Restaurant review: Pleasant Pops

What a local success story! You can read about them on the Pleasant Pops website, but basically, these two bros moved to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, loved the produce at the farmer’s market there, starting making popsicles with it, sold them out of an ice cream cart, and soon opened their own store in Adams Morgan. In fact, they just opened a second store downtown.

Maureen, Christopher, and I walked down to the Adams Morgan location last night with our millions of dogs and each got a $3 popsicle (dogs included, yes, they have dog pops in little cups, which are $1). I got blueberry honey yogurt, Maureen got strawberries and cream, and Christopher got watermelon mint. They were all alright, but Maureen’s was AMAZING. Those strawberries were so bursting with flavor they almost didn’t taste real.

The pups enjoyed their pops, which are peanut butter mixed with water and frozen, but my dog ate his too fast and then slunk off and yakked over by the bikeshare station.

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Pleasant Pops
1781 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC
Adams Morgan neighborhood

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Restaurant review: Hemingway’s

Hemingway’s restaurant is right over the Bay Bridge on Kent Island in Maryland. I went there for lunch yesterday. As you can probably imagine, the menu was VERY seafood heavy. It was also meat heavy. In fact, there was not one single dish on the menu (aside from the desserts) that didn’t have some kind of meat or fish in it. So, I modified the fajita salad and got it with no beef.

It was actually quite good! The salsa ranch was flavorful, the avocado was ripe but not overly so, and the portion was generous. Plus, who doesn’t love a fried taco salad bowl? My dining companions got calamari, which looked and smelled really good. The brownie sundae for dessert, which came highly recommended by our neck-tattooed waiter, was actually not that great. There was no hot fudge on it! Please!

The truly best part of this place, in my opinion, is the gorgeous view of the Chesapeake Bay and the Bay Bridge.

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Photo credit: Hemingway’s Restaurant

Hemingway’s Restaurant
357 Pier One Road
Stevensville, Maryland

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Restaurant review: Shish

Probably my second most-craved cuisine (after Mexican) is anything Mediterranean: Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan, Italian… they’re all so fresh and tomatoey. With that in mind, Kyla, Doug and I went to Shish in St. Paul while I was visiting them last week. I have to give this review a disclaimer: Doug is Lebanese and grew up eating and making the real thing. So he knows exactly how everything from a Middle Eastern restaurant is supposed to taste.

You order at the counter, and have to get your own water and silverware and bring them to your seat. If you eat outside, that means you get up and go back in for your own water refills. So this place is super caʒ.

We started with the maza mix, an assortment of appetizers. The hummus and babaganoush (roasted eggplant dip) were very good. The grape leaves were meh. They were kind of sticky, the consistency was just weird. The falafel was flavorful and fried to perfection without being greasy.

I got the fettoush salad. It was pretty solid, but not as good as Lebanese Taverna here in DC. And not enough food, I need to learn that a salad with no proteins on it is just not enough for me. Doug got a big salad and a platter and was underwhelmed, but I tried the saffron rice with a little garlic sauce (called toum) off his plate and really liked it. Kyla got the gyro. Everything was okay, but not as good as it could have been. I hate to say it, but if you’re looking for Lebanese food in St. Paul, maybe keep looking.

Shish
1668 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN

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Restaurant review: Sakuramen

Ramen, udon, pho – Asian soups are all the rage. After some really good luck with ramen at Daikaya in Chinatown last winter, we decided to try some more around town and check out Sakuramen in Adams Morgan.

The best part: making it a picnic!
The worst part: tie between the cost and that mine had pork belly in it

Sakuramen is located in the basement of a converted townhouse in Adams Morgan, on 18th Street. It’s a small restaurant with communal seating, but as I mentioned, we got ours to go and went on a picnic with it because the day was about as pleasant as it could possibly be in DC. I’m glad we did, because as I was waiting near the register to order, I got an unmistakeable whiff of urine from the nearby bathroom. I don’t know if you could smell it from any of the tables.

I ordered the namesake sakuramen, which is on the menu as containing kombu broth with menma, corn, green onion, mushrooms, curly noodles. I just looked up with menma is. It’s bamboo shoots. This is touted as being their signature vegetarian ramen. Christopher got the shoki bowl, which was basically a bunch of different kinds of meats in broth. To share, I also ordered the shroom buns, which are steamed Buns with fresh soy marinated organic Lancaster mushrooms and some slaw inside, and kimchi for the side. For two bowls of soup, an appetizer, and cold pickled cabbage, guess how much.

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$42. Forty two dollars.

We added rose, of course. Pedroncelli, which I really enjoyed. It was fairly sweet.

The shroom buns were $8 for two, which is simply too much money for what you get. They were good, but not at $4 apiece. The shoki bowl earned a decent review, with the broth tasting like pot roast broth, that is to say, without much depth or surprise, but good, solid flavor. My vegetarian sakuramen was very good, the broth was delicious. About halfway through the bowl, I discovered why: there was meat in it.

And with that, my review must end. I can’t give this place a positive review when they made a mistake like pork in the vegetarian broth. Is this place terrible? Of course not. But truthfully, it wasn’t as good as Daikaya anyway, so just go there instead.

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The dark side of outdoor eating: the wildlife.

Sakuramen
2441 18th Street NW
Washington, DC
Adams Morgan

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Restaurant review: Barrio

I went home for my nephew’s birthday party, and stopped in Minneapolis along the way. Knowing all my best favorites, Kyla brought me to a Mexican restaurant for happy hour. We went to Barrio downtown.

We got the guacamole for the happy hour price of $4, which came with two salsas and was very good. But far better and only $2 more was the queso fundido. ooooooomg. “Melted chihuahua cheese is garnished with roasted poblano peppers, local goat cheese and served with warm tortillas.” I could probably eat only that for the rest of my life. Simply amazing.

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Kyla feasting on the guac.

We then had to move inside cos it started raining. The inside is really pretty, they have one of those bars with the alcohol stacked up to the ceiling. But like, a really high ceiling.

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This part annoyed me: moving into the restaurant and sitting at the bar meant we had to close out our tab and reopen a new tab with the bartender. It’s the same restaurant! Why do so many places do this? It never ceases to amaze me the level of technological sophistication the rest of the world attains while restaurants continue to bumble around on what must be DOS systems.

We then ordered the elote, grilled corn on the cob, for only $3. That’s way cheaper than the elote at El Chucho here in DC, and just as amazingly good. It was a delight. Even though we weren’t even hungry anymore at this point, I also ordered the potato sopes, which were incredibly delicious and had more unusual flavors than you usually find at a Mexican restaurant. They had goat cheese, tomatillo salsa, and a delicious herb salad on top. I wish I had been hungrier because I think they deserved more attention than I could give them.

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Elote, sopes, elote.

The margaritas were also good. Happy hour prices were great. I say, give this place a try!

Barrio
925 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN

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Happy Birthday Today to My Lil Bestie, Behren!

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Our favorite activity to do together is squeal in delight.

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DC Pride Parade

My friend Megan texted me and asked if I wanted to go to the DC Pride parade this past weekend and support her husband’s rugby team, the Renegades – which is a historically gay team but also has straight members – who would be marching in it. I was like, “sure, fun” and then we got there and I realized I would in fact be marching with them, not observing from the sidelines. It was intensity in ten cities and sooooo much fun.

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Me, Megan, and Nic in between pom-pom waving.

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This was our view for the mile and a half route.

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Restaurant review: Zentan

Zentan is a fine-dining Japanese restaurant located on the first floor of the Donovan House hotel on Thomas Circle. I must be brutally honest here: I would not recommend it.

The decor is okay, but everything is BLACK and for some reason, my eye always turns that into ‘dusty and smudged’ even if it’s essentially spotless. The light fixtures are big plates of glass covered in candles. Except they’re not candles, they’re fake candles. Seemed cheap. I went with Christopher, who has worked extensively in the restaurant industry, and he said, “That’s a corporate decorator’s work right there.” And it was. A little cheap, a little mass produced, and a little off putting. All of this would be perfectly acceptable in a lower-priced restaurant, but I expect a very tight presentation when dishes and drinks are this expensive.

Our server said, “My manager knows you, so you should totally order the expensive whisky flight, I’m sure they’ll comp it.” It was a $40 flight of three Japanese whiskys: Yamazaki 12 year, Yamazaki 18 year, and Hakushu 12 year. They were vivid and interesting, but were they worth $40? Probably not. The opposite-of-icing on the cake? The flight was NOT comped. Thanks for nothing, you tip-padding weasel.

The food was really quite good. I tried the garlic edamame, which is hard to ruin; the miso soup, also hard to ruin, and I only ordered it because they were out of udon, which is my favorite; the Nasu, which is grilled eggplant; the grilled Shishito Peppers, which were decent, but shishitos are kind of flavorless so you mostly just taste char; and the Golden Eye maki roll, which included tempura sweet potato, mushrooms, taro root, and avocado dressing, which was delicious, but again, hard to mess up deep fried anything or avocado anything.

I think I would have had a more positive experience at this restaurant if I had been in a better frame of mind the day I was there, which is 100% not their fault, but the iffy service, being out of udon, and the fairly unimaginative sushi just didn’t excite me. I will probably try it again someday to see if it was an off day for them (and me).

Zentan
1155 14th St NW
(Logan Circle neighborhood)

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Restaurant review: Ghibellina

This is probably my favorite happy hour spot right now, and truth be told, happy hour is the only time I’ve gone because the prices are irresistible.

It’s very cute inside. Exposed brick, wood beams, bare light bulbs at half power, a big pizza oven in the back and a huge open-air window in the front – it has excellent ambiance. And it always gets busy and buzzing so you feel like you’re somewhere people want to be.

The cocktails are just heaven. They have a real mixologist in there that I chatted with on one visit, and his creations are excellent. Infused syrups, spritzes of absinthe, purees, zests, roots, shrubs, swathes, I don’t even know. They are so perfectly mixed and delicious, and change with the seasons. So like you’ll get stuff with apple cider and maple in the winter, and rose water and prosecco in the spring. Some are more tart or sweet, but just chat with the bartender to help you decide. The bartenders are all unfailingly attentive and friendly. They also have seasonal sangrias that I find more flavorful (and stronger!) than most sangrias. During happy hour, the cocktails are $6 and a huge goblet of sangria is $5. That’s an excellent deal in this city for quality cocktails. Lots of places have them for $8 and up, even during happy hour.

Now for the best part: the wood-fired pizzas. I have had pizza all over this city: Two Amys, Pizzeria Paradiso, Pete’s Apizza, yada yada. Ghibellina’s is the best! I’m serious! There is one in particular, the olive e carciofi, that I just LOVE. It has nostraliana olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, garlic, peperoncino and is simply perfection. I never get tired of it, and though I’ve ordered several others on the menu, I always come back to that one. All the pizzas are served with peperoncino-infused olive oil for drizzling (or, in my case, copious crust dipping) and your own pair of scissors to cut it. During happy hour, all pizzas are half price. See what I mean about the good deals? You could share one, but at half price, why? I don’t. Or if I do, we order another one later.

Two thumbs up for happy hour. If I ever go for dinner, I’ll let you know.

Ghibellina
1610 14th St. NW
(Logan Circle neighborhood)

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Restaurant review: Lou’s City Bar

Lou’s City Bar in Columbia Heights is good for two things: bringing your dog with you to hang out with your friends during the winter months when patios aren’t open elsewhere, and being EXTREMELY close to a metro stop. That about it.

They enclose their patio year-round in a plastic tent, so even on rainy, freezing days, it’s open with wait service and TVs showing sports. They are also half a block from the Columbia Heights metro.

The food is bad, even for bar food. The service is fair, but the service is “fair” almost everywhere. The service is fair at the fricken IHOP. The drink prices are not that great.

Don’t bother unless it’s blizzarding and you really want to see your friends but are suffering from dog guilt cos he’s been home alone all day.

Lou’s City Bar
1400 Irving St NW

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