There are only a handful of people that understand what it is like to eat at 84 places in 6 months. Ashley Messick is one of them. Funny, adorable, and one of my favorite food writers in the city, Ashley embarked upon a year-long project of eating at every single one of the 2009 Washingtonian 100 Best Restaurants list. She’s been called crazy, but I fully understand her plight. She recently completed her 100, and so we had a chance to chat about the project, what she loved, what she hated, and a weird waiter at Circle Bistro.
Katie: How long have you lived in the DC area?
Ashley: My whole life! I grew up in suburban Maryland and moved in to the District after college.
What would you change about DC if you could?
I’d make the Metro a little more accessible. If you want to go up and down Connecticut Avenue it’s pretty great, but other than that you’re destined for a long ride or a long walk or a long wait. I never like to compare D.C. to New York because I think they’re completely different, but New York blows us out of the water when it comes to convenient mass transportation.
Why did you start the From Komi to Marvin challenge?
Looking back, I can’t believe how flippantly I made the decision to start this project. It was like, “I think I’ll drop off my drycleaning, have a grilled cheese for lunch and eat at all the 100 best restaurants in a year.” I’ve always considered myself an expert when it came to recommending restaurants, so when I realized I had only tried about a third of the best restaurants after living here 25 years, I figured I should probably try and eat at the rest. For research purposes only, of course.
What was the worst meal you had? Best meal?
The best meal was absolutely Komi. Not only was the food some of the best I’ve ever eaten, but the restaurant is so casual and comfortable that I didn’t feel like I had to whisper or sit up straight or use the correct fork all the time. I think it’s uncommon to eat world-class food in such a friendly atmosphere. The worst was probably Circle Bistro—the service was unbelievably bad, the food wasn’t very good and my dessert had never been cooked. Raw flour isn’t exactly what I’m looking for in a dessert.
What do you regret or what would you do over in the challenge?
I wish I had been better about writing up my posts right after I ate. I could usually still remember what I ate, but I ran in to problems when I would have a backlog of unwritten posts. I sat on the post for Inn at Little Washington for almost two weeks—I knew with such a great meal and my babbling abilities it would take me years to write the thing.
Name your ideal day of DC meals – what would you eat for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and drinks?
For breakfast it would probably be one of the breakfast burritos at Surfside—it’s my neighborhood hangout and I think for a few months I should have just filtered my paycheck directly to them. For lunch, I would go with the buttered chicken from Fojol Brothers. I just started liking Indian food, and sitting in the grass and eating their delicious (and inexpensive) eats is pretty great. For a snack, I’d trek over to H St. NE and have the tater tots with sriracha dip at Sticky Rice. Well worth the drive. Dinner is a tough one, but I would probably hit Hanks Oyster Bar and order whatever the special is for that night. And I’d force whoever is eating with me to order the lobster roll, since I can’t walk in there and not order it. Last but not least, I’d go for drinks at The Gibson. It’s amazing that I can feel so classy at a bar that sets their drinks on fire.
What are you going to do with all your free time now that you’ve conquered your 100? Any projects in the pipeline? No big plans right now for my next list to devour.
Maybe the 100 best books? Or the 100 best movies? More likely though, I will probably watch the top 100 episodes of Project Runway.
What is the oddest thing to happen to you in all your dining out? A weird waiter? A gross dish?
I think our waiter at Circle Bistro was the strangest. When checked in for our noon reservation (at noon), the waiter told us they didn’t open until 11:30am. Then when he brought our coffee, he said the one he had was made a few hours ago and was “pretty bad”. It just got weirder from there. We asked him to split our checks between to credit cards and he put $.85 on one card and everything else on the other. It was like we were on a hidden camera show.
What do you think of the new Washingtonian 100 list? Anything you’re happy to see move up? Anything you’re glad got kicked off?
I think the list is great, though I think their definition of “greater Washington” is a little screwy. Columbia is pretty far to go for dinner in my opinion. I’m glad to see Cava made the list, and I’m thrilled to see Addie’s back. Both are favorites of mine, and it’s nice to see some lesser expensive options for us foodies.
What would you tell DC Chefs if they would listen?
It’s a recession folks, $60 entrees are so 2007.