Trio, the Greeks, and DC’s diner drought

So since we are reeling off a holiday of freedom, I figured I would discuss an all- American classic today: the diner. Well, all-American in theory at least, because immigrants own basically all of them. The same immigrants that are, god love them, making food in the U.S. and the Queen’s commonwealth not, well, this:

Stupid haggis and stupid casserole

Everyone loves imported culture! Anyways, perhaps because it’s an inherently transient town or because it’s a much more Southern town than NYC or other diner hot spots, DC has very few independent diners. It’s why you should visit Trio. Started by a pair of Greeks in 1950, Trio serves no-frills comfort food, bakes their pies fresh every day, and has a very nice staff. They also serve a nice greasy spoon diner breakfast, which I love because I love PANCAKES. In honor of their 60th anniversary, they are doing little monthly specials.

A little DC diner classic on 17th Street

So you should go. Then Trio’s owners can send the money back to Greece to compensate for the fact the nation doesn’t really pay taxes but demands tons of social services. Oh, and sidebar, Greece, you are NOT an emerging market. Mostly because you were the FIRST MARKET EVER. So either you have been emerging since Jesus or you overspend on wages and social benefits. Just saying.

Oh and before I forget…

Trio also owns Fox and Hounds bar next door, which is actually called “Trio’s Fox and Hounds.” However even though they both offer cheap, outdoor after-work drinks, Fox and Hounds is always packed while Trio’s patio never is. Evidence:

Bizarre no? People would rather sit in the baking sun at Fox and Hounds than drink in the shaded and fanned space of Trio. And they are the same thing. I don’t understand people.

Internet and coffee sans hipster crowds? Try Steam Cafe

Sweatpants are A-Okay at Steam

So as I am currently “between jobs” (cough), I have become quite the tester of wifi coffeeshops. In general, I tend to evaluate them on a set of 6 criteria:

  1. coffee quality
  2. snack options
  3. hipster scale
  4. crowdedness
  5. background music
  6. availability of the internets.

For example, months back I blogged about MidCity Caffe, a wonderful option that scored very high in all categories, save it’s hipster scale reading of 7.0, which was due to the presence of 3 flannel shirts, a che hat and 2 NYT crossword puzzles being solved simultaneously. 7.0 is dangerously high.

I then started thinking about other options in the area, like Busboys and Poets, Tryst, Steam Cafe, and Kramers, and ultimately, it’s always the same basic face-off. Utilitarian vs. stylish, or in actual cafe terms, Steam Cafe vs. Tryst. Steam Cafe is the utilitarian model. And no, I don’t mean hipster exposed brick utilitarianism, I mean pure mall food court utilitarianism. Complete with hard chairs and grainy photos of ice cream cones. The Steam model is not trendy, but it is also not crowded. Family owned, classical music playing, the food is great but not that healthy. The internet works perfectly and sweatpants are welcome.

Juxtapose that with Tryst. THE Tryst. Open concept, hip tatooed cashiers, vintage comfy couches and chairs, very delicious coffee and food, and TONS of people. Definitely not the place for my fug olive-colored sweatpants. Music is usually good, but loud. Internet is perfectly accessible.

SO. Where do I go you ask? Where do I go if I need to use the internets with the company of a croissant snack ?? STEAM CAFE. In a second. Look, Tryst is great to grab lunch, take people from out of town, pick up some food to go. But to work? I just can’t do it. When I schlep my laptop around DC I need to know I will have a place to sit when I get there. I need to know I will have music at a decent volume, be able to look hideous and, because my computer is stone age, have an outlet to plug in to. Steam has these things, plus excellent paninis, plus staff that are unbelievably nice.

So if you need to work, you should try Steam. Just not on a weekend. We all hate people that camp out all day and only purchase one cup of coffee.

Jack’s on 17th Street replaced by Turkish restaurant Agora

Happy Monday reader(s)! Big day today, because today I am finally FINALLY back from the Far East. Ahh. Such a nice feeling. Back to my bed and my food and my routine. So, in celebration of coming home, I decided to open this week about something I observed walking to Dunkin Donuts this morning (yes, Dunkin Donuts, maple frosted, and it was delicious thank you). Namely, Jack’s Bar and Restaurant on 17th Street has officially closed and is being replaced by AGORA.

Jacks from Yelp

First reaction? Suspicion. I know, I know I should be happy about a new restaurant coming into town. But look, I really did like Jack’s. Jack’s was what 17th Street was known for: nice outdoor seating, food and happy hour specials. And unlike other happy hour places that just offer half-priced burgers or wings, Jack’s offered half-priced PASTA. Like angel hair pasta with goat cheese and pine nuts for like 5 bucks that you could order with happy hour priced wine and just bitch about your work day. So for what it was, Jack’s was perfect really.

It also ALWAYS had people in it, so when it closed for apparent construction my friend and I were perplexed. Was it a face lift? Were they doing construction because 17th street was being torn up anyways by the city, so why not renovate? There was no way Jack’s just went under, right??

Well, turns out we were partially right. After doing some research on Agora, I discovered it was started by Jack’s owners. The owners are Turkish and actually disliked Jack’s growing reputation as a bar rather than a restaurant, so decided to just shut it down and open up a pure Mediterranean restaurant. According to the Washington Post, Agora will specialize in seafood and innovative takes on Turkish classics (so no simple hummus and baba ganoush). The owner even brought his father in from Turkey to help shape the menu and their olive oil will come from their family farm in Turkey.

Curious non? I will definitely give it a try. Though it better be good, because $5 goat cheese pasta is NOT easy to find. Just saying.

Oh, Agora is supposed to open this month, will keep you posted

Peking Duck by way of Falls Church

Greetings from Jakarta!!! First off, apologies if this post is awful. I have spent a total of 27 hours in a plane over the past 3 days and have no concept of…anything. So, so tired. So yes, the writing will be terrible. And yes, I am posting on Peking Duck because I was in China and they have those there. Oh, not creative enough for you? Well I’m sorry if sometimes your CLOWN gets jetlagged and can’t perform. The circus can’t always be in town. Deal with it.

Anyways, I am craving Peking Duck at the moment because I am in the Far East and Peking Duck is PERFECT. The duck, the skin, the cucumber, spring onion, plum sauce and tortilla (Chinese tortilla? I don’t know, its not like I have learned anything here) all combine in such simple and brilliant flavors. It looks like this:

So good. And few in DC do it better than Peking Gourmet Inn. Peking Gourmet Inn opened in 1978 and is a DC legend. Also, like most good ethnic food, its located in a strip mall outside the District and is not metro accessible. From the outside, all the windows are curtained so you can’t see in (I thought it was closed when I first went), which hides its surprisingly spacious interior.

But unlike other strip mall places, Peking Gourmet Inn has walls filled with photos of famous people who have eaten there. It has been featured on the Food Network, blogs, newspapers. Everywhere really. And why you ask? Well, because of this:

The duck. You see, the duck is an experience. A professional duck carver brings the whole duck to your table, where it is meticulously carved, slices of duck on one side, skin on the other, no dryness in the meat and cooked perfectly. The spring onions that accompany it are grown on site.

So, no, it’s not fusion, it’s not a unique interpretation, it’s simply Peking Duck as you know it, but done the way Peking Duck should be. With each ingredient given individual attention. So you should go. You will inevitably crave it. Trust.

  • Peking Gourmet Inn, 6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041
  • http://www.pekinggourmet.com/

Mind the Gap: the 14th Street Zoning Dilemma

So I guess this is an unconventional day for my little blog. First, a non-local news post and now a somewhat serious post (gasp!) about neighborhood politics. I know, but bear with me. This is a neighborhood blog after all.

So my U Street area, known in zoning speak as the Uptown Arts Overlay District, has gotten it’s fair share of press in recent years. The New York Times wrote about it last month. Restaurants like Marvin, Masa 14, and Birch & Barley have received strong reviews across the board, rents have skyrocketed. But I feel with all the hype, people forget one thing: that it’s not quite “there” yet. So yes, 14th street has  a great deal of this:

Churchkey (photo from New York Times)

But it also has great swaths of this:

14th Street (Ohad photography)

In effect, gaps. Sure the vacant storefronts are charming in their own way (we know  they give hipsters a sense of place) but they also reflect the area’s transitioning nature.

It’s these gaps that make the recent Zoning Commission decision so puzzling. Namely, on April 5th, the Commission ruled that the amount of linear storefront space devoted to bars and restaurants within the Uptown Arts Overlay District cannot exceed 25%.  Given that the area is at 24.88% right now, the ruling basically prohibits new bars and restaurants (save those currently pending). Ridiculous? Perhaps. But it becomes even more bizarre once you see what the Uptown Arts Overlay District encompasses:

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Food trucks and fish tacos in the name of journalism

Good morning readers. Figured I would start the terribleness that is Monday morning with a post about something delicious. Namely, gourmet food trucks.

So hot right now. For those that don’t know, these trucks roam around DC tweeting their locations, building hipster armies of followers with their witty foods and phrases. The most famous in DC is Fojol, i.e. the “traveling culinary carnival” or, as most people know them, the costumed Indian food truck guys. Many trucks have been in DC since early last year, but since tweet-following requires a degree of planning that I truly do not possess, I only finally visited one this weekend. It’s called Sauca and I ran into it by chance:

Sauca has only been open 2 months. It is owned by an former global investment banker, driven by a former international communications officer and it’s foods are inspired by different international cuisines. So, butter chicken from India, Pork Bahn Mi from Vietnam, and dessert waffles from Belgium, among others. The menu changes. In the name of investigative journalism, I ordered a Mexicali fish taco. DELICIOUS. It looked like this:

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Travel Channel’s Food Wars battled DC jumbo slice places and… wait, what?


Could they have possibly made pizza look LESS appetizing?

 

 OK. So travel channel has this show Food Wars where the host goes to different cities to settle local rivalries about famous food items. Basically, two establishments battle one another over a food, locals are interviewed, and the winner is decided by a panel of judges. The food is as you would expect in places, cheesesteaks in philly, hot wings in Buffalo, BBQ in Texas, and… jumbo slice in DC? Wait, what? 

 

We got effing JUMBO SLICE??? Jesus. Of course DC’s mark on the U.S. culinary landscape would be wasted-face pizza. Although the judges DID have to eat it sober, which is more than I would ever do.  

Anyways, the battle was between Pizza Mart and Jumbo Slice Pizza. Don’t worry, I had no idea which ones those were either. I mean, reading comprehension and jumbo slice don’t really go together. So, I actually researched it and discovered I had eaten at both probably a million times. Their signs look like this…  

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Pho Phix DELIVERED (Updated!)

GOD. I love pho. So much. For those not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, it’s a noodle soup that looks like THIS:

Which then only becomes truly delicious when you add THIS:

Yes, it’s hot sauce and yes I need my pho to be spicy. Personally, I can take or leave the plum sauce, but that’s just me. NOW I have no concept of Vietnamese culture or customs but what I DO know is that Pho must be prepared on the spot (save the broth itself). This is because the meat and the noodles and the veggies actually cook in the broth, reaching that perfect consistency while you eat. However, this also often precludes it from delivery, meaning I have to walk for pho. LAME.

That is UNTIL…

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Oh KFC, just when you thought America couldn’t get any fatter

So in theme with my last post on the anti-obesity Obama Easter egg roll, I figured I would post this new addition to the KFC line up. It is set to drop April 12th. OK. Brace yourselves:

OH, yes. It is what you think it is. It’s the KFC new double down “sandwich” and has fried chicken for buns. FRIED CHICKEN. It also has cheese and bacon and a ‘special’ Colonel’s sauce, which (and I may be going out on a limb here) I am going to guess is mayo-based. Now I secretly (well, not so secretly) indulge in fast food now and then. It’s a road trip fave, even if my stomach disagrees. But in this case, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. This shouldn’t exist. We are too fat. TOO fat. As a nation we should reject it, for our health, our food industry and everything else. TOO much.

If you are interested in reading more about the double down and other depressing fatty trends, you can do so here. Thanks for the tip Jonathan!

If Bua Thai went out of business a part of me would die inside

It’s true. Bua Thai is one of my regulars. It’s one of those austere Asian restaurants that you probably order take-out from but would never notice walking down the street, that is, until one day it’s snowpacalypse and everything is closed but Bua and you sit down and it’s so small and dim and cozy with its little Christmas lights that you look out the window and it feels how you always thought Christmas should. Like how it does in movies. Hole in the wall Asian restaurants can just do that, don’t know why but its true. No other cheap cuisine does it, maybe a diner but that’s about it.

Anyways. For some reason or another I have become WAY overly invested in Bua Thai. I don’t know why. I just like the people, the localness of it, the fact there are always customers there but never too many (save maybe at lunch on a workday) and that at the end of the day, it’s a comforting default if I can’t decide what I want but am hungry. Basically I just get this…

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