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.
When Sonny Abraham took a job at his father's restaurant, he assumed it would be a temporary arrangement until he received his pilot's license. But it was amid the hot suds of soapy dishes and the clatter of pots and pans that he fell in love with the restaurant industry and began dreaming of starting a fine-dining establishment of his own. In pursuit of his new dream, Sonny secured culinary positions at upscale hotels throughout Washington, DC, even traveling to Switzerland to work in a high-end kitchen. Ten years later, Sonny captains the kitchen of his own restaurant, Brasserie Monte Carlo.
Inside the restaurant, which was very recently REAL certified by the United States Healthful Food Council, Sonny whips up French Mediterranean dishes with housemade sauces and herbs from his own garden. The chef often delivers the still-sizzling dishes to the dining room himself, where diners await their meals over glasses of fine wine. A vivid mural sweeps across one wall, depicting typical scenes from Monte Carlo, from French sunbathers tanning on a beach to an ex-car-insurance salesman working on his first attempt at a romance novel, Even Car-Insurance Salesmen Fall in Love.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery?s name from ?Athenian Taverna? to ?Lebanese Taverna? so that they only had to update one word on the eatery?s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service caf?s, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare?all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
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.