There’s something lovely and reassuring about sitting down somewhere with a cool drink in one hand and an evening of dishing stretched out in front of you. That’s the thing about restaurants. It’s not always about the food. While the food is oftentimes (for this feature especially) the focus, I also appreciate the fact that for the price of my meal I’m also renting a table’s worth of space. For however long I need it, I “own” that space to catch up with friends, make lovey eyes at a boy or discuss business with coworkers. Sitting down at a restaurant is practicing the word in the name: a rest. No one is playing host – no one is rushing in and out of the kitchen tending to food or people – everyone can focus on the company at hand. For that hour or three, you’re taken care of, with everything you need. The space is yours, your friends are there, and you’ve only got to focus on talking and eating. I’m always grateful to end a hectic day at work seated across from friends, drink in hand, open menu in front of me. As one of the food lovers here at We Love DC, that’s often how I end my days. So with practically all my time spent in restaurants I’m frequently asked for my favorites. I do this feature monthly to recommend the best of the best – my favorite plates from all across DC.
This month has been a busy one. September is always busy in the food world in DC, places open their doors, fall menus pop up, and everyone stakes out spots on the patios before winter sneaks in. I’ve done a lot of traditional fine high-heels-on, white table cloth dining this month. So what are my favorites? I’ll tell you where I’ve been and then compose a full meal out of the best dishes I’ve had all month. Ready?
Where I’ve been: Morton’s Steakhouse, Eventide, Good Stuff Eatery, Room 11, 701 Restaurant, Bibiana, Degrees Bar at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown, Levante’s, 1789, Bourbon Steak, Minh’s, Westend Bistro, Social 14, Talulla, Poste, Zaytinya, Boulevard Woodgrill, Restaurant 3, Belga Cafe, Veritas, Ristorante Tosca
Cocktail: Mr. Hendricks at H Street Country Club – Hendricks Gin, Basil, Cucumber Water, Lemon. This cocktail, whipped up by master mixologist Gina Chersevani is tart and fresh. Strong flavors, with bright ingredients, I loved it. Not your typical sugary concoction, the gin is complimented by the lemon and I was a happy girl.
Bread Basket: Truffle Butter Rolls at Bourbon Steak. These delicious rolls are are truffle butter “sticky” buns tucked into a cast iron pot. Served hot, they unravel like a sticky bun but aren’t sweet. Instead they have an earthy truffle flavor… mmmm… I love that these are fun to eat, but taste fantastic. Baked in house, these are certainly worth the trip.
Salad: Goat Cheese Salad from Belga Cafe. Served in a crispy basket with warm onions, mixed greens are tossed with a goat cheese dressing. The salad was appetizer sized but a perfect portion for a night-time meal after cocktails. I loved the serving of this in a basket that becomes the crouton-like crisp of the salad.
Appetizer: Sweetbreads at 1789. I was at 1789 to preview the new fall menu and wound up taking a bite of DC Gastronome author Lorena’s sweetbreads and falling head over heels in love. I immediately got food-envy of her appetizer, forgetting what sweetbreads really are. They had a deep, savory, fatty, delicious texture and were crisped perfectly. 1789 has beautifully crafted classic dishes.
Main: Veal Pasta at Bibiana. Newcomer Bibiana has a hit with this pasta. Served with crispy bits of pancetta, and slivers of Parmesan, it’s a perfect portion of stuffed pasta. The veal is deliciously salty, I still look back on this dish fondly.
Image courtesy of Dining in DC author Lisa Shapiro
Dessert: Toffee Chocolate Brownie Cake at Tallula. Served with housemade pistachio ice cream, this square of happiness is a phenomenal find at Tallula. A brownie sandwich, with toffee crunches in the middle, the brownie cake is chocolate heaven. I found it to be exactly the right amount of crunch, balanced with the creamy sweet ice cream.
So there we have it – the best dishes of September. What were yours? Anything I must try in October? A place that made you crave more? Do tell.