On The Road with CPT: New York City

As we were making our way around in city a cab, I remarked to my wife that you would probably be able to eat at a different restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an entire year straight, and still have plenty of untapped locations for the future. And so it goes in New York City. According to the all-knowing interwebs, Manhattan alone is home to around 24,000 different restaurants, with constant openings and closings. Factor in surrounding boroughs like the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, and that number skyrockets. Long story short: NYC is, without a doubt, the biggest eating hub in the country. There’s no shortage of options, regardless of what you’re craving.

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Steak Lovers, Rejoice!

BAR VASQUEZ

1425 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore, MD 21231 (https://www.barvasquez.com/)

** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)

We tend to have good luck when it comes to Baltimore restaurateurs. Spike and Amy Gjerde, and their fantastic tandem: Woodberry Kitchen and Parts & Labor (and the excellent Artifact Coffee), have always served us well in Clipper Mill/Hampden/Charles Village. But for restaurateurs in Harbor East, look no further than Foreman-Wolf, the duo behind many of the city’s best, including the excellent Charleston, and the newly-opened Bar Vasquez. So when our friends recommended trying the newest venture from Chef Wolf, we gladly accepted. With the most recent Wolf-helmed dinner under our belts, I think it’s safe to say that our lucky streak continues.

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Believe the Hype

ALL-PURPOSE PIZZERIA

1250 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (http://allpurposedc.com/)

*** and 1/2 (Excellent/Outstanding)

Sometimes restaurant hype can be difficult to live up to. With high expectations, even a so-so meal can bring everything crashing back down to earth in a hurry. So when the braintrust behind Red Hen opened up the pizza-centric All-Purpose right down the street from the Convention Center, it was no surprise that the initial word was positive. After Tom Sietsema proclaimed All-Purpose his favorite D.C. restaurant in the Washington Post Fall Dining Guide, my expectations started to get a little out of hand. But there are occasions where restaurants justify the hype. And after securing two dinners recently, I can say without hesitation that All-Purpose is slinging the best pizzas in the District; and some of the best pies I’ve had, anywhere.

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On the Road with CPT: Charleston

The first time I came across Chef Sean Brock was on the beloved PBS Show, The Mind of a Chef. Here was this bearded, bespectacled fella, giggling along with Chef David Chang as they ate way-too spicy Kentucky Hot Chicken and then pounded whiskey at a distillery. But then he started talking about heritage cooking and utilizing South Carolina ingredients that were long forgotten; some of which nearly disappeared. The pride he showed in describing his love of food was inspiring. It was while watching this passionate side of Brock, that I made sure to make a mental note to put his flagship restaurant, Husk, on my list of must-try restaurants. So when my wife and I were searching for a honeymoon destination in the U.S., I threw out Charleston as a possibility. Spoiler alert: between the views and the food, Charleston did not disappoint.

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A Pillar of Penn Quarter

FIOLA

601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004 (http://fioladc.com/)

*** and 1/2 (Excellent/Outstanding)

Fiola, the Italian fine dining bastion from Chef Fabio Trabocchi, has been well established for some years now. Recently, however, the original DC establishment from Chef Trabocchi has had much of its press stolen by his newest restaurant, the seafood-heavy, Fiola Mare. But, we may be seeing a resurgence from the former. With its supposed top-notch pasta and seafood, along with a recent shining review from Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post, Fiola was among the top choices in searching for a location for my mom’s milestone birthday celebration. And after our dining experience, there is no denying that the Trabocchi original continues to shine bright.

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On the Road with CPT: New Orleans

New Orleans will always hold a very special place in my heart. My earliest recollections of New Orleans are not of the city itself; they are of the food. And those food memories are mostly of Emeril Lagasse, the larger-than-life chef on the Food Network, spouting all that Cajun and Creole cuisine had to offer. Watching Emeril – back when the Food Network produced shows where chefs actually cooked – was fundamental in developing my love of food. It got me interested in cooking which eventually turned into a love of researching, visiting, and now writing about, great restaurants. When I really sit down and think about it, much of this food love comes back to New Orleans.

So my one – and, thus far, only – trip to the Crescent City had to be perfect. There would be food, of course. But in an ironic twist, the food of New Orleans took a back seat to the real star of the trip. You see, the city where food is first, is also where Chew, Party of Two got its start, so to speak. New Orleans will always be, first and foremost, where I proposed to my wife.

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Little Brother…All Grown Up

PARTS & LABOR

2600 N. Howard Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 (http://partsandlaborbutchery.com/)

** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)

Spike Gjerde is fast becoming synonymous with Baltimore. The chef-owner of Woodberry Kitchen, the locally-sourced restaurant in Clipper Mill, opened his most recent offering, Parts & Labor, in Charles Village back in 2014. Little brother is housed in a former garage, features an open-flame hearth as the heart of the kitchen, and a retail shop which sells house-made sandwiches and fresh cuts of meat during the day. Parts & Labor, which butchers its own meat and serves in the same capacity for Woodberry, knows its way around the various cuts. It is this respect for meat-centric dishes, and the quality of the execution, which makes one legitimately question whether Parts & Labor is catching up to its well-reviewed sibling.

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Unassuming…and Delicious

DC NOODLES

1412 U Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009 (http://dcnoodles.com/)

** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)

“I don’t know about this,” I distinctly remember telling my wife when she led me into DC Noodles for the first time. The small, almost unnoticed restaurant sits on U Street in Northwest Washington, just down the street from the constantly bustling U Street and 14th Street corridors. Given the popularity of the restaurants up and down those streets, I was more than a little nervous about the empty dining room at Noodles. Several meals later, I’m not afraid to say I was wrong. DC Noodles packs some delicious flavors into their dishes; whether serving a sparsely populated dining room, or a full house.

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Elegance in an Unexpected Place

ROYAL TAJ

8335 Benson Drive, Columbia, MD 21211 (http://royaltajmd.com/)

** (Good)

When I first mentioned to a good friend of mine that I was starting up a food blog, we happened to be sitting and chatting about restaurants in the area to try. One of the recommendations for my new endeavor: Royal Taj, a Columbia restaurant tucked away in a small commercial center in a former Applebee’s. A little over a month later, my wife and I headed over on a whim for a Tuesday evening dinner. Though I went in expecting a solid Indian meal, after the showing by Royal Taj, I plan on returning with expectations of so much more.

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Moments of Promise, But Work to be Done

THE RIGGSBY

1731 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20009 (http://www.theriggsby.com/)

* and 1/2 (Satisfactory/Good)

Expectations were high heading into dinner at The Riggsby, Boston-based Chef Michael Schlow’s newest addition to his D.C. contingent (Schlow also owns Tico, the well-reviewed restaurant on 14th Street). My go-to food source, Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post, had high praise for The Riggsby. The Washingtonian had fond words. Friends were excited and noted all the positive reviews being heaped on the restaurant. Located on the bottom floor of The Carlyle, a swanky Kimpton Hotel nestled a few blocks from Dupont Circle, the restaurant had prime real estate and a very cool vibe. If only the quality of the food matched the digs, I too, would be singing the praises of The Riggsby.

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