlikely, especially if you are more than 2. The Tabard Inn is, in the words of the Karate Kid:


Masa 14: Latin + Asian – club music = lovely brunch

So as you know, I rarely do restaurant reviews on ispy. Mostly because I would classify myself as more of a “snack enthusiast” than a “foodie.” However, Masa 14 legitimately surprised me, so I had to DISCUSS.  You see, I was suspicious of Masa at first. I mean, it’s Latin-Asian fusion, which is inherently dubious due to the word “fusion” and becomes even more dubious when it’s applied to brunch, and it’s also MUY trendy, which basically means stupid music and long wait times. So yes, I braced myself… 

Suspiciously modern LAMPS

 … for no reason. Okay, SPY was wrong. We got to Masa 14 at 11:30am on Sunday and were seated immediately. Point. The normally abrasive club music was turned down to a nice volume, so that I could enjoy my alcoholic mango-blood orange breakfast beverage in peace. Another point. Finally, since Masa 14 serves SMALL PLATES (my favorite), I could try numerous things, like THIS: 


(photos of 2 random Masa 14 menu items: too busy snacking to take a pic) 

Best of POINTS. My favorite brunch plates were the the cerrano ham flatbread and the quiche of the day (oaxaca cheese-shrimp-red pepper), while the runner up was the pan dulce, which is a bit sweet given the pineapple topping, but delicious if you like that sort of thing. Underwhelming? The beef sliders and the smoked salmon omelet. They were just…okay. 

God. I knew I should have gone with the tuna sliders. I mean, my head said beef but my heart said, well, 


SNACK AWAY THE PAIN. Enrique is Latin-Asian fusion. Well, Spanish-Filipino (and Spain sort of owned the Philippines so it barely counts, but honestly who else is there?). He loves tuna sliders. And knit hats in the desert. Go to Masa 14.

Top Chef DC Recap: Episode 1, House of Chef-presentatives

God. SUCH a bad pun and so many more to come. I mean, the season tagline is “Hail to the Chef,” which is not only  a pun, but a mediocre one at that.  Anyways, for those that didn’t see the premier episode, the quickfire was a skills-based challenge of dicing onions, peeling potatoes and other such things, and the actual challenge was to create a meal that represented where they were from. GREAT first challenge in my opinion, alot of creativity and opportunity to cook what they know. 

Such eager little cheftestants

 Also we start to see some trends emerge: most notably, Kenny and Angelo. The front-runners in both challenges, Kenny’s rational humility will be a lovely contrast to to Angelo’s inane Monte Carlo bravado (GOD will that get old). We will see if they maintain, as we remember Jen’s flameout last season, but I think they will. I also loved that Alex’s deconstructed borscht panned out. I mean, who saw that coming? 

Ah, the Jen Face. Such memories

As for the DC area folks, well… 

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Top Chef DC premiers today and the ‘chef’testant house is sold (UPDATED)

So, as most of you should know, Top Chef DC premiers tonight on Bravo at 9pm. SO excited. SO hoping I like one of the local contenders and can support them unconditionally for the entirety of the show. I am also very curious as to which  DC culinary landmarks they will  showcase. Any guesses (other than Ben’s), my dear readers?

Anyways, in a real estate move that I hope was intentional, the Top Chef house was also sold today. You know, the house that the ‘chef’testants live in.


Why sad? Mostly because by “house” I mean “mansion,” and by “mansion” I mean “ideal home of SPY.” The mansion is located in Kalorama, a neighborhood always associated with Adams Morgan but definitely shouldn’t be given its abundance of money and lack of Big Slice and Tom Tom. Here are some pictures:

COVET.  The full listing and more pictures can be found here. The house was originally listed at $4 million, well $3.98 million (because that sounds so much more affordable!) and sold for $3.6 million. Such a shame, because with a $3.6 million dollar loan, donated furniture, a volunteer caterer and donated bar, SPY could have thrown a wonderful and witty fancy party. Oh, and the loan would have to be interest-free. You know, one of those free multi-million dollar loans banks give to wonderful personalities who can’t swing a grant. Yeah. I’m poor.

Happy Top Chef day!

(Ah! The premier is at 9pm. The encore is at 11pm. Misread the announcement. Apologies, apologies)

DCspy discovers community gardening

And apparently I was the last person to do so, which is not a surprise. For, despite being a SPY, I am not the most observant person, nor the most innately curious. Though I do love flowers.

SPY taking a garden stroll

Community gardens take many forms, but after researching, basically the model is as follows: You take a large plot of land, you divvy it into sections, then people (usually backyard-less apartment residents) sign up to get their own section. That way, they can have a little garden to tend for vegetables, herbs or fresh flowers despite living in an apartment. The gardens are also ALL over DC (interactive map, Dupont is ward 2!).

The Temple Garden (15th & S St NW)

Neat no? I obviously wanted one despite the fact I neither garden nor cook, so decided to the check out the Temple Garden at 15th and S Streets NW. Yeah. Turns out, community gardens are SERIOUS. Like super serious.  First off, the wait time for a plot at Temple Garden is a minimum of 3 YEARS. 3 effing years! And secondly, well, from the Field to Fork website:

The Temple Garden is organized by having a president, a listkeeper, quadrant leaders, a treasurer and a Temple “liaison” who communicates with our landowners, the Masonic Temple…. The garden has 4 pages of rules outlining expectations of all gardeners, and enforcement is done by Quadrant Leaders throughout the growing season

Hmmm, a strictly enforced collective garden with a set hierarchy. What does that remind me of…

Come comrade, to our collective farm!

In Russia, garden tends you. Get in line comrades!

So yes, community gardens are for the dedicated, which makes sense given the waitlist. Your beloved SPY falls more into the “flakey” category. However, if you are an apartment dweller, gardener, and can make the time, go for it!

(Oh and the website, DC’s from field to fork network, has tons of tips about community gardens, farmers markets and local produce in general. Just in time for Top Chef!)

Big cats obsessed with Calvin Klein fragrance and other District news

Okay. I know it’s not district news, but just give it a read. According to the Wall Street Journal, scientists have been testing different perfumes on big cats in order to lure them towards hidden cameras/snacks and other things in zoos. Most perfumes, like Estee Lauder Beautiful, have failed miserably. However, Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men, a cologne branded as “the pure essence of masculinity,” has proven intoxicating to cheetahs, jaguars and all kinds of big cats. Apparently the fragrance uses synthetic animal scents (like civet), to make it’s musk. Ew.

However, Darwinians rejoice. Because you know who wears the pure essence of masculinity, alternating between that and AXE body spray??? THIS guy:

Jon - Kate - 8 + tiger man shirt

Oh how perfect. Could you imagine?? Jon sauntering through the zoo, man-earring glistening in the sun, then suddenly gets maul-loved by a random tiger while wearing an obnoxious shirt of a tiger, all because he used stupid ‘essence of a man’ cologne that is basically artificial civet musk??



Okay, I am done. Here is some other District news:

The owners of Politics and Prose are SELLING the store after 26 years. It will still operate as Politics and Prose (it BETTER dammit) but it’s tough news, especially given the uncertainties of the industry (Washington Post)

The massive old laundry store on 14th street is set to be turned into a massive new Italian restaurant (PoP)

East Falls Church wants a waterfront district. Problem? They don’t have water (Greater Greater Washington)

DC Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) is launching a blog.  Gentlemen (and women), arm your complaints! (DCist)