I thought I was back in Chattanooga in the 1950s. Jimmy T’s Place evokes fond memories of my Tennessee boyhood. With its pressed-tin ceiling, old-fashioned lunch counter and original 150-year-old wooden floor, this venerable neighborhood eatery has served Capitol Hill for more than five decades. Customers have included U.S. senators, Supreme Court justices, Secret Service agents and just regular folks.
Housed in a circa-1860s red-brick structure at 501 East Capitol SE, Jimmy T’s reopened about two months ago after the Covid-19 shutdown. The popular café was as busy as ever when I recently dropped by for carryout lunch. All sidewalk tables were occupied by neighbors and a visitor from New York.
At the counter, I ordered one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve eaten since moving to the Hill nearly 50 years ago. Moreover, the price has NOT changed that much since the ‘70s. Where else can you get a delicious cheeseburger with fresh tomato, pickle and lettuce for only $5.35? While waiting, I chatted with proprietor John Tiches as his wife Cindy, the “proprietress,” grilled burgers, bacon, sausages, hash and other breakfast/lunch items. By the way, Jimmy T’s now serves dinner: pork tenderloin was the special on the sidewalk menu board.
Opening bright and early at 6:30 a.m. (Wednesday-Friday) and at 8 a.m. (weekends), Jimmy T’s serves breakfast all day and accepts cash only. The prices are so low you don’t need credit cards. I noticed all employees don masks, and customers are socially distanced both inside and out.
For more information call 202-546-3646.
Old Favorite: Trattoria Alberto
On a recent visit to an old Barracks Row favorite, Trattoria Alberto, we had hoped to dine al fresco, but a late summer storm drove us indoors. No problem. Properly masked and socially distanced with tables six feet apart, we settled into a comfy spot. Lovely operatic music drifted through the dining area. Crisp white paper bags, headed for carryout customers, lined the normally busy bar. How is his venerable restaurant able to stay in business? “We work hard,” proprietor Ernie Buruca explained, “And we have good neighborhood support… carryout keeps us going.”
We ordered vino—my $9 healthy slug of Montepulciano red, and my husband Peter’s Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc. I requested my spaghetti alla carbonara sans cream, like we’ve savored it in Venice. The chef complied, and my dish was delicious, replete with garlic, egg, Parmesan and lots of crispy pancetta. Peter’s vitello alla piccata–tender slices of veal–were spritzed with lemon and capers. We were intrigued by the Veal Alla Boehner, breaded, baked and capped with fried egg and anchovies. Similar to German schnitzel, the rich dish is named after former Speaker of the House John Boehner, a regular customer.
On previous visits, we’ve enjoyed linguine and clams, calamari fritti, grilled fish and hearty lasagna. Dinner for two with three drinks came to $80 before tip. Located at 506 Eighth St. SE, Trattoria Alberto is open daily. Call 202-544-2007 or visit www.trattoriaAlbertodc.com.
During the carryout-only period, we discovered that Indian food like curries and biryani travel well. The latest example is Butter Chicken Company 2, at 500 H St. NE for patio dining and carryout. If owner Asad Sheikh seems familiar, he also operates Bombay Street Food 2 on Barracks Row plus other popular Indian eateries around town.
Butter Chicken 2 focuses on a classic: Butter Chicken, blended with tomatoes, curry and lots of butter. Priced at $11, it comes with two sides and naan. For culinary research, Sheikh sent Chef/Partner Praveen Kumar to New Delhi’s Moti Mahal restaurant, where butter chicken was reportedly invented. Among other offerings are saag paneer (spinach and cheese), chana Masala (spicy chick peas with onions and tomatoes); vegetable biryani. Butter Chicken 2 is closed Mondays. Call 202-921-9750 or visit www.usabutterchicken.com.
Speaking of carryout, barbecue also travels well. No surprise, but we re-discovered this advantage when we visited The Smokin’ Pig, 1208 H St. NE. Presiding over the grill is pitmeister Shawn McWhirter. A Washington native and Hill Country Barbecue Market alum, McWhirter also helped launch DCity Smokehouse.
Besides an enormous brined and smoked giant turkey leg stuffed with mac-and-cheese, the grill turns out stuffed smoked potatoes, “pit-fire” smoked-and-fried chicken wings, half smokes, “Big Tennessee” grilled salmon sandwich and much more.
Peter, a southern-bred barbecue buff, loved the pulled pork platter with sides of baked beans and crispy Brussels sprouts—among the best Brussels sprouts we’ve tasted recently. The succulent smoked pork didn’t really need sauce, but he ordered the tangy Carolina vinegar anyway. Meanwhile, I decided on the Henry VIII-size turkey leg ($12), sans mac-and-cheese. Leftovers from our repast, including most of my mega poultry limb, will see us through at least one more meal. The tab for our carry-out lunch came to $28.60 before tip. Service was excellent. At this writing, “Smokin’ Pig is takeout only. For hours and updates visit www.smokinpigdc.com.
Up the street, Mozzeria has opened at 1300 H St. NE, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria operated entirely by hearing impaired employees. Located on the ground floor of the Baldwin apartment complex, the 94-seat newcomer was specially designed by CORE Architecture + design. The menu offers 12-inch wood-fired pies, fried mozzarella “bars,” eggplant parmesan, cheese-and-charcuterie platters, Italian-style cocktails and more. For now, there’s only takeout and delivery. To order, visit www.mozzeria.com at the restaurant.
Here ‘n’ There
At last, someone is moving into this longtime vacant space north of Lincoln Park: Pacci’s Trattoria, 106 13th St. SE, formerly Lincoln Wine bar. This will be the third Pacci’s for owner Spiro Giodasis, who operates two others in suburban Maryland….and Moorenko’s Ice Cream finally opened at 720 C St. SE. For more information visit www.moorenkos.com….And happy 30th birthday to Las Placitas, the Salvadoran stalwart at 1100 Eighth St. SE.