Tom and I have traveled to the Washington, DC area on many occasions. We are impressed with the food and beverage scene. From high end options to budget friendly choices, the Nation’s Capital has a lot to offer. However, on our most recent trip to the area, we decided to venture out into the suburbs to try some places that perhaps even locals do not know exist. We are sure glad we did! The following are our favorite off the beaten track restaurants:
It has been nearly 2 months since Tom visited this restaurant and he still talks about the amazing lechon served at this pop-up restaurant. Tom declares it’s the best he’s ever had. Now this is a huge statement! In addition to the exceptional lechon, diners can enjoy other tasty Filipino dishes including sisig and sausage. Fresh Filipino desserts and breads are also offered. Naturally everything is made on the premises by Chef Ja (food) and his sister Stella (bakery). A permanent storefront is in the works with an anticipated opening around the new year.
If you are in the Washington, DC area, be sure to explore beyond the Beltway. Tom and I had a free weekend from work, so we rented a car and took off to spend the day in Annapolis, MD. Annapolis reminds us a bit of Newport, RI. It has a strong Navy presence and a lovely historic downtown area that oozes charm. After exploring the seaside town, we decided to drive a few miles to Cantler’s for a proper seafood meal. When you arrive, be prepared for a long wait. Tom and I grabbed a drink at the makeshift outdoor bar and walked down to the waterfront. Here, we were entertained by watching workers sort crab by size. When we finally got seated, we were ready for the feast to begin. We settled on a large order of hushpuppies to start our meal. These fried nuggets are seriously the best hushpuppies I have tasted. Tom had the seafood boil which consists of Maryland crab, lobster tail, shrimp, and corn on the cob. I had the cream of crab chowder. The crab in the platter was small and a little overcooked. However, everything else was tasty. The crab chowder was exceptional. Altogether, it was a great meal with a great setting on the Maryland waterfront.
Rockville, MD is a surprise. It boasts restaurants serving cuisines from around the world. Tom’s favorite find is Al Ha’esh. He stumbled upon this gem while running errands one afternoon. Be sure to check the hours before you visit as the restaurant closes for several hours between lunch and dinner services. Everything at this establishment is extremely fresh and flavorful. For lunch, Tom sampled the shishlik lamb and sweet breads plate served with rice pilaf, a cucumber and tomato salad and fresh pita bread. Although Tom doesn’t normally gravitate towards this type of cuisine, he loves it. In fact, this happens to be one of his favorite finds during our two-week work trip to the area. Be sure to check out this fantastic establishment!
Tom loves REAL Thai food. The kind he cooks at home. Since our trip was two weeks in duration, Tom developed a craving for authentic Thai food. After conducting extensive research, we decided to venture out to Wheaton, MD and check out this restaurant. The restaurant serves unique Thai dishes, which is the reason we chose to dine here. I was not very hungry, so Tom and I shared a bowl of soup. There really isn’t any better comfort food than soup and Thai Taste by Kob did an outstanding job with balancing the complexity of flavors. Most Thai restaurants “Americanize” their menus and dishes to appease the typical U.S. diner. Thai Taste by Kob stays true to the authentic flavors and we really appreciate it. This is a must visit for true Thai food.*Next door is a “Thai” grocery store that you may want to check out*
What started out as a food truck has blossomed into a permanent storefront operated inside a gas station in Wheaton, MD. The eclectic location fits the unique cuisine. Husband and wife team Anna and J.P. serve Korean fusion food that uses only wholesome and sustainable ingredients. Many options are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. After being away from home, I was craving healthy food and this place sure hit the spot. I had the bibimbap which I consider a “healthy” version of the traditional dish served at most Korean restaurants. It is a large bowl of rice, topped with mixed baby greens, carrots, daikon, red radish, an over-easy egg and bulgogi sauce marinated Angus beef. This bowl was packed with flavor and texture. I love the traditional bibimbap, but this healthy version sure hit the spot for me.
This restaurant is a home-cooked soul and seafood restaurant offering a wide array of dishes served cafeteria style. There are 4 locations throughout the region. Tom and I dined at the Laurel, MD outpost because it is one of the branches that serves cocktails and features a happy hour (if you have been following us, you know this is important). For happy hour, Tom ordered up a half-dozen local bay oysters for a mere $8 and a margarita to start our food adventure. Meanwhile, I order our dinner at the counter. Since we were in Maryland, I order a crab cake dinner with collard greens, mixed kale greens, and cornbread. Tom chose a chicken and ribs dinner. Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of the one thing Tom really wanted: chitterlings. The food was extremely filling and a great value for the money. Interestingly, my favorite items were the greens and Tom’s was the oysters. Although we were stuffed, I had to take a thick slice of chocolate cake to eat later at the hotel. By the way- it is super moist and tasty.
- Bob’s Shanghai 66
One thing we learned during our 2 weeks in the D.C. area is that Rockville, MD is home to a large number of Asians. In particular, it is home for many of Chinese descent. This meant we tried a lot of Chinese restaurants, and this was one of our favorites. Bob’s Shanghai 66 serves not only Shanghainese cuisine, but also Szechuan, Cantonese, and Taiwanese dishes. The menu is all over the place. Although this normally is a negative sign for us, we noticed that the entire dining room is filled with Asians. So, we figure the restaurant must know what they’re doing. We ordered a few small Szechuan starter dishes, Szechuan string beans, and pickled vegetables with fish. Everything was fantastic. Now we know why the restaurant was full of locals. When you go, be sure to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted.
This is the other Asian restaurant that impressed us in Rockville, MD. Sichuan Jin River focuses on Szechuan cuisine. It’s a little more pricey than Bob’s Shanghai, but still, we highly recommend it. Plus, this restaurant accepts credit cards. On this particular visit, we dined in for lunch and selected a few small Szechuan dishes and a soup featuring flounder, pickled cabbage, and peppers. We love the numbing spice of Szechuan peppercorns and the fiery taste of the red peppers. Sichuan Jin River’s dishes did not disappoint us in flavor and heat. If you are looking for a wide variety of Szechuan dishes, this is the place to try.
When you travel, be sure to step away from your hotel and the tourist scene. Go to places where locals dine. It will surely be more tasty, authentic, and affordable. Uber and Lyft drivers are a great source of information. Be sure to ask these locals for tips on your next trip. During our 2-week stay in the Washington, DC area, Tom and I practiced what we preach. This post contains some of our favorite finds. If you find yourself in the area, we definitely recommend these great places.
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