Malaka Gharib, The Runcible Spoon
What is your favorite new restaurant in the D.C. area?
"Boundary Stone. I think I've had almost everything on their drool-worthy, comfort-inducing menu — their beer-can chicken sandwich, their soups, their lovely veggie wrap, their french fries and homemade ketchup, their amazing burgers ... Everything is just fresh and wonderful and homemade, and of course, their beer selection is great, too."
What's your favorite well-established standby?
"Commissary. It just feels so D.C. in there. Not the fanciest food in the world, but the price is right, the coffee is great, and the service is speedy and friendly. It's perfect for those nights when I'm walking from K Street to my house in Shaw and I just don't feel like cooking. I can walk in, read the paper, have a nice meal, and relax. I often get a simple salad with pasta and chicken because it feels like something I would normally whip up at home. Which is perfect because I don't normally like to eat huge, rich meals on the weekdays!"
What new openings are you most excited about?
"Eater DC tells me that NYC's Eataly might be opening up in D.C. I hope, hope, hope that is the case!"
What are your favorite spots for taking a date? Or a group of friends?
"[For dates,] I like casual places with interesting food like Bar Pilar, where you can order lots of little magical plates and cocktails, and marvel at its wonderfulness as it comes to the table. As far as big groups go, District of Pi Pizzeria and Hill Country BBQ are absolutely massive, and the food naturally lends itself to good group eating. At Pi, it's pizza and small plates. We just had a birthday party there for 20 people and it wasn't a problem at all. At Hill Country, everyone does their own thing, so there is no need to split checks. A good standby is Lauriol Plaza. It has lots of seating, and let's get real — it's a fun place to eat!"
What restaurant is most underrated? Got any secret gems we should try?
"DC Noodles. They have the best bowl of noodles in town. I literally have the same thing when I go there: Spicy noodle soup with ground chicken, ground peanuts, and fresh herbs. It's a home run every time. When I take friends there, they're always surprised at how complex and satisfying noodle soup can really be."
Photo: Via DC Noodles
What are the best cheap eats in town?
"My latest cheap-eats discovery is not actually at a cheap restaurant — it's at Birch & Barley's Sunday brunch. A plate of two perfectly fried eggs, a salad, and two of their house-made hash browns runs just $4. Add a cup of coffee and their famous trio of donuts for $6, and you've got a pretty good deal."
Which places are on your must-visit list?
"I haven't tried Pearl Dive Oyster Palace yet. The idea of gentle, delicate oysters topped with lovely things like roasted corn or crab or gremolata is just beautiful. And Sundevich — I'm very curious about their Cairo sandwich, which comes with hummus, brined vegetables, walnuts, and herbs. With their focus on absolutely fresh and local ingredients, I know it's going to be a symphony in my mouth."
If you could (or have tried to) recreate a dish from a local restaurant, what would you make?
"A few coworkers and I had a perfectly seasoned goat cheese and butternut squash lasagna from the Basil Thyme food truck that was just mind-blowing. It had just the right amount of sage and nutmeg to offset its squashiness and a generous slathering of goat cheese bechamel sauce. And best of all, it wasn't heavy at all — it was light and satisfying. My coworker recreated it the next week and it was perfectly wonderful — I have yet to do the same!"
What would you love to see happen in the D.C. food scene?
"I would love to see some decent Chinese restaurants in D.C. People have such a terrible perception of Chinese food here, and I just want to set the record straight. We're doing the D.C. Chinatown a disservice by opening up weirdo chain restaurants like Nando's and Vapiano, instead of lovely dim sum and Hunan joints."
Time to dish — what food trend are you totally over?
"Food trucks. Not all of them, just some of them! I won't say which ones."
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