Following are the top food and drink stories each month on Borderstan in 2011. The top story each month was the one that was read by the most readers. The writer’s name is next to each story.
Top food story for the year in terms of reader views? The run-away winner was Saturday Night Sips: Fighting Hunger In DC from Alejandra Owens.
- January: Saturday Night Sips: Fighting Hunger In DC (Alejandra Owens)
- February: Meat Week: A Visit to American Ice Co. (Laura Herman)
- March: The Oven is Hot: Pizza No. 17 Open for Business (Matty Rhoades)
- April: Korean Food? Bibimbap? Try Mandu on 18th Street NW (Alejandra Owens)
- May: Peregrine Espresso to Open This Week (Luis Gomez)
- June: Restaurant Profile: El Centro DF on 14th (Alejandra Owens)
- July: Charcuterie in the Basement: Local 16 Thinks Meat, New Menu (Ashley Lusk); and Standard BBQ Delivers on Promise of Good, Cheap Eats (Alejandra Owens) There was essentially a two-way tie between these two posts.
- August: Florida Avenue Grill Serves Up Breakfast Right (Alejandra Owens)
- September: Borderstan Brunch Guide: We Polled the Team for Favorites (Laura Herman)
- October: Attention Oenophiles! DC Wine Week Events in Borderstan (Ashley Lusk)
- November: Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co. Opens Shop at 14th & W NW (Maggie Barron)
- December: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is the Real Deal (Ashley Lusk); and Two Best Things I Ate Last Week: 1905 Edition (Alejandra Owens) There was essentially a two-way tie between these two posts.
According to Katie Tyson, managing director of Clover Restaurant Group, the menu at the Logan Circle location embraces the unique ingredients and culinary styles of the Yucatan, Puebla, Veracruz, and Baja regions.
The Logan Circle Tortilla Coast will be open for lunch, dinner as well as offering a weekend brunch. It will seat 152 people and have a 48-seat patio area opening in the spring.
I am pescetarian, hear me roar.
Finding a casual dining experience where seafood gets pushed to the front of the menu is hard to do in the District. Luckily for all of us, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is doing a really good job of making seafood the star for once.
The glowing blue sign for Pearl Dive hanging above the front door appropriately spells out the kind of vintage nuances you’re about to enjoy. The décor is casual with wooden booths and tables that will make you happily sigh “breathing room.” There is a very New England vibe to the restaurant although it sits perfectly in its urban home. If there is a line — and trust me, there soon will be — the hostess will hand you a number and you can watch for the number on the ticking neon counter.
Our waiter was more than friendly — he looked happy to be there. Nostalgic metal tins of biscuits and jalapeño cornbread arrive and they have soft butter to go with them. But the bread isn’t meant to distract you because hardly one beer into a good conversation our six raw oysters arrived with two sauces, a classic cocktail sauce and “dive sauce,” a mix of vinegar, cilantro and peppercorn.
The waiter explained the kind of oysters we had (California, Raspberry and a third neither me or nor my dinner companion could remember). The sound of cheerful slurping around the restaurant — including our own — let’s you know that Pearl Dive is legitimate.
A few moments later our oyster po’boy sandwiches and fries arrive — a meal we were hoping would stave the chill off our rainy day. My companion tried the CEBLT po’boy — a fried egg on top of catfish, with bacon lettuce and tomato. I tried the traditional oyster po’boy — fried oysters with pickles and aioli sauce on Ledenheimer bread. Both sandwiches were messy and difficult to eat, and I found the Dive fries to be short on flavor and oddly crunchier than my fried oysters.
When the dessert menu came around, I desperately wanted to try the Derby pie to see how it stacked up against my mother-in-law’s version. But I had little room left for the rich slices I saw being inhaled at other tables. You can bet I’ll be back soon with my eye on a slice of pie.
Pearl Dive is showing its heritage very well — owners Jeff and Barbara Black have a dedicated legacy of delivering quality seafood to restaurants in Maryland and D.C. like BlackSalt, Addie’s and Black’s Bar and Kitchen. Bottom line: You’ve done good, this one shines.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
- Where Am I Going? 1612 14th Street NW.
- When Am I Going? Sunday-Thursday 11:30 am to 11 pm; open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
- Delivery? No, but it’s a nice walk.
- Paycheck Pain? Appetizers $6 to $15, entrées $13 to $27.
- Say What? You can hold a comfortable conversation here.
- What You’ll Be Eating: Raw oysters are the star here, but you can find solid creole food such as gumbo and fried po’boy sandwiches.
We’ve taken a liking to Standard BBQ as a great place for Borderstan team happy hours, so we are a bit saddened by the joint’s inevitable winter closing for for three months after December 4.
The 14th and S NW has become one of those neighborhood places where you just might run into people you know. Basically, we like having a beer garden in the hood… the variety of fried and grilled food options (including pickles) are at reasonable prices… and the very nice selection of beers is, of course, important.
We will also miss the fresh donuts (and the smell of them frying in oil at the entrance of the place). But fear not, donut, beer and BBQ lovers as Standard will reopen on March 1, according to Tad Curtz. After a Thanksgiving hiatus, the 14th and S NW place reopened for a fall last hurrah.
Read Alejandra Owen’s July 8 review of Standard BBQ.
Name: Tad Curtz
Restaurant: Co-owner and chef at Standard BBQ, 1801 14th Street NW
Hometown: Kingstown, NY
Current Residence: DC
Tattoo Count: 0
Borderstan: What brought you to D.C? How long have you been here?
Curtz: I moved to Logan Circle in 2003 to work for an organization that invented simple technologies used for agricultural production and processing. Our work was focused in Africa and Asia.
Borderstan: Tell us about your previous history as a chef and experience in the restaurant business?
Curtz: I worked at 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria for four years. I certainly was not a “chef” there. I did a little bit of everything that needed to be done, including some cooking and a lot of serving as the staff handyman. There is an amazing amount of stuff that breaks in a restaurant.
Borderstan: What’s the toughest part about owning your own business… how many hours a week do you log?
Curtz: There are a million things to keep track of, and I’m really poorly organized. Luckily my business partner, Dave Rosner, takes care of lots of that kind of stuff and helps keep me on track. It’s not like working for someone else and knowing you are getting a paycheck at the end of the week. It’s draining to constantly worry about keeping the business afloat. We’ve been really lucky to have people keep showing up… and I work a lot of hours.
Borderstan: What was it like trying to get the permits and licenses to open? How long did the total process take?
Curtz: It took a while. This was our first project, and it was a learning experience. We had a lot of help along the way. I always found that the folks responsible for issuing permits and licenses at DCRA and ABRA were very patient and happy to help us out.
Borderstan: Favorite dish on your menu?
Curtz: I like the “Texas short rib” — a gigantic beef rib that’s dry rubbed and smoked for 16 hours. It’s totally delicious, but I just get a kick out of seeing the look on someone’s face when a dinosaur bone shows up at their table.
Borderstan: Favorite dish on someone else’s menu you admire?
Curtz: The Filetti at Una Pizza Napolitana.
Borderstan: Advice for home cooks or folks who are afraid to get into the kitchen?
Curtz: Always taste whatever you’re making before you serve it to someone else. Salt and pepper will get you a long way. Practice.
Borderstan: Worst kitchen injury, any scars?
Curtz: I cut the tip of my finger off on a meat slicer.
Borderstan: Favorite place to eat in Borderstan, other than your own restaurant?
Curtz: Thai Xing.
Borderstan: Favorite joint to get a drink?
Curtz: Tabard Inn.
Borderstan: You have a whole day off — what do you do?
Curtz: Skip town.
Borderstan: What’s your comfort food?
Curtz: Wood-fired pizza.
Bordestan: What do you like best about the Logan Circle neighborhood?
Curtz: The vibes are incredible!
Brunch in D.C. is a thing. A sacred rite. Time to catch up with friends, carb load, share stories of the previous night and maybe have a mimosa or three.
As with most things in D.C., everyone you ask has their own strong opinion(s) about brunch spots. We’re lucky to live in a part of the city with such a dearth of brunch options, but I often find myself either overwhelmed by the choices or stuck in a rut with the same spots.
Borderstan Brunch Guide to the rescue! We polled our entire team (nine responses) for their favorite local spots, which in our humble opinion provides a pretty accurate and detailed guide to brunching in Borderstan. Which establishments got more than one mention?
- Cafe Saint-Ex (4)
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe (3)
- Bar Pilar (2)
- Commissary (2)
- Darlington House (2)
- Scion (2)
Now just one question remains: Do you order eggs or go for pancakes?
- Darlington House
- Open City (technically outside of “Borderstan” but it’s good so we’ll let this one in).
- The Diner (same thing — not too far away in AdMo).
- Busboys and Poets
- Birch and Barley (“very savory” says Ashley).
- Cafe Saint-Ex
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe: “A classic.”
- Commissary: Mike thinks its well-priced, delicious AND he’s a big fan of their sustainable practices.
- Bonus: he’ll also leave the ‘hood for his favorite brunch in town at Georgia Brown’s.
- Urbana: “Urbana’s prices for food are extremely reasonable, the food is delicious, and it’s one of the broadest menus (eggs bennie and frittatas to sweet and savory pizzas to waffles and pancakes and italian sausage and oysters) I’ve seen around. That’s all a rationalization, though — the $16 bottomless build your own bellini with actually tasty-on-its-own champagne bottles deposited on your table combined with your choice of about seven different fresh fruit purees… that’s the stuff Sunday dreams are made of.”
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
- Bar Pilar: “A no brainer — the food is great, the ambience is great and its hands down the best bloody mary I’ve had in our hood.”
- Bar Pilar
- Café Saint-Ex
- Tabard Inn
- Next on Tom’s list: Cork brunch
- Florida Avenue Grill (recently profiled by Alejandra) because “They have biscuits and sausage gravy on the menu!”
- Café Saint-Ex: “The food is simply very good and so are the Bloody Marys.”
- Commissary: “Great prices and healthy choices on the menu.”
- Darlington House: “A good choice on Connecticut Avenue.”
- Annie’s Paramount Steak House: “You want meat? Here it is.”
- Karmer Books & Afterwords Café
- L’Enfant Café
- Dolcezza for a breakfast snack
- Café Saint-Ex
- Mandu: “Really, words can’t even express how much I love Mandu. At any time any for any occasion. But particularly for brunch. It’s out of control good.”
- New Orleans Cafe “My newest brunch obsession. Good when you need something slightly greasy.”
- Birch and Barley “Good for out of town visitors.”
- Cafe Dupont
The DC Summer Restaurant Week is next week, August 15-21. Considering how hot it’s been, it may just be worth the $20.11 price for lunch and $35.11 for a three-course fixed-price dinner to have some reliable air conditioning.
If you’re planning to stick around Borderstan, you’ll want to check out the list of participating restaurants below. Some restaurants are listed as lunch-only options (we’re talking to you, Georgetown), so be sure to visit Open Table to secure a reservation.
Finally, don’t forget that beverages, gratuity and tax are not included in the fixed-price menu; be kind to your waiter to ensure you are remembered well the next time you return when there isn’t a meal deal.
The real scoop on Restaurant Week? Read Alejandra’s Restaurant Week: Love It… or Hate It.
She has six tips and offers this perspective: “The complaints I hear most often about Restaurant Week are that service is slow, menus are limited and the plates are unimpressive. In turn, restaurant industry folks say that people have unrealistic expectations, that restaurants are slammed with numbers far beyond usual and that it’s not a true showing of what a restaurant can give you. I can appreciate both perspectives.”
This post is by Alejandra Owens. You can find her on Twitter at @frijolita and at her food blog One Bite At A Time.
We live in D.C…. the land of alphabet-soup agencies and associations galore. And with associations, comes their awards ceremonies, galas and black tie events where industry professionals let their hair down and cut some rug.
Last night, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington held its annual awards gala, also known as The RAMMYs. Chefs take off their whites, don tuxedos and gowns and get into a competitive, but friendly spirit with awards such as Best New Restaurant and Best Beverage/Mixology Program.
I believe I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: damn it’s good to live and eat in Borderstan.
Congrats to everyone from the restaurateurs who bring these great spots to our ‘hood and the staff that make us go back time and time again! Bravo!
- Best New Restaurant: Estadio, 1520 14th Street NW
- Upscale Casual Restaurant: Tabard Inn, 1739 N Street NW
- Pastry Chef: Tiffany MacIsaac, Neighborhood Restaurant Group (includes Birch & Barley and Churchkey, 1337 14th Street NW)
- Rising Culinary Star: Kyle Bailey, Birch & Barley
From Michelle Lancaster. Don’t think this is interesting or amusing? Well, you should have had another margarita. Instead you can tell me thanks, you hate it or give us some tips on Twitter @MichLancaster.
Cinco De Mayo Festivities!
I’m pretty sure that you didn’t miss it, given the size of the crowds at the bars around Dupont. The Obamas celebrated with mexican avocados; a bunch of you made a questionable decision to mix booze and dairy products at the opening of Pinkberry, which opened today as reported by DCist.
El Centro D.F. Opens on 14th Street NW
If you skipped the long line for free fro-yo, of which we already have about 100 options, perhaps you braved the hyped up crowds at El Centro D.F. Tell us how it was! And for the rest of you, shaking under your desk, here’s an oldie but goodie from the Examiner on hangover cures. Or get some hair of the dog at Salon.
Drivers and Cyclists in D.C: Still Could Use Some Work
Greater Greater Washington notes that, despite bike lanes, many drivers and cyclists could use some education to coexist more harmoniously. The tips included in the article are pretty basic manners, which is probably why it is so groundbreaking for the city’s travelers.