El Camino: Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles

The news of a taco slinger opening in Bloomingdale was met with the kind of excitement of being a kid on Christmas morning who finds a present the exact size of a Power Wheels Pink Barbie Jammin’ Jeep under the tree. In other words, EPIC excitement. Believe it or not, this analogy is kind of appropriate because El Camino is indeed named after a car (Yea Chevy!). That’s why you’ll see things like tables bases made from rims.

Gently-priced tacos are the first thing you spot on the Mexico meets SoCal menu, which runs the gamut of tortas, ceviches, braised meat, and chips with dips. While everyone can get on board with $2.50 tacos, the Best Thing on the Menu comes in a crock pot: Chilaquiles made with corn tortilla cops, salsa verde and smoked gouda. 

Simply put, they’re wet nachos. But in the best possible way. In Mexico, they’re typically eaten for breakfast or lunch but at El Camino, dinner’s the only option so dig on in. Here’s the kicker. These bad boys are both vegetarian AND gluten free. You hardly miss meat when the gouda cheese imparts so much smokiness. Start with one order, then another if for no other reason than “chilaquiles” is hella fun to say.

Mezcal Old Fashioned

Pair this tasty crockpot with something equally smoky – the Mezcal Old Fashioned. It’s the priciest cocktail on the list, but spring for it anyway because you can get a margarita almost anywhere. El Camino’s cup of love contains Mezcal, mole and orange bitters, and vanilla-sarsaparilla agave.

Chilaquiles not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

El Camino is located at 108 Rhode Island Avenue NW. 

Slipstream: Breakfast Bowl

Breakfast Bowl

Slip into something more comfortable in Logan Circle: a brand new coffee shop and cocktail bar that you’ll want to spend a lot of time in (even though they don’t do wi-fi). The coffee at Slipstream is super science-y, and is so futuristic it might as well appear in the movie Interstellar. The food on the other hand has a slight Asian lean to it and comes across simple and fresh.

When you order something three times in one week, it asserts itself as the Best Thing on the Menu. Such is the case with the breakfast bowl. Traditional breakfast items like scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage and soggy hash browns do not make an appearance. They’ve been replaced with Madagascar pink rice (oooh exotic!) topped with shaved asparagus, a fried egg, preserved lemon, radish slices and optional (but duh!) pork belly. The rice has been generously zested bringing tang to the table to contrast with the smoky pork belly.

Go about eating it expertly: Break the egg so it runs sloppily all over the bowl. Then, break up the pork belly to assure a hint of scorched fat is included in each bite. Finally, use the radish slices as cute little spoons to transport bites to your breakfast bowl loving mouth.

Avocado Toast

Surprisingly, the breakfast bowl has received less buzz than Slipstream’s fancy pants toasts. They include marigold butter and French radish; goat cheese mousse and avocado; and homemade creme fraiche and jam. We’re impressed by the size of their cojones. They have to be pretty big to serve avocado toast on the same street as Cork. There’s little to complain about when you’re topping bread with something delicious, the breakfast bowl is just more satisfying.

Monkey Bread

If you’re just trying to get a pastry with your coffee, go with the monkey bread. It’s basically fried brioche that’s been caramelized. There’s much more to come at Slipstream, including a lunch menu with bento boxes. But before the lunch menu launches, you can get the breakfast bowl throughout the day.

Slipstream is located at 1333 14th Street NW.

Breakfast bowl not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Mason Dixie Biscuit Co: Pulled Pork with Jalapeño Slaw

Biscuit

 

UPDATE: Starting Thurs, Nov 6 Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. will be serving out of Union Market, parting ways with EatsPlace.

Unless you’ve been too busy holding hands while apple picking in matching sweaters all Fall, you’ve probably picked up on the biggest buzzword: biscuit. Until recently, DC had been sorely lacking in the fluffy, flakey, buttery department. But this void has been filled by Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

The biscuit slingers include Executive Chef Jason Gehring, Managing Chef Mo Cherry and CEO Ayeshah Abuelhiga. They’ve been super innovative in launching their concept through pop-ups, and now a residency at EatsPlace, which opened its doors this month.

Located in Park View (near Petworth), EatsPlace is a food incubator that allows up and coming concepts to be nurtured during short residencies. It doesn’t look like a science lab of sorts. Rather, it’s a cozy brick row home complete with seating, and a full bar. It’s there that you can try Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. Mon-Fri 7a-1:30p through the remainder of 2014.

Be sure to order The Best Thing on the Menu: Pulled Pork Biscuit Sandwich with Jalapeño Slaw. Bet you thought we’d say Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich. Well, surprise. Tender pulled pork piled high between two fluffy biscuits breeds the best of the BBQ and Southern comfort worlds. You can choose between three biscuit flavors for sandwiches, and in this case Ham & Jalapeño is a no-brainer.

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Obviously, the fried chicken biscuit sandwich isn’t bad. Jason, after all, was the opening chef for Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. But it’s one of those situations where there’s more fried matter than chicken meat, which somehow makes you feel even more guilty about your mid-morning heart attack snack. Last tip: Bring a team of hungry friends so you can try most of the menu.

Find Mason Dixie Biscuit Co inside EatsPlace at 3607 George Ave NW. 

Pulled pork sandwich not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

DBGB Kitchen and Bar: Thai Sausage

Sausage Duo
Guest post by Aaron Tidman

In June 2013, when Daniel Boulud first announced that he signed a lease to open a local branch of his DBGB Kitchen + Bar at CityCenterDC, the entire DC culinary community gasped and began the countdown to opening day. That day arrived with much fanfare on September 13, following two pre-opening receptions – one for the residents of CityCenterDC (wooing neighbors is always a smart move) and one for media, local chefs, and friends. José Andrés, Patrick O’Connell, Nora Pouillon, Carla Hall and Ris Lacoste were in the house.

There’s already a DBGB in New York, so Boulud and Executive Chef Ed Scarpone put a DC spin on the menu with dishes like “The Crabbie,” a local nod to the Chesapeake. It consists of a perfectly cooked, juicy beef patty topped with a Maryland crab cake. Although this burger could compete as one of the best in DC, Maryland natives like myself have particularly high standards when it comes to crab cakes, and the thin layer of crab got a little lost.

Other dishes follow in the tradition of a proper French bistro, including Tarte Flambée, Oeufs Mimosa, and Coq au Vin. But, The Best Thing on the Menu is surprisingly: the homemade Thai sausage. All of their homemade sausages are stunners, but the pork-based Thai version stands out thanks to lemongrass, red curry, green papaya slaw with peanuts, basil fried rice, and a quail egg.

We also liked the Vermont (a pork and cheddar sausage with hash browns and a red onion crème fraîche, which tasted like an upscale baked potato with the fixins’), the Tunisienne (lamb and mint merguez with harissa lemon braised spinach and chickpeas), and the Boudin Blanc (truffled pork sausage with apple and pommes mousseline). Order a sausage duo (or two!) so you can sample more than one at a time.

Baked Alaska

Find that second stomach of yours when it comes time for dessert because Boulud’s Baked Alaska competes for the Best Thing on the Menu title. A perfectly molded trio of pistachio and vanilla ice cream plus raspberry sorbet is flambéed tableside using chartreuse. (We requested extra chartreuse for greater effect.) The servers are well trained, but trim your eyebrows before you order this finale. If you’re a chocolate lover, try the Chocolate-Chocolate, a sundae with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate truffle cocoa nibs, chocolate fudge, and chocolate whipped cream. It’s like taking the Acela straight to heaven.

One last note – Caroline Bowker, DBGB CityCenter’s new sommelier and bar beverage director, has done a wonderful job of putting together a cocktail and wine list that both pays homage to DBGB’s French roots and incorporates domestic selections – including one of our local favorites from Virginia, RdV Vineyards – that pair well with the restaurant’s dishes.

Aaron and Boulud

Special guest post by Aaron Tidman, pictured above with Boulud. Follow Aaron’s adventures @atidman.

DBGB Kitchen and Bar is located at 931 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. 

Thai sausage not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm: Smoked Beef Ribeye

Smoked Beef Ribeye

If you’re in need of an escape from all things urban – where sirens are replaced with the hum of bugs rubbing their wings together – we’ve got the prescription: The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Va. It’s been on our bucket list for good reason: The setting is farm chic; the view is breathtaking; and when the plates hit the table, you’ll think about food in a new way. The man in the kitchen, Chef Tarver King, came to Patowmack Farm from The Ashby Inn. In his new setting, he’s laser-focused on squeezing every ounce of awesome from the ingredients that either come from the 40-acre farm, or from within 100 miles.

Only 11 acres, however, are sewn with crops in an organized fashion. The other 29 are wild, allowing King to forage for fun ingredients that don’t always make it onto most restaurants’ menus. These treasures keynote one of the restaurant’s three tasting menus – “Found.” There is also a “Grown” menu showcasing produce (but not vegetarian) and “Raised” featuring two and four-legged friends. We explored “Found,” and “Raised,” and can’t wait to go back for “Grown.”

Raised is responsible for The Best Thing on the Menu: Smoked Beef Ribeye with celeriac, stilton, beer & oat cracker and mulberry vinegar. Tender beef that barely shook hands with the pan is super smoky and marbled with just the right amount of fat. The meat hails from Martin’s Angus Beef in The Plains, Va., where the cattle dine only on grass and grain grown on the farm.

Oyster dish

A stunner from the “Found” menu was a bowl containing barnstable oysters, stinging nettles, buttered rice dashi, oyster mushrooms and chèvre. Stinging what? For years (okay, until today) we thought stinging nettles were in the squid family. Rather, it’s Europe’s poison ivy and we’re brazen enough to eat it. If prepared properly (we understand it involves careful blanching and shocking), the plant can have some medicinal benefits and the texture is quite fun. The dish as a whole tastes like briny oysters suspended in the best butter you’ve ever encountered. 

If you visit, try to get a few minutes with the owner, Beverly Morton. She bought the farm back in the 1980s with the humble goal of growing wholesome food for her kids. Over the years, she’s collected some fantastic stories, like when her live turkeys snuck down to a Thanksgiving feast to peer through the windows at their not so lucky friends.  “Hey Earl, is that you? You made the cut this year?” She jokes.

Click here for more pictures from the meal.

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is located at 42461 Lovettsville Rd, Lovettsville, VA.

You might also like Gypsy Soul, Blue Duck Tavern or Restaurant Nora.

Pop’s SeaBar: Jersey Dog

Jersey Dog

The Best Thing on the Menu at the newly minted Pop’s SeaBar is a little blasphemous. That’s because it doesn’t come from the sea, and that’s the whole theme at this beachy establishment in Adams Morgan. Rather, the BTM is a Jersey Dog with Taylor Pork Roll, Cole Slaw and Curly Fries. In the dish, a hot dog gets a hug from a slice of Taylor Pork Roll. It’s like a pig in a blanket, only the blanket is even more pig. The coleslaw adds creaminess and crunch. You’ll never want a naked dog again.

The Taylor Pork Roll hailing from Jersey is not the only thing on the plate that should remind you of the Garden State. Served along side Pop’s expertly seasoned curly fries is a little tub of Jersey Sauce. This remoulade of sorts may have super powers. Just try it and you’ll see what we mean. In fact, you probably won’t have a choice about trying it when you step into the casual eatery, because it’s served with nearly every dish. 

Orange Crush

Wash down your Jersey Dog with a Maryland cocktail called an Orange Crush. It’s quite simple: vodka, aquavit, Combier, OJ, and lemon. The only thing that would make it better is if it came in a juice box. There are six other cocktails to choose from including the ice cream luge that’s been getting more attention than the cronut got nationwide. 

Jersey Dog not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Pop’s SeaBar is located at 1817 Columbia Road NW. 

G by Mike Isabella: Gnudi

G Gnudi

Expecting to see a sandwich? Sorry to disappoint between-the-bread lovers, G by Mike Isabella is more than a scrumptious sub shop. By night, the casual spot changes over to an Italian restaurant serving a tasting menu. The meal begins with an explosion of antipasti encompassing everything from marinated vegetables to fried arancini, followed by a pasta course, main dish and desserts (all for $40!).

The Best Thing on the Menu at our latest meal was a plate of steaming hot gnudi. The G dish hit the spot (get your mind out of the gutter). Gnudi is an adorable Italian way to describe dumplings made from what would normally be enclosed in a ravioli. In other words, you’re eating the filling, which we suppose could also be considered a fun form of gluten free pasta!

Making Gnudi

The dish has a small piece of my heart since I learned to make gnudi on my honeymoon in Italy. It also has a big part of my admiration, because IT IS DIFFICULT. The little balls of filling are tough to keep together once they hit boiling water. When finished though, they match well with a sage brown butter sauce or a simple marinara.

It’s unlikely that gnudi will be at G when you turnover your menu because things change from week to week based on what’s in season. But not to worry – the other pasta dishes look tasty too like this past week’s pappardelle with lamb ragu, peas and pistachio.

Share your favorites from your G by Mike Isabella meal in the comments section.

G is located at 2201 14th St NW, Washington, DC.

You mint also like Osteria Morini or Alba Osteria.

Fat Pete’s Barbecue: Burnt Ends

Burnt Ends

Ever waste valuable munch time poking at your platter of ‘cue looking for the fattiest, juiciest, smokiest flecks of meat? That’s BBQ blasphemy. Fortunately, DC’s newest smokehouse, Fat Pete’s Barbecue does all the work for you by serving up The Best Thing on the Menu: Burnt Ends. This Kansas City BBQ staple basically amounts to the fatty, charred points of brisket.

Andy

Why do you think Andy Reid has gotten even larger since he arrived in KC to coach Jamal Charles and the like?

Here’s the secret. Fat Pete’s brisket is smoked for 18 hours. This is awesome enough on its own, but the burnt ends are smoked even longer – four more hours to be exact. Be prepared to fight your friends for the last bite, because as with all precious commodities, the number of burnt end orders are limited. You’ll find them in the appetizer section, and even though they don’t need any sauce, this is a good opportunity to audition the restaurant’s six different sauces for your main course. We suppose if you’re desperate to try the burnt ends you can call ahead, and then get your BBQ-loving buns in a seat as fast as possible.

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Even if they’re out, all is not lost. Pete’s pretty much can do no wrong. Another can’t miss dish is the “ABTs,” also known as BBQ Crack. The pit master, Woody, stuffs jalapeños with cream cheese, tops them with little smokie sausages and wraps them with bacon before smoking them and drizzling them in balsamic. Also try the tasty brisket melt sandwich, St. Louis style ribs and locally-made pie for dessert.

Burnt ends not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Fat Pete’s Barbecue is located at 3407 Connecticut Ave., NW. 

Gypsy Soul: Grits

Gypsy Soul Grits

The doors to R.J. Cooper’s new restaurant are now open – beckoning people from the burbs to try his adventurous, eccentric cuisine. While most of the Gypsy Soul menu screams of the South, there are dishes that pull from other corners of the world like a Greek-inspired lamb neck entree which was mighty tasty thanks to tzatziki. And yet, this is the very first time in BTM history that a side dish stole the show.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Yellow corn grits with foraged mushrooms and preserved truffle should simply be called holy shit grits. The elevated crock of comfort food can be found under the “Heirloom Grains & Tubers” section of the menu. Our advice? Order two so you can take one home and eat it the next morning for breakfast/brunch. The mushrooms are fairy tale tiny, and then there are truffles. Truffles, truffles truffles.

Fried Chicken Cracklings

Other can’t miss dishes included a big bowl of fried chicken skin cracklings served with snake oil (don’t worry, it’s just hot sauce) and roof top honey; a crazy combination of bone marrow and sea urchin; and a confit pork dish that incorporated Oktoberfesty accoutrements like sauerkraut and a sweet pear butter.

We’re guessing your question is – should I hop in my car and head out there? Is it worth it? Answer: Yea, most def. If you can, try to make the trek from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield metro stop, so you can take full advantage of their cocktail program, which also involves inventive ingredients like an herbaceous marjoram popcorn syrup.

Grits not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Gypsy Soul is located at 8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax, Va 22031. 

Etto: Roasted Cauliflower Pizza

Etto Pizza

My father had a unique way of getting boys to steer clear of me in high school. Right before date night o’clock, he would send me to the local pizza joint to pick up his pizza. This sounds innocent enough – a man’s gotta eat. But, he insisted on his favorite topping each time: anchovies. That anchovy stench would seep deep into the seats of my Ford Focus. It even clung to my clothes and my hair. So naturally, I developed an aversion to anchovies that lasted until my most recent trip to Etto.

It was there that I tried the Best Thing on the Menu: Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with capers, pine nuts, anchovies and bread crumbs. The anchovies are so briny that no other salt source is needed, and they add just enough subtle funk to make the pizza memorable. Etto, after all, has a real love affair with these little fishies, as they also serve them as a part of their salads/small plate selections. But back to the pizza, which is like none other in the city (Except maybe 2Amys, which is from the same owners). What differs slightly is the dough and how it’s cooked.

The flour is milled in house. In fact, you can see the mill in the back of the restaurant. What results is a crust with billiard ball sized bubbles that you and your friends will fight over when divvying up slices (also just like high school). The restaurant recently opened up their sweet little patio, so there’s a better chance of getting a table and eating The Best Thing on the Menu al fresco. Also try Etto’s strong selection of small plates, they make a good warm up to the main event.

Roasted cauliflower pizza not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Etto is located at 1541 14th Street NW. 

You might also like Casa Luca or Lupo Verde.