Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chevy Chase Happy Hour @ Lia's

My company has an office in Chevy Chase. Every now and then I am lucky enough to be invited over for an afternoon meeting, which inevitably turns in to happy hour. How can it not? The options are abundant in that neighborhood. I have to admit, I am very jealous.

Most recently, we went to Lia’s. They have a very nice bar area and a lovely outside patio where you can take advantage of the happy hour specials with great deals on their delicious food, including burgers for $5.95 and discounted pizzas.  Drink specials are the highlight though. If you can handle it, there is a ‘super mug’ for $7.95. It’s 33 oz – so heavy that I feel like I have done a arm workout after finishing my first… and really should never have a second!

The crowd is casual, professional and welcoming. I would argue that it is the best happy hour spot in Chevy Chase. Try it out some time. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CityZen - the most amazing dining experience ever

I got very lucky recently and was invited to go to CityZen. Some would argue this is the best restaurant in DC. And now that I have had the pleasure of experiencing it, I agree.

With a group of 12, we arrived early for our dinner reservation, so we could experience the bar. The bartender recommended a French 57. I’d never heard of it, but figured, why not, give it a try. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. And probably a bit dangerous. A citrusy drink with gin and champagne, it went down way too easily. Luckily, we got seated quickly.

The full experience started with a table that anyone would be jealous of. A guest in our group frequents the restaurant, so we were given the semi-private room, located behind a wall of wine. Amazing. Our six (really ten) course meal was about to begin. Normally a picky eater, I decided to pull out the stops for this meal and try everything they put in front of me. Every dish was amazing, coupled perfectly with unique wines, but I’ll focus on the highlights.

Soft shell crab: Something I don’t normally eat, but wow am I glad I made an exception. Lightly breaded and flavored, really permitted to stand on its own, it was amazing.

Lobster – Melt in your mouth. Wonderful. Nothing else to say.

Chocolate covered pretzels – When I saw this on the menu, I was perplexed, but excited. If I am honest with myself, I’ll admit that this is always my favorite snack and I couldn’t wait to see how a gourmet chef would prepare it. Oh my God. The kind of experience that causes you to close your eyes and pause, reflecting on the amazing combination of flavors in your mouth. A bar of cold chocolate mouse topped a crust of salted bread, paired with a salt infused ice cream. I am sure I will never eat something like this again.

And while all of the wines (all 10 of them) were amazing, one was so good I asked our head server to write it down for me. Odysseus Grenacha. I will be hunting it down soon.

I’d be remiss is I didn’t mention the service. Each of us had our own server and every time a course was delivered, it was presented simultaneously. Then it was described, and the sommelier detailed the wine course.

Normally, I think exorbitantly expensive dining experiences are a waste. I leave hungry, and can’t recall any of the experience within a couple days. This was different. At over $100 per person on just the food, and likely the same for the wine, it was by far the most expensive meal I have ever had. But I will  be back, again and again and again and again……

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Public Bar (during the World Cup)

We made our way to Public Bar for the first Saturday of World Cup action a couple weeks ago. Arriving just after 10AM, we figured we were way ahead of the crowd, and would be able to settle in to a comfortable table to watch hours of soccer. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The first indicator should have been the multiple people walking down Connecticut Ave with soccer jerseys on. I had to pause and ask myself if I was in America or had somehow woken up in a European capital. We arrived at the hostess stand to be greeted with the question “Do you have a reservation?” A reservation? At a sports bar? Guess we should have planned ahead. We were directed to find a place to stand at the bar, which was already three to four people deep. Normally this would be Jamie’s worst nightmare, and we would be leaving immediately, but he was very excited to be with fans during the USA game, so we stayed. Turned out to be a great decision.

After the 10AM game, some fans thinned out, heading to other bars. Our group of six was able to push our way up to the bar and stake a claim. A rude move, but whatever. This clearly wasn’t the place to be polite. And there we stayed for the couple hour break between games and the entire US game. Our bartender, Kruz, was amazing. At some point, we stopped ordering beers, but there was always a full one in front of me when mine got close to empty. He even sent a bar back to the stock room to find us some Sam Adams (we wanted to be patriotic and drink American beer). The food deal worked out well for us too - $5 burgers & fries. Can’t really beat that, and these were exceptionally yummy. One negative. Apparently they didn’t expect the crowd that showed up, because at one point they stopped taking orders  to allow the kitchen to catch up. That lasted more than an hour, and one could argue it’s a bit unsafe given the amount of alcohol being consumed.

Once the game ended and the bar emptied, we stayed around for a couple more beers to get a feel for the place. The cozy couches on the second floor are a great place to talk with friends and watch a game. And the rooftop, while hot this day, would be the perfect place to catch an early fall football game. We really liked this spot, and will definitely make the trip down to Dupont for big sporting events. Great job with a fun new bar!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Casual Place in Silver Spring - Fire Station 1

So I've become obsessed with restaurants within a few mile radius of our home in Silver Spring. There are tons of good ones that have been here forever, but are new to me. And we seem to have a wave of new openings going on as well. I'm all for it - convenience and supporting my neighborhood. Both good things.

Continuing the trend, I almost jumped off the couch in excitement when I read a local blog that said Fire Station 1 had opened for business on Friday night. It took a little convincing to get the husband to go to a place that had only been open for three hours, but it turned out to be very worth it.

I'll start with the downsides, since they were limited and not really a big deal for me. It seemed like they had rushed opening a bit. The beer taps don't work yet, the full menu isn't available, etc.

Now on to the good.

It's a casual, comfortable place. Very important for us. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. Smiles and jokes all around about the hiccups going on during the first few hours of business, but the staff managed to keep us with full glasses in front of us. The owners were walking around, introducing themselves to folks, and helping behind the bar. It felt like we were all hanging out at someones house. This is key for ensuring we go back to a place.

The menu will be just our style once it is fully in place.  Good variety of standard bar/american fare. Pizzas that looked delicious. A unique take on boneless chicken wings. And a lobster blt that sounds like it will be quite tasty. All for very reasonable prices.

The decor is just interesting enough for me. They've taken advantage of the historic building, with soaring ceilings and exposed rafters. Modern flairs have been added, like the lighting and what we heard will be an impressive stairwell (not installed yet). And there's a ton of outdoor seating (too hot on Friday to check it out). It's a good balance.

We'll be back. A lot.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mexican on a sunny afternoon

Saturday was a perfect day in DC. Sunny, with enough of a breeze to keep you cool. We headed down in to the  district with plans to see the European Embassies and meander around the city. We were a bit disappointed with the embassy thing. Lines were long and most of them were just handing out tourist brochures.

We decided to take a detour to grab some food and beverages. Wandering through Cleveland Park, we ended up at Cactus Cantina. I've driven by this place tons of times, always thinking the patio looked very inviting, but never stopped. So glad we went in this weekend! Chips & salsa were yummy, with just the right amount of salt. I enjoyed a couple cold beers, and my husband ordered 'swirls'. Those were a bit strong, even for his tastes, and so cold they gave him brain freeze. Both our our meals were great. I had a special that included grilled shrimp, chicken and steak with pico de gallo - all delicious.

If you are in the neighborhood on a warm afternoon, definitely stop in.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Restaurant in Silver Spring - 8407

We love when new restaurants open in Silver Spring. While it's great to get out and explore the city, it's even better when something opens up basically in our backyard, so we were of course to thrilled to learn about 8407 kitchen bar.

A new concept from the head chef at Nicaro, Pedro Matamoros, 8407 is a unique addition to the local offering. We stopped in on Thursday evening to check it out and had a great time. We sat at the downstairs bar where we started off with happy hour beers ($1 off drafts). Then we ordered some food on the recommendation of the bartenders - two cheeses (one goat and a mild cheddar), some meats (duck prosciutto and chorizo) and olives. All were great. I preferred the cheddar and chorizo, and who wouldn't love a ton of yummy olives for $4. We finished up our meal with a distinct chocolate desert, covered with powdered cocoa - delicious!

While the food is great and the staff is very helpful & friendly, this review wouldn't be complete without a mention of the decor. The place looks great. It's a perfect blend of trendy and upscale, with granite bar tops and dangling lighting. There is a lounge next to the downstairs bar that looks perfect for a large group event. And the upstairs dining room is perfectly done. High ceilings make for a very dramatic effect. The one downside is the windows downstairs. While beautiful, they are allowing the sun to stream in, warming the room (and the wine). I am sure they will fix that soon.

One final note - as I went upstairs to explore, Chef Pedro introduced himself and made a point to ask what I liked and didn't. He was beaming with pride about his new restaurant and the partner who is helping him with it all (so sorry - can't remember their name!).

We'll be back and think you should go too!

Update - check out the First Bite review: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/20/AR2010042001269.html

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jay's in Clarendon

It's about to be time to sit out on decks and drink beers - perfect timing to start up this blog again. And last night I found an even better reason to start writing - Jay's Saloon & Grille in Clarendon.


On our way to a housewarming last night, we stopped in to this dive bar to grab some food before the party. First, I have to mention how we found the bar. My husband saw it as a 'tip' while 'checking in' on Foursquare. I consider myself to be fairly internet savvy, but I have yet to get involved in this social phenomenon. Probably because I don't have an iPhone.

Anyway, back to Jay's. It is the kind of place that immediately makes me feel at home. A true dive bar, where everyone seemed to know each other, buying each other rounds at the bar. My husband and I took a seat right at the front where we were presented with menus and asked what we wanted to drink almost immediately. As we started to look over the menu, Jamie asked "Have we stepped back in time?" The prices are seriously cheap. Cheap enough to make you think they printed the menu 10 years ago and just never updated it. This was the first indicator that I was going to love this place.

Next came the food, which was delivered within 10 minutes of ordering. I had a crab cake sandwich and fries. Crab cake was pretty good, but the fries stole the show. They were amazing - the perfect combination of crispy and salty. Just perfect. Jamie had chili nachos, something I couldn't share because I gave up cheese for lent. After the first bite he said, "These might be worth going to hell for." Now I'm not sure I would go to hell for breaking lent, but I did turn him down. Then he found a chip on the bottom with no cheese - again, perfect.

Finally, my second beer was kinda warm. When I mentioned it to the waitress, she took my beer back to the bar, tested all the other Michelob Ultra's in the fridge and came back to tell me they were all kinda warm. Then she offered to put a beer on ice for me! I turned her down, and ordered a different beer, but what amazing customer service!

By the end of the meal, we were looking for houses for sale in the neighborhood so we could make this our regular dive bar. Maybe someday.