Restaurant Nora (Dupont Circle)

I drive past Restaurant Nora on a regular basis on my (not so) secret shortcut from Georgetown to anywhere on U St. (Usually Mockingbird Hill, let’s be real). It was always pretty much off my radar as somewhere that would be nice to try but that was out of our range of affordability. It’s in the $30-50 per entree range, so not too far out, but above what we are usually willing to spend unless something really excites us (or someone else pays). But then! Nora herself, or at least whoever runs her Twitter account, Tweeted directly at me about their Retro 3 Course Menu in celebration of their 35th year. It’s happening Mon-Thur for all of July and it’s only $35. I figured this was a rare chance to get in without totally breaking the bank. We made reservations and we were on our way.

The Retro menu came with two options for each of the courses, and it lined up perfectly that the lady wanted exactly the opposite thing in every category, so we were able to try the whole special menu.

My first impression of the space was that it was… broken in? Very clean, but the quilts on the wall gave a very grandmothery vibe. I love quilts, but I immediately felt like we were going to be the youngest in the place. And I was right. Ah, this is why Restaurant Nora doesn’t come up much in my food blogging adventures and why my friends aren’t chatting about it all the time.

I had told myself I wasn’t going to get a drink, but I had had a really long work day and they had a Gin and Tonic cocktail menu, so I ordered the Man Overboard. Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain, cucumber, citrus bitters. The picture I took is blurry, but it came in a collins glass with slices of cucumber and dried currants. It also came with a paper straw, which was odd and got droopy during the duration of my drink. But the drink was tasty! The cucumber was refreshing. The lady went with an Old Fashioned.

For the first course I had the chilled tomato soup and the lady had the pate.

IMG_0328

 

The soup was delicious. It tasted a bit like a cool marinara sauce. The pesto toast was a perfect complement. Some crunch and another layer of flavor.

 

The pate was… not my cup of tea, but the lady really enjoyed it. It was a bit heavy, and she wasn’t able to finish it and still have room for her entree. I really, really enjoyed the pickles on the side.

For our second course, I had the tilapia with salsa verde and she had the chicken schnitzel.

IMG_0329

 

The tilapia was perfect. Well, I stole a squeeze of the lemon that came with the lady’s chicken, and that made it even better. It was cooked perfectly, and the edges were slightly crispy. I liked that. The green beans and potatoes were also cooked perfectly and tasty. The salsa verde on top of the fish were a great complement. That’s a great idea for a fish topping. I may try that in my own kitchen.

IMG_0349

 

The lady’s chicken was also cooked perfectly. It was juicy and flavorful. She enjoyed it a lot and I stole a few bites of it as well.

For dessert, I had the lemon pound cake and she had the bittersweet chocolate mousse.

IMG_0330

 

The presentation of the poundcake was obviously showy. The strawberries and the puree soaked into the poundcake and make it just moist enough. The ice cream on top was nice.

 

 

The lady really loved her mousse. It was just a tad too bitter and not enough sweet for me, but it was great with the whipped cream. She loved it and thought it was pretty perfect.

The food was absolutely wonderful. Just what you would expect from a DC institution. No qualms with that at all. I did have a couple of annoyances that put a damper on the experience for me. We were definitely one of the first tables in, so maybe we missed the window, but between our 2nd and 3rd courses, I noticed that every table was getting a bread basket and bottle of water for refilling. I’m trying to watch what I’m eating a little bit, so they really were doing me a favor by not giving us the bread. But I just wondered why we were excluded. And I’m a thirsty lady, so that water bottle would have been nice. I also overheard another waiter telling his tables about a drink special (a strawberry mojito, I’m SO INTO MOJITOS right now!) that I TOTALLY would have ordered that had I known, but our server didn’t fill us in. That was disappointing. The time between our 2nd and 3rd courses, and our table being fully cleared and getting our check were also a bit longer than I would have liked, but that may have been the lack of bread annoyance talking. They’re really little things, but things I would expect a high-end place to nail. And if I’m dropping over $100 on a meal, call me cheap, but food, service, EVERYTHING had better be perfect. I’m wondering if my expectations were a little too high or my perception was off but whatever the case, the food was incredible, some things were not up to my expectations, and I don’t see us returning anytime soon.

  • Favorite thing I had: Probably the tilapia. The crunchy edges were my favorite part. Everything was really, really excellent though. As to be expected at such an iconic restaurant.
  • Favorite thing she had: The chicken was perfect and she really liked her dessert.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Probably only if someone else suggests it (and pays). The food was great, but we can’t afford to throw down like that.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): We ended up at Spike Mendelsohn’s new speakeasy, Sheppard, but that is not at all a natural progression. From an old DC mainstay to a hip new trendy place. There was a touch of culture whiplash.

Bar Charley Brunch (Dupont)

IMG_0272

Bar Charley was one of the places that we visited at the very beginning of the blog in March. It was in fact, my second review. It was the start of attacking this city’s food scene and trying new things are often as possible. It took a couple of months, but we finally made it back for their brunch. We had been discussing the possibility heading back there with a couple of our friends, a friend of mine from back home and her boyfriend, with whom we manage to brunch about quarterly. The last time we saw them, we sealed the deal and planned for a bottomless birthday celebration there.

We planned for noon, but I thought it might be a good idea to get there a little early, for parking purposes and just in case there was a wait. We rolled in about 15 minutes early and despite not having the other half of our party, they seated us. I was totally expecting to have to hang out at the bar but I was impressed and pleased. It may have been a different story had we wanted to sit inside, since the patio was packed and the dining room was not. I love it when restaurants accommodate me and  let me start giving them my money as soon as I arrive.

We grabbed the cozy booth behind the curtain at the front of the restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee, took a selfie, etc. Our friends arrived and we got down to business. Well, not too much business. In the name of being responsible adults, we decided against the (even though it is a really awesome deal) bottomless brunch. I ordered a bloody mary, the ladies got mimosas, and the gentleman had a beer. It was a tasty bloody mary. I sucked it down pretty fast.

IMG_0267

Since birthday friend and I are both from the south, we enjoy celebrating our roots when we’re together. So we started with a basket of biscuits. They were tasty. Maybe not quite as fluffy as I would have preferred, but they hit the biscuit lovin’ spot.

IMG_0268

Birthday friend and I both decided on the chicken and waffles, because when we go southern, why not just go all the way.

IMG_0271

 

The waffle was a little softer and less crispy than I usually prefer, but it was still incredible. We both appreciated that the chicken was boneless. It was also nice and juicy. I added a little bit of hot sauce to the chicken and it was a perfect balance to the sweetness.

The lady went with the Charley Breakfast, basic, but hearty. She said the bacon was perfect, and look at those eggs. They look fake they’re so pretty.

IMG_0270

And the gentleman decided on the Breakfast Poutine. It basically tells you up front that you’re going to need a nap after you consume even half of it.

 

If any of us had been hungover, this would have been the most perfect breakfast. It was deeeelicious anyway, but I definitely would not have complained about being able to go back home and nap it all off.

 

  • So, how was it the second time around?: It was good! This place is solidly just very good.
  • When do you think you’ll be back again?: I feel like maybe in another couple of months. But maybe sooner for a drink and to check out the patio.
  • Overall Impression: The space is cozy and the drinks are above average. The food is not outstanding, but it’s good! The service is nice and polite. The fact that they seated us without our whole party is a huge plus. Knowing that will get me back there over places that I’m less sure about.

 

2014 Pride Weekend Round Up

Ah, Pride weekend! We didn’t do it up so much as we used to, but we certainly enjoyed it.

Friday night we decided that we wanted a low key evening to save up some energy for a long Saturday. Also, Orange is the New Black was released on Netflix that day and we were anxious to get crackin’ !I had scored through a promotion District Doughnuts was running with Postmates, earlier in the day in celebration of National Donut Day! So we ordered sushi from Momo Sushi in Old Town and gorged on sushi, donuts, and an amazing show.

photo9

 

 

I got up super early Sunday morning to head out to the Virginia side of Great Falls to cheer on my trainer/friend, E as she ran FIFTY miles that day. I only got to see her zoom by as she passed the aid station I was posted up in, but it was nice to be able to support her and watch her be a bad ass. I had also never been to the VA side of Great Falls and it was giving some pretty excellent face that day. If our schedule ever empties about and we have a free weekend day, we’ll have to get back there.

photo8

After a couple hours there, I headed back home to get ready for Pride. I have to admit, that getting up so early had me a little wiped, but as soon as I got into the city and felt the energy that Dupont and the surrounding area were giving off for Pride, I was more energized. We got into the city a little early and took our time walking from Dupont over to our brunch plans at Logan Tavern. DC Meet Market was set up at 15th and P St. NW, so we made a circle through there. It’s a cool little market with tons of local vendors. The food all smelled SO GOOD and I was a little sad that I was on my way to brunch and wasn’t able to try any of it. I will definitely have to plan to hit one of those again.

We finished the stroll through the market and still had some time to kill, so we headed to Stoney’s for a quick beer. I’ve only ever been there for beer, but will definitely have to make it back for food sometime. Brunch time arrived and we headed over for our brunch reservations with friends at Logan Tavern. That review will be coming later this week. I’m normally not one to force myself into a place when it’s likely to be super busy, but we had reservations and they had plenty of people staffed. It was an excellent choice for Pride Brunch and I’m happy we did it.

Afterward, we headed back to the circle to meet some friends and lounge about and work through our food comas in the grass until parade time. We met up with the Lady’s sister (her first pride!) and some other friends and found a decent spot on New Hampshire Ave to watch the parade and hung out for about half of it. I feel like a bad gay for not being more enthused, but the combination of an early morning, the heat, and having this be my 9th DC Pride, I was just about done.

IMG_3315

 

We wandered away from the commotion and down closer to Farragut for dinner at Nooshi. It was not somewhere I had heard of nor was it somewhere I’d go on my own, so I’m glad my friend suggested it. We got a table on the patio outside with no wait. My friend ordered the tofu fries for the table and I went with sushi again (because sushi two days in a row is apparently how I roll). I also had to have the champagne mojito.  Everything  I had was pretty good! I was pleasantly surprised and my have to make another trip there. Afterward, we wandered home and watched a couple more episodes of OITNB, because who wants to get drunk and go out dancing when you can watch your fave show? #old

Sunday  morning I had to get up and do a little bit of work. (Gross. I hated every minute of it.) But luckily finished up in time to swoop by and pick up 50-mile-running friend and enjoy a delightful vegan brunch with her at Sticky Fingers. I’m never not impressed with that place. I ordered the Power Salad, the same thing I got last time, but also got to try the french toast and the biscuits and gravy. I have to get back there to order at least one of those next time. They were both delicious.

After brunch, we finished up our adulthood responsibilities and spent the rest of the day binging the rest of OITNB. We didn’t even make it out the Pride festival. Maybe next year.  Next weekend is the Lady’s sister’s wedding, so we didn’t want to pack this weekend too full. I still feel like I need a weekend from my weekend though. I really have no complaints though, this summer is shaping up to be really great!

Mission (DC)

IMG_2538

The opening of Mission was on my radar because of their sponsorship of my team in the DC Gay Flag Football league. To show our support, we planned a team dinner there in the first week they were open. I was looking forward to some tacos and margaritas all week! Then, when InTheCapital, posted about the mahi-mahi tacos, I knew what I had to order. I usually avoid places in the first week of their opening because it’s not likely to be optimal service, but I had to make an exception for this one.

A few of us met there early to grab a drink. I was thankful that my friends are over 6 feet tall, otherwise I would not have found them at the PACKED downstairs bar. Once I got there, we moved to the upstairs bar where it was much less crowded to wait for the rest of our crew. I started with the pineapple jalapeno margarita. As I have mentioned before, I’m totally down with this pineapple trend. It’s been a long winter, and nothing makes it feel like a warm day like a pineapple drink. Speaking of, this drink menu will complement Mission’s outdoor patio seating very well in the warm months. The drink was good, might be better with just a touch more kick. The slice of pineapple on the rim and the jalapeño in the drink were a nice touch.

Most of our party arrived and we were seated. Since we were a larger group of 8 people, they put us back in a little nook with a table just the right size for us. It was nice to be slightly separated from the hustle and bustle and loudness of the rest of the restaurant. We started with the chips and salsa and Queso Fundido. The chips and salsa were pretty standard, and happily enjoyed by our hungry table. The queso was a little different. It was basically a hunk of warm cheese in a tiny crock served with tortillas rather than chips. I’m down for cheese in any form, so I dug in. It was a bit comical to try to scoop or separate the cheese.

I was thankful for the appetizers to tide us over, as things were moving a touch on the slow side. This was to be expected in their first week, I suppose. There was plenty of time for a couple of rounds of drinks between each course. For my second round I had the Sparkling Strawberry Champarita. Basically a strawberry margarita with sparkling wine. I was pretty sure this was going to be the best thing I ever had, and while it was good, it didn’t knock me over. Well… enough of them probably would have. Knowing it was going to be a long night out with my football guys and that many more of these $9-12 drinks would to bankrupt me, I switched to beer.

So when it came time for food, most of us went with the tacos. There were 3 other orders of the fish tacos at the table, a couple other kinds of tacos, and one went for the chorizo burger. The tacos were definitely dish of the week worthy. The batter on the fish was a touch sweet, with a little bit of crunch. The mango and pineapple salsa on top, perfect complement. The tacos were so good that even though 3 of the were just a bit too much food, I ate it all anyway. They were definitely worth the long wait.

We wrapped up our dinner and headed out. But not before getting the super cheerful, new-in-town-from-Alabama(?), host to take a team picture. The picture is terribly off-centered, but she sure was awful nice.

 

  • Favorite thing I had: The pineapple jalapeno margarita and the fish tacos.
  • How was the service?: The server was on top of things, he was just slowed down by the kitchen and bar.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Once I zeroed in on the mahi mahi tacos, I didn’t look much further. I’d like to try the other tacos, or maybe the fajitas. The strawberry margaritas looked good.  If I was looking for more savory drink, I’d go for the Rattlesnake, which is basically a gin bloody mary with lemon and jalapeno.
  • What makes this place stand out: The space is really nice. It’s going to have “Dupont’s biggest outdoor patio,” there is a giant glass ceiling over the bar.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): I’d go back next week for a happy hour margarita, next month (and still probably off-peak time) to sit down for a meal. This place is going to be constantly packed, I can feel it.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): We ended up at the MadHatter for $1 beer night, but I wouldn’t really advise it unless you’re 22. Or are really broke and want to consume a lot of cheap beer.

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.

Bar Charley (Dupont)

Suffering Bastard

A friend of mine told me about this place just a couple of weeks ago. Then several other people raved about it, so I knew it had to be bumped to the top of the to-do list. Tucked into a basement right beside Mexican behemoth Lauriol Plaza, it’s more of a hole in the wall than anything else. As soon as we sat down and saw the Happy Hour menu, I was sold. There was a drink that included ginger beer for me and an Old Fashioned for my date. Great cheap food specials. We had a small dinner (her a burger, me the mussels, split the curry dates- all above average in tastiness) and got out for under $40.

  • Favorite thing I had: The Suffering Bastard cocktail, served in a tiki cup. Bourbon, gin, ginger beer, lime. The mussels were good.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Sitting on the patio out back. Their all you can eat BRUNCH.
  • What makes this place stand out: They open at 4pm. It was cozy. And the server was very nice and charming.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Next week, for happy hour.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Larry’s Lounge, Glen’s Garden Market, anywhere in Dupont, on U St., or Adam’s Morgan