"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard
We are embroiled in a vitriolic presidential campaign. Deep political divides exist in our country. And our elected representatives in Washington are in a standoff. Amidst this backdrop, recently my husband and I vacationed in D.C. We visited all thre branches of our government, monuments, and museums. And on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we stood in the exact location where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood as he delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. We did so after spending the day in the extraordinary new National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). We did so as husband and wife: one black, one white - an interracial marriage that was illegal in many states when Dr. King gave that momentous speech.
With eyes wide open, we gazed onto the Washington, D.C. skyline noticing the sharp, bronze, and beautiful NMAAHC building rising up against the stark white Washington Monument and, indeed, all of the other white buildings housing our civic institutions. Powerful symbolism.
We are a nation of immigrants, and the Washington, D.C. restaurant scene is a reflection of our diverse and vibrant citizenry. In eight days, we dined on American, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Thai, French, Korean, and Indian food. And we didn't even scratch the surface. My biggest regret was not making it to Bad Saint, a Filipino restaurant Bon Appetit just named the second best new restaurant in America. Next time! We made it to several great spots, and what follows is our D.C. dining experience.
Hank's Oyster Bar was our first stop on our culinary tour of D.C. It's a classic restaurant and raw bar in the charming DuPont Circle neighborhood. The lobster roll served with French fries dusted in Old Bay was incredible. We grabbed a gelato at Dolcezza and Stumptown espresso later after a pleasant neighborhood stroll.
Next up was lunch at Jaleo after a tour of the Capitol and Library of Congress. I am addicted to the Gambas al Ajillo at Jaleo. It's a very simple dish of sautéed shrimp with garlic, guindilla peppers, and a splash of brandy. The garlic is paper thin and beautifully browned yet not bitter. I've tried to replicate the recipe at home but I can't quite perfect it. So I order it and pepper the waiter with questions on every visit.
We closed out the evening at Jack Rose Dining Saloon where the highlight is the mind blowing selection of whiskey and comfort food. The 2,687 bottles of whiskey line every inch of the walls.
We spent the next day touring the NMAAHC and had a great lunch at the Sweet Home Café where we indulged in delicious fried chicken, collard greens, shrimp and grits, and cornbread. Later that evening we shared a dessert and some port at Restaurant Nora - the first certified organic restaurant in the United States. Glad we got to experience it before chef-owner Nora Pouillon retires and sells, as recently reported in the Washington Post.
The next day we ate Korean/Asian fusion food at Momofuku CCDC. The pork buns with Momofuku Ssäm sauce are legendary. After we devoured those, Eric opted for Momofuku ramen while I chose the braised fried chicken with crispy shallots and green onions. It was an epic, satisfying lunch after being on our feet several hours waiting (to no avail) to hear Supreme Court oral arguments in Buck v. Davis - a death penalty case where an expert testified that the defendant was more likely to commit future crimes due to his race. Seriously?! Read more about the case here.
Next was more Spanish cuisine at Estadio in Logan Circle. I love this place. The atmosphere is warm and slightly rustic with beautiful tile and wood accents. The pintxos and sherry cocktails were a great way to start the meal followed by Crispy Pork Belly & Pickled Shishito Pepper Alioli Bocadillos, Sautéed Kale, Garlic, Oloroso Sherry & Chili Flakes, and Bomba Rice, Wild Mushrooms, English Peas. So so good.
After a day of perusing Georgetown shops and sharing a healthy salad from Sweetgreen, we later celebrated our wedding anniversary at Iron Gate and indulged in the six-course Greek-Italian influenced tasting menu with beverage pairings. The antipasto plates were some of our favorite bites, including the sesame crusted feta drizzled with honey. The Autumn Squash Agnolotti with apples and sage brown butter was also sublime. It's a romantic place to spend the evening. The patio with an à la carte menu looked very inviting as well.
The next morning we had an early lunch at the classic power lunch spot, Old Ebbitt Grill, before heading across the street for a White House tour. Later we headed back to DuPont Circle for margaritas and Mexican food at Mission. The tacos there are pretty spectacular. Feeling indecisive, I chose the platter of three and got pork belly, carnitas, and chicken tinga.
After a somber day spent at The Holocaust Memorial Museum reminding ourselves of the dangers posed by hatred and discrimination, we needed a drink and some comfort food. So we headed to Daniel Boulud's DBGB for a glass of wine with a burger and fries. And then we strolled through the National Portrait Gallery to elevate our spirits with beautiful artworks.
Since we were on vacation, we didn't hold back on our carbohydrate consumption. We loved grabbing bagels at Bethesda Bagels in DuPont Circle. They slather a thick layer of fluffy cream cheese on their bagels and make the indulgence totally worth it.
On our final day in D.C., we headed to the original Ben's Chili Bowl for a chili half-smoke and chili cheese fries. Then after visiting Arlington Cemetery to pay our respects, we headed back to headquarters to pack our bags. Later that evening, we didn't have the energy to line up for Little Serow, so we ordered delivery from Beau Thai. With it we enjoyed a bottle of Virginia wine we picked up at the delightful Glen's Garden Market - a grocery and deli carrying all local food and wine.
Our trip to Washington, D.C. was clearly delicious, but it was also a great reminder of our nation's history. Progress has been made. Progress must and will continue. But to move forward, we must have empathy and respect for others. We must lower our guards - not build walls. If only we could all just sit down at the table together.