Food and Drink, The Features, The Hill

First Look: Smith Commons

Photo Credit: Greg Powers

I have to believe that one of the worst locations to open a restaurant right now is on the south side of H St. NE. If it wasn’t hard enough to establish yourself, try doing it from behind chain link fencing and the giant crater that will hopefully be a street car track one day. I have a hard enough time figuring out where to cross the street that most of the time I just give up and end up at Sticky Rice. I was determined the other night though, so I made it through the war zone that is the construction barricades and finally found myself at Smith Commons, the newest restaurant/lounge to open on H St.

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Food and Drink, The Features, The Hill, We Love Food

We Love Food: Ted’s Bulletin

Photo courtesy of
‘Dine-In At Ted’s Bulletin’
courtesy of ‘[F]oxymoron’
Growing up on the mean streets of suburban Maryland, I ate at my fair share of diners. Silver Diner, Broadway Diner, Hoffberg’s Deli…the list goes on. There are obvious benefits to diner eating – major portions, the food you wish your mom made all the time (and made well), and breakfast all day. One thing that diners didn’t necessarily do for me was always taste good. They can be great, or they can be plastic cup of coleslaw on the side bad. I think we call that inconsistency. Now that I’m a big girl living in the big city, I’ve graduated from the diners of greater Rockville Pike to Ted’s Bulletin. Though it may not be a traditional diner, it’s the diner of my dreams.

Much like the diners of my youth, Ted’s is a fantastic fall back restaurant. Not to say that it’s not a destination unto itself, it just works as my go-to place when nothing else excites me. And in this dreary time of year, I’m uninspired and therefore eating at Ted’s a whole lot. And it’s really working out well for me. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

First Look: Capital City Diner

Capital City Diner Front

I met Matt and Patrick, the owners of Capital City Diner, last September. I stopped by the former used car parking lot on Bladensburg Road to tour the then mid-construction diner. They had a chain-link fence up around the restaurant, and there was a gaping hole in the ground where grass now grows. The guys had been waiting on plumbing inspection, and Patrick had decided to dig a hole himself for the water connection, since it would speed up the process. The history of Capital City Diner’s permit getting has been well documented here on We Love DC and over at Young & Hungry. In short, it’s been a mess. “Is it to the point that it’s funny? You guys have had such a tough time, that all you can do is laugh.” I asked Matt in December. “No. It’s definitely not funny,” he replied, looking frustrated. I heard a sordid tale of ridiculous permits, incompetent government workers, and a process so frustrating I probably would have just quit. So when I was invited to a soft opening at the diner over the weekend, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to belly up to the counter on a stool and get a first look at what Matt and Patrick have worked so hard for.

I couldn’t have asked for more. It is exactly what I had pictured when I heard the vision – Trinidad’s first sit-down restaurant serving true diner food to H street hipsters, city workers and neighborhood folks alike. I remembered listening to Matt and Patrick talk about their vision for who would come by. Matt told me about the city workers shifts, and how there isn’t a good place to grab breakfast at the crack of dawn in the neighborhood. He told me all about the neighbors who have stopped by the diner to inquire about jobs, some of them laid off chefs from DC’s hotels and restaurants, hoping to help out. The guys explained their vision of staffing entirely from the neighborhood so that they kept integrated into the tight-knit community, and were able to employ the people that would keep them in business. The more I heard them talk, the more I believed in what they were doing. And while a soft opening, when a restaurant isn’t yet open (they open tomorrow, Tuesday the 23rd, for the public), is a great time to identify issues, figure out processes, and basically work through the kinks, I saw a huge, burgeoning success story. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store

Outside

Franklin’s is Cracker Barrel. Minus the flagrant discrimination, and with house-brewed beers, and a general store that sells toys instead of wooden peg games, and craft booze instead of lollipops.

Located on Baltimore Avenue in Hyattsville, the restaurant, brewery and general store are steps away from the up-and-coming little-engine-that-could Hyattsville Arts District. The store and restaurant are in a landmark building built in the 1880’s as a blacksmith and carriage shop. As such, Franklin’s remains a lovable, family-friendly community staple. Continue reading

Farm Fresh, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

Farm Fresh: Bourbon Steak

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Here’s another installment in the series where WeLoveDC authors Donna (greenie) and Katie (foodie) pair up to bring you a double-hitting feature about local area restaurants that take on the challenge of being green. Donna will explain the logic behind the environmentally friendly trends and Katie will tell you if the food tastes any good. It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it, right?

Katie: So you don’t always think of a steakhouse as environmentally-conscientious, right? Well, Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak goes above and beyond the green call of duty, and plants their own vegetables, and works all of them into the dishes at the restaurant. Donna and I were invited over to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown to take a tour of the garden and sample some dishes that used the herbs and veggies grown there on the property.

Donna: Last spring, Bourbon Steak created a small garden on its property, in a peaceable little spot just across from the C&O Canal. I was happy we were invited to tour this terraced plot and sample the dishes it flavors. It supplies the restaurant with 62 varieties of herbs, vegetables and flowers — 400 plants in all, some of which came from Amish farms. Look around, and up front you’ll see some plants you recognize, such as thyme, chives, marigold and different kinds of basil. Farther back are the harder-to-find plants that produce curries and other unusual spices.

Katie: So with all these herbs and vegetables grown on the property, could you taste the difference in the food? We headed inside for dinner to find out. Continue reading