This is an invitation to have fun during the lunching hour, to explore the little food places you may not have noticed, to try the hidden menu gems that you might not otherwise consider. And to eat them outdoors, on the lawn, in the sun.
It is not a comprehensive, city-wide survey of every carryout in Washington. Nor is it a guide to the amenities of the city's numerous circles, squares, parks and other public plots of grass.
We avoided the fast-food chains, the mass-produced pop-ethnic offerings and the well-known multi-outlet sandwich shops. Instead, we searched out the moms and pops of the luncheon shops, the little carryouts in the backs of office buildings, the places where Koreans sell bulgogi (and cheeseburgers), Indians make masala dosas (and meatball subs) and Greeks prepare souvlaki (and BLTs).
You can follow as closely as you wish our day-by-day guide to interesting dishes from obscure places near several of the most popular noon-time green spots in town. But, you don't have to eat Ferdinand's grilliano on Monday and you can take your veggettes from Kusam Indo-Pak Curry House to Lafayette Park instead of Farragut if you want to. The idea is to try something other than your standard tuna on white or roast beef on rye -- day after day after day.
FARRAGUT SQUARE MONDAY: Ferdinand's Snack Bar, 1629 K St. NW (in the Davis Building), 296-4625, open Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Ferdinand's is a snack bar with a soul-food bent: collards, fried chicken, salmon cakes and barbecue. But wedged in between the so-so southern fare and the tuna sandwiches is a grilliano, a spicy Italian sausage sandwich for $1.75 that is grilled with green peppers and onions. Although the sausage is too small for the grilled sub roll (or the sub roll is too big for the weiner), it has a nice flavor. Remember to ask for hot sauce, mustard or other lubrication.
TUESDAY: Port of Piraeus, 1801 K St. NW (in the lower mezzanine level of the office building), 833-3340, open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Here is one individual-sized pizza that doesn't depend on goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes or other trendy ingredients to be a success. The Port of Piraeus' version ($3.65) is essentially a Greek Salad on a pizza; a round of pita is covered with fresh chopped tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheeses, onions, pickled red and green peppers, and salami. This upscale carryout also makes a decent Cubano sandwich, although remind the behind-the-counter staffer to go easy on the mustard.
WEDNESDAY: June's Delicatessen and Carryout, 1625 K St. NW (in The Confectionary), 638-0059, open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
In back of the cashew kittens, panty hose and Hallmark cards in The Confectionary gift shop is June's Delicatessen and Carryout, a tiny operation staffed by a friendly crew of Oriental women. June's version of beef fried rice, served on Wednesdays, tastes a lot better than it looks. Flecked with bits of beef, fresh red and green peppers and cooked, frozen vegetables (corn, peas and carrots), the dish has a peppery bite and a moist, flavorful taste. On Fridays June's also serves shrimp fried rice, also for $2.15, which is an equally good bet.
THURSDAY: Kusam Indo-Pak Curry House, 816 18th St. NW, 223-2245, open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Veggettes are the fried clams of India. Filled with a spicy mixture of potatoes and onions, these spidery nuggets are a nifty change from what you get at Howard Johnson's. The cauliflower dosa is an equal if not better choice, but kind of sloppy for park dining, and there are a multitude of other interesting-sounding selections. For $5.25, the veggettes platter is a plentiful portion and it comes with a salad.
FRIDAY: Louie's Place, 1717 K St. NW, 463-9449, open Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
We can't attest to the egg salad or bologna, but this office building carryout serves some high-quality ethnic fare. While Louie's offers Oriental specials daily, opt for Friday, when it sells a terrific sushi plate for $4.50. Garnished with pickled turnips and ginger, it comes with nine pieces of California roll, two shrimp, chopsticks and soy sauce. If you have room, ask for a homemade egg roll, a top-notch rendition with crisp skin and a fresh flavor that will make you realize what all those standard Chinese carryout egg rolls have been missing. -- Carole Sugarman CAPITOL HILL START NOTE: Got a park name? BobK. not unless we want to say Eastern Market Metro station grounds-tws. I thought we were going to key it to the area between capital and railroad station; all the others are geared to carryouts handy to specific parks people go to---BobK. END NOTE
MONDAY: Provisions, 218 7th St. SE, 543-0694, open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Provisions is a kitchenware store, a food shop, a cafe, and one of the friendliest delis around. It's also the purveyor of one addictive mess of a dish, an Italian stromboli ($7.30 a pound), which is a variety of layered meats, cheeses and vegetables sheathed with a poppyseed-studded wrapper of bread. Grab extra napkins for this one. Less messy and almost as good are the golden, savory pastries known as empanadas ($1.50), stuffed with highly seasoned minced beef and accompanied by salsa.
TUESDAY: Szechuan House, 515 8th St. SE, 546-5303, open Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Saturday noon-10:30 p.m., Sunday noon-10 p.m.
At Szechuan House, it actually costs less to dine in than it does to carry out a luncheon special: $3.95 for soup, an entree, fried rice and tea versus at least $4.95 for an entree, fried rice, egg roll and no tea. Among the numerous daily specials, there's always at least one compelling main dish. And the fiery ones are usually best; try the beef in garlic sauce, a knockout meal of pleasantly spicy beef strips blended with water chestnuts and blanketed with a heady, rich gravy.
WEDNESDAY: Knickerbocker Deli, 308 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 543-3636, open Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Friday 11 a.m. through Sunday 4 p.m.
Skip the skimpy, underseasoned taco pizza. Pass up the ubiquitous Italian antipasto salad. Head directly for the German sausage platter ($4.95), a homey, filling dish of sauerkraut, warm potatoes and your choice of German sausage (knockwurst, weisswurst or bratwurst). The only thing missing now is a good German beer with which to wash it down.
THURSDAY: Taverna the Greek IslandsSTART NOTE: CQ. END NOTE, 307 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 547-8360, open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
If your picture of Greek food begins with gyros and ends with baklava, you have yet to discover the delights of this hospitable restaurant-carryout. A light meal could be fashioned from any of the appetizers, which include a fresh and lively squid salad, terrific stuffed grape leaves and a filling, subtly garlicky eggplant pure'e (each $2.95). The souvlaki ($2.95) is a model sandwich of freshly made pita bread rolled around a chunky blend of tomatoes, feta cheese, chopped onion and cubes of smoky tasting lamb. But the star of Taverna is arguably its spinach pie, spanakopita, enveloped in the flakiest and lightest of wrappers. For $4.50 you get that plus a serving each of cabbage and an oven-roasted potato. The Greek islands don't get much better tasting than this.
FRIDAY: Machiavelli's, 613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 543-1930, open for lunch Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., for dinner Sunday-Thursday 5 p.m.-11 p.m., for dinner Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-midnight.
One might feel a bit foolish ordering Machiavelli's buttery, crusty garlic bread ($1.50) as a main dish. So accompany it with a whopping container of sausage spaghetti ($5.50), an agreeable dish topped with a zesty wash of tomato sauce and two big chunks of mild sausage. Cool your heels at the bar with a fresh peach dacquiri, a delightful, refreshing concoction that, unfortunately, can't be carried out. -- Tom Sietsema GEORGETOWN TOWPATH
MONDAY: Frankly Fries, 3207 M St. NW, 625-9695, open Sunday-Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m., Thursday 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m., Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-4 a.m.
The sign in the corner of this temple to fries offers homemade empanadas with a side of fries for $3.19. Though it says mild or spicy, the woman at the counter admitted that they only come in one flavor; mildly spicy. She was right. But if you like a little meat with your fries, try these saffron-yellow, fist-sized empanandas. And if you decide at the last minute that it's too hot to go outside, you can sit on tall stools in the mirror-encased room and watch the tourists drip by.
TUESDAY: Viet-Huong Cafe-Restaurant, 2929 M Street, NW, 337-5588, open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon-11:30 p.m., Sunday noon-10:30 p.m.
Pop into this quiet restaurant, place your order with the waitress and be ready to wait a good 10 minutes. The $4.25 specials are worth it. Try the lemon grilled chicken (two lemony, if a little greasy, brochettes of chicken) or the beef sesame (two juicy brochettes with a faint sesame taste), both served with fried rice, a crackly crisp egg roll and a container of fish sauce for dipping. For absent-minded munching, pick up a $1.50 carton of pink styrofoam-like sheets of beignets de crevettes. Watch your friends' eyes pop when these feisty shrimp fritters grab their tongue. Word of warning: Remember to check the bag for napkins and utensils before charging out the door.
WEDNESDAY: Ikaros of Georgetown, 3130 M St NW, 333-5551, open Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-4 a.m.
If you're actually serious about eating at lunchtime, walk into this Greek carryout and order a big $4.85 slab of moussaka. Topped with a crusty custard topping, this nicely herbed version is served with two slices of garlicky toast and an iceberg, carrot and feta cheese salad. If you're not so serious at lunchtime, grab a Heineken from the barroom-assortment of icy cold beers.
THURSDAY: Dylan's Cafe and Bookstore, 3215 Prospect St. NW (in Georgetown Court), 337-0593, open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
At Dylan's Cafe and Bookstore, $3.75 quesadillas are listed as appetizers but are the perfect size for lunch. A 6-inch flour tortilla is layered with cheese, and topped with a Velveta-textured, cheddar-colored cheese and a red hot enchilada sauce. Served in separate compartments are a spicy tomato salsa and a crisp shredded lettuce, scallion and tomato garnish. And while you wait, thumb through the shelves' eclectic selection of books.
FRIDAY: East West Carryout, 1070 31st St. NW, 337-7752, open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
For a quick light lunch, dip out of the sun into this small carryout and cart off a couple of 75-cent samosas. Stick with the vegetable version; they're flaky-light with a smooth curried potato filling flecked with bright green peas. If you're in search for a heartier meal and a bargain ($2.75), ask for the shrimp fried rice. A moist and marvelous mound of fragrant rice will greet you, studded with pink baby shrimp, green pepper, carrot curls and green peas. -- Nina Killham LAFAYETTE PARK MONDAY: Huddle Coffee Shop, 1625 I St. NW, 331-1515, open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Wedged in an alley between two office buildings is the Huddle Coffee Shop, a tiny, steamy carryout that serves a Korean noodle dish called chap che on Mondays and Thursdays. (Every day, you can also get kimche -- the pungent pickled cabbage dish that will even make the squirrels pucker their lips.) Appreciably more restrained, however, is the chap che, a generous collection of cellophane noodles, sliced cabbage, beef strips, carrots and green peppers over a moist mound of rice. It isn't a stunner of a dish, but for $2.45, it's a tasty bargain.
TUESDAY: Fiona's Restaurant and Carryout, 1800 G St. NW, 466-8508, open Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-5 p.m.
All those restaurants that make grease-laden samosas could learn from Fiona's, a cavernous basement coffee shop that sells everything from pork chops and chili dogs to close to two dozen Indian dishes. For $1.60, the vegetable samosas are two crisp triangle pastries stuffed with curried potatoes and green peas and accompanied by a little cup of the coriander-based dip called sambar. Perfect picnic fare, this spicy finger food is a good match for a lassi, the Indian yogurt drink (the sweet version is just sweet enough). Or, on your way to the park, stop by the Cafe Americano, a street vendor on 18th Street, between G Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, which sells cappucino, espresso and a silken, firm-textured flan under its classy umbrella.
WEDNESDAY: El Chalan. 1924 I St. NW, 293-2765, open for lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday noon-3 p.m., open for dinner Monday-Saturday 5-10:30 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.
This charming Peruvian restaurant will also furnish food in Styrofoam, provided you get there before 12:30. Make a picnic of the cold appetizers, which are in the carryout price range and filling enough for a meal. A sure choice is the Escabeche de Pescado for $5.25, lightly fried fish marinated in a tart tomatoey sauce and smothered with onions. It comes with a wedge each of cold sweet potato and white potato. It's a winner.
THURSDAY: Linda's Coffee Shop, 1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 298-6504, open Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Walk through a labyrinth of corridors off the lobby of a Pennsylvania Avenue office building to find Linda's, an unassuming carryout with a hidden jewel on the menu. Skip the weisswurst and order bratwurst, a juicy weiner with a crusty skin. Although Linda's bratwurst is $1.50 -- a bit more than what you might pay for a street vendor's all-American dog -- it's worth ducking out of the sun and into the office building din.
FRIDAY: Art Gallery Cafe, 1712 Eye St. NW (in the Doctors Building), 298-6658, open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Art Gallery calls its Middle Eastern kibbeh "torpedoes" -- but they look more like miniature hand grenades, these egg-shaped balls covered with ground sirloin and cracked wheat and filled with ground sirloin, onions and pine nuts. For $5.35, you get three of them, plus a salad, tahini and a round of pita, either for a make-your-own sandwich or to eat as is. Either way, this is one delicious lunch plate, the meaty outside layer perfectly mounded to enclose the moist, lightly spiced stuffing. Skip the felafel and go full speed ahead for the torpedoes. -- Carole Sugarman McPHERSON SQUARE
MONDAY: Siddhartha, 1379 K St. NW, 682-9090, open seven days a week 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Here's a place that offers a lot for a little: a lot of variety on the all-vegetarian menu, a lot of food on the plate, and a lot of atmosphere while waiting in line -- the clerk in her native dress is a no-nonsense type who yells orders back to the kitchen but makes sure your order is served up quickly. One of the best bargains on this menu is the "mini meal" for $3.50, consisting of a half portion of vegetable curry (there are more than a dozen from which to choose), a choice of Indian bread, and accompaniments of chutney, onions, papad (peppery, cracker-like chips) and tea. Alternatively, you could construct a light meal from the sundry list of the house specialties, including dosas.
TUESDAY: Patty's, 927 15th St. NW, 289-1190, open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
A croissant's toss from McPherson Square park, Patty's is hip to the core, a tiny, funky, friendly carryout bathed in the glow of neon and pastel-colored walls. The month-old Patty's is also an interesting if pricey little lunch place, so concentrate on the unusual and save the tuna fish sandwich for another spot. On the light side is a terrific version of what has become a deli staple, Chinese noodle salad. Patty's calls this "Szechuan Noodles and Shrimp ($4.25)"; it's as cool and peppery and glistening a salad as can be had. Another hit is the mango chicken curry ($4.85), an attractive, faintly sweet blend of chicken, broccoli and red peppers bound in a curry-spiked mayonnaise and set on a bed of greens.
WEDNESDAY: Hunan Cafe, 1022 15th St. NW, 737-0503, open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday noon-3 p.m.
You pass the menu -- colorful, appetizing photographs of Chinese specialties -- as you walk through the hallway and up a flight of stairs leading to Hunan Cafe. For the most part, the eating lives up to the visual introduction. From the lineup of Wednesday specials there is a pleasantly fiery kung pao chicken ($3.95) supported by lots of peanut crunch and chicken lo mein ($3.25) a tangle of gravy-infused noodles blended with slivers of scallions, crunchy pieces of cabbage and flavorful bites of chicken. A neighborly staff, lightning-quick service and hefty portions add up to a bargain of a take-out meal.
THURSDAY: Vermont Coffee Shoppe & Carry Out, 1100 Vermont Ave. NW, 223-5990, open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Bulgogi looks a bit out of place among the otherwise all-American roster of sandwiches, but this Korean dish of shaved, marinated beef -- seasoned with soy sauce and garlic and cooked with scallions and saute'ed onions -- may well be the best meal on the menu of the Vermont Coffee Shoppe & Carry Out. One can order it Americanized -- slapped between a sliced submarine roll ($2.70) -- or more traditionally, as a platter ($3.50), with iceberg lettuce salad and plain white rice, which improves in flavor as it soaks up the savory juices of the meat.
FRIDAY: Stand Snack, 1133 15th St. NW, 452-0691, open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
It's hard to locate this quirky little cafe-carryout snuggled in the rear of an office building. But allow your nose to lead the way through the lobby, past the elevators, and you'll discover a kitchen that offers a most eclectic range of food, from freshly popped popcorn and a basket of fresh (raw) eggs to homemade puddings (perhaps rice, banana or bread) and chicken fried rice, a bargain of a dish at $2. The latter is respectable on its own -- nubbins of flavorful chicken flecked with bits of carrot, peas and scallions -- but is enhanced with the addition of a blend of duck sauce and mustard, packets of which come with each order. -- Tom Sietsema DUPONT CIRCLE
MONDAY: Hunan Cafe, 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW, 223-2238, open Monday-Saturday-11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Hunan has joined the salad ranks with its new Hunan salad for $2.50. A pretty mixture of lettuce, water chestnuts, broccoli, carrot, tomato, mushroom, noodles and golden-fried tofu, it's topped with a hard-cooked egg trimmed in theFOOD PARKS,PETERSON RON,LI,ACT,LI/WIRE,,,T T