This is my first entry into Dine & Dish and I figure what a better way to join the fun in the food blogsphere than to enter a contest to be a wanna-be Rachael Ray for a day, by doing my own $40 a day episode in the DC Metro area.
As you may know, I am a relatively new food blogger, so I just came across this contest on Saturday! So I got focused on my own backyar, NoVA - and I was sure that I could hit three of my favorite (and completely different) restaurants: The Royal Restaurant, The Italian Store and 2941 Restaurant, therefore having a very filling and very fabulous 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) on $40 or less.
Breakfast: The Royal Restaurant - $8 (Not including tax and tip)
The royal restaurant is an old town institution and has been around forever - seriously I think they just celebrated their 100 year anniversary in 2004. In fact (if I remember the story on their menu correctly?), it was relocated from the main drag of old town on King street when they re-located the courthouse and city hall right next to each other about 40 years ago. Basically the city government "asked" them to move to their current location, about 8 blocks north, at 734 N. St. Asaph Street.
The food is always being listed as an AOL:City Guide, City Paper or local favorite for breakfast or brunch-and if you are up for true Virginian homestyle breakfast, this is THE place. This is a place of diner quality where everything is relatively clean, homestyle, heavy in portions and full of 'stick to your ribs' goodness.
So for our Rachael Ray Breakfast we put down some, if not all of their buffet features. We are talking made to order waffles and omelettes with all the fixings; Biscuits & Gravy, Grits, Potato Hash (with and without corn beef), scrambled eggs, sausage links, patties, bacon and even (what I think are) krispy kreme doughnuts.
Brunch: Sundays, 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
734 N. St. Asaph Street
(Wyche & St. Asaph in Northern Old Town)
Lunch: The Italian Store - $7 (Not including tax and tip? Don't think they even have a tip jar?)
The Italian store isn't just a neighborhood highlight, it is a DC favorite. An Italian/New Yorkish style deli with all the deli meats, ready to go pastas, pizza, wine, etc. and even the take a number machine when you walk through the door. Yes - that is a Vespa hanging out in front of the store, no Rocco DiSpirto is no where around, but yes, you will find pictures of the owners with famous Italian movie or Capitol Hill stars that have stopped by over the years, like Sandra Bullock and even Sonny Bono.
Their subs are amazing, stuffed with fresh ingredients, a variety of meats and cheeses. The picture I have pasted in this post shows a typical day at the Italian store, with numerous customers waiting for their number to be called. They have fabulous and very East Coast'ish pizza too, and I am not the only one who thinks so.
So - my husband and I utilize a yummy sub for lunch at the Italian Store for our Rachael Ray: $40 a day. I have the tomato, mozzarella basil sub (pictured) and he has the capri sub. My sub is pretty self explanatory with tomato, mozzarella and basil. I do love this sub, a cooking motto of mine is that the simple stuff is often the best stuff. The best part is that they put about $5 worth of mozzarella on it. It isn't buffalo mozzarella, but for a deli and an $7 sandwich, it is relatively good quality, fresh, with big chunks of ripe tomato and a few basil leaves. I complain often to my husband (because I get this sandwich a lot - probably at least once a month, sometimes once a week), that they don't put enough basil on my sandwich, usually only 3-4 leaves. He argues (and I can't disagree) that Basil is a strong herb and what is on the sandwich is how much normal people would like to enjoy, just a hint, taste in the background of their tomato and mozzarella sandwich. I love to taste basil so I always ask them to add more, or I add more myself when I get home, so that the basil is almost like lettuce in a salad. Mmmmmm....Basil.
The Italian Store used to carry things like good truffle oils and some interesting pastas, but alas, I haven't seen any of those things there for several months. They do have a lot of packaged/imported Italian treats and candies through.
The final thing that makes this a very New York'ish style deli is that no one that works there is all that friendly. I've probably dropped a $$$$ bucks on deli sandwiches over the years (and I have only lived in DC since 2001) and I don't know if they have ever said, "thank you for coming by" or "have a nice day". The process is pretty much, take your number, when the number is called, say your order loud and clear and wait patiently to receive your item, then stand in line to pay. I guess it must be nice to be like the soup Nazi, where you don't have to do anything customer service wise to have a successful business.
The Italian Store
3123 Lee Highway
(Lyon Village @ Hwy 29 & Sprout Run)
Dinner: 2941 - $25 (Not including tax and tip)
Well now that we have tested the oldies and the goodies of Northern VA, it is time to experience the best Northern VA has to offer in Fine Dining. 2941 is the best restaurant in Northern VA, if not the best restaurant in the DC metro area. Just check out their list of honorable mentions and awards on their homepage, just too many to mention - but one to note is the RAWM nominating it as the fine dining restaurant of the year - 2005. This is big, considering they usually just nominate the same chefs/restaurants every year, no matter how bad/good their food is. The Chef, Jonathan Krinn is smart, inventive, creative, yet traditional through his dishes. It is great to know we have such a great restaurant here - and he is young, this is his first restaurant and so I am sure Krinn is just getting started.
First, I want to admit I am biased in a way - 2941 is my favorite restaurant - Jonathin Krinn attended my culinary school - several of my school collegues have worked at 2941 (and I will still eat there) - and we have never had a bad meal there. So you are probably saying, how is she going to swing her remaining $25 dollars from her $40 a day budget at the best fine dining establishment in Northern VA? Answer: Easy.
2941 is not cheap, but it is Northern VA, not downtown DC, so not only the dress for the restaurant is different - (business causal), but so are the prices - the cost is generally lower - alas, this could also be accounted for by the fact that the government of DC has a 10% tax on restaurant dining (instead of sales tax)- that the fabulous commonwealth of VA does not. AGH - DC!
Chef Krin started a Tapas on the Terrace option at his restaurant. Just outside the main dining room, there is a patio where you can enjoy tapa style (technically just small portion) entrees. Many of the dishes are from his always changing lunch and dinner menu, but he has also said that he uses it to work on menu ideas. The tapas menu is interesting, and I am not the only one to think so. It is cheaper than ordering courses in the restaurant, but then again, it depends on what you order. My husband and I were quite surprised though, how large the portions were for some dishes. We expected Jaleo size portions, but most of the dishes we ordered were normal 'appetizer size'. This was especially nice for our $40 a day plan!
So what did we have...I had the Radicchio & Baby Arugula Salad ($7) and I shared the Two Mishima Style Cheeseburgers ($14) with my husband. I also did not share with him my Peaches & Champagne ($11) dessert. My huband had the Ocean Treasures (Daily Fish/Shellfish Selection) and the Mishima Style Steak Tartare ($14). We hadn't planned on getting the burgers, but I read this article right before I left and then the waiter mentioned it as his favorite when we were there - and so we splurged - it was so worth it through, those little burgers were the best, delicious, juicy, with marinated cucumbers, zebra heirloom tomatoes, herb'ish bun and yummy meat, that was deliciously enjoyed med-rare. If you go to 2941, you have to get these burgers!
And did I mention we got petit fours as well?
2941 Fairview Park Drive
Falls Church, VA
(in the 2941 building in Fairview where 495 meets 50)
Breakfast: $8 (Full on VA buffet!)
Lunch: $7 (8inch sub with tons of mozz);
Dinner: $25 (Salad AND Dessert at RAMW Nominated fine dining restaurant of the year)
This contest was great - my husband and I got a great day o'meals and I only spent $40 (not including tax and tip - and of course the extra helping of a baby burger!). Thanks Becks & Posh(and The Delicious Life for starting it all) for keying me!