Whether you’re traveling from out of town and want a dose of a little bit of everything DC has to offer in a couple of hours, or a DC metro dweller, Carpe DC Food Tours is a great way to explore several local fares in a short amount of time at an affordable price.
I’ve lived in the DC Metro area now for a little over 10 years now and absolutely loved this tour. I took a dive into the U Street Corridor Tour and learned so much of what I’ve missed over the years. These tours are intimate groups of about 6-8 people with a knowledgeable tour guide who patiently gives you the historical background of the area you’re exploring. Each tour package offers a minimum of 4 restaurants, food samplings from each restaurant, and an alcohol pairing add-on option. And the best part is that a portion of each ticket sale goes to local charity, Bread for the City.
Living in the DC area for all of these years, you often forget how rich in history and art this city really holds. Being so focused on the fact that politics seems to run this town, it’s often easy to overlook the beauty that encapsulates the city.
So here’s the rundown of my U Street Food Tour:
Ben’s Next Door
Ok, so it’s pretty much a sacrilege for a Washingtonian to not have tried Ben’s Chili Bowl at least once in their lifetime. Ben’s Chili Bowl is a family-run DC icon dating back to 1958 and is still operating in the same location to this day. So it’s not a surprise that Ben’s Next Door is first stop on the tour.
Ben’s Next Door is the sports bar version of the original Ben’s Chili Bowl, located right next door. They offer the menu favorites from the restaurant next door along with an extended slightly upper scale cuisine. At this location you could come watch sports team on the big screens, scarf down a classic half smoke and wash it down with a local brew. What can I say about this place? It never disappoints.
Next stop was an Ethiopian restaurant, Duken Ethiophian. Ethiopian cuisine has been popping up all over the metro area and becoming a popular trend.
This was my first time trying Ethiopian food and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. We had a vegetarian platter of yellow peas, collard greens, red lentils, and a fresh tomato salad. I’m by no means a vegetarian and this dish was deeply satisfying. The beef tips were incredibly seasoned. And after this tour stop, I won’t be hesitant to try out another Ethiopian restaurant again.
Glen’s Garden Market
Now I will be the first to admit, I thought that this was an odd stop on the tour. I thought to myself, why in the world would we stop at a market?
We came in and sat around the deli counter and were given cups of Kale and Apple Salad. I dislike raw kale. It’s not my favorite green. Turn them into chips, bake them, sauté them—OK. But a plate full of raw kale, I say no thank you.
Boy was I wrong…this had to be the best salad I’ve ever had. The kale mixed with sweet crunchy apples and picked radish drenched in a pumpkin seed dressing—sinfully good. I bought a tub of it and horded it at home. This market is a great locally sourced, organic market with an amazing deli. A gem I would’ve never guessed to stop in if not for this tour stop.
Calabash Tea & Cafe
Last stop on the tour and I was sad to see it come to an end was the perfect ending to a perfect Sunday afternoon. Again, this was a cafe I would’ve never thought to make a pit stop at if not for this tour. It’s a little bit off the beaten path in the Shaw neighborhood away from the hustle and bustle of U Street.
I love tea so it’s really no wonder that I really enjoyed the chai here. There are a number of different “potion” mixtures that are brewed in accordance to your ailments or your needs. This cafe’s belief is that food is healing. Have a cold, they’ll have the tea remedy to help you. The Love Potion was full of rich flavors and I need to stop here to catch my breath because I can’t believe it myself–they offer vegan and gluten free chocolate chip cookies. My first thought is … um no thank you. But they serve it to you WARM and holy guacamole it was the best cookie I’ve ever had. It didn’t taste like stale cardboard.
So overall, this was an incredible experience. My first food tour (first tour ever) of DC and I want more. And a special thanks to our incredible tour guide, Laura. I’ve learned so much about this fair city I now call home.
Editor’s Notes: Glen’s has a good and affordable beer selection, indoor and outdoor seating, and tons of interesting options, including hot food. Callabash makes great herbal tea blends; I usually buy two bags of Rescue Me at a time in the winter to take home. -JAY