Go-To Spots

Author's note: Many of you come to Metrocurean looking for recommendations on where to eat in Washington, D.C., but the blog format can make it hard to find that kind of information. This list of my go-to spots is the first of several that I'll link to in the sidebar for easy reference. Think of them as a supplement to the more comprehensive restaurant guides I already link to. Stay tuned for my special occasion picks and more.

The places I turn to again and again all have a few things in common: I can walk to them, the prices are good, and the food is great. Thus this list, though delicious, is pretty much limited to the 14th Street/U Street (perhaps "MidCity"?) neighborhood.*

Bar Pilar
1833 14th St. NW, 202.265.1751
It doesn't take much to make me happy. Set a bowl of olives, some cheese and red wine in front of me, and I'm pleased as punch. In this dark and moody bar, I can find those things along with some of the best small plates in town. I'm a sucker for the chorizo with white beans, whatever greens the kitchen is turning out, the potatoes with pimenton aioli and the roasted olives, which give my favorite food a smoky, fruity flavor. The menu changes daily, but if you happen upon the chicken liver pate or pork belly, don't miss them.

Cafe Saint-Ex
1847 14th St. NW, 202.265.7839
Bar Pilar's older sibling up the street is my favorite spot for brunch. French toast with a side of bacon is my regular order, but other standouts include a smoked trout plate and the fried green tomato benedict. Come dinner time, the wood-grilled fish dishes are always a sure bet, as is the burger, made with local grass-fed beef. A commitment to local farms and sustainable seafood is another reason Saint-Ex is on my list of regular stops.

1414 U St. NW, 202.319.7773
An urban and organic pioneer, Coppi's has been slinging pizzas on U Street since 1993. My standard order: the soppressata pizza, topped with salami, ricotta, mozzarella, mint, parsley, mushrooms and red onions. And don't overlook the appetizers, including the seared green chard with raisins, hot pepper, garlic and ricotta. Call in a take-out order and if your driving, they'll save you the quest for parking and run it out to your car.

Creme Cafe
1322 U St. NW, 202.234.1884
A hearty dish of pork and beans, El's mushroom masterpiece with truffle oil and Manchego cheese, and a solid rendition of shrimp and grits make Creme one of my go-tos for weekday meals. I'm also a fan of the hot dog, with its accompanying plate of creative toppings (why not put kimchi on a dog?). Limited seats mean you'll often have to wait on weekends, but the congenial bartenders help pass the time.

Hank's Oyster Bar
1624 Q St. NW, 202.462.4265
Briny raw oysters and a beach bar vibe. Need I say more? What? Not everyone likes oysters? Or the beach? Well, there's plenty of other draws at chef Jamie Leeds' tribute to her father, like crisp fried calamari and popcorn shrimp, a plump lobster roll on a buttery bun and creamy mac and cheese. I never stray far from the fried foods/oysters combo, but there's a nightly meat and two sides special and usually an interesting fish entree or two.

* Last updated 2/1/07.
(Metrocurean photo.)