Plenty of Good, Casual Dining (& Drinking) Options on 14th Street

While everyone else was enjoying their last day at the beach and getting their kids ready for the first day of school, G and I went on a dining spree over Labor Day weekend. Okay, we just got lazy and ate out too many days in a row. The upside? We tried several spots on 14th Street (which seems to be just getting “discovered” by the rest of the world), and with experiences fresh in mind, here’s somewhat of a comparison.

First, with all the new spots coming up on 14th, the options are almost endless, so figure out what you’re in the mood for. Also, many of the places do not take reservations so plan ahead and don’t wait until you’re starving to head over.

Posto's gnochetti with kale and walnut pesto

gnochetti with kale and walnut pesto

Of the new places we tried, my favorite was probably Ghibellina, for rustic Italian food. Downside? There are almost as many seats at the bar as at tables. We waited about 10-15 minutes for a table Labor Day weekend on the early side, around 7, enjoying homemade negroni (which G said was delicious) and Sicilian rose at the bar. On a typical night, you can probably expect to wait an hour or more.

The food is good, with nice charcuterie options and small plates. The gnochetti with kale pesto was a standout. The server described it as sweet, but I would say it’s fresh and not overly sauced. The pizza had a thinnish yet chewy crust, our toppings were okay, but overall a nice pairing with our Tuscan red.

The only miss was the braised veal. Don’t get me wrong, it was super tender and slightly scented with allspice. The small dish of stew just seemed a bit out of place, that’s all.

Posto's charcuterie

Posto’s charcuterie

Sticking to casual Italian, I also liked Posto, which G reminded me is in the old Viridian space. Again, good charcuterie, with the bosino cheese a standout. It was a mix of sheep and cow cheese, slightly soft like a brie, but milder. The duck prosciutto and bresaola were also good. The key thing here was the bread basket. Where you might typically get pizza dough style wedges, this had herbs baked in, which was a nice touch.

Pizza was good, a thin crust, which sagged a bit under the weight of the toppings. But those were tasty. The pasta was probably my favorite, a mix of egg and spinach fettuccine, light and airy, with veal ragu.

savory lobster waffle

savory lobster waffle

Across the street, we tried B Too, casual Belgian by the Belga Cafe folks. I love that it’s next to a random store that seemed to be having a sidewalk sale of tupperware and stuff. Very East Village …

While some Yelp reviewers were harsh about the service at B Too, we had a super professional server who was very much on top of everything. The cutest touch on the menu here was the “king’s favorites” which were marked with a crown. I like to think that the King of Belgium named his favorite dishes in a tell-all food interview.

We split the lobster waffle, which had chunks of lobster mixed into the batter and on top. Very tasty and filling – that was generally the theme to B Too.

I had a traditional bowl of mussels, with chorizo and spinach in a cream sauce. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the rich taste, later I didn’t feel quite as happy as when I was dipping the fries into the mussel sauce. Many of the dishes looked great, including G’s steak frites which he loved, just a bit heavy for a late August/early September evening.

We didn’t try dessert at any of our places. Perhaps the consequence of so much dining out. However, we managed to try pre and post dinner drinks at Le Diplomate and Drafting Table, two completely different types of places to wait for your table or transition to post-dinner plans.

At Le Diplomate, Philadelphia restauranteur Stephen Starrs’ first foray into DC, I enjoyed a French rose that was so pale in color it was only blush pink when the glass was sitting on a napkin. A great refreshing glass, as was the South African chenin blanc. Good wine choices presented by a friendly and pleasant bartender bantering with his clientele.

At Drafting Table, the bartender was also super nice, although a bit understaffed on an unusually busy Sunday evening.  But we were happy to sip Peroni and Angry Orchard cider (a taste picked up in Michigan perhaps?) and watch random sports events on the TVs, while unwinding. A good, low key bar, for when you’re in that mood.

If you know what you’re in the mood for, you can find it on 14th Street. Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed by the choices.

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