$


I know I took a break from talking about pho, but I left the best for last.  I love Pho Saigon and it’s closely tied with Pho Xe Lua for the best pho so far.   Here’s the menu:

phosaigon-menu

  • Food: What makes this one of the best pho places? The broth was incredibly aromatic and flavorful.  The beef was super lean and razor thin.  They gave me lots of Asian cilantro, basil, etc.  The only complaint was that there wasn’t as much beef as most restaurants provide, but there were enough noodles that it was still filling.

Pho Saigon Pho Tai To Go  Pho Saigon Pho Tai

  • Service: They’re very polite.  You pay up front and I *think* it’s cash-only.  I can’t remember!
  • Atmosphere:Like most pho restaurants, there’s not much.  The interior is small with only 10-12 tables.  Over the main door, you’ll see a flat screen airing, what I assume to be, Vietnamese TV shows. 

Pho Saigon Pho Saigon

  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall:You won’t go wrong when you try this pho restaurant.  It’s just so darn delicious!

Details:

  • Hours: Monday-Sunday 8AM–8 PM
  • Address: 6795-1B Wilson Blvd; Falls Church, VA 22044
  • Ph: 703-677-0523

3 days with a car and at least 5 bowls of pho.  Obsessed I tell you!  Anyway, I continued to work my way through to the pho places throughout Eden Center in Falls Church.  Today’s pho bowl is from Viet Royale.

viet-royale-page-1  viet-royale-page-2

  • Food: Well, I think their broth is truly outstanding…and it might even be better than Pho Xe Lua.  But, you’ll see the beef is cooked…even though I asked and the waitress promised that the beef would be raw.  Despite the delicious broth, I thought their pho was OK.   The beef was a bit tough, onions were cut too thick, etc. 

Viet Royale - Falls Church VA  Viet Royale Pho Tai  Viet Royale Pho Tai

  • Service: I ordered to-go so it was fine.
  • Atmosphere:Interior has more character than a lot of pho places.  It’s one big room with probably 25-30 tables.  In the back, they have a small bar which is where you order your food-to-go.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price:  $
  • Overall:I’d skip the pho and order some of the other Vietnamese dishes they offer. 

Details:

  • Hours: 10 AM-11 PM Daily
  • Address: 6767 Wilson Blvd; Falls Church, VA 22044
  • Ph: (703) 533-8388

Next to So’s Your Mom is Astor Mediterrean, a neighborhood joint that prominently thrives on takeout orders.  Here’s their menu.

  • Food:I’ve ordered a lot of their chicken kebobs and lamb (or chicken) gyros in the five years I’ve lived here.   Despite their sometimes dry chicken, it’s still delicious.  The fries are super crispy and hot — a must in my book.   

Astor Mediterrean - Lamb Gyro and Fries

  • Service: When you walk in, they have a large display case with their various sides and above that, a huge menu of options.  When you’re ready to order, go to the cash register to order and pay.  Then you huddle around the counter (or run other errands) while you wait for your number to be called.
  • Atmosphere:In the summer, they have 3-4 tables and chairs, and if you like to people watch, it’s a perfect spot to go.  You’re on the sidewalk by the Bank of America ATM line.  They did a renovation to the restaurant a few years ago, which greatly improved the interior, but it’s still not that conducive to sit-down dining.  Instead, most pick-up their food orders and take it back to their respective homes. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall:If you’re new to the Adams Morgan neighborhood, this is a must.  And if you’ve lived here for decades, chances are you’ve visited this nondescript restaurant because the food is good and reasonably priced.  At least that’s why I keep coming back. 

Details:

  • Hours: Mon-Sat 11 AM-10:30 PM; Sun 11 AM-9:30 AM
  • Address: 1829 Columbia Road NW; Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: 202-745-7495

I used to go to the Safeway across the street from Pollo Granjero on a weekly basis — then the Harris Teeter opened up and well, I rarely go anymore.  But, during one of the warmer “winter” days we were having, I decided to make the hike — twice.  And, I even took a photo of their menus!

Pollo Granjero - Adams Morgan  Pollo Granjero Menu  Pollo Granjero Menu

  • Food:  The first time I ordered the 5 piece grilled chicken with fried yuca and salad (you get a choice of two sides).  The chicken was greasy with a subtle, mild flavor.  And when I opened my container, I didn’t see 5 pieces of chicken (do you?).  The five pieces cost $7.99.  In my opinion, the best rotisserie chicken is still at La Granja De Oro

Pollo Granjero Grilled Chicken

I went back a second time because I heard they had the best fried chicken.  This time, I only went for two pieces.  Their mixture is not a heavy coating, but it isn’t light either.  You can detect a slight taste of cornmeal in their batter.  The best?  I wasn’t convinced, but it was good.

Pollo Granjero Fried Chicken

  • Service: It’s fine.
  • Atmosphere: It’s a fast food-type establishment so ambiance isn’t their thing.  They do have a decent number of tables and chairs though. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: I think it’s a decent place for inexpensive food.  But since it’s a bit inconvient for me to go and La Granja De Oro (and my own rotisserie) is closer, well, you know. 

Details:

  • Hours: Not sure, but I think it’s probably 10:30 AM-9/10 PM Daily
  • Address: 1742 Columbia Rd (between N Champlain St & N Ontario Rd); Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: (202) 464-4444

I’ve passed by Capital BBQ a thousand times and have heard from a lot of people that this is THE place for BBQ, but never went in until now.  Here’s their menu

  • Food: I thought I’d get food for lunch and dinner so I ordered their 2 meat plate with 2 sides.  I picked chicken and brisket and smoked home fries and cole slaw.  I figured it’d be a piece or two of chicken and a few pieces of brisket.  Umm, it was actually 4 pieces of chicken and 1/4 lb of brisket.  That’s a lot of food for $14!  The brisket was so tender and moist with bits of crunch and fat.  So awesome.  The chicken was really good too.  They asked whether you want mild or hot BBQ sauce and I, of course, ordered the hot which had a great (small) kick.  Unlike a lot of places, their BBQ sauce wasn’t overly sweet either.  Nice.  I didn’t love the smoked home fries, mostly because they were a bit undercooked.  Also, I didn’t taste the smoked flavor at all, but did taste the pepper.  I’m not a big cole slaw fan, but this one was really creamy and took the heat away from the BBQ sauce. 

Capital Q BBQ Chicken and Brisket  Capital Q BBQ Chicken and Brisket

  • Service: Good and polite.
  • Atmosphere: It’s super casual.  On the tables, they have rolls of paper towels and on the walls, lots of one dollar bills from their customers with messages. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: Bottom line?  You have to go and try their BBQ.  It’s a good thing I don’t live in Chinatown because I think I’d be there all the time!  

Details:

  • Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 AM-9 PM; Fri & Sat 11 Am-10 PM; Sun Noon-8 PM
  • Address: 707 H Street NW; Washington, DC 20001
  • Ph: 202-347-8396

Variety Deli opened up several months ago, but I never went…until recently.  Here are photos of their menu. 

Breakfast menu:

Variety Deli Breakfast Menu  Variety Deli Breakfast Menu

Lunch and Dinner menu:  

Variety Deli Menu  Variety Deli Menu  Variety Deli Menu  Variety Deli Menu  Variety Deli Menu  Variety Deli Menu 

  • Food: I ordered the New Yorker sandwich with pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw on perfectly toasted rye.  While I know that may sound crazy, I’ve found a lot of restaurants don’t let the bread actually toast until it’s light brown.  Instead, they figure if it’s gone through the toaster it’s “toasted.” 

Variety Deli New Yorker Sandwich

  • Atmosphere: The interior is fun with red walls and white tables and chairs.  In the back of the deli, there’s mirrors so the place seem a bit bigger than reality. 
  • Service: The woman behind the counter was very nice and was fast when she was making my sandwich. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: For a quick sandwich, it’s a good spot. 

Details:

  • Hours: 7 AM-9 PM Mon-Thurs; 7 AM-10:30 PM Fri-Sat; 12 noon-7 PM Sun
  • Address: 2120 18th Street NW; Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: 202-234-3354

Nando’s Peri Peri has certainly made a tremendous mark on the city.  I feel like it was the “It” restaurant for a few months.  Anyway, I finally went to try their chicken and to see what those of us in Golden Triangle have to look forward to when it opens.  Here’s their main menu and their take-out menu is here.

  • Food:I felt it was wrong if I didn’t order their chicken so I ordered the 1/4 chicken with medium spice (always feel like medium spice is safe) with a side of their butternut squash and grilled corn.  First, the chicken.  It wasn’t super spicy so then I got a couple of containers (when you pay, ask the cashier for it, not the person who hands you the bag).  Anyway, in the 4th photo, you’ll see I put in the hot sauce (left) and lemon & herb (right) sauce.  The hot sauce definitely had a good kick, but not crazy hot.  The herb sauce had a pungent vinegar smell and a bit of an overwhelming vinegar taste, but it’s OK.  The chicken is moist, but not as moist as La Granja De Oro.  The butternut squash side was good, but not a ton of flavor.  Next time, I’ll try some of their other sides. 

Nando's Peri Peri 1/4 Chicken with Butternut Squash & Grilled Corn  Nando's Peri Peri 1/4 Chicken  Nando's Peri Peri Butternut Squash & Grilled Corn  Nando's Peri Peri Sauce  Nando's Peri Peri

  • Service: I phoned my order in so I wouldn’t have to wait since I had limited time.  So I was pleased when I placed my order they asked if they wanted the chicken to be done before I got there or if they should wait until I arrive.  I asked to have it done before.  Unfortunately, something was lost in translation because I ended up having to wait.  But all their staff were nice and friendly.
  • Atmosphere: Their Interior is comfortable and inviting and makes one think your meal will cost way more than it actually will.  There’s a lot of seating — booths in the back and tables in the front.  The way they work reminds me of Noodles & Company except when you walk in, you are greeted with a number.  Then you put down your things and order at the register/counter.  They then will bring your food at your table and clear your dishes when you’re done. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: Would I go back? Since my meal cost under $9, it’s a tasty bargain.  Does it beat La La Granja De Oro’s 1/4 chicken for under $7?  Definitely not…but it’s still good. 

Details:

  • Hours: 11:30 AM -10 PM Sun-Thurs; 11:30 AM-10:30 PM Fri & Sat
  • Address: 819 7th St NW; Washington, DC 20001
  • Ph: (202) 898-1225

Pho is absolutely my favorite.  It’s fast and easy to make.  In fact, it’s become my “fall back” meal when my fridge is low on food. 

Anyway, I love to get out to Seven Corners whenever possible and I was able to get out there recently to try another new pho place.  This time, it was Pho Time.

  • Food: The broth is greasy and the beef was completely cooked by the time it got to the table (boo).  But I did like that they offered Asian cilantro.  

Pho Time Tai Pho  Pho Time  Pho Time Restaurant Hours  Pho Time Restaurant

  • Service: Like most pho places, they food comes quick and they never check to see how everything is — instead, you have to be proactive to find someone. 
  • Atmosphere: There are about 15-20 tables and a flat screen TV.  The music is loud and American, but like most Pho places, they kindly greet you and allow you to sit anywhere. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: It was OK, but it wasn’t great.  Pho Xe Lua is still my favorite pho.  But if you’re going with a someone who’s not a pho fan, they do have a lot of other food options besides pho. 

Details:

  • Hours: Daily 9 AM-9 PM
  • Address: Eden Center; 6793-D Wilson Blvd; Falls Church, VA 22044
  • Ph: Not sure…sorry!

Post Pub is one of those places that will never win any huge culinary praise, but then again, they don’t care.  It’s about making simple American fare with pretty good beer specials.

  • Food: I’ve been here several times, but during the most recent visit, I ordered a hamburger with fries.  Unfortunately, I had to go back to work so I couldn’t take advantage of their great lunch beer specials.  I always order hamburgers medium rare, but this time, the interior was so raw it was disgusting.  It wasn’t medium rare at all.  Now I know what you’re thinking — you should have sent it back.  I don’t send food back…I don’t know what’s coming back.  But in this situation, if I hadn’t been in such a rush, I would have.  The steak fries though were hot and crispy so that helped. 
  • Service: Our server was fine, nothing memorable.
  • Atmosphere:The inside is wooden panels with antiques.  The restaurant seems a bit weird and disjointed.  Immediately when you walk in, you’re in a tiny dining area but go to the left, and there’s a pretty big bar (15-20 stools) and a lot of booths. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: It’s a perfect place to go — whether it’s for lunch or dinner when you want to go somewhere for a quick lunch with a decent atmosphere.  It’s not fancy, expensive, or loud.  Next time, I’ll just make sure to order my burger medium well. 

Happy Hour: 5-8 PM weekdays with various beer specials.

Details:

  • Hours: Weekdays 11am-12am; Sat 11am-8pm
  • Address: 1422 L St NW, Washington, DC 20005
  • Ph: (202) 628-2111

For five years (since I moved to DC), I had been meaning to go to Super Tacos & Bakery (formerly Tacos Pepitos Bakery II).  But when I would go, they’d run out of meat for the sandwiches.  I finally made it early enough to be able to order their sandwiches.  BTW, here’s some of their menu — the rest can be found here

Super Tacos & Bakery  Super Tacos & Bakery  Cuban Sandwich  Super Tacos & Bakery Sandwich Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Sandwich Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Sandwich Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Combo Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Combo Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Combo Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Tacos Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Burrito Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Fries and Tamale Menu  Super Tacos & Bakery Breakfast Menu

  • Food:I ordered two — the Cubano (photo on the left) and Carnitas (photo on the right).  The sandwiches are absolutely enormous and I didn’t even order the large.  For $7, they are some of the best deals .  There’s fresh tomatoes and avocado — yum.  For me, there were 4 meals — 1/2  a sandwich is definitely enough! 

Super Tacos & Bakery Cubana Sandwich  Super Tacos & Bakery Carnitas Sandwich

  • Service: While Spanish is the predominant language spoken, they do understand English. 
  • Atmosphere: There’s only a few (4-5) stools inside and a couple of tables and stools outside (when it’s nice) so eating in isn’t really an option.  On the right, there’s a huge wooden cabinet full of baked items. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: For those days you’re feeling poor, I’d definitely go here and get a couple of sandwiches for a grand total of $15.40 (tax included).  The good news is that they deliver for free (with a $10 minimum) so anyone who lives in the area can get their fantastic food!  I think next time I’ll try their tacos. 

Details:

  • Hours: Mon-Thu 8 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat 8 am-11 pm; Sun 8 am-10 pm
  • Address: 1762 Columbia Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: 202-232-7121

Organic To Go has taken over downtown DC (or at least it seems).  This chain has come out of no where to suddenly seem as ubiquitous as Pot Belly or Cosi.  I had to check it out and see if there was substance to the hype. 

  • Food: I have to combine service, atmosphere, and food together for this one.  First of all, from their cafe menu, it appears they have a lot of great sandwiches.  However, what they don’t tell you is that more than half of them are actually pre-made.  I hate pre-made sandwiches so that immediately removed a number of the sandwiches.  To see what is available, you have to look at the limited list of sandwiches on the board (above the cash registers) and then there’s more sandwiches at the sandwich counter (but they’re not labeled so you don’t know what kind they are).  Now that you know what sandwiches are actually available and you determine which one you want, you then order at the register and pay.  Then your sandwich can be picked up at the counter.  Anyway, I finally figured out I wanted the turkey veggie (photo on the left) and my friend ordered the turkey pepper jack (photo on the right).  The turkey veggie was good.  But my friend’s description of the turkey pepper jack was awesome — she said it was greasy and tasted like McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin.  Strange and relieving I didn’t order it.  Oh, and they were doing inventory when I was there (at about 11:30 AM) — kinda strange to do it at that time.  

Organic to Go Turkey Veggie  Organic to Go Turkey Pepperjack

  • Service: The cashier people were nice, but the counter people were not, so I never did find out what was in the counter sandwich display.
  • Atmosphere: See “food” section above.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall:I have to wonder if they thought the fast expansion through.  For being a chain with multiple stores in multiple cities, it seems they grew too fast and didn’t take the time to make sure they could actually make the food correctly.  Plus, they had a sign when I was there that said they were no longer making pizza since they couldn’t guarantee uniformity with corporate.  Before they open up any more stores, I’d suggest first streamlining the ordering process and making it clear which sandwiches are available freshly made versus pre-made.  Then we can talk about what exactly is in that turkey pepper jack that makes it taste like a Sausage McMuffin…

Details:

  • Hours: M-F / 6:30AM – 4:00PM
  • Address: 927 15th Street NW; Washington, DC 20005
  • Ph: 800-304-4550

Next to Java Green (the best vegan place), Cafe Chopsticks opened.  Well, actually the restaurant opened in July 2008 and after giving them a month to sort out any “bugs,” I thought it was about time I tried the place out.  BTW, here’s their menu:

   

  • Food:I ordered the veggie ramen which at first, was delicious.  I’ll talk about my initial thoughts on the food first, then go into the after-thoughts.  The broth wasn’t too salty and had a little heat.  The ramen noodles were cooked perfectly.  The problems with the vegetable ramen?  There weren’t a lot of veggies — a couple of bean sprouts, spinach, and tiny shreds of what appeared to be carrots, zucchini, and green onions.  I slurped my way through the bowl and while I was incredibly full, I also felt there was a weird after-taste.  Is there MSG in their soup?  Does anyone know?  And while I was there, I saw someone’s bento box.  It was huge!  Think the size of a cafeteria tray — wow, a lot of food I think!

Cafe Chopsticks Vegetable Ramen Soup  Cafe Chopsticks Vegetable Ramen Soup

  • Service: When you walk in, you can either look at their board or at takeout menus.  Then you order and pay at the counter.  They give you a number and you wait until it’s called.
  • Atmosphere:The interior is quite spacious and comfortable — a bit Zen-like.  Unlike some restaurants, they don’t cram too many tables and chairs.  Plus, they use eco-friend containers and utensils, recycled napkins, etc.  All good stuff!
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall:I really liked the veggie ramen, but would love it even more if they had more veggies in there.  Also, I’d love to know if they add MSG to their soup.  I think for now, I’ll stick to Java Green’s “chicken” ramen.  But I’ll go back to try their very reasonably priced sushi and a bento box.  BTW, they do offer delivery, but only within a 3 block radius, a $70 minimum order, 5% delivery charge, and 24-hour notice. 

Details:

  • Hours: Monday-Friday 10:30 AM-9 PM
  • Address: 1020 19th Street NW; Washington DC  20036
  • Ph: 202-429-1705

You’re going to be mad at me when I say this…but the first time I went to the Greek Deli, I wasn’t a fan.  But my office neighbor said that I had to go back and try it again, so I agreed.  Their menu can be downloaded here.

  • Food: Before I tell you what I ordered, I want to tell you what my office neighbor ordered because it looked SO good (and she said it really was).  She ordered the meatballs in this cream-like sauce.  The meatballs were the size of baseballs (alright, a little smaller but not much smaller!).  I went on the safe side and ordered the chicken gyro.  First, the bad.  The chicken was dry.  But there was enough feta cheese that made it juicy but the cheese was very thick so there was no dripping.  There was an abundance of dill and that added a great flavor to the gyro that most Greek places don’t add.  This was one of the better chicken gyros I’ve had in DC.

Greek Deli Chicken Gyro  Greek Deli Chicken Gyro  Greek Deli Chicken Gyro

  • Service:The line, when you go at 12 noon (or anytime after), is out the door and a quarter of a mile.  It’s crazy.  But what I love is you can tell they know and remember their regulars.  The chef, Kostas Fostieris, is always at the front and is the one who assembles your meals. 
  • Atmosphere: With Greek food items on either side of the line, the restaurant isn’t very big.  You order and pay with the cashier.  To try to help speed up the line, once you’ve paid and ordered, move to the left.  You can eat outside, but there’s not a lot of tables so most people just grab and go. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: I’ll definitely go back and branch out to other items.  But seriously, I’ll only go before 12 noon so I miss the line.   

Details:

  • Hours: Monday through Friday, 7am-4pm; Closed on Saturday and Sunday
  • Address: 1120 19th Street NW; Washington, DC 20036
  • Ph: (202) 296-2111

If you’re like me, you find that when you step outside for lunch from your office, you find you go to the same spots.  So thanks to this blog, I’ve been going to new places all the time.  The Brown Bag is another one of those new spots.

  • Food:I ordered the Love at 1st Bite sandwich.  There is some mayo on this tuna sandwich, but not a lot so it worked for me (and we all know I hate mayo!).  There’s a perfect combination of onion to tuna to lettuce.  The multi-grain bread is fresh, but it might be even better if they toasted it.  My only complaint is that I would have liked to see more tomato.  I bet next time, if I ask, they’ll put more on.  Sweet.

The Brown Bag Love at First Bite

  • Service:It’s merged with the atmosphere information, but basically, you never have to talk to anyone.  You can also customize your sandwich and unless you have horrible writing, you’ll get exactly what you asked for without worrying the person behind the counter misunderstood.  I like the fact you can order it online too. 
  • Atmosphere:Inside it’s cute with three different lines — one for salads, noodles, and sandwiches.  They also have a bunch of pre-made items in the front cooler.  When you walk in, determine which you’re going to order.  Then they have the laminated order cards and you circle which item you want.  There are 10-15 tables inside in the front of the restaurant.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall:It’s a good sandwich place and I was shocked that I liked their tuna salad sandwich.  The shock comes because I hate mayo and normally don’t order tuna salad out because of the mayo.  I know you’re going to laugh, but I didn’t realize it was tuna salad — I thought it was just going to be albacore tuna.  I’ve never tried their pasta (has anyone else?), but would go back. 

Details:

  • Hours: Monday-Friday 7:30 AM-3:30 PM
  • Address: 818 18th Street NW; Washington, DC 20006
  • Ph: 202-293-0092

Yes, I made out to Virginia!  I was putzing one day and was surprised when I found myself at Seven Corners.  But also so happy because I knew I was in store for outstanding pho!  I decided to go to Eden Center and I wandered into Pho Xe  Lua.

  • Food: They only serve pho but I ordered my standard — Tai pho and an iced tea.  The beef was raw and so paper thin it was awesome.  I slurped my way through the meal and I was contemplating getting a second bowl for the next day.  It was delicious and it’s my favorite bowl of pho so far!

Pho Xe Lua Large Tai Pho  Pho Xe Lua

UPDATE 10/2008: I went again but ordered it to go.  This time, they had ngo gai — Asian cilantro that’s prickly with a kick and awesome.   This is still my favorite pho place…

Pho Xe Lua To Go Pho  Pho Xe Lua To Go Pho

  • Service: There is an older guy who seated me, took my order, and ran the cash register.  There was an older woman walking around as well and a busboy.  They leave you alone to linger as long as you’d like, but this also means they’re not stopping by constantly to refill your soda or ice tea glass. 
  • Atmosphere: There’s 15-20 tables and the interior won’t impress anyone.  When I first sat down, it wasn’t busy but by the time I left, it was almost completely packed.  And in the corner, there was a table of men playing some sort of domino-type game. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: Bring your cash because it’s cash-only!  The large bowl of pho and ice tea was about $11, but it was seriously amazing.  I can’t wait to go back!

Details:

  • Hours: Daily 7:30am- 8:00pm
  • Address:Eden Center; 6755-A Wilson Blvd; Falls Church, VA 22044
  • Ph: 703-533-3130

I was originally planning on going to somewhere on M Street for lunch, but when I saw the tables both inside and outside of California Grill packed, I had to try it.  And of course, watch out because there’s a California Grill on Vermont Ave too!

 

  • Food:I ordered their special, the beef burrito, which was pre-made.  I rarely order anything that’s pre-made and I was reminded why.  You can see the photo for yourself.  I can’t lie — it was horrible.  The salsa was really sweet and had this weird tang.  The beef was hard and overcooked.  The rice was also overcooked.  While it may have been $5, I would have much rather eat a $5 from the new burrito cart guy.  So since I had such a dismal experience the first time, I had to go back and try it again.  This time, I ordered their turkey Reuben and while it was good, I think So’s Your Mom is better.

California Grill Beef Burrito  California Grill Beef Burrito  California Grill Beef Burrito 

California Grill Turkey Reuben  California Grill Turkey Reuben

  • Service:They are really nice.  Depending on what you want to order (salad, sandwich, pre-made, etc.), you order from the guy behind the right sign at the counter. 
  • Atmosphere: Inside it reminds me a bit of a Wendy’s (I think — it’s been so long since I’ve been in one!) with their light wood panels.  It’s a pretty big restaurant so they have a lot of seating inside.  They also have 4-6 tables outside. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: If your office is super close, I can see going here a lot since they are so nice and they serve decent sandwiches.  For the days you’re in a rush, they can make your sandwich and get you out in less than 10 minutes which is great. 

Details:

  • Hours: Mon-Fri 6 AM-4:30 PM; Sat 7 AM-2:30 PM
  • Address: 1720 M Street NW; Washington, DC 20036
  • Ph: 202-463-4200

In the five years that I’ve lived in DC, it seems Pot Belly has taken over the town.  Yes, I know, it’s a bit like a chain…but it’s sometimes incredibly convenient/easy for me to go sometimes when it’s late at the office and grab dinner. 

 

  • Food: I’ve ordered a lot of food at Pot Belly, but my standard is their turkey on wheat (photo on the left).  It’s toasted (like Quizno’s) and they have some good topping options.  Their hot peppers are soaked in oil which makes the sandwich greasy (boo).  They’ve recently added salads to their menu and I tried their Italian salad with non-fat vinaigrette dressing (photo on the right).  It has this great sweet tang to it and didn’t taste non-fat.  The croutons, which I am betting were homemade (what else are they going to do with all that stale bread?), were a little soggy, but well seasoned.  

Pot Belly Turkey Sandwich  Pot Belly Italian Salad

  • Service: They’re definitely efficient.  Whenever you see the line snake outside the door, it’s a little shocking.  But they are quick and even with that kind of a line, you can usually get your sandwich in under 20 minutes.
  • Atmosphere: They have live music during the lunch hour which can be fun. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Overall: It’s good food at a good price.  While they no longer offer their $3.29 sandwiches (they’re now $4.19), it’s still a good deal.  The salads are a bit more (like $5.29), but they are yummy and quite filling.  Also, when I feel the need to splurge, there’s nothing like their Oreo shake. 

Details:

  • Hours/Address/Ph: To find the local one near you, click here.

My quest for the best pho (easily accessible by metro) continues.  So I thought I’d try Pho 75 (after hearing so much about the place!).

  • Food: When I ordered the tai bowl of pho to go, I asked if I could get the beef raw.  I was told that they never serve raw beef (boo!).  Once I got home, I opened the bag of sides they gave me which included jalapenos, bean sprouts, basil leaves, and a lime wedge.  Then they also had a small take out container of rice noodles with green onions and cilantro.  There was also a small container with a mixture of hoisin and sriracha sauce.  Since it took me a little bit to walk home, I opened the container of broth and put in the microwave for a few minutes.  I was disappointed I couldn’t smell any star anise like I could with Nam-Viet/Pho 79

Pho 75 Soup  Pho 75  Pho 75

UPDATE 8/2008– I went again and sat down to eat the bowl of pho tai.  They are incredibly speedy!  I liked it, but it’s not my favorite bowl…plus, is it just me or does it look greasier than the others?  For right now, it’s Pho Xe Lua.  I’d buy a car just to go there…

Pho 75 Tai Bowl

  • Service: I ordered to go (and was charged an extra $0.50 for it).  When you order to go, just go straight to the back counter to order and pay.  Also, they only accept cash so make sure you’re prepared!
  • Atmosphere: When you walk inside, there’s rows of tables and chairs so you’ll be eating family style.  The atmosphere will not impress anyone, but it’s simple.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Overall:I have to be honest — I didn’t like Pho 75 nearly as much as I did like Pho 79.  It was the broth’s lack of star anise flavor and the fact the beef was cooked.  I have heard the Pho 75 in Rosslyn is better so I’ll have to try that one out sometime.  BTW, when you take the metro, it’s about halfway between the Clarendon and Rosslyn metro stop.  I walked out the Clarendon metro and then walked downhill to catch the Rosslyn metro. 

Details:

  • Hours: Daily 9 am-8 pm
  • Address: 1721 Wilson Blvd; Arlington, VA 22209
  • Ph: (703) 525-7355

Across the street from Casa Blana is Vermont Village Cafe.  It kinda reminds me of the Seinfeld episode with Babu Bhatt and his restaurant that offers a lot of different ethnic foods.  Some of their offerings can be found here.  They have a bigger menu at their restaurant (including breakfast). 

  • Food:I was in a meat mood and so I ordered a steak classic with cheese, onions, mushrooms, and tomato.  I asked for it on a wrap (no hoagie), skipped the mayo, and asked for jalapenos.  The beef was a little gristly and tough to cut with the chompers, but it was satisfying.  I think because it was a wrap and kind of looked like a burrito from the outside, I got a side of salsa and sour cream in my bag.  The salsa was a bit too sweet for my taste.

Vermont Village Cafe

  • Service: When you enter, the menu is on the right hand side of the wall.  Then you order from the guy at the register below the menu.  You grab your order and then go straight to the back to the second register and pay.  You’ll get a number and they call it out.  For folks who are dining in, they’ll bring it to you on a tray.
  • Atmosphere: They have a few outside tables as well as a nice inside dining section.  It has more charm than most cafes in the area, but it’s not going to wow anyone either. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: I’d go back for lunch, but would order their chicken instead of the beef.  The burrito was filling and I thought it was pretty healthy.  Plus, it was very filling!

Details:

  • Hours: M-F 7a – 4p; Closed weekends
  • Address: 1025 Vermont Ave NW; Washington, DC 20005
  • Ph: (202) 393-3260

My friend was craving a Philly Steak sandwich but didn’t have a lot of time to run out for lunch so we decided to try out California Grill (when you click, there’s a link to the menu).  And careful because there’s a California Grill on M Street!

  • Food: I love turkey reubens like no one else so that’s what I ordered.  It was solid and decent food.  While we got it to go, the top of the bread was still toasted but the bottom was a bit soggy.  I ordered the fries (not a cole slaw person) but would definitely skip that next time.  They weren’t crispy.  But the turkey was really outstanding because it tasted like it was carved, not the shaved deli-stuff (which I like too!). 

California Grill Turkey Rueben

  • Service: I’m combining service and atmosphere here on this one.  When you walk in, the line is strange and confusing.  After a lot of questions, we finally figured it out.  When you want to order, you need to go to the counter (underneath the menu board) and order where you’ll get a tickete.  Then once your order is up, you’ll pick it up from the ledge.  Then you pay. 
  • Atmosphere: See above.  It’s definitely casual and it’s funny because directly acrosss from the cash register is their “back office” where they have their employee time clock, invoices, etc.  They do have a lot of seating, but there’s not a tremendous amount of ambiance. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $
  • Overall: I’ll go back because after the ~$6 sandwich, I didn’t eat dinner.  It was insanely filling.   

Details:

  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 7 AM-4 PM; closed Sunday
  • Address: 1090 Vermont Ave NW; Washington, DC 20005
  • Ph: (202) 408-8484

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