U Street/Cardozo


Thanks to Etete, I love Ethiopian now.  I had heard the other great Ethiopian restaurant was Queen Makeda, conveniently located across the street.   It was hard to not go back to Etete, but one day my only friend who likes Ethiopian and I decided to try it.  Here’s Queen Makeda’s menu:

Queen Makeda Ethiopian Menu  Queen Makeda Ethiopian Menu

  • Food:  We ordered the lamb and vegetarian plate.  The lamb was a bit grisly and I thought some of the vegetarian options were a bit bland. If you look at the photo of the plate, here’s what I thought of the food (and apologizes because I don’t know the names of everything…well, of anything really): starting at 12 o’clock (at the top), not a fan.  It was a cabbage and carrot thing that was bland.  At 1 was kale that was bland; at 2 was a spicy thing that was awesome and delicious; at 3 was a corn thing that was also awesome and I loved it; at 6 the yellow thing I wasn’t such a fan of but my friend loved it; and finally  the other red thing was yummy.

Queen Makeda Ethiopian

  • Service: They are incredibly nice and welcoming.  When you enter, you’re immediately greeted.  The servers are nice and polite. 
  • Atmosphere:You can sit upstairs or downstairs with the flat screen TV and faux fireplace.  We chose to sit downstairs and it felt like I was in a person’s house — it’s very comfortable.

Queen Makeda Ethiopian  Queen Makeda Ethiopian

  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall:While the food and service was good, my friend and I concurred that the best Ethiopian is Etete

Details:

  • Hours: 11 AM-1 AM Monday-Sunday
  • Address: 1917 9th St, Washington DC 20001
  • Ph: (202) 232-5665

First, let me just say that for the last five years, I thought I didn’t like Ethiopian food.  I had gone to this one restaurant twice and didn’t like it.  I thought I had tried it and it wasn’t for me.  I had been talking with a friend and we agreed we wanted to try Ethiopian — specifically, Etete.  Well, I used to not like it.  But then I went to Etete.  I love it!  Here’s their menu.

  • Food: First, we ordered Sambusa with lentil.  This was delicious!  The fried pastry was hot (temperature and spice).  I can’t remember exactly what the title of what I ordered was, but it was the spicy lamb while my friend ordered the spicy beef.  My lamb was awesome.  It was tender and spicy.  The beef was good, but I definitely think I ordered the best!  On the side, were given sauted cabbage (in butter?) with carrots which was yummy.   Then there was a plain iceberg salad with tomatoes and lots of oil.  I ordered an ice tea which had a strong but yummy nutmeg and cinnamon flavor and smell.   And here’s the shocker — it also had cardamon but I liked it.  BTW, I’ve been here twice with the same friend.  We still ordered the sambusa but changed our main entree.   I ordered the Etete Kitfo with minced meat and it had a sutle but good kick.  I really liked it.  My friend ordered the vegetarian Goman and it was good. 
  • Service:  Despite the fact the restaurant wasn’t busy, our server was frequently MIA.  We had to find her to ask for a refill on water and get another round of beer.
  • Atmosphere: Inside it’s very comfortable and cozy.  Be prepared to have neighbors listen to your conversation — at least we did!  Seriously, they didn’t talk to each other at all during their meal.  Instead, they listened to our conversation.  Funny.  The downstairs has a bar with 10 stools and there’s a few tall tables and stools as well.  There’s a wall of wooden bench seats which are higher than the chairs.  So if you’re sitting  in a chair, you’re going to be shorter than the person on the wooden bench.  Photo gallery is here.  Upstairs there’s more seating, another bar, and another bathroom.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: Can you tell I ws surprised to love Etete?  I talked to my friend post-dinner a few days later and we concurred that we must go back and soon!  I’m starting to have a serious craving for Ethiopian.  Etete is absolutely one of the best Ethiopian restaurants — if not THE best.  It changed my opinion of Ethiopian food!

Details:

  • Hours: Daily 11 AM-1 AM
  • Address: 1942 9th St NW; Washington, DC 20001
  • Ph: (202) 232-7600

I went to Thai X-ing with a friend who had a car because otherwise, I don’t think I would have ever had a chance to try it.  Their menu can be found here.

  • Food: We ordered spring rolls which I didn’t love because I thought they were a bit bland.  But everything else we ordered was so good!  We also ordered Veggie Pad Thai which was sweeter than the normal pad thai you’d get at other restaurants, but then had a slight heat kick at the end.  It was fantastic!  Then we ordered Chicken Vigsittaboot with watercress and spicy peanut sauce which was also amazing. 

Thai X-ing Spring Rolls  Thai X-ing Veggie Pad Thai  Thai X-ing Chicken Vigsittaboot

  • Service: There’s one guy who cooks everything so his overhead has to be pretty low.  But it also means that you’re frequently waiting — even if you call in advance.  I called and placed our order and was told it’d take 40 minutes yet when we arrived about an hour later, he hadn’t even cooked it yet.  So if you have plans that require you to be somewhere at a certain time, this is not the restaurant for you.  I’d only go when you have no plans except dinner…just in case!
  • Atmosphere: While he has a table and chairs, it’s definitely a grab-and-go place.  There are lots of chairs and items on the wall to entertain you while you’re waiting for your food.
  • Attire: It’s to-go so it doesn’t matter.
  • Price: $
  • Overall: The Chicken Vigsittaboot was really good.  The pad thai was unique.  I’m looking forward to the next time I get to go back and try some of his curry dishes that I’ve heard so much about.  Definitely a hidden gem in DC! 

Details:

  • Hours: Tues-Sun 4-10 PM (delivery only happens on Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Address: 515 Florida Ave, Washington DC 20001
  • Ph: 202-332-4322

I recently went to Bohemian Caverns on their improve Big Band night and was pleasantly surprised by the talent on the stage. 

You have to go through a separate door from their restaurant, I think it’s green and on the corner of the building (if you’re at the main restaurant door, you go to the right). 

Once you enter that door, you’ll go down a flight of stairs.  Immediately when you walk in, there are around 7 tables with chairs on the left, then on the right there’s the stage, beyond that there’s 3-4 big sofas, and then the bar with stools in the back.  And the interior?  It’s honestly like a cave with stalactites. 

While their bar isn’t impressive — there’s not a tremendously wide selection of liquor, beer, or wine — the music is pretty good.  The Washington Post has a nice write-up of the history of the place.

For anyone who likes jazz, you should check out this place.  Their schedule can be found here.

Details:

  • Hours: Tues: 6:00PM – 11:00PM; Wed: 8:00PM – 12:00AM; Thur: 6:00PM – 1:00AM; Fri: 6:00PM – 1:30AM; Sat: 6:00PM – 1:30AM
  • Address: 2003 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
  • Ph: (202) 299-0800

I’m one of those.  I like to read reviews about places before I go so I know what to expect.  And the review I read about Vinoteca and their food was, to put it nicely, dismal.  So what do I do when my friend, who was going with me, asked about this place?  I say,  “Yeah, the wine list is supposed to be pretty good but the food supposedly sucks.”  Ha ha, nothing like setting everyone’s expectations!  

  • Food:After reading the horrible reviews about this place, my expectations were incredibly low.  While our server provided water right away, we didn’t get any bread until we ordered our food.  So we started off with a trio of charcuterie.  The bread was interesting that they provided — it was dark with black olives perhaps?  Not quite sure what kind of bread it was, but it was a bit dry.  I preferred the second type of bread that they gave us (after we asked for more) which was softer than a baguette, but had a good flavor.  Then we ordered their $12 mussels.  When you compare their mussels with the $8.25 from Les Halles, there’s no comparison.  Les Halles rules.  
  • Service: Our server didn’t seem happy about working when we were there.  She never smiled and seemed annoyed when we needed a couple of minutes to review the menu.
  • Atmosphere: They offer some great photos on their Web site here.  Inside it’s a comfortable (yet very loud) bar.  The dining area is small, but seems like a good spot for large groups. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: I’d go again for their happy hour to try their sliders, but to go pay full-priced considering the service and their mussels, I’d skip it. 

Happy Hour— Sunday-Thursday from 5-7 PM, they offer 10 wines by the glass; 3 sliders for $6; and 1/2 panini and fall squash soup for $5.55.

Details:

  • Hours: Sun 4:30 PM-2 AM; Mon closed; Tues-Thurs 4:30 PM-2 AM; Fri & Sat 4:30 PM-3 AM; Brunch Sat & Sun 10 AM-3 PM
  • Address: 1940 11th Street NW; Washington, DC 20001
  • Ph: 202-332-WINE

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m starting to go to places that are a bit more “off-the-beaten-road” in DC.  Perhaps they aren’t too well-known.  I don’t think El Tamarindo falls into the unknown category, but I had never been.  And luckily, neither had one of my friends. 

  • Food: As soon as we sat down, we received a free order of chips and salsa.  The salsa was a bit runny for my taste, but it was spicy.  We ordered a half pitcher of mango margaritas which were pretty good — and almost tasted like summer.  I ordered the steak fajitas and they were really dry and overcooked.  But the chips were pretty good and the mango margaritas would make me go back.  For the fajitas though, I’d hit up Mixtec
  • Service:Nice and attentive servers.
  • Atmosphere: It’s actually much bigger than you would think and with 3-4 TVs throughout the two dining areas, you can even catch a game or two. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: I would come here for free chips and salsa and margaritas, but for the main course, I’d rather spend my money at Mixtec

Happy Hour:  Monday-Friday 4-7 PM there’s 2 for 1 lime margaritas and beer. 

Details:

  • Reservations accepted.
  • Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 AM-3 AM; Fri 11 AM-5 AM; Sat & Sun 10 AM-5 AM 
  • Address: 1785 Florida Ave NW; Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: (202) 328-3660

I love my friends for many reasons.  But the main reason is because they’re incredibly smart — they are well-read, highly educated (whether through formal education or on their own), etc.  And most of them have also traveled extensively (funny because I really haven’t, but it’s something I’d love to do!) . 

It’s this last reason that I went to the Islander.  One of my friends has traveled more than anyone else I know, so when she said that this was one of the best Trinidadian restaurants she’s ever been to — I knew I had to go. 

  • Food: My friend made a lot of recommendations, but she said her favorite was the potato and chana roti (note that this isn’t the photo of what we got, but it was a great description and photo of the food!).  It comes with a side of this hot sauce which consists of mustard, hot peppers (she said it’s the size of black peppercorns but with the heat of a habanero), vinegar, salt, and a couple of other ingredients.  Before I had a chance to dump the hot sauce all over my roti, my friend warned me that it was insanely hot and to use a little bit.  Thank God she said that because it was fiercely hot.  I love hot food, but holy cow was this spicy!  The roti was fantastic and the hot sauce was a perfect addition.  We also ordered fried plantains, which might be the best in the city — except there was no creme fraiche or any other side to dip them in.  Regardless, they were really good.
  • Service:They were polite and kept calling everyone “honey.”  I felt like I was in someone’s house and not a restaurant.  
  • Atmosphere: What it lacks on the interior, it makes up for in the food.  If you’re looking for an upscale experience, this isn’t it.  But if you’re looking for authentic Caribbean food, this is the place for you.
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: I’m looking forward to going back and trying some of their other dishes like their Calypso Chicken and brown stew chicken.  But really, I’m looking forward to that hot sauce.  Wow!  On Saturday nights between 8-midnight, they offer live jazz and Wednesdays from 7:30 PM-11:30 PM is karaoke.  For the list of events, please click here.

Details:

  • Reservations are accepted.
  • Hours: Mon closed; Tues-Wed 12 PM-10 PM; Thur 12 PM-11 PM; Fri-Sat 12 PM-12 AM; Sun 1 PM-11 PM
  • Address: 1201 U Street NW; Washington, DC
  • Ph: 202-234-4871

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