Phillips Seafood (Flagship) – Washington, DC


Phillips Seafood (Flagship)
900 Water Street SW
Washington, DC
(202) 488-8515
Monday–Thursday & Sunday, 11am–9pm
Friday & Saturday, 11am – 10pm
Weekend Brunch, 11am – 2:30pm

Overlooking the Washington Channel on the Southwest Waterfront, Phillips Seafood (Flagship) is reputed to be the only all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Washington DC.  A large buffet of fresh seafood selections, as well other cooked and dessert specialties, make up an glutton friendly display.  A traditional a la carte menu is also available.  For those coming by car, you can swing below to an underground parking garage (complete with a man standing by the payment machine to help speed up the process at dinner time when the line can get long).  Its a pure tourist destination however, so be warned…

The choice for this massive group dinner was left to someone who’s been here before and thought the simple venue and dining style would be conducive to our party – filled with a bunch of big strapping fellows associated with a certain active military outfit and accustomed to big eating of the seafood variety (as they are based on the west coast).  I wasn’t particularly thrilled but decided to chalk it up to one of those unfortunate outings when one’s interest in eating well (and perhaps in more moderate quantities) was thrown to the wayside in the greater interests of group harmony and wasting time arguing about where to eat.  I guess I can be accommodating to a fault.

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Bistrot Du Coin – Washington, DC


Bistrot Du Coin
1738 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC
(202) 234-6969

During short, non-leisure trips I’m often forced to put my interest in eating out and trying new things on the backburner due to various reasons, including unfortunate hinderances such as lack of free time and fussy travel companions. But there are those occasions when my interests do find a fortuitous match and I meet like-minded folks who know a good meal when they see one, and are willing to seek them out. A well travelled businessman, who was born-and-raised in the DC area introduced me to Bistrot Du Coin, which turned out to be the gastronomic highlight of my trip.

The sweltering heat of the DC summer did put a bit of a damper on my dinner experience as the inside was absolutely packed and the air circulation was minimal at best. We were seated on the upper floor overlooking the main dining area below, which perhaps made the stuffiness seem that much worse. With the boisterous crowd and plentiful tables full of wonderful smelling food, it felt part American overindulgance and part French bistro casualness.  I was so insanely hungry after another long day that I was willing to put up with the discomfort as long as the food was satisfying, and thankfully it was.

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Capital City Brewing Company – Washington, DC


Capital City Brewing Company
1100 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC
(202) 628-2222

Hot summer weather.  And cold beer.  Goes well together don’t you think?  I must be mentally trying to keep the summer alive with today’s post, reflecting on my July visit to the east coast of the US.

As an escape from the humid heat that was still blanketing the city even in the late afternoon, a group of us ducked into the nearest, air conditioned gastropub for a quick hit before our dinner plans.  As we were expecting some vehicles to pick us up, we had plenty of time to kill.  And with the drivers taken care of,  a license to drink as well.  The formula for a good start to the night!

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Churchkey – Washington, DC


Churchkey
1337 14th Street
Washington, DC
(202) 567-2576

So a Canadian, a Texan, a Colorodan, and a native Virginian walk into a bar…

Nope, not the opening line of some tacky joke but what happened on my summertime visit to the Churchkey gastropub in the funky neighborhood of Logan Circle, that I grew to love during my time in America’s capital city. In desperate need of some shelter from the sweltering heat, along with some food and liquid sustenance, the four of us ducked into this two floor establishment well before the big rush of customers came not too long after the sun went down.

The burly fellow who was checking ID’s at the door gruffly noted they didn’t have a happy hour (or at least when we entered).  Alas, that didn’t stop our crew from going inside, as one member had heard this place had a wicked beer selection.  Now if you’ve been following along lately, you’ll probably remember that I’ve cut back my consumption of this popular adult summer season liquid, but this day was an exception.  Why is it that the hotter the weather, the stronger my craving for ice cold  beer becomes?

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Zaytinya – Washington, DC


Zaytinya
#701 9th Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 638-0800

Hi readers!

As I am sure many of you are aware, the northeastern States have endured quite a few battles with Mother Nature this summer – including some blistering hot heat waves, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, and Hurricane Irene.  Fortunate for me, I was only around for one of those events and managed to get safely in and out of the nation’s capital, and enjoyed some good eating along the way.  While this will be a pictureless-post due to my not wanting to whip out my cell phone during this particular meal, I still wanted to put some thoughts down and share my experience at Zaytinya, which offers Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine.

Mediterranean cooking is not something I indulge in a great deal but when I do, I am always pleasantly surprised by the boldness of flavors that can be captured by a talented kitchen.  In the case of Zaytinya, their celebrated chef is José Andrés, recently named this past spring as an “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation at their annual awards gala in New York City.  The restaurant is clearly on the popular destination list by locals and visitors alike.  Without a proper reservation, we had to wait a little while at the bar (where you can still get food), before a table opened up for us later in the night.

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Cafe Osceola – Orlando, FL


Cafe Osceola
Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel
9939 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, FL
(407) 996-9939

Jetting from one corner of the US down to almost the exact opposite quadrant is something that I never enjoy.  I realize its just one country, but man, can America seem massive some times.  And I’m not just talking about the gigantic people I sometimes get sat next to on the airplane.  So after a day long journey, a taxi ride once I landed and a groggy check-in past the dinner hour, I was in no mood to check in with my mates (one of whom had arrived two hours before me) and desperately needed to eat something as I got into my room.  Thank goodness for that wonderful thing called room service.

Those massively, old fashioned binders that house the pages of the hotel’s restaurant options had some not bad looking choices, but room service was limited to just the one.  Fine, I thought, let’s just roll with it.  It seemed to be from the Cafe Osceola located on the main floor, and their menu choices were pretty standard fare variety American family fare.  As I really hadn’t had anything substantial on the plane rides (after all, who wants airplane food?), I thought it might be overwhelming but decided to get a French Onion Soup to begin with.  I should have taken the plastic wrap in taking this shot – so excuse the shiny glare.  It was a good size, easily the palm of my hand.  A thick layer of oozy cheese was cut through, revealing a very thick with bread cubes soup.  Rich and flavorful, and not too salty.  The only downside with room service is of course, the temperature of the soup had cooled somewhat, to the point where it was getting just above warm.

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Bubba’s Bayou City Grill – Houston, TX


Bubba’s Bayou City Grill
IAH Airport, 2800 N Terminal Rd
Houston, TX
(281) 230-3100

Having just finished watching an hour long television interview featuring George W. Bush, I thought it would be fitting to upload a short post from a recent stop over at Houston’s second airport, better known as George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IATA code: IAH), which is named after his father.  The facility is one of the busiest in the nation, ranking in the top ten in terms of overall passenger traffic and destination servicing.  Being a first time traveler through IAH, I was surprised that is was laid out in a very simple way, making some time killing an easy activity, as each of the major terminals were within decent reach.  Fortunately, my connecting flight was within the same terminal area, and I came back after some strolling and book shopping, to find a spot for lunch near by next gate.

Where I ended up had a mix of options.  One was more of a cafeteria-style enterprise, that had an intriguing barbecue section.  But trying to limit my first ever Texas barbecue experience to something more impressive, I turned my back to that place and into my field of view came Bubba’s Bayou City Grill.  As it was Sunday afternoon, a full slate of NFL games were on the big screens inside and after a quick glance at their lunch offerings that had actual dishes wrapped in plastic and set outside on the table, it was an easy pick.  I wanted to watch the games and be able to sit down and spent about 45 minutes before my next boarding time.

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Fogo de Chão – Washington, DC


Fogo de Chão
1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 347-4668

Fogo de Chão is a well known Brazilian churrascaria restaurant chain that offers the unique experience of Latin steakhouse plus full table-side service all in a high end environment.  It has successfully established a beachhead in the United States over the past decade, including this beautiful location in the US capital,  situated just several blocks away from the White House grounds.  This was perhaps the only pre-planned dinner I had on this trip (actually organized by another person).  The rest were all ad-hoc due to lack of time and I might add, interest.

It actually occupies a good chunk of the first floor of an impressive structure, better known as the Evening Star Building, which is listed in the National Register as a Historic Landmark.  When you see if during the height of the day, the building is impressive to even the non-architect with its classic French design and clean lines carved through the marble.  Doing some background research after the fact, I’ve learned it was originally constructed in 1898 and was the home to a newspaper (not surprisingly, called the Evening Star).

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Rainforest Cafe – Orlando, FL


Rainforest Cafe
Disney Animal Kingdom
505 N Rainforest Road
Lake Buena Vista, FL
(407) 938-9100

Downtown Disney.  A destination location without a doubt.  Flooded with families and young children on a hot day in Florida, the scene is a quintessential vacation scene.  Sun, fun and shopping.  What’s not to like.  Especially for the kids.  But there is a dark side.  When it comes to eating, things can become a) quite pricey as they have you a virtual hostage and b) choices are limited.  With only two hours to kill and figuring we should at least check things out (no kids in tow of course) on a business trip, a colleague and I tried to squeeze in both some gift shopping and a late lunch.  Seeking shelter from the bright sun, our reprieve from the unwavering heat ended up being the Rainforest Cafe.  Not the only choice nor a preferred one, just the closest one…

In hindsight, I’ve learned this is a big chain in the States with roots in thirteen states.  As well, they have some international representation in places such as Tokyo, London, Paris, Mexico City and Dubai!  I suppose this theme-style restaurant that stretches the ideal through its menu and motif remains a popular one, despite the downturn of other such adventurous chains like Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe.  Inside and once seated, we got that “have you been here before?” query, no doubt something each server is required to ask patrons.  The reason?  Well, if it were not for the “warning” regarding the every-thirty-minutes sudden explosion of sights and sounds that occurs throughout the entire restaurant – attributed to the animal-themed decorations and props – I’m sure there would be quite the number of shocked customers.  Heart attack-inducing loudness I might add.  Complete with a thunderous roar of artificial sounding thunderstorms and lightning.  Yes, we are after all, in a rain forest people.

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Kafé Kalik – Orlando, FL


Kafé Kalik
4969 International Drive
Orlando, FL
(407) 248-0889

A short reprieve from the business at hand led me and a partner to hit one of the larger outlet shopping malls in this wildly spaced out city.  As such, some quick shopping was our main focus and grabbing a quick meal before we had to return elsewhere wearing uncomfortable business attire under the sunny skies was secondary.  Out of pure convenience, we popped into Kafé Kalik, who’s signage claimed they were a “taste of the Bahamas”.  While I have never been to the Caribbean, my Spanish speaking pal has many times so I had to twist his arm to join me – while we both knew we were likely in for some underwhelming wannabe-ethnic cuisine.

Our suspicious were confirmed as once we were seated in a very empty dining hall near the bar side, I spotted a connecting sushi bar that was tied to the business.  I think in spite, my dining buddy actually ordered a sushi roll as his main meal.  With this Japanese and Caribbean fused sushi roll menu that included things like tempura conch, and curried tuna among them, it kind of reminded me of the eclectic mix at The Lions Den Cafe.   I won’t even go there as I’m not sure it deserves any comment.  Our server was a cheery and quite outgoing Latina woman, who was overly interested in pushing the special items on the lunch menu.  I hardly paid attention as the first mention was some kind of trio of  mini burgers.  Not exactly unique.

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National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill – National Harbour, DC


National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill
201 Waterfront Street
National Harbour, DC
(301) 965-4000

Some places and food just go together.  As a lifelong baseball fan, for me, this sport is all about hot dogs.  Its part of the experience of seeing MLB games live.  Strangely enough, having been through enough pork processing plants in my lifetime and gaining a full view into what goes into hot dogs, you would think I’d stay away from them.  Alas, I can’t when it comes to watching America’s favorite pastime.  This isn’t even limited to the outdoor environment, as if there is a game on in the bar, I’ll look to see if there are any ‘dogs in the house.  Yup, I’m predictable that way.

For those fans of the sport, you’ll know that Canada lost one of its top professional teams to the Americans.  The glorious  Montreal Expos franchise that gave birth to so many amazing players has relocated to Washington, DC.  The Nats as they are affectionately called are a fairly forgettable bunch, without a winning season in six years of their new existence.  I wondered when I came across this sports bar within this massive hotel facility, if it was tied to the franchise (I did see a logo on the front glass), given its name.  Its a little mixed, as I did see a lot of football paraphernalia adorning the room, including a pretty cool display case with helmets from all of the NFL clubs.  Looking for a quick bite to eat and to catch a glimpse of whatever sports game was on the gigantic screens that covered on side of the room, we were quickly seated by a slightly unenthusiastic hostess at one of the high tables in the middle of the floor.  A prompt order of some non-alcoholic beverages – since we were on the clock – and so began our lunch.

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Rosa Mexicano – Oxon Hill, MD


Rosa Mexicano
National Harbor
153 Waterfront Street
Oxon Hill, MD
(301) 567-1005

Mexican cuisine in Maryland you say?  This chain of nine restaurants concentrated mainly on the east coast (with a lone western outpost in Los Angeles) was chosen among the limited within-walking-distance places to eat a late dinner by our traveling group after a long day.  Coincidentally, the troop included a native Mexican, who we consulted about Rosa Mexicano.  According to him, he had heard it was not Mexican food in the traditional sense, but had some dishes listed on the menu near the front door that he considered quite unorthodox and amused him enough to say, “let’s give it a try”!  And so with that directive, we did just that…

This particular location was situated in a new development of commercial and residential buildings in National Harbour, and sat on the banks of the Potomac River – although the direct view was obscured from the outdoor backside deck where we were sat.  Water taxis could be ridden back and forth across to the beautiful Old Town district of historic Alexandria, Virginia, making this area a prime piece of real estate.

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Hugo’s – Houston, TX


Hugo’s
1600 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX
(713) 524-7744

People will argue that Mexican food gets better the closer you get to Mexico. While this makes sense in theory, it doesn’t always work in practice. Texas, for example, is right across the border but has adapted Mexican food and made it their own – the birth of Tex-Mex pretty much means that real Mexican is difficult to find. Great Mexican? Even more difficult.

In the Westheimer area in Houston, Hugo’s Restaurant is trying to change that perception. Serving high quality Mexican cuisine that represents the best of all regional cuisines, I have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical. Places that try to represent too many different cuisines  have a tendency to be good at all, but master of none.

From the large gated doors to the vaulted ceilings and chandeliers, the space is 1925 traditional with elements of contemporary. I don’t see the supposed elements of “chic” they are aiming for, but it’s a reasonably nice atmosphere characterized mostly by the slightly uncomfortably large gaps of space between tables.

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Uncle John’s – Crawfordsville, AR


Uncle John’s
5453 Main Street
Crawfordsville, AR  72327
(870) 823-5319

Heading to Memphis, there were a lot of different food experiences we wanted to try. Unfortunately, as on most trips, we had way more places to try than we had meals. For BBQ, there was a lot of debate: Central, Paynes, Interstate, Rendezvous, BBQ Shop, Neely’s.  Fried chicken lead to a similar debate. We knew what we wanted to try, and it was tough choosing one or two places to hit up. For catfish though, there was no question. We had to go to Uncle John’s.

Now, being no more knowledgeable of local geography than what i saw on a map, I had no idea that Arkansas was that close to Memphis. And while i’m not the biggest fan of checklist tourism, I do wish to visit all 50 states at some point, and this was an easy chance to knock one off. Crawfordsville AK is only roughly 30 minutes from downtown Memphis.

Uncle John’s is ostensibly an “Italian” restaurant, but they serve many Southern specialties as well. And on Friday’s, they have a catfish special that is regarded by many to be the best catfish they’ve had.

As we pulled up, everything screamed small town. There was a bench, complete with two suspicious locals who eyed us with trepidation as too many people emerged from a too small rental vehicle, quietly celebrating the end of our torturous ride. They were not impressed. I’m not sure I was that impressed either.

The exterior was a clean, nondescript building with a painting of what I can only assume is the proprietor. It was definitely a bit more modern than i was expecting.

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Central BBQ – Memphis, TN


Central BBQ – Central Avenue Location
2249 Central Ave.
Memphis,TN 38104
(901) 272-9377

Every Southern State (and sorry purists, I include Texas in the South – well, when it comes to BBQ anyway) believes their version of BBQ is the best. In travelling from State to State, I’ve come to recognize that the differences are not as great as they would have you believe. Yes, there are very fine differences in flavours, sauces, and ingredients, but most people would have a difficult time discerning these. These days, there has been so much cross-pollination of ideas and accessibility of ingredients, that i find BBQ is more about style, skill, and choice.

The greatest differences in BBQ come down to two key things: wet or dry, and choice of ingredient. While many people claim that Memphis-style BBQ is about wet (sauce) BBQ and pork, I found wet and dry preparations of ribs in most establishments. And while they also  serve mostly pork, there was some beef, and  there was a lot of  poultry (chicken, turkey) as well. Choice of wood, temperature, time, rub, I don’t feel there is  “regional” exclusivity any longer. I’ve even seen mesquite, traditional Texas smoking wood,  used in Memphis BBQ preparations.

So the question meat lovers need to ask is not “which state has the best BBQ”, but which establishment serves the best BBQ that they prefer.  Central BBQ is one place in Memphis trying to stake their claim.

Central BBQ has two locations in Memphis, but I was reassured by locals that the original location on Central Ave was the one to go to. As we pull up, we see a smoke shack in the back, billowing smoke into the atmosphere, a fragrant, delicious smell. Our appetites are immediately whetted.

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