Neapolitan Smackdown!

NeapolitanSmackdownIn opening La Forchetta, the modish new Italian-themed eatery in Wesley Heights, restaurateur Hakan Ilhan boldly declared that the reigning mecca of authentic Neapolitan-style pizza-making in the District had just been surpassed.“2Amys, in my opinion, was No. 1,” Ilhan said, referring to Peter Pastan‘s  uber-popular pizzeria in Cleveland  Park. “I think ours is the best.”  On a recent evening, I decided to put Ilhan’s pontificating on his pizza to the test, dropping by both wood-fired oven eateries for an initial side-by-side comparison of each one’s take on the classic margherita  pie. Continue reading “Neapolitan Smackdown!”

This Is Why D.C. Diners Can’t Have Nice Things 24/7

NightMovesIt’s Monday night, about 11:26 p.m. and my new would-be go-to late-night burger spot, Black & Orange, is all locked up. A guy in the window makes a cutthroat gesture as I try in vain to pry open the door. When I point to the large posted sign reading “Open Till 5 a.m.,” he just shakes his head. As we continue to pantomime back and forth, a trio of svelte young ladies also attempts entry and immediately starts sniping about the snub. “They said they were open ’til five!” one gal scoffs as she and her friends turn away and clomp in their heels up toward U Street NW. It’s no surprise the place had customers waiting to get in. Two weeks ago, the Washington Post spotlighted the wee-hour goings-on at the two-and-a-half-month old gourmet burger joint on 14th Street NW in an article prominently displayed on the cover of its Metro section, which pondered, “Is the District slowly evolving into a 24-hour city?” Ironically, the article appeared in print one day after the Post’s own Going Out Gurus reported that Black & Orange had abruptly and dramatically scaled back its hours. Continue reading “This Is Why D.C. Diners Can’t Have Nice Things 24/7”

D.C.’s Best New Restaurant: Little Serow

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Otherworldly—that’s perhaps the best word to describe the way that Komi chef Johnny Monis has converted this former basement-level Dunkin Donuts into something sublime. You’ll hear other restaurateurs boast about attaining this sort of transcendence through their various design theories. Most fall far short….Little Serow actually achieves this. Continue reading “D.C.’s Best New Restaurant: Little Serow”

Top 10 Food Trends That Must Die in 2012

Herewith, my hit list of the most puzzling, most distasteful and most overdone dining trends that need to be euthanized, for their own good, hopefully within the next 12 months:

FoodTrendIcons10. Skid marks!

You know what I’m talking about. Those streaks of dark glop wiped across white plates like the work of some abstract expressionist saucier, probably intending to evoke brush strokes. Too often, it looks like shit stains on Hanes. Not appetizing, not even at Adour.

Read the full list at Washington City Paper.

Gator Season In D.C. Chomp At Your Own Risk!

Beer-braised alligator ribs at Thunder Burger
Beer-braised alligator ribs at Thunder Burger

“Oh no!” my dining companion yelps. “I think I just ate one of those ligament thingees, thinking it was slaw.” By the contorted look on his face, you’d think he’d just swallowed a handful of agitated hornets. A minute later, having safely swallowed the distasteful cartilage, he offers a less dramatic review: “Tastes like wax.” We are sitting in a booth at Thunder Burger in Georgetown, picking our way through the advertised weekly special: tender alligator ribs, braised in beer, glazed with a sticky sweet honey chipotle sauce and served with a crunchy cabbage and cranberry slaw. Now, I’ve gnawed on the scaly reptile before—I’ve just never seen alligator meat presented with such panache. Like most diners, I’m much more accustomed to tasting the meat only after it’s been battered, deep-fried, and rendered indistinguishable from the average chicken McNugget…. Continue reading “Gator Season In D.C. Chomp At Your Own Risk!”

One Final Meal at the Legendary Tavern on the Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the future of iconic Central Park restaurant Tavern on the Green very much in doubt, the missus and I head over for one last meal in the famous Crystal Room. It’s the same spot where the wife was seated nearly 17 years earlier, a doe-eyed teenager from Ohio, dining with her grandparents, on her first trip to New York. The place remained very much the way she remembered it, overwhelmingly ornate and still bustling with wide-eyed youngsters and their wiser elders from out of town. It just looked older. Much older. “It reminds me of Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, the grande dame who’s seen better days,” my perceptive spouse said, noting the fraying pink tablecloth covering our sloppily bussed table, which was strewn with stray bread crumbs and specs of black pepper. “It seems a little worn around the edges.”

Read my full story at NYO.

Restaurateur Keith McNally On Real Estate, the Economy and Infidelity

Photo by James Hamilton/NYO
Photo by James Hamilton/NYO

“How do restaurants survive in this economy? Who knows? I don’t. And nor does anyone who says they do. Ultimately, I think one does what one’s always done. In my case, it’s stabbing people in the back and sleeping with my friends’ wives.”–Restaurateur Keith McNally

Read my full Q&A with the eccentric Balthazar boss here: “Do Not Send Back This Man’s Soup” (NYO)

Provincialism Dooms Cosmopolitan Inventor

Passerby1On the eve of shutting down his self-described “intellectual dive bar,” Passerby, bartender and author Toby Cecchini reflected on the location’s unique character:  “I got a call from a bartender on a Tuesday night, which is a relatively quiet night, and he’s like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to come down here.’ There was water just pouring out of the hallway. Someone had categorically smashed to pieces both toilets in both bathrooms with a ball-peen hammer or something. … I think about this when I see that Audrey Sanders has, like, carved wooden sinks at Pegu Club and whatnot. In my bar, someone would take a chain saw to them in, like, 13 seconds.” Read my full interview with Toby Cecchini, wherein the former Odeon suds-slinger clarifies his claim to the title of “Cosmopolitan” creator. [NYO] Continue reading “Provincialism Dooms Cosmopolitan Inventor”

‘A What? Globo?’ My Interview With Derek Jeter


Watch out, Equinox! New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter is partnering with the international 24-Hour Fitness chain to open three new “classy” sports clubs in Manhattan this year. What, you were expecting a Roger Clemens-run juice bar? The first will be a 28,000-square-foot facility on Fifth Avenue, conveniently located just a short guilt-ridden walk from Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Additional locations are planned for SoHo and also in Midtown, a few blocks from the pro slugger’s own $13 million pad in the Trump World Tower. The healthy and wealthy Yankees shortstop recently took a breather to talk with me about the project. Continue reading “‘A What? Globo?’ My Interview With Derek Jeter”