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Where to eat and drink like a local in DC

Jenny Adams
May 10, 2013

Our nation’s capital has never felt shy in extending a hand to international flavor. It’s a city teeming with ethnic cuisines, from authentic Ethiopian restaurants to German beer halls to tiny enclaves with piled-high plates of Korean fried chicken.

In this installment of Re:Find, we highlighted six local spots to feast – whether you prefer to build your own sandwich in the sunshine or you need to rest your weary feet with a warming bowl of Japanese ramen. Stop by a converted gas station bay for an unforgettable sandwich, or, if you’ve had one of those travel days where you want to set fire to something, DC’s got you covered there too. Hit up the city’s Tiki bar with a serious love for blazing cocktails. Dining or drinking each of these spots is a way to experience true DC – a city with good food and good nature in abundance.

Best Sandwiches:

If you are craving the most classic of lunches with an international flair, head to SUNdeVICH in the Shaw neighborhood, where high-quality ingredients are combined between freshly baked bread and slapped with fun names from cities. The Athens is an ode to the culinary prowess of Greece, with succulent lamb, tomatoes, sumac, onions, a light drizzle of tzatziki and fresh garden greens.

Or, hit up Fast Gourmet. This downtown spot – located in the garage bay of a still-operating gas station – will serve you organic juices with quirky sandwiches. We elect their signature Chivito – beef tenderloin with mozzarella, bacon, green olives, hard-boiled eggs, escabeche, lettuce, tomato, onion and a smear of cold mayo. A bit weird. And, yet, totally wonderful.

Best International Cuisine:

Despite landing on the Washingtonian’s list of 100 best restaurants for 2013, Toki Underground remains a habitat frequented by locals. Chef/owner Erik Bruner-Yang serves up ramen with a Taiwanese twist. Munch on standout pan-fried chicken dumplings and slurp hot bowls of pork fat noodles. The lines are long during prime hours, but they will happily take down your phone number. This means you can either go downstairs to the neighboring bar, The Pug, or take a stroll down the slightly hipster H Street corridor. Once your seat is available (there are no tables), don’t bypass the Toki Monster. It’s a bourbon cocktail, completed with a pork belly garnish.

Best to Pack a Picnic:

Craving the great outdoors in the urban sprawl? Stop by Seasonal Pantry, also located in Shaw and from the same gentlemen that brought you SUNdeVICH. Sustainable, locally sourced food items are lovingly stocked into this tiny space that serves as a grocery by day and a quaint supperclub Wednesday through Saturday evenings. It’s our suggestion for packing up a cooler with artisan cheeses and fatty, cured meats before heading to the Mall for a sunny afternoon of people-watching.

Killer Craft Cocktails:

Passenger is a legendary Washington cocktail enclave. While it’s certainly known (even globally among serious imbibers), it has somehow retained the love of the locals thanks to a lack of pretense and a serious appreciation of fresh ingredients. The front Passenger space – located on 7th Street NW – has a saloon attitude, with easy-going affability. The back “Colombia Room” is a dark, romantic cocktail den. The two-for-one result is a space you can easily take a date for creative cocktails … or your five best drinking buddies for a night of single malts. If you’re simultaneously hungry, they serve up endearing global twists, like kimchee hot dogs and pork belly beignets.

Killer Craft Cocktails Set on Fire:

Need a Polynesian Tiki bowl? Need it to be filled with rum and set ablaze? Yeah, we all have that craving sometimes. DC’s answer is Hogo. A palace of rum and quirkiness also located on 7th Street NW, the cocktails by mixologist mastermind Tom Brown aren’t the solo act here. There’s a regular rotation of some of the city’s best chefs who pop in the back, diner-styled kitchen, plating up whatever they do best. The place has welcomed James Beard chefs as well as Jewish soul food cooks – and it all tastes amazing washed down with balanced, mezcal quaffs.