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Best of D.C. Staff Picks: Food

October 19, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Best vegan place for carnivores

Best place to introduce your kid to ramen

Best ice cream you won’t have to wait in line for

Best hidden date night spot

The vegan Shouk Burger includes pickled onions and tomato burst.

Best vegan place for carnivores
655 K St. NW
Too many vegan restaurants fall victim to the same problem: They try to mimic meat with mock substitutes that can turn off your meat-eating friends. What I love about Shouk, the Middle Eastern-inspired fast-casual eatery that opened in Mount Vernon Square last year, is how chef Dennis Friedman’s dishes don’t pretend they’re something they’re not. Take the incredibly popular Shouk Burger. Instead of a prefab veggie patty meant to trick you into thinking it’s the real thing, Shouk uses a mixture of chickpeas, black beans, lentils, mushrooms, cauliflower and beets — most of which you can actually see when you take a bite. It’s shoved into a warm pita and topped with addictive tomato bursts, pickled turnip, arugula, charred onion and tahina sauce. Like the rest of Friedman’s dishes — rice and lentil bowls, salads and polenta fries — the burger works because it makes real veggies the star of the show. It’s enough to make you consider going vegan full time. Rudi Greenberg

Kids shouldn’t fuss with the ramen at Kanji-Kana. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Best place to introduce your kid to ramen
1018 Vermont Ave. NW, third floor
Kanji-Kana may be one of the most kid-friendly restaurants that doesn’t even have a children’s menu. Poster frames filled with Pokémon cards hang on the walls while cheerfully unintelligible anime runs silently on the TV. The ramen portions are large — at least until you give your little angel a bite of the noodles and realize you have to fend off the kid with your chopsticks for the rest of your lunch. If your spawn has that charming childlike need to never have any foods touching ever, go for a bento box. Options include nonthreatening proteins like chicken teriyaki or shrimp tempura, accompanied by rice, a spring roll and other goodies (and they’ll drop in a packet of the Japanese cookie candy Pocky, which makes a great reward for trying one bite of the seaweed salad). Kristen Page-Kirby

Best ice cream you won’t have to wait in line for 
Islands Tropical Ice Cream
9324 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring
Foreign fruits often fall flat as ice cream flavors. They end up generically sweet and tasting nothing like the tropics or as an overly icy sorbet. But the product at Islands Tropical, formerly the Tropical Ice Cream Cafe, remains potently fruity and creamy. That’s because the shop serves up its ice cream from Rockville’s York Castle Ice Cream Company, which specializes in Jamaican flavors done right. Velvety consistency is a constant in classic flavors — the chocolate is as good as any in the D.C. area — and a welcome surprise in exotic fare such as guava, mango, passion fruit, lychee and soursop, made from the slightly sweet, slightly funky tropical fruit. It’s a pain to get into the tiny parking lot near Tropical — coming from D.C. means waiting for a U-turn at a congested stretch of Georgia Avenue — and once you get in, spaces are limited. Few dare the trek, so the reward for your trouble is a perpetually short wait for ice cream — or Tropical’s jerk wings and Jamaican beef patties, if you’re so inclined. Gabe Hiatt

Best hidden date night spot
Sergio Ristorante Italiano
8727 Colesville Road, Silver Spring
Cut through the lobby of the DoubleTree in downtown Silver Spring, walk past the door to the garage and take a few steps down into Sergio Ristorante. Below the hotel, Luigi Toni keeps his father’s place humming, playing host, waiter and manager. The same waiters who have been charming patrons for years are still here, wearing crisp white shirts and ties and calling your date “bella” as they refill the wine. (Getting pleasantly drunk is likely, because a liter of house white costs $20.) The menu is two pages of Italian-American classics printed on laminated Microsoft Word documents, and it hasn’t changed either. The stuffed pork chop ($18) is bursting with spinach and gorgonzola and draped in brandy cream sauce. House-made pastas such as shrimp ravioli and ham and pea tortellini are soft and floating in pools of butter and cream. Romantic, cozy and dripping with nostalgia, this is the kind of place where everyone applauds as a grandma blows out her birthday candles. G.H.

More Best of D.C. Picks

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Best of D.C. 2017 Staff Picks: Shopping and Entertainment

Best of D.C. 2017 Staff Picks: Bars

Best of D.C. 2017 Staff Picks: Reasons to go to Georgetown

Gabe Hiatt was the Sports Editor of Express.

Rudi Greenberg is the features managing editor at Express and writes about comedy, music, beer and D.C. life.

Kristen Page-Kirby joined Express in 2010 and covers film, arts and entertainment. Her weekly film column, The Reelist, has run in Express since 2009.

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