Eat Like a Girl is delighted to welcome new writer, Ella Buchan. Ella is a travel writer based between London and Paso Robles, California. Ella road-tripped all the way down US Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Ella is sharing some of her food highlights from Washington DC and Alexandria with us today.
This post was sponsored by Capital Region USA. (Read more about sponsored content on Eat Like a Girl).
The Food Trucks of Washington DC
Washington DC isn’t all politics and fine dining restaurants. There are more than 200 food trucks dishing up fantastic varied food that reflects the diverse population, and this is where you will find the locals lining up to eat.
Franklin Square should be your first stop. At Los Wingeez, chef Jose Alvarado uses a secret Peruvian recipe, passed down from his grandparents. His chicken wings are brined and marinated for 24 hours. Crisp and sticky skin tasting of cumin and pepper shield tender meat, which falls off the bone.
Next door, Crepe Love is a spin-off from Crepe Amour, a crêperie in Vienna, Virginia. The ingredients are all locally sourced. I tried the Carnival, nirvana for Nutella fans with banana and strawberries.
Korean food fans will love BiBi Ja’s bibimbap. Generous bowls of mixed rice with Korean pickles and meat like bulgogi (Korean BBQ beef). Bright kimchi, spicy gojuchang (that gorgeous Korean red pepper paste) and cucumber pickles were topped with a fried egg. Each forkful was a joyful jig of savoury, spicy and sour.
Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken
Chinatown is another street food hub. Workers perch on the steps of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to eat. Doughnuts and fried chicken sounds like a combination destined for a viral Facebook post but food obsessives know how well salty and sweet work intensely together. Astro serves doughnuts like sweet potato, maple bacon and peanut butter and jelly (the jam made in house) and buttermilk and honey fried chicken. You don’t have to have them together, but you can, in a doughnut seasoned with Old Bay and with pickles from local supplier Gordy’s.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street has long been a DC favourite. The diner was opened in 1958 by then newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali. A mural on the outer wall reminds that Barack Obama dined here 10 days before his inauguration. Their daughter-in-law Vida now oversees the vats of secret-recipe beef chilli. “It’s like welcoming people into my home,” Vida said, spooning the rich, tangy chilli over fries and Ben’s signature half-smokes, a combination of pork and beef, spicier and bigger than the average hot dog.
Slowing Down in Alexandria, Virginia with a Local Feast
Just a 15-minute ride on the monorail from Washington DC, Alexandria is the perfect place to slow down and take a breath after a few days in the city. Tree-shaded rows of independent food stores, fashion boutiques, vintage emporiums and galleries stretch towards the waterfront, where wooden dinghies and yachts bob on the Potomac River.
Eat Local at Virtue Feed & Grain
Virtue Feed & Grain is a restaurant in a former 1800s feed warehouse, perfect for locavores who want to explore the local food culture and ingredients. The two-storey interior is light and bright with concrete floors ground and polished to a marble sheen, pillars were made using salvaged bricks, with stair treads planed and sealed to top the dining tables.
Ingredients are sourced within a 30-mile radius where possible. Executive chef Graham Duncan picks through the seasonal fresh produce that arrives on a truck each morning before creating that day’s specials. The menu includes rock fish tacos, roasted spiced cauliflower and oysters sifted from the Potomac’s estuaries.
The large bowl of creamy crab dip was thick with local lump crab, smokey-sweet with sriracha and spiced with Old Bay seasoning.
The wild boar burger was fat, juicy and bright with chipotle aioli, topped with a thin layer of smoked provolone and rocket. A side of dipping jus coated my chips in velvety richness.
Dessert was a light flourless chocolate torte with orange and cardamom cream.
Follow in the Obamas’ food steps with a date at The Majestic
With velvet-lined booths and frames covering much of the walls, The Majestic is designed to evoke a supper club or art salon. The menu is modern and fresh using local ingredients and bringing out the very best in them.
I started with crispy fried olives, creamy baked feta and lamb meatballs, subtly spiced with cumin. I also sampled the huge pork chop with blueberries and the rotisserie chicken with a panzanella thick with chunks of soaked bread and tomatoes, a sunny Tuscan vineyard on a plate.
Useful Info for Washington DC & Alexandria
Ella stayed at four-star Loews Madison, a short walk from the White House and the food trucks of Franklin Square and Chinatown. Rural Society serves up a unique South American breakfast menu, including fluffy dulce de leche waffles and a benedict with chorizo, black truffle hollandaise and potatoes spiced with merken, a punchy Chilean spice blend with lime, coriander, chilli and smoked sweet paprika.
Find a map tracking the locations of Washington DC’s food trucks at http://roaminghunger.com/food-trucks/dc/washington-dc/
Ella stayed at four-star Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa. The Brabo Tasting Room serves breakfasts like Robert’s Choice, perfectly caramelised pork belly with poached eggs and potato cakes gooey with gruyere.
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