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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Pizza, Beer, and So Much More

BIRROTECA

1520 Clipper Road, Baltimore, MD 21211 (http://www.bmorebirroteca.com/home)

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

Growing up in the suburbs of the DMV, whenever we made the trek up to Baltimore, there were only two destinations: the Inner Harbor/Aquarium or Camden Yards. In recent years, however, Baltimore has seen a real resurgence within its dining scene: Mid-Atlantic-centric menus (Spike Gjerde), big name chefs (Michael Mina), and neighbors expanding into the city (Bryan Voltaggio). So during a recent outing with my family, when I decided to break them out of their comfort zone and head toward the Hampden/Clipper Mill area and Birroteca, I received more than one puzzled look. But, by the time the meal was over, everyone seemed to understand that there was a lot more to Charm City than the Inner Harbor.

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Still Reliable Over a Decade In

MATCHBOX

Multiple Locations in DC, MD, and VA (http://www.matchboxrestaurants.com/)

* and 1/2 (Satisfactory/Good)

Matchbox, the original, opened in Chinatown in 2002. That original location remains today; now with six sister restaurants spread throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia (with a single outpost in Palm Springs, California). The 14th Street outpost, where our most recent dinner took place, maintains strong influences from the original: a long countertop bar, plenty of wood accents and tables, and an open kitchen featuring a wood burning oven. Similar still: the consistency of the food; holding strong more than a decade after the original.

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