Skewering meat and grilling it over an open fire is perhaps one of the world’s oldest culinary traditions, and one that Del Campo chef Victor Albisu says is here to stay. “There’s so many reasons for meat on a stick,” he says. Almost every culture has its own version, from the traditional shish kebab to the heartland’s corn dog. Here’s where to find global varieties in D.C.
Del Campo, 777 I St. NW; 202-289-7377, delcampodc.com
Albisu grew up eating anticuchos in Peru and now creates a mix of the traditional (beef hearts and aji panca, a smoky pepper common throughout the country) and his own slyly spicy interpretations. Currently on the menu: duck hearts, prawns, beef or tuna. “It’s a really great way to infuse flavor into small pockets of meat,” Albisu says. “If you marinate little pieces, you can give it a really interesting flavor.” Right now, he’s toying around with a chorizo anticucho recipe.
Pintxos (N. Spain)
Estadio, 1520 14th St. NW; 202-319-1404, estadio-dc.com
In towns like San Sebastian, the typical bar is lined with these bite-sized morsels — grab what you want and pay based on the number of toothpicks you have left over. “Pintxo,” a variation of the Spanish word for “spike,” is a broad term for what could be hundreds of things. “There’s no rules. As long as it tastes good, it doesn’t matter,” chef Haidar Karoum says. In addition to its own creations, Estadio offers the traditional Gilda pintxo: an anchovy, an olive and a guindilla pepper.
Yamas, 1946 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-332-1946, yamasdc.com
Owner Tony Alexis, who spent the first 10 years of his life on a farm in Greece, concentrates on serving food that feels like it came from his homeland. He serves souvlaki the traditional way — beef and chicken with tzatziki and pita — with a fresh lemon wedge to squeeze over the top. If you can catch Alexis at Yamas’ original Bethesda location, ask the psychology and religious studies major about the history of the gyro and the cultural connectedness of food.
Izakaya Seki, 1117 V St. NW; 202-588-5841, sekidc.com
You have options for skewered meat at this tucked-away spot on V Street, run by the father-daughter team of Hiroshi and Cizuka Seki. You can get pork belly on a stick and motsu skewers (beef intestine, served grilled with okra in a house-made teriyaki). They also serve a Japanese-restaurant favorite, tsukune. These soft, flavorful chicken meatballs are served the traditional way — yakatori-style, meaning grilled on a skewer — and are almost as light and fluffy as a pastry.
Corn dogs (USA)
DC-3, 423 Eighth St. SE; 202-546-1935, eatDC3.com
Run by the same group that owns Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin, DC-3 offers hot dogs inspired by cities across the nation, including the classic American meat-on-a-stick: the corn dog. The true origins of the corn dog are tough to track down, as a variety of state fairs and boardwalks lay claim to the nation’s first corn dog. But one thing can be said for sure: Eating one makes you feel like a kid again. Worth noting: DC-3 also has a veggie corn dog option.
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