American Ice Company (U St. NW)

Saturday afternoon took us from the Nats game to U St. NW for some city exploring. As I mentioned in my weekend recap, we decided that a glass of wine and small snacks on a patio would be the perfect next move. We tried to get that at Veritas, but it seemed that they didn’t really have much interest in providing us with that. After a failed attempt to get any attention at the bar or the back patio area, and with no desire to sit down for a full brunch, we formulated a plan B. We thought quickly on our feet and decided on American Ice Company instead. We walked the few blocks and in through the gated area of American Ice and realized that this was much more what we were looking for anyways. The vibe there was much quieter and more relaxed. I’m sure this is not the norm there, but it was perfect for us.

I really liked the space a lot. We had the option of sitting on the patio or inside. We really wanted to keep on enjoying the perfect weather, so we chose one of the tables outside.

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We perused the menu and decided on the swachos (nachos with pulled pork, jalapenos, and cheese sauce) and the pickle sampler. The lady went for a Bells Amber on draft and I decided on Bells Oberon tallboy can. Each were $6. I was pretty stoked about the prices, you can’t beat that. The selection was awesome. Nice craft beer, cheap beer, wine, and a full bar. There is something for everyone. And the beers were served in wide-mouth mason jars. Nice touch.

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The nachos were really tasty, but as soon as I saw the veggie nachos (black beans and corn) I wished we had done that. They were a little heavy after having a big sandwich at the ballpark. The pickles, however, did a good job balancing out the heaviness of the nachos.  My favorite bit was the pickled cauliflower. It was just a little bit sweet. I wish I could have a whole cup of that. I’m all about some pickled veggies these days…

We sat there for about 2 hours, slowly enjoying some really delicious beer and watching the bar fill up. It’s the perfect place to hang out and kill a couple of hours. We will certainly be back to do that again.

  • Favorite thing I had: The pickled cauliflower was really great.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Any of the sandwiches. I had just already had a sandwich at the ball park and was in the mood for something else. The veggie nachos also looked excellent.
  • What makes this place stand out: The cool indoor/outdoor space. The front is kind of like a beer garden patio situation, and the inside is a nice rustic metal/wood design. I really appreciated that I could get a craft beer tallboy for $6.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): It has officially added to the list of places we default to when killing time in the short period of time that Mockingbird Hill is closed. I can see us there monthly.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): There are so many places to hop to within a 3 block radius: El Rey, Satellite, Nellie’s, Dodge City, DC9. It’s not far from the DB3/ Right Proper/ either.
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Weekend Round Up: Enjoying the Weather

The weather basically could not have been any more perfect this weekend, and we took full advantage of it and spent as much time as we possibly could outside.

Piola

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Friday after work, I hopped over the bridge to Rosslyn to meet the lady and her sister (who just moved here, I’m SO excited!), to scarf down some pizza at Piola. You all know how much I love pizza. We ordered Hawaiian and and Carbonara. I also ordered a Sgroppino Al Limone, which was basically a wine glass of vodka and lemon gelato. It was sort of like a tiny boozy milkshake. Tasty, but a bit thick to enjoy with pizza. The pizza was good! Not the best, but pretty good. The crust was nice and thin, not too heavy on the toppings. The best part- because it was happy hour, they were half price. We fed 3 people, with leftovers and a bev for $30, with tip. We will certainly be back for their bottomless brunch. Just all the pizza you can eat. Yeah, that’s my jam. 

Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival

After dinner, we headed over to Gateway Park to grab a spot on the lawn and meet some friends for Office Space at the outdoor film festival. We always get there absurdly early, but it’s the best way to make sure you get a good spot. My advice is to make sure you have plenty of cozy, soft things. I am always over prepared, so I had a jacket, sweatshirt, blanket, sheet, and tarp. It was a little chilly, but even when it’s not, all those things will make for great pillows and padding from the ground. Because we’re getting old. I think next time we may picnic there beforehand. Maybe bring some cards? Before the movie they usually have some activities to occupy you while you wait.

 

On Saturday, we ended up bar hopping and spending the entire day outside (mostly) enjoying the perfect weather and accidentally drinking a lot. This is what living in DC is all about, right?

Nationals Game

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We had tickets for the Nats game and that was pretty much our only plan for the day. We were just going to take in the game then head home to do responsible adult stuff. Well, once you’re in the city, you might as well explore, right? We enjoyed the game and some sandwiches from G. Once it was clear that the Nats had this game in the bag- we headed out to beat the crowd. The lady had never been to Yards Park, so we strolled that direction. As we got closer, we noticed that there were bikes EVERYWHERE. Oh yes, it was Tour De Fat. Which I knew, but had totally forgotten about. We didn’t stick around long, even though it wasn’t too terribly crowded and could have been an enjoyable experience. That’s definitely something we’ll have to check out next year. Instead, we decided to head to U St. / Shaw and check out some things there.

Our initial idea was to check out Veritas. We had just had lunch, so a glass of wine and some small plates sounded perfect. Well, we got there and took a seat at the bar. It was clear it was still brunch, but no one paid us any attention. We weren’t in the mood for brunch, so we cut our losses and decided that this was not the place for us at this time. Maybe that’s more a post-work place for us. Better luck next time.

American Ice Co. 

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Instead, we headed over to American Ice Company. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too terribly crowded. We took a seat at a table in the outdoor area and perused the menu. I had heard about the nachos (Swachos) before, so we decided to give that a try. The pickled veggies on the menu also caught my eye. That and a couple of beers in a laid back environment was so perfect. We hung out there for quite some time, had a couple of beers and watched it fill up. Then, as it the case any time we end up within 5 blocks of Shaw, we decided that a trip to Mockingbird Hill was in order. We finished up our beers at American Ice but still had some time to kill. Where could we go and continue to drink outside and kill some time? Ah yes, El Rey. There was a pit stop there for one margarita, and then onto the DB3! (Derek Brown 3)

Mockingbird Hill

So, I know I’ve talked about how skeptical I was about the Derek Brown concepts.  Sherry and ham, what? Well, the lady and I have dropped our skepticism and officially decided that Mockingbird Hill is our favorite bar in the city. And for so many reasons. It seems like every time we go there, there’s always something new to discover. The lady is slowly exploring the world of sherry- and I’m really enjoying the cocktails on tap. Last time we were there about a month ago, we chatted up bartender Adriana. When we sat down this time, she immediately recognized us and remembered our names. Of course this makes you feel special and important and makes you feel like you belong there. The lady made such an awesome point while we were there- this is the kind of place that could so easily be a snooty, exclusive sort of bar, but it’s just not. The bartenders are friendly and willing to chat. You feel like you’re sitting down with friends.

I’ve also discovered my Drink Of the Summer. The PX Sherry Iced Tea on draft is one of the most amazing beverages I’ve ever tasted. It basically tastes like sweet tea. The southerner in me is so smitten. I was pretty sure that there was some simple syrup at play, and asked another one of the bartenders was it was. He said that actually, no, it was just a very sweet sherry- no simple syrup. He poured me a taste of the sherry and described the flavor profile to me. So perfect. I had 3.

I noticed that Derek Brown was in the bar that evening and geeked out a little bit. On the way back to my seat from the restroom, I caught Adriana’s attention and sort of whispered to her that I’d like to meet him. She made the intro and I was in! This man owns 4 of the most fantastic bars in the city and seemed more than happy to spend a couple minutes chatting with me. He was so friendly and gracious. I told him that I loved his bars and he mentioned sherry week and their one year anniversary to me. We will definitely be back this week to celebrate with them.

On the way to Mockingbird Hill, I texted an old friend of mine who lives in Bloomingdale. Luckily, she and her boyfriend were able to come out to meet us. We had a round or two of drinks and then decided it was time to move to the next place. They were meeting some friends at Dacha beer garden and invited us to come along.

DACHA

DACHA is somewhere we had been meaning to try for months and months. But any time we’d been past it, it was super crowded. I’m not one for elbowing my way to a bar, but after several drinks this particular day, I thought why not! If it was too crowded, we’d just stumble home. Well, we got there and while it was crowded, we were able to find a little spot to settle into. We made our way to the bar and I ordered the most giant raspberry beer for myself and a hefeweizen for the lady. They were huge and delicious.

During this time, my friend and I realized that we had been friends since like 2002 or 03 and talked about how awesome it was that we now lived in the same city and still hung out. It’s always really interesting to watch where life takes you and who follows a similar path as you. I have a few of those kinds of friends in DC. It’s so nice to have people here who understand Roanoke. We’re all here for similar reasons, we had bigger plans than Roanoke, but still love home.

Around 10-10:30, we decided that it was probably time to call it a night. We walked the few blocks from Dacha and hopped on the metro at Mt. Vernon Square and journeyed back to Alexandria.

 

We were going to brunch in the city on Sunday, but decided to stay close to home and recover instead. Cooking breakfast sounded really daunting, so we decided to tackle the few blocks to Buzz for a waffle and quiche instead. I really need someone to figure out the whole breakfast delivery thing, but in the meantime, the food from Buzz hit the spot. Since we had basically said “Screw responsibility” on Saturday, we spent most of the day catching up on all the stuff we had to do. We didn’t venture more than 2 miles from home and that was just fine with us. After dinner, we ended the evening hanging out in the courtyard with 6 of our other neighbors. (Hey guys!) It was a perfect end to the weekend.

It’s weekends like this that makes me realize how lucky I am to live here and have the friends that I do. This is a good life. Next weekend: PRIDE!!

 

El Rey (U St NW)

I love me some tacos. They’re the perfect cheap eat. Combine that with margaritas and outdoor seating on a perfect warm and sunny Friday afternoon and you have an ideal situation.We were looking for a cheap dinner before we dropped the big dollars on fancy bevs at Dram & Grain and El Rey fit the bill. IMG_2722 The lady and I met there after I had a particularly long work day, so she found me there at a table in the back, frozen margarita already in hand.  The building is made out of shipping containers with a retractable roof. It was a perfect sunny 70’s day, so they had the roof open and the sun was shining in. IMG_0185 The margarita was surprisingly strong for a frozen one. It was an excellent way to start the weekend. It was fun to watch how many bottles of tequila they poured into the frozen machine. It’s no wonder it tasted strong… IMG_0186 I ordered the fish taco, the skirt steak, and the al pastor on flour tortillas. I had had a big lunch, and wasn’t particularly hungry, but I shoveled them in pretty quickly. They were really good. IMG_0187 The lady had a carne asada and the adobo chicken. I was too wrapped up in my own and didn’t even think to try the chicken, but it looked good as well. Two were perfect for her and 3 for me. It was the perfect dinner choice for us and we got out of there for $26 in under an hour. Can’t beat that!

  • Favorite thing I had: The carne asada taco, although they were all really good. A little small, but good.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The cocktail menu looked good. So did the chips and guacamole.
  • What makes this place stand out: It’s made out of shipping containers! I mean, it didn’t feel like anything really special from the inside, but it was cool. And I want a house with a retractable roof.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Any time I’m on that side of town and need a tasty, cheap meal. I imagine we’ll get there about once per month or so.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Nellie’s is right across the street. The Brixton is close by. Had we not had reservations that we had to get over to AdMo for, we probably would have gone to Mockingbird Hill or Southern Efficiency. 

Kapnos (DC)

Last week, I talked a little about how I spent some time working in a Greek/Italian restaurant in college. I talked about the pizza there, but the owners of the place were actually Greek. I got most my learning about cooking in that kitchen from a tiny Greek woman named Irene. She taught me all about the general flavor profiles, some standard dishes, and how to pronounce the ridiculously long, but actually fairly phonetic words. I started at the Bistro just a few months after they opened and was with them for their first few years, so they became like family to me. Greek food is sometimes my comfort food.

I also mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I am quite the Top Chef fan (go figure, I just love food). So, I always take special notice of any and all Top Chef activity in the District. So, when Mike Isabella opened a greek place, it went on the list. It got bumped down a little bit for being small plates, but it was still a must try. After bouncing around at least 10 different places and looking at countless menus, we settled on Kapnos for a rare Sunday brunch.

My first impression when we walked in was that is was LOUD. I had a bit of a headache, so I started off a little irritated. I noticed that we were seated really close to a bridal party who has clearly gone bottomless. I almost asked to be moved, but we sat down, I got some coffee, and it ended up being alright save for the occasional burst of cackling. I all but forgot about the noise level once they brought our Tzatziki spread. I make a mean tzatziki myself, but this was amazing. There was fresh dill and like a citrus (maybe grapefruit and orange?) zest on top. The stone oven bread it was served with was the perfect amount of fluffy. We ran out of bread, but I kept the rest to eat with my entrée. I ordered the Spit Chicken and Waffle and she ordered the Greek Coffee Waffle. The spit chicken was delicious. Nice, crispy, flavorful skin, juicy chicken. The waffles were nice and crispy and held up to the syrup well. There was also toasted quinoa and rice sprinkled over the top of everything. Oh, and the chicken didn’t need the tzatziki, but tasted really good with it. The lady’s waffles were much softer and less crunchy, but deliciously coffee-y. They were served with cinnamon butter and whipped cream. I had a couple of bites and want to figure out how to make coffee waffles at home. Such an awesome idea I never would have had myself.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki Spread

Greek Coffee Waffles

Greek Coffee Waffle

Spit Chicken and Waffle

Spit Chicken and Waffle

We’ve now officially had waffles from two DC-based Top Chef contestants. Your move, Spike. Waffle burger? Waffle pizza? Steak and waffles with bernaise? Call me when you decide.

  • Favorite thing I had: Everything I had. The spit chicken and waffles. The tzatziki with the stone oven bread.
  • Favorite thing she had: The greek coffee waffles. Basically dessert for brunch.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The baklava french toast (I’m so curious about what that’s even like) But really, all of it. I really dislike the small plates concept, but I think I have to go back for dinner. And we’ll definitely be back for brunch. Damn you, Mike Isabella! Making irresistibly delicious food in a small plates concept.
  • What makes this place stand out: The open kitchen area with giant spits and rotisseries. I was sitting with my back to this but kept turning around to check it out. It’s also one of the few upscale-ish greek places I’ve been to. Most are more… cozy. Dare I say, tacky?
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): I’m not going to be able to stay away from that brunch for long. There are so many places on our list, but as soon as we were done here, I wanted to do it all over again. I’d go back tomorrow if I could.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): We wandered over to Smucker’s Farms shop across the street. Then hopped in the car and tried to go up 11th street to hang out at The Coupe or Room 11 or something. Being that it was prime brunch time, everything was packed. You could just go do your grocery shopping at the new Trader Joes a few blocks down 14th.

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)

The Gibson (U St NW.)

After dinner and a night-starter at Bar Charley, we headed a few blocks east to 14th St. NW to The Gibson. This one has been on the list to try for a long time and we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re ok with dropping $12 on a good cocktail(s). We knew the general location, but had to look up the actual address to find the well-camouflaged location. Once we found the door (with the address painted the same color as the facade) we saw The Gibson painted in tiny letters on the brick. We walked into a narrow hallway where a host checked our IDs and seated us at the bar behind a closed door in a surprisingly dark room. It took a minute to adjust, but as soon as we had drinks in front of us, all was right in the world. We ended up leaving $80 poorer and quite tipsy, but would do it again in a heartbeat. Safe to say, those were the best cocktails we’ve had in DC.

  • Favorite thing I had: The Clover Club cocktail. Gin, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, egg white. It tasted almost like a creamsicle and I had 2. Egg whites in drinks, who knew? I want another one right now.
  • Favorite thing she had: The Brown Derby. Whiskey, grapefruit juice, honey.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Anything and everything. Giving the bartender a few details and having a cocktail constructed especially for me.
  • What makes this place stand out: Has the feel of a speakeasy but without code words or secret numbers. Nothing standing between you and deeeelightful cocktails.
  • Fun Details Otherwise: We got a little bit of a show, watching the bartender break down giant blocks of ice for drinks. They were even creating their own spherical ice cubes. What do I have to order to get one of those? It was also fun to watch them expertly craft 5 different cocktails at once. I’d sit here just to watch and learn.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Tomorrow, if I could afford it. Realistically, next month.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): U St. and 14th St. NW are your oyster, here. A show at Black Cat or U Street Music Hall.