Comfort Food is King in DC

by Sean Hackbarth

cheese burger

Sophisticated takes on simple food has been a delicious trend in DC, and it’s been noticed by the NY Times:

As Congress passed a law last week that would stuff more fruits and vegetables into school lunches, several blocks away the people lined up for hot dogs. The choices were many: all beef with peppers and onions; a deep-fried Angus number; one wrapped in a pretzel roll, topped with Cheez Whiz.

The dog doings were at DC-3, a new aviation-themed hot dog spot that takes its place among many high-end junk-food purveyors that have popped up around Capitol Hill recently. Over at the White House, a farmers’ market has sprouted, a garden has been cultivated and holiday guests are being offered poached fruit. But the area surrounding the Capitol is awash in milkshakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and mildly baroque pizza.

Leading the charge is the Matchbox Food Group, DC-3’s parent company, which began with a pizza joint in nearby Chinatown and has recently opened a sister “pizza bistro” on Eighth Street, along with Ted’s Bulletin, a midprice comfort-food outpost.

On H Street, the other side of the Capitol, Liberty Tree is serving pigs in blankets, macaroni and cheese and fried clam sandwiches. On the pizza front, in addition to Matchbox, there is We, The Pizza, dished out by “Top Chef” graduate Spike Mendelsohn, and Seventh Hill Pizza, a new spot near Eastern Market.

I work in the neighborhood so I’ve been to most of the places mentioned. DC-3 is a good hot dog joint. We, The Pizza offers creative slices that combined with a beer make for a fast, affordable dinner. To me Matchbox is more than pizza. It’s a slightly upscale casual restaurant that turns up the sophistication a bit without falling into the pretension abyss.

The comfort food I’ve been enthralled with since I moved here in 2007 has been the burgers. My top three burger places are:

  1. Ray’s Hell Burger. My hands smell of beefy goodness every time I leave the place–even after washing my hands.
  2. Five Guys. They’re a chain, but the way the cheese melts all over the beef is intoxicating. The fries are addictive too.
  3. Good Stuff Eatery. The bun and topping combinations make for, yes, some good stuff.

Junk Food Is a Source of Comfort on Capitol Hill”

[Cheese burger photo via j.reed.]

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