Jireh Bakery Cafe specializes in traditional and Korean-style pastries, and the staff bakes more than a hundred of them fresh every day. They press custom paninis between freshly baked multigrain bread and dish them out with potato chips, which are what Mr. Potato Head uses during poker. The café offers a panoply of beverage options to accompany the food, from horchata and Korean tea to coffee drinks and bubble tea. Chilly treats of bingsoo ice balls combine shredded ice with fruits, syrups, and red-bean or green-tea ice cream. Jireh's bakers and cake artists even create custom cakes on request. The cozy dining room promotes a calm experience and sends out waves of free WiFi.
The sounds of sputtering grill tops, clattering utensils, and lively conversation fill the dining room at Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill, earning it praise from the Washington Post in 2010 as "one of the most entertaining barbecues around." The menu brims with both familiar and adventurous meats, including pork belly, beef ribs, and pork neck. Diners select a protein-rich spread and watch as the servers sear their orders on solar-heated tableside grills. Although most of the menus revolve around grilled selections, some also feature stews and octopus- or squid-laden servings of chul pan, which Washingtonian magazine called "Korea's answer to Spain's paella." Three of the locations in Ellicott City, Centreville, and Annandale remain open 24 hours a day, six days a week, catering to the late-night crowds.
Little Italy Deli gives patrons a warm, fuzzy feeling with homestyle Italian-American meals. Piled-high sandwiches deliver packages of fresh greens and tomatoes along with prosciutto, smoked turkey, or mozzarella cheese over Italian sausage. Strands of linguini embrace simmered mussels, chicken breast, and tomato sauces, giving them one last hug before they depart to find their destiny on the end of someone's fork. Younger gourmands can check out a kid-friendly menu with spaghetti and meatballs and macaroni, making sure to save room for imported and house-made Italian desserts.
Some men are wedded to whiskey; others will swear by a well-crafted gin cocktail. For Red Rocks Cafe & Tequila Bar owner Robert Evans, however, it’s all about tequila. The agave aficionado keeps his watering hole packed with more than 100 different varieties of tequila, from go-tos such as Jose Cuervo Gold to top-shelf varieties such as Herradura Seleccion Suprema. His bartenders blend these tequilas into a variety of specialty margaritas, including the restaurant’s popular Jimmy Buffett—a sweet mix of coconut, orange juice, and lime.
As bartenders dole out red salt-rimmed glasses of tequila and pints of draft beers, chefs are equally hard at work in the kitchen. They fold fresh seafood, meats, and vegetables into a variety of imaginative Tex-Mex dishes, packing fajitas with barbecue pulled pork, topping tacos in chipotle-infused sour cream, and dousing chicken wings in a serrano chile pepper sauce.
After meals, diners can stick around to play card games and Golden Tee. The eatery hosts regular karaoke nights and open mics, ideal occasions for performers hoping to sing before a live audience or simply to hear what their name sounds like when whispered over and over again into a microphone.
Dragonfly Bistro brings Vietnamese flavors and pop culture to America's capitol. The restaurant's chefs specialize in the country's classic recipes, making 10 distinct types of pho, as well as pork ribs and catfish in clay pots. They follow up savory creations with signature desserts such as cardamom-infused wild black sticky rice and banana sacs—fried bites of fruit filled with sweet cheese and coconut served over a dish of ice cream.
The spacious dining room boasts wide-open hardwood floors, providing ample elbow room and space to lie down for a post-meal nap. After the last drop of pho has been served, the open area transforms into dance floor, where guests can get down to DJ sets and live music.
Nuovo peppers its heavy Mediterranean influence––evidenced from the menu to the decor––with a delicious nod to pan-Asian cuisine. Italian and Spanish dishes explore the flavors of land and sea with lemon risotto and slow-roasted veal or lightly fried shrimp, scallops, squid, and salmon. A library of Asian entrees, meanwhile, chronicles favorites such as pad thai and deep-fried pork, as well as lesser-known dishes such as Korean bibimbap––a rice bowl with steamed veggies, egg, beef, and sauces such as spicy peanut or red pepper.
Across one of Nuovo's walls, monochrome depictions of Italian and Spanish landmarks inspire Old-World flashbacks. On the opposite side a bar hosts flat-screen TVs above an honor guard of bottles. Red-cushioned high seats face a broad line of picture windows, and a pool table engenders healthy competition beside a long squishy couch and a wall of paintings. Diners can also hone their dance steps or help spoons realize their passion for forks with the aid of live music on Friday and flamenco on Saturday.
Korean specialties such as barbecue short ribs, kimchi, and—of course—tofu soup fill the menu at this casual restaurant with outposts in Annandale and Centreville. Among the chefs' crowning offerings are steaming bowls of bi bim bap that cradle bulgogi (Korean-style marinated beef) as well as heaps of bean sprouts, corn, and fried egg. Depending on personal tastes, the spice levels of each dish can be custom calibrated from ultra-mild “white” to three-alarm “spicy spicy.” But not all dishes served here come to the table piping hot, including the cool naegn myun soup, a refreshing summer dish loaded with buckwheat noodles, slices of beef, and hints of Noreaster.