Saturday, November 14, 2009

Senor Pollo 's place in the Peruvian Chicken hierarchy

Senor Chicken is a Peruvian chicken and steak place just off 14th Street on Park in Columbia Heights. Senor Chicken just opened recently and is in a somewhat competitive region for their chosen cuisine, including being near Chix and literally right next door to Pollo Sabroso amongst other competitors.

A friend and I decided we would check it out for lunch. Both my friend and I have a strong love for Peruvian style chicken and have been going to El Pollo Rico in Virginia together ritualistically for years. Having moved to the Columbia Heights area recently and being satisfied with the chicken from Pollo Sabroso (also on Park just off 14th), we were excited to have another chicken place in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, we were somewhat disappointed by Senor Chicken.

I believe that El Pollo Rico sets the standard for Peruvian style chicken and french fries in the DC area. The service is usually fast despite high numbers, and the skin is flavorful and the chicken is moist. Pollo Sabroso has a good product as well with very moist chicken and decently flavored skin, although is very slow as far as service. Senor Chicken has only decent meat and skin, and the service was mediocre. With better chicken on sale for almost identical cost only a few feet from its door, it will be interesting to see how Senor Chicken does in the coming months.

Every good chicken place will have dipping sauces for their deliciously seasoned birds, typically ketchup, green spicy sauce, and creamy white sauce. In addition to a decent but not great green sauce, El Pollo Rico offers an amazing mayonnaise based white sauce that is unmatched. Pollo Sabroso offers a watery thousand island dressing based white sauce which is pretty gross to be honest. We were hoping Senor Chicken would offer a better white sauce but found theirs to be watered down thousand island dressing as well. Another unfortunate failure to improve upon the offerings of nearby Pollo Sabroso.

The one distinct advantage Senor Chicken has is its good service, spacious seating area and clean and well lit counter. Pollo Sabroso is slow and small but in the end it's the chicken that really matters.

The french fries were also poor and lacking any kind of flavor at Senor Chicken (badly needed salt). Basically, if this place had opened up and there wasn't the exact same offerings only feet away for the same price with a better product, I would be more excited. Again, it isn't bad, it's just the exact same offerings as Pollo Sabroso with worse quality.

Since I love chicken I welcome this kind of competition in the area, but Senor Chicken should try to make itself stand out from its neighbor and competitor with a different kind of white sauce at least. It was only the first day they were open when I ate there so the product may improve, but right now, I will stick with Pollo Sabroso.

Senor Chicken is located on Park Road west of 14th Street. A half chicken and a side is about $8.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chaps Pit Beef: Jack Kerouac Edition

North Carolina has its BBQ pork, Texas has its brisket and Baltimore has its pit beef. Pit beef is essentially brisket but it's never smoked, always grilled. Located in a part of Baltimore that looks like it was forgotten by everything, Chaps Pit Beef is only a few miles from the highway and served as a great "pit" stop on the way back to DC recently.

Chaps Pit Beef is what I would graciously describe as a shack. In the kitchen there's a big grill, a deli slicer, and not much else. The menu is pretty prolific, but is pretty much everything that you'd expect to find in a shack with a grill.
Pit beef, corned beef, pulled pork, fries, and maybe even a hamburger--but I wasn't looking for one.

The fact that pit beef in Baltimore is grilled and not smoked gives it a flavor I haven't encountered with other types of bbq. There's a little bit of crispiness to the edges of the meat and flavors that were picked up from other meats that have been cooked on the same grill. I ended up ordered a combo of cornef beef and beef, and even the corned beef was thrown on the grill for a minute or two to heat it up and give it some additional flavor.

On top of my sandwich I put on the traditional Baltimore fixings of tiger sauce (mayo and horseradish) and onions. It was interesting. The taste was different, it was peculiar to have that sort of sauce on beef, but it was good. I was filled up, enjoyed some new flavors of beef that I haven't experienced before, and got out of there for around six bucks.

I'd be lying if I said that this was the greatest sandwich I've ever had, but if I'm driving around Baltimore in the future and need something hearty to keep me filled up until I make it back to DC, then Chaps Pit Beef might see me again.

Chaps Pit Beef
5801 Pulaski Highway
Baltimore, Maryland 21205

Monday, November 9, 2009

DC Noodle

I headed down to DC Noodle with a friend because Ben's Chili Bowl had a line out the door and around the corner and some kind of concert going on out front. When you come into the lunch hour looking for a half smoke and chili and end up at an asian noodle place, your mind might not be in the right place to fully appreciate the food you are served.

When my friend and I walked in we looked at the simple/futuristic style and heard the techno music humming in the background and questioned whether we had made a serious mistake. Our hunger and laziness kept us headed toward the table with considerably less than an open mind on the meal we were about to be served. When the oddly shaped artsy water glasses came out, it was as if you could hear the nail being hammered into the coffin.

The menu offers a number of different styles of soup and curry with whichever meat you prefer. My friend ordered the shrimp and shrimp meatball in the spicy soup, and I had the Burmese Kao Soi Coconut curry with chicken.

When the food came out, our doubts were lessened, and a few bites later we realized that this place has very delicious food. In particular the coconut curry I had was really excellent. With both wet and fried noodles, asian spices and vegetables and thinly cut chicken, this meal had excellent flavor and texture. My friends spicy soup was also decent although it had too much peanut flavor for my liking. We both devoured our meals and I must say that the curry I had was really top notch.

On the whole this place is pretty pricey ($12-14 per noodle dish) and a little strange decor but does have tasty food. A place that has good curry is such a rarity in DC that this eatery can get away with its ridiculous style and high prices, until someone comes along and does it better for less. They also deliver in the U Street/Columbia Heights area which is great for me. This will be a place that I will eat at again although I will probably still complain about the price.

1410 U St NW
(between N 14th St & N Portner Pl)
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 232-8424

Monday, November 2, 2009


Sushi is a food that, for me at least, always seems to oscillate between the good and the bad with little room in the middle. Not too long ago now, I found the impulse to try out another one of DC's sushi restaurants. I've had the pleasure of eating at one very good sushi restaurant out of the five I've been to since living in DC. Uni, unfortunately, is not that restaurant of distinction.

Situated just west of DuPont Circle, Uni charges DuPont prices and delivers Kingman Park quality.

I settled in with my dining companion and ordered a round of beers and a bottle of sake. For the first round of sushi we ordered ikura (salmon roe), uni (sea urchin), unagi (freshwater eel), and maguro (tuna) as nigiri pieces, and a spicy tuna roll for a few pieces of maki.

The unagi was fine. It's really hard to mess up something you cover with a delicious sauce and quickly heat with a blow torch. The ikura was of decent quality. The maguro could have been fresher. And the uni was terrible. Uni should be sweet and have a hint of the flavor of the sea. This uni lacked any sweetness and tasted like I'd just swallowed a gulp from the Atlantic after I was thrown about by an errant wave.

There's not much to say about the spicy tuna roll other than it tasted like anyone's spicy tuna roll.

The only event worth noting from eating at Uni was trying their concoction entitled the "watermelon roll". It lacked a despriction on the menu but I figured it couldn't be any worse than what I'd already had.

In a moment of creative flair, uni used sesame seeds, avocado, and tuna to create the illusion of watermelon around a maki roll. It garners higher points for creativity that it does for taste.

I'd assume that at this point it goes without saying, but I'd keep looking if I was in the mood to have some high quality sushi in DC--or at the very minimum something that is worth the price you're paying. The whole meal left my hunger unsated and kicked me in the wallet for 48 dollars (after the check was split).

Uni A Sushi Place
2122 P St., NW
Washington, DC 20037

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Haydee's Restaurant

Haydee's is a Latin food joint in Mount Pleasant just off 16th Street. I recently attended a moving in celebration there with some friends. The place looks much more like a bar than a restaurant and is decorated with what appear to me to be Christmas lights in the window.

The inside feels like a fun dive bar with television screens that have yellow, faded picture quality, spray painted instructions on which gender may use which bathroom, and dim lighting. The menu offers the typical and reasonably priced Mexican-American fare including chimichangas and fajitas. Stiff margaritas and various forms of paint stripping tequila are available in great quantity at low cost. Seating is available and this place is nice if you want to sit and chat on a week night.

This place is exactly what it seems to be. It is a cheap, kitschy bar with cheap food. The fajita I had was exactly as tasty as the low price it cost me to purchase. There is no subtlety in this place. This is not a hidden treasure.

All that being said, the atmosphere was friendly, the mariachi band was a really nice touch, and the bill at the end of the night was happily low. If your friends from out of town say, "will you take me to get some great Mexican food?" don't take them to Haydee's. If your friend from out of town says, "Man I'm broke, can we go somewhere cheap and sit down and have some drinks and talk," then this place should be your final destination. I will return to this place next time it's late in the month and I fancy a large class of tequila and lime juice.

Haydee's Restaurant
3102 Mount Pleasant Street NW
(between N Irving St & N Kenyon St)
Washington, DC 20010

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Uncle Bub's BBQ: Jack Kerouac Edition

I found myself on the road the week to handle some business in Illinois. While Illinois is not Kansas City, North Carolina, or Texas, it has a good BBQ culture. Famous Dave's (which some of my readers might be familiar with) was originated in just north of Chicago in Wisconsin. It has seen wild popularity and there is always a place to pick up some brisket or pork ribs while you're venturing around the mid-West.

I do not live and die by the fire pit, but I know good bbq when I eat it and I've become a bit punctilious when it comes to what I want in corn bread--nothing ruins a bbq joint faster for me than poor quality corn bread.

Uncle Bub's is located in Westmont, Il and is very inviting to Bub's virgins and veterans, alike. Before I stepped inside I perused the guidelines for Bub's virgins outside their front door and was prepared to enjoy meal.

Once in, I settled on the brisket sandwich (my dining cohort advised me that I'd need to be rolled out if I opted for the meal). They have all manner of sides to choose from, but I went with the classic, pork and beans and corn bread. Once I placed my order I was handed a large chicken with a number to bring to my table and await my food.

Before I could make it to a seat, I noticed what I consider to be a near Holy Grail of hot sauces. There was everything from, made for your grandma, to blow your ass out. I opted for the latter. It was made with habaneros and I initially proceeded with caution, but ended up giving my food a good coating to get a decent spice out of the sauce.

A few minutes after I grabbed some sauce and a water and found a seat the brisket was brought out for my enjoyment. The look of it was good. It was falling apart on the bread, the corn bread has a nice shape to it and the beans looked like they should be delicious.

The details were a little bit less enticing than the look. The corn bread was dry—a huge minus. The pork and beans was lacking a little bit on the pork. They were sweet and tasty, but (and this is a personal preference thing) I like my beans to have hunks of pig in them. They weren’t bad, though. The highlight of the meal was definitely the brisket. It was well cut, cooked extremely well, and had a good flavor to it. If memory serves, the whole meal cost around 7 dollars, so it wasn’t a bad deal for as full as I became. If I find myself in Westmont, Il and in need of BBQ, Uncle Bub’s will see me again. I’ll just steer clear of the corn bread, and try to find an even hotter hot sauce.

132 S Cass Ave
Westmont, IL 60559
(630) 493-9000

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Heights: Brunch

While I am probably thought by my friends to be mostly a fan of the exotic and spicy when it comes to food, I have a deep seated and all-consuming love of Sunday Brunch. Nothing makes the foolish behavior from the night before or the later lousiness of my favorite football team palatable like a good coffee with some runny eggs over easy and crispy bacon.

Having just moved from Dupont to Columbia Heights I needed to find a new go-to brunch location. Whats more, the crappiness of my football team necessitated that this new brunch spot be extra delicious to get me through those painful losses, and fortunately The Heights provided just the place.

The Heights is a high ceilinged bar/restaurant with a good beer and wine selection and friendly and knowledgeable servers. The feel is of a local pub with a lot of wood and brick, and a simple open kitchen in the back. This place also has more new age tendencies including providing filtered water for the table and other green policies like using renewable energy to power their bustling kitchen. But enough about the semantics...lets get down to the food.

I have had brunch at this place twice now, and both times it has been spectacular. The standard fare of bacon and eggs is well prepared and tasty. The home fries are not the best I've ever had but they are good enough to make a nice side dish to whatever egg concoction you prefer. Pictured above is the Eggs Benedict I had this weekend. It is your typical and delicious Eggs Benedict, with one slight adjustment, in that they use a croissant instead of an English muffin for the base of the meal.

Other than the garnish of lettuce and an orange slice or two (which I find wholly unnecessary) this was a perfect meal. Ask for a side of salmon to try their tasty and fresh smoked salmon, which is great just on its own. Their coffee and juice was excellent as well. The only real drawback to this place is the fact that it is the only good brunch spot in the area and thus wait times of up to 45 minutes should be expected. Prices are not cheap certainly but are not outrageous either, and good service can be expected at all times.

I will probably do a further review on The Heights as a lunch and dinner place at some point in the future. I can't say for sure how it matches up for other meals but for that Sunday morning egg and bacon craving, it is top notch.

3115 14th St. NW, Washington DC, 20010
Phone: 202-797-7227
3115 14th St. NW, Washington DC, 20010
Phone: 202-797-7227