By the time you read this post, Roti Mediterranean Grill will be open for breakfast.  If  you hurry, you might still beat the rush to be one of the first to try a sandwich wrapped in laffa or tucked into a house-baked pita pocket.  Even if you’re not enough of an early bird to check out their breakfast offerings, you may want to check out Roti in NoMa sooner rather than later.

Why?  Roti is offering up spit-roasted meats and freshly made toppings that will make up for all those mediocre gyros and kebabs you’ve settled for in the past.  They’re even baking their own pita bread on site.  And they’re delivering all these big sit-down style flavors at carryout prices.

There was a time when the area north of Union Station on First Street, NE, was an expanse of vacant lots and dilapidated buildings.  These days, with multiple federal offices and other large employers moving into the area, there are new dining options opening every week.  Even so, Roti Mediterranean Grill is poised to stand out among its neighbors.

So what’s Roti all about?  Imagine Chipotle with the flavors of the eastern Mediterranean.  Got it?  Now check out that picture to the right.  Pretty close, right?  On the surface, Roti’s quick-service, choose-your-own-adventure style is similar to that of the ubiquitous burrito place.  But their flavors are miles apart.

Check out some of what Roti will be offering when they open today after the jump. (more…)

You know the drill: we open every write-up about a taqueria talking about what a tough time we’ve had finding good Mexican food in the DC area.  Since we started, we’ve received a couple of good recommendations, and we’ve been fortunate enough to find a few winners on our own.  At this point, I may be willing to concede that we were looking in the wrong places to begin with.

From now until April 1st, we know exactly where to look for by-the-book tacos in an unexpected setting: Tacos Impala.  This pop-up taco stand has taken up residency in the Philadelphia Water Ice Company’s digs at 1204 H Street, NE, and they’ll be turning out the tortillas for another two months.  If you miss out, you have only yourself to blame.

Everything about this classic street food is handmade fresh on a daily basis, from the corn tortillas to the chopped radish, onion and cilantro that make up the only available toppings.  Even the two sauce options – a green, tomatillo-based salsa verde and the milder red ‘Sauce Impala’ using guajillos – are made from scratch.  They make ingredient runs to the Florida Market six days a week.  And they show a deft hand when it comes to spicing the meats and beans that fill those homemade tortillas.

The story on what brings these tasty tacos to H Street after the jump. (more…)

Curse you, Ted.

You’ve turned the normal order of things upside down with your diner-like offer of “breakfast any time.”  How are we to know when to go to work and when to go home if we can stop in for bacon and eggs at any hour of the day?

And sweetening the deal with homemade versions of classic breakfast pastries?  That’s just unfair.  Are you trying to keep us from ever looking at your lunch and dinner menus?

It certainly seemed that way when I stopped in to Ted’s Bulletin the other day.  It was lunchtime, sure, but that didn’t stop me from zeroing in on the breakfast menu.  I couldn’t help it – I grew up in New Jersey, and there it’s your God-given right to order an omelet and a side of disco fries* at any hour of the day.  Besides – it didn’t seem right to order a burger with a “pop tart” on the side, and I’d heard far too many rave reviews of the frosted treats to not try one myself.

A taste of Ted’s breakfast menu – whenever you choose to order it – after the jump. (more…)

If you’re looking to quickly stand out on the Washington dining scene, Italian cuisine may not be the best way to go.  Even before the restaurant boom of the past fifteen years, DC has had its share of quality Italian chefs and restaurants: Roberto Donna and his various incarnations of Galileo, the “pasta mamas” of Filomena and Fabio Trabocchi’s Maestro are just a few that readily spring to mind.  The field is even more crowded today, with newcomers like Casa Nonna, Carmine’s and Roberto Donna’s newest Galileo competing with long-time favorites.

Ari Gejdenson and Ralph Lee knew all that – they both grew up in the area before making their separate ways to Florence.  They have since returned, bringing with them Acqua al 2 (the 2 is pronounced in Italian as “du-ay”).    This is the second American outpost of the Florentine original – the first was in San Diego, naturally – and it’s a welcome addition to the restaurant options around Eastern Market.  I recently had a chance to check them out with a coworker and a friend who is already well on her way to becoming a regular despite the fact that the restaurant has barely been open six months.

Mural painted on the wall outside the window

We knew we wanted to experience a broad range of dishes – apparently Acqua al 2 knew it, as well.  The first few items on their menu are assaggi, sampler platters featuring varieties of pasta, steaks, and even desserts.  The Assaggio di Primi gave us a chance to try five of their vegetarian pasta options in portions scalable to fit the number of diners in our party.  All we had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.

Details on the dishes we tasted after the jump. (more…)

When a restaurant routinely appears among the top 20 of Washingtonian’s best restaurant lists,  it can hardly be called “under the radar.”  Even so, it seems like 2941 frequently fades into the background when DC diners are thinking about places to celebrate a special occasion with a high-end meal.  We’ve had a few in-the-know friends recommend it, but it just doesn’t come up among suggestions as often as you might expect.

from 2941 website

Maybe it’s the location – 2941 is just inside the Beltway in the Falls Church/Tysons Corner/Mclean area.  It’s not Metro accessible, and it’s even off the beaten path relative to most of what you think of when you think of Tysons.  But it’s precisely that remove that made 2941 a great choice for a recent birthday dinner.

The setting feels like a rural retreat once you get past the fact that it’s located inside an office building.  Couple that with attentive, helpful service and a tasting menu that is changing almost constantly to reflect the season’s bounty and you’ve got the makings of a fuss-free gourmet getaway.

More on the food and everything else that makes 2941 such a good time after the jump. (more…)

Photo courtesy Zest Bistro

This weekend, CHAMPS (Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce) held their second annual “Hilly” awards honoring local businesses on the Hill and H Street, NE.  A few days earlier, I had back-to-back conversations about Barracks Row and the changes it has seen in the past decade.  The combination made me realize just how many new restaurants I’ve been visiting on 8th Street in the past few months.

Of the contenders, the one I’ve found myself drawn to most often is Zest Bistro. The decor is clean and bright.  The food delivers consistently.  But it’s the service that makes me most comfortable suggesting Zest for a working lunch over and over.

Zest is located at the far south of Barracks Row, literally across the street from the Marine Corps barracks.  As such, it’s a bit removed from the recent explosion of new establishments closer to the Metro and Eastern Market.  It’s well situated to appeal to crowds coming from Nationals Stadium after a game, but you’ve got to be seeking it out if you’re coming from the north.  And you should.

What sets Zest apart (besides geography) after the jump. (more…)

With a flourish and a staff of literally dozens, SweetGreen opened their fifth storefront this morning on Capitol Hill.  Staffers and interns can rejoice in a new (and, more importantly) healthy lunch option.  While it may not be a ‘food desert,’ the healthier lunch options in the vicinity of the Congressional office buildings have been few and far between.

I took a walk past the Pennsylvania Avenue location at lunchtime, wondering just what I’d find in the old Trover Books space.  Would the green in SweetGreen show through?  Or would they emphasize the sweet to bring in the crowds?

As it turns out, there’s plenty of both with an entire floor’s worth of space left to spare.  And after an abbreviated opening (they closed early at 4 PM) yesterday, they’re now ready to handle the crowds from 11 AM to 10 pM daily.

After the jump, check out their fresh, local focus (and maybe some frozen yogurt while you’re at it). (more…)