Monday, July 31, 2006

The Restaurant Page

During the week, we diligently cook and eat at home so that on weekends we may eat out heartily. We frequent all sorts of eateries - hole in the wall, sit down and half way fancy places and rarely exceed our $ 50 budget for a dinner for two (we usually average $20-$40). For sometime now, I had wanted to create an online list as a quick reckoner for those times when sorting through the Washingtonian is just not feasible. A few of our tried and tested places are given below (along with a list of must try's). Most of them have extensive online reviews etc. or their own web pages, but the ones without much of a Net presence have been listed along with their address for location identification purposes. I plan on updating the list periodically, lets see how that works.

Great Hole in the Wall Types
Maiwand Kebab
Adresss: 15508 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville, MD 20866
This is strictly take-out, unless you love eating out of styrofoam plates with plastic cutlery. The food is plentiful, cheap and the kebabs succulent. Not recommended for vegetarians. There is a Columbia location too.

The low ceiling and lack of good lighting makes it slightly claustrophobic, but the dosa’s are done just right. I visited Amma's after more than 2 years in this region (and that is sacrilege according to some), as my curiosity was piqued by a certain visitor from the other side of the pond who could not stop gushing about it during his short DC sojourn.

Pho 88 - Vietnamese Restaurant
Address: 10478 Baltimore Ave, Beltsville, MD 20705
This is the only Pho place I have been to so I have nothing to compare it with, but on a cold day after a brain freezing field trip, their hot clear broth with noddles and chicken strips really warms the very bones.

New Deal Café
The quiche and soups du jour of this place have become comfort food now and the weekend brunches are as homely as it gets. And yes, this is our neighborhood hang out location.

Costa Alegre

Address: 5815 A Greenbelt Road, Berwyn Heights, MD 20740-2258
Authentic burritos and a very homey chicken soup. I was not very impressed with their fajita.

Mark’s Kitchen and Savory Café
These are two of our favorite Takoma Park eateries, Savory does organic well while Mark’s is all about fusion (without any jazz) and a mean Venetian coffee.

Ben's Chilli Bowl
Go to this DC landmark for soaking up history which seeps through layers of flaking paint at this 47 year old hot dog joint. Its located at the corner of U and 13 th, SE or directly opposite the U Street Metro Station's 13th street exit. And remember, the thing to order is the half smoke.

Address: 2504 Ennalls Avenue, Wheaton,MD 20902
Fiery Rendangs, tofu and crunchy vegetables in peanut sauces and the deep fried, batter dipped plantain...that is all I remember. And oh yes, the friendly staff and the pocket friendly price. I am definitely going back to sample more of their menu.

Yekta Kabobi
In a little strip mall with its faced turned away from the busy traffic on Rockville Pike sits this little gem. The prices are a little higher than your average hole-in-the-wall but the portions are generous. The kabab platters are served on a bed of chellow rice with flat bread, butter, onions and key lime halves on the side. The meat is succulent and juicy with just the right amount of flavour. An order of the raita like Mast-o-Khiyar completes the meal. The lamb kabob comes heavily recommended by my Iranian colleagues. The fresco on the wall depicting the Iranian grilling tradition is quite captivating too.

Great for a Date Types
Lebanese Taverna
We have visited both the Woodley Park and Silver Spring locations and have wonderful things to say about both. The Woodley Park is a sit-down restaurant with all the trappings and a much larger menu than offered at the Café in Silver Spring. The Café is also a lot cheaper so unless you have a date to impress stick to the Café. You will miss out on the Lebanese equivalent of the complementary bread basket -zatar and naan.

The ginger salad or fermented tea salad are must haves as is the Shewji dessert. Burmese cuisine is intricately influenced by the cuisines of the countries that geographically surround it. The fiery red Indian style curries are therefore sometimes tempered with coconut milk while left as is on the other occasions. The chicken with sour mustard is a personal favourite.

Decent Indian food with nothing exciting in the menu.

Now, these guys do exciting Indian fusion cuisine. Think, palate burning Chettinad Chicken beautifully plated with a creamy Dal Makhani and a billowy Upma to revive the shocked cells. And like all good Indian places, they serve Kingfisher beer which goes well with most Indian food.

Try the Roti Canai and Roti Telur, which are listed in the appetizer section. You could make a divine meal with two orders of these flaky, Rumali Roti’s served with a coconut-y chicken curry . But I would advise against that and suggest the Nasi Lemak which is served with a sliced soft boiled egg, anchovies in tomatoes and onion and a dry chicken curry.

American Grill previously Fuzio’s in Arundel Mills Mall

The pork fusili here is hot, hot, hot. Strangely the spices and the habanero cream sauce in this dish have a detoxifying effect on the brain and that's why we keep going back for it. Hey, its so good that we order it inspite of our self imposed restriction on artery clogging red meat like pork . Everything else on the menu is pretty blah.

Sala Thai
Great ambience, pretty lighting and the Bethesda location has music too. Good for a date, get a window seat if you can. I would rate the food as good but not exceptional.

Don't go alone, take your friends along because the food here naturally lends itself to sharing. The injera bread is so good that you could easily top off on the little rolls that the waiters keep bringing to the table.

Great Sage
Healthy, wholesome organic in the middle of nowhere with an attentive and cordial wait staff. Try it even if you are committed carnivore.

They do tapas and they do it well. Beware, those little plates of food add up to quite a nice bill afterwards too, but given the quality you will not be complaining.

Order from the daily specials and don’t be tempted by the pasta by the bowl or whatever they call it. Those are made for pasta fiends with no palate. The wine list is impressive. They have cafe which leads to the restaurant called The Corner Bakery. The Bakery was started to provide fresh bread for the restaurant but over time its become an entity of its own. The cafe is good for lunch and refreshments.

A vegetarian Indian place which no one really talks about…funny, as the food is as close to home cooked that I have ever eaten in a restaurant. They make you wait for a long time for your food though and the wall paint is awful.


Didn’t eat there, but the $ 9 martini’s were awesome.

Mount Everest
Address: 1805 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20009
The biryani at this little Nepali eatery in DC used to be yum, not authentic but flavorful nevertheless. On our last visit there, the biriyani was not as we remembered it, but the other dishes were still good.

Gifford's Ice Cream
Address: 7237 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814
Giant scoops, loads of flavors and a corner location by the Lanmark Theatre make this place quite a treat. Besides they have been in operation since 1938, so there is a little bit of history too. They don't do too good a job of marketing that history in the shop but the rum raisin is worth another visit back.

Greek Islands Grill
Address: 15410 New Hampshire Av. Silver Spring, MD 20905
About a mile south of the intersection of New Hamphsire Avenue and Norbeck Road in the most forgettable of strip malls there is this little white and blue Greek eatery. The gyro platters come with a side of oven roasted potatoes, fluffy pita bread and tzatziki. The meat is perfectly seasoned and crisped just right. And if you have great apetite you could start off with an appetizer sampler. I found myself with no appetite after nibbling on the various spreads, dolmades etc.

Great Chain Types
Better than the standard TGIF's, these chains have slightly exciting menu's done with a predictable consistency that makes them nice fall back options when you can't decide.

Totally Blah Types
Great concept that hardly works.

Delhi Dhaaba
Horrible, stale food at atrocious prices. Wonder how they hold on to their prime location in Bethesda?

Heritage India
Every dish we ordered was an expensive oily mess…the kitchen probably has its own vegetable oil rig.

The much talked about belly dancer performed for precisely 10 minutes, the fresh fruit course came straight out of the refrigerator and the fabled 6 courses included a measly portion of rice pudding and chai (yep! it gets its own course)...still want to try it out?

Prince Cafe

Address: 8145-A Baltimore Avenue, College Park, Maryland, 20740
A hookah bar with half way decent falafels and other Mediterranean dishes, but lousy (bordering on evil) service. If you love that vile brew called Turkish coffee you might want to visit, or if you are into hot muisc videos from Middle East. Otherwise steer clear. The College Park location is preffered over the Georgetown one mainly due to its late hours.

Another Indian restaurant with bad wait staff, too much attitude and too little to show for. Why do Indian restaurants consistently fail to provide good customer service? Our waiter was downright rude and plonked a steaming bowl of curry on our table. Apparently he was mad that instead of ordering one entree per person we insisted on sharing. I am not sure what the service at their Baltimore location is like but have heard some nasty stories.

And Finally the Yet To Try Types
El Pollo Rico
Address: 2541 Ennalls Ave. Wheaton, MD
Cuisine: Peruvian

Pasta Plus
Address: 209 Gorman Ave. Laurel, MD
Cuisine: Italian

Hollywood East Cafe
Address: 2312 Price Ave. Wheaton, MD
Cuisine: Asian

Mannequin Pis
Address: 18064 Georgia Ave. Olney, MD
Cuisine: Belgian

Sweet Basil
Address:4910 Fairmont Ave. Bethesda, MD
Cuisine: Thai

Afghan Grill
Address: 2309 Calvert St. NW, Washington, DC 20008
Cuisine: Afghan

Bukom Cafe
Address: 2442 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009
Cuisine: African

Cuba de Ayer
Address: 15446 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville, MD 20866
Cuisine: Cuban

Green Papaya
Address: 4922 Elm St., Bethesda, MD 20814
Cuisine: Vietnamese

Mayorga Coffee Roasters
8040 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910

Cuisine: Coffeehouse

Samantha's Restaurant
631 E. University Blvd., Silver Spring, MD 20901
Cuisine: Mexican, Salvadoran

The Brickskeller Saloon
1523 22nd St. NW, Washington, DC 20037
Cuisine: American


Phantoms and Voices said...

Man!!! Thats the most extensive amateur restaurant survey, I've seen. I'd use it if I were living in MD/DC :) Though, given that I visit the area at least a few times a year, I can well use it the next time I'm there.

M (tread softly upon) said...

This is just awesome. Since I am in the area I can pop over to your blog the next time i'm trying to decide where to go for dinner. BTW do you know if mandalay is still open? I was in the area the other day and saw shutters drawn and windows boarded and thought it had closed down or something. or maybe they are closed during the day and wake up only in the evenings. I've never eaten Burmese before although my grandma grew up in Rangoon.


Excellent. Move over Zagat. Ms. Bhagat (Bharat ki zagat) is here.

Joy Forever said...

That's quite a long list, though useless for me. Just tell me something, I happened to see "Cuisine: American" written at one place. What exactly do you mean by American cuisine? I asked the same question to Tathagata but he couldn't answer. I mean pizzas are Italian, hamburgers are from Hamburg, chowmein is Chinese, French fries are French, fish and chips is British... What IS American cuisine then?

Anyesha said...

phantoms and voices:next time you are in town, we could do it together.

m: Yeah, they are very much open. They shifted from College Park to Silver Spring about year and a half back. There timings are slightly erratic being a family restaurant and all that. Good, go flaunt your Burmese connection there. Our Burmese connection is through my husband who spent three years there.

greatbong: Sih, naame ta besh corny...anekta Bharat mata types!

joy forever: In a way you are right, but look at it this way. This country was made (don't get all politically correct on me for this one) by immigrants. So the Germans brought sauerkraut, the Irish their love for potatoes and so and so forth. These cultures mingled and soon the emerging amalgam came to be known as American Food. Some dishes changed totally like the pie which was originally a savory item (think British meat pies) but over generations became a dessert (nothing is more American than the apple pie). Check
out for more info.

piggy said...

Great work. Thanks.

I was expecting some restaurants further up north in columbia. I saw Akbar but din't see House of India or Mango Grove. Not that they are great, but just to make a scale.

jhantu said...

Only if you were in the bay area :(

Anyesha said...

piggy: We don't land up going that far north. But I have had food catered by Mango Grove and it was good. Incidentally Maiwand Kebab is also in Columbia.

jhantu: So what's the abay area like?

Bidi-K said...

now i sooooo wish that i stayed in your area :) maybe we should get out and eat more but i must say after the awesome array of cuisines in NY nothing in this country compares.

Kausum said...

I think, Lamb Biryani is good at Prince Cafe. But, mostly the Hookah is great. Best part about it is, its open when everything else is closed.

Try Helmand for Afghani Cuisine in downtown Baltimore.

Kausum said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sd said...

Hi! That is a very impressive post ... unfortunately not very useful to me. How I wish I knew more 'foodie' people like you guys in my locality!

rahulv said...

Being a cosmopolitan city, Delhi has encompassed varied flavours in its diet. People from different corners of India have given Delhi a mini India feel. Over the years they have stuck to their cuisines and eating habits like a ritual. So you find all sorts of Indian cuisine in Delhi. You can try South Indian, Gujarati, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bengali and Goan cuisine. Then there are expats, who bring global flavours to Delhi.

if u want to know more about it:

Eating out in Delhi

Reeta Skeeter said...

nice blog!!! xcellent effort at the survey!!

Anyesha said...

kausum: Shall try Helmand, cannot say the same about Prince Cafe unfortunately.

sd: awww!!

rahulv: okie dokie, if you insist I shall try to hitch a hike to Delhi the next time the hunger pangs strike.

reeta skeeter: Thanks, this was more of a list for my own sanity's sake.