Editors' pick

Horace & Dickies Seafood

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

It's as fascinating to watch the repartee between customers and Big Mama, Dickie's goddaughter, as it is to watch the deep-fried creations being stuffed into large Styrofoam carryout boxes. "If she's not messing with you, something's wrong," said one regular, doing a lunch run for seven co-workers in Crystal City. With trolley-track construction dominating the corner of 12th and H streets NE, this wee blue and white carryout - flourishing since 1990 - is easy to miss. Follow your nose or look for the lunchtime line.

Known for: Fried fish, of course, but no itty-bitty square fish patties on hamburger buns here. Instead, the basic order includes four huge whiting fillets - dipped in cornmeal laced with secret spices - deep fried to a crisp golden brown and plopped on top of white or wheat bread. A hefty dousing of hot sauce is optional.

Tip: Finish your phone call before venturing inside or Big Mama will call you out - loudly. And pay attention when she points to her tip jar or she'll scoff at you - but it's all done with a good-natured swagger.

Ann Cameron Siegal, June 2010