Category Archives: best ever

Ms. Vedral Goes to Washington: Café Milano

Prior to moving to DC, I had been warned by…pretty much everyone…that my foodie proclivities would need to be adjusted. And experience had also brought this to bear: I once had Thai food at a restaurant with a punny name that used regular broccoli instead of Chinese broccoli in its Pad See Ew. I’d been warned not to eat bagels or pizza and generally, not to expect very much, although “the Ethiopian food is amazing” (it is).

Readers, maybe DC isn’t a foodie city like New York, but it’s got the potential. I’ve had a few outstanding meals here and one of them was at Café Milano.

Now, I’m willing to admit that my first time at Café Milano is fairly atypical. I went on Valentine’s Day with a guy who I will only describe as “The Mayor” because he knew everyone there and despite the fact that it was the most booked restaurant night of the year, we still got a table.

The ambience was a little conservative for my taste, but it was elegant and clearly a top date spot. We split an appetizer of beef Carpaccio and arugula with parmesan, reminding me why I don’t enjoy Carpaccio of anything, but it still managing to satisfy. I got the Mezzelune Ferragamo, which were ravioli with butternut squash and amaretto in a sage parmesan sauce. It was unbelievable. Incidentally, it was the runner up to my first choice of sea scallops and risotto, but they had just run out of it. I’m confident that also would have been delicious. It was the hands down best meal I’d had in DC since having dinner at Tabard Inn a few months back.

The wine was delicious and liberally poured and the servers were attentive and helpful, but then again that was probably because I was with The Mayor. For my first Valentine’s Day with DC, I’ve got to say I’m enjoying the way he does things, even if I’d prefer a bit more edge. I have no doubt that no matter who you’re with you’ll enjoy the food and have a lovely time at Café Milano.

Next up: Boundary Road unseats Café Milano as the best meal I’ve had in DC.

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Filed under best ever, Food, Georgetown, Uncategorized, unexpected, West

Ms. Vedral Goes to Washington: POV

pic courtesy of Washington City Paper

Living in a city that is constantly flooded with tourists for most of my life, you learn to be cool and nonchalant about all the amazing things your city has to offer. New Yorkers don’t go to the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building except on school trips or with out-of-town guests. So my first thought at arriving at POV at the W was “this is not for locals.”

In fact, a new friend that I made that night was quick to point out many times throughout the night that he only comes there with out-of-town guests, for the view.

But what a view.

There’s nothing that can compare to having a well-made drink and dancing to great music while staring at the Washington Monument. Or the White House. Or even just the Treasury Department. It’s breathtaking. And well worth the…well, I guess this is a good time to talk about the best part of the view. No crazy line. No overpriced cover. No random grinders dancing up on you, making you regret ever leaving your house that night. I’m not sure what the “Jersey” equivalent is here yet, but wherever it is, you don’t need to go there in order to get a good look at this view (also, I’m not sure what you guys call B&T, but I think that there was some of that action happening as well, just fyi).

DC, if you only knew how to play hard to get! NY would never let you get near such a view without paying dearly for it (time, money, dignity). This was when DC took of his glasses–ostensibly to clean them–and I saw some major potential.

So, it’s not for locals. But if you’re a fellow New York exile like me, you may need to come here from time to time and remind yourself that you still live in an amazing place. And if you’re a long-time DC resident, you need to bring your New York friends here; it will definitely earn you some street-cred.

Next time, I’ll tell you all about my dinner with the mayor of Café Milano!

Written by Juliet Vedral.  Where should Juliet go next time?  Make your thoughts known on Twitter.

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Filed under best ever, Drink, Uncategorized, West

Tune Inn’s Beer-Battered Burger: The Best Worst Decision of My Week

pic courtesy of City Paper

Americans get a third of their calories from hamburgers. That is a truth-fact. I try to limit myself to one a week, which means that I’m not holding up my end of the national average and I’m forcing a lot of people to eat more burgers than they probably want to. But what I lack in quantity I make up for in enthusiasm. I love burgers. Getting to ask waiters about lean ratios and having butchers put a blend of beef through the grinder a second time to distribute the fat more evenly just makes me feel good inside. (And the sweet and savory bursts of juice from that first bite into a well-crusted medium-rare burger at 85/15 makes my mouth feel good inside, too.)

So, when I moved to DC a year ago, one of the first things I did was visit the legen…wait for it…dary Tune Inn, one of Hamburger America‘s 100 best burger joints in the US. (The first edition. The second edition has expanded the roster by 50%.) I found there one of the best greasy-spoon burgers I’ve ever had—rich in flavor, coarse in texture and almost juicy enough to be its own beverage.

Yes, I could have been content with the Tune Inn burger, had another menu item not sat there, quietly mocking me every visit: The Beer-Battered Burger.

Truthfully, like so many other things, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’d heard rapturous things about the flavor of deep-fried burgers, and memories of making spicy, Guiness-battered onion rings made the idea of the beer-battered burger seem logical: If I’m gonna fry the thing, why not go all the way? But it took a year of seeing it on Tune Inn’s menu before I could screw up enough courage to inflict one upon myself.

It was a cold Friday night, and I was biking home to Capitol Hill relatively early, as I had a long and early Saturday ahead of me. It had been a few months since my last Tune Inn burger—truthfully, I hadn’t had one since before they shut down for repairs after a kitchen fire. Rumor had it that the fire and subsequent kitchen renovations hadn’t taken the slightest toll on their food, so I hungrily stopped by on my way home and decided to celebrate their re-opening in my own small, sad way.

Once my to-go order was ready, everything started going downhill. As I mounted my bike, a homeless man asked me if I’d mind sparing my leftovers. The humiliation of imagining myself from his eyes, glibly and greedily biking away hung like a cloud over me as I sat in my living room, styrofoam box opened to reveal my vegetables—a pickle and fries—and the pale, steaming burger.

The taste was at once both familiar and challenging, like moving to a new city with an old friend. The burger was fantastic. I ate it with every bit of greed and enthusiasm that the man I snubbed must have imagined, not that far removed from Civilization‘s Big Hog, and then, for the sake of health, I ate most of my vegetables, too.

Then, I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Eventually, my roommate came home, and so as not to appear lazy or indigent, I flopped onto the ground and crawled on my stomach to the stairs. The railing was so, so high above me. How could anyone reach that high from the ground? No one could, and I don’t see how anyone would need to. I did just fine inching my way up to the second floor from my belly, each wooden step assaulting my nose and chin. There was no way I could make it to my bed—It’s so far up from the floor! Who would build a bed so high?—so I just lay there beside it and moaned myself to sleep.

When I woke up three days later, I was still full and the grease leaking out of my pores had seeped through my clothes and had made a puddle on my floor. I’m pretty sure it was leaking through the ceiling of the floor below. I was still full.

That burger was amazing.

Written by Rick Barry.  Read more at Gravy Boat.

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Filed under best ever, Capitol Hill, East, Food

How DC Style Got Her Rock Opera Back

pic courtesy DC Theater Scene

Though only in town for one weekend, Two Gentlemen of Verona: A Rock Opera encompassed a season’s worth of theater fun.  Featuring a cast of formidable talents, whose actors have appeared in Tony award winning shows like In The Heights ranging all the way to the original cast of Cats.  The Sidney Harmon Hall stage created an enchanting canvas for the constant recreation and rehashing of Shakespeare’s play.

The story begins with a cast in modern dress singing in full-throated unison on an almost bare set of risers.  The musicians and one set of swinging doors emblazoned with the mod font Two Gentlemen of Verona are all else.  The story, costumes and music get increasingly showy and exciting as time goes on.

The story hops from song to song with some dialogue in between.  There continues a wry battle of wills between the singing and feeling actors and the script in their hands.  At one point, the audience and the actors are incredulous that Shakespeare has written one character out of the story completely and Sylvia is left with an entirely different love interest.  A few actors confer over a script: “Yep, that’s what it says.  OK!”  And they break into song again.  Cast your eyes here for a more complete synopsis of winks at the audience.

The songs range from pop ballads sung on roller skates to a vaudeville style duet to a rousing all-cast number complete with dimmed lights and an audience full of waving glow sticks.  The characters follow the Bard’s general guidelines, but radiate fun in a rather confusing script.  A perpetual goofy grin was on my face during the entire show.

This show was an incredible steal.  Though this show is now gone, another version of Two Gentlemen is now playing and is, I hear, not above using U2 songs for emphasis.  The Shakespeare Theater continues to offer $15 tickets.  These are released every Tuesday at 10am for shows that week.  Go online or call the box office.

Get thee to the Harmon! (I know, wrong play)

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DC Style Is…Polite

not quite

It is a pleasure to see you here at DC Style Is Real. It’s a difficult time for our fair city, so we really must stick together. Cable channel talking heads scream at us that the days of civility in Washington are over. Angry partisanship is the new normal and the old days—which, by virtue of their vintage and scarcity, are considered superior to the present—are gone.

But you and I know that in the world of two Washingtons, it is not our share of the city that is lacking in civility. We do not have the right to vote in that Washington, and we should not be saddled with its impertinence.

Instead, the stylish Washingtonians will carry on with grace and a few kind words. The art of living in style includes staying abreast of evolving etiquette and customs. This isn’t Downton Abbey, friends. It’s 2012, and we tweet, text and email. The rules of civility must reflect our times, but it is a mark of true bravura to be one step ahead.

To help you stay at the front of the pack as we all try to navigate our technologically engorged world, DC Style Is Real is introducing a new feature called Modern Manners.  In it, we will answer your burning etiquette questions, such as: “Is a Facebook invitation a ‘real’ invitation?” “If someone follows me on Twitter, do I have to follow them in return?” And, “How long can I wait to reply to an e-mail?”

But even with a computer screen in front of our faces for 10+ hours a day, we still have to interact with real, live human beings from time to time. And that can get much trickier. We’ll talk about that, too.

So send us your questions, large or small, digital or three-dimensional. Leave them in the comments or give us a tweet, whichever you prefer, at your convenience, et cetera, et cetera.

Yours Most Sincerely,

M

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Filed under advice, best ever, How To

Go Through The Red Door

So, you know back when you were in junior high, and you thought it’d be the coolest if you could just get away from your little suburb and go to some loft in Washington Square and be with people as cool as you are?  People who really cared about the music?  People who didn’t care if they had the latest Keds or most rad pencil keeper?  Yeah, me too!

OK, now that you’ve grown up and are pretty cool yourself, you probably don’t long for the smoky dim light and dissonant chords of a jazz loft.  Or…do you?

Look no further than the Red Door, the most sketched-out, most awesome performance area I’ve yet come across.  Of course it’s dark when you get there (who listens to real live jazz during the day?), so you can squint to make sure you have the right place.  That’s it, it’s a red door.  In an alley.  In a desolate part of Chinatown.

Open it.

You’re mostly there already, if you can make yourself do all that when most people are home making their lunches for the week.  Shut the door behind you, a sign on which reads something like, “Hey dummy, don’t take drinks outside–there are COPS!”  Turn to gaze straight up the almost antique iron circular staircase.  Mount this, clutching the hand rail as you do.

Walk down a narrow hallway on the second floor filled with mannequin parts and instrument cases.  Enter The Loft.

You’ve arrived.

There is usually a $10 contribution requested, and for the space and the stellar music you’re sure to hear, it’s a deal.  The last time I visited I was treated to a one-woman performance of such stunning virtuosity that I forgot when I’d arrived or how long I’d been there–I was hooked.  Quite the opposite of other concerts; you know, the ones where everyone is taking blurry pictures with their iPhones and throwing light all over your mellow.

But you must go now!  Sadly, friends, the Red Door will be hosting its last performance  (gasp! yes, I’m afraid it’s true) on Sunday, January 21st, at 7:00pm.  It’s guaranteed to be a blowout, so come out if you’ve never come before, and return for the memories and the music if you have.

If you fall in love with live DC jazz, you can continue the affair with the help of Capital Bop, the District’s very own source for all things jazz.  They list shows everywhere from Bohemian Caverns to Twins to Blues Alley.

Any visitors to H Street’s new HR-57 location?  Hit up the Comments.

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Filed under Arts, best ever, Shows

Mixing Guide: In the Know at The Gibson

The Gibson is great. Everything about it makes us geeky DC wonks feel
hip: You can imagine that guests and passers-by are impressed at how
in-the-know you are for striding confidently through the unmarked
entrance. The stylish, moody interior makes everyone look mysterious
and alluring. And no one else in DC makes cocktails this good.

But the best part about those drinks is that there are more of them
than you think.

Though it rotates every couple of months, the Gibson’s menu is fairly
small. It features just a handful each of cocktails, fizzes and sours
at a time. But what do you do when your friends from New York are in
town and they want to try that Gibson drink you mentioned a couple
months ago made from Chartreuse and a rare, small-batch gin? You bring
them to the secret bar with the unmarked door, dramatic lighting and
small menu, and then look even cooler by ordering it anyway.

In just three years, the Gibson’s bartenders have created over 400
house cocktails, and you can order any of them. Anything in their
house records is fair game, any time. But if (like most people) you
aren’t intimately familiar with their employees-only mixing guides,
you can always just name an ingredient or two that you’re interested
in. If nothing in the book matches it, the mixologist will come up
with something brand-new on the spot.

(Just last night, they rose to the challenge of using blackberry
brandy—an old family favorite—to come up with a trio of cocktails that
would have been all any other bar needed to become a destination.)

Talking to such knowledgeable and skilled mixologists on a slow night
is one of the greatest pleasures going out for drinks can offer. But
if they’re crowded, or you just want to order something distinctive
and memorable without making a big to-do about it, my preferred
off-menu drink is the Scorched Earth. Created by the Gibson’s gifted
head bartender, the Scorched Earth features single-malt scotch from my
favorite distillery, absinthe and an aromatic herbal liqueur.

The next time you want to impress a date or have fun with friends, try
going off-menu at the Gibson. It just might make something you like
even better.

Written by Rick Barry, who also writes far too sporadically about pop culture at Gravy Boat (Stay in The Now).

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Filed under best ever, Drink, Uncategorized, West

Lunch Special: Central Michel Richard

Here’s the short version:  if you want to eat at Central and spend under $100, you must go at lunch.

And the long version: It’s so worth it!  Not only are you getting a great deal, you’re having a little workday holiday.  But the food is, of course, the main draw.  Now until November 11, you can have a three course lunch for $20.  Don’t worry, after that, it’s only $21.

Central reinvents American staples, but not in a scary why is there foam on my sandwich?! way, but in a oh, that’s what it should taste like! kind of way.  With hamburgers, fried chicken, steak, and mac and cheese, I call this haute American: American food with high creativity and style.  I’d recommend…everything.

The clam chowder was thin and savory, the broth poured over the contents at the table.  The beet salad was not alarming.  And as a staunchly anti-beet person, this salad, cubed beets on top of spring greens with melted cheese croutons, won me over.

The entrées were small by American standards, in that they were served on lunch plates, not dinner chargers.  The pasta bolognese came with as much sauce as pasta, the fine Italian way.  The mushroom sandwich looked like paté toasties but turned out to be “the best grilled cheese in the world.”  Seriously.  The best.  You must go taste it.

The dessert was all about the Chocolate Bar, in that it totally cancelled out the presence of a very excellent carrot cake.  I am fascinated by the existence of the Chocolate Bar: it is a Kit Kat bar, homemade and writ large.  I know, right?!  Amazing.  But of course, the restaurant can’t call it The Kit Kat; that’s been copywrited.   So, you might never notice that what you’re eating is the Platonic ideal of a Kit Kat bar…but it is!  Crispy wafer, rich chocolate mousse, topped with dark chocolate sauce, all with lots of wink, wink fun.

I enjoy Central so very much.  One shouldn’t make a habit of it, of course.  Then how would you know that when you are there, you’ve arrived for your vacation?

Located at 11th and Pennsylvania, NW.  Take a gander at the lunch menu here.

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Russia House a Regal Getaway

Happy Columbus Day!  Apart from that, the blog is back.  Yes, we had a summer hiatus, but now that cooler weather has arrived, there is no need to lay in front of an AC unit clutching a glass of iced Diet Coke and thinking of reasons not to go outside.

Wow, that seems like a long time ago.  Remember those days, people?  Remember the Metro cars with no air conditioning?  The sweat that would creep down your back as you walk down the sidewalk in the sun?

Those days are gone now, but the perfect antidote to them remains.  A Moscow Mule at Russia House.

Russia House is an imposing structure with much more the recommend it, but the Moscow Mule made the trip for me.

I walked in the door of the lounge just as the sky was about to open with torrential rains…again.  As I paused for traffic at Connecticut and Florida, I felt a thunderclap overhead like a door slamming just behind me.  Time for a drink indoors!

The dark wood decor and red velvet curtains in the first floor seating area caused me to relax before I even sat down.  At the small circular table, I looked out the window at the people about to be soaked.  Poor saps, I thought.

The drink recommended by my lovely companion was the Moscow Mule.  Now, I’d had a Moscow Mule before at the now deceased Toyland (RIP).  That version was fun–gingery and fizzy, served in a jar over ice.  But that was not a real Moscow Mule.  This incarnation came out in the largest, stateliest martini glass I’d ever seen.

Chilled, the glass held a frosty mix of vodka, ginger beer and lime that went down easy.  Taking small sips from the tall glass and looking out rose-tinted windows at the lightening storm outside just had a magical tinge to it.

At $11, it’s not cheap, but it’s one of the best values for what you get in town.  Hopefully you’ll have a magical experience as well.  Nostrovia!

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Filed under best ever, Dupont

It’s Still Summer. Own It.

August in Washington can seem like a big pile of blah. Despite our best efforts, the pace of the city is still set by those crazy Congressmen, and when the Hill departs en masse, the rest of us tend to go on mental vacation.

While there is something to be said for the occasional lazy Sunday, there is no reason to let these last days of summer pass unnoticed.  With three weeks to go until September, it’s time to make the best of DC’s summer offerings—and maybe pay a visit to those destinations that you have been putting off since Memorial Day.

Without further ado, I present to you the DC Style Is Real How to Make August Awesome List:

  • Play Concert Roulette. Pick a night you are free. Now pick a venue you have never or rarely frequently. Now click that “Buy Tickets” button, and you’re done. Never heard of the band? No problem. Not sure about the type of music? You’ll live. And you’ll have a completely fresh experience that will make for a great story the next day. [Tip: Check out the fancy music calendar those saucy minxes at BrightestYoungThings put together.]
  • Dubsplash. The pool party formally known as Spiked Sundays is still going on and still one of the best ways to keep entertained and tanned. For $15, spend all day at the Capitol Skyline’s gorgeous pool serenaded by top local DJs. The bronzed crowd will be all the sightseeing you need. [Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.]
  • Take Marie’s Capital Bikeshare Challenge. OK, I just make this up, so let me know how it goes. Step One: Get an all-day BikeShare pass if you aren’t already a member. Step Two: Take a look at the CaBi map and choose at least 10 stations around town (more if you are ambitious) and include at least one in each quadrant. Step Three: Bike from station to station, finding the fastest or most scenic routes, docking your bike at each location. Optional Step Four: Take photos, record your times and share the experience!
  • Take Advantage of TICKETPLACE. Get completely legit half-priced tickets to the theatre every single day. And we’re not talking about your cousin’s talent show—these are the best venues in town. Kennedy Center, Arena Stage &  Woolly Mammoth, just to name a few. It’s operated by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, so you can feel good about supporting the arts on top of it. Win-win-win.
  • Use Your LivingSocial/Groupon/Other Deals. You don’t have to wait until the last minute to use those deals sitting in your inbox. Beat the rush and get the gang together for a bite at that cool place you forgot you wanted to go to so badly when you bought the deal two months ago.
  • The Smithsonian is Free. Hey, did you know that one of the world’s premier museums is right here in DC and it is free? There are 19 Smithsonian museums in DC, and if you have honestly visited each and every one, I will buy you a cookie. Take a look at this handy list and go get some free patriotic culture. Bonus: The Smithsonian’s 165th birthday is this month! [Open every day. Hours here.]
  • Take Yourself Out to the Ballgame. Root, root, root for the home team! National’s Stadium is nice, new and now features a Shake Shack. You can get inexpensive seats the day of the game, so very little planning is required here. There are 10 home games remaining in August. Go support our team and cheer on Teddy!
  • Truckeroo. The next Food Truck bonanza is this Friday, August 12th at Navy Yard Metro from 11am – 11pm. Yummy. Check out the beautiful new Yards Park while you are in the neighborhood. Picnic, anyone?
  • Jazz in the Garden. You keep meaning to go, really you do. Well, it’s a lot easier to leave work early in August than pretty much any other time of year. Grab your favorite co-worker and make a run for it while the boss is taking the kids to Nantucket. [Fridays from 5:00 to 8:30 at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.]
  • Restaurant Week. Pick a nice restaurant that is normally out of your price range and invite a few friends to put on their finest cocktail attire for a midweek dinner party. “Just because” is reason enough! [August 15-21. Make reservations now.]
  • Be a Tourist. While this site’s bias against tourists is well documented, the way they marvel at the fair city we take for granted is a great reminder that DC is awesome. Stroll the Mall, gaze at the White House and admire the historic monuments, row houses and landmarks of the District. Besides, it’s August—what the hell else are you going to do?

Marie Francis loves DC and thinks you should, too. Follow her on Twitter @mcfrancis.

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