Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Falafel and a Virgin Brownie at Amsterdam Falafelshop

My first taste of falafel came from a small Iraqi-run falafel stand in the college town of Utrecht, Netherlands in May, 2003. The late-night food wizards that ran the stand were experts at providing their patrons with hot, fresh falafels served in pita bread and accompanied by a self-serve toppings bar featuring all sorts of delicious veggies and sauces, as well as crisp and hot double-fried pommes frites and Dutch mayo to dip them in, all at very reasonable prices.

You are in luck! The place to satisfy your craving for Dutch-style falafel and pommes frites (French fries) on this side of the Atlantic is in Washington, DC on 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan.

Although the menu is brief, there are still some important choices facing the uninitiated, soon-to-be falafel enjoyer. First, one must choose whether to order a "regular" size falafel, or a "small" size falafel. Presumably one would base this decision on the severity of their hunger, not their ego, but the Falafelshop leaves that to your discretion. The difference between a "regular" falafel and a "small" falafel are two-fold. A regular-size falafel offers five falafel balls in a large pita, whereas the small falafel consists of three falafel balls in a slightly smaller pita. Once you've decided which size falafel is appropriate, your next choice is a whole-wheat or white pita (I recommend the whole-wheat). Finally, you can order either your small or regular order of pommes frites. In this reviewer's experience the small order is easily enough for two people, and the regular order is plenty for three to four people.

Don't forget to grab some ketchup, peanut sauce, and especially Dutch mayo for your double -fried pommes frites. It's worth noting that the most delicious item in the place is also the only one that is not vegetarian; the Dutch mayo is ordinary mayo mixed with beef fat. Yeah!

Tips for falafel virgins:

Regular falafel: Before putting on your toppings, take a couple falafel balls out of the pita, then gently crush the remaining balls a bit to make more room, then add your toppings, then finally, place the balls you previously removed back into your pita on top of the toppings.

Small falafel: Before putting on your toppings, gently smush your falafel balls in order to make more room for the vast array of toppings you are about to bury your falafel with.

Brownies: These "virgin" brownies are tasty and huge! No pot though. This place is authentic, but not that authentic.

The Dutch Touch: As a Dutch friend of mine recently found out, the falafel wizards here do not actually speak Dutch, unfortunately. The restaurant was founded by Americans who were inspired and enthusiastic about the falafels served in Holland after spending a couple of years there researching the topic.

Amsterdam Falafelshop
2425 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

*All photos except "Falafel City" courtesy of furcafe.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tasty ales, Euro style at The Saloon

The Saloon
1207 U St. NW, Washington, DC 20009-4442

The Saloon is a slightly below street level, Euro-style pub located on U Street. When I visited, included on their impressive beer list was Brooklyn Brewery's Dark Chocolate Stout, a 10.6% chocolatey, nutty, delicous beast. This limited-edition ale is only available during the winter months and it will definitely warm you up on a cold December night.

With no glowing TV screens to distract you, and cozy dark wood-paneled walls, the atmosphere at The Saloon encourages conversation and socializing while enjoying some food and a frosty Ale. It is worth noting that The Saloon strongly encourages you to order your beer separately from and before any food, and you will see a notice on the menu to this effect. This will allow you to decide what to eat from a much more relaxed state of mind, resulting in a much improved dining experience.

Some of the signage and overall attitudes at The Saloon (such as "order your beer before your food") could be construed by the uninitiated as authoritarian, or maybe even fascist. This was not intended. These rules are merely guidelines by which the management at The Saloon is strongly suggesting that you adhere. After all, who better knows how to have a good time at their establishment than the people that run the place? Just don't break any of these rules, or you could be banned for life. No ale for you!!!

Final Word: Food is above average, beer selection is excellent. Atmosphere is great. Two thumbs up.

Further Reading:

Washington Post Review [8/28/2004]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mojitos at Habana Village

Habana Village
1834 Columbia Road N.W. (Adams Morgan)
Washington, D.C. 20009

Salsa dancing, live salsa music, authentic mojitos with sugar cane stirsticks and three floors of Cuban craziness. This is a fantastic place to come when you're feeling a little bit tired of the trendier bars in Adams Morgan. Habana Village is a very short walk from the main strip of AdMo and supplies it's patrons with loud and upbeat live salsa music, salsa dancing (and lessons), as well as delicious authentic Cuban food and drinks.

Try the mojito and for dessert, the Bananas Tres Leches!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

'Twas brillig at the Brickskeller Saloon

The Brickskeller is one of those establishments you didn't think could exist in a city that seems to have become infested with tacky, pre-fabricated "grab-ass" bars that often have numbers, or even worse, Roman numerals for names.

Atmosphere-wise, "The 'skeller" remains true to its nature as a genuine "dining house and down home saloon" and provides surroundings that are comfortable without being pretentious or overly extravagant. Featuring ample table seating as well as bar seating on each of two levels, the layout lends itself just as well to parties of two as to parties of eight or ten. In this reviewer's experience, the waitstaff tends to be extremely friendly, attentive, and well-versed on the vast beer list that awaits.

The Brickskeller's claim to fame remains its beer list of over 1,000 bottled beers from all over the world. The beer menu is divided up by country and you are free to try anything from a Lithuanian Porter (Utenos Porter) to an IPA from Brooklyn (Brooklyn IPA), to a lager from Zimbabwe (Zambezi lager). In addition to the sweeping beer list, the 'skeller has a kitchen offering a full menu of delicious and reasonably priced food that goes great with any of the potent potables at your disposal.

Claiming the largest Belgian beer list outside of Belgium, the Brickskeller is a Belgian beer lover's paradise. Some of the fine Belgian ales available are: Delirium Tremens from the world famous Huyghe family brewery, De Koninck Cuvee, and the delicious Belgian microbrew, La Chouffe (brewed by happy Belgian gnomes). You can find the full beer list at the 'skeller's informative, if oddly designed official website located at

The Brickskeller is located at 22nd and P at 1523 22nd St. NW. (Metro: Dupont Circle)

Real Rating: (5 Chouffes out of 5)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ethiopian Restaurant Review Dukem

Dukem an Ethiopian Restaurant
The Ethiopians are Hypocrites.

I have the tendency to talk often to cab drivers as they Wisk me around my metropolitan home and most, like little stock tickers, have great insight into the latest and the greatest happenings in Washington D.C. If you think about it they really are like junior travel agents, able to advise old and new comers of the latest area attractions. One thing you will notice is the large populace of Ethiopian drivers. According to the unofficial estimate by the Ethiopian Embassy, Washington D.C. plays host to the greatest population outside of Ethiopia itself, boasting 200,000 people of Ethiopian decent. So with a great Ethiopian populace comes great Ethiopian food. What Ethiopian restaurant do most native Ethiopians suggest, including my friendly cab drivers? Dukem at 1118 U street NW.

Most U.S. citizens outside of some of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. would probably conjure up imagery of a lima bean on a barley leaf when you told them you are having Ethiopian food an unfortunately if your in Ethiopia you’ll be lucky to get that. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s poorest nations. With $823 as their yearly average per capita income they are sitting gloomily at 173rd out of 179 nations listed by the international monetary fund. For comparison that’s about 1/50th of the United States per capita income which is $41,399. We all know that the rich pull that number up substantially, and it’s no different in Ethiopia the poverty line sits at about a dollar per day.

So you’d think their food may not be delectable to the palate, but perhaps the lack of supply makes the attention to detail much greater. Ethiopian food is served on thin sour bread called injera. It’s made of barley, tef, and emmer wheat. True to the traditions Ethiopian dining is a communal experience eaten solely with your hands. To be specific your right hand. The right hand is considered clean. I’m not sure why the left is not, but we’ll leave it at that.

Upon our arrival to Dukem restaurant we were seated by the window by a friendly host. The room echoes an Ethiopian lounge and is a local hangout for many of the local Ethiopian populace as well as Washingtonians. It’s not particularly polished but definitely has an authentic feel to it.
Upon being seated, several minutes later, we were greeted with water by our smiling waitress. We definitely laid it out there that we didn’t know what we were doing, and she was eager to share her native cuisine with us. We started with a native beer called St. George brewed by Kombolcha Brewery in Ethiopia. This northern Ethiopian brewery employs 143 people and occupies an area of 47,270 square meters. Pretty impressive that this Midwestern white boy is enjoying beer from such a far away land. This native lager is recommended drank on hot summer days and coupled with spicy food. It happened to be a hot summer day, and we were about to order some spicy food, so it was just what the doctor ordered. The beer has a golden body with a hoppy flavor. This native lager has sweet flavors and a dry finish. I found it to be a perfect fit for the combination platter of 5 veggies, regular tibs, lamb wot, doro wot and home made Ethiopian style cottage cheese. Tibs, the classic Ethiopian staple (at least here in the States), are cubed tender pieces of sautéed beef or lamb, typically cooked with tomato, garlic and berbere sauce. All of the items come out on a large flat piece of Injera bread. Injera bread is a staple of any Ethiopian meal, in many homes in Ethiopia it’s the entire meal. This flat peace of bread has a consistency of a crepe and is piled with the various spiced meat and veggies. An extra dish of Injera bread is supplied and you rip pieces of the bread and then use them to grab bits of meat, vegetables, and sauce.
In the native Ethiopian culture one would feed your fellow diners as a sign of affection. The flavors are rich in spices, which has a lot to do with the historical method of preserving meats in Ethiopia. Red pepper sauce, seasoned butter, onions, garlic, giner root, and cardamom are abundant flavors. Many of the dishes are ground, shred, or diced into small pieces to allow for you to easily pick up the food with one hand. Vegetables including split lentils, yellow peas, greens, cabbage, shiro, salads, and chickpeas in spicy sauce are full of color and rich in flavor.

If you’re open to new experiences and flavors Washington D.C. offers some of the best opportunities to sample authentic Ethiopian cuisine. There is also the great benefit of a strong historical background, a unique cooking style, and interesting dining manner all of which Dukem Restaurant captures rightly. So gather your friends its time for a new experience.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Welcome to Real Reviews!

The Real Reviewers are two young lads living in our nation's capital who have taken it upon themeselves to share with you their advice on fun things to do in the Washington, DC metro area. Our ideas will cover everything from cheap eats to expensive cuisine, from dive bars to trendy bistros. Our restaurant reviews will often be written from a beer-centric point of view, since we love beer and we think it's an absolutely essential part of a meal. We will tell you what is available on tap, what brews they have in bottles, and any specials that a watering hole may offer.

Since food and drinks are not the only way to have fun in DC, we will also feature articles about various outings and fun activities available for young people that you may or may not be privy to.

St. George's Ethiopian lager is a delicious brew available at Dukem Ethiopian restaurant at 11th and U St. NW (Metro: U Street/Cardozo)