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Ovo Simply Veggie: It's the (Soy) Bomb

27 Sep

Let me preface by saying that I am the farthest thing from a vegan, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued by all the praise around Ovo Simply Veggie. And considering it’s a short drive from my office in Hyattsville, the fairly new College Park eatery drew my interest, so I decided to give it a try and see what all the excitement was about.

Located in downtown College Park right off of Route One, diners construct their entrée around a choice of four proteins: seaweed yuba, tofu, mushroom protein, or soy protein. From there, you pair your protein with a flavor, which range from sweet & sour to ginger soy to fiery Kung Pao. And for a little over nine dollars, diners can create their own entrée combo which comes with a choice of salad, soup, or Oogave organic soda.

Vegan wonton soup

I opted for what Washingtonian food writer Todd Kliman loved the most – the mushroom protein with coconut green curry, and paired it with their homemade vegan wonton soup. The broth was robust and full of flavor while the wontons replicated the texture of its non-vegan variant.

Mushroom protein with coconut green curry

As for the entrée, the mushroom protein’s texture resembled that of sautéed beef – chewy, flavorful, and with just the right amount of salt. The coconut green curry was a real treat as it not only added some spice to the dish but also complemented the crispy vegetables as well as the beautifully-presented side of brown rice.

The service was very efficient as it took no less than ten minutes to receive my order while the cashier was very helpful in explaining how their menu works. Ovo is a terrific addition to the College Park area, so if you’re a vegan or vegetarian that lives in the area, it’s well worth the trip to Prince George’s County for some excellent vegan fare. And trust me, from someone who loves his fair share of meats, this is high praise.

Ovo Simply Veggie on Urbanspoon

Bobby's Burger Palace - College Park

6 Jan

The redevelopment of College Park has long been overdue, but it’s finally coming to fruition with the addition of several mixed-use developments along Route 1. From University View to The Varsity, the landscape of downtown College Park has changed dramatically from when I first attended as an undergraduate back in 1999.

With so much retail space now available in a prime location along a major thoroughfare, restaurateurs are taking advantage of the opportunity as there are thousands of customers just footsteps away from their businesses. From ChiDogO’s to Austin Grill Express to a soon-to-be-opened Sweetgreen, College Park looks far different compared to a decade ago.

One of the major highlights of the redevelopment thus far is the newest location of celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s burger joint. Having just opened Bobby’s Burger Palace in K Street last summer, the College Park location followed suit just a couple of months later. My friend Scott and I headed over to Bobby’s last week for a pregame meal before the Maryland basketball game that evening.

Pacific Northwest Burger

Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea as the line was nearly out the door, although it did move at an efficient pace. The basic burger starts at $6.75, but varieties such as the Miami Burger or Buffalo Style Burger will only cost you a dollar more. You can also have your burger “crunchified”, meaning the kitchen throws some potato chips atop the patty.

They also offer a rotating Burger of the Month, which is what I decided to try. For December, that meant a Pacific Northwest Burger: white American cheese, cremini mushrooms, and a red wine BBQ sauce. I asked it for it to be cooked medium, and also got a side of sweet potato fries too.  The cashier gives you a number, and then they bring your meal to your table when the order is ready.

Sweet Potato Fries

When the burger arrived, Scott instantly remarked how the kitchen “torched” my burger. He was right – the patty was well-done. Meanwhile, his medium-rare burger was prepared the way he asked, so I’m not really sure what happened there. On top of that, we both received our orders of fries a minute or two after they had served the burgers instead of all at once. Rather odd.

I would have sent the burger back, but we were short on time and the kitchen appeared slightly overwhelmed due to so many customers at once, so I just tried to enjoy it. The beef was of good quality, but it was the combination of the mushrooms, cheese, and BBQ sauce that was able to detract from the well-doneness of the patty. The bun, however, was disappointing as it was limp as soon it got to the table. The bottom half was especially soggy, so between that and the overcooked beef, it was a fairly pedestrian burger.

Assortment of sauces

The sweet potato fries were fair, and while they were priced at $3 a serving, at least you receive a decent amount of them. The honey mustard horseradish sauce was a nice touch instead of reaching for the ketchup bottle. Speaking of which, Bobby’s offers nearly a half dozen sauces to top your burger with. The “burger sauce” might have been my favorite, with the chipotle ketchup as a close runner-up.

Our meal cost a little less than $24 for two burgers and two orders of fries. Not a bad value for two people, but honestly, I would take Ray’s Hell Burger any day of the week over Bobby’s. If Flay’s burger joint was the only game in town, then sure, but there are so many other places in the DC area that serve up a better burger for around the same price with much better quality and consistency. As for pregame meals, I’ll be sticking with Fishnet for the foreseeable future.

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon

Fishnet - From Corduroy to College Park

9 Dec

When I first read on Don Rockwell that Ferhat Yalcin, the former general manager of Corduroy (and one of our favorite restaurants), would be opening a casual restaurant in College Park, I was very intrigued.

The concept: a casual seafood venue offering grilled and fried fish sandwiches, entrees, and homemade sides. Fishnet officially opened its doors on 11/11/11, making it the easiest opening date to remember.

Hake Sandwich and Spicy Aioli

Situated in what used to house Berwyn Café, Fishnet is located on Berwyn Road in College Park, a few short blocks from the major thoroughfare of Route 1 and walking distance from the University of Maryland. It’s a great location since it’s completely separated from the congestion of downtown College Park, and even more importantly, street parking is easy to come by (no meters!).

Stepping inside, the setup is rather simple. You order your meal after reviewing the blackboard menu, pay the cashier, and then they’ll bring it over to your table when it’s ready. Think of it as a no-frills Tacklebox but with much better food.

Ale-8-One and Boylan's

Fishnet offers a handful of fresh fish selections that can be grilled or deep-fried, plus you have your choice of homemade sauces.  All sandwiches are served on ciabatta with baby greens and tomato. They also offer other items such as a beef burger, fish tacos, falafel, and lobster rolls. Housemade sides range from French fries (hand-cut daily) to coleslaw to potato salad.

Opposite to the register, there’s a refrigerator housing a variety of Boylan’s sodas as well as Ale-8-One, a Kentucky-based ginger ale that I haven’t seen elsewhere in the area. Fishnet also carries some rare Italian sodas such as Spuma and Cedrata as well (again, also new to me).

Fishnet MenuDrink Menu

I went with the grilled hake and spicy aioli, as I prefer a milder, flakier fish, along with a Boylan’s cola. I held off on the fries thanks in part to some willpower, but after glancing at someone’s overflowing cup, I immediately regretted that decision.

As for the sandwich, it was simply excellent. The hake was nicely grilled, moist, and full of flavor. The spicy aioli added a pleasant kick to the sandwich and really complemented the fish. The fresh ciabatta was able to soak up the juices and keep the sandwich intact without getting too soggy.

Fishnet is a wonderful addition to the dining-deprived area of College Park. Between the fresh ingredients and great execution, I only wish this place existed when we went to Maryland. I can’t wait to go back with Rachel since she’s more of a fish fan than myself, plus I’ll have some justification for splitting an order of fries next time around.

Fishnet is located on 5010 Berwyn Road in Berwyn neighborhood of College Park, MD.

Fishnet on Urbanspoon

Taqueria La Placita

15 Nov

If you’re looking for one of the most authentic taquerias in the Washington metropolitan area, look no further than Taqueria La Placita. This small restaurant, nested in an area of Hyattsville aptly dubbed “Little Mexico”, is as genuine as it gets.

Just minutes away from the DC border, Taqueria La Placita has been recognized by the Washingtonian in their Cheap Eats column two years in a row (their tacos graced this year’s Cheap Eats cover). Given that my friend Betsy and I have been working in Prince George’s County for well, awhile, a visit was long overdue.

The location is a little peculiar as it is situated on more of a residential road as opposed to the major thoroughfare of Kenilworth Avenue, but that helps give it its charm. The setup is rather simple: you order your tacos from the counter, pay for your meal, then take a seat as you wait for the kitchen to prepare them.

Taqueria La Placita

There are 20 tacos to choose from, and while some of the ingredients might intimidate some newcomers, bear in mind that you’re not stepping inside Taco Bell. This is the real deal, folks.

A menu of tacos, each with its own picture, hangs above the fridge that houses juices and sodas, including glass bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola. Selections range from traditional meats, such as chicken and pork, to the more adventurous – from tripe to pork ear to even cabeza (we’ll let you figure that one out).

I went with the pastor (spiced pork), carne asada (grilled steak), and barbacoa (lamb BBQ). The meats were stuffed inside piping hot two-ply corn tortillas right from the griddle and accompanied with onion, cilantro, lime, radishes, and cucumbers.

The pastor, which features marinated pork shaved off a spit with strips of pineapple and some onion, was my favorite of the three. That’s not to say the other two weren’t good, because I certainly cleaned my plate by the time we were finished. Each table also has three jars of condiments: red and green salsas, and chiles and onions. If you’re a fan of spice, the latter is your friend.

Between six tacos and two sodas, our lunch came out to less than $20. You can’t do much better than that, especially in this area. I can’t wait to go back and try the cecina (salted beef) and lengua (beef tongue). And to think, I couldn’t even eat a hot dog with mustard on it back when I was a kid. Look at me now, Mom!

Taqueria la Placita on Urbanspoon

Marathon Deli: A Taste of Greece in College Park

8 Nov

While College Park isn’t necessarily known for its glamorous dining scene, there’s one restaurant that has not only stood the test of time, but also delivers some of the best gyros in the Washington metropolitan area. Of course, I’m talking about Marathon Deli.

Situated in a strip mall along Route 1 and literally just steps away from the University of Maryland campus, Marathon Deli is as quintessential to College Park as The White Spot is to Charlottesville. Owned and operated by the same Greek family for over 25 years, a visit here is absolutely mandatory if you are in the area.

In fact, it’s somewhat surprising we haven’t covered Marathon in the past considering that last Friday’s visit was the umpteenth time we’ve been there. We stopped by for dinner last weekend before heading over to the Comcast Center for Maryland’s first basketball game of the season.

Marathon Deli Gyro

Stepping inside, it’s pretty easy to imagine the interior looking the same as it did back when the place opened up in 1972. The kitchen is immediately on your right with a small dining area towards the back. The first thing that grabs your eye, however, is the spit near the front window, slowly rotating the gyro meat.

Marathon Deli has a rather extensive menu offering a variety of Greek fare, from spanakopita to souvlaki to loukaniko, but if this is your first visit, you’re here for one thing and one thing only: the gyros.

What’s even more enticing is that they offer a combo meal that includes a gyro, fries, and a fountain soda, all for $7.99. It’s what I order each and every time. Oh, and for those that like birch beer, you’ll be delighted to know that they have that on tap too.

Anyway, the gyro… it’s simply amazing. In fact, I love it so much that while we were in Greece for our honeymoon, I was comparing each gyro we came across to the ones found at Marathon Deli. I’m dead serious.

Their gyro features a lean blend of lamb and beef, and is then topped with feta, tomatoes, onions, and homemade tzatziki, all wrapped in warm, fresh pita. The end result is one fantastic gyro. The meat is wonderfully seasoned while the tzatziki is great if not overflowing.

Oh, and then there’s the fries. They are perhaps some of the most addictive in the DMV, mainly because of the excellent seasoning. Any time you need your soda refilled, just go up to the counter and ask. It’s an old-school establishment that truly cares about its customers and wants to make sure everyone leaves happy. I know that we did.

Marathon Deli on Urbanspoon

Shagga Coffee and Restaurant - Ethopian Excellence

20 Oct

While DC has a plethora of Ethiopian restaurants to choose from, perhaps one of the best lies outside the District’s borders. Situated in Hyattsville in what used to house a former donut shop, Shagga Coffee and Restaurant is as unassuming as they come.

Written up in Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats column for the third consecutive year, I have driven by this establishment many times while traveling to and from DC. Little did I know that they were cooking up some phenomenal Ethiopian cuisine inside.

Beef Tibbs

Considering that my friend Betsy and I work near each other in Prince George’s County, we decided to make a lunch date at Shagga and see if the acclaim was justified. Located off a major thoroughfare in Baltimore Avenue and a stone’s throw from the University of Maryland, the dining room was barely occupied save one or two tables.

Nonetheless, we glanced over the menu which had a vast variety of options to choose from. From chicken to lamb to beef to vegetarian, selecting what to order could be a daunting task if you’re unfamiliar with Ethiopian fare. Fortunately, Shagga offers several meat and veggie combinations that allow diners a chance to explore multiple dishes.


We started the meal with a couple of sambusas. Similar to empanadas, they are pastry shells stuffed with vegetables as well as lentils, beef, or chicken. We opted for an order of the lentil as well as the beef. Freshly prepared, the sambusas were hot, crispy, and downright tasty.

While Shagga offers discounted lunch specials during midday, the full menu is also available which features combinations for two. Betsy and I felt that this was the best approach for our meal since we wanted to try a little bit of everything and not limit ourselves to one item.

Combination Platter

We decided to order “Combination #3”, which included Yebeg (lamb) Wot, Doro (chicken) Alicha, and Yesega (beef) Tibbs. It was also accompanied with four vegetable sides (lentils, cabbage, potatoes, and lettuce) as well as a basket of warm injera (Ethiopian bread).

When our combo arrived, we couldn’t believe the size of the portions. There were three huge serving bowls for each of the meats, not to mention the platter placed in the center of the table that included the four veggies. This was a combination for two, yet could have fed four easily.

Chicken Alicha

The Alicha was comprised of chicken simmered in onion, garlic, ginger and herbed butter with a hard-boiled egg. It was the mildest dish in terms of spice while the chicken was very tender.

Meanwhile, the lamb wot was the spiciest of the three plates but its sauce proved to be my favorite of the meal. The stew featured massive chunks of lamb (including shank) as well as a delicious red pepper sauce, onions, spices and butter. If you can tolerate the heat, then this one dish you have to try.

Lamb Wot

Saving the very best for last were the tibbs – tender pieces of beef sautéed in onions, green peppers, and herbs. Perhaps the most flavorful of the three meats, I could have eaten the pieces of beef by themselves let alone wrap them up in the fantastic injera.

If you’re ever in Hyattsville and/or looking for excellent Ethiopian cooking, then I cannot recommend Shagga enough. Even if you’re in DC, it’s a short drive up Rhode Island Avenue. It really is some of the best Ethiopian I have ever come across in this area, and considering that Little Ethiopia is just a few miles away, that’s saying something.

Shagga Coffee & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Jerry's Seafood: It's the (Crab) Bomb

24 Feb

We have long heard the stories about the legendary Crab Bomb served at Jerry’s Seafood. After living in the area for more than a decade and having not once been to the Lanham institution, we had to do something about it. It was time.

With our friends Jim and Livya, we drove to Jerry’s last Saturday night to finally experience what some have deemed the best crab cakes in the entire DMV.

Crab Bomb

Despite all the praise Jerry’s receives, you wouldn’t know it by judging from the exterior, let alone the interior of the restaurant. If you’re looking for ambiance, you best turn around. Nestled next to a liquor store and beauty supply shop, people come to Jerry’s with a purpose: to enjoy some of the best seafood inside the Beltway.

While the restaurant does not take reservations, we had lucked out as several large parties left just before we arrived, so there was no wait time at all!

Our friendly waitress greeted us, took our drink orders, and served us some warm, delicious rolls.

Rachel and I decided to start the evening off with a bowl of their crab bisque. We knew we were in for a treat upon tasting the first spoonful of it. Simply put, it was heavenly. While there’s no denying the kitchen does not show restraint on the heavy cream, the intoxicating combination of crab and sherry makes it nearly impossible to put the spoon down.

Crab Bisque

As for the entrees, well, that was an easy decision: CRAB BOMB! The Crab Bomb isn’t really a crab cake per se (although they do offer them on the menu), but simply ten glorious ounces of baked jumbo lump crab, Old Bay, and a smidgen of mayonnaise to hold it together.

It is practically the size of a softball. A delicious, crabby softball.

It’s so large in fact that they serve a smaller version appropriately dubbed the “Baby Bomb”. It’s only four ounces less than its predecessor, but just as amazing.

Rachel and I each ordered a Baby Bomb and made every effort to savor each bite. It was that good. In fact, it was so good that we both deemed it the best crab we have ever had. That’s saying a lot given that we have had our fair share of crab cakes.

Lightly crisp on the outside without a scratch of filler to be found inside, the Crab Bomb is worth its $34 price tag (the Baby Bomb is $26). While the price might be daunting to some, rest assured, you are getting A LOT of crab meat.

It also helps that each entrée comes with two sides. Rachel went with the stewed tomatoes and a side salad while I ordered the steamed broccoli and a baked potato. Next time I’ll make sure to order a side salad as it could have been a meal in itself.

The stewed tomatoes were a nice change of pace from what other seafood restaurants traditionally offer while the broccoli, lightly coated with butter, was fine. The baked potato was a bit too dry but given how the Baby Bomb overshadowed everything else, I didn’t seem to mind.

Jerry’s certainly lived up to its billing on Saturday. The crab was to die for while the service was fantastic. While it may not be in DC, trust us, it is worth the trip. We cannot wait to go back.

Jerry's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Hank's Tavern and Eats: Conquering the Hank Burger

4 Feb

While there are a plethora of burger options in the District (perhaps too many), one restaurant that is overlooked and, in our opinion, has one of the better patties in the DMV is Hank’s Tavern & Eats, located in nearby Hyattsville.

Rachel and I were looking for a place to grab dinner before the Maryland/Duke game in College Park on Wednesday evening, but knowing that most of the eateries situated along Route 1 would be jam-packed with Terps fans, we felt Hank’s would be an optimal venue given its proximity to the Comcast Center.

You might not know it, but Hank’s is actually under the umbrella of Chef Geoff’s restaurants. Located in the University Town Center next to the Regal movie theater, Hank’s Tavern & Eats features American comfort food in a laid-back atmosphere.

Hank Burger

Photo courtesy of Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

They also have a great happy hour available in their spacious bar area. Running daily from 3pm to 7pm (and all night on Mondays and Tuesdays), customers can enjoy specials such as $3 drafts and $5 house wines.

Their best deal, however, is the $7 Hank Burger. Normally priced at $11, the Hank Burger is, at the very least, a half pounder stacked with lettuce, tomato, two thick strips of bacon, cheddar, and of course, a gigantic onion ring.

You’ll most likely be astonished at its towering size when it arrives, but for the price, you cannot beat it.

Oh, and it was pretty delicious, too. The Angus beef was juicy and flavorful, and while the bacon could have been a little crispier, Rachel and I had no problems finishing this behemoth of a burger.

We also decided to split a basil chicken salad since half a burger wasn’t going to cut it, at least for me. Just like the Hank Burger, the salad was a very generous portion, and given the reasonable price of $11.99, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Served with greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, croutons, and large pieces of grilled chicken, this was definitely an entrée in its own right.

While the beer list isn’t too extensive, they do have Dale’s Pale Ale on tap and also featured Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA bottles for $3.95

All and all, it was satisfying meal before gametime. It certainly beets a dry, overcooked chicken sandwich at Comcast Center.

Hank's Tavern & Eats on Urbanspoon

Hank’s Tavern & Eats is located at 6507 America Blvd in Hyattsville, MD.

Ledo Restaurant: Same Great Pizza in a New and Modern Home

3 Nov

While the dining scene in College Park is something left to be desired, Tommy Marco’s Ledo Restaurant is an institution not only amongst the college town, but across the entire DC metropolitan area. Why? The Original Ledo shares the honors with the likes of Pete’s Apizza, Two Amy’s, and Vace as some of the DMV’s best pizza.

Mind you, we’re only discussing the original Ledo restaurant and not the offshoot franchise that bears the same name as well as a similar pizza design. There is a substantial difference and it should be noted.

Anyway, forget what you know what “real” pizza is. If you’re from New York or New Jersey, you’re comparing apples to oranges when we’re talking about a traditional slice versus Ledo’s square pizza. Just because it doesn’t remind you of a cheese slice from that local pizzeria you grew up with doesn’t mean it’s not good. Trust me, as a native New Yorker (albeit upstate), I carried that very same mentality.

Ledo's signature pizzaI remember the first occasion I stepped inside their original location in Adelphi. You were transcended back in time with its red carpets, wood-paneled walls, and pool table lighting fixtures. The restaurant’s interior made you feel like you were in an old-fashioned Italian restaurant where time stood still. Oh, and the pizza was pretty good too.

When Ledo Restaurant announced that they would be leaving their Adelphi location for downtown College Park, it was bittersweet news. While they would be vacating the space they occupied since 1955, their location on Knox Road would make them more accessible to the College Park area, right off the main drag of Route One. More importantly, they would be using the same ovens.

The move also makes dinners before Maryland basketball games a lot easier, given how much closer the restaurant is to campus. And so we headed there before the Terrapins exhibition game on Monday night, on top of finally introducing Rachel to the Ledo phenomenon.

The new space, which occupies the retail level of the city’s new parking garage, is not only completely modern in regards to design but simply enormous. The mixture of wood and stone feels like you’re eating at a chic restaurant in Downtown DC, but low and behold, some of those old lighting fixtures were transplanted in the new space as they hung above some two-tops towards the back of the restaurant.

We still couldn’t believe a restaurant this nice, at least aesthetically, existed in College Park. For those familiar with the town, it’s not quite Charlottesville or Ann Arbor, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction in terms of offering a quality eatery in the downtown area.

Despite the place appearing very busy, we had no problems finding a booth and were promptly greeted by our waiter who had to be no older than 20. We started our dinner off by splitting a Caesar salad. It wasn’t the most amazing Caesar salad of my life, but I had no complaints. Besides, we ultimately knew the real reason we were here…

We decided to split a medium pizza, half mushroom and half pepperoni. It arrived served on its classic lunchroom-style plastic tray cut into square pieces. Each slice on the first half had a thick slice of pepperoni where you could faintly see oil bubbles collecting in the middle. Now we’re talking.

The other half was covered in mushrooms so much that you could barely see the cheese below. Rachel was certainly having a hard time avoiding the urge to pickup another square after already polishing off four or five. Then again, I’d say at least three squares are equivalent to a traditional slice of pizza in regards to size.

Overall, the combination of the thin, flaky crust, flavorful homemade sauce, and provolone cheese is why Ledo’s stands out not just for its unique combination of ingredients but because how good it all tastes together. I especially love the sauce as it is more on the sweeter side and has a thick consistency.

When we finished, our bill came out to $18 flat. Turns out the waiter had only charged us for one topping and completely omitted Rachel’s soda. He may have felt bad because the pizza took awhile to come, but that certainly wasn’t his fault. We gave him a generous tip for this oversight, intentional or not, and headed off to Comcast Center. We might have a new ritual on our hands, provided I work out twice as much during college basketball season.

Tommy Marcos's Ledo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bobby's Burger Palace Coming to DC, Bethesda

21 Oct

To continue the trend from yesterday’s burger review, now comes news that Bobby Flay will be expanding his Bobby’s Burger Palace chain to Bethesda, DC, and Baltimore.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, Flay has a dozen or so locations planned to open up over the next year.

But does the DC area need yet another burger joint? Flay, and more importantly, his personality, seem to think so:

The “better burger” market is very crowded now, Flay said, “but I feel we have an advantage. When I open a restaurant, people come.”

“That doesn’t mean they’ll like it,” the chef noted. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it gives us a shot.”

Well now, I guess because Bobby Flay has his name on the restaurant, it MUST be good, right?

We’ll reserve judgment once his Burger Palace actually opens in the area, but in the meantime, dude really needs to keep his ego in check.

UPDATE – The Washington Business Journal reports that Flay will be opening his Burger Palace in two area locations. The first will be in College Park, Maryland at The Varsity, a luxury student housing complex. An opening is slated for September 1.

The second location will be located in DC proper at 2121 K Street NW. It is tentatively scheduled to open later this year.

UPDATE IIMetrocurean is reporting that the DC location of Bobby’s Burger Shack is expected to open on Tuesday, August 16.