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If you’re craving something crunchy or salty, turn to some of the best fried snacks in the D.C. area. The chefs behind them take their cues from everywhere from the Bahamas and Trinidad to Iraq, India, and Italy. None of them are French fries, but potatoes still get a lot of play. Batter up.
Conch Fritters at Bammy’s ($12)
301 Water St. SE, Suite 115, (202) 599-4400, bammysdc.com
Most of the food at Bammy’s takes inspiration by Jamaican cuisine, but co-chefs Chris Morgan and Gerald Addison had to include Bahamian conch fritters on their menu. After conducting research and chatting with Bahamian friends, the pair came up with a recipe that calls for finely chopped white conch, a mix of sweet red and scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, white onion, garlic, thyme, flour, baking soda, and egg as a binder. They take some liberties, like adding curry powder, for a punch of flavor and color. “It’s our most popular menu item,” Morgan says. “We’ve gotten a lot of conch first-timers.” The Navy Yard restaurant serves the fritters with allspice mayo sweetened with cassava syrup and a lime for squeezing on top. Bammy’s is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.
Basket of Tots with Bacon and Cheese at Quarry House Tavern ($8.25)
8401 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, (301) 844-5380, quarryhousetavern.com
Ordering this appetizer in the subterranean refuge that is Quarry House Tavern feels like going home. This is a dish a non-cook could try to pass off as dinner if the responsibility fell on their shoulders, at least in some households. The crispy tots are blanketed with gooey cheese and finely chopped bacon morsels that are better than any bits you can buy at the store. The plating on aluminum foil is appropriate. Quarry House is open daily from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Kubbat Halab at The Green Zone ($7)
2226 18th St. NW, thegreenzonedc.com
The owner of D.C.’s Middle Eastern cocktail bar, Chris Francke, says kubba typically fill trays at dinner parties in Iraq, where guests can grab a couple as they pass by. He has family from Baghdad. Kubba are not unlike kibbeh, which appear throughout the Levant, except the pointy spheres filled with ground beef and lamb are coated in crunchy rice shells instead of bulgur wheat. If you’ve sampled the crispy rice at the bottom of a tahdig or a paella, the outer casing of these kubbat halab have the same snap. The Green Zone cooks the rice in water and turmeric, giving it a golden color. They’re fried to order and served with tangy labneh. The Green Zone is open Sundays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Latke Doughnut at Rogi ($5)
Ballston Quarter Food Hall, 4238 Wilson Blvd. #145, Arlington, (703) 550-6220, eatrogi.com
The last time we sung Rogi’s praises, it was for their pastrami pierogi. At the time, the food stand inside Ballston Quarter went by another name—Zofia’s Kitchen. Fortunately, the latke doughnut carried over to the newly titled business run by Chef Edward Hardy. It looks a little bit more like a scraggly bundt cake than a doughnut because of its girth, but if you love latkes, this is a must try. Hardy makes it out of shredded potatoes and onions and serves it with lemon-dill sour cream. If you want more of a kick, ask for the horseradish sour cream instead. Rogi is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cuoppo Misto at Stellina ($16)
Multiple locations, (202) 851-3995, stellinapizzeria.com
While preparing to open the first Stellina near Union Market, chef and partner Matteo Venini traveled to Puglia and the little villages of Italy’s Amalfi coast to taste his way through the region’s bountiful seafood. There, you can buy fried food in paper cones. Give in to Stellina’s version of a cuoppo misto with fried calamari, shell-on shrimp, octopus, lemon, and potato chips. Dunk each morsel in salsa di agrumi, a citrus-based sauce with grapefruit, lemon, and orange. The D.C. location of Stellina is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.
Pommes Soufflé at Dauphine’s ($7)
1100 15th St. NW, (202) 758-3785, dauphinesdc.com
The pommes soufflé at Dauphine’s is a dish that doesn’t last long. Order it at the new downtown restaurant and watch how quickly the puffed potato ovals disappear after a swish through béarnaise sauce. Chefs Kristen Essig and Kyle Bailey toyed with the technique until they got close to how historic New Orleans’ restaurants like Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, and Arnaud’s serve it. “We had diagrams and sheets of paper and 18 piles of potatoes cut to 10 different widths and lengths,” Essig told City Paper earlier this year. Dauphine’s is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m.
Fritelle di Alghe Marine at Lupo Pizzeria ($12)
1908 14th St. NW, (202) 506-6137, lupopizzeriadc.com
“I like to have a couple gourmand items for people who like to take risks,” says Lupo Pizzeria executive chef and partner Juan Olivera. One of them is a plate of savory seaweed doughnuts served with a sauce combining two umami-forward ingredients: tomatoes and dashi. “It’s not for everybody because some people haven’t eaten seaweed in their whole life.” They’re definitely worth a try at the 14th Street NW newcomer. Olivera is from Uruguay, where seaweed buñuelos are sold on the beach. He fuses his memories with a traditional Neapolitan fritelle, which can be sweet or savory. Instead of using kombu or sheets of nori, Olivera folds seaweed salad into the yeasted fried dough balls. Lupo Pizzeria is open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Confit Duck Croquettes at St. Vincent Wine ($15)
3212 Georgia Ave. NW, (202) 413-9763, stvincentwine.com
How much does D.C love Chef Joel Hatton’s duck croquettes? He says he goes through 30 pounds of duck legs a week to keep up with demand at the sprawling Park View wine bar. Hatton cures them with coriander, bay leaf, fennel, and salt for two days. Then he confits the duck legs in the oven before pulling meat from bone and mixing in an Aleppo pepper and nutmeg-spiced bechamel sauce made with duck fat instead of butter. The real magic of the croquettes appears when you cut into them and Cowgirl Creamery‘s triple cream Mt. Tam cheese oozes out. St. Vincent serves them with salsa verde made with anchovies, capers, vinegar, garlic, and whatever herbs are in season. If you don’t like duck, try the brisket version. St. Vincent is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturdays from noon to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.
Batata Tots at Yellow ($11)
1346 4th St. SE, (202) 921-9592, yellowthecafe.com
Are these the most labor intensive tots in the city? All signs point to yes. Each tot is a tower of uniformly sliced potatoes that become a dense snack ideal for dipping in chili mayo flavored with urfa—a Turkish pepper. Chef Michael Rafidi achieves uniform thinness by using a mandolin. Then he takes the potato slices and tosses them in shawarma spice, garlic, and butter before laying them on a tray to bake. When they exit the oven, Rafidi presses and chills them. They’re cubed and fried to order, then sprinkled with even more shawarma spice. You might need to enlist a friend to finish an order. Yellow, the sister cafe to Albi in Navy Yard, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Good Stuff Eatery’s Fried Vidalia Onion Petals ($3.95)
Multiple locations, (202) 543-8222, goodstuffeatery.com
Rings are cool, but have you had petals? Good Stuff Eatery dredges delicate strips of Vidalia onions in flour spiced with Old Bay, cumin, brown sugar, and a few other spices. Then it’s into an egg mixture that also contains beer and buttermilk before a trip to the fryer. The petals don’t come with any dipping sauces because they’re flavorful on their own. Vidalia onions are known for their sweetness. But if you want an extra pop of flavor, ask for some “Good Stuff” sauce. The Capitol Hill location is open daily from noon to 9 p.m.
Pholourie at Cane ($5)
403 H St. NE, (202) 675-2011, cane-dc.com
These yolk-yellow orbs from H Street NE’s Trinidadian restaurant are a delight when dipped into the accompanying tamarind chutney, but you can also use them to soak up Cane’s various curries. Chef Peter Prime makes his light and airy pholourie using channa or chickpea batter. He flavors them with turmeric and a “house green seasoning” comprised of scallions, chives, culantro, peppers, thyme, and garlic. By way of India, pholourie can also be found in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname. Cane is open for dine-in service Mondays through Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. Takeout and delivery are available Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tempura Special at Izakaya Seki ($11.50)
1117 V St. NW, no phone, sekidc.com
The hunt for the best tempura in D.C. ends at Izakaya Seki where the batter is impossibly light and grease is but a whisper. The father-daughter team behind the Japanese pub off U Street NW seems to find model specimens of whatever vegetables are currently in season. Savor the dashi dipping sauce that accompanies the pile of veggies because it’s equally delicate. Izakaya Seki is open for dine-in service Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Takeout is available Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Garam Garam Pakora at Bombay Street Food ($8)
Multiple locations, (202) 758-2415, bombaystreetfood.us
There are a couple pakora options at both locations of Bombay Street Food. Swing for the spiky garam garam vegetable fritters that are fried to a deep golden brown. The restaurant lists them in the “monsoon” section of the menu because they’re typically eaten in South Asia as a comfort food during the rainy season. Owner Asad Sheikh says he makes them out of spiced chickpea batter and a medley of cauliflower, onions, potatoes, and bell peppers. The Columbia Heights location is open for lunch Mondays through Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. Dinner is served Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10:30 p.m.