Posts Tagged ‘DMV Restaurants’

Ok, I know, I know–why is a twenty-five-year-old man so concerned with College Park?

No, it’s not to scope out under-21’s and talk to them. I have OKCupid for that. Nor is it to speak on social media and, in turn, create memes out of my fellow Terps. They do that on their own. Since I live a literal hop, skip, and a jump away from UMD, I find myself in the area more often than I like to admit than not. I also still conduct a teeny bit of business in the area, therefore I’m invested in places where I can (cheaply) talk turkey. So, when I heard that a Denny’s was opening in the area, I was both cautious and enthusiastic. Growing up in Baltimore, the only Denny’s within a twelve-mile radius was this run-down spot near North Point Road that’s now a Sudsville laundromat near an almost deserted K-Mart.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger...but almost exactly the same. Think about it.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger…but almost exactly the same. Think about it. About five minutes from here resides the Gentleman’s Gold Club. It’s exactly what you think it is.

Suffice to say, I’d heard of it, knew what it was, but I’d never had it. But, I always wanted it. Like some slightly below average Holy Grail, I searched high and low for a Denny’s. Whenever I found one, there was always something a bit…better to do/eat. But, recently, I couldn’t avoid my cautious enthusiasm about the place any longer. So, after a long day at work, the family and I drove down Route One, past the Enclave, past the Taco Bell, to a little slice of Americana: the Denny’s of Greater College Park. While I didn’t expect five-star dining, what I got exceeded my lowest expectations in terms of “SMH.”

When we walked in, we were three of (including the staff) maybe twenty people in the restaurant. I chalked it up to finals, but it stuck out in my mind; the place just opened not too long ago. Ke$ha and Bruno Mars played from the sound system, so the idea of this being a slice of modern Americana was kept intact, albeit a bit glittered and puffed up. Our waiter, a young woman in her twenties, was pleasant but forgot the bare necessities (making sure your tables are properly equipped with silverware, keeping your menus accessible, keeping your order pad on your person, checking back on your customers, making sure your customers aren’t ready to torch the place because the service they’ve gotten has been below sub-par, etc). When we finally did get her to stop and get everything in order, she was quite apologetic for everything (that’s a plus to alleviate my negativity) and took our orders. I had the “Red White and Blue” French Toast. The family had kid-sized spaghetti and the Cheesesteak Omelet, respectively.

About forty minutes later (after a slew of “mishaps”), our food arrived. My “red white and blue” was replaced by butter pecan and cinnamon. My eggs were cold and my sausages were more mushy than my cats food. The omelet lacked, well, most of what it was supposed to have (you know, peppers, onions, taste–that sort of thing). And our beverages were…unique. We got flavored lemonades. The “mango lemonade” was some Minute Made that was (supposedly) squeezed fresh with a giant glob of mango syrup at the bottom. I stirred and I stirred, but they just don’t make water wet enough to dissolve the “mango” into the drink in any way. I’d understand if it’s puree; puree isn’t supposed to flat-out dissolve into things. But, it was literally half-a-cup full of syrup.

The only thing that came out remotely like expected was my kid’s spaghetti.

Upon paying my check, the cashier asked me how everything was.

“Uh, it was…cool…kind of different,” I hesitantly said, biting my tongue.

“Well, it wasn’t no Ruth’s Chris, was it,” the cashier cheekily asked me, sensing my disdain.

And in the back of my mind (and the front of it), I answered honestly.

“No. No, it wasn’t,” I retorted as I walked out, head-shaking family in tow.

Did I expect Ruth’s Chris? Heck no. But, I at least expected something better than what I got. Maybe it’s some post-open jitters that they’re still trying to work out. That’s entirely possible, just like Terrapin Turf before it (expect a part three of that series at some point, probably in the fall of ’14 with my old a**). Personally, I probably wouldn’t go back for a while, but if you’re in the mood to wait around and possibly get the wrong food, check it out.

At least the pancake puppies were divine. Even though by the time they brought us syrup, the puppies had gotten a bit cold.

Until next time, this is your (admittedly cynical) critic Speed on the Beat, the one who endures awkwardness and clusters so you don’t have to, signing off.

If you live in the DC Metropolitan area, consider yourself a foodie and have not yet heard of Hot N Juicy Crawfish, you might want to rethink your self – proclaimed title. This place is a genuine seafood sensation. Until I visited, I had never tasted crawfish. I always thought they looked like little insects of the sea. Sorry for the creepy image. But, after dining at Hot n Juicy Crawfish, it definitely made me a fan of those little meaty crustaceans. But, surprisingly it isn’t the seafood that is the crown jewel of this dive resembling restaurant. It is their special combination of spices, seasonings and cooking methods that have allowed this place to expand to five locations throughout the United States, building a name for itself one major city at a time.

HotNJuicy1While there, I enjoyed one “experience” selection – one pound of crawfish, one pound of shrimp and one pound of Andouille sausage with two half corn cobs and two medium potatoes with Hot N Juicy Special seasoning and mild spice; one bag of mussels boiled in their mild Hot N Juicy Special Seasoning, and one bag of shrimp boiled in their mild Hot N Juicy Special seasoning. All of it was amazing. The seasoning is so good that it is almost hard to formulate words that express the level of flavorful excellence they have executed within every bag. The food was so good, it made Bud Light – a beer I am not a fan of – the perfect liquid companion for this culinary quest. The combination of spicy seafood and savory sausage with the bubbly Bud Light was hot and juicy and refreshing all at once. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my Sunday. In between shucking shells into the tin bucket they give you and devouring morsels of shrimp and crawfish, I enjoyed great conversation and even better aromatics from the kitchen. All while unconsciously keeping my clothes clean thanks to the bibs our server gave us. The only downside to the Hot N Juicy Crawfish experience is that at some point you get full, but you still want to try everything else on the menu.

A few words of advice to the first timer: Be cautious of the spice level! Every level packs a punch. When only boiled with mussels, even the mild spice can cause watering from the eyes. I was glad I did not venture into spicier territory. I would have surely been overwhelmed. Needless to say, if you want a great dining experience with great food and cordial wait staff, Hot N Juicy Crawfish is the way to go. And if you attend on a Sunday afternoon, be sure to order two drinks at a time because the waiters can get pretty busy running around fulfilling every diner’s request. I’m curious about whether the other locations are just as good or better than the DC one. I guess I’ll just have to travel to Vegas, Florida, or California and find out for myself. In the meantime, check out a few other reviews of Hot N Juicy Crawfish here: Yelp!, FourSquare, TripAdvisor, and Zagat. AND check out their Unique Eats special below!

A couple of months ago I visited a restaurant my manager suggested called Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe. Although it is located in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Adega is one of those off the beaten path spots that could easily be overlooked at first glance. And I must say I honestly prejudged it the first time I randomly walked by it a year or so ago. From the menu and the clientele it seemed like it would be “uppity” or bourgeois and not very casual attire friendly. But, after receiving a recent recommendation from my boss, I decided to stop by and try it out one evening after work. I ordered The Jerk Wrap which consisted of “grilled jerk chicken breast meat, romaine hearts, avocados, mangoes, roasted red peppers and mango vinaigrette wrapped in a chipotle tortilla.” [Source] When I say the wrap accompanied by potato chips, a dill pickle and a beer was one of the best eats I’ve had on a hot summer day, I am not embellishing. That was one of the best wraps I have ever eaten. And trust me – as a college student who frequented the campus diner quite often – I have had a lot of wraps. So on Father’s Day, after we left the movie theater, I decided to take my dad and sister to eat and have a few drinks at Adega.

Adega2Initially they were a bit apprehensive. It was a restaurant they never heard of, let alone visited before. So I totally understood. But, I told them to trust me and take a chance and they ended the evening pleasantly surprised. One of the beauties of Adega is that it is half beer and wine store and half restaurant. What this means is that if you want to pick up a cold “sixer” of Corona or another preferred brew of your choice after work and take it home, you can. Or, if you spend $10 or more on food there you can actually purchase that same six pack of beer and drink it in the restaurant with your meal. Obviously the cost benefit of the latter is significant when we’re talking about prices of single pints ranging anywhere from $3.50 to $8.00 at a given restaurant.

Needless to say, we purchased a variety six pack of Saranac’s Adirondack Trail Mix and a pint of Fox Barrel Orange Unfiltered Pear Cider to drink. My dad ordered the Calamari (“Fried calamari, breaded and seasoned with Adega’s own recipe. Served with chipotle mustard mayo.”) as a shareable appetizer and for our entrees my dad and I ordered the Smokin’ Turkey Reuben (Grilled Panini-style sandwich with oven-roasted turkey, havarti cheese, white wine-reduced sauerkraut, and Asian pear cranberry chutney on rustic bread) while my sister ordered The Big Jerk (Grilled Jerk chicken breast, fresh mango slices, caramelized red onions, green leaf lettuce, roasted bell peppers, and cumin pepper-mayo spread served on a French baguette).

Adega1All of the food turned out amazing. My turkey Reuben was like no other Reuben I had ever tasted before. The cheese, turkey, and saurkraut helped bring out the savory profile while the Asian pear cranberry chutney brought out the sweetness of the sandwich. All of that combined with the crunchy toasted bread and the pear cider to wash it all down created a great juxtaposition of flavors and textures. I would highly recommend Adega to anyone. Not simply for the delectable cuisine and the affordable drinks, but the service there is up to par and the servers seem very knowledgeable of the food and beverages they are serving. Adega does good food at an affordable price with an atmosphere that isn’t too stuffy or too open and I highly appreciate that experience. Check out their menu and I’m sure you’ll find something you’d like.

Beer Flight

Four 4 oz. beer sampler at Pizzeria Paradiso

First off let me say that there are a lot of great pizza places in the DC Metropolitan area. You’ve got The Original Ledo Restaurant in College Park, Maryland serving up great rectangular-shaped cheesy goodness. There’s Ella’s near Chinatown in DC baking up Neapolitan style deliciousness. Even franchise restaurants like Flippin’ Pizza and Vapiano do pizza justice (It’s all in the dough). But, just having great pizza does not equate to a great dining experience. Here’s where Pizzeria Paradiso Birreria has dominated the game. Pizzeria Paradiso has three locations in the DC Metropolitan area. I recently visited their Dupont Circle location at 2003 P Street NW, Washington DC and was pleasantly surprised. Upon arrival my date and I noticed just how busy the restaurant was. One sign that the place has great food is that even on a Monday there was a wait. Once the restaurant pager given to us by the host began to flash we were whisked away to our seats. During the short walk from the front door to our table, I noticed a busy bar to the right of the entrance and something quite rare, a bar without tv’s. This intrigued me because it made me think about all of the bar talk that probably started out of a necessity for engagement. To me this was somewhat refreshing. We were seated by a cordial hostess who brought us to our table and within a couple of minutes were pleasantly greeted by our server. Initially I was going to stay away from beer for the evening, but after viewing their extensive beer menu, I – being the beer connoisseur – had to try their four 4 ounce samplers for $12. I ordered a sampler of Anchor Porter , DC Brau Time & Place, Mikkeller It’s Alive, and De Dochter van de Korenaar L’Enfant Terrible to drink. The variety of brews and olives that were placed on the table upon our arrival pleased my palate and prepped me for the delectable entrée that would ensue.

"Di Mare" Pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso

“Di Mare” Pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso

For my entrée, I ordered an eight inch “Di Mare” pizza which consisted of Paradiso tomatoes, minced garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese and mussels to top it off. When I say this is one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted, I truly mean that from the bottom of my belly. The crust from the brick, oven-baked dough was so crispy and flavorful and the toppings – ohhh those toppings – just blended so well together. I mean it’s mussels on a pizza. What is not to love about that? The combination of the pizza, the beer sampler and the “Pane” – homemade bread and roasted elephant garlic appetizer – made for a memorable meal. The delicious food coupled with the cozy atmosphere and spectacular hospitality of the wait staff – who seemed to stay on top of things at our table the whole night  – made for a great dining experience and I will definitely be returning for dinner, if not for brunch next time. I highly recommend Pizzeria Paradiso to foodies and non-foodies alike and its Birreria to all of my drinking crowd. With great pizza, vast beer variety, inviting staff, cozy atmosphere and a convenient location, I have definitely found a dining gem in the district. For info on other great pizza places located around the DC Metro area check out About.com and WashingtonPost.com.