For the Hoang family, opening Pho 14 was a dream come true. Owner Tommy was inspired by his mother, Nga, who grew up in a small town in Vietnam, where she became well-known for her culinary skill, especially with vegetarian dishes. She and her husband hoped to one day open a family restaurant where she could share her talents with others, but their dream was dashed when he was taken prisoner at the end of the Vietnam War. By the time the couple was reunited more than four years later, their plans to open a restaurant had become a distant memory. Today, Nga's passion for cooking has been reignited at Pho 14, where diners feast on authentic Vietnamese dishes inspired by her recipes. There are steaming bowls of pho, of course, brimming with tender rice noodles and garnished with bean sprouts, hot peppers, and fresh basil leaves. Banh xeo (Vietnamese crepes) are rolled up with shrimp and green onions and served with a homemade fish sauce, while five types of spring rolls help get meals off to a delicious start.
Sticky Fingers has made its name as a 100% vegan bakery, but its goodies are a treat for everyone. Of course, the Columbia Heights sweet shop is best known for its homemade cakes and cupcakes, but it also has an extensive sandwich menu, while a vegan brunch is served on weekends and gluten-free options are also available. The shop has a nice retro vibe, with an old-school, glass cupcake display case, vintage wall decor and a super friendly staff. And if that woman behind the counter looks familiar, it’s because she has appeared and won several times on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
Though a dessert display case, rustic wooden tables, and exposed-brick walls ground this eatery's casual neighborhood appeal, the food at Lillies remains decidedly upscale but still approachable. A team of chefs draw from Italian culinary traditions when crafting Mediterranean seasonal dishes?including gourmet pastas, roasted lamb, and gourmet eggs benedict?trumped up with demi-glaces and aiolis. Bartenders concoct cocktails and martinis in between pouring international beers and wine to complement the cuisine's distinctive flavors. During warmer months, guests can enjoy their meals on the patio, where Mediterranean touches, including indigo mosaic-tiled tables and olive-oil waterfalls, reflect the cuisine?s heritage.
TAAN Noodles is a modern homage to traditional izakayas (sake bars) and ramen shops. The Adams-Morgan spot has found ways to present unexpected ingredients into the classic Japanese soup.
Hunting for the Perfect Ramen
Ramen is served at tens of thousands of eateries throughout the world, but there's something special about the version at TAAN Noodles. Part of the secret lies in chef Michael Than's signature spice blend. Aficionados are also drawn by Than's use of unique ingredients?garlic chips show up in a vegan ramen with soy-milk broth, for instance, and pickled cucumbers add an acidic tang to the duck-confit ramen with scallions.
Japan's Rice Wines & Aged Spirits
TAAN Noodles' sake list hits a range of flavor profiles, with bottles that range from dry to semi-sweet. There are a few specialty cocktails as well, such as the old-fashioned-like Dr. Sun Yat-sen, made from 12-year-aged Japanese whiskey, simple syrup, and aromatic bitters.
The counter staff at Amsterdam Falafel Shop fries their signature fare right before your eyes and hands you your sandwich roughly three minutes after ordering. But it’s a collaborative process. After that, you can head to the garnish bar and dress the deep-fried chickpea balls any way you like, ladling, scooping, and drizzling on any of the 21 garnishes, pickles, and sauces to craft a meal that’s customized to your taste buds or those of the roommate living off your crumbs. And, in the Dutch tradition, the shop also serves fries that may be jazzed up with a choice of dressings, including dutch mayo, homemade peanut ‘saus,’ malt vinegar, and Old Bay seasoning.