Futoshi “Tao” Takazato got his first gig working at a sushi restaurant when he was 24 years old. From the start, he was mesmerized by how fish could be transformed into a colorful, delicious piece of art. It took Tao six months of practicing and learning before he’d make sushi for a customer; it took him five years to actually feel comfortable doing it. Eventually, Tao graduated to head chef. Rather than marking the occasion by etching an oven mitt into his driver's license, he decided it was time to open his own restaurant, and Maneki Neko was born.
Translated, Maneki Neko means “beckoning cat.” In Japan, a waving cat is a symbol of good fortune. In fact, the image is often propped up in the windows of businesses as a way to welcome customers inside. A similarly welcoming atmosphere pervades Maneki Neko, with staff members reaching a first-name basis with regular customers and customers who bring in notarized copies of their birth certificates. Niceties aside, it’s the cooking that turns first-time guests into regular visitors. Tao and his staff specialize in sushi, but they also craft other traditional Japanese dishes. They create savory pancakes called okonomiyaki and sauté pork with noodles to form the Okinawa Soba entree.
Red Hot & Blue draws from many corners of the Southern map to bring together a mix of classic barbecue and traditional southern fare served amid an array of handpicked blues memorabilia. Red Hot & Blue cooks top-quality meats atop a smoky bed of hickory logs where relatively low temperatures and long cooking times infuse eats with succulence. The meaty mélange encompasses three ways to order ribs ($22.99 for a full slab, $15.99 for a half-slab): wet, slathered with mojo mild barbecue sauce; dry, rubbed with a blend of Memphis-style spices; or sweet, dripping with a more-sugary sauce and a never-ending stream of compliments.
Hailed by The Washington Post and The Washingtonian, Mad Fox Brewing marries carefully brewed libations with toothsome cuisine served amid rich wooden décor and along a 63-foot-long bar. Mad Fox's succulent menu twists traditional pub fare into nuanced and hearty noshes. Patrons perched atop cushy leather barstools can tuck into entrees lovingly crafted with fresh ingredients that are often locally sourced. Inhale a breath of Louisiana with Shrimp & Grits, which blends smoked gouda and Cajun-spiced tomato fondue ($18) or savor the aquatic aromas wafting from the blackened tuna ($22), which ducks under cover of lemon-butter sauce so it may use potato straws to shoot spitballs at its rival entrees. Arriving in 11-inch and 16-inch, and gluten-free disk form, pizzas support toppings that include apple-wood-smoked bacon and black mission figs ($10+), and sandwiches nestle burgers ($10+) and herbivorous bundles ($8) in their bready embrace.
Vegetarians and meat-lovers alike savor the seductive seasonings infused into Panjshir's array of distinctive Afghan dishes. Herbaceous hankerings subside with the seib chalow's apples and seeded afghan prunes, baked with tomato sauce, walnuts, and split peas and served with white rice ($9.95/lunch, $11.95/dinner). The kebab-e-gaow entree skewers spice-and-garlic-marinated beef alongside a bed of saffron rice ($10.95/lunch, $14.95/dinner). Sips of steaming Afghan-style cardamom tea ($2.95) tempt caged tongues to run off for a bout of soul-searching on enlivening spice-trade routes. Savory voyages sweeten with honey-basking baklava ($4.95) or hand-forged chocolate firnee pudding ($4.95). Diners sup, sample, and share in the warmly hued dining room, decorated with rich reds and mirrors that instantly replay your edible journey.
Since 1950—when it was still known as simply Frozen Custard—staff members at Frozen Dairy Bar and Boardwalk Pizza have applied themselves to the daily task of mixing five custard flavors. In addition to pleasing generations of adoring customers, this dedication earned them a mention in The Washington Post in 2009. Richer than regular ice cream because of its higher butterfat content, slower production times, and well-maintained trust fund, their custard comes in classic vanilla and chocolate as well as a rotating flavor of the day that has, in the past, included mango with diced fresh mango and coconut-and-peanut-butter-fudge swirl packed with pieces of brownie.
In 2007, the owners added New York style pizza to the menu, continuing the tradition of making their menu items fresh each day with hand-tossed dough made from scratch, crowned with fresh toppings, and baked to order in a stone pizza oven. The specialty pies such as Popeye’s favorite—adorned with spinach, roasted red peppers, and eggplant—join fellow Italian specialties such as sub sandwiches served on toasted bread and pasta entrees including baked ziti.