7th St. & N. Carolina Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Web: The Market Lunch
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Breakfast Chinese Coffee Markets Pancakes Pastries Vietnamese Washington
"Peregrine's menu has been elegantly simplified with one price and one size per type of coffee, a touch which makes ordering as simple as can be, but cuts down on choices."
By any standard, this past weekend was wonderful - an opportunity to visit family and friends in Washington, D.C., relying both on their expertise and our own past experiences to sample some of the best foods and drinks in the nation's capital. We've highlighted the two best meals in separate articles on the world-beating Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao and the award-winning Spanish tapas restaurant Jaleo, but also wanted to share some of our other discoveries with you in a roundup article. Several of the items here are renowned by D.C. residents, while others are less impressive, and noted just to help visitors avoid making similar dining mistakes.
The Market Lunch: It may be called The Market Lunch, but this restaurant at the Eastern Market is best known for its "Blue/bucks," which blend its separately sold buckwheat and blueberry pancakes into a mix that has been attracting breakfast crowds for years. Having survived a fire that destroyed the Eastern Market two years ago, and relocated into temporary housing across the street while the 135-year-old building is renovated, The Market Lunch remains a prime brunch destination on weekends. We stood in line for 20 minutes with other patrons, wrapping around a large wooden table that serves as the only indoor seating of this 30-year-old restaurant, which is at the fore of a hall filled with long-time vendors of fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, flowers, and pastries. Unusually fluffy and served with nothing more than a small scoop of butter, the Blue/bucks arrive three to a plate - each roughly the width of a dollar bill - and are left for you to slather with maple syrup from a lobster pot-sized container. Most impressive were the pancakes' sizes and obviously fresh blueberries, though neither of us could bring ourselves to finish our huge individual plates. We also sampled one of the Crabcake Sandwiches, a single plump large chunk crab cake on top of a plain roll, and found it to be good, not great; if we returned, it would be for the pancakes.
Peregrine Espresso: Rivaling Seattle's Vivace in the impressiveness of its coffee products, Peregrine (660 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003, 202.629.4381) hooked us with cappuccinos and lattes that were served precisely as they should have been: delicate and perfectly balanced in milk, foam, espresso, and natural sweetness, without the need for further customization. Moreover, the drinks were finished with the sort of artists' flourishes we loved from Vivace; they comparatively lacked only in the diversity department. Peregrine's menu has been elegantly simplified with but one price and thus one size per type of coffee, a touch which makes choosing and ordering as simple as can be, but obviously cuts down on choices. That said, we'd visit again any time, and would love to see a place like this in Western New York.
Dean & Deluca: Though we've had some recent ups and downs at the various locations of this combination deluxe espresso bar and gourmet food shop, most of our visits have been highly positive - Tokyo, one location in New York City, and Washington (3276 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20007, 202.342.2500) amongst them. This time, we enjoyed one of the best vanilla Italian Sodas we've ever had, wonderfully mixed and thick with a smooth vanilla syrup, as well as a generally well-balanced cappuccino that wasn't quite at Peregrine's level thanks to less impressive foam, but was still highly satisfactory. We also liked but didn't love a deluxe champagne-flavored chocolate, which was a little light on the signature flavor for our tastes; an outside-sourced, prepackaged red velvet whoopie pie was unremarkable.
Vietnam Georgetown Restaurant: The site of one of the least impressive meals we had in Washington, this 35-year-old place (2934 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007, 202.337.4536) offered a relatively bland beef vermicelli Bun dish and two rice paper-wrapped Summer Rolls, an even more boring Caramel Shrimp with Lemongrass entree served with an abundance of steamed broccoli, and a beautiful but otherwise forgettable bowl of Shrimp and Rice Noodle soup. With disinterested service and an uninspired menu, Vietnam Georgetown came across as a place that ran out of steam years ago; we didn't finish any of our entrees.
Meiwah Restaurant: Urbanspoon reviews on this apparently storied Chinese restaurant (1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, 202.833.2888) were decidedly mixed, with Washington bloggers siding in its favor and average customers leaning against it. The dishes we tried were pretty mediocre, including a cold Eggplant with Crushed Garlic appetizer ($5) that was fine for the price but little more than its ingredients would suggest, and a plate of six Steamed Meat Dumplings ($6) that were chewy from their rubbery noodle skins to their pork innards. Much worse was the Crispy Shredded Beef ($15), an entree of thin-sliced beef, carrot, and celery slices that tasted like we were eating greasy, sweetened tree branches mixed with the most boring of vegetables. We wouldn't go back again.
Bread & Chocolate: Brunch at this nice little cafe (2301 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037, 202.833.8360) was a mixed bag; one of us was fine with a Chocolate Banana French Toast ($8) that by all means should have been superb, made from a pan-fried cinnamon Challah bread covered in banana chunks, Bavarian Cream, and a liquid chocolate ganache. Though the bananas and cream were both nice, the toast was too crispy and the chocolate was too sparing; the plate could have used less bread and a small side of fruit to balance everything out. Similarly, we were initially excited to try a Spiced Caesar Salad ($9), which was supposed to be a spice-seared chicken breast with roasted red peppers, romaine, bleu cheese and crostini; the chicken turned out to be moist but entirely plain, the crouton crustini were as hard as rocks, and the dressing was a poor bottled version that didn't do enough to bind the other elements together. We were also intrigued by a final item, a pastry heart-like puffed pastry that was half-dipped in chocolate, and though the pastry was typically good, we weren't ultimately impressed by its pasty, waxy chocolate coating. Buffalo's white icing beats this any day of the week.