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Photo of Killa Cakes by Darrow Montgomery

2018 is doing a number on many people’s emotional health as the punches keep coming and we attempt to roll with them. Enter aspirational eating—eating foods that make you feel the way you want to feel instead of how you actually feel—befuddled, distraught, enraged, anxious, helpless, or just plain sad. 

We swapped jeans for jeggings and ate our way through the city to bring you 36 immoderate appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Some local chefs have created mountains of grilled meat and towers of fried seafood, offerings so oversized you feel like you’re on the set of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids when they’re served. No one is skimping on the butter, frosting, or ice cream. 

As you collect napkins and sit down to these caloric treasures, remember that you’re not eating these dishes for sustenance, you’re eating them because you damn well deserve it. —Laura Hayes

Stracchino in Carrozza

Dino’s Grotto, 1914 9th St. NW, (202) 686-2966, dinosgrotto.com, $11

“When school lets out, all of the little snack shops make mozzarella in carrozza,” Dino’s Grotto Owner Dean Gold says of the Naples-inspired snack served at his Shaw restautant. “Only the boys eat it and it comes wrapped in newsprint so they can eat it on the way home.” No food should be limited to those with a Y chromosome, especially one as tasty as this cheese and anchovy sandwich that gets coated in egg and fried. The end result is a cross between French toast and grilled cheese. It comes with a spicy tomato sauce for dipping. The Dino’s Grotto version diverges from the traditional by using a more interesting cheese than mozzarella. Stracchino, also known as crescenza, is a soft Italian cheese, similar to brie, made from cow’s milk. If you’re wary of anchovies, worry not. The salty little fish are used sparingly to add an element of umami. —Laura Hayes

Chilaquiles

Taqueria Habanero, 3710 14th St. NW, (202) 722-7700, habanerodc.com, $10

If you’ve never tried chilaquiles, allow us to introduce you to your new obsession: crispy tortilla chips coated with red or green salsa topped with sunny-side-up eggs, diced fresh onion, cilantro, crumbles of queso fresco, and zigzags of crema fresca, which is a lot like sour cream. Taqueria Habanero’s menu highlights the organic eggs used in this dish, and for an extra dose of indulgence, you can add meat for $2 more. Carnivores will not regret adding carnitas to the pile. Spice fiends can get their kicks from the red salsa, which packs more heat, and turn up the flavor even further by opting for Mexican chorizo. The salsa verde is fragrant with tomatillo, cilantro, and garlic. Chef and owner Dio Montero hails from Puebla, Mexico, and just about everything at his restaurant is made from scratch, including the tortillas and salsas. And since tortillas are the backbone of this dish, you’ll thank the kitchen with every crunchy bite for making them fresh instead of ordering bulk bags of sad, cheap imitations from Sysco. —Rina Rapuano

The Waterman’s Platter

The Salt Line, 79 Potomac Ave. SE, (202) 506-2368, thesaltline.com, $30

If fishermen dragged their nets and dropped what they rounded up directly into the deep fryer, you’d get the Waterman’s Platter at The Salt Line. Among the bounty are fish, shrimp, oysters, and scallops. The golden brown platter layers fried food on even more fried food with the addition of onion rings and french fries. Chef Kyle Bailey completes his offering to the oil gods with creamy coleslaw, ketchup, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and lemon wedges. “We ice down the tartar sauce, because what’s better than dipping hot, crispy fried seafood into ice-cold tartar sauce,” he says. This dish is not a one person job. It’s barely a two person job. It’s all hands on deck to polish off the pile while taking in the riverfront views. —Stephanie Rudig

Guava Rum Grilled Oxtails

Spark at Engine 12, 1626 North Capitol St. NW, (202) 299-9128, sparkat12.com, $17

Trinidadian chef Peter Prime has loved oxtails for much of his life. “They’re one of my favorite things my mom makes,” he says. “They have a really special place in my heart.” He serves the succulent wheels of cow tail meat at his Caribbean barbecue restaurant in Bloomingdale. He starts by marinating the oxtails in thyme, culantro, scallions, and garlic. Then they’re seared in brown sugar until they caramelize. For dinner service, Prime finishes the oxtails on the grill and coats them in a not-too-sweet guava rum sauce. The texture is most similar to lamb shanks or short ribs that have stewed overnight. The oxtails are offered a la carte during dinner, so complete your meal with one of Spark’s indulgent sides. Prime recommends the house-smoked cheddar mac n’ cheese. “We call it macaroni pie in Trinidad,” he says. “It’s baked and made with long, bucatini noodles.” For lunch, the oxtails are served in a bowl with coo coo (a corn pudding), callaloo, and pickled peppers. —Laura Hayes

Cookie Dough Pancakes

Fare Well: Bakery Diner Bar, 406 H St. NE, (202) 367-9600, eatfarewell.com, $10

Cookie dough is already the food of the desperate and downtrodden. It’s there for you when the 12 minutes of oven time that lie between raw potential and a fully baked cookie are too long to bear. If only you could slather it like butter on a pancake. Then we’d really be in business. Enter: Fare Well. At this vegan joint serving breakfast all day, you can order a stack of chocolate chip pancakes with a side of vegan cookie dough butter. Combining this understanding, unjudging butter with pancakes—a food that brings you back to the simplicity and youth of your childhood kitchen—is a stroke of genius. While Fare Well’s cookie dough butter looks more like chocolate mousse than the time-honored combination of flour, eggs, and sugar, the taste is true. Surprisingly, the star of the show is neither the pancakes nor the butter. Spoon the accompanying vegan coconut whipped cream onto your flapjacks and eat your feelings with equal measures of nostalgia and sophistication. National affairs and international pancake houses are wrong-side up, but rest assured that all is right at Fare Well. —Will Warren

Laura Hayes

Chicken Skin Dumpling

Spoken English, 1770 Euclid St. NW, (202) 588-0525, thelinehotel.com/dc/venues, $10

Tachinomiyas, standing bars that can be found down narrow, winding alleys or underneath train tracks in Tokyo, inspired Spoken English inside The LINE DC Hotel. Since you’re not seated, consider marching in place as you take in some of the tiny restaurant’s most decadent selections. No meal there is complete without an order of a chicken skin dumpling served with a ginger dipping sauce. To make it, Chef Erik Bruner-Yang has to clean the skin, blanch it, fill it with “seven treasures” sticky rice, steam it, tie it, and deep fry it. The rice contains dried shrimp, salted cod, and Chinese sausage. “That one dumpling takes a lot of work,” he says. It’s worth it. Crispy skin is the best part of the bird. —Laura Hayes

The Everything Croissant

Lil’B Coffee & Eatery, 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, (202) 521-7181, lilbdc.com, $4.50

This croissant from Lil’B is everything. Literally. It’s a cross between a traditional croissant and an everything bagel. “Everything” flavor has been showing up everywhere from doughnuts to ice cream to spice racks lately, but this morning snack has its own unique twist. A classic croissant pastry is piped full of chive cream cheese, and the top is dusted with sesame and poppy seeds. Some breakfast treats are flimsy bites that leave the eater counting down the minutes until lunch time. Not so with this oversized offering. More in the mood for sweet than savory? In addition to plain croissants and pain au chocolat, Lil’B offers another food mash-up, the baklava croissant. —Stephanie Rudig

Laura Hayes

Belly Buster

Fat Pete’s BBQ, 3407 Connecticut Ave. NW, (202) 362-7777, fatpetesbbq.com, $18.99

Barbecue is often a cuisine of excess and peer pressure. Pitmasters coax their customers into polishing off oversized beef ribs the width of Dwayne Johnson’s forearm, or they stack three types of meat on top of bread, calling it a sandwich even though it’s more like a whole cookout on a plate. The Belly Buster at Fat Pete’s BBQ is such a “sandwich.” It contains four types of meat: smoked bologna, half a pound of pulled pork, half a pound of chopped brisket, and candied bacon. The whole thing is topped with generous scoops of mac and cheese and comes with one additional side. Whether you’ve just completed a feat of athletic endurance or just love smoked meat, the Belly Buster is there for you. —Laura Hayes

Gumbo Fries

DC9, 1940 9th St. NW; (202) 483-5000, dc9.club, $8

French fries are pretty damn indulgent on their own, but smothering them in any sort of gravy is a glutton’s nirvana. At DC9, they coat their spud sticks with gumbo. The fries, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, form a great base for soaking up a heavy portion of the house-made chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Take your order to the next level by starting with garlic fries instead and adding pimento cheese, scallions, and jalapeños. The resulting dish is a salty mess of crispy potatoes, sauce, and bites of smoky sausage. Make a meal out of the fries alone or order them alongside a burger. The bar frequently experiments with their fries, recently topping them with crawfish, so if the gumbo fries aren’t on the menu, you’re still in good hands. —Aparna Krishnamoorthy

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie 

All-Purpose Capitol Riverfront, 79 Potomac Ave. SE, (202) 629-1894, allpurposedc.com/locations/capitol-riverfront, $10

After brainstorming warm, crave-worthy desserts with his staff, All-Purpose Chef Mike Friedman decided on a baked-to-order, oversized chocolate chip cookie. Available at the restaurant’s Capitol Riverfront location, the cookie arrives warm and gooey in the ceramic dish it was baked in, adorned with heaps of colorful sprinkles and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. It has a doughy soft center and crisp edges, which are guaranteed to bring back happy memories of eating fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies as a kid. The dessert is large enough to share, but if freshly baked cookies bring out the big eater in you, you can enjoy it alone. —Priya Konings

Darrow Montgomery

The Titanic Ice Cream Sundae

Carmine’s, 425 7th St. NW, (202) 737-7770, carminesnyc.com, $28.95

Were there a dessert to eat as the Titanic sank and Céline Dion crooned “My Heart Will Go On,” this would be it. Carmine’s version of the tragic oceanliner replaces the iceberg with ice cream: five generous scoops of vanilla and chocolate, horizontally stacked on top of a flourless chocolate-torte base. Oh captain, my captain, that’s not all—mounds of whipped cream coat the ice cream and provide a fluffy bed for bite-sized slices of strawberries and candied pineapple. Carmine’s takes this supersized sundae further by sprinkling hazelnuts onto the whipped cream and inserting thin wafers (think Pirouette cookies) so they form “smoke stacks” for the sugary ship. Fudge sauce is drizzled all over the Titanic, and sliced bananas frame it on the plate. The dessert is bigger than some people’s heads, but try not to think about that as you and a suggested five to 10 companions attempt to devour the thing. —Andrew Giambrone

Irish Totchos

The Blaguard, 2003 18th St. NW, (202) 232-9005, blaguarddc.com, $8

If the only thing that can soothe you at the end of a long day is a potato of some kind, settle in at this neighborhood bar. Nothing says “please tuck in, you sad soul” like their Irish Totchos. The kitchen delivers a pile of golden tater tots topped with all of the trappings of a Reuben sandwich: corned beef, cheddar cheese, Jack cheese, sauerkraut, and a drizzle of Thousand Island dressing. It’s an ideal order after a frantic day at work, when you haven’t eaten in hours and need something heavy, but not too greasy, to line your tummy before you go grab drinks. Irish totchos are as essential as biology. —Morgan Baskin

Laura Hayes

Spice Bag

Lucky Buns, 2000 18th St. NW, (202) 506-1713, luckybunsdc.com, $9

Lucky Bun’s interpretation of Dublin’s signature drunk food comes in a brown paper bag that you can rip open like the animal that you are, causing the contents to tumble out. Use your hands to devour chunks of fried chicken, hand-cut fries, pickled red peppers, and stir-fried onions and peppers all coated in a blend of Szechuan peppercorns, Chinese five-spice, and Thai chilies. The chicken is the star. Chef Alex McCoy dredges it in a blend of flours, including rice flour, which gives Korean-style fried chicken its light but crunchy texture. Alternate between dipping the contents of the spice bag into HP Sauce made from vinegar and dried prunes and a brown curry sauce. Consuming one is enough to make you drunk-book an exercise class for the next morning. —Laura Hayes

Brie and Potato Chip Grilled Cheese

Ooey Gooey Crispy, Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE, (202) 538-0739, ooeygooeycrispy.com, $10.75

Consider Ooey Gooey Crispy and its magnificent grilled cheese sandwich bar located inside the main doors of Union Market the next time you’re craving queso. The bar serves build-your-own or specialty takes on the grilled cheese sandwich, a comfort food that tastes as good now as it did in your youth. When it’s been an especially difficult day, order up the brie, truffle butter, and crushed potato chip sandwich. It’s one of the most popular sandwiches and takes indulgence to the extreme. The sandwich oozes with flavors that swing from luxurious to lunch sack. On the elevated side, fancy brie and truffle butter melt in your mouth. Each bite tastes garlicky and buttery. Smashed potato chips give the sandwich slight saltiness and crunch. The whole shebang is grilled to a crisp golden brown in a panini press. —Tim Ebner

Latkes and Liver

Celebrity Delly, 7263A Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, (703) 573-9002, celebritydeliva.com, $7.50/$9

Celebrity Delly + Catering, family-owned for more than 40 years, is located in Graham Park Plaza on Route 50 in Falls Church. Like all great delis it has its quirks, including a “barred conversation list” that includes politics, Ben Affleck, and any Jack Ryan movie. Make your new favorite order a mash-up of two dishes on the menu. Thick Yukon Gold potato pancakes, shaped by hand and bound with a little matzo, are baked before being deep fried to order so the latkes’ interior remains moist while the surface stays salty and crisp. Then slather them with cold chopped chicken liver that’s been cooked in sherry and mixed with hard boiled egg and onions. The chilled spread sinks into the potato crust, cooling it enough to eat immediately with your hands. The chopped liver plate comes with cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, and rye bread. But consider bargaining for two scoops of liver in lieu of the accoutrements. It seems like it would be too much, but it’s never enough. —Jessica Strelitz 

Darrow Montgomery

Coconut Cream Pie

Unconventional Diner, 1207 9th St. NW, (202) 847-0122, unconventionaldiner.com, $8

“This is a very unconventional coconut cream pie,” declares Pastry Chef Ana Deshaies. This makes sense given that it’s served at an upscale diner that seeks to rethink the classics. The Shaw breakout is the brainchild of her husband, Chef David Deshaies, who spent a decade and a half working for Michel Richard. The late legend’s love of playfulness is evident throughout the menu. The coconut cream pie hides its own surprise. The white chocolate amped feuilletine crust made with crushed hazelnuts and cookies crackles like a spoonful of Cap’n Crunch when you bite into it. The fun foundation cradles a thick white chocolate and coconut mousse, the tropical factor turned up by a little coconut rum. A frothy wave of white chocolate whipped cream sweeps across the top, punctuated by shards of white chocolate. It’s not conventional, and that’s a very good thing. —Nevin Martell

Wisconsin Hash Browns for Two

Jackie Lee’s, 116 Kennedy St. NW, (202) 882-4000, jackieleesdc.com, $22

Jackie Lee’s is a place for the relaxed, satisfied, merry, goofy, and hungover. Like the true community pillar it is, the bar takes care of its customers through good times and bad. Drag yourself up to Kennedy Street NW after a wild Friday or Saturday night and you’ll find a panacea for all of your troubles. Of all the ways to arrange potatoes, eggs, and cheese, Chef Peter Kloiber’s Wisconsin hash browns for two stands out. Layers of melted cheddar cheese fully coat four eggs in the center of a plate-sized, inch-thick bed of hash browns cooked until they’re crispy on the outside. The name is deceiving: You’ll want to bring three or four friends and eat it like a deep-dish pizza, slice by slice. The hash browns act as a crust and once the egg yolk mixes with the cheese, each bite is like velvet. The idea behind the dish is simple, but the execution is so spot on it causes fits of spontaneous delight. —Justin Weber

Darrow Montgomery

Meat Mountain

Urban Butcher, 8226 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, (301) 585-5800, urbanbutcher.com, $95

When you order a dish called the Meat Mountain, you expect to be impressed. Weighing in at three pounds, this prodigious pile of protein for two people does just that. “This gives you a chance to try a little of everything we do,” says Chef Raynold Mendizabal. There’s something for every carnivore. Mendizabal dry-ages ribeye from Shenandoah Beef Cooperative and packs it in salt before it’s grilled, giving it its rich and funky umami charm. He roasts pork with Latin spices until it’s tender. Smoked Spanish paprika adds a reddish hue to the grilled chicken drumsticks. Then there are a few links of freshly made sausages ranging from chorizo to chicken curry. Lamb comes however the chef likes it that day. The whole mess of meat arrives on a camping grill powered by burning wood chips to add extra smokiness. Of course, there’s some obligatory vegetables to pair: charred potatoes and grilled broccolini. Chimichurri and horseradish mayonnaise are on the side to dip and dunk in as you see fit. If you and your dining companion can finish it all, you’ll impress yourselves. —Nevin Martell

Gold Plate Special

Crimson Whiskey Bar, 627 H St. NW, (202) 847-4459, crimson-dc.com/#crimson-whiskey-bar, $10

Hiding innocuously on Crimson Whiskey Bar’s Sunday brunch menu full of classic, Creole-inspired options lurks a guilty pleasure hall of famer. The Gold Plate Special features a thick hunk of juicy fried chicken smothered in American cheese and sandwiched on a bun formed from two upside down halves of a glazed rainbow sprinkle donut. The true innovation here is flipping the donut halves—what was once the inside of the donut is now the outside of the sandwich. This allows the “bun” to be toasted to a perfect light crunch with classic grill marks. The glaze turns into a sugary sauce that coats the rest of the ingredients. Its distinct flavors don’t meld as much as smack you in the face one by one, but each bite makes your mouth happy and your arteries angry. —Max Frankel

Laura Hayes

French Toast

Balo Kitchen, 4221 John Marr Drive, Annandale, (703) 559-3602, balokitchen.com, $4.25

Mido Cafe has served French toast in Hong Kong since the 1950s. It’s unlike any French toast in the U.S., unless you visit Annandale’s Asian food hall, The Block. That’s where Balo Kitchen makes Hong Kong-style French toast that’s a dead ringer for the original. A thick slice of brioche is dipped in egg wash, then deep fried. It’s topped with generous amounts of butter, condensed milk, and sea salt. Founder Huy Nguyen recommends visiting neighboring ice cream stall Munch to make the French toast a la mode. Even though it’s only one slice, it’s so rich that you’ll want to recruit a friend to help you polish it off. —Laura Hayes

Spaghetti Sandwich

Bar Elena, 414 H St. NE, (202) 450-3265, barelenadc.com, $12

Considering one of the main ingredients listed in this sandwich’s menu description is “carbs,” you know it’s not here to judge you. Chef Adam Stein says he created it as an homage to the ubiquitous weeknight dinner his working parents pulled together on the fly. He would often pack his spaghetti into a dinner roll and top it with a cold pat of butter. He’s clearly tapped into some sort of shared nostalgia, because the chef says all kinds of diners order this diet-spoiler from middle-aged couples and bros to Millenials who found it on Instagram. “Some people use a knife and a fork, some will tamp it down and eat it like a sandwich,” he says. “It’s become a solid menu item. We can’t really take it off.” Of course, Stein’s chef-y version uses freshly made pasta, grana padano cheese, and a baguette, but he kept one component that’s essential to the cozy memory of family dinners: cold butter. He loves “the play on temperatures” and keeping the butter cool enough to stop it from melting into the bun. —Rina Rapuano

The Lil’ Petey

Bub and Pop’s, 1815 M St. NW, (202) 457-1111, bubandpops.com, $50

D.C. is largely devoid of dishes that double as eating challenges, but Bub and Pop’s serves a sandwich that’s a true dare. The Lil’ Petey, named after Chef Jonathan Taub’s late brother, contains prosciutto, capicola, salami, pepperoni, brisket, aged provolone, fried chicken, potato chips, hoagie relish, arugula, roma tomato, and fried eggs. Sometimes the restaurant will toss in even more ingredients, and if you finish it within 15 minutes, it’s free. Finishers get their picture posted on the wall of fame. “Only five of the 30 people who have ordered it since we opened [in 2013] have finished it,” Taub says. One of them is professional eater Randy Santel. “Every time someone orders it, we put on the Rocky theme song followed by ‘Eye of The Tiger,’” he continues. “We know it’s ridiculously big. Some people tap out.” —Laura Hayes

Darrow Montgomery

Chivito

Taco Bamba, 777 I St. NW, (202) 289-7377, tacobamba.com, $16

The humble chivito has its roots in Uruguay, where it has been named the national sandwich. While makers disagree about exactly what should go in it and how it should be presented, the core elements are grilled steak, a cured pork product, melted cheese, and olives on a bun large enough to hold all those ingredients. The chivito at Taco Bamba’s D.C. location contains those components plus a fried egg, refried beans, mortadella, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. It is a protein-packed monster meal that overwhelms your taste receptors and forces you to contort your mouth awkwardly just to take a bite. One chivito weighs more than a pound and recently sated three City Paper staff members and a dog. Despite the size and diversity of ingredients, the whole thing comes together in rich, sloppy, satisfying bites that will leave you full for days and help you discover important life lessons, like how skirt steak tastes even better when slathered in pork juice. —Caroline Jones

Sichuan Beef Nachos

Archipelago, 1201 U St. NW, (202) 627-0794, archipelagobardc.com, $14

The menu at Archipelago will take whatever feelings you’re coping with and transform them into the full-sleepy-peaceful state that happy families achieve on Christmas. Archipelago can move you to the same mental and physical place in July with its tiki drinks and appetizers, no matter if you need an escape from your family, your career, your love life, or your country. To get to your end goal—in bed with a smile—start with Sichuan beef nachos, which come out looking like a Jenga tower of tortilla chips. The nachos taste like none other, with spiced ground beef, red pepper relish, jalapeños, and sour cream. You have to eat from the top to keep the construction from falling apart, but the structure nearly guarantees ground beef in every bite. If you eat up, you’re bound to run into a Sichuan pepper, which will leave your mouth a little numb and tingly—an excellent final touch. —Alexa Mills

Tony’s Breakfast Club

Brookland’s Finest, 3126 12th St. NE, (202) 636-0050, brooklandsfinest.com, $14

On the weekend brunch menu at Brookland’s Finest, diners will find the grand champion of breakfast sandwiches. Tony’s Breakfast Club features French toast stuffed with bacon, Taylor pork roll, cheddar cheese scrambled eggs, and Dijon mustard maple syrup. Chef Shannon Troncoso named the gratifying plate after her business partner, Tony Tomelden. While Tomelden grew up in the neighborhood, his wife is from New Jersey, which explains the addition of the Garden State’s famed Taylor pork roll. “I added a salad as a joke because it’s such an unhealthy sandwich,” Troncoso says. “Tony doesn’t eat vegetables, so it’s also me making fun of him.” —Laura Hayes

Penne alla Vodka Pizza

Wiseguy Pizza, multiple locations, wiseguypizza.com, $4.39/slice

Let’s get one thing out of the way—if you want New York pizza, go to New York. But if you don’t have time for a five-hour bus ride because you have a righteous hangover and need to feed the beast immediately, head down to Wise Guys in Chinatown, Foggy Bottom, or Rosslyn for what most Washingtonians agree is the closest thing we can get to Big Apple slices here in the DMV. The line-up of pies includes everything from a humble Margherita to a fancy-pants mushroom truffle with goat cheese. But if you’re looking to satisfy a physical or metaphorical hunger, order a slice or two of the penne alla vodka pizza. The culinary and engineering marvel allows you to say yes to pizza and pasta simultaneously. It’s as straightforward as it sounds: a crust topped with penne, vodka sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan. It’s gooey, carby, tomatoey, and so perfect that you’ll wonder why you never thought of this combo before. For those extra rough days, go ahead and add an order of garlic knots. Take ’em home and cue up your saddest Spotify playlist. —Rina Rapuano

Laura Hayes

Tequeños

Arepa House DC, 2120 18th St. NW, (202) 588-0511, no website

$2.95 for one/$7.95 for five mini sticks

These Venezuelan cheese sticks, a staple at any party, vanish quickly when they hit your table at Arepa House DC in Adams Morgan. They can best be described as mozzarella sticks with an egg roll wrapper. The recipe calls for queso blanco, a slightly tangy and pleasingly salty cheese. Many Venezuelans serve them with guacamole for dipping, but Arepa House opts for a creamy cilantro sauce instead. If there’s one complaint, it’s that these bad boys aren’t waiting for you after last call at bars in the area. The basement eatery closes at 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. —Laura Hayes

Crab Fries with a Side of Chicken Wings

Cheers at the Big Chair, 2122 Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE, (202) 678-3738, cheersatthebigchair.com, $14

Cheers at the Big Chair is a quintessential neighborhood soul food joint. Located across the street from the famous landmark it’s named for, Cheers is an unpretentious eatery that delivers generous portions, melt-in-your-mouth flavor, and loads of Southeast D.C. hospitality. The crab fries with a side of chicken wings are among the charmer’s signature dishes. The chef pours a mix of lump crab meat coated in a creamy sauce with a hint of Old Bay over golden brown french fries. Shyne, a host who greets everyone warmly at the door, suggests trying the sweet Thai chili wings and they are equally delectable—juicy, savory, and seasoned to perfection. The alcoholic drink menu is short but robust, and most of the cocktails’ titles have distinctively local flair: “Ward 8 Passion,” “Anacostia River,” and a tribute to Marion Barry, “Mayor for Life.” —Sidney Thomas 

Brisket Breakfast Burrito

Sloppy Mama’s, 1942 11th St. NW, (202) 232-6590, sloppymamas.com, $9.99

Hangovers usually come in one of two varieties—a pounding headache cured within hours by Advil and water or an all-out assault on the body that puts you near death’s door. For the latter, you’re going to need a breakfast burrito from Sloppy Mama’s. Your protein options, including bacon, smoked pork, and crispy tofu, are plentiful, but the burrito that sets itself apart is the smoked brisket option. When combined with scrambled eggs, french fries, your choice of salsa verde or salsa roja, and cheese, it packs a one-two-three punch of starch, smoke, and spice to bring you back to life. Since your hangover will prevent you from leaving the couch, order online. These burritos are only available on UberEats and Postmates from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. daily. —Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner

Pancake Burger

EatBar, 415 8th St. SE, (202) 847-4827, eat-bar.com, $12

You can call it a stroke of genius or simply a common-sense approach to eating two meals in one, but last year chef and butcher Nate Anda introduced Capitol Hill to a new type of burger bun—the pancake. The pancake burger showed up on EatBar’s brunch menu after debuting more than a year ago at the now-shuttered Red Apron Burger Bar in Dupont Circle. Despite the closure and move, love for this hybrid hasn’t flamed out. First, there’s the all-American breakfast of two golden flapjacks slathered in maple butter. In between them is a perfectly cooked Angus beef burger patty, topped with melted American cheese and a sunny-side-up egg. While news about our nation might seem particularly dark these days, the pancake burger stands tall and proud as an example of American exceptionalism at its best. —Tim Ebner

The Funky Chicken

Cheesetique, multiple locations, cheesetique.com, $14

If you’re in the mood to be comforted by food, the funky chicken sandwich at Cheesetique takes you from bleak to bright. A hearty bit of grub, it stars crisp buttermilk fried chicken topped with odorous yet creamy Morbier cheese, caper aioli, lettuce, and crushed rosemary kettle chips on French bread. The buttery moisture of the aioli and the crispiness of the chicken and chips hits you first, with the rosemary giving the sandwich an unexpected woodsy taste. You can get it with mixed greens, more rosemary chips, or upgrade to a side of “Mac ’N Cheesetique.” You know what to do. Best of all, it’s a lot of sandwich, so unless you can devour it all, you’ll have some for later. These are trying times, and really, aren’t all times trying? As my father always says, “In times that try you, get your ass a sandwich.” —Kayla Randall

Darrow Montgomery

Big Donkey Burger

Quarry House Tavern, 8401 Georgia Ave., Basement, Silver Spring, (301) 844-5504, facebook.com/quarryhouse, $19

To eat a burger at Silver Spring’s Quarry House Tavern is to go back to a simpler time, when bars didn’t need fancy sound systems or decor intended to serve as a selfie backdrop. All you needed was a jukebox and some vinyl-covered booths. Through fire and flood, the classic dive has remained pretty much the same, a neighborhood hangout where you can enjoy a meal with family, friends, or a first date. Eating the Quarry House’s Big Donkey Burger, an intimidating pile of two beef patties, bacon, cheddar, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and onion served between two grilled cheese sandwiches, allows you to connect with the bar more intensely. It’s a place where excess is welcomed, where you can sing too loudly, have a few too many drinks, find room for another order of perfect tater tots, or eat a burger that features three forms of melted cheese. Taking a bite of the Big Donkey proves physically challenging for us humans with hinged jaws and consuming it in its entirety is likely frowned upon by anyone with a medical degree. Too bad. Sometimes self-care takes the form of an artery-clogging sandwich, a cold beer, and an eyes-closed Van Morrison sing-along. —Caroline Jones

Happy Camper

Buttercream Bakeshop, 1250 9th St. NW, (202) 735-0102, buttercreamdc.com, $3.50

S’mores are a perfect treat but they come with the unfortunate necessity of live fire that isn’t always compatible with city living. Buttercream Bakeshop takes the interactive childhood dessert and makes it more convenient by capturing all of its flavors in an easy-to-eat bar. A crispy graham cracker crumble forms the base, which is topped with fudge made from chocolate ganache and honey-vanilla marshmallow fluff. It’s one of the Shaw bakery’s biggest sellers, probably because of the bliss that comes with biting down through three distinct layers and the nostalgia that hits when it touches your tongue. —Laura Hayes

Laura Hayes

Lox’d & Loaded Bloody Mary

Buffalo & Bergen, Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE, (202) 543-2549, buffalobergendc.com, $19.50

You get a free shot if you can eat the bagel sandwich capping this Bloody Mary without taking the bagel off the retro soda fountain glass. The Lox’d & Loaded features a tongue-tingling Bloody Mary and an everything bagel stuffed with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, and red onion. If you’re feeling extra unkosher, you can pay to add bacon. The eatery inside Union Market estimates that it sells about 10 to 15 orders on Saturdays and Sundays. It can be contagious. Once one person orders one, others fall in line. Buffalo & Bergen receives shipments of its bagel dough from New York. The bagels are freshly topped and baked several times a day for maximum freshness you can taste. —Laura Hayes

Truffle Mac and Cheese

Duke’s Grocery, 1513 17th St. NW, (202) 733-5623, dukesgrocery.com, $13

This mac and cheese is not for the CrossFit crowd. The Duke’s Grocery dish comes in a modest cast-iron skillet, but don’t let its size fool you. Thick shells give sturdy support to a hefty amount of sharp white and mild cheddar cheeses, flavored with truffle oil. While waiting for the mac and cheese to cool, admire its golden crown and the way the cheese has risen to the brim of the skillet, like a well executed soufflé. To up your shell game, ask for bacon crumbles. Duke’s doesn’t skimp on them, and you will rest satisfied recalling why cheese and meat are the two most important food groups. —Andrew Giambrone

Millionaire Malt

Ted’s Bulletin, multiple locations, tedsbulletin.com, $19.99

Presented in a tall, fluted glass, this shake comes with malt powder and vanilla ice cream loaded with a shot of 18-year-old Glenlivet Scotch. It makes a dramatic entrance topped with whipped cream and shimmery gold sugar sprinkles. The flavor of booze grows stronger as you reach the bottom of the glass and the lingering raw sugar in the final sip yields a satisfying crunch. This milkshake is worth the trip for a pleasurable end to a long week. —Michelle Goldchain