When a server brings the check, something doesn’t compute. My brain’s been trained to think that leaving a meal for two happy and full costs three digits in this city. Only at Shaw’s easygoing Chinese restaurant, Chao Ku, $28 gets you two Miller High Lifes, an appetizer of chilled noodles, and a family-style entree with a name that sounds like it was pulled from pro-wrestling—the Tower of Power.
The ToP comes with wok-fried spare ribs, pork roast that tastes a little like brisket, slow-cooked belly, house pickles, and more condiments than a Chick–fil-A. The atmosphere is convivial, even more so than at a restaurant down the street called Convivial. People talk across the bar, mainly about food gossip, the service is easy (check off what you want like a sushi list), and the atmosphere is cool and quirky. Plus, they recognize how ga-ga D.C. is for takeout, so they have a whole floor dedicated to to-go.
1414 9th St. NW; (202) 319-9375; chaokudc.com
La Jambe is so laid back that an imbiber to my left is playing chess with a bartender who makes his move in between pouring glasses of French rosé. The act is indicative of La Jambe’s anything-goes, stay-a-while attitude. The wine bar and charcuterie haven is from Anastasia Mori, who moved to D.C. from her home country of France in 2013. She’s managed to create a true haven for Francophiles: Pastis, Normandy cider, Jambon de Bayonne, and Fourme d’Ambert (one of France’s oldest cheeses) are all on the menu, not to mention a French wine list that hits every region. Shake a leg and get over there.
1550 7th St. NW; (202) 627-2988; lajambedc.com
SIMIT + SMITH
The bagel ball craze is real, but perhaps more love should be been bestowed on SIMIT + SMITH, which introduced D.C. to a Turkish, bagel-like treat in Georgetown. The ring-shaped breads called Simit hail from anywhere the former Ottoman Empire touched. They make a great vehicle for the simple Simit Sandwich with feta, cheddar, or kasseri cheese, plus tomatoes and dried oregano ($5). All breads are baked in house daily, and the menu also includes soups, salads, wraps, lahmacun flatbreads, and a bevy of Middle Eastern desserts.
1077 Wisconsin Ave. NW; (202) 758-0553; simitandsmith.com