In the crush of the holiday season, sometimes the last people we think to look after are ourselves. Stop the madness. Consider treating yourself to the following gently priced — and oh-so-edible — indulgences.
Wet your whistle
Drinks and dumplings? I’m there. More specifically, I’m at one of fewer than two dozen stools on the second floor of the new-in-November Copycat Co. on H Street NE.
The guy behind the bar, Devin Gong, is a vet of the high-end Barmini in Penn Quarter. In other words, he knows his way around fizzes and mules, fixes and grins, but he’s pricing his mixed drinks at a user-friendly $11. I could easily make a habit of Copycat’s citrus-bright daiquiri and potent Manhattan.
The seared dumplings filled with beef and celery or pork and shrimp make perfect chasers. They’re affordable, too, at $1.50 a pop. If they get some fine-tuning, I might be able to warm up to the flavorful but dry skewered meats, which, like all the snacks, originate in the ground-floor kitchen and show up on metal trays.
Copycat doesn’t copy anyone else’s look: Picture green latticework over the windows, blue tiles at the bar and stools that make it easy to ask for another round.
1110 H St. NE. 202-241-1952. www.copycatcompany.com.
Eating at Jackie’s in Silver Spring on a Monday night puts diners in mind of a picnic.
No matter the weather outside, the tables become a canvas for a finger-lickin’ fried chicken dinner ($13.50) for which chef Adam Harvey starts preparations every Friday. That’s when he puts the signature ingredient in a bath of buttermilk, garlic and fresh herbs. Come Monday, the parts slip out of the brine and into a coat of flour before crisping up in melted shortening.
Golden chicken, three pieces per order, is just part of the feast. The price of admission includes all-butter biscuits veined with cheddar cheese and chives, chunky potato salad and wilted kale, its vinegar sting balanced with maple syrup. Chocolate chip cookies precede the check.
Jackie’s goes out of its way to be a good neighbor. Don’t eat poultry? The kitchen offers the option of catfish, freckled with cornmeal. Kids 12 and younger eat for half-price, which explains the young families that regularly flock here.
Although OpenTable and the Jackie’s Web site both trumpet the occasion, “not everyone knows Monday as chicken night,” Harvey says. Hence the Kansas City-style ribs and wedge salad he adds to the evening’s possibilities.
8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. 301-565-9700. www.jackiesrestaurant.com.
Balm in a bowl
Baby, it’s cold outside. If you can’t cozy up to a fire, let soup warm you up.
Among the area attractions: Liquid Autumn ($12), which can be experienced two ways at the cozy Westend Bistro. One bowl, part of the restaurant’s Bistro Light menu, swirls together pureed squash, carrots, celery root, fennel and more in a vegetarian stock. Espelette provides heat, while a drizzle of pumpkinseed oil adds a toasty note to the vivid appetizer, a restrained 300 calories.
Priced the same, yet more of a splurge, is the identical orange base garnished with a quenelle of whipped cream spiked with harissa, the Middle Eastern chili pepper paste. The white tuft doesn’t take long to melt into the steaming soup, infusing every spoonful with a jolt of fire, along with hints of caraway and coriander. Go for the upgrade — and watch the bowl go white.
1190 22nd St. NW. 202-974-4900. www.westendbistrodc.com.
Now that’s Italian!
Villa Mozart in Fairfax is that rare good restaurant where no one is required to read lips, and whatever’s playing in the background never drowns out a punchline. “I like a little music with dinner” says the octogenarian at my table, who, tackling her gremolata-dappled roasted veal with gusto, appears to approve of the cooking at this sedate dining room as well.
Chef-owner Andrea Pace comes from Northern Italy, a cue to order anything from his point of origin, maybe an artichoke salad set off with smoked prosciutto and grilled tomino cheese, or half moons of rye ravioli stuffed with mountain cheese and fresh spinach and finished with butter. But, really, you can roam the whole of his menu with confidence. Quail stuffed with rabbit sausage and presented with lemony risotto and carrots cooked in duck fat may be first among equals.
Civilized service turns a school night into a night to remember. The best time for budgeteers to reserve: Monday through Thursday, when Villa Mozart offers a three-course dinner for as little as $39 — close to the price of some entrees at comparable venues back in the big city.
4009 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax. 703-691-4747. www.villamozartrestaurant.com.
Let it snow, man
Buches de Noel, gingerbread people and even fruitcakes have their place this time of year, but to my mind, no dessert sums up Christmas as sweetly as the simply named Snowman ($10) featured throughout December at Central Michel Richard downtown.
Frosty has nothing on Snowman. To build the four-inch-tall confection, chef-partner David Deshaies fills hollow globes of crisp meringue with house-made vanilla ice cream. Rich. Then he dresses it to order with the requisite top hat, fashioned from chocolate, and carrot nose, shaped from almond paste. On the plate: raspberry sauce, and drifts of whipped cream standing in for snow. At the table, a server dusts the creation with powdered sugar and lights a sparkler. You’d have to be a grinch not to crack a smile.
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-626-0015. www.centralmichelrichard.com.
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