Food in the city


Pizza, Navajo tacos and lawmakers’ favorite treats from home — Part I of The Hill’s series on regional food weighed in on the lack of good Mexican food and where to find that perfect slice of pizza pie.

Part II of the series continues the quest for regional favorites in the nation’s capital. 

Cuban sandwich, Florida

It’s all about the bread when it comes to an authentic Cuban sandwich. Cuban bread is close to French or Italian bread, but it has more fat in it in the form of lard or shortening. The sandwich consists of roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and dill pickles on Cuban bread, which is then pressed and toasted until the cheese is melted. 

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Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find Cuban bread in the area, making it hard to find authentic sandwiches, but both Fast Gourmet on 14th Street and the El Floridano food truck offer the closest imitations. If you’re not married to the idea of a Cuban sandwich, Mothership restaurant in Petworth offers its own spin on a Cuban sandwich in pizza form, with a mustard béchamel alongside the other standard ingredients. 

Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) also recommends Cubano’s in Silver Spring, saying it has “phenomenal Cuban food.”


Fish tacos, California

There are a thousand variations on a California-style fish taco, but the premise is basically the same: warm corn tortillas, grilled or fried chunks of a white, flaky fish, shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. Depending on the location, some taquerias will add avocado, cheese, or a creamy white sauce. 

District Taco in Arlington, Va., Metro Center or Eastern Market only serves their take on tilapia fish tacos on Tuesdays and Fridays, and weekends at the Metro Center and Capitol Hill locations. Their tacos are topped with the standard cabbage slaw and pico and also with a chipotle-mayonnaise sauce. Plus, you can use their expansive salsa bar to further personalize your taco.   


Pierogi, Pennsylvania and Ohio

These tender stuffed Polish dumplings can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including potatoes, cheese, onions, sauerkraut and cabbage. They can be fried or boiled. 

Bistro Bohem in Shaw serves up a different boiled variety each day, with some recent varieties (aside from the traditional potato and cheese) stuffed with garlic kale, bacon, or wild mushrooms. 

But if you’re craving a Yuengling with your dumplings, check out The Mighty Pint bar on M Street, where they top their fried pierogi with unorthodox items, such as pepperoni and cheese or buffalo sauce. Domku in Petworth also has pierogi, as well as Boundary Road on H Street.


Kolaches, Texas

Bistro Bohem may have been mentioned above for their pierogi, but the cafe also sells kolaches, a Czech pastry filled with fruit. Kolaches are popular in pockets of the country, including parts of Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Oklahoma. 

Bistro Bohem’s cafe varies on the type of filling, though they generally have the traditional poppy seed. Some other recent flavors include strawberry with quark (a European-style cream cheese) and occasionally a savory one filled with spinach and bratwurst. The kolaches are only served in the cafe during the day, but if they have any left over from the morning rush, you can sometimes sweet-talk your server into selling you one for an evening dessert.


Chicago-style hot dog

A Chicago-style hot dog is a meal unto itself: A beef hot dog nestled in a poppy seed bun and topped with yellow mustard, relish, chopped onions, a whole pickle spear, tomatoes, sport peppers and, of course, a smattering of celery salt. 

You can pick up a hot dog from any hot dog cart in the city, though your best bet for a Chicago-style hot dog is the appropriately named ChiDogO’s (which also serves an Italian beef sandwich for those Chicagoians who aren’t hot dog fans). ChiDogOs is located in National Harbor and in College Park, Md. If you’re not up for the trek to the suburbs, DC-3 in Eastern Market can provide your Chicago hot dog lunch needs.


Fried pork tenderloin sandwich, Iowa and Indiana

Take one piece of pork tenderloin and pound it with a meat mallet until thin. Dip it in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, then deep-fry it and serve on a bun with mustard, lettuce, onions, pickles and/or mayonnaise. Now you’ve got the fried pork tenderloin sandwich, popular in the Midwest, specifically in Indiana and Iowa.

It’s a regional food that not many have heard of outside of Middle America. Yet, Ted’s Bulletin in Eastern Market serves a pork cutlet sandwich gussied up with sun-dried tomato mayonnaise and bread and butter pickles on soft white bread that will make you glad to be a Hoosier or an Iowan. Or just glad to have taste buds.


Po’boy, Louisiana

Fried seafood is not a Louisiana original, but stuff it in a crusty bread roll and top it with slaw and remoulade, and you’ve got a po’boy. 

On Saturdays and Sundays, Puddin’ in Eastern Market offers southern favorites like gumbo, shrimp and grits, and bread pudding, but they also offer po’boys with fried oysters, shrimp or catfish. You can also find Puddin’ peddling their Creole delicacies at various farmers markets around the region, including the Fresh Vista Market at the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesdays and the White House FreshFarm Market on Thursdays.


Cincinnati chili, Ohio

Slightly scented with cinnamon and what seems to be an acquired taste for anyone who didn’t grow up eating it, Cincinnati chili can easily be found at any Hard Times Cafe location in and around the Washington Beltway. 

They’ll even serve it to you over spaghetti whatever way you want — three, four or five (or for those not in the know: with cheese; with cheese and onions; or with cheese, onions and beans). The chili isn’t Skyline or Gold Star (Cincinnati chains), but it’s a passable substitute.


Primanti Brothers sandwiches, Pennsylvania

Pittsburghers know that french fries are more than just a side order: They’re a condiment, gracing salads and sandwiches alike. Primanti Brothers takes it a step further, cramming a whole meal into a basic meat sandwich with hot french fries, crisp coleslaw and sometimes even a fried egg.  

The result is a sandwich you have to open your mouth to its widest point to eat. 

Sure, you can grab the ingredients to assemble your own at any basic deli, but Ted’s Bulletin in Eastern Market makes it for you — on top of a burger — with the Pittsburgher. Smash it down with your hand, open wide and prepare to want all your sandwiches topped with fries from this point forward.


White BBQ sauce, Alabama

The barbecue lines in this country have been clearly drawn, and thankfully, you can find most of the regional sauces (sweet red Memphis, thin and spicy Texas, vinegary North Carolina) on local barbecue restaurant tables. 

But white BBQ sauce, a mayonnaise-based sauce from northern Alabama traditionally used on smoked chicken, can be found to the south — though not all the way to Alabama. Dixie Bones BBQ in Woodbridge, Va., offers the creamy sauce on their tables, along with the other major players, to drizzle on any of the meats you choose.


Ale-8 and Hot Browns, Kentucky

Forget food. It’s time to get serious about drinks on this list. Ale-8-One, a soft drink produced in Winchester, Ky., has spawned legions of fans since 1926, whether it’s because of the distinctive green bottles decorated with the retro logo, the muted ginger ale flavor or the boost of caffeine.  

Various places in the D.C. area offer Ale-8-One, including Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.; the summer staple Standard on 14th Street and even the upscale Vidalia provides Ale-8-One as a cocktail mixer (hint: bourbon goes best). 

And speaking of bourbon, Adams Morgan’s Bourbon offers the Louisville favorite The Hot Brown on their weekend brunch menu. An open-faced sandwich created at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, it traditionally consists of turkey and bacon covered in a Mornay sauce, then broiled until crispy.


Emily Goodin contributed.