On a recent trip to Washington DC, Kate and I ate a lot, and it was really, really good.
First stop after checking into the hotel, Shake Shack, I had to find out if the hype was legit. They made a great first impression right off the bat.
Shack burger with extra shack sauce (duh)
Shack burger with fried onions
Side of fries
Overall verdict, the hype is legit. For a fast casual burger place you really taste the quality of the ingredients, and for the price of a Chipotle burrito you can get a really solid burger and fries. The shack sauce was super good, whatever their spice mix is must be top secret, because they wouldn’t tell me what’s in it (thanks Obama). The shake was also really, really good. It was exactly what I wanted it to be, tasty. The one weak spot was the fries. I’m not a fan of crinkle cut fries, their crisp-to-fluff ratio is way off which always leads to epic disappointment.
Price and style wise you have to compare this to Five Guys and Smash Burger, and Shake Shack is far and away better than the others. I sincerely hope they open near my office in the near future.
That night we went to an old staple that my uncle has brought me to every time I’ve been to DC, Zorba’s Café in Dupont Circle. Gone are the days when they served you on glorified plastic ware, the neighborhood has up-scaled over the 15 years that I’ve been eating there and they had to keep up so they now use real plates. As usual we ordered the sampler platter, which included Greek salad, gyros, kibbi, chicken kabobs, rice, pita and hummus.
Honestly, nothing spectacular about Zorba’s, but I love it. The food is a solid B, but the nostalgia is what makes it so special. The meat is cooked perfectly and seasoned well, the tzatziki sauce is delicious but the rice leaves a lot lot be desired. We also ate the food too fast to get a picture, so maybe it’s better than I give it credit for.
Continuing our fast-casual lunch trend, we decided on day two to try one of the many restaurants in DC from a Top Chef contestant, We the Pizza by Spike Mendelsohn. This place was awesome!
We each ordered a slice with a salad to share. One slice (mine) had Cajun chicken and andouille sausage and the other (Kate’s) had a whole lot of veggies, including oven roasted tomatoes. I don’t think I can do this pizza justice, it was somehow amazingly crispy and light and pillowy at the same time (perfect crisp-to-fluff ratio), the flavors were unique and made each bite a true joy to consume. The farmers market salad was a spin on a typical Italian salad, adding in pumpkin seeds and bean sprouts while tweaking the dressing to resemble an Italian one, yet be unique enough to call their own.
I don’t know what magic Chef Spike used for these delicious concoctions, but if you go to DC, don’t skip We the Pizza.
The last memorable spot was a place in Silver Spring Maryland called Urban Butcher. Our friends Brittany and Jonathan had been wanting to try it for a while, and Brittany knew the head butcher (sweet title right?) from working at the local farmers market, so how could we say no?
True to their name there were copious amounts of meat everywhere, they had a huge meat cellar with a clear wall so you could see all the meats hanging there, getting more delicious by the day. The menu had some unique meats on it, Kate and I opted to start with the blue crab and avocado salad (we were in Maryland after all) followed by the ox brisket in a honey ginger sauce over creamy mashed potatoes with a side of roasted root veggies. This place was on point all around with the food. The blue crab salad was large and had a ton of crab meat in it, it was light, refreshing and a great way to start a meal.
The undisputed star, and best thing I ate in DC was the ox brisket. On the menu it said it took 48 hours to prepare, and it showed. The meat, which can be really tough, was crazy tender and really soaked up all the flavors from the honey ginger sauce. The craziest thing was how good the mashed potatoes were with the sauce. I typically don’t think of mashed potatoes pairing with an Asian style sauce, I was so, so wrong. The potatoes soaked it up and delivered a power punch of flavor with each bite.
The food was fantastic, but we didn’t get dessert because we were sitting by the loudest, most annoying person I’ve ever been around. Other tables were getting up and moving regularly because this woman was screaming all the time and she sounded like a drunk, more nasally, higher pitched, Fran Drescher (I didn’t think it was possible).
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how awesome the Eastern Market is in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It was so much fun to get lost in, and I had one of the best baked goods of my life, a maple twist from someplace I can’t remember the name of. DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE!
Overall, our trip was fun, as DC always is. The city has so much to offer food wise, it’s always great to visit the capital.