I’ve been postponing writing about the dining scene, convinced that I’d only have a new spot to include as soon as I hit the “publish” button. But it’s about time to share some noteworthy experiences with you, in the spirit of my former restaurant review days.
One thing I’ve noticed is that people don’t seem to entertain in their homes much here. Maybe it’s because I’m new and haven’t established that level of friendship with anyone. But I suspect there’s more to it, that people live spread out with difficult transit situations, so it’s easier to go out near work or a central locale rather than navigate rush-hour roads or Metro connections. And people may be too busy to cook, with so many in intense government or public policy jobs.
Working where I do, I also find myself eating out alone more, albeit more fast food places, as it’s not convenient to return home after work if I’m heading into DC or to ESL tutoring at my church. It’s easier to go directly from the office from the nearby Metro or bus stop, and so I explore some restaurants inbetween work and the activity.
For awhile I had a standing Tuesday night meeting not far from Dupont Circle, so I found Marvelous Market, a local chain of upscale delis; a Turkish restaurant I was introduced to through a Groupon offer that has great gyros and baklava; a healthy fastfood place that has a wonderful chicken-mango salad they serve over greens and that goes well with a hearty blueberry muffin. And I’ve discovered Chipotle, the chain that focuses only on tortilla-bursting, fat burritos with your choice of fillings.
It’s hard to find an ice cream shop — Stewart’s definitely needs to move down this way — as I’ve only found Ben and Jerry’s, Coldstone Creamery and a neighborhood place that is equally expensive. And basic bakeries are also tough to find in a city enamored with expensive cupcakes. (I have yet to try out the Central American bakeries a neighbor recommends, but I suspect that beyond the breads, the pastries will hold little appeal for this chocoholic).
When Tim helped me move here, we ventured into a Middle Eastern place in downtown Takoma Park. And I’ve met a few people at Mark’s Kitchen, also in Takoma Park, that offers a quirky mix of hamburgers, Asian food and very different vegetarian dishes (like an OK tofu lasagna that I don’t feel I need to have again). During Tim’s more recent visit I enjoyed a very tasty tofu club sandwich there that came with grilled eggplant between the layers, and a barbecue sauce.
I’ve since discovered the variety of a Whole Foods salad and hot foods bar for a quick meal (but watch out, since the meal is charged by the weight, I once paid $11 for a simple beans and rice meal). And I’ve discovered the joys of Peruvian chicken joints, which are kind of like a Boston Market but the chicken more heavily seasoned and with sides of fried yucca, plantains, and rice and beans.
I held onto a Groupon for an Ethiopian restaurant until Joyce visited back in May. It was just delightful — a combination of nicely spiced lamb stew, chicken legs, hard-boiled eggs, a green bean-potato dish and cabbage — all served with a light, spongy bread that you use to scoop up the food rather than use utensils.
Just a few days later a neighbor introduced me to a local papuseria, an El Salvadoran diner, really, that features the titled dish, which is a thick tortilla stuffed with your filling of choice and topped with a savory cabbage mixture. They also have homemade tomales, and the sandwich I chose that featured chicken chunks (with bones that I had to be careful not to swallow) in a nice sauce and then topped with coleslaw and slices of radishes and cucumber all served on a French baguette.
The other evening I went to see the last Harry Potter movie with a co-worker and a friend of hers and afterward we went to an Irish pub in downtown Silver Spring and sat outdoors. How delightful to sit on a pedestrian-only street and watch the people walk by and others enjoying a live salsa band set up on a stage a block away, while sipping beer and eating a good veggie burger and fries.
I do cook at home sometimes, too, of course, often with products from the year-rond Takoma Park farmers’ market or the downtown Silver Spring market and some help from a nearby Trader Joe’s. How easy to toss together pasta with locally made sausage and a vodka sauce from TJ’s, or quinoa from the local co-op topped with a curry made of local veggies and a TJ’s curry sauce. (You have to keep in mind that “local” around here can be grown anywhere from southern Pennsylvania to Virginia.)