Baltimoron in DC
When You Get Caught Between Charm City and Chocolate City

Sep
24

I haven’t posted anything in 10 months. I’ve been a bad Baltimoron.

I will redouble my efforts. That should get me up to two posts a year at that rate :)

 

Couple of quick things:

1) Get free ice cream today at Cold Stone Creamery and Carvel locations. Here’s a link to my dcfud.com blog about it.

2) the offers for Big Night DC and Big Night Baltimore are coming through my email nowadays. I like how they want me to drop money on New Year’s Eve entertainment before even mentioning who’s playing. Last year was OK – a little overwhelming, possibly worth the money, but not something I’d crave to see again unless there were some killer acts.

3) Go Ravens :)

Dec
17

I’m getting awfully rusty in my Baltimoronism.

My friends Stef and Kavitha are making a pilgrimidge from NoVA/DC to B-more for crabcakes and crabs, under the caveat that they be in the city.

True Baltimorons know that there are crabcake places, crab places, and seldom do the two mix.

The two best I can think of would be Gunning’s by BWI and The Costas Inn over in Dundalk, but neither fit the bill of being *in* the city.

What’s that leave? Obryicki’s, which is closed for the season, I’d guess. Bo Brooks? Perchance. Do they do cakes?

Bad Baltimoron. Bad.

Dec
17

The Hyatt at the Inner Harbor might be the worst parking garage I’ve ever been to…and considering I’ve been in a parking garage in Las Vegas that was scheduled for demolition due to decomposing concrete and instability, that’s saying something.

Why was the Hyatt’s parking lot so bad? Well, let’s see – after yet-another sold out game at M&T Bank Stadium, this place charges $27 for parking (even though the place next door, the Sheraton, is closer and charges $25) and they had ONE operating gate for the entire 8 or so story garage. And, that gate was operated by a woman who spoke little-to-no English, making checkout that much more difficult.

It took an hour to get from the Sixth Floor to the first. Once at the first floor, a hotel employee mentioned the other exit and pointed us that way. Which…would have been a lot better if we’d been told about that 58 minutes earlier, plus everybody else in line.

Once at the second gate that opens to Light Street, there was nobody there to let us out. We were still trapped in this garage for another ten minutes, while multiple hotel employees walked by, and saw our situation. The guy who originally saw us and waved us to the second exit didn’t ask where the gate operator was, just “did you pay yet?”

That, my friends, is service.

Bite me, Hyatt.

Apr
01

As a Baltimoron in DC, I am often asked for advice by my Virginian neighbors on where to eat in Charm City. For crabcakes, I suggest G&M in the `burbs, Faidley’s in the city. For steaks, I usually grunt and point at Morton’s for the chain steak house, Jordan’s for the charm of Ellicott City and mumble bitterly about the demise of McCafferty’s. For seafood, I’ll ask “view or no view?” and offer Obyricki’s or Bo Brooks, depending on the answer. Cheesesteaks? “Looney’s or Captain Harvey’s. Go hungry.” Mexican? “Blue Agave. Drink tequila.” Barbecue? “Andy Nelson’s – I don’t care if it’s in Hunt Valley, just go.” American gourmet? “Bicycle or Charleston.” Brunch on Sunday? “Blue Moon or Paper Moon. I ain’t picky.” Need a place to go in a specific part of town? I got you, hon.

But, what of Baltimore’s other specialty, the pit beef sandwich? This was a question that dogged me for a while – which place is best? Bayside Bull is in Edgewater, so that doesn’t count, though they are good. Shorty’s and The Charcoal Deli are definitely solid on the north side of Baltimore County. The Charcoal Grill wasn’t bad either, if I recall correctly. Beefalo Bob’s in Pasadena is no joke. My stalwart, Big Al’s in Essex, is being reborn into a new barbecue place as I write this.

And then I found Chaps.

Well, more to the point, went back to Chaps. The last time I had eaten there was *years* ago, after a drinking binge with my buddy Alex that involved pitchers, shots, the Gentleman’s Gold Club and a stripped named…oh, what’s it matter? It was a fake name anyway.

In any event, I had Chaps with a clear mind – no booze and nude single moms with bad career paths to fog my brain. And damn….DAMN that was good! The beef was perfect, the sausage just spicy enough, and the ham was delightful. Served the right way, too. Onions, horseradish and in the parking lot of a strip club on Pulaski Highway.

The food was great, and seeing strippers in proper daylight was enough to make me swear off the clubs for another year, at least.

Dec
27

nye.jpg

One of the problems with developing a writing persona named the “Five Paragraph Bitter Food Critic” is maintaining that mantle of bitterness even when surrounded by a sea of competence, class and quality. When I started the 5PBFC, I figured that given my average of 4 meals out a week, I’d have at least one clunker a week, thus providing DCFUD.com plenty of bitter material. However, as I looked over my 2007 notes of the year, I discovered something quite shocking: I had ten bad meals the entire year; and six of them came from two places, Bangkok 54 and Dad’s Backyard Burgers. That means the vast majority of my meals were anywhere from “decent” to “incredible.” It’s hard to complain about such a high batting average.

Now, I should go off on how absolutely disappointing Dad’s was. For a store that took nearly 3 years to build, I would have hoped for a burger experience that doesn’t taste like a green onion explosion. My first bite there was sadly the best; repeat visits were lousy and hardly worth mentioning. I’d love to support an independent burger joint, but their burgers tasted more like a kabob-spiced meatloaf – they may want to think about competing with nearby and always packed Merrifield Kabob than routinely-good Five Guys and sometimes-brilliant Elevation Burger. As for Bangkok 54, the former shining star of Northern Virginia’s Thai dining scene has declined in terms of food quality and handling; prepare to give birth to a food baby if you eat there and don’t stray far from the restrooms, just in case. Their dining room is lovely; it’s a shame the back of the house is having issues. They easily have been eclipsed by longtime stalwart Duangrats at Bailey’s Crossroads and the newish Mint further up Route 7 towards Seven Corners (review coming in 2008, a.k.a. next week).

However, I will concede to the goodwill of the Christmas season to concentrate on the positive. My dining year started off on a high note with the DCFUD.com staff at Bobby Van’s, followed by a delicious Restaurant Week experience at Taberna del Alabardero. 2 Amys continued to churn out quality pizzas, Ella’s did the same, and the chainy-but-good ZPizza offered a delicious pie with high quality ingredients for a decent price. Matchbox’s dining room expansion didn’t dilute the quality of their food one bit, and the District Chophouse provided a fine meal in a casual, but classy, environment. My well-publicized visit to La Perla offered better tortellini than expected, and Georgetown’s Filomena may be considered hit-or-miss, but I had two hits there in 2007, and enjoyed their good Sunday brunch, too. The new Liberty Tavern in Clarendon offered surprisingly good upscale bar food, though those looking for a quiet meal should head elsewhere – that place is louder than the wails of a screaming child at a southern Wal-Mart. Eamonn’s proved to be a welcome addition to the Alexandria scene, and I’m anxious to try owner Cathal Armstrong’s makeover of The Majestic with Shannon Overmiller’s cooking on King Street in 2008. Hank’s Oyster Bar in DC stars in the background with Trio in a new car commercial, and a new location in Old Town is promising. Fogo De Chao and Texas De Brazil fed my churrascaria dreams of well-seasoned Argentinean meat, and Macchu Picchu did a fine job representing South American neighbor Peru. Huong Que at the Eden Center served fine Vietnamese fare on multiple visits, and impressed some good friends from Chicago. Spices in Cleveland Park did a good job of clearing my sinuses while on a first date – yeah, thanks for that, by the way. No, that wasn’t embarrassing at all – but damn it tasted fine, and nearby Indique’s tamarind-enhanced drinks made even the rainiest of days much more delightful.

Bebo Trattoria opened up with much fanfare in Crystal City, though complaints about lousy service stick to the place like stink on a hobo. The Tortoise and the Hare opened up on Crystal City’s 23rd Street, taking over the former space of Stars and Stripes. Can’t say I’d complain about that a bit – Stars and Stripes had a big TV and good beer but a lousy crab cake, and T&H is promising a good American contemporary menu. Urban Thai still served quality food at a reasonable price, and the recent expansion of the Crystal City Sports Pub just gives more folks a chance to dine on their good bar food while following their favorite sports’ teams. Summer’s at the Courthouse Metro did the same, plus they put with my wails of anguish every weekend as I watched my beloved Ravens go from Super Bowl contender to laughing stock of the NFL in one calendar year. Al’s Steaks in Del Ray single-handedly made me gain a pound, and that was before I discovered the glories of Gladys Knight and Ron Winan’s Chicken and Waffles at the Largo Town Center. In my neighborhood of Shirlington, a new Cakelove outpost opened up; Busboys and Poets put in a second location with some fine Belgian beers on tap; Bear Rock Cafe’ offered good sandwiches and breakfast chow, and the brand-spanking new Saigonique fed me a wonderful ginger noodle dish on Christmas Eve in a beautiful dining room. And damn if Weenie Beanie doesn’t bring the goods every time I’m craving a half-smoke.

Heck, even the Pentagon got a decent eatery, the All-American Grill. Thank God for Sport and Health or else I’d be the size of a Beefcake-era Eric Cartman.

In the fine tradition laid down by every critic in every conceivable subject, this time of the year demands a “Best of…” list. I could try to spawn an internal dialog about which meal in the previous 12 months was the best, and categorize restaurants by price or location or cuisine. Instead, I’m choosing to look forward to 2008, to which places I missed in 2007.

* Central – we at DCFUD have been trying to have a writers’ outing here for months, yet somehow we went to the otherwise-fine-but-it-ain’t-Central Malyasian Kopitiam instead of an affordable offering from Michel Richard? We’re going this year, kids. Jay, save your money. You’re going. Even if I have to carry you in there kicking and screaming. You made me eat at Kam Fong; I’m making you eat at Central.

* The Majestic – the restaurant formerly known as the Majestic Cafe’ was a delightful, charming outpost, and the recent takeover and reimagining by Cathal Armstrong should make this one of the best mid-priced restaurants in Northern Virginia in 2008.

* West End Bistro – the early buzz over Eric Ripert’s newest restaurant was that the food was definitely good, but not imaginative. I would have to guess that as the staff becomes more situated and comfortable, this restaurant will bring more international buzz to the DC dining scene.

* HookBarton Seaver’s ambitious plan to serve only sustainable seafood deserves the respect of all diners with a soul. Plus, the guy can flat-out cook.

* Hooked – I grew up next to the Chesapeake Bay. I love seafood. Sue me. And a seafood restaurant out by Dulles and Ace Photo that doesn’t have cheap plastic fishnets on the walls and meals made of a mysterious element known as “krab” has my support.

* Station 9 – U Street keeps getting hipper and hipper, and this place promises an updated look on American standards.

And, hopefully the DC area will honor a few New Year’s Resolutions, and this year’s theme is to be A Little More Like Baltimore:

1) To have a good Jewish deli like Attman’s near the Inner Harbor East developments. Sometimes a nice Catholic boy like me wants a good corned beef on rye.

2) To have a decent BBQ place somewhere between Dixie Bones in Woodbridge and Urban in Rockville to compete with Rocklands. They’re the only game in NoVA, and while they’re a fine establishment, I shouldn’t have to long for Andy Nelson’s in Cockeysville.

3) To have a pit beef place anywhere. I don’t care where, but pit beef is a Baltimore delicacy that should be brought forth to the Nations’ Capital post haste.

4) To have more waterfront dining options. The Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Locust Point, Canton, Essex, Middle River – all loaded with everything from mega-chains to cozy family seafood places, and they all have serene water views. DC has a couple of high-end places in Georgetown and Phillip’s at the Waterfront. Advantage – Baltimore.

5) To create a vibrant neighborhood near the stadium – granted, this will be a work in progress, but one of the great things about Camden Yards is the proximity to great bars, restaurants and attractions. Making over an area best known for the desperately-missed dance club Nation, light industrial brown zones, and a grouping of *ahem* adult establishments is all going to take some time, but for the love of God, city planners, do not dare turn it into a soulless strip of chains and fern bars. You’re trying to do it with Chinatown/Penn Quarter, where fairly soon the only thing Asian in that neighborhood will be the tourists in town to watch the Wizards play Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets. You know darned well Prince George’s County will botch it with the National Harbor, as they’ve failed to put in anything with personality near FedEx Field, and that’s been open for almost a decade. But really, DC, you can do it. Look at U Street. Adams-Morgan. H Street. Cleveland Park. Those are areas where the city is trying to express itself with mostly-independent businesses. Don’t replicate a Loudoun County strip mall and restaurant park at the baseball stadium and lie to yourself, saying “it’s progress.” It’s regression to a mean, and the city deserves better.

6) To be like bICYCLE. If you ever find yourself on Light Street, south of the Inner Harbor between Federal Hill and Locust Point, you’ll see this charming, delicious bistro. It’s been open for nearly 8 years, and it’s still as good today as it opened. They strive for good food and consistency, and they hit far more often than they miss.

Dec
27

I took a shot at the WashingtonPost.com quiz for which candidate best suits our personal beliefs. The Post hid the candidates’ faces, but left their words. I took the quiz to see which words best suit my beliefs.

I took both the Democratic and the Republican tests, and was slightly surprised by my outcome. I am a big fan of Barack Obama’s speeches – he seems to concentrate on the positives without sugar-coating it or dumbing it down. So, when I found that I agreed with him for 21 points, with Bill Richardson and John Edwards in second and third, that sounded about right.

What stunned me on the Republican side – apparently I’m a Paultard. Ron Paul got 20 points, Rudy Giuliani had 17 and Huckabee, Romney and Thompson each had 10. I tended to agree with Paul on the war and energy independence.

So, an Obama/Paul ticket would make my day? Go figure.

Dec
21

This is the logical off-shoot of my Blogger site, OBPOPCULTREF. That site was initially started to track weird OBscure POP CULTure REFerences, but quickly became a lame attempt at a book deal or writing gig. Damn you Jessica Cutler for letting me dream.

Since that went over about as well as shit-flavored ice cream (the 2girls1cup.com girls notwithstanding), I will try to be more diligent with that blog’s original purpose.

This blog will consist of a regular ole’ fella from Baltimore (me) looking at D.C. through Natty-Boh colored glasses. I love getting up to the city whenever I can, and while I may live, work, reside and play in Washington, my heart is somewhere between Pratt and Eutaw Streets…hopefully putting a foot up Peter Angelos‘ ass.

The first post here on Baltimoron will detail the trip to Hampden’s Miracle on 34th Street. Good old Christmas Street, USA. It’s almost Christmas, and I hadn’t had my annual pilgrimage to the street the Griswolds could only dream of. I brought my Christmas-obsessed friend Gina up from D.C. along with the Wonder Mutts, Bubby and Kramer. Gina grew up in Jersey where tackiness is a badge of honor, and has lived in D.C. for about three years. For some reason, she has avoided visiting her charming neighbor to the north, and I dragged her out, not-really kicking and screaming. I wouldn’t tell her where we were going, just that we were going.

Once in Hampden, she looked at the delightlfully wacky decorations on neighboring blocks, and laughed. But when she got to 34th Street, she was nearly speechless. Lights across the street, inflatable carosels of Christmas characters, the Grinch, trees, candy canes, crabs, and more Santas than a California road map. For a good 30 minutes, Gina wasn’t hungover, stressed out from work, or neck-deep in mortgage debt. She was a kid again, taking in the spectacle of thousands of tiny lights.

I realized something, just how special something as simple as Christmas lights can be. You should have seen the people walking the streets – all different races, economic groups, even religions – all staring at the glory of Jesus, Santa and an inflatable Homer Simpson.

Dec
20

It has come to my attention that somewhere along the line, OBPOPCULTREF has become less about my easily-diverted and distracted mind and more about a Baltimore Guy living in a DC World. Today’s post will be no different – I went to see the Miracle on 34th Street, hon!

Unfamiliar with it? Take a look at this link and my photos from last night.

If you can’t get into the Christmas display after this…you might be Jewish, Hindu, or any of a host of religions that don’t follow Christmas.

Dec
04

Fuck the Patriots. Fuck the paid-off refs who friggin’ smoked ground-up moon rocks to see the phantom penalties they called on the Ravens in the 4th quarter tonight.

Fuck the Patriot fans who don’t have a single piece of clothing that features the old-school kick-ass Pat the Patriot logo, and instead look like some failed NHL expansion team.

Fuck Belicheat and his hoodie. Looks like he should be moping around on myspace.com. It’s 2007; do we need an emo coach? I vote no.

Fuck Tony Kornheiser…while I love his writing, and think he’s a fine person, I can’t stand him on MNF. His voice makes me yearn for the masculinity that is Bryan Gumble.

Fuck Billick – his complete lack of discipline on that team is so evident; why he can’t see it clearly bothers me. Evidently he needs to work on that aspect of the game.

(y’all didn’t know I could speak “Billick” did ya?)

Fuck Baltimore…for making me believe the upset was theirs.

Sep
11

The Baltimore Sun reported it a couple of weeks ago, and I meant to write something bitter, sarcastic and snobby about it, but I was too busy rolling in greenbacks to do it.

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