Monday, November 28, 2011

Where NOT to Eat: (Meat)Balls

**Editor's note: Since the posting of this entry, Meatballs has closed.

I have never in my life been so disappointed by balls in my mouth.

(And, ladies, we know how disappointing balls can be, AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT??? HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!)

All sophomoric jokes aside, the much-ballyhooed Michel Richard homage to the spaghetti topper has a brilliant marketing ploy:


Plaster your restaurant with the word "BALLS" in ELEVENTY-MILLION-point font and watch 30-year-old customers with 14-year-old mindsets come streaming in from far and wide. It's a can't-lose proposition! (That's not the first time I've heard THAT today! ZING!)

Unfortunately, as Sassy Marmalade, our friend Ally and I found out after dining at Penn Quarter's newest that's-what-she-said joke last week, you can lead the ladies to the 'balls and you can dress up the 'balls all you want, but one time tonguing them is more than enough. Trust me.

For starters, I was less than impressed with the layout of the place as a whole. Everyone keeps throwing around Chef Richard's name, as if the Meatballs joint is going to be magically imbued with all of Central's lusciousness. Nope -- it looks more like a dirty Chipotle:

You stand in that line and order off this menu on the wall:

Is it just me or is "Pick your balls" less than appetizing?

You can choose a variety of different meats, sauces, sides and add-ons. When we went, the three of us all got the "Platter," which meant our meatballs were served over polenta, with our choice of sauce and with a side. I got the chicken balls, Sassy got the "classic" (read: cow meat) and Ally got a combination.

Chicken meatballs with red pepper sauce over polenta with some assorted vegetables and cheeses.

Let's start with praise: The polenta part of it was delicious. Ally said something along the lines of wanting "to marry it and have little polenta babies." I'd call that a pretty solid endorsement. And the sauce was OK, as well as the vegetables.

But WTF -- my meatballs were crusty on the outside, a telltale sign of overcooking. In fact, the meatballs were the least-delicious part of the entire meal... and when your restaurant is touting its "BALLS" in the aforementioned eleventy-million-point font, they probably ought to be goddamn delicious.

And even more upsetting, the three of us looked up at one point and went, "hey, weren't we supposed to get a side? We never got our sides!" Again, if you're a restaurant that has JUST OPENED, you probably shouldn't be forgetting what you're supposed to be serving.

So the place was disheveled-looking, they never served our sides, and the meatballs were blah. But the piece-de-resistance came next: a kitchen worker came through the main restaurant carrying a trash bag to throw outside. To pass my chair, he lifted said trash bag over my head... AND DRIPPED DIRTY, DISGUSTING TRASH WATER ALL OVER ME.

Holy fuck, I wanted to puke!!! And when Sassy Marmalade called the manager over to say, "Hey, that dude just dripped trash water all over her," the manager responded in a nonchalant manner and said that if the foul liquid didn't come out of my coat, I should bring it back to him and he'd have it cleaned.

Hrmph. No apology, no exchange of a business card, no offer of a coupon. When you fuck up as a restaurant, aren't you supposed to offer a coupon? He should have said, "oh I'm so sorry, here's $15, the next time you come back the meal's on us." That would have engendered goodwill in me and perhaps made me a repeat customer. But no -- all I got was blank stares and a trash water coat.

It got even worse when we went to leave the restaurant -- the manager made the poor kitchen worker chase after me on the street and apologize to me. I managed to eke out an "Um, it's OK," because, really, what are you supposed to say in that situation? Forcing this poor guy to throw himself on his sword didn't make me feel better; it just made me feel awkward. And there was STILL NO OFFER OF A COUPON.

Bottom line, Michel Richard's Balls can suck mine. I'm fairly certain this place won't be open very long.

**UPDATE: This place is now closed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Where to Eat Thanksgiving Dinner

Can't get out of the D.C.-area for the holiday? Apartment too small to cook a big dinner with all the fixin's? Or are you just that terrible in the kitchen that no one would want to eat your food anyway?

If you think you're going to have to settle for Chinese takeout and drowning your sorrows in a bottle of wine by yourself, think again. Lucky for you, there are some places open today that will cook up your turkey for you, and you won't even have to do the dishes afterward!

And, in my humble opinion, the king of them all?


Located at 529 23rd St. S in Arlington's Crystal City, this is the sports pub to end all sports pubs.

But it's in Virginia, some of you D.C. people may be whining. If I have to cross a river, I don't want to go!

Trust me, Crystal City Sports Pub will make your Metro ride over the river and through the woods worth it. It has THREE FLOORS of giant-screen TVs to cover all your Thanksgiving football-related needs:


So what about the food? The food in general is pretty awesome for a sports pub, but then they take it to a whole other level for Thanksgiving. The past two years running, I've eaten CCSP's Thanksgiving ham-and-turkey combo meal, and I've been just as satiated and satisfied as I'd have been had I spent the holiday with my family (don't tell my mom that, though).

And at $10.99, it's a deal you just can't beat. Click here for the full Thanksgiving offerings.

Still not convinced you should trek to Virginia, or interested in eating somewhere a little fancier for the holiday? There are a bunch of nice restaurants in D.C. proper offering a Thanksgiving special. Click here to visit OpenTable to make your reservation!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where to Brunch: LevelOne

It seemed a brunch organized by our friend K was doomed to fail: Up until last Sunday, K had been trying for weeks to corral a bunch of us girls over to LevelOne in Dupont Circle for its patented "Disco Brunch." But conflicting schedules, visiting friends and, in my case, a traumatic fight with my mother thwarted our plans every time.

However, had we known just how amazing brunch was going to be, I'm sure we all would have cleared our hectic social calendars in short order. You see, LevelOne is not just another brunch location; LevelOne is the brunch place to see and seen for all the fabulous gay men of D.C.

Most people are more familiar with Cobalt, the gay dance club upstairs:

LevelOne (17th and R NW) at night, when the music's pumpin' upstairs at Cobalt.

Given that the upstairs is a sweaty, sweaty dance club, I wasn't expecting much out of the food, regardless of how good the menu options looked:

The "disco" part is because they play disco music over the speakers. Yeah, I thought it was a stretch, too.

But LevelOne, much like its fabulous gay patrons, came dressed to impress. Our server quickly brought us mimosas -- and trust me, by "bottomless," they mean bottomless. I'm not sure any of us ever had an empty glass the entire time we were there.

The grits were delectably creamy, and the hash browns were perfectly salty with rosemary. My smoked salmon eggs benedict was out of this world, and the rest of the food was completely satiating as well.

But, regardless of how fat we stuffed ourselves with mimosas and eggs and sausage and truffle fries (which we got as an appetizer, and which were heavenly), perhaps what was most enjoyable about our brunch experience was the other patrons.

Seriously, there is no other way to describe what we encountered but fabulous and fierce! Our table was pretty much the only one with women; everywhere else was a sea of skinny jeans, deep V-neck sweaters and gauzy, loopy scarves. I have never been called "bitch" so much in my life (example: "I'll see you bitches on the street and be like, 'Hey, girl, remember the time we got fucked up?'"), and I loved it.

I also learned what a "power bottom" is, so there's that.

In the end, we stayed drinking mimosas and making new friends until nearly 4 p.m. And we can't wait to go back!

Mabel enjoyed Sunday brunch, too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where to Eat: Java Green

Word on the street is that Farragut-area cafe Java Green is for sale.

Which worries me, because Java Green is my most beloved of all the small vegetarian cafes in D.C.  Okay, there's not exactly a lot of competition for this title, but still.

Whenever I have reason to be in Farragut, I find myself drawn to Java Green like a moth to a flame, or like Lindsay Lohan to some meth.  D.C. is a very vegetarian-friendly city, but it's still a rare experience to find oneself faced with an entirely veggie menu of sandwiches, noodles, salads, and more.  The Smoked Turkey wrap is my favorite (the turkey, obviously, is not from an actual turkey), and the "Temptation" runs a close second.  I don't even like tempeh, but somehow Java Green has made it delicious.

There's a full coffee, smoothie and juice bar as well, and an enticing selection of brownies and other treats.  For a small place that houses only a handful of tables inside, it really packs in the goodness.      

In the past year or two, Java Green has reduced their prices to quite reasonable levels -- most of the sandwiches, for example, are only $6.50.  They were previously a bit much to stomach -- pun unintended, because I hate puns almost as much as the entire world hates the Kardashians -- but it never seemed to deter folks from lining up outside during lunch hours.  Obviously, lower prices are a welcomed change, but perhaps this hasn't drawn in as many new customers as Java Green had hoped.

The bigger issue, in my opinion, is that it takes too long for them to prepare the food.  There's just no way they will ever be able to assemble their items as quickly as their lunchtime counterparts at Au Bon Pain and Cosi.  Though the food at Java Green earns raves from veggies and meat-eaters alike, not everyone is willing to spend an extra few minutes of their free time staring blankly at the wall.  But, a tip!  Orders can actually be called in ahead of time, so you can spend that time reading about Pippa being dumped or stalking your ex on Facebook instead.  

Who knows what will become of Java Green?  All I know is I'll be stopping by as much as possible while it's still the reliably delicious restaurant that I love, and stuffing my face accordingly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where to Brunch: Bistrot du Coin

A few weeks ago I went to brunch at Bistrot du Coin. Up until then, it had been the scene for two first dates I had been on this past spring. Both dates had gone swimmingly...but I was somewhat skeptical about going for brunch. I remembered it seeming perfect for an evening dinner date, but for a brunch? Not so much.

But my friend promised it would be delicious, so off we went.

I was pleasantly surprised when we walked in. The atmosphere is extremely European. In a good way. Both for mussels and wine on a first date, and weekend brunch with a good friend.

When I entered the restaurant, situated north of Dupont Circle on Connecticut Avenue, I instantly felt as if I was walking into a bistro in Paris. Everything from the tables to the wall decor to the servers.

The brunch menu had a variety of omelettes to order, as well as other brunch staples, such as eggs benedict and waffles. We each ordered different omelettes. Both were tasty and the ingredients were fresh. And the cofffee? Who knew that the French could make such amazing coffee.

AND now for the best part. Every entree is served with a side salad AND AND AND french fries. If you know me at all, I have a huge weak spot for french fries. And the fries, or as the French would say, pomme frites, at Bistrot du Coin? Delicious.

Would I go back for brunch? Absolutely. Should you? Yes, yes you should.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where to Drink: H Street Country Club's Guava Margarita

Frozen margaritas are tricky.  Some are too sour.

Some are too sweet.

But some are just right: 

Let's just pretend it's not weird to use pictures of babies in a discussion about margaritas.

H Street Country Club's frozen guava margarita strikes that elusive perfect balance between sharp and sugary.    

While there are other good reasons to go check out H Street Country Club  -- skeeball and a stupidly difficult mini golf course among them -- its true crowning glory is this margarita right here.  Plus, the guava in it counts as a serving of fruit!  Okay, it does not, but a girl can dream.   

So next time you find yourself sipping a sickeningly sweet margarita, remember that it doesn't have to be this way.  Perfection exists, and you can find it at H Street Country Club!  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where NOT to Eat: TruOrleans

Editor's note: An apology from the Gamma Girls that this is our first blog post all week. Happy hour last week -- which was by all accounts a raging success -- left us completely wiped! Now, onto the review!

You'd think a restaurant whose concept is authentic food from New Orleans -- a city consistently ranked as one with some of the best food and, unsurprisingly, some of the fattest people -- would be a sure-fire way to tantalize your tastebuds. But, sadly, my experience at TruOrleans on Sunday night had me putting on a pout and wiping off my tongue with my napkin.

New Orleans, my (fat) ass.

I have a deep and abiding love for H Street Northeast -- the bars there just have so much more character than other spots around town -- so when a friend suggested to me that we take a jaunt through the corridor and test out one of the newer restaurants to crop up, I was quick to give that plan the A-OK.

A flip of a coin (heads, we would go to TruOrleans; tails, the Big Board, which is another place I want to  try) decided our fate, and into the bayou we went.

And that's really where the disappointments started. TruOrleans looks nice from the outside:

Very reminiscent of the balconies in the French Quarter. I approve.

... but on the inside, the art -- which, they claim, is straight off the streets of the Big Easy -- looks kind of like the shit you buy from the art aisle of Bed Bath & Beyond:

A side-by-side comparison
Which one is the restaurant and which one is the store? THERE'S NO WAY OF KNOWING!!!

Anyway, decor aside, the whole experience was disappointing. I ordered a cocktail and was promptly told they didn't have one of the ingredients, which meant that that cocktail in addition to two other cocktails that included the same thing were not available. This was early in the evening on a very-dead Sunday -- perhaps I'm being persnickety, but there's really no excuse for being out of things at that time. And when I ordered a traditional Hurricane, it came in this cup:

That's plastic, with a screen printing of the ingredients on the back -- like a souvenir cup you'd get in Cancun. When my friend and I looked at it and went, "Oh, sweet, we get to keep the cup!" our server replied, "If you pay $3 for it."

That was a marketing mistake. Souvenir cups should be part of an up-sell when the server tells you about the drink, e.g. "And for $3 extra, you get it in a souvenir cup that you can take with you." If I don't get to keep the cup, it should be in proper glassware, goddammit. I don't want to drink out of cheap plastic crap when I'm paying $25 per entree.

Finally, the food was just... meh. We ordered the Gator Bites as an appetizer, mostly because I'd never eaten an alligator before. But that was a moot point because the meat had been fried within an inch of its life, eliciting from us the telltale "Tastes like chicken." If I'm ordering weird meat, I want to taste the meat, not the deep fat fryer. And my crawfish etoufee was just... soggy. And decidedly not delicious. Bleh.

I wasn't sticking around for dessert there, so my friend and I hightailed it down the street to Dangerously Delicious Pies, where I'm always happy inside my heart.

The point is, when you're in a big city like D.C. with so many restaurants to choose from, you can't afford to fuck up. If you're doing a shitty New Orleans impression, I'll just go elsewhere to get my Cajun/Creole/Southern comfort food fix. Like Bayou or Acadiana, for example. Those have good Cajun offerings. Or Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. The crawfish etoufee there was impeccable. And I've never had better shrimp n' grits than at Vidalia.

So, much as I love H Street, save yourself the trip and bypass this poor man's bayou.