Call Your Mother deli
The people waiting outside Call Your Mother will probably tell you they’re waiting for the best bagel in the city. This “Jew-ish” deli in the Park View neighborhood combines New York and Montreal styles into one bagel. Pro tip: Ask for half plain cream cheese, half seasonal jam; it works best on the sesame bagel. Remember to snap a photo outside in front of the pastel mural by local artist Marcella Kriebel.
BTW: The deli now has other locations on Capitol Hill and Georgetown.
Call Your Mother deli, 3301 Georgia Ave. NW. Washington, D.C. 20010
Originally located in Woodley Park, a neighborhood stuck in the 1960s in all the best ways, Open City is an upscale diner that puts a spin on American breakfast classics. Love hash browns? Order an entire bowl of them with two sunny-side-up eggs on top. If French toast is your thing, you can have it with hazelnuts. They have 18 breakfast entrees on the menu all day, every day. They also serve their own blend of Common Grounds coffee, made specially for their sister shop, Tryst.
BTW: It’s about a half-mile from the National Zoo — a good place to walk off that fried chicken and waffle.
Open City, 2331 Calvert St. NW. Washington, D.C. 20008
Across from Union Market, the city’s largest food hall, you’ll notice an Italian flag painted on a doorway in a row of industrial buildings. Inside are tight aisles crammed with gnocchi, spaghetti and pappardelle. In the back, you’ll find an unassuming deli selling subs (or hoagies, or grinders, but let’s not get political). If you don’t want to build your own, stick with the classic Italian. In a city where food prices can be steep, a quality whole sub for $9.95 is a steal.
BTW: This place arguably has the best selection of Italian wine in the city. If you need a recommendation, ask the owner.
A Litteri, 517-519 Morse St. NE. Washington, D.C. 20002
(Austin Graff/The Washington Post)
Deli City Restaurant
This cash-only deli makes a sizable pastrami on rye bread using the same recipe that the owner’s father and great uncle did in the 1950s. It’s now a sit-down and takeout place, out of a small building in a still very industrial part of town. (There’s not much for pedestrians here; driving is your best bet.) Adding to its charm, the decor inside is stuck in 1979, the year the place opened at this location. In an expensive city like Washington, the classic sandwiches here cost only $8.50. Order the half-sweet-and-half-unsweetened iced tea and the homemade bread pudding made fresh daily. If you go more than once, the servers will remember your name.
BTW: After lunch, drive to the nearby National Arboretum, a huge, world-class garden space and civic treasure that also contains old U.S. Capitol columns. The cidery Supreme Core, from Baltimore, is just outside the arboretum.
2200 Bladensburg Rd. NE, Washington, D.C. 20018
So you can’t name a single country in the Balkans? The quality of Ambar’s food may change that. The tapas-style menu at this flagship location includes leek croquettes, stuffed sour cabbage and drunken mussels. While most restaurants in the city sell cocktails for more than $10, Ambar prices them at $5, no matter what you order during their weekday happy hour. (Beer and wine are $6.) If you’re going in a group, plan to order three plates per person.
BTW: If you’re really hungry, order the unlimited tapas menu for $49 per person (dinner only).
Ambar, 523 Eighth St. SE. Washington, D.C. 20003
Don’t let Gravitas’s prices scare you. Yes, chef Matt Baker offers only a tasting menu that starts at $78 for four courses, but broken down, that comes out to under $20 a dish for some of the most inventive food in the city. The restaurant is housed in an old tomato-packing factory in industrial Ivy City. Vegetarians are in luck because half the menu is for them. Gravitas’s wine menu is impressive, but opt for the cocktails instead. Each glass comes with a fancy garnish, such as the origami butterfly on the “Southern Butterfly.”
BTW: Make a reservation for the early evening, leaving time to stop by Republic Restoratives, one of the only female-owned distilleries in the country.
Gravitas, 1401 Okie St. NE. Washington, D.C. 20002
Even if you’re not on your way back from the bars, Amsterdam is worth a late-night stop. The original location, in Adams Morgan on 18th Street, is small, but it’s a quick eat. Pick a falafel pita or bowl, then go crazy with the 22 topping options, from pickled cabbage to hummus. If you happen to be on 14th Street NW, you’ll find a location there, too.
BTW: No matter how full you are, order the fries. They come salty and are best with Dutch mayo from the side counter.
Amsterdam Falafelshop, 2425 18th St. NW. Washington, D.C. 20009
This H Street NE spot pulls double duty. The bottom floor is a Chinese street-food shop, with bar and window seating only. The chef makes pot stickers, bao and skewers right in front of you. When you’re ready for a drink, head upstairs to the bar, where the city’s bartenders hang out. Because of that, order the “bartender’s choice” to give them the opportunity to show off their skills.
BTW: The “triple delight” pot stickers and cheeseburger bao are their bestsellers.
Copycat, 1110 H St. NE. Washington, D.C. 20002