We’ve all been there: Saturday night, group of friends, 14th and U Street area… 17th Street — hungry and looking for a good night out.
After several minutes of suggesting, bantering and countering each others’ ideas, the group finally decides on a place highly recommended by The Post, Thrillist and City Eats.
You stroll into the restaurant, scope out the bar scene and head to the hostess stand with all the confidence in the world… only to hear the three most dreaded words in a restaurant junkie’s vocabulary: Two hour wait.
What? You’ve got to be kidding me. Two hours? (But I’ve already been chewing this 11-hour-old gum in a desperate attempt to not eat my own hand!)
If there’s one thing the Borderstan area is not short of, it’s a plethora of quality up-and-coming restaurants — a characteristic that is both a blessing and a curse for the strip’s hungry and culinary curious patrons. Thankfully, you can still grab a delicious meal in the area, without a two hour wait — or even a wait at all!
Here are a few places where we’ve dined and recommend you try the next time you are looking for a quick bite and a brew before hitting up a night on the town. Of course, I cannot guarantee there won’t be a snag in your plans — they are all good places.
Ulah Bistro (1214 U Street NW): This American bistro serves the classic fare, from bar-type appetizers to homemade pizzas, sandwiches and entrees. The two-level restaurant (with patio seating), is consistently full, yet rarely has a wait. The good food, diverse menu, dynamic drink specials and reasonable prices keep this U Street eatery a go-to when Café Saint-Ex or Bus Boys and Poets turn you away. Check out Aparna’s review, Ulah-lah: Bistro Classics in the Neighborhood.
Judy Restaurant (2212 14th Street NW): Yes, El Centro is just down the street, but that doesn’t stop neighbors from frequenting Restaurant Judy at 14th and W Streets NW (just up a few blocks!). Trust us, the four-block walk is worth the effort. If you live in the area, chances are you’ve walked by this Latin/Salvadoran hole-in-the-wall several times without even noticing the no-frills façade. Traditional fare, cold beers, good prices. Enough said, but check out Luis’ review, Judy Restaurant Delivers Authentic Food at Good Prices.
Agora (1527 17th Street NW): Nestled a few blocks away from U Street, Agora offers Mediterranean-fusion foods and cocktails at economical prices. The next time Masa 14’s rooftop is a mess, try a combination of Agora’s spreads, mezes and flatbreads (with a glass of wine) and call it a night! See what Sarah had to say about Agora: Sunday in the Mediterranean at Agora.
Coppi’s Organic Restaurant (1414 U Street NW): The name says it all. This neighborhood café offers the freshest local, organic ingredients, cooked with old-time Italian recipes. From antipastos to pizzas and entrees, you are sure to tickle your Tuscan taste buds here. And, yes, Coppi’s is staying open during the construction of the Louis at the southwest corner of 14th and U NW.
Taylor Gourmet (1908 14th Street NW): When in doubt, grab a sub. I am not sure when that became a frequently recited phrase in my vocabulary, but it totally does the trick. The boys behind Taylor Gourmet are keeping more than just The president happy– The food joint’s extensive menu keeps DC residents coming back for more. And the fact that it’s open until 3:30 am (yes, you read that correctly), makes this locally owned sub stop the fancy (and more delicious) Jumbo Slice of 14th Street. Don’t believe me? Read Ashley’s Why I Love Taylor Gourmet (A Very Biased Review).
Borderstan welcomes new contributor Sarah Lipman. You can email her at sarah[AT]@borderstan.com.
After walking past Agora time after time, I finally paid my first visit to the lively restaurant on Sunday. It certainly lived up to my expectations.
On Sunday nights at Agora, $24.99 will afford you a four-course dinner featuring their signature Turkish/Greek mezes. Add $12.99 to that and you can help yourself to unlimited house alcohol, including red and white wine, vodka, gin, tequila, rum and martinis. My boyfriend and I went for the deal.
Our hearts were set on eating outside on the patio, so we put our name in and started our night at the bar. The weathered red brick and wood throughout the restaurant gives the interior a homey, neighborhood feel, and the bar is bright and exposed.
We began the evening with a Greek red wine and the creamy cured roe spread, served with piping hot pita bread and complimentary olive tapenade served in olive oil.
On the whole, the dishes were high on flavor, and the best of the bunch showcased pine nuts and hints of lemon. Can’t-miss dishes included:
- Kibbeh, slightly sweet beef and lamb dumplings
- Veal sweetbreads in a creamy sauce
- Eggplant covered in ground beef and lamb
- Zuchinni pancakes
- The flaky baklava filled with pistachios
After small plate-style dining, I sometimes find myself heading to my neighborhood pizza joint for a quick slice, but after my dinner at Agora, I was beyond stuffed.
Located on 17th Street NW between Church and Q Streets, the patio is a prime spot for people watching, and you’ll certainly see people of all types and all walks of life. Needless to say, I’ll be back.
- Where am I going: 1527 17th Street NW, between Church and Q Streets.
- When am I going: Dinner is served 5 to 11 pm, Sunday through Wednesday, and 5 pm to midnight, Thursday through Saturday. Lunch is served 11 am to 3 pm, weekdays. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 3 pm. The Happy Hour menu is available weekdays, 3 to 7 pm.
- Paycheck pain: The four-course Sunday special is $24.99, and each small plate runs from $5 to $14.
- What you’ll be eating: Mediterranean fusion small plates, including Turkish and Greek flavors
Editor’s note: Borderstan welcomes a new contributor, food blogger Alejandra Owens. She writes about food and restaurants in DC at One Bite At A Time. Alejandra’s bio is at the bottom of this post.
UPDATED. A Turkish restaurant is coming to 1527 17th Street NW at the former site of Jack’s Restaurant & Bar, between Church and Q Streets. Agora will feature Turkish and Greek fare and opens next Monday, April 26 Friday, April 30. (For non-Duponters, the location is just three blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro stop on the Red Line.)
- Where: 1527 17th Street NW.
- What: Small plates ranging from $5 to $13. Olive oil bottled on Guler’s family farm in Foca, Turkey… signature Turkish fare and small plates prepared in a wood-fired oven or charcoal grill… Ouzo, wine and beers from Turkey and Greece.
- Who: Turkish born Chef Rasit Gulsen takes the helm in the kitchen
- When: Sunday to Thursday, 5-11 pm (late night menu until 1 am)… and Friday and Saturday, 5 pm-midnight (late night menu until 2 am). Saturday and Sunday brunch is served 11 am-3pm.
We’ll be checking it out once it opens, but let us know what you think too!
About Alejandra Owens: I am a 20-something, Arizonan living just North of Dupont Circle. By day I’m a communications/public relations gal and by night I can either be found hunting for authentic Mexican food, working out or cooking at home. What can I say? After five years of living and eating in DC I discovered a passion for cooking (often trying to recreate my most favorite meals), perusing the farmers markets and making memories over delicious food. I chronicle my cooking and eating adventures at One Bite At A Time (alejandraowens.wordpress.com) and am exploring my neighborhood through food here at Borderstan. Am I missing a great hole in the wall? Is there a must-have dish somewhere? Tell me! Let’s eat through the neighborhood together!