I Like Big Buns And I Cannot Lie

Of course, by Big Buns I mean Big Buns Gourmet Grill in Ballston. It's pretty much brand spanking new and pleased the iEat crowd completely.

Nestled into a courtyard away from traffic and noise, this green spot is definitely going to hit it big with the locals. By green I mean seriously, GREEN! The place is covered in the color, including the logo and staff t-shirts. And also green as in, the garbage cans are recycled oil drums, everything is super uber recycled, the plastic cups are made from corn (somehow?). ECO FRIENDLY BURGERS, everyone.

First question: Bun or bowl? The buns were fresh and tasty, nice and large, but I personally chose to get my protein on a bed of Romaine lettuce.

Second Q (or maybe this is first):What kind of protein? You want mahi mahi? Marinated grilled chicken? Portabella mushroom? Ohhh you want a regular old burger?!?! OK fine, we have that too.

Third question: What's going on it? Maybe some cheese (from which there are 5 or 6 to choose). Maybe some peppers, onions, mushrooms, guacamole, grilled pineapple, onion rings, or a zillion other things.

Fries, sweet potato fries, all kinds of good stuff going on here. The best part is that I can get different crazy combinations that maybe only I would want, and that's OK! I had a burger in a bowl with guacamole and grilled pineapple. I got a drink, and filled my cup with iced tea before heading to the syrup bar.

Yes, syrup bar.

Personally, I made myself a fruity raspberry iced tea. But if I got a diet coke, perhaps I would have made that a VANILLA diet coke. Or cherry!

Big Buns is a lot of fun. Everyone can get something different, it's relatively cheap and fast, and it makes you feel good inside to spend your money there. The staff is friendly, and the owner is too--both to customers AND the Earth. I challenge you to go there and get "the works." Is it "better than" Five Guys? No. It's different. The fries aren't as addictive, there are no peanuts, and there are no hot dogs. Five Guys hot dogs rock my socks, but that's a different story altogether.

What it comes down to is the following: I'm a sucker for alternative options, Havarti cheese, guacamole, grilled fruit, sweet potato fries, and Italian sodas. And they have milkshakes. Now you know why I really like it. And I'm not the only one.

Big Buns Gourmet Grill
4401 Wilson Blvd
Metro: Orange Line to Ballston
Big Buns Gourmet Grill on Urbanspoon


Buck's Fishing & Camping

After hearing about Buck's over and over, iEat decided to check it out. This upper-NW establishment, despite its name, is NOT a shop for outdoorsy-type supplies. Sure, there is a overturned canoe resting on the wooden rafters, but that's just part of the fun decor.

J was surprised about the small menu, and seemed to fear for my life. Lest he forget that in my vegetarian days I spent (too) many dinners ordering appetizers as my meal, and am perfectly capable of and happy to revisit the method. Usually there are starter combinations that I actually prefer to real entrees. The entrees were oysters, a whole grilled fish o' the day, steak, and shrimp and grits. If there were mussels I would have been SET, but ah well.

The appetizers are mostly winners, the top pick DEFINITELY being the fried green tomatoes. They were super hot (VERY important in my book), not greasy, and perfectly crisped. I also LOVED the green herby sauce provided and definitely wish there was more of it. The iceberg wedge with bacon and blue cheese is a crowd pleaser, especially because there is a generous triangle of decadent blue cheese just hanging out on the plate. Neither of us were particular fans of the bread--it was cold, and aside from a somewhat mysterious hint of a smoky flavor, it lacked interestingness. Nevertheless, I used some crust to eat the rest of my blue cheese. The woodgrilled eggplant had a good flavor, but the breadcrumbs promised to me were stuck on the tomatoes, which, because of the sheer number of them, almost completely overpowered any hope of tasting eggplant. The dish should have been called BREADCRUMBS SPRINKLED ON A ZILLION TOMATOES, resting on two skinny index-finger-sized slices of eggplant.

J's steak was...huge. Seriously. "Take of $10 and serve half of this." His words, not mine. At a whopping $46, this huuuuge chunk of meat was served practically mooing, so if you are sick of people not serving you properly medium rare-cooked steaks, head to Buck's. Our server did warn us about the size of the steak, mostly to gauge whether or not the rareness would be an issue. The fries were AWESOME, I only wish that there were more of them.

The Very Good Chocolate Cake (I think that's what it was called?) was indeed Very Good. The combo of cold unsweetened whipped cream and warm chocolate sauce was a welcomed contrast, but we were too full to finish it.

The feel of Buck's is dark but warm, with lots of wood, cool glass lamps hanging overhead, and lots of curtains--I wondered aloud if anyone ever closed them to provide more privacy to their table (while also making their table look like a shower). We sat at the furthest end of the loooong communal table that occupies the middle of the dining room. Mid-meal, another couple was seated at the opposite end. Seems like a great table for a large group. For people who say that table is awkward, the only difference between Buck's and Central is that at Central the tables aren't connected--but you and your neighbor are sitting just as cozily. Our server at Buck's was friendly enough, but seemed inexperienced. Service was also pretty slow, considering the restaurant was not nearly full.

Overall, Buck's was fun. Although the options are somewhat limited, the food is tasty and comforting. It's likely that the menu changes subject to season and availability.

Buck's Fishing and Camping
5031 Connecticut Avenue NW
You should drive.
Buck's Fishing & Camping on Urbanspoon


Brooklyn Bagel

You're young, hip, good-looking, and need a place to see and be seen on a weekend morning. Oh, you're also hungry.

Enter Brooklyn Bagel. This neighborhood fixture has the best bagels that we at iEat have had since being torn away from the New York metro area and the accompanying breadly perfection. We've been to that place on P Street, Georgetown Bagelry, Whatsa Bagel, Chesapeake Bagels, thisabagel thatabagel whatever etc, and they are all terrible.

Unlike the suburban bagel store I worked at growing up, Brooklyn Bagel almost exclusively sells bagel sandwiches (how many 25 yo need a dozen bagels?), of which they have a dozen variations. Yes, there's the standard egg/cheese/bacon combos but also whitefish/egg/tuna salads, deli meats (sandwiches are named things like Bayridge, Flatbush, Coney Island, etc), hummus and sprouts, and daily specials that include wraps and soups, too. On a recent morning it seemed like everyone in sight was having the tuna or chicken salad melt, maybe there was something in the air that day? UPDATE: J had the Bayridge with chicken salad and it was SO MUCH FOOD--if I liked it, we could definitely share one of those and a bag of chips for lunch. Also, the pizza bagel is pretty good, but I doubt I'll order it again soon.

The bagels are delicious (albeit not as awesome as the place in Secaucus where my family buys then freezes in bulk) and the yummy sandwiches are cheap and filling. They do not skimp you on your toppings, people! Do you want to drown in whitefish salad? So do I.

The space can be tricky. On most weekends there's a fight to sit outside, with some people resorting to the awkward ledge on the oversized median across the street. With recent extreme heat the indoor 10 or so tables have been packed. There are also a few stools right by the door which make for great people watching for solo diners.

BB is a perfect place to stop on the way to or back from the farmer's market or flea market. I only wish it were open later so I could also eat bagels for dinner.

Brooklyn Bagel
2055 Wilson Blvd
Metro: Court House, walkable from Clarendon, too.
Brooklyn Bagel Bakery on Urbanspoon



The Peanut Gallery should chime in here, especially the ones that dined with me at Hook. I'm not going to be subtle with you, you two.

How fancy am I! My new description should be Recent Diner at Hip New Georgetown Eatery.

Went to Hook for Restaurant Week and we were all very pleased! The menu had a lot of different options, both for the fish-eater and his/her potentially non-fish-eating companion.

I wasn't feeling so hot, but I wouldn't dare cancel such a prime RW lunch. Sacrifice is necessary for greatness. Food greatness, that is.

I started with a local garden salad, no frills. It was delicious! The vinaigrette had such a lovely flavor, and it wasn't overwhelming (or drenching) my vegetables. The greenery was unlike any lettuce I've ever seen--I was nervous when I first eyed it that it would taste bitter, but it didn't at all. It reminded me of a tangle of clovers. Also, unlike my lunch at PS7's, my salad had more than one pine nut in it!

My fellow diners enjoyed the beet salad and the peach and prosciutto salad. On a regular healthy day I probably would have went for the peach, too. The beets were orange, which was a fun surprise, I think. There were other various salads and two "Flight of Crudo" choices. In our educational portion of the lunch, we learned from our friendly server that crudo is a bite of raw fish usually oiled and seasoned, and the flight comes with three.

For our entrees we got the wahoo (served over corn), barracuda (not the one you're thinking of, that one is poisonous to eat--but this is still rare for a restaurant) over polenta, and MUSSELS! The orange-red sauce on the mussels was described on the menu as having some fire, but I didn't really taste any heat. They did have a delicious smoky sort of flavor that I'm not used to having with my mussels--I expect either garlicky white wine-ness or red tomatoeyness. I'm not HUGE on spicy food, but I've come to appreciate that there is a time and a place for those flavors, and these mussels could have been kicked up a little bit. The sauce was delicious, and the perfect pieces of accompanying toast work well for sopping it up.

If you or someone you know doesn't eat fish, they had a hamburger and fries on the RW menu! Hah!

The service at Hook was very prompt. While we (not impatiently) waited for our first course, someone dropped by and asked if we had received our appetizers yet. When we said no, they came about a minute later. Some confusion, but at least they were paying attention to our table. Our glasses were kept full with iced water, and on a day where the temperature probably peaked at close to 100, hydration is a priority.

The space is pretty small but doesn't seem crowded because of the high-ish ceilings and open kitchen. When you walk in you can see straight back into the kitchen, making the restaurant seem larger than it actually is. I love the art on the walls (particularly one of a clam where you can see the blue, spotted interior of the shell) and the light fixtures. The long, tall table by the bar looks like a fun place to gather with friends after work.

Gripes: It is LOUD in there. Pretty on par with Central for loudness, and this was during a pretty busy but not totally wild lunch time--I can't imagine, nor do I want to, what it sounds like when the bar is full. The bathrooms are single-stall, and more than once I saw three or four girls go at once, only to realize it's just one, and then wait outside. Luckily, the bathroom has its own little enclave so the waiting people weren't hovering over another table.

3241 M Street NW
Metro: Take the bus, Circulator, walk from Foggy Bottom on the Blue/Orange line, or take a shuttle from Foggy Bottom or Rosslyn station.



The only reason I went to PS7’s in the first place was because when I heard it was named after the chef Peter Smith, I was tickled that I had a very brilliant, serious professor with the same name. I looked at the web site to make sure he wasn’t leading a double life as a fabulous chef, and thought the menu looked interesting—okay fine, I wanted the hot dogs. The following describes my experiences at the restaurant—one during Restaurant Week, and one a few months before. Enjoy the discrepancies.

Part 1--PS7’s On Any Old Regular Kinda Day
We may have been the only people in the restaurant, and we weren’t even inside. On a gorgeous not-too-hot summer afternoon, we sat outside and enjoyed some quality people-watching in Chinatown.

J went for the steak and potatoes, a little heavy for my lunch tastes but perfect for him. According to him, his steak was better than the one he’d had earlier in the week at the District Chophouse. I went for the 4 little half-smokes, each sitting in a delicious homemade bun, arranged in an orderly fashion beside small containers of ketchup and mustard. My side of pomme frites was a perfect complement, and I felt that PS7’s had successfully reinvented the hot dog and fries of the picnics and barbecues we once knew. The half-smokes were juicy and flavorful, which was almost surprising—their small size could easily lead to overcooking.

Also, everything was piping hot! I LOVE my food either hot hot hot or cold, and lukewarm is NOT going to do it for me. Perhaps that’s why I eat so quickly…I truly heed the advice to “get it while it’s hot.”

Our service was impeccable—you never know when it’s empty if you’ll be smothered or ignored, but our server was friendly, funny, honest in his suggestions, and best of all he made sure our glasses of iced tea were full. After all, we were sitting outside. In DC. During the summer.

We didn't have appetizers or desserts because hey, it's lunch, and what do you think this is? Restaurant Week?!?! That's later.

PART 2, JUST AS IMPORTANT AS PART 1--PS7’s on Restaurant Week:
The restaurant was bustling. I was so excited to share with a friend the wonder I had discovered that is PS7’s, which I felt (at that moment) was underrated! I started with Sarah’s Salad, which the menu describes as containing strawberries, pine nuts, gouda, and pearl onions. The plate I received was embarrassingly large for the serving of salad that sat on it. Too much dressing, too little of what was touted by the menu. Some scrawny shaved gouda was on top of the salad, but I wish it was cubed. The salad lacked texture, which is funny because there were supposed to be pine nuts in it—crunchy, no? More like pine nut. Singular. Salad can be so delicious when it’s done right—all the ingredients were there (in theory), but the ratios were off, along with the temperature (not quite cold enough) and the amount of dressing. There's a different salad with the same initials I would have rather had, and it comes from a place that starts with a C and ends with an -osi.

M started with the risotto with chorizo, or something like that. It tasted all right to me, but to her (much more) sophisticated palate, it seemed undercooked. She said that in theory it seemed like a good idea on paper, but the execution was lacking something. I liked the smoky flavor, but otherwise didn’t think it was that special.

Next I got my seared scallops, asparagus, seared (and finely diced) tomato with plum vinaigrette. The golden color on top of the scallops was perfect, and the plating was pleasant to my eye. I LOVED the flavors introduced by the plum vinaigrette, sweetness really does it for me.

M wasn’t thrilled with her particular cut of lamb. It was okay, very peppery, but still good. It may not have been as disastrous if two things hadn’t gone wrong at this moment. One, her side order of potatoes never arrived, even when we’d been told they were “on their way.” Two, the supposed “rustic bread” that was to be served with her lamb was mysteriously missing from the plate. Neither of us would have realized #2 save for the fact that we still had our menus so we could contemplate dessert. Our waiter sort of looked at us like we were crazy when I inquired about the “rustic bread.” The potatoes, it turned out, had gone to the wrong table, and they were taken off the bill. Our iced teas never actually appeared on the bill…okay with us.

Dessert! Lemon cheesecake for M, the beignets for me. Beignets were definitely better, I thought. They were tasty either dry or with the strawberry sauce, but I didn’t care for the aftertaste from the chocolate sauce. It wasn’t creamy or thick enough to deserve to be paired with those little perfectly crisp doughnuts. The cheesecake was good, I really enjoyed the crispy little pieces of something—maybe shortbread?—and candied lemon rind (I think?) that sat on top of it, and the blueberry compote was good too. Nothing wrong with the cheesecake, I just liked the beignets better. Simple girl.

Our server was apologetic about the potatoes, and like I said, they were taken off the bill, but mistakes and annoyances like that can't help but put a damper on the meal. At one point, two women were leaving the restaurant, walking slowly, and 6 servers stared at them from the server station a few feet from our table. Was she famous? What was she doing? Who cares? All I know is, I don’t want 6 servers standing two feet from me all staring at someone. It’s awkward and makes diners uncomfortable. Didn’t their mothers collectively teach them not to stare? Also, it didn't seem like the servers knew what to do with themselves--I felt like saying, "Take me to your leader" but was sure there would be no leader. They lacked direction and seemed confused. It wasn't that crowded, and even if it was, you want to at least put forward the appearance of order.

Anyway, the food can be interesting and tasty, but while I entered thinking PS7’s should be The Next Big Thing, I left weirded out.

Being disappointed on Restaurant Week is like raaaaain on your wedding day, it's that freee riiiide when you already paid...

777 I Street NW
Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown


Bangkok Joe's

First, let me throw this out there: Citronelle is a place I'd like to go before I die. A 4+ course dinner at Komi sounds fantastic. At this stage of my life (early 20s, full time student) restaurants like those aren't happening. Yet. So if you are asking yourself, "Why this blog? Why now?" the reason is this: I feel like we (people like ME! It's all about me, isn't it?) are left out in the hunger-pangin' cold when we read blogs that discuss the 1638th trip to Insert-Expensive-Restaurant-Here.

Explanation over.

Our sister's visit almost led to a return trip to Zed's in Georgetown. Don't get me wrong, we love Ethiopian food and especially the part where we eat with our hands, but it was SO HOT that getting out of the heat for a funky place like Bangkok Joe's just seemed better--on the water, cool decor, lots of different food options...

We started with--in order of increasing crispiness--the Panang chicken buns, winter squash potstickers, and crispy chicken wontons. All three were delicious! The Panang chicken buns are light and fluffy with a filling that is deliciously soft. Two buns come in each steamed basket. I know winter squash potstickers don't seem very summery, but they are sweet, which was welcome on such a sticky day. (We sat inside, obviously.)

I had the Rama Chicken, which is marinated grilled chicken served on top of sen mee noodles (think vermicelli), with spinach, garlic, ginger, and peanut sauce. It was very tasty, but to eat all by myself it was a) a lot of food and b) very saucy. It's a great dish to share with someone else, because halfway through even the biggest fan would be sick of all the sauce. The pad thai is stellar, and the rice bowls are fun if you're feeling noodly without the noodles. The entrees are served in large asymmetrical bowls--it's a lot of food. None of us cleaned our bowls and we were all completely stuffed.

To our delight, we spotted a local (and I mean really local) celebrity in SJT. SJT, the former president of The George Washington University, was dining with his wife just a few tables away.

Plus side of Bangkok Joe's: when you leave and are very full, you can walk around the Georgetown waterfront and people-watch as you digest!

Service was OK. We got seated really quickly, which was surprising, but J never received the drink he ordered--at least we weren't charged for it.

Bangkok Joe's
3000 K St NW
Metro: Circulator or Metrobus to Georgetown, or stroll from Foggy Bottom on the Orange Line
Bangkok Joe's on Urbanspoon



Tallula is a pretty solid place to take people for brunch. It's close by, relatively inexpensive,they have funky foamy outdoor seating (red foam square ottomans!), and the inside is an eye-pleaser, too. And unlike Central, there are soap dispenser holders so I don't have a label staring at me (shame, shame). Best of all, they serve Illy coffee, and when the service is good (it's somewhat inconsistent), I always have a full glass of iced java to start my day.

I've never eaten dinner at Tallula or it's connected neighbor, EatBar (which they describe as a "gastropub," Euro style!). What I do there is this: I brunch. I brunch with friends, family, or alone with J. On a nice weekend day, I'd probably go there alone with the newspaper.

The online menu has a few more things than are actually available, it probably changes with the season. Tallula's French toast is exactly what it should be, cinnamony and moist. A more sandwichy choices is the fried egg BLT, with nicely crisped bacon and an interesting balance of flavor--that fried egg rounds out the traditional BLT lunch. The ricotta pancakes (with bourbon, bananas, and walnut syrup) are delicious, but it would be a good idea to order the syrup on the side. The most recent serving I saw was doused, much to our dismay! I personally enjoy the pancakes, but they are almost like a dessert--very sweet, and after a few bites you want something else! I love when a friend orders them so I can just have a taste.

My FAVORITE thing to get is an 3-egg (white) omelet, which I fill with goat cheese. I wish spinach was an option, but you could get mushrooms, peppers, bacon, or cheddar, all at no extra cost. An omelet with the works would be a LOT of food! The "home fries" are actually more like roasted potatoes--delicious, but with a deceiving name! If you aren't feeling breakfasty, the burger or grilled hangar steak salad are for you.

For side dishes, I like the creamy cheddar grits and the buttermilk biscuits with gravy.

The downside of Tallula has been the spotty service. Our very first visit was great, with glasses being kept full and smiles on our faces. The next visit was a little less attentive, and we found ourselves a little thirsty while sitting outside in the heat! But, I've never had an issue with the food quality/heat/timing, and they even remember who got what at the table (even in a group of 6!). I don't rate a restaurant badly for handing me my pal's dish, but I feel extra special when they are placed as they should be.

Going on a trip to NYC soon, maybe I'll throw in a Time Out: NY, like the Boston post, for any of you travelers...

2761 Washington Blvd
Metro: Orange Line to Clarendon


Old Ebbitt Express

Lunch is a difficult time for us government-types. Bringing lunch is definitely the least expensive option, especially on the measly government intern salary (or lack there of), but sometimes that equals staying inside. All day. Sad! If you haven't been to the supermarket lately, or you just feel like having something that's difficult to make, take your $10 (or maybe make it $15) and head out to some regular spots.

Before I talk about Old Ebbitt Express, my new FAVORITE lunch spot, I'll give you my top choice at other local favorites.

Turkey sandwich at Potbelly
Signature Salad OR Chicken Parm Melt at Cosi
Pretzel from Cart Guy at 17th and Penn...remarkably filling.

NOW--Old Ebbitt Express is the take-out lunch offshoot of Old Ebbitt Grill (a skip and a jump from the White House), owned by Clyde's. My first time at OEG was on a memorable February 14 (thanks hun), and when I heard I could get a hearty lunch there for a reasonable price, I ran--NOT WALKED--across the street.

I'll start with THE BEST. The turkey burger I had at OEE was the best turkey burger I ever had. It wasn't a dry circle-shaped slab of turkey meat. It was spiced and seasoned, ground up with vegetables, and THEN put into a circle shape on my lovely roll. I would get this every time if it was available.

The Italian Chicken salad featured an herbed breaded chicken breast served over...lettuce. The chicken was delicious, and looked it, too--several people asked what it was that I was holding and chagned their orcers--but the rest of the salad was just okay.

The Buffalo Chicken Sandwich is not as spicy as I feared! A little messy, but very satisfying and quite tasty.

There are pasta dishes that sound delicious, but usually entice my companions instead of myself. They've never complained, and enjoy the opportunity to eat pasta for less than $10 at lunchtime, as well as the flexibility of ordering either half or full size portions.

Most options come with chips, a cookie, or a piece of fruit, and there may be a combo including a fountain soda. FYI there are TWO kinds of cups--styrafoam for those just getting water, and regular soda fountain types, for the soda people. For those like my parents, there is a bowl of reading glasses to assist with the tiny font size on the menu.

You can expect lunch to set you back about $12 at OEE, depending on what you get it could be a little more or a little less. With the portion size and array of options, it's a good deal. Plus, you can't eat Five Guys every day can you?

Old Ebbitt Express
675 15th Street NW
Old Ebbitt Express
Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Blue/Orange/Red to Metro Center