When David Guas struck out on his own from the Passion Hospitality Group, he called his venture DamGoodSweet.  After a visit to the Courthouse Farmers’ Market in Arlington this past weekend, we stopped into Bayou Bakery and found out exactly what the phrase means firsthand.  Guas’ new take on the community coffeehouse is an impressive rendition of the flavors and spirit of New Orleans cuisine.  Damn good sweet, indeed.

Bayou Bakery opened in late November last year after a ton of anticipation.  The location is ideal: at the corner of 15th Street and North Courthouse Road, Bayou can cater to the courthouse crowd on weekdays and the market crowd on Saturdays, with a healthy neighborhood following in the evening.  Demand has been high enough to warrant Sunday hours, as well – they just started this past weekend.  When we arrived seating was at a premium, though a brisk carry-out business made it possible for us to order and grab a table right away.

But what to get that would give us a good feel for the place in short order?  We settled on a few NOLA favorites and a couple of unexpected treats.  Check them out with us after the jump.

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Crisp and JuicyWhen it comes to pollo a la brasa, it seems like the Washington area is second only to Lima in terms of options.  Once you cross over into Northern Virginia, the concentration of Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken establishments is through the roof – each neighborhood has its own, and everyone swears that they know the “single best place” to find brined, spice-rubbed, coal-fired chicken.

Even though we live inside the District, we still head out to Arlington to eat fairly regularly, meeting MrMikesDad for dinner when he’s in town for work.  Since we still haven’t found a suitable substitute for our formerly regular sushi fix, we’ve been trying some of the other options in the nearby area.  Last week, that led us to Crisp & Juicy.

This being our first experience with Peruvian chicken (other than a volunteer trip to Cuzco we took through GlobeAware), we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  But the name kind of established our expectations for us.  With a name like Crisp & Juicy, you’d better be prepared to deliver on texture and tenderness.  And with the number of competitors nearby, you’re going to have to bring the flavor, as well.  At this point, there are seven locations in the Crisp & Juicy empire; we figured that was a pretty good sign.

We walked up to the restaurant, located in the same colorful shopping plaza as Arrowine, and prepared to be blown away. (more…)

MargaritaTalk about a leap of faith.

When a restaurant advertises itself as “The Tac ‘o’ The Town,” it’s easy to write it off as another Americanized take on Mexican food.  And when that restaurant has two locations, in Arlington and Del Ray, it makes it even easier to write it off.

But doing so would be a big mistake in the case of Taqueria Poblano.  We visited their Arlington location for the first time a year or so ago, on a night when we didn’t feel like waiting for a table to open up at our usual sushi joint.  What we found was a pleasant surprise: a flavorful take on tacos and some damn good margaritas.

TaquitosSince then, I’ve been back on a number of occasions with my father whenever we get a taste for those margaritas.  It’s not the healthiest of dinner choices, sure, but the freshly made guacamole is addictive and the meats that they serve up for their tacos and entrees are always spicy and tender.

A sampling from their menu and some photos to go with it after the jump. (more…)

CheeseburgerBack in March, Washingtonian magazine ran an NCAA-style tournament pitting some of the top burgers in the area against one another.  Though the Burger Brackets had their share of detractors, they brought an interesting phenomenon to our attention: the popularity of Elevation Burger.

With their first location only open since 2005, you’d think a place like Elevation might make a decent showing…but they were giant-killers!  Good Stuff Eatery, Palena Cafe and Central were all defeated by Elevation Burger’s fiercely loyal supporters, who turned out in droves to vote (and to rave about everything from the burgers to the corporate ethos in their comments).  We were skeptical, but intrigued.

Elevation ExteriorFortunately, our restaurant break-up dragged out for as long as it did – a little over a month ago, one of the new Elevation Burger franchises opened up in the Lee-Harrison Plaza off of Lee Highway in Arlington.  We knew we had to give it a try to see how the organic, grass-fed burgers stacked up to some of our favorites.  Sure, we supported the concept…but how would all those slow-food-sounding words work in a fast-food environment?

Burgers, fries and a self-inflicted milkshake fail after the jump. (more…)

thirsty-bernie-exterior<<EDIT, 12/8 @ 3:30 PM:  On Friday, several sources reported that Chef Jamie Stachowski’s with Thirsty Bernie was not renewed when it expired on November 30th.  Even more disturbing, Washingtonian’s Best Bites blog quotes Stachowski as saying that owner Steve Sadeghian is planning to focus on “convenience cooking” and will be buying much of his food pre-made. 

Sounds like the things that made Thirsty Bernie stand out among sports bars is now gone, so please do not consider this review reflective of the current restaurant when deciding whether or not to visit.>>

Sports bar.  Strip mall.  Northern Virginia.  Sounds awesome, right?  Generally speaking, this is not a combination that screams “destination dining.”  But if you haven’t heard by now, Thirsty Bernie is no run-of-the-mill sports bar.  It’s a showcase for a chef who made a name for himself downtown and who now has carte blanche to indulge his creativity in an unlikely venue.

I never did make it to Restaurant Kolumbia, so I can’t wax rhapsodic about the way Chef Jamie Stachowski used to impress upscale diners with his charcuterie and his novel takes on classics.  Having experienced Thirsty Bernie with my father recently, however, I can definitely see what everyone is talking about. 

This is a place that takes meat, beer and sports seriously.  And since there are very few places that simultaneously do all three well, it warrants a visit from even the most NoVAphobic Washingtonian.

So what the heck is a ‘weck?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

You can set your watch to specific events in DC: cherry blossoms on the tidal basin, interns clogging Georgetown sidewalks and, for Mike and me, summertime crabs at the Quarterdeck.

Tucked away behind non-descript apartment buildings and on the edge of Ft. Meyer, this is not the type of restaurant you stumble upon by accident. Nope, you need to twist and turn your way through residential streets and — just when you’re pretty sure you’ve lost your way – there it is.

Georgetown upstarts aside, this is a crab shack in the truest sense of the word. It isn’t fancy (a friend of mine still blames a breakup on the restaurant’s lackluster atmosphere) or fussy and that is exactly why we love it. Quarterdeck has a full menu and is open year round, serving up burgers and sandwiches in the colder months. You can easily spot the summertime patrons (ahem) from the year-round loyalists. The latter are a no frills lot who hang out at the bar and would look just as at ease in a VFW hall.  

Service is straightforward and friendly, quick to supply refills on your pitchers of beer and fries while you pound away at your crustacean friends with the wooden mallets they provide. (Bibs are also available.)

You can order your crabs by the dozen, half-dozen or crab feast. Really, for $34.95, the feast is a steal and the only way to go. The only catch is everyone at your table needs to order the all-you-can-feast option or no feast for you! Quarterdeck receives a daily crab shipment in the season but it’s still wise to call ahead to reserve your batches. The crabs arrive en masse as soon as the kitchen can churn them out, dumped on your table still steaming with a healthy dusting of Maryland Old Bay seasoning. If you order the feast, the crabs keep coming and coming until you cry uncle (this is also when you start to regret all those french fries you had at the start of the meal).

(More after the jump)

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