Cooking began as a hobby for Reda Asaad. Along with his wife Nadia, the local Arabic teacher would often host barbecues for friends and students, feeding the masses with dishes such as his signature grilled chicken with a marinade of aromatic Middle Eastern spices. After friends and students alike continued to insist that the couple open a restaurant and share their recipes with the public, the Asaads founded Bistro LaZeez. They never lost sight of their cuisine’s backyard barbecue roots, though. As Reda explained to The Washington Post, “what I cook in the restaurant is what I cook at home.”
Garlic, coriander, cilantro, turmeric, and cardamom appear throughout the menu and reinforce its Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origins. In addition to roasting kebabs, all-natural lamb and tender beef, Reda still prepares his signature antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken dishes, which helped Bistro LaZeez earn a nod on Bethesda Magazine's 2013 list of 25 Favorite Ethnic Restaurants as well as win the magazine's 2010 award for Best Grilled Chicken. The selection also includes vegetarian items—such as traditional falafel and hummus—as well as a number of gluten-free dishes.
Although the menu is steeped in classic, homespun tradition, Bistro LaZeez’s dining room appears to embrace a more modern ambiance, complete with clean lines and a simple color scheme. Dark walnut chairs and olive green banquettes flank the room’s tables, which complement the neutral earth tones of the walls. Three small crystal chandeliers hang above the booth-lined wall, casting their light across the white marble bar and the sandy tiled floors.
To say Capital Teas’ founders, Manelle and Peter Martino, know tea might be a bit of an understatement. Fifth-generation tea merchant Manelle’s great-great-grandfather, Francis Van Reyk, was a Dutch tea planter who immigrated in the 1870s to present-day Sri Lanka, where he planted and managed the Diyagama Tea Estate, from which the Martinos now source their Great Grandfather’s tea. Manelle’s family has been in the tea trade ever since, a tradition she has carried to her own specialty tea business, which has boutique locations throughout the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland area. Additionally, Peter has become a popular speaker at World Tea Expos, where he frequently educates and inspires the tea world.
In addition to tea from Sri Lanka, Capital Teas carries more than 200 loose teas and herbal infusions from 18 countries including India, China, Japan, Malawi, and Kenya. A sniffing wall dispenses wafts of black, oolong, and green teas, and knowledgeable employees drift around the store’s tasting stations to explain each flavor’s nuances.
Capital Teas also pairs customers with accompaniments such as teapots, infusers, treats, and artisanal honey. In-store patrons may sample free tea samples—which are brewed fresh daily—while online purchasers receive a free sample with every order.
Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
At this authentic South American steak house, customers never want for options. The menu of Argentinean meats and seafood is buttressed by a selection of more than 30 hot and cold tapas and a colossal wine and martini list of international libations. The sips cool overexcited taste buds and pair with lauded entrees such as the parrilla of bone-in short ribs, singled out by Washingtonian as one of Bethesda's greatest dishes. Popular seafood platters arrive in the form of whole lobsters, accompanied by enough seafood paella to sate two diners. To ensure that their sizzling meats are shared with the masses, chefs can also export the fare to private bashes or teddy-bear picnics with catering services.
The eatery's décor reflects its exotic eats: spotlights set orange walls ablaze and highlight paintings more colorful than a Rubik's cube hidden in jello. Clusters of leather couches exude a casual air, providing a sleek contrast to the chic table settings and white linens at booths and tables. Proving that elegance needn't be fussy, customers can also master dance steps at milonga lessons on Wednesdays or host parties in the space almost every day of the week.:m]]
BGR The Burger Joint’s burgers start with high-quality ingredients—most importantly, all-natural beef from grain-fed cattle, free to run in the fields and given zero hormones, fillers, or antibiotics. The prime beef is dry-aged, blended, and ground fresh to form patties that are grilled over an open flame, and then placed atop buttery, locally made brioche buns delivered fresh each day. The menu focuses on the Legendary Burger, which includes gourmet toppings such as avocado, applewood bacon, and grilled jalapenos. For nonbeef eaters, the menu's selection of burgers also includes turkey and veggie varieties, as well as The Greek, a seasoned lamb patty topped with tzatziki and feta. Burgers are also available in a lettuce wrap or on a salad in a healthy salad bowl.
Diners can request all of BGR The Burger Joint's freshly made fries—from thick-cut yukon gold potatoes to asparagus fries—be topped with parmesan, rosemary, roasted garlic, or a tiny tiara. The staff hand-spins shakes with Gifford's or Breyers ice cream to create extra-thick treats for finishing off meals, and some shops curate their own selection of bottled vintage sodas and offer beer and wine.
Perhaps it was his own voyage across the Atlantic Ocean as a child that inspired Italian chef Tony Marciante's seafood-heavy menu at his eponymous restaurant. Broiled scallops, jumbo shrimp, pure-lump crab cake, cod, and freshwater trout populate the dinner selection, making the filet mignon, chicken scaloppini, and vegetable medley stand out. In his entrees, Chef Tony aims to use sustainable seafood and produce, organic meats, and artisan foods when possible, so the menu changes regularly to correspond with what is in season. The kitchen also accommodates those adhering to gluten-free or vegan diets and those who have never gotten over the scary asparagus scene in Jaws. As soft jazz music plays and colorful lights twinkle over cloth-covered tables, Chef Tony Restaurant easily shifts from a bustling dinner scene to a lunch and Sunday-morning brunch spot. Bartenders pour bottomless mimosas for early-morning eaters, and complimentary WiFi keeps businesspeople from talking noisily on their tin-can phones.