Semi-Locally Famous Eateries in DC – A Quick Review

Posted on September 15, 2011. Filed under: Destination: Travel!, Everyday Me, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

 

 

I’m kind of into food a lot lately, not in a binge eating type of way but just as more of a hobby. I’ve gotten very into top-chef and anything else on food network (or Bravo!) that involves cooking and I even started my own blog about crop-shares! (link below or http://creativecrops.wordpress.com – well if that’s not a shameless plug I don’t know what is..).  With this mild obsession with food as of late I decided that of all the more ‘famous’ eateries in my backyard I would give a quick once over on my opinions. Bon Appetite!

Ben’s Chili Bowl
Fame Level: Travel Channel, President Obama has eaten here…

I really love chili, let me get that out there first. There is just something wonderful about a good chili. In the Fall and Winter it is warming and in the summer on a hot-dog it can spice things up just right. Turkey chili, soy chili, heck even Hormel, just heat it up and I’m usually in there! Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC establishment. It has been standing from before the race riots that tore through DC, Bill Cosby is a hug advocate of the place, and President Obama famously dined in this very, very small place in the early days of his presidency.  www.benschilibowl.com Now that we know who has been let’s go over the nitty gritty details of this place:  

Experience:
It is directly across the street from the 13th ave  exit at the U Street metro stop, so it is definitely convenient. The hours are 10 am – 2am, clearly there is no excuse not to go! They do only allow a limited number of people into the building, so you may have to wait on a line outside, then move to a line inside and then get a seat. I was very nervous about not getting a seat after I ordered. The place was really jam-packed but everyone typically orders then scouts out seating so it worked out just fine that way, sticking with that system in there is the way to go! They also had some great music playing, seemed like a nice mix between 60s and 80s soul and pop tunes, the noise level was pretty moderate but it was all part of the experience. The staff was absolutely amazing! They were personable, friendly, helpful and quick, since you order and then they deliver there isn’t too much interaction but they made the most of the little interaction we had!

Food:
Again, I am a chili person so I may be biased here but it was delicious! I had a chili-dog with cheese and onions and boy was it good! I got fries on the side for a bit extra and that was a smart idea. The chili is extremely spicy (even for my husband who typically eats habanero and jalapeno peppers in his food). Both my husband and father in law were quick to jump on my fries when I offered them up to beat some of the spice. Overall, it was relatively inexpensive, locally owned, delicious and offered free fountain soda refills, it’s worth a quick bite if you find yourself on that side of town for sure!

 

Georgetown Cupcake
Fame Level: TLC TV Show – DC Cupcakes

I really love these cupcakes! I have been a fan of Georgetown Cupcake since before they were famous nation-wide and were just a fun little store in Georgetown. Even then the lines were up the block! Overall, after trying more than a fair share of DC area cupcakeries I still prefer this one, I’m hooked! If you are in town for just a little while, don’t feel bad missing this spot, but if you have time to kill and want to check out Georgetown, hop in line and spend a while, the cupcakes in the end are pricey, but worth it! www.georgetowncupcake.com

Experience:
With the TV show in full swing the lines at this place have progressively gotten worse. I thought it would ease up a bit when they made the move from their extremely tiny shop on a side street a few streets over to their larger, corner location. It really didn’t help. The store is much more visible and prominent now and the lines are just as long and move just as slow. They do have a lot more workers in there so it is much more efficient when you get in to get your cupcakes and drinks and mosey along. The show has really amped up their business though. Word to the wise, if you are going to go – get there early! Also, become their Facebook friend/fan so that you can find out what cupcake flavor they are giving away for free that day.

Food:
When its early in the day and the lines are short I jump on to get my free cupcake – always a delicious treat! They offer standard cupcakes everyday of the week – these are pretty basic: Chocolate and vanilla varieties, red velvet (definitely one of my favorites) and chocolate ganache – for any chocolate lovers out there this cupcake would be for you! They have daily varieties that are also quite delicious. My favorite of the daily changing ones is Lava Fudge. You bite into the middle of this cupcake and get some ‘lava’, it is such a great treat, especially warm! I also enjoy their Strawberry – nice and refreshing! Some of my favorite seasonal flavors that are offered include German Chocolate Fudge (similar to the lava fudge) and Caramel Apple (hands down my absolute all-time favorite)!

 

Filomena Ristorante of Georgetown
Fame Level: Politicians, Diplomats and Men in Tuxedos…

Like any ‘good’ Italian – I love Italian food more than any other variety. Good pasta can never let you down, it  is comfort and it’s my go-to food of choice. At Filomena you can watch the ladies making the fresh pasta in the front of the store. It is tucked in a side-street but is very delicious. www.filomena.com

Experience:
Get ready to part with your wallet – this place is extremely pricey! I will be honest, I will not go to this restaurant unless it is restaurant week where I can score a price-fixed meal at something more reasonable. It is expensive, the food is good, but I just don’t have that kind of cash to spend on a dinner. It is decorated in an over the top Italian way. Fake flowers and plants, big statues, it looks like what would happen is someone let my Grandma design a restaurant. That’s part of what makes it cozy, special and real though. It backs up to the canal so if you sit near the windows you have a lovely view of the canal… 

Food:
If this place were in my budget I would definitely visit more often. The food was excellent! The pasta was fresh and tasted great! The meat was cooked perfectly. Everything was just right, and they even throw in the free after-dinner drink like any good Italian place would as you are paying. It was worth the extra money for something special. Looking to impress someone and have a fancy night on the town – come here. The food is wonderful and you will enjoy it and be treated well! 

 Any I’ve left off that you think I should include? If so – let me know!

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Well Hello Again!!

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: Books, Destination: Travel!, Everyday Me, Movies, Personal Reviews, TV Shows | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hello all!

Sorry that I have been gone for almost a year! I lost track of blogging but alas – I’m back!! A lot has gone on in that year, and many many books have been read, a handful of movies watched. But I am back in action and ready to lay my opinions on you!

Lets start back with a quick synopsis of my 2010 favorites:

Favorite TV Show: Big Love – hands down my absolute favorite! I love watching this family and seeing their drama unfold. They start up again in a new season this week, unfortunately I dont have HBO so I’ll have to wait to report on the new advancements until my library has the DVDs

Favorite Book: This category was a little more difficult, there wasn’t one book that really stuck out in my mind over another, so I’ll have to come back to this one…. I’m thinking it is most likely going to have to be Zeitoun , that was a really great book.

Favorite Movie: The Town – amazing! Great story, harsh language (that was a minus) but overall just excellent. There were quite a few other contenders in this category including Love & Other Drugs, An Education, Black Swan and Going the Distance. Reviews on some of these to follow!

Favorite Column: From the WashingtonPost Magazine (weekly) I cannot get enough of Gene Weingarten. He has a great way of writing that really draws you in. I can ‘hear’ his voice and I love it!

Favorite DC Restaurant: Founding Farmers – this is truly great food! It’s an amazing atmosphere and a fabulous restaurant. I cannot wait to write a review on this to tell you more!

Favorite Trip: Asheville, NC. What a beautiful place to go! We had such a fabulous time visiting Asheville and the surrounding BlueRidge Parkway. If you are ever nearby or passing through please do yourself a favor and stop. It is SUCH a great place! I really cannot wait to go back and explore more!!  

There were lots of favorites in 2010 but for now that will do. I have some reviewing ideas on tap and will post as I get them ‘penned in’. Sorry for being such a lame blogger but I promise you – I am back!

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Three Cups of Tea By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Posted on July 29, 2009. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is an amazing story, almost too good to be real, but it is real. Put down whatever you’re reading now and check this book out. It’s a phenomenal account of a man on a mission to climb K2 that looses his way only to find his true calling. The story is masterfully told to make you feel like you personally know Greg. Relin weaves in remarks and interviews from people that do know Greg to give a complete account of his work and other details of his journey thus far.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations... One School at a Time

Greg Mortenson grew up in South Africa with missionary parents, after moving to the US he knew that there was bigger and better out there for him to accomplish. As a nurse he is someone who continually breaks the stereotypes and does what he wants in his own way; He’s successful in his routines, which is miraculous in itself. In this book you learn of how Mortenson attempted to summit K2 and at first feeling let down left the mountain with the heavy weight of a village’s education on his shoulders instead of his failure.

This book shows that not only is there good in the world but that there is more to fighting than weapons. A little outside thinking can really help an area that needs help and Mortenson’s method will prevent this area from succumbing to terrorist mindsets. Greg does not in any way try to change these villages in a negative way or push his beliefs on them, he just wants the children of as many villages as possible to have a solid structure to learn in. A solid education for as many children as possible is Mortenson’s mission. It’s clear that Mortenson not only put in a lot of work and labor to keep his project afloat but he also sacrificed many things. Mortenson sacrificed much family time for the well-being of others’ children. This book is a humble reminder of the ways that others have sacrificed for villages and children that often go unnoticed.

Three Cups of Tea was motivational and pure. The intentions of this book are simple; in a time of war remember that along with the extremists there are children who still need to be educated, and a solid education will prevent extremism from spreading among the impoverished communities. This is a worthwhile organization to donate to, and after reading the book you will be certain that every penny you donate will go to the cause and will be spent in a frugal, effective way.

http://www.threecupsoftea.com/ is the website for the book and contains information the Central Asia Institute which is the main charitable organization Mortenson runs his charity through.

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Traveler’s Digest: Must Take Guidebooks

Posted on April 16, 2009. Filed under: Books, Destination: Travel!, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

When getting ready to travel ‘across the pond’ there are a variety of guide-books that have curb-appeal and beg you to choose them. I’ve tried out a few and gathered up my resources to find out which were actually the most useful and helpful when you get to your destination. As background my destination was Italy.

Rick Steve’s Italy : This is by far the most useful, informative, fun and worthwhile guidebook. It surpassed my expectations and I did not put it down during my trip! It had EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know listed in this book. From dinner suggestions to what you need to be aware of, etc this book contained it all. Some restaurants had the tacky – show this book get a discount, and while I am very opposed to this, they really did give you a discount and after spending a ton on airfare that came in handy and yes – I stooped to that level. (I had the waiter take a Book Picturepicture of us with the book so I didn’t have to leave it on the table to be honest). The recommendations were great – the guide let you know what was very touristy and what was more of the local spot and it was spot-on for everything I tried. I used the book sometimes as a way to find various streets and tried my own quiet dining spots instead just to keep my adventurous spirit alive. In smaller towns and villages maps were provided as well as walking routes and advice on the quaint things that larger-scaled books may overlook. It was a worthwhile book to have and my friends living in Italy demanded that I leave them my copy for them to use after I left. Even the locals loved this book, just proof that you only really need 1 and this was it. I would recommend buying this used – I used the 2006 version which I bought used online – came with some great line notes from the previous traveler which is always nice! Also the 2006 version seemed bigger than the 2008 version which to me yells that it has more info!

Europe by Eurorail: If there are lots of things you want to see and do, even if it’s just within 1 country a Eurorail pass is the way to go! You can only buy them in the US so plan ahead! I bought an Italy-only pass that was valid for 5 days – they did not have to be consecutive days. I used everyday and loved it! In Italy if you take the Eurostar trains you just have to pay a $15 reservation fee – this is a deal because many of the trains I was taking would have cost me upwards of $100 each way if I didn’t have my Eurorail. This book gave you really good advice for traveling between the countries as well as smaller trips that you can see through the train. I like train travel so this book really appealed to me and confirmed how much fun train travel is and can be.

Good ‘Ole Maps: The larger guidebooks mentioned above are great – but please buy yourself a handy map. Find one that can get wet if you find yourself in a rainy situation as well as one that you feel is quick and easy for you to use and orient yourself with. You do NOT want to be fumbling around trying to open/close a large map. Find something quick to open, quick to close that’s small and can fit in your pocket – you don’t want to scream tourist to everyone and a large map will do that for you. Also try to use your map BEFORE you are lost. If you take a train places before you arrive orient yourself through the map with where you should be and where you need to go, it helps you to keep on moving along when you finally arrive.

If you have any other good travel guide books that you’ve found in your travels please share them!! Guide books are also an individual experience so they may not have what everyone is looking for, but recommendations are always helpful in a foreign place so before you go – talk to those you know that have been before: they’ll have the best advice for you!

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Colonial Williamsburg: Huzzah!!

Posted on January 6, 2009. Filed under: Everyday Me, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I took a quick weekend trip down to Colonial Williamsburg: seemed fun and I’m pretty close right now so why not?!  I didn’t quite know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised when we got there. I knew I had wanted to feel like I stepped back into a time long ago, and that I wanted there to be quaint, old colonial architecture, as well as a pretty setting. Almost all of the workers are in period dress which was really exciting to be apart of. One of the biggest downers of Colonial Williamsburg was the commercialization of it.

After the trip when people asked how it was, my first explanation was that it was like Disney, just colonial style. All of the paid employees and actors were period dress, and they talk as if they are there a well. They have many old replica shops set up in true historic buildings. Within these shops you can go in (if you pay the admission or have a special pass) and get a taste of shopping for the Colonies. Our first trip into this type of ‘shop’ was the Saddle maker. We walked in, and he asked if we had horses. True, we were in a saddle-shop but it never occurred to me that I needed horses, I was just a tourist after all. So the saddle maker laughed and assumed we were lost (in a nice somewhat British accent). He then asked where were from, we stated “New Jersey’, he informed us that he wasn’t too familiar with it but had been to Monmouth. Of course he had, in colonial times not much of NJ was inhabited but there was a battle of Monmouth! It was amazing. I wonder what he would’ve said if we claimed to be from Alaska or California….

Many of those actors will not break character, not even to assist you in locating a bathroom (which was literally a house to bath in back then). But it makes for a different kind of trip. It is a great learning experience to go there, and it really makes you work to find out some of this information. You need to play along with the actors and actresses to fit into their world and find out about the world they are living in to compare with your world.

There are nightly events to choose from for small fees. You can participate in reenactments (we were British Soldiers and Colonial Virginians) or you go on tours that offer more history about the buildings, ghost stories and much more. There really is a lot to do. There is not much around other than the historical areas, and the College of William & Mary, so these activities really are essential to getting the most of your visit. There is only so much shopping and wandering through the streets that you can do. Also note, that many of the historic buildings and shops do close relatively early in the evenings.

The restaurants in the town and area are very nice, be prepared to spend quite a bit on a very nice meal at a very nice place. There are few truly casual places in the town, but they exist if you look hard enough. We chose a semi-casual place one night; Seasons and it was delicious. Absolutely wonderful food and very filling. The portion was great for the price, and the atmosphere was really relaxed but nice. The second night we ate a ‘Williamsburg’ restaurant – Huzzah! It wasn’t bad, but much more low key than we had anticipated. I will say, I had the best, BEST, fried chicken dinner platter there. It was 3 great pieces of cooked to order fried chicken, with really fresh mashed potatoes and string beans, and a biscuit. It was delicious, not what we anticipated but we both left with smiles on.

My biggest disappointments in Williamsburg was the commercialization. In Disney there is a shop on every corner and 10 variations of the same old things for you to buy in each of them. This was exactly how it was here. Some of the items were cute, I enjoyed looking at the Christmas items but overall it just didn’t do it for me. I felt like there was so much pressure to shop and spend that it took away from some of the history and the magic of the town. It was overly touristy in that sense, and I was tired of entering shops after the first 3 hours, and so we didn’t enter anymore of them!

It was reasonably priced, and the admission passes we purchased were also reasonably priced. I enjoyed getting to see the characters come to life from this era and to visit the Governor’s Palace and gardens as well as the Colonial Capitol. There were so many things to see within those places that it truly made the trip. It was a good weekend and pleasure to see the historical places of our Revolution. I would like to go back, but not for very long and most likely during the Christmas season to see the Christmas decorations.  In the end, if you are looking for a nice short weekend getaway this is a place to see. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to purchase everything they will push at you (and believe me they will try) and enjoy being placed back in time, its a great trip!

Things To Check Out:
http://www.history.org/   The website for Colonial Williamsburg: Maps, Activities, Etc

Shops:   The Peanut Shop — delicious food dips and other snacks! Yum!

Restaurants:            
Links to all of these great places can be found at : http://merchantssquare.org/dining.html         
Aroma’s Coffee & Cafe — Great spot for breakfast, packed on weekends but great for a good meal at a good price!
Huzzah! — Some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in ages! 
Season’s Restaurant Located in Merchant’s Square, lots of variety all very delicious!
Stephano’s Pizza — Good spot for lunch – quiet corner of Merchant’s Square
     ****Get a coupon in the travel book for Season’s & Stephanos!  (I found my copy in a shop)

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