Category Archives: Adams Morgan

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DC Battle of the Bagels: Rating Three Area Bagel Shops

What’s it like to have baked onion bits on your face, stuck to your fingers, down your shirt and all over your kitchen counter?  If you’re an onion bagel fan like myself, it’s glorious. And, well, that’s the price to pay for conducting a thorough bagel taste test.

In an attempt to find a few of DC’s best bagels, I traveled far and wide (okay, not that far or wide) to four stops. Unfortunately, Palena Cafe was sold out of bagels on this particular morning, so that left three: Bethesda Bagels, So’s Your Mom, and Pumpernickels.

To make a fair comparison, I ordered onion bagels across the board. Here are my thoughts, and a rating — a “five bagel” rating being the best.

Bethesda Bagels
1718 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-299-9399

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One of the best in the area, but also the toughest stop on the tour, only because it has by far the longest wait.  Expect long lines; the place gets extremely crowded, so you need to know that going in.  And this being Dupont Circle, you’ll see plenty of ladies in yoga pants. Not that I’m complaining.

Bagels are $1.10 apiece. There’s a wide selection of flavors to select from, including “sport-energy,” whatever that means.

Size-wise they’re the biggest of the three I tried, with the familiar puffed-up shape resembling an inner tube. The crust has a nice sheen with a decent crunch, and a generous sprinkling of onion bits dot both sides.

Good chewiness and bite. Toasts up nicely. Of the bagels I’ve tried in DC, I’d say Bethesda Bagels gets the closest to the New York standard.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bagels

 

So’s Your Mom
1831 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC
202-462-3666

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Adams Morgan’s bagel and sandwich shop is family-run with fast, efficient and friendly service. Compared to the 15 minute wait at Bethesda Bagels, I was in and out of So’s Your Mom in about three minutes. That’s hard to beat.

Bagels run $.95 apiece. They’re fat like Bethesda’s, but slightly smaller. Again, a substantial heaping of tasty onion bits cling to both sides.

The crust isn’t quite as crispy as Bethesda’s, and there’s a little less overall chewiness, but still a very solid bagel.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 bagels

 

Pumpernickels Bagelry & Delicatessen
5504 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-244-9505

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An employee at my neighborhood running store made a strong statement: “Pumpernickels makes by FAR the best bagels in DC.”

Whoa now, that got my attention. She said it with such conviction that either she was right, or her family owned the place.

$.95 per bagel here. As you can see, it’s smaller, flatter and denser than the first two. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer a fuller shape. Not much crust to speak of, and the inside’s not especially chewy. This was the saltiest bagel of the three, and here’s the rub: onions on one side only. The bottom was onion-free.

The Pumpernickels bagel also fared the worst after toasting. It just didn’t have the volume or crunch/chew of the other two.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bagels

The overall winner of this round of taste tasting: Bethesda Bagels.

What to do with your extra bagels? Throw them in a Ziploc gallon bag, press the air out and toss the bag in the freezer. When you want to eat one, microwave it for about 20 seconds and it’s ready to be toasted or thrown in the oven.

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Winter is No Match for Sakuramen

The restorative and soothing properties of soup cannot be overstated, particularly on a cold, winter night.  Soup warms you from the inside — something layers of clothing can’t do. And on the most basic level it’s comforting, harkening back to when you were sick as a kid and a warm bowl of soup made you feel better.

On a recent bitingly chilly night, my friend Claudia and I found the perfect antidote to the cold: a steaming bowl of ramen.

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Down the stairs into Sakuramen’s tight dining space. A table full of Asians at the front, a good sign. (It’s okay, as a fellow Asian I’m allowed to make those observations.)

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To kick things off, spicy pork buns.

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My mouth is watering as I type this. Soft, steamed buns — like baozi buns, but flat — filled with spicy pork and shredded scallion. Fold it up like a taco and eat.

Then, ramen time.

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This was the chosun, a Korean-inspired bowl of bulgogi beef, roasted kimchi, nori, scallions, egg and thin ramen noodles.

Nope, these aren’t the ramen noodles you subsisted on in college — you know, the ones you cracked in half and doused with a seasoning packet. These noodles had character and bite. Each area of the bowl was like a hidden surprise, balanced out with the flavorful broth. I settled in to a rhythm of slurp, chew, slurp, chew, until it was all gone.  I felt warm and invigorated. Cold weather? What cold weather?

The final bit of comfort, green tea mochi. Usually they’re served without accompaniments, but these came on a plate with a drizzle of chocolate, blueberries and a cookie wafer. Nice.

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To have not one, but two ramen restaurants, plus a Pho 14, so close by?  Thank you, Asian food gods.

Sakuramen
2441 18th St. NW
Washington, DC
202-656-5285

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Three Brunches, Three Sighs of Contentment

There’s no deep mystery behind the formula for a successful brunch. Basically, you want to offer a breakfast option, such as eggs, provide enough food to tide us over until dinner (it is breakfast and lunch after all), and serve everything up in a comfortable, casual environment.

These three restaurants fit the bill nicely.

Kafe Leopold

In Georgetown, you’ll find Kafe Leopold tucked away in a cozy space between M Street and Cadys Alley. If the weather’s warm enough, try to snag a table on the shaded, cobblestone patio with its bubbling fountain, because it’s quite atmospheric.

The inside’s sleek, bright and airy, with natural light streaming through the windows and all-white furniture that reminds me of IKEA.

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I got the eggs with grilled ham and toast.

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I’m blanking now on exactly what this is that my friend Melissa ordered. I know it’s vegetarian, and am pretty sure it’s an assortment of tea sandwiches with different types of cheese.

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A visit to Kafe Leopold is not complete without at least a gaze toward their dessert display case.  This pic does not do it justice.

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After each getting up to check out the offerings, Melissa and I named our top three options. We shared the dessert that was on both our lists, the Napoleon.

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Good lord.  Anything with puff pastry gets me, and this was a tour de force of flaky and crunchy. The vanilla cream and dabble of berries put it over the top. “Mmmmmmmm” was the general verdict.

L’Enfant Cafe

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A neighborhood spot on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. If they had TVs, this is where I’d come during the summer to nibble on a crepe and watch the Tour de France.

My three friends and I wandered in, hungry and perhaps slightly sleepy from a holiday party the night before.

I really like the brick walls and homey bar in the dining room. The diners were a nice cross section of neighborhood couples, groups and families. (With extremely well behaved small children who miraculously didn’t scream or shout. Thank you restaurant gods.)

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My frittata with seasonal vegetables, goat cheese and potatoes really hit the spot.

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And that fantastic bacon needs a special shout out. So meaty and well cooked. That’s how all bacon should be.

The Original Pancake House

As I walked up to the Bethesda restaurant yesterday to meet my friends, there was no sign of life from the outside. Great! I thought. There’ll be no wait. Everyone’s gone home for the holidays!

Um, no, it was packed. We entered and I was immediately pinballed around, bumping into people from all directions in the small waiting area. This place does boffo business.

Ended up being about a 15-minute wait, not bad at all considering there were six of us and it was the peak of brunch hour.

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As the name suggests, you probably want to order pancakes here.  They’ve got almost every variation you can think of. (Except for Johnny Cakes, the cornmeal pancakes that I will always associate with “The Sopranos.” RIP Vito Spatafore.)

The menu at The Original Pancake House hilariously lists the calorie counts for each item. My friend Matt says it’s a law in Montgomery County. My advice: Don’t look at the calorie count. You don’t want to know.

Didn’t matter much to us anyway; this was a fit group of people. Fay and Randy ran eight and ten miles respectively to the restaurant, for God’s sake.  I think they earned the right to pig out on whatever they wanted.

I chose “The Works”: two eggs, bacon, hash browns, and three pancakes. Here are the blueberry pancakes.

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Near the end of the meal, Matt said, “You’ve got to take a before and after picture!”

Before:

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And after:

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There you have it. Three spots that will all leave you yearning for a pleasant food coma nap. Can’t go wrong with any of them.

Happy brunching!

Kafe Leopold
3315 M Street, NW
Washington, DC
202-965-6005

L’Enfant Cafe
2000 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC
202-319-1800

The Original Pancake House
7703 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD
301-986-0285

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Bubble Teas in the District

As much as I enjoy Eden Center in Falls Church, the thought of getting in the car and driving out there every time I want a bubble tea isn’t appealing.  Especially if there’s traffic.

That’s why I’m so ecstatic to know that honest-to-goodness bubble tea can be had in DC — not only that, but a mere 15-minute walk from where I live. Am I excited? Hell yeah!

I’ve sampled two bubble teas in the District in the past week — the first was at Shanghai Tea House in Glover Park.  This was the large papaya flavor.

It arrived with ice in this cool-looking green glass. Milk based, with a nice mellow flavor. Less sweet than other teas. The tapioca pearls were cooked just right and I eagerly slurped them through the giant straw.

My friend and I also each ordered soup dumplings. Bubble tea and soup dumplings are the perfect afternoon snack.

This second bubble tea spot is in Adams Morgan at Kogibow Bakery. Many a time I’ve walked by or ridden past on the Circulator bus, spotted “Bubble Drinks” on their sign and thought, I’ve GOT to stop in there.

Here’s their list of bubble teas:

And my pineapple flavor.

So refreshing on a warm day. Definitely contained real pineapple juice too, not artificial flavoring. The tapioca pearls were a little odd — chewy, but also squishy? I don’t know why, but the first bite made me think I was biting into an eyeball. Not that I have much experience with that. They weren’t that bad, really.  Just not quite on par with other tapioca pearls — and they could have been sweeter.

Still, I can easily put up with eyeball-texture tapioca pearls. I happily strolled back to Woodley Park, bubble tea in hand. Now that I know about Kogibow Bakery, it’s a stroll I’ll be taking many, many times this summer.

Shanghai Tea House
2400 Wisconsin Ave.
Washington, DC
202-338-3815

Kogibow Bakery
1817 Adams Mills Rd.
Washington, DC
202-332-1202

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Didn’t Injera Used to Be Sour?

Used to be, you’d mention Ethiopian food to someone and receive a passionate response of “Oh, I love Ethiopian!’, or “I really can’t stand injera.” Spongy and slightly sour from fermentation, injera, the Ethiopian flatbread, was the great divider.  Either you were on board with it or you weren’t.

The last few times I’ve had Ethiopian though, there’s been a change.  The familiar tangy sourness is gone.  Did the Ethiopian restaurants modify their injera recipes en masse? What happened to the sour?

Take the injera at Meskerem in Adams Morgan, where my friend Melissa and I shared the vegetarian platter. As is the norm, the various stews were served on a giant piece of injera, with several extra pieces on the side.

No tang.  Neutral taste, really. Still an effective vehicle for picking up the food, but I missed the zing.

Maybe the restaurants decided they needed to alter the recipe to appeal to a wider range of people. I would have rather they made customers adapt to their taste, not the other way around.

It appears injera in the U.S. has been neutered, and that’s a shame. Bring back the sour!

Meskerem
2434 18th St. NW
Washington, DC
202-462-4100