Easter Brunch

Every year before Easter I post the best Sunday Brunches around. This year we have a few new restaurants to the list. Make sure to get your reservations before Sunday.

Sunday Brunch is a ritual for a lot of people, but where to go is always a chore. I know that every single restaurant these days has brunch and it is hard to decide where to go. I wanted to write up a list of great places that I have gone for brunch, to make your lives easier. Plus, a lot of these places are not that well known and will allow you to call today for reservations.

Pienza Italian Market

One of my new favorites is the brunch at the Pienza Italian Market at the Gaylord National hotel at the National Harbor. The buffet is like one in vegas. It appears to be a quarter mile long. They offer everything from fresh baked pastries to custom omlets to a dessert bar with fresh custard. It is definately a place to go.

For Reservations call (301) 965-2000 – 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.

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Review: Granville Moore’s

Do you ever watch the Food Network?  If so you have probably seen the Chef/Owner of Granville Moore’s, Teddy Folkman.  He beat Bobby Flay in a mussels throwdown.  He also was on season 5 of the Next Food Network star.  Granted he was best known for being the guy that lied, but heck that has nothing to do with his food.  Besides Teddy, Granfille Moore’s is known for Moules Frites.  What is Moules Frites, why it is Mussels and Fries.  I love mussels so I had to give this place a try.

Walking to the place we almost missed it and walked right by the door.  The only sign is quite small and above the front door.  If it wasn’t for the line outside, we would totally have missed it.  Once inside we waited for a seat at the bar.  Oh, if you don’t have a reservation, you will be waiting a long while for a table.  Luckily we found a spot at the bar.  I like the bar, you can really see how a restaurant works by watching the waitstaff.  It doesn’t matter what restaurant you are in, the waitstaff always migrates to the bar.  If the waitstaff is having fun, you will have fun.  Plus, the bartenders will not steer you wrong when it comes to the menu.  This might be a bit biased, as I bartended for 8 years, but it has not failed me.

Granville Moore’s goes through 1200 pounds of mussels and 1400 pounds of potatoes every single week.  They must be doing something right.  The menu is focused on a Gastropub theme that is heavily focused on the mussels, fries and dipping sauces. Don’t forget the massive selection of Belgian Beers.  Chimay anyone?

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What to do this weekend in DC – (November 13 – November 15)

This weekend in DC is a little slow.  Not too much going on in the culinary scene.  Although not much is going on, there are still plenty of things to do.  So this weekend I am going to highlight a few places that I love to go to eat. The location this week is Annandale.   They are a little out of the way for you DC and Maryland readers, but well worth it.

The Mount Vernon Gingerbread House – (Nov. 12-24)

Roland Mesnier the former White House Pastry Chef is constructing a replica of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Every day from the 12th to the 24th Roland will be constructing the replica in the Vaughan Lobby from 10am to 3pm.  Visitors can watch as Mesnier constructs the masterpiece, which will include intricate details such as works of art on walls and several marzipan figures.  The best part is that admission to the Mount Vernon Estate is not required to visit the Vaughan Lobby, so this is totally free.

Great Places to Visit – Annandale, Va

Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill – 7220-C Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003

Honey Pig is a hip Korean BBQ grill.  With good music, fun atmosphere and the fact that it is open 24 hours makes this a go to place for Korean BBQ.  I recommend the Sam Gyup Sal (Pork Belly), Kalbi (short ribs) and Bul Goki (marinated lean beef).    Don’t forget to get some soju (Distilled rice liquor, similar to vodka with around 20% alcohol content).

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Best Buffalo Wings in DC

I love buffalo wings. As can be seen from the Wingtacular, Best Buffalo Sauce and the red stain on my shirt. So I have decided to list the best buffalo wings in the DC area. This list is not totally complete as I haven’t had every single hot wing from every single restaurant, but it is rather thorough. Feel free to chime in with your favorites. If I haven’t been there I will look it up and try them out.  They might cause the list to change up.

Hot Wings
Hot Wings

Requirements for a great hotwing:

  • Nice juicy wing
  • The wing has to have meat, some places serve the tiniest wings that literally have no meat on them.  (They are not on this list, you know who you are).
  • The wing sauce has to be spicy, but flavorful.  Some sauces are hot, but there is no flavor to the wing.  All you get is spice.  On the other hand there are places that have smokey and sweet sauces but absolutely no spice.  There has to be delicate balance.
  • The wings have to be affordable.  I don’t want to pay $20 for 10 wings.  That is absurd.  Chicken wings are cheap to purchase and unless the sauce has gold dust in it, I am not paying that much for a wing.

Click below to see the list
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Columbia Firehouse

109 South Saint Asaph Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3119
(703) 683-1776

Columbia Firehouse is located in Old Town Alexandria in the same space as the old Bookbinder Steakhouse.  Walking in I thought I was still in Bookbinders.  If you didn’t see the name out front, you wouldn’t know walking into the restaurant. Almost as if they did not even change anything at all.

The building is nice. It is full of rich woodwork, stained glass and even has a atrium dining room. I was seated in the atrium dining room for my meal. It nice but rather noisy. The service was a little slow and the server had to be asked about the specials (pet peeve). I originally went to Columbia Firehouse with Ryan and Melissa for Restaurant Week, but after glancing over the menu we decided to order off the menu.  There was only one entree that could be combined with one appetizer on the whole menu that could add up with dessert to be $35.09.  To make matters worse, neither of those options were available on the Restaurant Week menu.

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Restaurant Review – Pienza Italian Market

Pienza Italian Market – 3 stars

My parents came to town this last weekend and since it was Mother’s Day I made brunch reservations at Pienza Italian Market.  Pienza Italian Market is located in the Gaylord National Hotel at the National Harbor.  They have a large outdoor dining area that is located underneath the giant atrium in the hotel.  That way no matter what you always have good weather. 

When we arrived they took us through the buffet and described each section.  The buffet stretched a couple hundred feet and included everything that one could think of.  Fresh fruits, salads, bread, italian fare, breakfast food and desserts.  The breakfast food included omlets made to order, fresh made waffles and bacon.  The bacon was glorious.  It was thick cut and cooked till crispy.  MMM. 

After walking through the buffet they sat us down at our table that was situated in the outdoor setting underneath the atrium.  The views were grand as they included the whole atrium and views of the potomac river.  Once seated we waited for out waiter to take our drink order.  By waited I mean we waited 10 minutes to talk to the waiter.  I should have known that this would have been and common theme throughout the meal.  We were at the buffet for an hour and saw our waiter 5 times.  Remember the only way to get drinks at this buffet is through your waiter.  Needless to say our glasses were empty for most of the meal.  At times we had to flag down other waitstaff to fill our drinks. 

Not all of the staff was as bad as the waitstaff.  The chefs were friendly and schmoozed with the diners.  The waffle chef stopped what he was doing to go find my mother a clean plate.  This was nice as this wasn’t his job but he wanted us to have a great experience.  The omlet chef was kind and took my request to add ingredients in my omlet that were not in front of him.  I brought over some smoked salmon to add to my cheese, spinach and mushroom omlet. 

The selection of fresh fruits, salads, and italian anti-pasta was excellent.  They offered a variety of breakfast foods including eggs benedict.   A sign of a good breakfast place is if they can make an eggs benedict.  They made it, although mediocre and no made to order it was pretty darn tasty.  They also offered a pretty good selection of italian dishes including meatballs, lasagna, white sauced pasta and various other meat dishes.  The carved meat station included ham and turkey.  They noted that the meat selection and italian dishes vary from day to day.  They are based on what ingredients are fresh and not on a set menu.

The desserts were amazing.  They had an ice cream bar with fresh Hagan Daz ice cream.  They also had tea cakes, cheesecake, tres leches cake, layered chocolate cakes and various vanilla cakes layered with fruit.  The tres leches cake was amazing.

If it wasn’t for the waitstaff this restaurant would have recieved a better score.  At times we wondered if our waiter had quit as we could not find him.  At the end of the meal he was right on time with giving us our check though.  I guess he was eager to get a tip. 

Overall the food was fantastic, the cooking staff was excellent and despite the waitstaff, I will be going back.  The buffet is one of the best, if not the best in the DC area.  I recommend that you give it a try. 

Pienza Italian Market – $42 per person for brunch

For Reservations call  (301) 965-2000 – 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.

Sunday “Easter” Brunch

With the upcoming holiday weekend I wanted to post about what to do this weekend in Washington, DC.  But after realizing that it is Easter weekend, there is only one thing came to mind.  Sunday Brunch!!! and… Mimosas.

Sunday Brunch is a ritual for a lot of people, but where to go is always a chore.  I know that every single restaurant these days has brunch and it is hard to decide where to go.  I wanted to write up a list of great places that I have gone for brunch, to make your lives easier.  Plus, a lot of these places are not that well known and will allow you to call today for reservations. 

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405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812

I said it in the Cafe Atlantico post, I would return.  I did and it was a whole lot better than the first time.

Ahh minibar. When visiting cafe atlantico on the second floor sits a small counter with just six stools. Many without knowing think it is just a small bar sitting area for the one tops, but no, the lucky few that get to sit at those six seats each night are the luckiest people in the restaurant.

With just six seats and two servings each night it is hard to get just one of those hallowed seats. But how do you get a seat at minibar? My only answer is to call, call a lot. Reservations for minibar open up every day when the restaurant opens. But remember when you call you are calling for a reservation exactly one month from the day that you call. So if I call today March 30th, it would be for a reservation on April 30th. Sounds easy right? Nope. One more caviat. They start taking reservations at 10 am and  are regularly booked by 10:01 am.

So what are a few tips for snagging a reservation.

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Ray’s Butcher Burger

1713 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 841-0001

Butcher Burger, or Hellburger as it’s known locally, makes some damn good burgers.  Which is not totally unexpected, since it is owned by the same man who runs Rays the Steaks, located just a few storefronts away.  Whether it is worth the money and the time, that’s for you to decide.  Having just opened on July 1st, a few kinks are expected, but the ambience is decidedly chaotic. The outside of the restaurant is unassuming, no sign as of yet, just a small piece of paper posted up on the storefront window and the long line of waiting customers hinting at what’s inside. There are only a few sit down tables and a couple more stand up tables scattered around a movie poster dotted, cafeteria-esque room, and they are all packed. If you have any sense, go with a friend, if not only to have them be the designated table nabber.  Use your time in line wisely, deciding what you want before you get to the ordering counter is essential since the staff still seems somewhat unorganized and frantic. They only take cash, but the good thing is they have an in-house ATM just past the meat station. There is a variety of different styles of burger and toppings and every burger comes topped with lettuce and a fat slice of ruby red tomato. 

A must if you go by and there is no line, otherwise expect to wait a little.

Reviewed 9/2/08

Flying Fish – The Recap

815 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

The yellow and purple Chi-chi-esque decor, out of place with the younger, hipster patrons who frequent this otherwise stylishly furnished sushi bar/restaurant, is only a foreshadowing of the gastronomical delights in store for those who eat here. Our server was a bubbly, personality-laden red-head who swore, wrongly, that she’d waited on us before. Lots of people say that about us, for some reason. She was fun and knowledgeable about the menu, giving us certain inside pointers about what was good and what was not. She leaned us towards two entrees: a broiled (psst! actually grilled, our waitress whispered confidentially) seafood platter for him, and toasted-rice crusted escolar (a Chef’s Thunder special) for her.

Escolar, aka “white tuna”, we were familiar with from numerous ecstastic visits to Bonsai Grill (the great local sushi bar near my old apartment in crystal city). As sashimi it is a tender, buttery, luxurious melt-in-your-mouth-good white fish. We were so excited to see it on the menu that we didn’t think twice about ordering it. In fact, we also ordered two pieces of escolar nigiri to whet our white tuna loving appetites. The bread basket was delightful: doughy, pleasantly chewy breadsticks, glazed with butter and garlic, with a flavorful wasabi-white-bean hummus dip. The nigiri was delicious, as was expected, but left us feening for more.

The seafood platter consisted of three large shrimp, two scallops, three calamari and a large hunk of a white fish of undetermined species. Everything had beautiful appealing criss-cross grill marks, but unfortunately much of the platter was over-cooked and stringy. The toasted-rice crusted escolar came in a huge, forearm sized slab that was agreeably seasoned and had just enough of that rich, buttery flavor to recognize it as white tuna. For sides, we both chose the vegetable du jour (buttered broccoli and carrots) and bleu potato dumplings. The vegetables were average, but the bleu potato dumplings blew us away. Crisp, lightly fried balls of savory whipped potato in a golden brown coating of bread crumbs with a bold, tangy blue cheese nugget tucked in the center. Unfortunately, you only get three.

Our waitress was very attentive, keeping our diet colas filled and checking on us every few minutes to chat and ensure we were happy. She was dryly sarcastic too, quipping “Wow, it looked like you didn’t like it,” in reference to our empty, crumb-licked plates. For dessert, we decided on the key lime tart, which came out in a crumbly, sweet graham crackery crust with the hint of coconut and topped with a gooey drippy meringue that made us think the pastry chef should start lifting weights because they needed to be whipped a few minutes more. The lime filling was refreshingly tart and paired well with the sweet crust and sweet sweet topping. It was a good deal for being five bucks and generously portioned. And it was fat free!

The price at the end was a little steep, around $60 sans tip, but we felt we had a decent meal and good service. We were still raving about the escolar a few days later, when we started blowing it out our nether regions. His was yellow/orange, mine was yellow/green, but it was the same. Oily, floaty and insistent, our love for escolar came back with a vengeance. Scared that we had been food poisoned, we turned to our only reliable source: Wikipedia. There we found our beloved escolar was a fake. Frequently used as a cheap substitute for actual white tuna, aka albacore tuna, escolar contains indigestible oils that cause gastric distress in the form of crazy, unexpected diarrhea. Without going into details, over the course of two days, our love of white tuna was suddenly turned into loathing; cursing at that dumb, delectable irresistible fish while draped on the toilet at cursing at ourselves for being duped into making ourselves superby regular. But, during our frantic search for what the hell was wrong with us, we ran into some very amusing sites, namely Escolar Evil or Not, which if you look at the link title, pretty much says it all. We were not alone.

Knowing what we know now, would we go back? There’s a chance we might. As long as you don’t get the escolar, Flying Fish is a fun, friendly, hip place to spend your good money on some good seafood and service.  

Visited: 3/31/07


Cafe Atlantico

405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004

The expectations for this restaurant were very high.  With Jose Andres and Katsuya Fukushima one could expect nothing but perfection.  After eating at Cafe Atlantico I have come to the harsh reality that my expectations were completely wrong.  Everything started great.  We sat at the bar and had a few excellent cocktails.  After the cocktails we were seated and then everything came crashing down.  The first thing that happened was that the hostess came to our table and asked us if we were the group that complained about the restaurant week menu.  We were not, but it just shows the quality and strength of the menu.  To begin with the restaurant week menu was cut down to two choices for the night.  The website and front door menu listed six options for both the appetizer and the entree.  This was not that bad except that they replaced one of the six appetizers with a green salad, and one of the six entrees with a lunch special. 

Dinner menu


  • Chef’s special soup of the Day – gazpacho
  • MIxed Green Salad (lunch)


  • Salmon con Quinoa y Cous-Cous de Coliflor
  • Specialty of the day (lunch) – Pork served with stewed tomatoes, olives, onions, capers and fresh lime with avocado


  • Sorbet of the Day, Coconut Sorbet
  • Choco-Banana

I had the soup, pork and the Choco-Banana.  My Girlfriend had the salad, salmon and the sorbet.  We also ordered the table side Guacamole. 

Out first came the Guacamole, a mere 15 minutes after we ordered.  For a course that they prepare tableside, it took a long time to get to us.   The Guacamole is rather plain, but really shows of the flavor of the avacado.   I would recommend it for the first timer to Cafe.  Once made it was good, but it was not enough to tide us over until our appetizers came out 25 minutes later.  The appetizers were rather boring.  The only little bit of fun was the fried worms added to the top of the mixed green salad.  The salad was way over seasoned and showed just how much the restaurant likes restaurant week. 

I must digress, restaurant week is a time for restaurants to gain new patrons.  You are supposed to show of the best of the restaurant to get patrons that would not normally enter your restaurant to become repeat customers.  Cafe Atlantico and many other restaurants miss the point.  If you want patrons don’t simplify your menu, don’t offer food that I can get at taco bell, offer me something that distinguishes your restaurant from any other restaurant.  Make me want to come back, make me want to spend my hard earned dollars on your food.  Take pride in your food and don’t offer me something that you are throwing out there just to turn a 100% profit.

Back to the gazpacho.  Good body, good flavor, nice acidity.  It was a well balanced dish.  Probably the best of the night.  Just shows how the night went.  A cold soup beat out everything.

After the appetizers we had a good 30 minute breather before our entrees came out.  It gave us enough time to finish our wine and to discuss how everything was going.  Obviously not very well as it was 1:10 minutes into our dinner service and we had only our appetizers in our empty stomachs.  It was like we were the unlucky guests on one of the first nights of Hell’s Kitchen. 

Finally we received our entrees.  My pork had the texture of country fried pork without the breading.  After I cut out the bones, my portion was half its original size.  It was seasoned alright, but the combination of olives, capers, tomatoes and guacamole just did not work for me.  I just did not understand the guacamole.  The salmon came out well done and on underdone couscous.   This was a bit of a joke at the table as the waiter made sure that we were alright with medium-rare salmon, as that is how the chef liked to cook it.  I guess that the chef was not in, as the salmon came out cooked well done.

Finally we were given the gift of dessert a mere 2 hours after we sat down at the table.  This would not be bad if we were eating a six course meal, but for a three course meal that appeared to be pre-cooked this was horrendous.  The dessert consisted of coconut sorbet (enough said), and a Warm Chocolate cake (actually cold) with Venezuelan chocolate flan, banana foam and fresh banana lime salad.   The cake was cold, the foam was creamy and the flan was, well great.

Overall my experience was horrible.  The staff was inconsiderate, the food was moderate at best and restaurant weekers are treated as third-class citizens.  Would I go back?  Maybe for minibar, but for restaurant week, probably not.  

Reviewed 8/14/07