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Best of Gay D.C. 2011: DINING
Best Late Night
Annie’s Paramount Steak House
After 63 years of proudly serving D.C.’s gay and lesbian community, Annie’s Paramount Steak House is still going strong (especially with a little help from a recent makeover).
When Clark Smith, late night manager at Annie’s, heard that Annie’s was again selected Best Late Night by Blade readers, his response was simple. He shouted, “Score!”
Annie’s is a staple in our annual awards and is second only to JR.’s for most wins. This is Annie’s 17th win. It won in this category in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2010.
That enthusiasm explains why people keep coming back. Smith says there are three reasons for the venerable institution’s success: “Good food, good service and good friends.” Smith adds, “It’s home. People come back every week. Customers get surprised when there are staff changes and they demand to know where I was when I take a week off. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of fun”
Smith also notes that Annie’s is often the right place at the right time. “It’s a place to sober up and see your trick in lights that are a little brighter than the bar at last call.” The food also helps. The late night menu emphasizes fried foods (“exactly what you need after a night at the bar”) and Smith brags that Annie’s has the best burgers in D.C.
Annie’s is open every day for lunch and dinner (and drinks), and is open around the clock on weekends and holidays, featuring a decadent midnight brunch. (BTC)
Best Maryland Restaurant
Bill’s Terrace Inn Crabhouse and Sportsbar
When you call Bill’s Terrace Inn Crabhouse and Sportsbar, you know you’ve found the real deal. A gruff voice tells you when the restaurant opens and gives you the price of crabs by the dozen, along with instructions for placing carryout orders and making reservations.
The voice belongs to Steve, who runs the Crabhouse. He doesn’t consider the establishment particularly gay-friendly, but does say that he and his staff are friendly to everybody. He also wasn’t particularly surprised by being selected Best Maryland Restaurant. He says they have “earned their reputation by being consistent and serving excellent crabs” and emphasizes that they are not an Inner Harbor tourist crab house.
According to satisfied patrons, the emphasis is on hot steamed crabs with spicy seasoning and cold beer (although the menu does include other items). The ambience is appropriately rough and tumble, with sheets of brown paper on the table, buckets on the floor and rolls of paper towels to clean up with.
Steve does reassure newcomers that ordering crabs is easy. “You order by the dozen or half-dozen. If you don’t know how to tackle a crab, the staff will show you how. You just pull off the shell and tear all the meat out.” He emphasizes that the crabs are served fresh; in fact, he had to cut our conversation short to pay the crabbers who had just delivered that night’s dinner. (BTC)
Bill’s Terrace Inn Crabhouse and Sportsbar
200 Eastern Boulevard
Essex, MD 21221
Best Coffee Shop
Located in the Logan Circle neighborhood of D.C., on the corner of Rhode Island and 14th Street, Caribou Coffee wins the title of Best Coffee Shop.
Filled with students and young professionals drowning in paper work, the coffee shop offers an excellent array of hot beverages, smoothies, teas and baked goods. The ample seating provides for a great atmosphere, and the service is, without question, a reason customers return.
Like most coffee shops, Caribou Coffee offers free Wi-Fi. With the fall and coming winter season, Caribou Coffee makes for a great place to work on your laptop or just relax and order a warm drink. (JB)
1400 14th St., N.W.
(and other D.C. locations)
Best Dessert (tie)
TangySweet and Melting Pot
TangySweet customers come for what manager Tracy D. Wilson calls its “California-style frozen yogurt,” that she describes as “tangy, light and refreshing, almost citrus-y with a clean finish.”
But customers return for the experience. TangySweet loves producing smiles as much as delicious desserts, with six fat-free flavors of yogurt, all made in-house, and the unlimited toppings bar for only $1.50. The Penn Quarter shop is open seven days a week from noon to 11 p.m.
TangySweet is known for its modern decor, with an emphasis on clean lines and bright atmosphere. The light cubes acting as standing tables change colors, and catch the eye, especially when it’s dark out. Though the Dupont Circle location is gone, customers can still get their favorite yogurt experience at the Penn Quarter location. (PR)
“The Melting Pot is truly the best desert a gay man could ask for,” says gay server and bartender, Steve Coblentz, who considers his coworkers at Melting Pot his “family.”
“There are very few full restaurants dedicated to fondue,” said general manager Megan Fricker. “The average guest spends one-and-a-half to two hours [on the four courses].”
Fricker calls the experience fun and interactive.
After cheese fondue and salad, the customer takes the reigns, cooking the third course meat entree themselves. This is followed by the famous fourth course: decadent chocolate fondue with choice of mix-ins.
The Dupont-adjacent hot spot can satisfy any diet, including vegan and gluten free.
Melting Pot accommodates groups of all sizes from the intimate — at an off-the-beaten-path section of tables called lovers lane, which consists of cozy low-lit booths for two where both lovers sit next to one another — to a party room that can hold 45.
Fricker believes that LGBT D.C. enjoys the eatery because of its wide appeal.
“We cater to everyone,” Fricker says. “We just have fun. The guests see that, and that’s why they come back.” (PR)
1220 19th St., N.W.
Best Virginia Restaurant
Owner Kumar Iyer knows why his restaurant won the Best of Gay DC poll (along with awards from several other local magazines and newspapers). He simply says, “We have the best Indian food in Northern Virginia.”
The restaurant is named for the traditional decorative folk art of India. During Hindu festivals, colorful designs are painted on the floors of homes to attract prosperity and ward off evil spirits. In this spirit, Iyer welcomes everyone to celebrate authentic Indian food and a great neighborhood.
A native of Bombay, Iyer says he learned to cook by watching the street hawkers in his hometown make street snacks from scratch. Their influence can be tasted in the Small Bites section of his menu. For example, the Bombay Burgers (or Vada Pav) are traditional spicy potato patties served in a bun. “They’re like sliders — small, tasty and filling.”
With 22 years of experience in the restaurant business, Iyer boasts that his staff is always willing to “go the extra mile to achieve greatness” and credits his success to the best chef in the area and a staff who love what they do. The most popular dish in this gay-friendly restaurant is the Chicken Makhani (“everyone makes it but ours is the best”), but he says the standout dish is the Kholhapuri Chicken Curry, an authentic Indian dish made with spicy peppers. (BTC)
Best Date Restaurant
The verdict is in. Everyone (gay and straight) agrees Floriana is the perfect date restaurant. The ambience is light and romantic; the service is attentive yet discreet; the food is delicious and reasonably priced; the extensive wine list covers the gamut from Champagne to European and domestic favorites; and, the desserts are the perfect size to share. This is Floriana’s second consecutive win in this category.
Owner Dino Tapper says he wanted to create a “wonderful little intimate restaurant” where everyone feels welcome and secure, a place where “everybody is happy together.” The restaurant, located in a renovated townhouse near Dupont Circle, offers a traditional family setting with modern and elegant touches and combines “a bit of the past and the future.”
In addition to the gay-friendly ambience, Tapper emphasizes the quality of the food. Everything is made completely from scratch in the restaurant’s kitchen, and all of the pasta is hand-made every day. The dinner and brunch menus are changed seasonally and feature fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
The menu emphasizes classic Italian dishes in a homemade style, and Tapper says their most popular dish is the lasagna. He encourages patrons, however, to try some of their more adventurous offerings, including the sweetbreads and the Muscovy Duck Breast.
The ultimate date restaurant, Floriana welcomes couples and families of all kinds and features appropriately dim lighting. (BTC)
Best Hotel Bar
P.O.V. at the W Hotel
It’s easy to see why Blade readers chose P.O.V. as the best hotel bar in D.C. for the third consecutive year: the view is spectacular. From the rooftop terrace of the W Hotel in downtown D.C., diners can see the White House, the Mall, the national monuments and beyond. You can even watch planes land and take off at Reagan National Airport.
The menu features “small plates” produced by Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges and an extensive (and expensive) list of wines and specialty cocktails. The gay-friendly restaurant serves lunch, dinner and cocktails, as well as an infamous Sunday hangover brunch. There’s a DJ who entertains on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and at the Sunday brunch.
P.O.V. patrons appreciate the indoor and outdoor bars (each with its own cocktail menu) and the casually elegant ambience (quite a transformation from the bar’s previous life as the rooftop lounge for the staid Hotel Washington).
The staff of P.O.V. prides itself on creating a gay-friendly atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. In fact, they even answer the phone with the intriguing catch line, “whatever, whenever.” (BTC)
P.O.V. at the W Hotel
515 15th St., N.W.
Best Wine Bar
Cork Wine Bar began as a dream. Logan Circle residents Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts wanted to create an inviting space where neighbors could come with their friends and family to try outstanding wines, often from unexplored regions of the world, paired with good, simple, local food. They wanted to create a comfortable space where everyone felt welcome.
Judging from the response of Blade readers, they have succeeded, and the gay-friendly staff at Cork was thrilled to be honored by Blade readers. This is Cork’s fourth Blade prize. It won this category the past two years and was “best new restaurant” in 2008.
Khalid and Pitts try to demystify the world of wine by offering real descriptions of what you are drinking, by serving wines from a variety of different regions and varietals, and by pairing the wines with small plates that can be shared around the table. Cork offers at least 50 wines by the glass and 160 bottles from small producers around the world.
Cork also offers bi-monthly wine tastings and a number of classes at the Cork Market and Tasting Room. Market Events include free tastings of daily featured wines and a variety of special events highlighting specific winemakers. Market Classes include four levels of “fundamentals of wine,” a series of sessions to enhance the customers’ dining experience and to increase their knowledge of food and wine pairings. (BTC)
1720 14th St., N.W.
Allan Javery, Level One
Originally from Connecticut, Allan Javery has worked at a bevy of D.C. restaurants including Ten Pehn, Adour and J&G Steakhouse, before joining the staff at Level one as the executive chef in 2009. He won this award last year, too.
Recruiting Javery away from his job as sous chef at W Hotel, was one of the first things Mark Rutstein, general manager of Cobalt, did after taking over the property.
Javery oversees everything about the kitchen, including creating a schedule, purchasing equipment and creating the restaurant’s menu.
He’s been working in kitchens since he was a teenager, his lessons in cooking starting at home and he worked the line for several years before attending the French Culinary Institute in New York. (JE)
Located just below Cobalt, Level One has a full menu, but its Disco Brunch has become a big draw on Saturdays and Sundays, with its choices priced from $8 to $16.
“Level One was essentially a stigmatized property after taking the space of the despised Food Bar,” general manager Mark Rutstein says. “Immediately, we changed chefs and management to show that we know what 17th Street wants.”
The menu describes items with disco-themed names like Benny & the Jets Crab Cake, Dancing Queen Caesar B.L.T. Wrap or Stayin’ Alive Bagel and Lox.
One of the challenges Rutstein and his staff faced was making Level One its own distinct place.
“Who really wants to eat at the club [they] were at the night before?” Rutstein says. “Nobody.” (JE)
El Centro, D.F. Tequileria and Taqueria, which opened in May, is a Richard Sandoval restaurant that serves authentic Mexican comfort food and fine tequilas throughout three spaces.
There’s the open kitchen backdrop of the Taqueria with casual dining and tacos to go, the underground Tequileria with 200 tequilas and mezcals and then there’s the rooftop with two open-air bars.
“El Centro D.F. captures the energy of some of my favorite eateries in Mexico City,” says Sandoval in a press release. “The restaurant’s menu is based on traditional dishes.”
Visitors can get guacamole prepared tableside, chipotle shrimp and chicken tinga tamales.
El D.F. also offers various tequila tasting menus with options such as tasting three different aged tequilas from one family or three high-end tequilas from different families. (JE)
Best Ethnic Restaurant
Etete, the Ethiopian-inspired restaurant, is a little taste of heaven.
Some call it “Little Ethiopia.” Its distinctive décor and plasma TVs set it apart. The restaurant is a family-owned business under the operation of Yared Tesfaye. The name Etete is the nickname of his mother, who has been a chef in the D.C. area for 15 years. Yared says cooking was not a job to his mother but more of a passion and for that reason he dedicated the restaurant to her, a place where she can express her craft.
Etete has been successfully running now since 2005. Yared credits the nearby Nellie’s Sports Bar as the reason for an abundance of patrons from the gay community. Nellie’s Sports Bar was voted Best Neighborhood bar in 2010’s Best of Gay D.C. reader’s poll. When asked how it feels to have won, Yared says, “We are very blessed, we do it from the heart. Throughout the past seven years we have been voted best in various newspapers, it feels good to know that our hard work has paid off.” (JN)
1942 9th St., N.W.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Busboys & Poets
Last year’s winners for “Best Place for Food and Free WiFi,” Busboys and Poets now operates three successful locations. This is the business’s third Blade prize.
Busboys and Poets prides itself on being a gathering place for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers. The late American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy in the 1920s at the Wardman Park Hotel, inspired the restaurant’s name. “Winning this year for Best Vegetarian Restaurant definitely speaks for our diverse appeal,” said a restaurant spokesperson. “It’s for the old and the young, the dietary restricted, even meat lovers would enjoy our menu.”
Busboys and Poets has been in business for six years now with its newest location on 5th and K open since 2008. There’s also a location in Arlington.
The spinach and wheat berry salad is a favorite among vegan customers. The restaurant strives to maintain an inviting and open atmosphere. Busboys and Poets hosts weekly Open Mic Nights, readings, viewings and live music. (JN)
Busboys & Poets
2021 14th St, N.W.
Best Rehoboth Restaurant
Most visitors to Rehoboth think of the Blue Moon for its popular bar area and the regular entertainers who perform there like Pamala Stanley and Mona Lotts. But what locals know is that the Moon’s restaurant is arguably the best in town, and Blade readers agree.
In stark contrast to the lively, noisy bar, the Moon’s restaurant side is quiet and romantic, especially the front tables that look out onto Baltimore Avenue. You can’t go wrong on the menu, but the braised veal short ribs and golden tilefish are standouts. If you’re lucky, the chef will send out a plate of bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese as a starter. Divine.
It’s definitely a special occasion sort of place, with entrees around $25, but watch for specials. “Tasting Tuesday” offers terrific value — held 5:30-9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, diners get three courses, each paired with a glass of wine, for just $35. Reservations strongly recommended. Blue Moon serves dinner seven days a week beginning at 5:30 p.m. and remains open through New Year’s. The entire complex closes for a few weeks in January but reopens in February. Check the website for updates on the off-season schedule. (KN)
35 Baltimore Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
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