On Our Radar

Le Diplomate: Stephen Starr's First Foray Into DC
Business/Location: Le Diplomate
Address: 1601 14th St NW
City: Washington
State: DC
Zip Code: 20005
Phone: 202-332-3333
Website: www.lediplomatedc.com

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
   Le Diplomate
Acclaimed Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr has brought a taste of France to Washington, DC. In only a few months, "Le Diplomate" has established itself as the newest "it" restaurant. The wait for a reservation is long, but worth it. At Le Diplomate, one is transported to a Parisian café through an ambiance that is classic, avoiding cheesy Parisian stereotypes. There was no more festive day than Bastille Day to try out the restaurant's brunch for the first time. Mimosas and rich French brewed coffees were a given. The strawberry-elderflower French toast was fresh, light and airy, with just the right amount of butter and flavoring. The bacon was crispy, if a bit overdone. Also receiving strong reviews were the omelets and the side potatoes which were salty, cooked and flavored to perfection. Le Diplomate has been receiving rave reviews from critics throughout the city. Since an establishment can't be judged on its brunch alone, I will certainly have to make a return visit. You know, for the sake of NFT readers, but of course.

DC's Tash
Business/Location: Tash
Address: 524 8th Street Southeast
City: Washington
State: DC
Zip Code: 20003
Phone: 202-733-1133

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
Tash, a new Persian-Middle Eastern restaurant on Barracks Row, recently opened to rave reviews. It's easy to see why everyone loves Tash and to understand the long lines that formed at 8 p.m. on a recent Friday night. The chef certainly does not suffer from the learning curve that comes with many new restaurants. The menu boasts a variety of unique meat and vegetable dishes and dressed up appetizers at a very reasonable price. Happy hour is excellent, with half off virtually everything, including specialty cocktails, until 6:30 p.m.. As for dinner, the pita bread was thin, hot, and crispy, perfect for dipping in a smooth and smoky baba ganoush, adorned with pomegranate seeds. The saffron lemon chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, with a yogurt sauce and tabouleh on the side -- a meal that is filling, but leaves you wanting more only because it's just that good. There's always time for a return visit, but make sure to call in for reservations. This place is, without a doubt, catching on quick.

Cozy Italian In Downtown Bethesda
Business/Location: Olazzo
Address: 7921 Norfolk Ave
City: Bethesda
State: MD
Zip Code: 20814
Phone: 301-654-9496
Website: www.olazzo.com

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
Olazzo is a classic Italian restaurant, featuring all the staple dishes of a traditional Italian meal. The meal starts with hot and crusty bread. The waiter shows off his flair in pouring olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dip. Salad is included as a starter to the meals. From fettucini alfredo to lasagna bolognese to eggplant parmesan, Olazzo offers familiar favorites in this cozy downtown Bethesda location, as well as at another location in Silver Spring. Owned by two Italian-American brothers, Olazzo offers quality ethnic food at an affordable price, making it a stand out choice.

On Tapas In Arlington
Business/Location: Cava Mezze
Address: 2940 Clarendon Blvd
City: Arlington
State: VA
Zip Code: 22201
Phone: 703-276-9090
Website: www.cavamezze.com

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
   Cava Mezze
Cava Mezze opened in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington to much fanfare over the summer. There are still long waits on the weekends to dine at this tapas establishment, which also has locations in Capitol Hill and Rockville. With new restaurants and bars opening up in Clarendon on what feels like a weekly basis, a mature, ethic restaurant was still sorely needed. Unfortunately, the lure of Cava Mezze is its trendiness more than the taste. The roasted eggplant dip had a thick mayonnaise consistency, the Spanakopita was overly fried and the Chickpeas 3 Ways were uninspired. The spicy meatballs were hot and flavorful, if overly seasoned. The dim lighting and candles lent to a romantic ambiance, if not for the acoustics which overpower any intimate conversation. Cava Mezze doesn't make much of an impression with its mediocre mezze. For a more satisfying and memorable experience, Zaytinya in Chinatown still remains the far better choice.

Afiyet Olsun
Business/Location: Cafe Istanbul
Address: 2001 L St NW
City: Washington
State: DC
Zip Code: 20036
Phone: 202-331-2055
Website: cafeistanbultogo.com/

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
   Cafe Istanbul
Cafe Istanbul is easy to miss, mixed in with office buildings in the city's Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The restaurant serves up lunch and take-out customers with heaping portions of traditional Turkish and Mediterranean specialties. From beef kabobs to falafel and kofte (grilled lamb meatballs), Cafe Istanbul offers a filling and delicious meal, although the doner platter was a tad too dry. The restaurant is casual and ordinary, except for the vintage blown-up photographs of Istanbul and its denizens that adorn the walls. Bon appetit, or as the Turks would say, Afiyet olsun.

Fanta Fantasies
Business/Location: The Swiss Bakery and Cafe
Address: 5224 Port Royal Rd
City: Springfield
State: VA
Zip Code: 22161
Phone: 703-321-3670
Website: www.theswissbakery.com/store/c/108-Caf-at-Ravensworth.html

Posted by:  Cathleen Richards
Photo:  Cathleen Richards
   The Swiss Bakery and Cafe
Despite the fact that it's located in a strip mall, Swiss Bakery envelops you with all things Bavarian as soon as you set foot in the door. There is a background din of Swiss-Bavarian music (think lederhosen as you traverse the Alps), and even gazebo-like structures inside evoking Alpine architecture. They serve breakfast and lunch items (a mix of Swiss/Bavarian specialties and healthy American options) alongside a long case of cookies and pastries with about 20 fresh bread options. In addition, they have a small retail section with everything from Julius Meinl coffee to fondue pots and Alpine cowbells. They even have European Fanta frequently...if you've had it, you know you would drive here just to drink it.

Place To Be
Business/Location: One Lounge
Address: 1606 20th St NW
City: Washington D.C.
State: DC
Zip Code: 20009
Phone: 202-299-0909
Website: www.oneloungedc.com

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
   One Lounge
Dim lighting, brick pillars, comfortable modern couches, and background beats provide the perfect chill-out atmosphere at One Lounge, a cocktail bar and restaurant located just steps from the Dupont Circle metro. The feel here is more New York cool than Dupont Circle watering hole. Service is quite accommodating; in fact, the chef came out to our table, bringing with him not one, but two free dessert samples--strawberry crepes drizzled with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, followed by fresh strawberries with cream. A glowing review was in order prior to the offering, but this act sealed the deal. When was the last time you went to a bar/restaurant in DC on a busy Friday night and the chef came to your table or the staff welcomed you back for a return visit, by name? Classy, not crowded, hip, yet casual, One Lounge is the place to be.

Peaceful Political Respite
Business/Location: St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill
Address: 313 2nd St NE
City: Washington D.C.
State: DC
Zip Code: 20002
Phone: 202-547-1223
Website: www.st-josephs.org/

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
   St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill
St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Capitol Hill was built in 1891 and still stands across the street from the Congressional buildings, a place of worship for our nation’s political leaders and neighborhood residents. The beautiful building with stained glass windows provides tranquility and faith, in a part of town rooted in good intentions, but oftentimes adulterated by political maneuvering. St. Joseph's helps its members focus on helping through volunteering in the community. Members of the administration are among the church's parishioners, but the church itself is a source of comfort for even this non-believer. On weekdays St. Joseph's consists of empty pews, peace and quiet, a reminder that such exists in the political epicenter that is Washington D.C.

Cherry On Top
Business/Location: Crumbs Bake Shop
Address: 40 Massachusetts Ave NW
City: Washington D.C.
State: DC
Zip Code: 20001
Phone: 202-408-1001
Website: www.crumbs.com

Posted by:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz
   Crumbs Bake Shop
Washington's famed cherry blossoms are so unpredictable. One downpour or gust of wind and the fragile flowers are all gone. However, in honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival, you can enjoy a cherry blossom cupcake all month long at Union Station's recently opened Crumbs Bake Shop. The oversized confection is vanilla cake filled with cherry preserves, topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting mixed with cherries and a candied cherry. Whew! That's a lot of cherry! Sweet, but not overpowering, the cupcakes cost $3.75, with 15 percent of the proceeds going to benefit earthquake relief efforts in Japan. After all, everyone knows good deed calories don't really count.

Hidden Family Cooking
Business/Location: Parkway Deli
Address: 8317 Grubb Rd
City: Silver Spring
State: MD
Zip Code: 20910
Phone: 301-587-1427
Website: www.theparkwaydeli.com

Posted by:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Magda Nakassis
   Parkway Deli
Considering its out-of-the-way location (just north of Rock Creek Park, tucked into a residential neighborhood), it's hard to believe that Parkway Deli is the spot. In fact if you weren't in the know, you might mistake it for a convenience store. But Parkway Deli is so much more... It's three generations of Gurewitz family cooking. It's house-made corned beef and top-notch chopped liver. It's a complimentary pickle bar. It's a windowless dining room in a suburban shopping center. But one that compels people to line up and patiently wait for a sublime bowl of matzoh ball soup.