The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Wok-Fried Soft Shell Crab

soft shell crab at sea side crab shack
Perhaps the best thing I ever ate: seaside crab shack’s fried crab

Inspired by the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I’m creating the DC version. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing someone gush on about a dish that you can’t actually have (unless you are willing to drive to Tuson or fly to Tokyo, that is). So I’m creating my own blog version, and it’s full of dishes that are easy access to anyone in the DC metro area.  First up:

Seaside Crab House
Dish: Wok-Fried Soft Shell Crab

Seaside Crab House is a Vietnamese restaurant in Fall Church’s Edan Center. If you aren’t familiar with Edan Center, get familiar. It has the best banh mi sandwiches and bubble tea/smoothies around. It is also like being in foreign country (Vietnam, if you want to be specific), so restless travelers (like myself) can get a little dose of an international vacation without leaving the beltway.

Best dish aside, this restaurant is awesome. It has three of my favorite things: cheap seafood, outdoor seating and beer by the pitcher.  It specializes in all types of seafood, including crawfish, which it sells by the bag and boiled in ginger and garlic. All their dishes are delicious and reasonably-priced. The grilled clams are especially good.

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What’s Taking So Long? Is it Yelp’s Fault?

People bashed us on Yelp

The Yelp button no one wants. Thanks Photoshop!

I have done a lot of complaining both online (here and here) and offline about restaurants that take way too long to open. Every time the news breaks that a new bar, restaurant, coffee shop etc. is coming to Alexandria, the owner sets an approximate opening date. “Before Christmas,” they say. Or “early spring,” another promises. The store front is renovated, the “help wanted” sign goes up, everything appears to be ready…. but why is it not open!? The promised opening flies by and anticipation turns into irritation.

I proposing a theory. I know nothing about running a restaurant, but it’s America, and I can spout off my unfounded ideas if I want to.

I’m blaming it on Yelp. The website and mobile app has alerted me to countless new dining options, weened me off guidebooks and helped this chronically indecisive diner figure out what to order. However, I now think it’s time for it to shoulder some blame.

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New Openings (and re-openings) in Alexandria

 

Society Fair in Alexandria Va.

Coming soon to Old Town

Society Fair the bakery/cheese shop/restaurant/wine store/bar owned by the people behind Old Town establishments Restaurant Eve, PX and Eamonn’s is opening very soon. The “real press” over at Huffington Post got an inside scoop a few weeks ago, which you can check out here.  I am of course excited for any addition to my neighborhood restaurant scene, but the article makes the whole endeavor sounds very mining company store-ish. They plan to sell the products (i.e. bread, sauces, marinades) they make in the restaurants and even serve diners of their “test kitchen” dishes made with products from the market.

I can’t decide if it’s going to become my new quirky Old Town hangout or come off as an elaborate, fully-staffed advertisement for the company’s flagship Restaurant Eve.  Well, we are going to find out soon! Their Facebook page announced Society Fair is hiring and appears to be opening in the next week or so.

Evening Star Re-opens

Speaking of quirky hangouts, my Evening Star Cafe is open again on Thursday.  “The Star” as it’s affectionately called around the neighborhood, closed for renovation a few weeks ago, and the staff have been steadily blogging the progress.  Now, it’s re-opening on Thursday evening with a new chef, who promises southern accents in every dish.

The restaurant section of The Star is may be back, but I’m a bit concerned about the bar.  I’m hoping it wasn’t demolished to make room for a bigger dining room. However, this shot of the new beer taps looks promising.

A sign of the end: Pork Barrel BBQ opens its doors

Was it worth the wait?

It is difficult to believe (read my skepticism here), but Del Ray’s Pork Barrel BBQ is finally opening. Tonight!  But I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. Get the details  (and watch a video) here and here.

After all that wait, it sounds like delicious (if typical) BBQ joint:

Their 500lb-capacity “Southern Pride” smoker’ll be spitting out 12hr brisket, 10hr pulled pork, and 5hr chicken and spare ribs (plus sausages, but their cook time is unimpressive), all of which can be served by the pound, in sandwiches, or plated with sides like smoked mac & cheese.

Well, with Pork Barrel opening, I guess I’m going to have to find a new Alexandria restaurant to obsess over. There’s always the Evening Star Cafe renovation. According the website, that is due to reopen any day now. Famous last words!

Is Pork Barrel BBQ finally opening?

Logo for pork barrelll BBQ

The elusive Pork Barrel pig

As someone who obsessively watches my neighborhood restaurant scene, the maddeningly slow construction of 2342 Mt. Vernon Avenue frustrates me to no end. The building crews broke ground  soon after I moved to my old apartment in Del Ray. Rumors had it that Pork Barrel BBQ was opening at the end of summer, then by Christmas, then by Memorial Day, then by late fall, then by spring…. until I’ve been waiting two years now.  I’ve managed to get married and buy a house in nearby Huntington in the time that crew has installed flooring and light fixtures.

But for Alexandria BBQ fans there is a new, promising development! The restaurant finally appears complete, and a call went out on the Del Ray community association board for staff. They are hiring, say the restaurant owners.

As it turns out that Pork Barrel won’t be the restaurant I was imagining, though. It will be “fast casual”  (think Chipotle, Noodles and Co.) with counter service and self seating.  Reads the email:

Pork Barrel BBQ is a new, upcoming, concept located in the Del Ray Neighborhood of Alexandria. This ” Fast Casual” counter service BBQ Joint also boasts a long neighborhood style bar. We are currently looking for help…

But as everyone who has ever looked for a job knows, the hiring (and training) process can be maddeningly slow.  While I want to imagine myself eating a pulled pork sandwich with a jazzy version of  “Deck the Halls” playing the background, I also don’t want to get my hopes up.  So here’s to, um, “early spring”!