Capitol Cuisine

119
Lucky Buns’ fried chicken is nestled in a sesame seed bun with gouda cheese and other goodies.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, the 65-year old culinary icon, is expanding far beyond the Beltway. Beloved for its chili-smothered half smokes and celebrity clients including Barack Obama and Mohammed Ali, Ben’s now operates several local restaurants. Moreover, it plans franchises along the US East Coast and—eventually—out West.

Closer to home, you’ll find a Ben’s offshoot at 1001 H St. NE (Atlas District) and at 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Triangle). The original, which Ben and Virginia Ali launched in 1958, remains at 1213 U St. NW, with the dressier Ben’s Next Door. For updates and more information visit www.benschilibowl.com.

Happy Hour

Friends have been raving about the Hemingway Happy Hour at Joselito Casa de Comidas, 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Every weekday, from 5 to 7 p.m., guests may perch at the bar and order from the special menu, at a 20 percent discount. Summer favorites encompass garnished gazpacho Andaluz; hand-cut Iberian ham; aged Manchego cheese; tuna crudo. Assorted seasonal cocktails, wines and sangria (red, white and sparkling) are available. 

Lucky Buns (District Wharf) sports a friendly, breezy décor and specializes in burgers.

Joselito also serves Saturday and Sunday brunch. Besides traditional favorites, the kitchen adds a few innovative egg dishes. For hours and more information visit www.joselitodc.com.

Lucky Lunch

On a muggy Sunday, husband Peter and I enjoyed a pleasant midday repast at Lucky Buns, 675 Wharf St. SW, in the District Wharf. The menu is all over the map: featuring all kinds of burgers, as well as fried chicken sandwiches, wings, nachos, guacamole, and hummus. Plus, thick-cut fries with various toppings. 

Lucky Buns’ patio/terrace, where we sat, was spacious but sometimes difficult to navigate. Although the menu emphasizes burgers (real and “Impossible),” I settled for the Hot Wings, a half dozen crisply fried (but not breaded) wings with Balinese lemongrass. Among other wing options were spicy Mumbo sauce and zaatar dry spice. The wings came with the usual carrot and celery sticks plus watermelon radish slices, along with tangy ranch dressing. Warning: These wings are messy; be sure to ask your server for extra napkins.

Another house specialty, hot wings, are crisply fried and served with crudites and tangy ranch dressing.

My side salad was crunchy and tasty, napped with Green Goddess dressing, the retro concoction of mayo, lemon juice, assorted herbs and anchovy paste.   

Also in a poultry mood, Peter went for the Tandoori Chicky Bun, moist breast meat snuggled on a sesame seed bun with gouda cheese, pickles, arugula and charred red onion. In lieu of a bun, diners may request their burgers placed atop a salad.

Lunch for two came to about $50; service, rendered by Juliana, was excellent. Lucky Buns is open daily; for more information visit www.luckybuns.com.

Bar Boheme

There’s another Lucky Buns at Union Market, 1309 Fifth St. NE, as well as a sister eatery Bar Boheme. En route to Angelika Theater to see “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” we lunched at Bar Boheme. We placed our order with the busy cashier, took a number and awaited our food at the counter. Scrawled on a chalkboard, the extensive sandwich menu offers “Club Royale” (ham, turkey, bacon etc.); a Fancy BLT (the usual with arugula and radicchio); pomodoro (tomatoes, house-made mozzarella), jambon beurre (ham on buttered baguette), a Reuben. We opted for the last two. Each delicious, overstuffed sandwich could feed two. We saved our leftovers for a future lunch. As the name suggests, Bar Boheme also serves cocktails and “natural” wines; I sipped a refreshing French white. Lunch for two came to $43. Bar Boheme is open daily; for more information visit www.unionmarketdc.com.

Coming up

Summer Restaurant Week 2023, August 28-September 3. For this special promotion, numerous Washington area restaurants offer multi-course lunch and brunch menus for just $25 per person. Dinners go for $40 and $55. (Cocktail and wine pairings are also available.) For a list of participating restaurants, menus, reservations, and other information visit www.ramw.org.

Gone

In the Navy Yard, Hatoba, 300 Tingey St. SE, the four-year-old destination for Sapporo style ramen bowls, has closed. Chef/partner Katsuya Fukushima’s sister restaurants—including Daikaya, Tonari and Bantam King in Chinatown and Haikan (Shaw)—remain open.

Named Chef of the Year, Kevin Tien, of the departed Moon Rabbit, thanked his staff and the community.

RAMMY Winners

“There’s a food revolution in our city, the restaurant scene is in overdrive,” said Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. The occasion was the 41st annual RAMMY Awards gala July 9 at the Walter Washington Convention Center. “With 80 new restaurants, we are creating more and more business opportunities,” she added. “Congratulations.”

Delivering another gracious acceptance speech was Kevin Tien, named Chef of the Year. “I’ve been cooking in DC since 2018,” said Tien, who helmed the kitchen at the District Wharf’s recently departed Moon Rabbit. “I’m proud to be cooking in this city…supported by my staff and my community.” Tien is also co-founder of Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate.

At the RAMMY Awards gala, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser praised the local restaurant community.

Other RAMMY winners in the Capital Community News restaurant family:

Best Beer Program: Shelter (The Roost);

Cocktail Program: Servicebar (U Street NW); 

Rising Culinary Star: Marcelle Afram

(Shababi Palestinian Rotisserie Chicken, Atlas District);

Favorite Fast Bites: RASA (Navy Yard);

Best Bar: Exiles (U Street NW);

Employee of the Year:  Nabil Moussa (Le Diplomate, Logan Circle);

Pastry Chef of the Year: Teresa Velazquez, Baked and Wired/A Baked Joint (Mount Vernon Triangle);

Restaurateur of the Year: Rose Previte (Compass Rose, Maydan, Logan Circle);

John C. Laytham Exceptional Leadership and Impact Award: Michael Curtin of DC Central Kitchen, which combats hunger and poverty through job creation and training. The non-profit organization recently relocated to the former US Coast Guard headquarters in the Buzzard Point neighborhood in Southwest. 

Presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, The RAMMYS honor the accomplishments and hard work of the region’s restaurant and food service community. For more information visit www.ramw.org.