Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and — as a new twist this year — a couple industry pros to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to an annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts this week. First up, the dining experts share their “restaurant standbys” for takeout and delivery in 2020.
Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: Unconventional Diner, Baan Siam, and Reveler’s Hour (that fried chicken!) never failed to please, and for special occasions, Rooster & Owl reminded me what a talent we have in chef Yuan Tang.
Ann Limpert, Washingtonian food editor and critic: I regularly returned to the Convivial burger, to Red Light’s Detroit pizza, to the jerk-style wings at Comet, and to the cheesesteak at Ghostburger. And for nights when we were feeling fancy, the butcher steak and a wedge from St. Anselm, plus buttermilk biscuits for the next morning. PS I swear I do eat vegetables.
Tim Carman, Washington Post food columnist: I ate my fair share of Indian dishes this year. They travel well. They’re comforting. My go-to was Jewel of India, a strip-mall operation in Silver Spring that always delivers, in at least two senses of the word.
Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: I’ve definitely ordered Makan more than any other restaurant these last several months. Even my 16-month-old daughter can’t get enough of their chicken sate. Rasa for days when I miss office bowl lunches. Sushi Taro or 2Amys for days when the pandemic is just too much and I really need to treat myself.
Lenore Adkins, freelance food writer: I kept it local for the most part because of the pandemic, which meant dividing my time between NoMa and Ivy City. So I was constantly hitting up Gravitas and Baker’s Daughter in Ivy City and Stellina Pizzeria near Union Market. When I ventured outside that bubble, it was usually to swing by Mélange for those juicy burgers. My boyfriend and I LOVE that place and we are up there pretty often, at least three times a month; I always get the Classic Burger, no lettuce.
Anela Malik, Feed the Malik blogger: For takeout and delivery both, this year has been full of Ethiopian food. It travels well and I’ve turned to Chercher, Habesha Market, and Ethiopic more times than I can count.
Takera Gholson, Flights and Foods blogger: Full Yum 2 (4940 South Dakota Ave NE) is my neighborhood Chinese restaurant for takeout. Their food is always nice and fresh. They closed briefly, but we were excited to have them back once they reopened.
Raman Santra, Barred in DC blogger: In general, to help support my neighborhood restaurants and avoid filling the pockets of predatory third party delivery companies, we almost exclusively order takeout from spots within a short walk or bike ride away. Maketto, Mangialardo’s, Bullfrog Bagels, DC Harvest, and Duke’s Grocery were spots we supported the most for takeout in 2020.
Paola Velez, executive pastry chef for Maydan, Compass Rose, and La Bodega: Albi (especially the soft serve), Maydan, ABC Pony, Kuya Ja’s, Little Coco’s, Coconut Club [heartbreak emoji], Cane, Wiseguy Pizza, Taqueria Xochi, Queen Mother’s, Unconventional Diner (chix dinner forever!) and so many more but these are my rotation currently.
Simone Jacobson, co-owner of Thamee: I have to say that while I’ve always been enthusiastic about supporting woman- and BIPOC-owned businesses, 2020 is the year I made it my personal mission to vote with my dollar as a diner, and not just as an industry cheerleader of the people I love. I became very intentional about supporting small, independent restaurants whose staff and owners come from marginalized communities.
With that in mind, while there are tons of great places to eat and drink in D.C., all of my favorites for 2020 are BIPOC-owned and operated.
Takeout — Before March 2020, I ate at Pho Viet at least once a week, sometimes up to three or four times. So when the pandemic hit, I knew it was important that I continue to visit Michael and Nina (the owners), and Lorena (our favorite server) as much and as consistently as possible. While my industry peers and I tend to try to keep Pho Viet off of lists like this one (fearing they’ll be inundated with new business and then we won’t be able to just walk in for our hangover cure), they deserve all our praise and support. Of course their pho is second to none, but the #37 combo with honey lemongrass pork is my favorite takeout item (sub rice for rice noodles for a super fragrant and satisfying hot meal).
Delivery — When I finally broke my once a week only rule for delivery and got cooking-at-home fatigue, I started exploring new restaurants and found Momo’s Cafe to satisfy my craving for Taiwanese comfort food (which I blame on having a Taiwanese-Japanese American business partner). Sadly, I never got a chance to eat on-site but was blown away by how well the Taiwanese spicy pot and the popcorn chicken traveled. The spicy pot is worth every one of the $22 I reluctantly first spent on it, packing both hearty comfort and heat in one bowl.
Gabe Hiatt, Eater D.C. editor: I don’t get to return to my favorites as much as I like, but my neighborhood standby has long been El Sol (for formidable salsa verde, tacos dorados, carnitas quesadillas with made-to-order tortillas, and even a solid ribeye steak). One takeout option I felt compelled to revisit this year was Your Only Friend, where Columbia Room beverage manager Paul Taylor has created the supreme sandwich pivot in town, as far as I’m concerned. The giant chicken nugget, held together with the help of transglutaminase, is an achievement in poultry. Baan Siam delivery has impressed on multiple occasions. A sweet and spicy pomelo salad, chef Jeeraporn “P’Boom” Poksupthong’s signature chicken khao soi, and kanom krok (itty bitty coconut milk pancakes) were recent highlights.