Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.
At The Pollo Factory, three generations’ worth of Peruvian-cooking expertise infuses dishes such as crispy fried yucca and plantains, savory chicken, and ocean-fresh ceviche with years of cherished tradition. The scent of roasting la brasa chicken sends stomachs into quivering, hungry rumbles, and the sight of endlessly swirling rotisserie skewers hypnotizes eyes. Shellfish and squid mingle with zesty citrus marinades on plates of ceviche as scallop paella blends presentation and flavor with colorful yellow rice, red pepper, and green parsley. Other Peruvian specialties such as imported choclo corn, marinated beef-heart kebabs, and olive-stuffed tamales introduce taste buds to new horizons.
Take three Thai friends with extensive knowledge of their native land's cuisine and drop them in suburban D.C. with a mission to reach the area's urban exiles, and you get something like My Thai Place. The restaurant is a seamless blend of the traditional and the contemporary: diners savor Thai dishes inspired by homemade recipes among sophisticated design elements such as high-backed wall booths and an ornamental chandelier. Servers in black ties usher over the popular chicken pad thai, which pairs well with drinks made by the skillful mixologists who stand behind the blue-lit bar or levitate above it on days when gravity is light.
Forno specializes in authentic Italian fare, summoning up the flavor and finesse of the old country with each fresh-made bite. The hand-tossed Neapolitan pizzas take the crusted crown among Forno's foragers, with fresh herbs and ingredients slow-dancing with tantalizing toppings in a brick-oven prom chaperoned by watchful flames. Try a 16-inch Pugliese pizza ($20), topped with sausage and broccoli, or maintain the meat-and-veggie motif with the salami and roasted bell-pepper toppings of a 16-inch Sopressata pizza ($23). All bread and dough is baked fresh daily at Forno. In the spirit of traditional Italian communal dining, the restaurant offers its pasta dishes in both single and family portions—lone rangers can get the potato gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese and spinach for themselves ($11.50), or split a family portion to feed up to three fellow diners ($39). Among appetizers, Forno's white bean and Italian sausage stew ($9), with roasted garlic and fresh herbs, has earned a fervent following, and dessert die-hards can conclude dinner with tiramisu ($6.50) or a cannoli ($6).
At Let's Dish!, families select healthy, hearty meals to eat at home without having to dedicate valuable time to planning, shopping, or preparation. After placing an order online, patrons stop by the shop at a scheduled time to assemble dishes that are made from fresh ingredients, customized to taste, and then, like Sleeping Beauty, frozen to prevent them from aging. Meal menus rotate monthly and include homestyle selections, such as pork tenderloin, New Orleans–style andouille pasta toss and santorini chicken kabobs with summer orzo salad. The preassembled Dish-n-Dash entrees allow for speedy pickup service, freeing families to spend more quality bonding time sorting the mail by size and color.
In their quest to create time-honored South Asian dishes with 21st-century sensibilities, Sitara Indian Cuisine's chefs never sacrifice the flavors that make those dishes so distinctive. The rich aromas of ginger, garlic, cumin, fennel seeds, and roasting meats fill the restaurant's dining room, giving guests an enticing preview of what is to come.
Meanwhile, the chefs keep busy by cooking a slew of classic entrees inspired by culinary traditions from virtually every corner of India. In addition to marinating chicken in yogurt overnight before they bake it in a Northern-style tandoor, they embrace Southern recipes, as evidenced by dishes such as the puffed bread with chickpea curry. Spicy lamb vindaloo, wok-fried basmati rice with mixed vegetables, and buttery naan help round out the menu's selection of iconic Indian dishes.
Tangerine-orange walls surround the dining room's scattered assortment of dark wooden chairs and simple, cozy tables. Only a handful of set pieces adorn these walls, including eclectic artwork, ornately framed mirrors, and abstractly designed thermostats. Pendant lamps and cylindrical lanterns hang from the ceiling, gently casting their glow across the slate-gray floors that run from the front door to the bar and buffet areas.