Tail Up Goat: Lamb Ribs

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If the pork ribs at Little Serow and the family-style goat feast at Komi had a lovechild it would be the lamb ribs at Tail Up Goat. Did you have this lightbulb moment too? That’s because the new Adams Morgan respite from the ordinary is from alums of the two restaurants. And, boy did they graduate.

The ribs, piled high like campfire logs, stand out as the best thing on the menu because of the exquisite char on the meat that falls off the practically disintegrating bones. Like the accoutrements that accompany Komi’s famous goat, the ribs find Mediterranean flavors (sumac onions, beets, a creamy yogurt sauce and fresh herbs). Think Cava Grill toppers injected with fine freaking dining. An order feeds two ($42).

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The adventurous should warm up to their lamb course by carbo loading first with charred chocolate rye bread and later with cavatelli dressed in octopus ragu. The rye comes with, SURPRISE, a whole sardine sunbathing on a bed of salt. He really announces his presence (unlike those Republican presidential hopefuls botched their debate entry). Break off fleshy fishy morsels and mount them on your rye bread for a bold bite that tastes like finding a Jewish deli in Greece.

Wash everything down with whatever Bill Jensen wants to pour you. He’s a wine savant that turned me on to vino big time through his pairings at Komi. Spot the towhead blonde in the dining room and wave him over for a recommendation. Or, if wine isn’t your thing, feel free to crush mezcal Old Fashioned’s all night long.

With cooking like this, it’s no wonder why the goat’s tail is up, instead of between its legs.

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Tail Up Goat is located at 1827 Adams Mill Rd NW.

Lamb ribs not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

The Royal: Cheese Arepas

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The Royal is the kind of restaurant where you feel like one of the popular kids just by hanging out there. In fact, to make sure we could match the coolness of our fellow customers we rode a Vespa there and parked it right outside as if to say, no nerd alert here! There’s an ancient looking fire hydrant that spews house made Vermouth for god sakes. The vibe is effortlessly laid back, so you’re going to want to spend time there…which you can morning, afternoon and night thanks to it being an all-day eatery.

Cheese Arepas

The Best Thing on the Menu: Cheese Arepas are a clue that the edibles leans Colombian. Owner Paul Carlson’s family is from the vibrant South American nation, and Chef Lonnie Zoeller’s wife is Colombian, so The Royal comes at the cuisine from all sides. Though cheese arepas are made from but a few simple ingredients, they’re delightful when paired with both the aji sauce they come with in addition to the arsenal of sauce options available for a few cents more. They’re described by color. We like “Orange” because it’s sweet and spicy. Sure there are souped up arepas on the menu, including one that’s stuffed with meat like a sandwich, but here, simple is better. Arepas are definitely having a moment.

Grilled Avocado

Another must-order is the grilled avocado nestled on top of a bed of red quinoa and lentils. This is dish number two that does the trick without introducing any meat. Lonnie’s not using quinoa here because it’s a buzzword that tickles the senses of the gluten-free crowd. The grain hails from the Andean region of South America, which includes part of Colombia. Although the grain has become mainstream, we can’t help but snicker at its mention thanks to this commercial. Especially because the protagonist is an Eagles fan.

The Royal serves morning fare like bagel sandwiches, choripan and Nutella pinwheels from 7am-12pm Monday-Friday, 7am-1pm Saturdays, and 8am-1pm Sundays. Come noon or 1pm they switch over to their all-day menu.

The Royal is located at 501 Florida Avenue NW in the LeDroit Park neighborhood. 

Cheese arepas not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

BTMMY Award Winners

We’re pleased to present the winners of the first ever BTMMY awards. Not to get foodie sentimental, but this has been such a fun year of openings, trends, expansions and events. We’re really lucky to be District diners. Thanks to everyone who voted for their favorite restaurants, bars, chefs, etc.

Now, for the winners:

BTMMY Best Restaurant

Best Restaurant— Rasika

It seems we are curry craving, truffle nan hoarding, palak chaat junkies that can’t get enough of upscale Indian with a twist courtesy of Ashok Bajaj’s culinary empire. Congrats to Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam and his team for churning our consistent, flavorful food that has found a home in the hearts of DC foodies.

Here’s what to get when you go.

BTMMY New Restaurant

Best New Restaurant— Roses Luxury

DC can’t get enough of this Barracks Row newcomer that doesn’t take itself too seriously—between bold instructions on the menu to uncommon food combinations like strawberry pasta—it’s a blast. But, make it a Monday/Tuesday kind of thing because with all the accolades pouring in, and a no reservation policy, it’s bound to be packed. Order the octopus and the brisket. Better yet, bring a group of four and see if you can conquer the whole menu.

BTMMY Best Chef

Chef that is Absolutely Crushing it—Bart Vandaele

Yes, DC is a sucker for celebrity chefs. But we’re willing to bank on Bart Vandaele gaining your votes for other reasons—like his pulled pork stuffed cornbread waffle topped with avocado and a fried egg at B TOO or his Hoegaarden mussels at Belga Cafe. Fun fact, B TOO now does breakfast, just dodge the morning construction taking place out front.

Here’s what to get when you go B TOO.

BTMMY Cocktails

Best Cocktails—The Passenger/Columbia Room

Derek Brown is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to what’s in his shaker. From unique creations to a knack for personalizing cocktails with a guest’s preferences in mind, he continues to come out on top of the imbibing scene. His bar bartending team at The Passenger/Columbia Room is top notch. Make a reservation for the cocktail tasting menu so you can check an item off your DC imbibing bucket list.

BTMMY Beer Garden

Beer Garden— Biergarten Haus

H Street wins out in this category. Biergarten Haus decidedly came in as the beer garden you spent your summer at. And, it doesn’t have to end. The patio is open all year long, thanks to some sturdy heaters. So make your way through some Paulaner, Hofbräu, Franziskaner and other favorites.

BTMMY Sandwich

Hangover Curing Sandwich—Taylor Gourmet

Want to reverse the damages from last night and set yourself up for a great ‘lil Sunday? Start your day with a breakfast hoagie, or just about any hoagie, from Taylor Gourmet. There’s just something special about a sloppy, saucy sandwich with Philly roots that gives you back the spring in your step.

Here’s what to get when you go.

And finally, special congratulations to Julia H. for winning the random drawing for the $200 gift card to Jose Andres restaurants. Next year we’ll be back with bigger and better prizes. Thanks again to everyone who voted.

Graphic design by Curtis Rogers. 

DC’s Top Food and Drink Trends 2013

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A food blogger’s log of top trends in our nation’s capital, based on too many meals to count. As Heidi would say, you’re either in or you’re out!

Chez Billy Saucisse Merguez

Chez Billy

1. Small plates: You either love them or you hate them, especially if you live and eat on 14th Street. But one thing’s for sure, small plate hate and continued complaining about them is in vogue. Good places to get full-size meals? Chez Billy, West End Bistro, Poste and Table.

Spraga's Brisket

Sbraga

2. Brisket is back. Done right, this cut of meat can steal the show. Where to get it in DC? Roses Luxury, DCity Smokehouse and Garden District. It is also the Best Thing on the Menu at Philly’s Sbraga.

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Del Campo

3. Fernet is having a renaissance. Try it and you’ll taste hints of eucalyptus, saffron, cardamom and chamomile. Most popular in Italy and Argentina, fernet is typically mixed with soda water or it can be used in cocktails as a form of bitters. In DC, you can try it at Del Campo and Urbana.

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4. New restaurants are forgoing traditional websites and are opting instead for robust Facebook pages. Or, restaurants are choosing to create a simple single page, meant solely to point you to their social media accounts. This is such a smart money saver. There’s no need to pay an IT company to build and maintain a website when Facebook has built-in infrastructure for diners to interact with their favorite restaurants. Our new favorite spot, Mockingbird Hill, is one example: Their simple web page vs. their Facebook page.

Shaw DC

5. Shaw has become THE neighborhood for new restaurants, including Eat the Rich, Dacha Beer Garden, Mockingbird Hill, Thally, Table and more.

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Casa Luca

6. More than a handful of restaurants are jumping on the charcuterie bandwagon. A trend many enjoy, but others skip due to the availability of fine meat and cheese selections at gourmet grocery stores. If you’re pro-charcuterie visit: Casa Luca, The Pig, Churchkey/Birch and Barley, Proof, Urbana, Vinoteca and Etto.

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Revive Catering

7. Waffles are crushing it, sorry cronuts. DC has some of the best waffles to offer the world including Revive Catering’s red velvet chicken and waffles, B TOO’s blood sausage stuffed waffle and Brasserie Beck’s gingerbread waffle.

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Petworth Citizen

8. Cosmos and appletinis are out. Prohibition era cocktails are in. Big name Founding Farmers has 11 different prohibition era inspired cocktails like a Sazerac and a New York Sour. Then there are places like The Gibson, PX, The Passenger/Columbia Room, Bar Charley and Petworth Citizen.

Oyamel Fried Egg

Oyamel

9. Remember being twelve years old and requesting breakfast for dinner for your birthday? Fortunately, you can relive this small joy by visiting several DC restaurants. Ted’s Bulletin serves breakfast all day long, Oyamel has a killer egg dish and DGS serves “Benedictberg” well into the night.

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Taylor Gourmet

10. Whether you’re curing a hangover, fueling your marathon (or 5K!) training, or just gearing up for a Sunday on the couch watching football, monster sandwiches are the answer. The arrival of spots like Duke’s Grocery and food trucks like SUNdeVICH plus the continued awesomeness of Taylor Gourmet and Stachowski Market & Deli means you’ll never be without a good sando in hando.

Got a trend you’d like to share? Let us hear it in the comments section! Plus, see where we ate in 2013.

Casa Luca: Branzino al Forno

Casa Luca Branzino al Forno

Sorry to those who were sad to see AGAINN go, but we think DC came out on top with the addition of Casa Luca. This rustic Italian restaurant has special touches like a section of the drink menu featuring 14 different bottles of wines priced at $28 and they offer to make any of their mouth-watering pasta dishes with gluten-free pasta. We also suspect that they spike their gelato sundaes with some kind of booze, never a bad thing.

With Italian cuisine, sometimes it’s best to put your meal in the hands of an expert. That’s why we’re suggesting you start with Luca Antipasto Misto, letting Fabio Trabocchi and Erin Clarke school you on what’s best when it comes to meats, cheeses and small sides. 

But when it comes to the Best Thing on the Menu, get the Branzino al Forno with Red Peppers, Tomato, Olives and Basil. Besides being breaded in magic fairy dust of some kind, it comes with a grilled lemon. BTW, branzino is European seabass, a fish that continues to grow in popularity in America. I caught you a delicious bass.

You’ll be tempted to get pasta, so, get that too. They can do half portions. But still, save room for dessert. Perhaps you’re getting the picture that this is a meal fit for a post-marathon binge.

You may see a pint-sized version of Chef Trabocchi tending to the kitchen or out on the floor. Don’t worry, MasterChef Junior hasn’t come to town. That’s Luca, the chef’s son and the restaurant’s namesake.

See some pictures of Casa Luca.

Branzino al Forno not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Ted’s Bulletin: Pop-tarts!

Ted's Bulletin Pop Tart

Pop-tarts are so in right now that they’re being used as a measurement calibration for Smartphones. So, where can you get them in DC? Well, there are a couple of places but Ted’s Bulletin was first. While we eagerly await a toaster strudel competitor to open across the street, here are our thoughts on Ted’s on 14th.

When you enter Ted’s Bulletin, you also enter the 1930s. Prepared to be comforted by jazzed up diner dishes in the afternoon and evening and true breakfast staples in the morning. We particularly like their Walk of Shame Breakfast Burrito, Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup and their Meatloaf with Mingo County Ketchup Glaze. Oh and throw in their adult milkshakes.

That being said, we have to go with the pack on this one. The Best Thing on the Menu: Chocolate Salted Caramel Pop-tarts are a must-try. If sugar content wasn’t enough reason to sample this childhood staple turned trend, here are some fun facts about pop-tarts:

  • Kellogg actually swiped the toaster pastry idea away from Post, who originally had the idea for “Country Squares.” They revealed their revolutionary breakfast product just a bit too soon and lost big time. Whomp whomp.
  • The first four flavors when pop-tarts hit the shelves were blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, apple currant and strawberry. Brown sugar cinnamon, still the king today! That’s a lot of accolades seeing as though pop-tarts now come in 29 flavors.
  • You may have seen this warning on the box “Due to possible risk of fire, never leave your toasting appliance or microwave unattended.” There’s a good story here… If you weren’t concentrating hard in grade school in 1992, you might remember that a dude named Thomas Nangle sued Kellogg after his pop-tart got stuck in the toaster and caught on fire. A couple years later a groovy professor at Texas A & M performed an experiment showing that STRAWBERRY pop-tarts (strawberry specifically?!) when left in the toaster can produce foot-high flames. It apparently happened again more recently in 2001.
  • The original pop-tart mascots name was Milton.
  • We’re hopeful they don’t break when airdropped, because in 2004, our military dropped 2.4 million pop-tarts in Afghanistan.
  • Though now discontinued, at one point there was a Hello Kitty Meowberry pop-tart.
  • Never trust anyone who eats his pop-tarts cold out of the box. It’s hot and gooey or the highway.

It’s fun to feel comfy cozy eating inside Ted’s Bulletin on 14th. The atmosphere makes you want to stay a while and we’re particularly enamored by the fact that they play Gone with the Wind on old-timey TVs, have newspaper-looking menus and recognize that breakfast is the best meal of the day by serving it at all times!

Pop-tarts not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Thally: Roasted Duck Breast

Thally Roasted Duck Breast

If Thally is a sample of what the unfolding Shaw restaurant boom will bring, we’re in for a fun ride. The new restaurant by Chef Ron Tanaka and his partners in crime is impossibly creative and simple at the same time.

The drink prices ($7 and $8 wine!) and entree portion sizes (not guilt-inducing, nor small plates!) weren’t the only things refreshing at Thally. The restaurant doesn’t feel the need to spell out every detail of how its dishes will be presented on the menu. Rather, they keep it simple and allow guests to be wowed with whimsy when dishes arrive at the table. The compressed watermelon and heirloom tomato salad for example, doesn’t let on that it will come out shaped like sushi with acompanying ginger and wasabi. They trust their customers will pick up on, and enjoy, the surprise.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Roasted Duck Breast with Sunchoke, Kale and Taggiasca Olive Sauce wins out on the merits of flawless execution. The perfect medium rare sear and criss-crossed rendered duck fat are executed to such a high level that we wonder whether Chef Tanaka learned these tricks during his time at Citronelle. Other standouts include the Crab Roulette, Carnitas Sope and Pan Seared Rockfish. For photos of these dishes plus the watermelon salad sushi click here.

Though modern in decor, the restaurant’s name is, in part, a throw back tribute to the Tally-Ho stables built in the neighborhood in 1883. The restaurant seats about 70 and takes reservations through OpenTable. Our post comes on the heels of a positive Tom Sietsema review. See what he had to say.

Roasted Duck Breast not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Doi Moi: Bun Bo Xao

Bun Bo Xao

Doi Moi is transformative in that it takes you to a different land. This land has exotic herbs, undiscovered textures and the commingling of sweet, spicy, salty and sour flavors. The Best Thing on the Menu: Bun Bo Xao Stir Fried Lemongrass Beef on Vermicelli Noodles, served with cucumbers, pickled carrot, daikon, fragrant herbs, fried garlic, nouc cham and scallion oil, features all of these far-off-land characteristics. We recommend ordering two of this dish if you are dining in a party of three or four. Bun Bo Xao carries the “phet” label, which means spicy, not to be confused with the word “phat” that still haunts us from the late 90s. So, if you like heat, look for the “phet” and “mak phet” menu icons.

There are two ways to do it up at Mark Kuller and Haidar Karoum’s Doi Moi. To determine which option best suits you, we invite you to take Best Thing on the Menu’s very first personality quiz.

DC Diner A: Are you a planner? Do you get patted on the back during performance reviews for being super organized? Do you schedule your haircuts for an entire year at once? Do you always get your oil changed on time?

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DC Diner B:  Do you like surprises? Do you live on the edge? Do you consider waiting in line at Little Serow all a part of the experience? Do you set out for an unplanned evening of exploring neighborhood bars? Do you buy lunch every day because you can’t be bothered to plan ahead?

If you identify more with DC Diner A, we recommend using OpenTable to make a Doi Moi reservation. They take reservations at 5:30pm and 6:00pm, much like their sister restaurant Estadio has done for years. You’ll feel great committing, and a table will be waiting for you. Alternatively, if you identify more closely with Diner B, live dangerously and arrive at Doi Moi at a time of your choosing. Sure, it’ll be a zoo (for good reason, the food is fantastic) but you’ll have all the time in the world to sip tropical cocktails and admire the decor. Anticipation will continue to build as you wait and wait for a table.

In addition to the BTM, we recommend other standouts including the Charred Eggplant with Poached Shrimp (Yum Makuah), Crispy Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls (Por Pia Tod) and absolutely, without question, the must-order fried bananas dessert (Gluoy Kak). Those who are hungry and aren’t on board with the small plates scene would be best served by ordering the LTOM (Largest Thing on the Menu): Lemongrass and Spice Roasted Half Chicken. Click here for more photos of Doi Moi dishes.

One last tip, Doi Moi finally added their menu to their website so you can take a gander before you dine. Plus check out their vegan and gluten free menu!

Bun Bo Xao not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

If you liked this, you may also like: Rice, Little Serow or Estadio.

Oyamel: Breakfast for Dinner

Oyamel Fried Egg

Oyamel could be the underdog when it comes to ranking Jose Andres’ restaurants in DC.  Jaleo behaves as the flagship of the operation, minibar is elusive and mysterious and Zaytinya continues to produce memorable meals time after time.  It turns out that unassuming Oyamel is underrated. Sure, the butterfly decor is a little like a science museum, and the clientele seems to be mostly tourists. But, as is always the case with Best Thing on the Menu, it’s the food that counts.

A while back we double ordered the Best Thing on the Menu at Kapnos. Well, we had another repeat BTM order at Oyamel, and this time it was breakfast for dinner. The Best Thing on the Menu is most certainly Huevos Enfrijolados. This dish is composed of a fried organic egg with black bean sauce, house made chorizo, salsa verde and a corn tortilla. This brunch munch is perfectly balanced and delicately composed. We didn’t even know you could fry an egg like that.

Oyamel also knocks it out of the park when it comes to tacos. At most DC taco haunts you pick your protein: beef, pork, chicken or fish. But at Oyamel, there are four different types of pork tacos alone, plus adventurous folks can try Chapulines (grasshoppers!) an Oaxacan classic. Learn more about them here.

Don’t rule out Oyamel next time you’re in Penn Quarter. It’s a little easier to get a table, the food comes out fast and fresh and you can order two of anything.

Huevos Enfrijolados not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Bombay Club: Club Thali

Bombay Club Thali

It a small plates world, Bombay Club offers the Indian way to eat a little bit of everything. These samplers are known as “thalis” and the Best Thing on the Menu is most definitely the Club Thali – fish, chicken, lamb, vegetable, dal, lemon rice and raita. Thali eaters are privy to the holy trinity of curry proteins: chicken, lamb and fish along with veggie accompaniments like lentils and spinach as well as the requisite starches, naan and rice. We have yet to go to another Indian restaurant in DC that offers thalis, but will certainly be on the lookout. For more on thalis, check out CNN’s coverage of Mumbai’s best eats.

Bombay Club was Ashok Bajaj’s first restaurant, opening its doors before Rasika and Rasika West End, which also serve delicious and adventurous Indian, but with less of a Washington feel. Steps from the White House, Bombay Club has a real special air to it. The dining room is elegant, the service is top notch and the quiet atmosphere lends itself to easy conversation.

Our waiter informed us that Bombay Club is of great importance to Bajaj, who visits daily (sometimes several times) to ensure that everything is meticulously in its place. This makes sense seeing that the restaurant has hosted the likes of U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, President Nelson Mandela, Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford to name a few.

Bombay Club Lamb Shank

In addition to being a little more formal and stately than its Indian cousins Rasika and Rasika West End, Bombay Club is also a little more spicy. We particularly liked the lamb shank dish, which tasted like Christmas on a plate and brought some gentle heat.

Club Thali not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.