Huzzah! Another restaurant is about to open on the western side of H Street. Long awaited French bistro Le Grenier, located on the 500 block, is having their soft opening this Friday the 17th, followed by the official opening on Sunday. We took a sneak peak inside and it looks great – lots of patterned wallpaper and eccentric, ornate knick-knacks.
Category Archives: Food
In this corner, we have Teaism, purveyor of the famous salty oat cookie and owner of the needlessly long tea list. In the other corner, Ebeneezer’s is mellowly rearing to go. With soft pop rock on the radio and beyond friendly staff, they don’t need a cookie to put them in this fight.
Teaism coffee shop cred: yes, there is no coffee on the menu, but with a list of tea that would satisfy even the most particular of British grandmothers, Teaism bounds into the race with its secret weapon: the salty oat cookie. Somewhere in the nether region between salty and sweet, the hockey puck-sized cookie is substantial enough for a snack and decadent (and expensive) enough for a treat.
The rest of Teaism follows suit as a neither fish nor fowl oasis in Chinatown. With a soothing koi pond and a “kisako” policy (please leave when you’re finished if you notice other people waiting), Teaism builds a tranquil, polite atmosphere. On weekends, and especially during tourist season, the downstairs can become quite crowded, but the noise level never gets above an energetic murmur.
Teaism has locations all over the DC area, but still doesn’t seem ubiquitous. They pop up in Penn Quarter, Dupont, and Farragut. With satisfying bento boxes and a beer and wine list, it’s much more than just a tea spot.
Ebeneezer’s coffee shop cred: unbeatable location for Hill workers. Just a block from Union Station, it’s a convenient stop before going through those metal detectors or for a quick break during the day. The homegrown feel is refreshing in this Starbucks-civilization. A handwritten chalkboard of hot and iced coffee drinks as well as smoothies and some baked goods put patrons at ease. Ebeneezer’s doubles as a worship space on Sundays and a haven for wi-fi seekers during the week. They also host live music in the basement most nights of the week.
Final score:while Ebeneezer’s has the all important location, location, location and absurdly friendly staff, Teaism pulls out a win thanks to the spot they fill in DC: fresh food and drink in no way reminiscent of Starbucks or Cosi.
While comparing these two outstanding coffee/tea spots, we acknowledge an uneven playing field with much left unsaid. Explore both options for yourself, be you a coffee, tea, or even a smoothie type.
Though Washington, DC is known more as a destination for politicians rather than foodies, the culinary scene in our nation’s capital has flourished over the past few years. Some of the world’s most renowned chefs have opened restaurants in the city, such as José Andrés’ “Minibar,” Michel Richard’s “Citronelle,” and Boyardee’s “Canned Food Drive-Through.” As part of an occasional, Wheelhouse-exclusive and now syndicated series, this author will review some of the hottest new restaurants and give you the inside scoop on the burgeoning restaurant scene here in the center of democracy. So loosen that belt and warm up those taste buds as we prepare for the first stop in our fantastic food voyage: Viking Quest Restaurant.
Background and Location
Viking Quest is the latest in a bevy of Viking-inspired cuisine that has swept the culinary world like a battle axe through butter. The restaurant is owned and operated by a large, hirsute man known only by the singular name “Olaf,” who immigrated to the United States just one year ago. It’s the classic American success story–Olaf opened his restaurant with money he received after conquering a small but resource-abundant portion of Iceland, which then he sold back to Reykjavík after a furious bidding war between the government and the estate of Björk. After all, why flip real estate when you can flip autonomous territory, right? Assuming my interpreter, Lief, translated Olaf’s guffaws and violent gestures correctly, becoming a world-class restaurateur has always been Olaf’s long-held dream, and he settled on DC as a destination after mistaking the Washington Monument for the penis of Thor.
The restaurant is located in the little known but vibrant Nordic community on the outskirts of Northeastern DC. Recent immigrants like Olaf have turned this once decrepit area into one of DC’s most treasured hidden gems. So treasured, in fact, that the community has taken to fortifying their enclave with a herring-filled moat, unscalable walls, and rather menacing sculptures of Norse deities. Inaccessibility aside, once you enter the compound you’ll be glad you made the trek to “New Vikington” and supplied the gatekeeper with the correct password. What awaits inside is a charmingly rustic community that stays true to its cultural roots and is teeming with traditional Viking shops that sell products strikingly similar to those found in stores outside the gated community for prices so low it’s almost criminal. The gender ratio of the population does seem to skew overwhelmingly male, at least from a casual glance around during the mechanical longboat ride from the gate to the restaurant, but that only adds to the aura of Viking Quest being one of the city’s best happy hour destinations for single females and hottest after-hours spots for gay Norsemen.
The first thing you notice upon entering Viking Quest is the celebrity-filled crowd. Patrons included your usual DC pols and bigwigs, a litany of “who’s who” within Scandinavian diplomatic circles, poorly-animated characters from Ikea instruction booklets, and even former Vikings’ quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Unfortunately we were an hour too late and just missed meeting the stars of the famed Capital One “what’s in your wallet” commercials. Ironically, Viking Quest only accepts American Express.
Aside from the clientele, the general design of the restaurant seems to be one of chic minimalism. Almost everything in the restaurant is made from the same type of unstained wood–possibly teak, but also possibly drift–and with the exception of an oversized portrait of Olaf hung rather clumsily above the entryway, the walls are left bare. Far be it from this author to question the authenticity of segments of Viking culture, but I remain skeptical that the rhinestones used so prominently in the grand portrait of Olaf were a popular medium in the time of his ancestors. That one possible historical anachronism aside, the remainder of the restaurant did seem to project an unmistakable aura of true Viking-ness. Again with the assistance of Lief the Interpreter, I learned that Olaf chose not to hook his restaurant up to the power grid, given that electricity was invented far after the golden age of the Viking. Instead, everything in Viking Quest runs on power generated from dozens of wayward Hill interns shackled to rowing devices in the building’s basement.
Given the gluten-free, low-carb diets that are all the rage these days, it’s no wonder Viking food has seen its popularity soar. Formerly-fat celebrities who grace the covers of check-out aisle magazine like Us, People, and Cat Fancy, credit the Viking diet with their fit new physiques. Even Jared, the formerly fat but now just ugly spokesman for Subway, has forgone his usual diet of a $5 footlong sandwiches and is all about the Viking food craze. In fact, Us Weekly reported last week Jared is now dating a Kardashian that he met at a Viking cooking class. They later retracted this story after discovering no one gave a shit.
Regarding the cuisine, Viking food is based on three simple ingredients: meat, meat, and more meat. The exact source and type of meat is a well-guarded secret within the Viking Quest establishment. I tried my best to get Olaf to divulge the secret origins of their house speciality, but his ire seemed to increase as my questions persisted, to the point where his words morphed into what the increasingly flustered Lief said were sounds frighteningly similar to the battle cries of a long-extinct variety of whale. After he pointed menacingly to the basement and made a rowing-like motion, myself and the rest of the party to decided to drop the matter and go about enjoying our mystery meat.
The meat-food itself was delicious and is easily the best all-meat cuisine I’ve had in this city. Even the presentation was charmingly authentic. Having eaten varieties of food like Indian and Ethiopian that eschew the use of utensils I was well-equipped for a similar experience with Viking food, but was pleasantly surprised by the utter absence of plates or serving conduits of any kind. While I think little harm would done to the restaurant’s claim to authenticity by adding a sprig of parsley to their dishes, or even providing patrons with a singular Wet-Nap, their maniacal fixation on giving diners a “true” Viking meal is admirable and really the heart and soul of the restaurant’s appeal. We all had a good laugh towards the end of our meal when Lief, himself raised in an all-Viking household and hence no stranger to this style of dining, ended up nearly ingesting an inch-long splinter while the rest of us newbies ate unscathed. Even the usually stoic Olaf couldn’t contain his laughter and eventually joined us for a final drink, served in hollowed-out, intern-sized skulls.
If you’re looking for a culinary and cultural experience like none you’ve had before, Viking Quest is certainly for you. The one-item menu unfortunately leaves me no room to suggest a favorite dish, but chances are the chefs rotate the singular house specialty based on the season and resistance of outlying townspeople, so you’ll be in for a surprise treat regardless. The service may seem brusque, or downright belligerent at times, but chances are you’ll be able to look past that once you set your eyes on the charming two-horned helmets worn by the all-male wait staff. I would, however, suggest to Olaf that the restaurant employ some form of background music, if for nothing else than to cover up the faint sounds of tortured screams emanating from the basement, but even that fades into the background as the sounds of whipping gain an almost rhythmic, musical pulse to them. Do be sure to call ahead though. It’s necessary both to secure a reservation and to ensure your personal safety. If they say they’re packed just tell them Ryan sent you! And if that doesn’t work, quickly hang up the phone and get your number and address unlisted as fast as you can.
Though not really that new, Jaleo’s redesigned interior blew me away on a recent visit. As a tried-and-true Chinatown happy hour spot, I stopped in to check out the new digs before heading to the theater next door.
Our crack team of DC Style Is Real tipsters got a sneak peek into upcoming Le Grenier at 502 H. The door was ajar and we just couldn’t resist. Looks like they’ve been doing some renovating. While it appeared that they still have lots to do, it’s good to see some progress on this French bistro.
I’ve been waiting to do a review of Ted’s Bulletin, almost since I first moved down here. But there was no way that one meal could do it justice, so after four visits (with definitely more to come), here is my take on Ted’s.
For those living in North or Southeast, Ted’s should become a staple, if it hasn’t become one already. For my Northwestern friends, it’s absolutely worth a trek across town.
My first visit to Ted’s was also my fourth day in the District. The week of moving had been emotional and I still hadn’t finished unpacking. A friend from New York had come down with me to help me set up and attend a conference that weekend. She showed up at my house at 8am on a Saturday and told me to get dressed so that we could get breakfast before her bus. Someone had recommended Ted’s and she insisted that we go.
Since we went so early on a Saturday, we only waited a few minutes. However, if you go during normal brunch hours 10am-2pm, you should probably make reservations or be prepared for a long wait.
Anyway, on that cold, rainy February morning, emotionally exhausted from my move, I ordered the appropriately named “Mark On An Off Day” breakfast (with egg whites). Bear in mind, I am not a big fan of eggs, especially since I can’t eat “egg yellows.” If you’re looking for comfort food, this is a great choice. The coffee is pretty good and the service was attentive, especially on a busy Saturday morning. Most importantly, the experience was comforting during an especially stressful week in a new city.
My second visit to Ted’s came a week later. A few friends from New York were in town and Ted’s was one of only like, four restaurants I knew of at the time. We went again on a Saturday morning and this time, I went healthy and ordered Jon’s Omelet (which was also delicious). One friend ordered The Walk of Shame Breakfast Burrito, which she really enjoyed. Another ordered Nana’s Beer Biscuits and Sausage Gravy and apparently it was comparable to an actual grandmother’s biscuits and gravy…situation.
However, despite these delightful experiences I knew that I couldn’t write a review until I tried their famous homemade pop-tarts or an adult milkshake. Or tried a meal other than breakfast.
I had my first non-breakfast meal there about six weeks into my life here. A friend and I decided to spend the day “caféing” and went to Ted’s for lunch after having being extremely indecisive about where to eat (seriously, we went to about four other places and even tried samples. So sorry, other places! We were the worst). The lunch crowd was fairly sparse and it was easy to get a table. Our server was also attentive, almost more so than was conducive to peaceful eating. But that’s probably better than emotionally unavailable and passive-aggressive, right?
All of the lunch sandwiches can be made “healthier” with a wrap option, rather than a bun or bread. I was unsuccessful at convincing my friend to order The Famous Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup as a wrap (come on! That server was way too attentive!), she order the Tzatziki Greek burger. I ordered the Cali Club. She loved her burger, but my sandwich wasn’t amazing. It’s fine–I can try again. If this was the only smirch on a so far stellar record, I’m ok with that. As Ayn Rand would say in 1,000 pages (if she were a restaurant critic): not every sandwich can be special (There. I just summed up her whole canon of work for you. You’re welcome, DC).
We were so full from lunch we couldn’t order pop tarts or adult milkshakes. Like Jack Shephard, I knew that I had to go back.
And I did. On a fateful, Friday night–a Good Friday night, if you will–after indulging in another DC treasure, I went back to Ted’s. And despite all the other temptations on the menu, I ordered a pop tart (peanut butter and bacon) and an adult milkshake (Dirty Girl Scout). And though I know that the caloric intake of both probably equaled one’s daily allowance, they were amazing. The pop tart was an amazing mixture of salty and sweet. If they have that flavor when you go, definitely order it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts or you don’t eat bacon). When I mentioned that I was reviewing Ted’s for this blog, the bartender gave me another pop tart on the house. It was brown sugar and cinnamon (so basically, a tasty peanut/bacon-free alternative).
As for the Dirty Girl Scout. As Ayn Rand would NOT say, I recommend sharing. There’s no way you can finish that whole thing by yourself. Well, there was no way I could finish the whole thing by myself. Not only do you get brainfreeze, it’s just really filling. Still, as far as taste goes, it was delicious and is a staff pick (although, next time I want to try the Grasshopper).
Finally, besides the delicious menu, what is it really about Ted’s? The restaurant has a great retro decor. Even the menus are designed to look “old timey.” The ambience is definitely unique.
I hope one day you can join me at Ted’s–for a Grasshopper maybe? Or a cocktail (they make one with a fig jam–I mean that’s just begging to be tried)? Now that I’ve met Ted, I’m
looking forward to getting to know him better.
At 505 8th Street, SE in Eastern Market.
Written by Juliet Vedral. Follow her on Twitter.
Russia House, situated in a grand structure at the corner of Connecticut and Florida in upper Dupont, is a spectacular departure from the Aleros and Subways nearby. Hello, red velvet curtains and chandeliers. Goodbye sunshine and humidity. You’re in Russia now, babe.
The first thing to strike is the darkness. Much more intense than the comparative darkness of just being inside on a sunny day, Russia House imbues the customer with a luxurious darkness, the kind that makes you want to read Arthur Conan Doyle and enjoy a nice warm stew. The first floor is set with small tables on a thick carpet.
The staff of attractive blondes in short black dresses attends to drink and food orders. If you don’t know your Russian vodkas (Russia House’s list goes on for two pages), hew closely to this advice: just order a Moscow Mule. Presented in a very tall and large chilled martini glass, the drink is made with vodka, ginger beer and lime. The refreshing taste and sheer volume make this the obvious drink of choice. But if you prefer, there are many other martini options, as well as imported Russian beers.
The food is also impressive. Since Russian cuisine is not one of my fortés, I sampled from the starters and was not disappointed. Pelmini, little pillows of veal and pork served in marsala cream with forest mushrooms, made me feel decadent and cultured. And I don’t know why I was surprised, but the Chicken Croquettes with Two Russian Salads were not spring greens but mayonnaise-based cold salads. Delicious and creamy, with crunchy croquettes finishing out the dish…equals yum.
While not a bargain by any means, Russia House delivers decadence without breaking the bank. But seriously, use a Groupon if you possibly can.
I don’t go in for being inside on a sunny day, but at Russia House, I could get behind the idea with the help of a martini and a small plate of labor intensive snackage.
The Queen Vic, H Street’s best neighborhood hangout, has started to host a delightful trivia night upstairs every Tuesday at 7:30. Check out the newly roofed back patio on warm nights, sip on a pint, have a proper scran, and just straight chill, holmes. Teams are strictly limited to 4 people, and for Pete’s sake, resist the urge to reach for your smartphone — it’s a hollow victory if you cheat.
DC Urbanturf has a fantastic piece on the evolution of H Street’s dining scene. Click it.
The new “hipster” apartment building at the corner of 4th and I St NE, Ava, projects they will be open for tenants this Fall.