Ping Pong Dim Sum- Dupont (DC)

I had been talking about scheduling a happy hour with a few of my high school classmates/ friends who live in the area for a number of years now. It seems like the longer I live here, the more people move here. So, I finally got my stuff together to schedule one. My criteria for choosing a place was that it needed to be centrally located, easy to get to, and have decent happy hour specials. Ping Pong Dim Sum in Dupont Circle fit the bill perfectly. It was also a place I had been meaning to check out for a number of years. So, why not check off two Get On That Already tasks on my Life List at once? I’ve never done dim sum and the only dumplings I’ve ever had have been cheap Chinese delivery. The happy hour cocktail menu also looked promising.

I have this issue where I am chronically terribly early for everything all the time. I hopped the Circulator over from Georgetown to Dupont. Planning for rush hour traffic and hating to be late, I gave myself plenty of time. It ended up being totally unnecessary and I was over 30 minutes early. It’s a blessing and a curse. Undeterred, I headed into the totally empty bar and sat down anyway. I’m sure I looked super silly saving 3 other seats at the empty bar, but you can never be too careful! Since I had perused the menu beforehand, I knew immediately what I wanted from the happy hour menu. I started with the Vanilla, Lemon, and Vodka. It was a combination of all those things, topped with soda, and it was huge. The bartender also brought over a dish of wasabi peas for me to munch on while I waited. They were a nice balance to the sweetness of the cocktail (which was very sweet). My friends arrived, and I eventually went for the honeysuckle margarita. It was also fairly sweet. It had tiny slivers of honeydew and a honeysuckle-flavored (that exists?) lollypop in the glass. Some people may be turned off by chunks of fruit in their drink, but I liked it. Nice bursts of refreshing flavor to offset some of the sweetness. We ordered food and I went for the steamed shrimp and chive dumplings. I had already eaten sort of a silly amount of wasabi peas, so these 3 dumplings were a nice little snack. They were served with chili sauce on the side. I vote they should increase the chives to give them a little more of tangy flavor, but not bad. My last drink was one that everyone else got to before me, the Ping Pong. The bartender promised it was strong, but my companions weren’t so sure. The least descriptive name of the bunch, it has martini bianco, white wine, lychee juice, and Asian basil seeds.  Following suit, it was also fairly sweet, but tasty. And fun, with the gelatinous seeds floating in it, it reminded me a little bit of bubble tea.

I wish their beer selection had been a little bit better. After the 2nd cocktail, I was ready for something not-so-sweet, but alas. Overall, a fun night with old friends. I’ll be back to try more of the food eventually.

  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I definitely want to try more of their dumplings. I didn’t even look at the regular menu. It would be fun to sit down at a table with a few people and order and try a lot of different things. That’s the point of dim sum, right?
  • What makes this place stand out: The bar was nice and not too terribly loud for our small group. They also have a HUGE outdoor seating area that would have been really nice to enjoy had it not been 30 degrees below seasonable temperatures with ridiculous wind on this particular day.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): In a couple of months. Next time I was craving dumplings. Or a super sweet drink.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Take your pick. If the happy hour food options aren’t enough, you could grab quick and easy dinner SweetGreen, BGR, or ShopHouse on Connecticut Ave. If you’re looking for a second bar, Big Hunt is a good place for a beer.
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Favorite Friday: Nellie’s Sports Bar (DC)

Ahhh, Nellie’s. Many a birthday has been celebrated here. In fact, I think I’ve ended up at Nellie’s on my birthday for most years that I’ve lived in the area. And now that I’m friends with the owner on Facebook, my name goes up on the chalk boards. It has become my tradition to get a picture of myself in front of it. I was originally drawn to Nellie’s because it was a gay bar. A gay sports bar, in fact. I kept going back because of how comfortable it is there. The space is huge, with 3 different bars, the servers and bartenders are friendly (and pretty), and the Happy Hour specials, where you can get beers for $2, 3, and 4 from 5-8pm, are unbeatable. It’s more than that though. DC became home because of the community I fell into with Nellie’s and DC Gay Flag Football. It feels like a home base. I never don’t see someone else I know there. The day that DOMA was repealed, our first thought was to go there and celebrate with our friends. And we did. That’s the kind of place Nellie’s is.

What I usually order: Usually a salad, burger, or empanadas. All 3 are solid choices here. Oh the wings or the nachos!  For a sports bar, the food is really good. And beer. I’ve consumed so much Miller Lite here. I was pleased to see a couple of weeks ago that they do have quite a few microbrews on draft upstairs now.
Why I keep going back: So many reasons. There was a point when I was here at least once per week. Now, I’m mostly there for flag football events and hangouts. It’s just a good, comfortable, easy default spot.
Thing I still haven’t tried yet: As far as the food, there’s not much on the menu I haven’t tried! I still haven’t been to drag brunch buffet. It always looks super crowded but like so much fun. Maybe after my Sundays free up this summer.
Fun things about this place: The space is an awesome mix of sports memorabilia and gay bar. They have drag brunch, trivia, drag bingo, ping pong, karaoke, pretty much anything you can imagine. They also just put in big tilting windows downstairs so that the dining room will be nice and airy when it finally warms up. OH! And a roof deck! Ah, and the duckies.

Matchbox, 14th St. (DC)

When trying to decide where I wanted to celebrate with a larger group of friends for birthday brunch, I thought it might be best to just choose somewhere huge, centrally located, with a wide variety of things on the menu. Matchbox on 14th St. NW came to mind pretty easily. I made a reservation online and then sent out the invite. I got a little nervous about how many people I invited versus the number I made the reservation for, so I changed it to the largest number I could. In doing this, I must have accidentally changed the day. This was not something I noticed until I looked up the phone number in my confirmation e-mail to call them and reduce the number of guests just TWO HOURS before me and 11 friends were supposed to roll up there. So of course when I noticed this, I FREAKED OUT and called them as quickly as I could. I told them the story and luckily they were able to easily accommodate our group. I was so thankful that I chose such a giant place. Crisis averted.

They seated us at a round table in a corner, which was perfect. I was able to see and talk to everyone in the group without someone getting stuck at the end of the table. Also, since I’m apparently terrible at counting people, we had to get pretty close and squeeze a couple extra chairs in. The table was juuuust big enough for the 12 of us and it worked out fine. A majority of the group were college friends who were accustomed to pulling the same kind of move in the dining hall.

Since I was with so many friends, I was paying more attention to them and less to the food. My waffle with fresh fruit and a side of bacon was tasty. My mimosas came at a good pace. The lady’s french toast was great. One friend had the steak and eggs and it looked fantastic. the lamb sandwich also looked interesting with the chickpea fries. Last time I was there, I had an excellent omelet. I won’t be going back tomorrow, but the food is always good, the service is personable and prompt. A solid experience every time.

  • Favorite thing I’ve had: Everything I ever get is good. The waffle was great. The Matchbox Mimosa was excellent. I could have drank them all day, but we had to be productive adults after brunch.
  • Favorite thing she had: The french toast.
  • How was the service? It was great. The server handled our more-than-expected group of 12 like a pro and was very personable. He even preemptively split our checks. A total lifesaver in a situation like that. At one point, we asked if they could take a picture of the whole group and they sent over someone who was clearly accustomed to such requests. Nice touch.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The fig and prosciutto pizza. The server recommended it, but I was already set on the waffle. The cocktails. Maybe one of the bloody marys.
  • What makes this place stand out: The space is huge and airy. Exposed brick and duct work. A sizable outside seating area. A huge menu.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): I seem to end up here about once per season.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Garden District (we tried, too crowded), Menchie’s (that’s where we ended up instead)

2 Birds 1 Stone (DC)

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I’m not even going to lie, I’ve started using this blog as an excuse to hit a second spot after dinner. We’ve also decided it’s the only way we’ll ever make it through our list before we die. After dinner at B Too, we set off up 14th St to find 2 Birds 1 Stone. I had seen some buzz about it recently and was intrigued. It was not the easiest place to find, there’s no signage on the outside at all. But we were tipsy and adventurous so we double checked the address and charged into Doi Moi and wandered until we found the stairs that took us down into 2Birds. We felt like we had discovered a secret when we walked into the space. It wasn’t too crowded and we slid into a 2-person booth to the side of the bar. Despite this being a basement bar at night, the lighting made it feel like much lighter than that. Lots of back lighting and white paint with a bunch of nooks and crannies to hide away in.

We sat down and had hand drawn menus (pictured above) placed in front of us. We both gravitated towards very typical-of-us drinks. She had the Bizzy Izzy. Rye, sherry, lemon juice, pineapple. And I had the Mancuso. Cachaca, chartreuse, ginger beer. The ginger beer was quite strong in mine, but still pretty tasty. Hers was probably one of the best drinks I’ve had this year. The pineapple was a perfect balance to the rye and sherry. I’d go back just for that. I’m looking forward to our next visit.

On our way out, we made a pit stop to the restroom. While I was waiting in line, a girl asked if she could dip in quickly before me to take a picture of the wallpaper. It was certainly worthy of a picture, and I did take one, but it’s a bit pornographic to post in a food and bev blog. You’ll have to go see it yourself. Upon our exit, we discovered the main door of the bar on S St. NW. That seems like the easier way to get in, rather than wandering through a very crowded Doi Moi.

  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Maybe I’d go for the punch of the day next time. 
  • Most interesting thing she wants to try next time: It sounds like their menu rotates pretty regularly. She’s always on the look out for a new tasty whiskey drink. And has an interest in trying more sherry.
  • What makes this place stand out: Where do I begin? The cozy basement space with tons of nooks to the very naughty wallpaper in the bathroom. The hand drawn menus.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions):  The next time we’re looking for a second spot in the area. This is the kind of place I’d like to take an out of town guest (cool and unique). Not crowded and cozy with good drinks is my sweet spot.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Take your pick. It’s in the middle of 14th St. My first thought was Pearl Dive.

B Too (DC)

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It took me a while to decide exactly where I wanted to go to for sorta fancy date night birthday dinner. I perused our ever expanding list of places to try, weighing how bad I wanted to try the place versus special enough for a birthday meal. B Too jumped out at me. It’s somewhere we wouldn’t normally go but was at the top of the desire to try list.

We got there a bit before our reservation so we started at the bar. As soon as we sat down, we were well cared for by 2 very friendly bartenders. It was still happy hour, so I grabbed the Belgian Mule and she had a wheat beer. Nice way to start the evening and end a hard week of work.

I had already taken a look at the menu earlier in the week, so I already had a few contenders in mind. I was pretty set on a nice birthday steak. The salmon with potato crust put up a good fight, but I decided to go for something I wouldn’t normally order. I went big with the beef tenderloin. The lady, not being a big fan of seafood, went for the hanger steak. We had our choices of sauces. I went with a pepper sauce and she went with the garlic butter. Hers came with roasted veggies and mine a salad, both with fries. The steaks didn’t beat the one I had a Ray’s The Steaks for my birthday  a couple years ago, but they were both good.

I had the Brussel’s Winter as my first drink at dinner. Vodka, lemon, pineapple, basil, and choco bitters. And then the Merry Rose for the second one. Gin, rosemary tincture, lime, lemon, cava. The Brussel’s winter was really interesting. I’m enjoying the trend of pineapple in drinks recently.

For dessert, we went with the waitress’s suggestion of the Frangipane Waffle for dessert. Banana, beer caramel, crumble. We split one, because we were both pretty full. The waffle was the perfect combination of crispy but soft. The caramel was awesome. I’d go back just for that.

  • Favorite thing I had: The tenderloin with pepper sauce. Pretty perfect.
  • Favorite thing she had: The Frangipane Waffle. Server recommended, lady approved.
  • How was the service?: Exactly how I like it. Friendly, knowledgeable, never having to wait long for her next visit.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I think next time I’m going to go for the mussels. The ones with 1/2 a lobster and bisque sound amazing. The Mathilde’s Muse cocktail. Pear vodka, St. Germaine, lemon, cava. Seemed a little too obvious a choice for me that night.
  • What makes this place stand out: Celebrity chef Bart Vandaele, of Top Chef fame, was bouncing all around the dining room overseeing all of the happenings the whole time we were there. I never had the guts to go talk to him. What do you even say? “Your food tastes real good…” Also, they have BREAKFAST.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): It was a touch on the high end of the scale for us, so it might have to be a special occasions place. Also a good happy hour or dessert spot. Or maybe we’ll just hit them for breakfast in the next month time-frame.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Anywhere on 14th or P streets. We hoofed it up to 2 Birds 1 Stone, but you could just do Black Whiskey or Stoney’s.

Planet Wine Shop (Del Ray)

Planet Wine is connected to Evening Star and also owned by Neighborhood Restaurant Group (who continue to prove to me that they can do no wrong). I figured that while we were in the area, post No. 9 Lounge, we should pop in to look around. I had been here before and knew they had a pretty good beer selection. I was hoping to find a fave or two to take home for later. As soon as I laid eyes on the giant shelf dedicated to beer in the middle of the shop, I took quick notice that they had quite a few VA Breweries represented. I got excited! There are several breweries in central and southwestern VA that I love that I hadn’t been able to find close to home yet. I first noticed that they had a Wild Wolf brew and went on the search for Blonde Hunny Ale. I discovered this one on my last trip to Roanoke and had only found it as far north as Harrisonburg. Of course they had it. Now I was sold on making a purchase. I grabbed a carrier and we were off to the races to fill it with a few more.

Then, as if the clouds parted and god said “Happy Birthday” to me especially, the lady pointed to a beer. I blinked and focused on it. Right there on that shelf sat one of my very favorite beers. One that has a special place in my heart because it’s brewed in my hometown by the brewery that inspired my dad to start home brewing. The beer that started my journey into learning about and enjoying craft beer. Right in front of my face Parkway Brewing Co’s Bridge Builder Blonde. My hometown has finally come to my new home. I’m pretty sure I squealed with excitement and snatched it off the shelf as quick as I could. The lady grabbed a couple others (Dogfishhead’s Namaste and Duclaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus) and we were on our way. I chatted up the guy at the register about when they got Parkway and told him about how excited I was about it. The lady said he seemed taken aback by my enthusiasm and excitement. Oopsie. It’s the little things in life.

  • Favorite thing I found: Duh. Bridge Builder Blonde by Parkway Brewing
  • Favorite thing she found: Sweet Baby Jesus by DuClaw Brewery. Not too hard to find here, but always fun to see.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Let’s be real, I’ll be back next week. Anytime I have a hankering for any local or VA beer. Anytime I needed expert help to pick out wine. I really should check out the wine next time…
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Home, so you can enjoy what you just bought. Or anywhere in Del Ray, like St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub.

 

 

This entry submitted to Friday Favorites: http://virginiabloggers.com/2014/03/28/friday-favorites-3/

No. 9 Lounge at Evening Star Cafe (Del Ray)

No. 9 Lounge

 I will spend this week reviewing all the places I went for my birthday this past weekend. I started the celebrating a few days early this year. (What? I’m an Aries)

After particularly difficult days at work for both the lady and me, I thought it might be nice for us to go grab a drink nearby. (After we both hit the gym and ate leftovers at home, because that’s how we roll). We’ve been to Evening Star a few times in the past 6 years, but No. 9 Lounge caught my eye a couple of weeks ago and has been on my short list ever since. I figured that it would be the perfect place to start my birthday weekend early, so off we went. The entrance to No. 9 is on the side of the Evening Star building. We went in, walked past The Majestic Lounge downstairs, up the steps, and into No. 9. We grabbed the last 2 (very plush and comfortable) seats left at the small bar. There was a band setting up to play in the back corner and a pool table, shuffle board, and sizable TV in the opposite corner. Couches around the edges of the room and a big communal table on the middle. This is definitely a neighborhood bar. As per Neighborhood Restaurant Group standard, they had quite an impressive draft list, a good bottle selection, and from what I could tell, a decent wine selection (wine is my weak spot, don’t know much about it except that I like it).

We went straight for the cocktails list, which initially excited us. All of the drinks sounded interesting and we gravitated towards a couple in particular but took a minute or two to settle. She went for the Rye Sparkler. Rye, cava, chocolate bitters, and vanilla syrup. It was served in a champagne flute with a cherry and sugar cube at the bottom. I went with The Good Herb. Rum, lavender syrup, lemon juice, burlesque bitters. They were both good! Hers got a little bit too sweet as she continued drinking and there was something about the lavender syrup that gave mine an odd aftertaste. Mine got a little better as it warmed up, surprisingly. They were not drinks we could come back and order time and time again, but we both appreciated the creativity. In general, the ingredients were in the wheelhouse of what we like. We’ll be back to try the other cocktails. Or to drink beer. I do love beer.

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  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The Arcadian. Gin, honey syrup, arcadian rosemary
  • Most interesting thing she wants to try next time: The Smoked Old Fashioned. House-smoked Maker’s!
  • What makes this place stand out: The set up for live music. It’s not something I would expect as part of a place like Evening Star. We didn’t stick around for the music this time, but maybe something to check out in the future.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Next time I want a fancy-ish cocktail close to home.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Ahh, anywhere in Del Ray. I’d go next door to Planet Wine (retail wine and beer) and then down the street to Dairy Godmother.