Travel Destinations

Washington DC Dining Quick Hits: The BBQ Joint and Momofuku CCDC

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2016-04-02 at 11-03-29Washington, D.C. is a great place to visit. Sure, it’s not a theme park, but the entertainment and educational mix of opportunities are without equal in America. The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. covers a lot of things, as those guides tend to do (and it is fabulously written might I add). The guide, however, tends to focus on some of the best restaurants available and we’ve been getting questions (for real, we have) about more…reasonably priced offerings.

Since I occasionally travel to D.C. for research I also end up eating, and I rarely have the time or the expense account for elaborate meals. Therefore, I seek out cheap-to-mid-priced options and relay them to you as these mini-reviews.

2016-04-02 at 14-35-25The BBQ Joint

The small city I live in has some surprisingly decent food options, but the two things that I love that it does not do very well are Hispanic food and barbecue. Because of that, I seek either of those out whenever I get the chance. There are a few different spots for barbecue around D.C. so I decided to pick one that got generally good reviews and thus ended up at the descriptively named BBQ Joint, owned by chef Andrew Evans.

There are four different locations: Easton and Pasadena in Maryland and Union Market and 14th Street in the District. I visited the 14th Street NW location, which is in the U Street area of the city–I picked that one basically because I was in the area.

It’s a relatively small, narrow spot that clearly was built as a bar. It was comfortable, if a little dark, but there’s no need to spend any more time on the atmosphere–it was fine but nothing that will enhance the rating. Sadly, that was kind of how I felt about the food, too.

2016-04-02 at 14-42-43I ordered ribs, brisket, and pulled pork (not pictured), which I basically picked randomly. Ribs are almost never my favorite because of their difficulty to eat and meat-to-bone ratio, but when done very well they are certainly tasty and tender. The rub that was used on these ribs was indeed tasty, but tender they were not. I ended up having to resort to picking up the rib and eating it caveman style–even the knife and fork couldn’t remove the meat from the bone.

Brisket is probably my favorite smoked meat when done very well, although it is hard to do very well. The BBQ Joint did an admirable job, but there were still some chewy bits and not much in the way of flavor. I think the idea was to let the meat’s natural flavor through, but it wasn’t cooked well enough for that. The pulled pork was the best of the trio, but it wasn’t that much different that the version you get in thousands of places.

The BBQ Joint was certainly not bad and I would even call it good, but truly great barbecue is…something else. I wouldn’t tell people to avoid the place or anything, but next time I’m going to try somewhere else.

2016-04-02 at 10-43-31Momofuku CCDC

Okay, this one is basically a chain. Owned by chef David Chang, there are many locations in New York, Toronto, Sydney, and Vegas (coming soon) to go along with this relatively new spot in Washington. I have always heard really good things about them, so I decided to stop by for lunch.

CCDC is found on I St NW, just a couple of blocks north of the Gallery Place Metro station, which makes it a not-too-terribly-far-away stop if you’re visiting the National Mall area. The restaurant is surrounded by large windows and is built in a very open, almost industrial style making it airy…and loud. As a generally loud person, the volume very rarely bothers me, especially in a casual setting like this.
The restaurant also has an open kitchen and a small bar facing it, which I had the pleasure of sitting at. I love to cook and have always been fascinated by the professional aspects of cooking, even though I’ve never done it. This was a well-run kitchen and it was intriguing to watch–a bonus for CCDC if you are also interested in that sort of thing.

Chilled Spicy Noodles
Chilled Spicy Noodles

Before I explain my food, let me tell you the plan: I had perused their lunch menu ahead of time which I thought was pricey. It seemed to be mostly noodles, rice, salads, etc. for around $10-15. Since I was trying to keep the cost reasonable I decided I would just get one thing and then add on a dessert from their incredibly well-received–and incredibly busy–Milk Bar (which is a separate, adjacent storefront with service to CCDC).

I ordered the $14 Chilled Spicy Noodles which contained Sichuan sausage, spinach, and candied cashews. The server warned me repeatedly that it was very spicy, which I assured him was what I wanted. Upon being served, I was surprised at how big the dish actually was–big enough that I barely finished and eliminated any chance of dessert. As advertised, it was very spicy, but I do like that. I also liked the dish–check that, I loved the dish.

The mixture of chilled noodles, warm sausage, spicy meat, and sweet cashews was perfect. It was balanced and delicious and I wish I could’ve done a tasting menu of everything they had. Between the food and being able to watch the kitchen at work, it was one of the most enjoyable solo dining experiences I’ve ever had. The experience was excellent and cheaper than I expected it to be. I will be back.

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Brian McNichols

In addition to blogging, I also do some analyzin' here at Touring Plans. I am a travel nut, planning nut, Disney nut, wall nut. Husband of 1, father of 2. Hilariously funny in my own mind. Find me on Twitter @YesThatBrian if you like really dumb jokes.

3 thoughts on “Washington DC Dining Quick Hits: The BBQ Joint and Momofuku CCDC

  • You eat your ribs with a knife and a fork and you want your brisket ‘flavored’? I can’t take you seriously as a BBQ reviewer.

  • We visited DC over Memorial Day weekend (with lots of help from the Unofficial Guide, of course). We were staying in Alexandria at the Embassy Suites, so we had big breakfasts to start the day and usually took a mid-afternoon break for a meal and respite from the heat.

    The first day we were near the Capitol and Library of Congress around lunch time, so we walked down Pennsylvania Ave where there were lots of little restaurants. We choose Sonoma (it should be noted that my husband and I both enjoy a good glass of wine, especially when on vacation). My husband and I each had a salad and shared an order of the house made meatballs. Our 12-year-old son had a burger. The salads were light and refreshing and the meatballs were divine. We actually ended up getting a second order of the meatballs and shared one with our son who had already finished his burger. The wine list was fairly large and they offered tasting flights. The place is small a cozy and they did have an outdoor patio that was full despite the warm temperatures. Not exactly inexpensive, but small plate options, pizzas, and sandwiches are in the $8-15 range. Wine markup was rather high by our Midwestern standards. The location is also just a couple of blocks from the Capitol South Metro Station.

    Our second day, we ate at the Old Ebbitt Grill. It is located very close to the White House and just a couple of blocks from the Metro Center Station. This place is an old classic and full of tourists. It was VERY busy on a Saturday afternoon at 2:30p! We had to wait for a table about 30 minutes. But they have four bars and we found a seat where we could have a beverage while we waited. They have a very extensive menu. My husband had a Soft-shell Crab Sandwich, which was a whole fried crab on a bun as you would expect. I had a Crab Cake and an Asparagus Salad. The salad was really unique with a light creamy lemon dressing that complimented the asparagus very nicely. My son had a BBQ Pork Grilled Cheese sandwich and loved it. With an award winning wine list, we did find some decent values by the glass or bottle price.

    Our third day we met some family members who live near the area and visited the zoo in the morning. By about 2:00p we were ready for a meal break. We walked back towards the Cleveland Park Metro Station and went to Ardeo + Bardeo. We were surprised to find they were still serving brunch. We discovered their brunch menu is served 11a – 3p Saturday and Sunday and includes bottomless Champagne or Mimosas for $29 per person. The place was busy but they were able to seat a party of six. The brunch menu is small but everyone seemed happy with the options. You get to pick one Small item and one Main item. They also offer a few Grand items. The three of us all had the Grilled Burger. It was dressed with a caramelized onion-bacon jam that was a flavorful addition. My burger and my husband’s were cooked perfectly, but our son’s was quite undercooked. The server quickly removed his and brought a whole new plate for him. I had a Mixed Greens Salad which was simple, fresh, and lightly dressed. My husband choose the Siracha Deviled Eggs as his small item and they were quite outstanding. The other two adults choose to have the Grand menu options and selected the Shrimp & Grits and the Chicken & Waffles. Both were very pleased with their choices. The brunch menu was obviously very popular based on the number of champagne glasses on all the other tables. We arrived late, but probably would have needed reservations earlier. There was also a large and very loud party upstairs and we found that to be an unpleasant distraction.

    Our fourth day was Memorial Day and we decided to visit museums and avoid the parade (in hopes of dodging the crowds). After a long morning at the Museum of Natural History, we made our way across Constitution Ave which was the parade route but the parade had not started, yet. We ate lunch at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana which is one of the highly popular restaurants by Jose’ Andres. It is located just a couple of blocks from the National Mall close to the National Archives Building and the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro Station. It was nearly time for the parade to start, but the place was still quite busy, however we were able to grab seats at the bar so just ate there. We ordered the guacamole which is freshly made table-side. It was excellent and more than we could share with just three of us! We each ordered two tacos from a variety of unique choices. The most unique is the “legendary Oaxacan specialty” with sautéed grasshoppers! Our somewhat adventurous son choose this for one of his tacos. I think he enjoys being able to tell his friends he ate a grasshopper taco! I had a taste of the filling and it was crunchy and salty with some toasty seasonings. He ate the whole taco! I choose the tacos with seared mahi mahi and asked the server for a second recommendation as I was having difficulty choosing. She quickly recommended the brisket taco. Both were flavorful with crunchy fresh toppings. My husband and I enjoyed the Margarita of the day which was slightly fizzy with fresh lime. I especially enjoyed it because it was light and refreshing without heavy sweetness. We really enjoyed our meal here!

    Most evenings we returned to Alexandria and just had appetizers at one of the seafood places on the waterfront. The crab dip at Blackwall Hitch and the Crab Tater Tots at The Chart House were both memorable. We enjoyed the casual atmosphere at Blackwall Hitch but both places had great views overlooking the Potomac River with National Harbor on the other side.

    I hope other readers can share their DC area dining experiences, too!

    • Thanks for the recommendations Gina. And thanks for the blog article Brian. Looking forward to my trip in September!


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