Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Java Green X.O. Vegetarian Cafe in Downtown DC

Java Green

Java Green is a killer vegetarian cafe with lots of vegan and non-dairy (X.O.) options. It's popular among both vegetarian and omnivorous office drones for lunch, when it commonly has a line reaching to the door and beyond. GW students can also be spotted dining there.

Java Green

My favorites on the menu include the Seoul Chicken Salad, the Chicken Jobche, and the Green Frappe drink. (Of course the chicken dishes don't use actual chicken -- it's just a figure of speech.)

Java Green

Java Green has plans to open a sit-down vegetarian restaurant next to its cafe location, and later expand into Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan. Don't be surprised to see a line out the door at the new locations -- if the cafe is any indication, they'll be a smash.

Java Green
1020 19th. Street NW, Washington D.C. 20036 (map)
202 775 8899 |

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Picking Crabs at Mai's Restaurant in Eden Center

Picking Crabs in Eden Center

How's this for a dining adventure?

Eden Center, the capital of Northern Virginia's Vietnamese universe, is packed with more than a hundred shops and restaurants. It's located in the Seven Corners area on Wilson Boulevard. The outside strip mall of Eden Center is striped with unusual shops, many labeled only in Vietnamese to leave English-only speakers guessing.

Inside Eden Center is a mall, with everything from internet cafes to hair salons to offices to music stores. And restaurants, of course.

We found ourselves inside Eden Center Mall hungry for Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and peeking into the windows of Mai's Restaurant for a menu, but there was none to be found. A sign in the window indicated "Live Crabs".

A little intimidated, we began to creep away. But we were intercepted by cheerful middle-aged woman who insisted that Mai's Restaurant was the place for us. She put her hands on our shoulders and led us inside, asked Mai give us a table, and promptly left the restaurant waving a happy goodbye.

Mai took our order. The menu? Steamed crabs, crab wontons, and crab stew -- that's it. Mai explained that his restaurant does just one thing very well: crabs. He serves blue crabs from North Carolina, which (according to Mai) are much tastier than the ones in Maryland and the Chesapeake. They awaited us, alive, in crates at the front of the restaurant.

So we had the steamed crabs. Clearly this was not a time for cowardice. This was a time for picking crabs. It was four o'clock on a Friday, and we were the only patrons in the restaurant, although several people came in to buy live crabs and crabmeat from the front register.

We watched Mai fill a bucket with our first nine male crabs, who were still rather aggressively fighting for their lives, then take them back to the kitchen. Mail said that most crab restaurants steam their crabs in a large batch, then reheat them later for customers. But he cooks them live per order, so they take longer (twenty minutes). Intrigued, we were happy to wait at our table chatting with Mai off and on about crab and non-crab subjects.

Our crabs arrived with very few extras -- no garlic butter, etc -- just a taste of Old Bay and some limes on the side. Mai said when you cook good crabs right, you don't want to cover up the taste.

He was right. We aren't frequent crab eaters, but these are the best ones we'd had by far: large, tender, sweet, and juicy. We had eighteen of them between the two of us at the all-you-can-eat cost of $25 each.

So if you can find your way through the bowels of Eden Center into Mai's Restaurant, give it a try. It's certainly an adventure in crab picking, and is well worth the expedition.

Mai's Restaurant
6763 Wilson Boulevard, Falls Church, VA 22044 (map)
703 237 2020

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The National Arboretum Tram Tour

National Arboretum

Workplace team-building: This is what led me to the tram tour at the National Arboretum. It's one way to get out to some nature in DC without a lot of walking or sun. The trams run on weekends (and weekdays by appointment only) and rides cost $4.

There's a pre-recorded tour played during this slow, thirty-five minute ride. Although it contains interesting factoids here and there, you can mostly tune it out and enjoy the view.

The Arboretum is one of DC's large green spaces that's completely free to visit. It has some indoor exhibits and plenty of light hiking, as well as some more challenging biking opportunities.

Getting to the Arboretum can be challenging without a car, which helps explain why this great site is rarely crowded. Metrobus service to the Arboretum is available on weekends from Union Station and also from the Stadium Armory Station all week.

United States National Aboretum
3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002 (map)
202 245 2726 |

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cloud Dining Lounge on Dupont Circle

Cloud in Dupont Circle - in Red
In red lighting ...

Cloud at Dupont Circle lured us in with its unique and delightful specialty martinis, particularly the "Star of India", which contains organic rose petals.

I had early evening cocktails at Cloud serveral times before I recently tried the menu, which offers tapas in intriguing flavors from all over the world. I ordered a few vegetarian options and cleaned each of my (small) plates. I'm sure to return for more.

Cloud - in Blue
... and in blue lighting.

Cloud's white-on-white interior and bed seating in the lounge area may not appeal to everyone, but its friendly service and flavorful food and drinks makes it a comfortable place to for cocktails or dining.

Cloud often has parties later at night and charges a cover, so I reccommend going there earlier and partying somewhere else.

Cloud Dining Lounge
One Dupont Circle NW, Washington, DC, 20036 (map)
202 872 1122 |

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mai Thai Happy Hour in Dupont Circle

Mai Thai in Dupont Circle - Specialty Martinis

About two blocks from Dupont Circle, this colorful Thai restaurant has upper-shelf cocktails available for happy hour prices ($4.50) seven days a week from 3:30PM to 7PM. Beer (at $3.50) and tasty appetizer specials are also available in Mai Thai's cushy bar and lounge area.

Mai Thai in Dupont Circle - Paper Umbrellas

Mai Thai's indoor and outdoor seating, accessible location, striking interior, and large food and drink menu make it a prime location for groups. And since it just reopened last year, you may even be the first to recommend it.

Mai Thai Restaurant
1200 19th St. NW Washington, DC 20036 (map)
202 452 6870 |

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Construction of the Air Force Memorial

Air Force Memorial Construction, view from Columbia Pike

The new Air Force Memorial has been steadily creeping up behind the Pentagon since 2004. It's going to be a striking addition to Arlington's skyline and visible from the National Mall.

Some people have commented on it's blue-ness. When complete (in 2007), it will be a swooshing sliver structure launching from between the Navy Annex and Arlington National Cemetery. I'm looking forward to seeing it then.

The United States Air Force Memorial
One Air Force Memorial Drive, Arlington, VA, 22204 (map)
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