Wednesday, January 18, 2006

# Posted 8:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOME DAMN GOOD RESTAURANTS IN OUR NATION'S CAPITAL: People often give DC a hard time for having bad restaurants. But the fact is that there are some great places to eat around here, even for those who don't spend money like Jack Abramoff.

For a comprehensive round-up of where to find value (and taste) for your dollar, the best place to go is the Washingtonian's list of 100 best restaurant bargains.

I ate at one of them tonight: Tony Cheng's Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown. I had the pan-friend scallops in hot pepper sauce. My friend had the breaded shrimp with honey and walnuts.

Although interesting sauces can often redeem mediocre seafood, the sauces at Tony Cheng's were a bonus. The seafood itself was cooked just right, bringing out all the flavor but still keeping it moist and tender. Which is why Tony Cheng's isn't just one of the 100 best bargains, but also on the list of 100 best restaurants overall.

(NB: The list used to be available online, but now the Washingtonian wants you to pay for it. However, you can still do searches and see individual reviews for free.)

Another member of the top 100 is the moderately priced Heritage India. Heritage stands out because of its quality and creativity. Whereas numerous Indian places keep customers happy by adding extra oil or butter to just about everything, Heritage provides taste, for example in its polenta cake with chicken tikka.

Finally, another restaurant that has earned in an enduring place in both the top 100 and top 100 bargains is Pizzeria Paradiso, just a few blocks north of Heritage. It is a brick-oven establishment that can go head-to-head with the best in New York and New Haven.

So, next time you're in town, just take a quick look online before picking a place for dinner. It may change how you think about this city.
(13) opinions -- Add your opinion

Good to know -- I'm coming up all next week, and I'll make sure to try some of those out!
Five Guys Burgers and Fries. You have to try it...

From a review of the place--"Calvin Trillin who said that the definition of a wimp was someone who thought his own hometown did not produce the best hamburger in the world." No one who eats there will ever be called a wimp because the burgers are that good.

p.s. I hate Tony Cheungs, but that's because I just came back from Hong Kong and find most DC Chinese really lacking...
I was mighty skeptical that Five Guys would live up to its hype, and I resisted going there for the first three years I lived in Arlington, but I finally broke down and went to the one on King St. Holy crap...it really, truly is an amazingly good burger, as good as everyone says. I dunno if it's worth it for a visitor to bother with, considering all the other great restaurants in the area, but if you live there, and you've gotta have a burger, it can't be beat.

Speaking of great restaurants...the Washingtonian list is basically sound, but the definitive resource for the DC area is Tyler Cowen's (yes, that Tyler Cowen) ethnic food guide.
If you go to Tony Cheng's, go upstairs to the Mongolian grill. It's much better.

Other DC area cheap eats to look into are:

Ben's Chili Bowl, U St., DC. http://www.benschilibowl.com/

The Afghan Restaurant, Route 1 in Alexandria, near Potomac Yards.

Thai Pilin, Route 7, Tyson's corner (lunch only).

Thai Herbs, Route 1, south of Old Town, Alexandria.

Mount Everest (Indian/Tibetan), 18th St., DC.
Five Guys all the way!!!

I haven't been to their DC branch yet, but I ate their lots in Charlotteville. Although my New Year's Resolution to lose 10 lb. may preclude me from going there again.

Also, three cheers for Ben's Chili Bowl.

If I had a car, I would definitely go to all the great Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian restaurants in the suburbs.

As for Hong Kong, I've actually been there twice and enjoyed the food quite a bit, but perhaps I didn't go to the right places, since I think Tony Cheng's is still pretty damn good.
I would say even Chinese food in California is substantially better than in DC. But Tony Cheng's is quality fare for DC. I'd recommend trying out the dim sum on weekends though. It's pretty decent.
You do indeed miss out on a lot of great restaurants in the suburbs by not having a car. There are still a lot of good restaurants in D.C., and if you're willing to walk from the Metro, you can get to a few of the suburban ones. Personally, I second the recommendation of Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide and of Heritage India. And some of the restaurants on the Washingtonian list really aren't very good at all; I've eaten twice at Rio Grande, and it's quite possibly the worst Mexican food I've ever had.
There's quite a few good, cheap Chinese places (Mark's Duck House and A&J are both superb), but they're mostly in the Virginia suburbs. If you don't have a car, and you're not totally broke, a Zip car membership will open up vast numbers of great places to you.

And while I still think the Washintonian list isn't all that bad, Tom's right. There's some weird, not so good choices on it. You're much, much better off with Tyler Cowen.
With over 300,000 Vietnamese in the area, you are remiss if you don't try some Vietnamese food in DC-NoVa. There are pho places in nearly every strip mall, and a smattering of others around the area.

Someone said DC has "great Thai and Vietnamese" and "good szechuan" which is probably about right. I haven't been to some of the Korean places, but there seem to be alot of them popping up lately (especially in Annadale, VA which is basically a little Korea is seems).

And I second everything about Five Guys Burgers...
Burma Restaurant, Malaysia Kopitiam, 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso are my favorites on that list. If you're out in the burbs, though, don't forget Louisiana Express in Bethesda, which is not listed, strangely. Try the seafood creole. Good list of beer, good beignets, good po' boys. It's probably the only bargain restaurant in the world that's on the same block as a Bentley dealer. Used to be in the same building, actually.
The above comments note one of the interesting things about DC - as opposed to metropolitan areas like New York - many of the best "ethnic" restaurants are not in the city proper, but in the 'burbs. Patterns of immigration, I imagine.
Are you familiar with Teaism? For some reason, they don't show up on the Washingtonian restaurant list (perhaps because they are part teahouse). My son is friends with Michelle, one of the two owners, and has worked there during his summer brakes from telecom-related engineering.


One of their restaurants is on Dupont Circle.

Our favorite hamburger is from Clyde's of Georgetown. We went, of course, to the Clyde's in Columbia, MD.
My biggest complaint is that the good restaurants are not within easy walking distance of the Mall. In London, for instance, I could spend the morning at any museum and be confident of finding a decent place nearby for lunch.
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