They’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

The Washington Nationals are going to the World Series!!!

It’s a sentence that seemed so far away, in the early days of terrible teams playing in their temporary home at RFK Stadium. I still loved going to watch them play in that dump of a stadium, just because baseball was here, in DC. But man, there were some bad teams. Some guys (Alfonso Soriano, Dmitri Young, Adam Dunn) stopped in for a quick visit to reboot their careers. Some guys (Nook Logan, Nyjer Morgan) seemed to have so much potential only to fizzle out.

Then there are the ones that I wish could have been a part of this. Brad Wilkerson, my favorite player that first year, traded to the Rangers for Soriano. Nick Johnson, oft injured but a “professional baseball player” in every sense. Chad Cordero, the Chief, and bright spot in dark days. Ian Desmond, anchor of the infield for years. Michael Morse, who brought fun to the park. Jayson Werth, who signed when it seemed like no free agents wanted to come to DC. Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard, and rubber-armed Livan Hernandez.

It goes without saying that I am most happy for the franchise player, Ryan Zimmerman. Even in those early days when I still went to Nationals games to see them play my beloved Yankees, I couldn’t help but cheer for him walking it off on Father’s Day in 2006. He’s been through everything with this team, and he deserves it more than anyone.

You may be wondering, “What if the Yankees make the World Series too, who will you root for?” The Yankees were my team growing up, I was born in New York, and I loved watching them my whole life. But DC is my home now. The Nationals are my team. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Chuck Brown, DC Institution

I can now check off another unique DC institution from my list: I have now seen Chuck Brown, the Godfather of go-go, perform live in concert. Chuck Brown has been performing for decades around the DC music scene, doing his unique blend of funk and jazz and continuous drum beats. Yesterday, he was performing for free at the Reston Festival, and the wife and kids were out of town, so I decided to ride my bike up to go see him play. What a show! The wall of sound hits you from the first note and never lets up (I felt bad for the conga and drum players, who never got a break in the late afternoon heat). The crowd was predominately African-American, but everyone was into the groove and chanting along, “Wind me up, Chuck!” It really was a great show, and I admire the guy for performing at such a high level into his 70s. I can’t describe how glad I am that I was finally able to catch his show. Awesome.

Short Long Weekend

I don’t feel quite as drained as I usually do after a long weekend. We definitely packed a lot into the weekend, but somehow I must have gotten just enough sleep to get by.
On Friday morning, we headed up to Wolf Trap to watch some flamenco dancers, which was pretty cool. We also went shopping to get me some sandals. Who knew it would be so hard to find a freaking pair of comfortable sandals? I tried on literally a dozen pairs and found none that I liked. More on that later.
Saturday we got up early and went to the farmers market for breakfast and shopping. Then we headed up to Fairfax to watch their parade. Parking was easier than I expected, but finding a spot to sit even 30 minutes before the parade was trickier. We eventually found a spot which turned out to be a great spot to watch. Later on, we went to the pool, had some root beer floats, went back to the pool, and had BBQ beef for dinner. The town fireworks this year were right down the street from our house, but we had a friend who lives right across the river from where the big DC fireworks go off, so we decided to try that for a change. And now we can say we’ve done it and never do it again. I should mention that the view of the fireworks was freaking spectacular (you can see my blurry cell phone pic here, the Washington Monument is that whitish blur just below and to the left of the fireworks), and we were far enough away that the noise didn’t freak the kids out. But getting out of Rosslyn was another story. Our first mistake was trying to wait out the crowds getting back to the Metro. When we got to the station, they were holding people outside the station because the platform was too crowded. Our second mistake was not taking the bus to East Falls Church that was pulling out as we arrived. If we had done that, we would have gotten to the relatively empty East Falls Church station and gotten on easily. Instead, we ended up walking up to Court House, which was further and more uphill than we had expected. We got into the station without problem, but the trains were all still full! We got lucky and a few people got off one of the trains, and we squeezed on and finally got home around 11:30.
We slept in on Sunday, which ended up being a very cool gray day, totally unlike what you would expect for July 5th. We went miniature golfing, which with a 5 and 2 year old is really quite entertaining. Afterward, we stopped by Hudson Trail Outfitters to look for sandals again. This time, I found some Keen Newport H2 sandals that I liked and bought. I was torn between those and the open toed ones, but went with the versatility of the closed toe, thinking I might take short hikes with them. They felt really comfortable at the store too. But when I got home, they weren’t as comfy. My toes felt pinched, so I might have gotten a size too small. Regardless, they’re going back to the store for a bigger size, or maybe the open toed ones.
Finally, the coup de grace. Evan woke up from his nap acting very cranky, so we had to drag him to his buddy’s birthday party. Five minutes in, we found out why he was cranky as he threw up all over the floor. Ugh. I took him back home and we snuggled and watched Tiger win his tournament, and he seemed to be feeling better by the time Lisa and Ellie got back home. Still, not exactly a great way to end the day, but at least he managed to miss the brand new sandals!
There’s only a few more days to help me win a Madsen, so click on the link and help me out!

Best New York Deli in DC

I figured I had to specify New York deli as opposed to another kind of deli, but really, is there another kind of deli? I’m talking about the place you go to get a big-ass sandwich filled with more meat than anyone should possibly consume in one sitting. They have to have real bagels, and bonus points for matzo ball soup. In this area, there’s only one place to get all this and more: Chutzpah Deli.
I spent one summer working in New York City, and if there was one thing I missed, it was walking to the corner deli (any corner!) and getting a sandwich overflowing with corned beef or pastrami. On rye bread, with mustard. You want mayo? Gedouttahere!!! In fact, Chutzpah even warns you against mayo on the menu, you can’t get more New York than that. And they’re not going to put a couple of slices of meat on your sandwich like, shudder, Subway. Nope, you’re getting the real deal, the heart attack on a plate, baby.
If you go, I highly recommend the “Fuggedaboudit”: Hot corned beef and pastrami with a schmear of chopped liver on grilled rye with melted swiss, cole slaw and Russian dressing. You won’t be able to finish it, guaranteed. Couple that with an egg cream, and you are good to go. Man, I am making myself hungry over here! You can also get any of their meat and cheese sliced to go, and their awesome bagels come in from New York!
There you go. The best New York deli, heck, the best deli in the DC area. Two locations in Fairfax and Tysons Corner.

Best Pizza in DC

Church Street Pizza. No contest. It’s not even worth listing runners-up. Church Street has the crust, the cheese, everything you want from a real New York pizza. The only downside? Everyone else loves it too, so odds are, they’re going to be busy. Well worth the wait!
OK, I lied, I will list one runner-up: Two Amys Pizza in Woodley/Cleveland Park. Good Neopolitan wood-fired pizza with interesting toppings (real mozzarella, for one).

Best Burger in DC

By now, many people have seen Obama on CNN stopping by various DC area restaurants for lunch. During the campaign, he went to Ben’s Chili Bowl. In recent weeks, he’s been to Ray’s Hell Burger and Five Guys. Then, I noticed Shane participating in a Twitter discussion on the best burger in KC. This, in addition to my recent post on hating ketchup (sidebar: I recently replaced Evan’s ketchup with BBQ sauce for chicken nuggets, and he didn’t even realize I had switched! Muhahahaha!), inspired me to start a new series of posts on “Brian’s Best of DC.” Well, the DC area at least. First up is obviously the best burger in DC.
There have been many contests and polls on the best burger lately. Ray’s is a name that comes up often. I’ve been there once, and it was a damn good burger, second on my personal list. EatBar won Washingtonian’s poll, but I haven’t been there yet. Five Guys is a chain that started here, and has a big local following, but I like them for their fries more than the little burgers. Elevation gets the organic, grass-fed crowd in a tizzy, but again, their burgers are too small for me to really get into the flavor of the meat.
I prefer a bigger, juicy burger you can order medium rare, and they actually cook it that way. So for my money, I’m going to Big Buns. They lightly season their big angus beef burgers, and have a wide range of toppings, should you be so inclined. But I have found that you can leave it plain, and it is plenty tasty all on its own. They also have killer sweet potato fries and shakes.
There you have it, my vote for best burger in the DC area. Feel free to chime in with your own favorites, or the favorite from your hometown.
In future installments, look for my take on best deli, pizza, and more.

Burger Brackets

Oh snap! In addition to the aforementioned Beer Madness, Washingtonian magazine is kicking it up a notch with their Burger Brackets, a battle to determine the best burger in the DC area. I was appalled to see they didn’t include my current favorite, Big Buns in Ballston. The strange thing was that they did include Fuddrucker’s (my own most HATED burger joint), which isn’t even really a Washington area place.  Update: Reading back through their posts, it seems that they may have a whole second part of the bracket yet to be unveiled!  So these are only 16 of the 32 entrants.  Oh damn, it is on now!
At any rate, it should be quite a battle. I don’t know if they seeded the entrants, because somehow Five Guys and Ray’s Hell Burger are facing off in the second round, which, given both places’ rabid fans, is likely to produce the overall winner. If nothing else though, they have given me a list of places to sneak off to for Friday lunch.