FamousDC Eats: Meals in the Middle
DC is rapidly becoming one of the country’s best food cities with all cuisines represented, ranging from cheap eats to $300 tasting menus. Cheap eat guides aren’t hard to find and everyone already knows the expensive, popular and oftentimes played out places around town (you know who you are). The elusive middle ground is harder to find: A quality meal that costs between $25 and $45. Next time you want to go out, but don’t want to break the bank, try these DC establishments for some change (pun intended):
City Center, 1090 I St NW
David Chang, chef and owner of Momofuku, is one of the primary people responsible for the rise in ‘foodie culture’ today. Momofuku CCDC is simply some of the best food you’ll find for $10 – $20 a plate in all of DC. I could literally (literally) eat my weight (literally) in the $12 shiitake buns (pictured below). The care with which the ingredients are handled results in truly spectacular dishes. If you only go to Momofuku once, get an order of shiitake steamed buns and the pork ramen ($17). The depth of flavor in every bite is unbelievable, and you will leave a changed person – for the better.
U Street, 2201 14th St NW
G by Mike Isabella is on this list for its tremendous value. Any day after 5 pm, G boasts a three-course tasting menu for $40 a person. The menu rotates based on seasonally available ingredients. I loved my meal – the first course was a charcuterie board featuring standard cured meats and cheeses (a caveat: all cured meats are my jam, standard or not) and the portion size was massive (not a complaint). My second course was a pan roasted bass with fennel (pictured below), and I ended the meal with an amazing pasta course, topped with radishes, green beans, and peas.
Sometimes, simplicity – allowing the ingredients to shine – makes a dish better, and G really gives you that for an incredible value. Without a doubt, you won’t be going home hungry.
Navy Yard, 301 Water St SE #115
Whaley’s is one of the newer and hottest restaurants in DC, regularly climbing into Top 20 restaurant lists. On the water, Whaley’s offers some of the freshest seafood in the area for around (and oftentimes less) than $20. The Spanish mackerel is tasty and the scallops are awesome, but if you’re coming here once, you need to try the seafood risotto. Served family style with varying portions ($35 or $60 either way, you aren’t paying more than $30 a person unless you tackle this dish solo #math). The creamy risotto comes with mussels, shrimp, scallops, and striped sea bass. In addition to the wildly fresh seafood is the Thai flair, the risotto is cooked in coconut milk, complete with crispy Thai basil and pickled Fresno chilis. It’s simply a delight to eat, and the family style presentation is perfect for a group dinner or date night.
1633 17th St NW, Dupont Circle
You may have noticed that I am a fan of the meats, whether it’s red meat, the other red meat (duck is a red meat, look it up), white meat, the other white meat (pork, c’mon) and everything else in between. So for me, Malbec, an Argentinian restaurant in DuPont Circle, did not disappoint. That hulking platter of meat you see below – the Parrillada for 2 – features a trio of sausages, short ribs, skirt steak, chicken, and my favorite bite: sweetbreads. I don’t usually chow down on organ, but these sweetbreads were charred, succulent, and excellent. The short ribs and skirt steak were tender and the sausages were seasoned well, but the sweetbreads were the real standout. At $48, bring a friend (or a date, if they’re into that), go for the Parrillada and have a delicious evening out. And if you want, add an app (I recommend the Provoleta a la parrilla – grilled provolone cheese).
Capitol Hill, 325 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Obviously, there would be a sushi place on this list – and there is no shortage of sushi places in DC. They range from avant garde to places you really shouldn’t be eating fish (at all). For me, good sushi highlights the ingredients: Fish and rice. I definitely don’t want heavy, fried fish with globs of mayo. Enter Sushi Capitol: Their sushi and sashimi selections range from $19 to $36, and the daily selections are based on what fresh fish the chef can access. The beauty of the sushi here is in its simplicity – the fish is given every opportunity to shine on its own, either raw or slightly cured in some way. Sushi Capitol delivers some of the best nigiri in town – not with bells and whistles -but with fine ingredients prepared expertly.
Eastern Market, 327 7th St SE
Montmartre is delightfully rich French food. The flavors are deep and developed, and the menu offers staples like the $27 Spring Bourguignon (pictured below). For the more adventurous diner, try the braised rabbit leg for $25. The salmon ($25) is also a standout with tiny, earthy beech mushrooms and a lusciously acidic meyer lemon sauce. The pan roasted skate wing ($25 – how many places can you eat skate?) is the perfect choice for someone who wants a non-fishy fish. When it’s all said and done, I’d still recommend the Spring Bourguignon. It’s a hunk of meat cooked in red wine, and it’s hard to ask for more in life. Unless you’re a vegan, I guess.