The Best and the Worst of DC, MD, and VA

Almost all of these were places I went to when I lived in DC from 5/1993 to 7/1997, so things might have changed somewhat (I also have added a couple of places during my visits there so there might be some inconsistencies).

This is a page dedicated to exposing all the lame places in and around the Washington DC metropolitan area, and give some deserved kudos to those establishments that make this a great place to live. I also list places that've not gotten their act together completely, but are not in the dumps either. For each place, I give reasons as to why I think it belongs in that particular category. Note that this is only our opinion, and should be taken as such. All the places listed here have had at least two opportunities to present themselves to me. The categories include:


Food and drink

The Best

Ambrosia: Greek food on Rockville Pike, MD
Great gyros. They only accept cash.
Bob's Famous Homemade Ice Cream: Light fare located in Bethesda, MD
This place has possibly the best ice cream in the area and they play some awesome music.
Bombay Grill: Indian food in Baltimore, MD
The food is very good but the service is incredibly slow. The first visit was amazing but we were less than impressed with the second. If you don't mind waiting for your food, check this place out.
Cactus Grill: Tex-mex on Rockville Pike, MD
Fairly decent food. They have this cool tortilla making machine.
Cafe Tel Aviv: Food from Israel in Bethesda, MD
Great kabobs, live music (Israeli pop?), and really hot and spicy green and red sauce. Make sure you ask for the sauce; it'll surely enhance your meal.
Chopstick: Chinese food in Muddy Branch Plaza, Shady Grove, MD
The food is cooked fresh and served hot. The service is quick and the place is spotless.
Clyde's: Excellent bar in Georgetown, DC
One of the coolest places in Georgetown with a great vibe!
Dave & Buster's: American food and fun at White Flint Mall, MD
The service is a bit slow and the food is okay, but the game room, which includes virtual reality, a casino, pool tables, and other games, make this is a fun place to hang out.
Eagle's Nest: Light fare on The American University campus, DC
This place has the best muffins in the area.
East Peking Restaurant: Muslim Chinese restaurant in Gaithersburg, MD
Great spicy food, quick service, and huge portions!
Felix Restaurant and Bar: Bar on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, DC
Nice atmosphere though it can be somewhat of a meat market.
Faskisas Ethiopian: Ethiopian food on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan, DC
Excellent Ethiopian food!
Fuddruckers: American fast food on Rockville Pike, MD
Great food, cooked fast with a variety of fresh topping available.
Haandi: Fine Indian cuisine in Bethesda, MD
This place has great food and excellent service. I've been there many many times and every single time, the waiters have been attentive, the food has been great, and it has been served fast.
Hamburger Hamlet: American cuisine on Wisconsin Ave. in Friendship Heights, DC
(They have gone out of business, but we wish to remember them as they once were.) The food is/was outstanding, as are/were the drink sizes.
Hard Rock Cafe: American food in downtown DC
Tasty food accompanied by great music and atmosphere.
Meskreem: Ethiopian food in Adams Morgan, DC
Authentic Ethiopian food, fast service, and a variety in choice.
Metro Dhaba: Indian food near Shady Grove Metro, DC
Very authentic "dhaba"-like atmosphere, cheap and good food.
Nathans: Food and drink in Georgetown, DC
Decent place to get some food or drinks.
Pizzeria Uno: Pizza and a little of everything in Bethesda, MD
Their pizza is out of this world and the atmosphere is great.
Planet Hollywood: American cuisine in downtown DC
The atmosphere is amazing and I've never had to wait more than ten minutes for a table.
Potowmack Landing Restaurant: American cuisine on the Potomac river in DC
Great views of the river as well as planes taking off and landing from the National Airport. The service is okay.
Rainbow: West African cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD
Excellent West African food cooked by a Ghanese chef, which is a rarity in most other parts of the world.
Sam's Brewhouse: Eatery in the Reagan-National Airport, DC
Decent place to stop and get a drink.
Sangam Restaurant: Indian restaurant on Glebe Road in Arlington, VA
Pretty good Indian food.
Schezuan Gallery: Chinese food in the heart of Chinatown.
The food is fantastic and the service is first-rate.
Sheraton National: American food in Arlington, VA
The restaurant/bar for this hotel is quite decent.
Spinnakers: American food in Lake Forest Mall
The food is good and the atmosphere is quite inviting. Try their flower pot bread, the smell is enough to make you hungry.
Subway: Fast food submarine sandwiches in Bethesda, MD
Basic fare but served quickly and in a clean environment.
The Rhino Bar and Pumphouse: Bar in Georgetown, DC
Decent place to get a drink.
Village Green: Aremenian food in Montgomery Village, MD
Great kabobs and rice; cheap food.
Wendy's: American fast food on 355.
The best french fries out there and the home of the Frosty.
Zio's: Italian food off Shady Grove Road, MD
Great souvlaki and pizza!

The Wafflers

Aangan: Indian food in Bethesda, MD
Expensive, semi-decent food. Nice atmosphere. Not the best Indian restaurant you could pick.
American City Diner: American diner food in Bethesda, MD
The good part is that they are open 24 hours and have a really cool jukebox that you can requests songs off from your table. The bad part is that the food is a little greasy and the service isn't always top notch.
Bombay Bistro: Indian food in Rockville, MD
Decent food, decent atmosphere. The buffet is a good deal.
Burger King: American fast food on Route 28 near Travilla Road.
Fast is not always better.
Cactus Cantina: Mexican food on Wisconsin Ave in DC
The food is alright, but not very spicy. The atmosphere is nothing thrilling. The service was fast and the prices are not too bad.
Denny's Resturant: American food located in Gaithersburg, MD
The food is usally good but the service can be extremely slow. They also charged too large of a tip onto my credit card once (accident or not?).
El Zunzal: Mexican and Salvadorian food in Falls Church, Virginia.
The food is nothing to rave about, but you do get free chips and salsa.
Friendly's Resturant: American food and ice cream.
Decent food, great ice cream, but no Tabasco!
Front Page: Bar on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, VA
Decent bar with an okay crowd.
Front Page: Bar on New Hampshire Avenue NW in Dupont Circle, DC
Excellent bar with a pretty good crowd.
International House of Pancakes (IHOP): breakfast 24 hours a day on 355 in Gaithersburg, MD
More expensize than Denny's but the food is decent and served quickly.
McDonalds: Tenleytown on Wisconsin.
The food is typical but there is NO parking. Whose brilliant idea was this?
Ruby Tuesday: American food on 355 near White Flint
The food is pretty good but not outstanding.
Ruby Tuesday: American food near the Ballston Metro
The food is pretty good but not outstanding.
Taco Bell: Fast food Mexican on US Rt 1. in College Park, MD
This place isn't the cleanest in the world.
Taco Bell: Mexican fast food on Rockville Pike, MD
Standard fare as far as fast food goes, but quick and clean. (The place has been moved down to waffler level because at the last visit the woman at the counter claimed that we ordered something we did not order and did not do anything helpful to remedy the situation. Rudeness will not be tolerated.)
Tandoor/Madurai: on M street in Georgetown.
Portions are kinda small but the food itself was adequate. Down side: they did not accept credit cards.
Udupi: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine in College Park, MD
The food was incredible the first time but round two left a bit to be desired.

The Worst

Hamburger Hamlet: American fare in the Rio complex, Gaithersburg, MD
The food is alright but the wait is what puts it in the worst category.
Taco Bell: Fast food Mexican in the Engineering building of University of Maryland at College Park.
This place doesn't package its burritos properly, and misses out on sour cream every once in a while.
Taco Bell: Fast food Mexican on Annapolis Rd (rt. 450), MD
This is the slowest Taco Bell I've been to.

Tourist attractions

The Best

Federal Bureau of Investigation on the Metro yellow or green line (Archives/Navy Memorial)
Although we don't agree with everything they do they offer a great firearms exhibit and demonstration. You should check this out to see if you can spot any secret agents in your tour group. Free.
Kennedy Centre in downtown DC
High class atmosphere. Good for mainstream theatre.
The Mall on the Metro blue line (Smithsonian) in downtown DC
Great place to hang out and people watch. A must see for all visitors to the nation's capitol, complete with the reflecting pool and great views of most of Washington's major monuments.
National Air and Space Museum on the Metro blue line (Smithsonian)
One of the best museums on the mall. Great IMAX movies. Free.
National Crypotologic Museum near Baltimore, MD
A project of the National Security Agency (NSA), this offers a lot of good history involving the application of crytography in American espionage, but has little to do with the technical aspects of crypotology itself. It's a bit dinky, but it's free.
National Gallery of Art on the Metro yellow or green lines (Archives/Navy Memorial)
Two wonderful building full of art from everywhere. There is even a cool underground tunnel connecting the buildings. Free.
National Geographic Society on the Metro red line (Farragut North)
Great place to kill a couple of hours. You get to take cool pictures that appear as the cover of the National Georgraphic Magazine. Free.
National Museum of African Art on the Metro blue line (Smithsonian)
Nice building, and the exhibits are really cool: there's a lot of great history to learn.
National Museum of Asian Art on the Metro blue line (Smithsonian)
Read entry for National Museum of African Art.
Old Post Office Pennsylvania Ave. on Metro red/blue/orange lines (Metro Centre)
Great place to hang out. Stores, food, live music and plenty of atmosphere.
Shenandoah National Park in VA
Absolutley beautiful park in which one can go hiking and enjoy nature.
Union Station on the Metro red line
The movie theatre is decent, the food is good, and there are lots of shops.
Vietnam Veteran's Memorial on the Mall in downtown DC
This monument is incredible. Much bigger than you might expect and brilliantly engineered.
Washington Monument on the Metro blue line (Smithsonian)
Great view of the city if you goto the top, especially at night. Kinda dinky viewing windows, though. Free.

Wafflers

Baltimore Aquarium in the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD
The aquarium itself is spectacular to look at but the objectification of the animals is just plain wrong. Read this essay on pets for more insight.
Great Falls in MD
Nice view of the polluted Falls river.
Great Falls in VA
Better that the MD side, nice view of the polluted river but they have some excellent rocks to climb on.
Holocaust Memorial Museum on the Metro blue line (Smithsonian)
The special exhibit is the best part of it. It all comes off as a bit too Hollywoodish to me (appeal to emotion rather than intellect --- I recommend reading the Maus comic books by Art Spiegelman for one of the best treatments of the holocaust). Free.

The Worst

Ford's Theatre on the Metro red line (Metro Centre)
I think you need to check this out to see how crappy it is. Way overrated. Free.
National Zoo on the Metro red line (Woodley Park)
The only good thing about going here is to learn a lesson about objectification of animals. Check out this essay for my detailed thoughts in this matter.

Entertainment venues

The Best

Bender Arena on The American University campus, Tenleytown, DC
Decent acoustics. Not bad for a small arena.
Boots club (now Zaxx) in Springfield, VA
Great sound, great view, and cozy atmosphere.
Constitution Hall in NW DC
Great sound. Great view from almost anywhere in the hall. The seating is kinda cramped, so you can't move around much. Parking is a pain.
Capitol Ballroom in SE DC
Decent sound and acts. The place has a nice atomosphere, and I think it's a good place to watch bands up close, but it's in a crappy location.
Kennedy Centre in downtown DC
High class atmosphere. Good for mainstream theatre.
Lisner Auditorium on The George Washington University campus, DC
Great view and great sound. Seating is a bit cramped.
Modern on M street in Georgetown, DC
A great place for dancing!
Nation on Half Street SE in Washington, DC
Excellent club with several large stages and a party crowd.
Nissan Pavillion in Manassas, VA
Bit of a drive from DC, but the acoustics are great. The view is excellent wherever you're seated.
Patriot Centre on George Mason University campus, Fairfax, VA
Decent acoustics. Good view.
RFK Stadium, on Metro orange or blue lines (Stadium/Armory)
Nose-bleed seats can be a pain, but it's a great venue for huge concerts.
UMBC Field House on University of Maryland at Baltimore County campus, Baltimore, MD
Not too big and not too small. Nice acoustics and view.
Warner Theatre
Good sound. Reasonable view (from any location in the theatre). Kinda cramped.
Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA
Metro-able. Great acoustics. Great view. Awesome atmosphere.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre, NW Washington, DC
Small. Cozy. Comfortable. Student discount.
Xhale in Frederick, MD
This might be the club that replaces Hammerjacks in Baltimore. This appears to be an all-in-one club (they had cages, apparently for dancers) and disco lights, but we saw Dio and gothic doomsters My Dying Bride there. The club is a bit bigger than Jaxx (probably holds around 1500), has nice acoustics and the shows begin and end early!
9:30 Club in downtown DC
Has some good acts, but caters mostly to the "trendy" crowd. The new location is an amazing improvement over their old one: the bathrooms are actually clean, it's no longer hot and stuffy, and there's lots of room and prime viewing spots. The acoustics are better too. Good atmosphere.

The Wafflers

Black Cat club in downtown DC
Mediocre acoustics, kinda small, and some good acts.
Charles Town Race Track in Charles Town, WV
Pain getting out after the show.
Hammerjacks in Baltimore, MD
Mediocre acoustics, and can get crowed at times; but has a few good acts. (This club was closed in 1997.)
Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD
Acoustics are okay and the drive is long from DC Good view.
Michael's Eighth Ave in Baltimore, MD
Decent acoustics.
Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland at College Park campus, MD
Mediocre acoustics, kinda small.
U.S. Air Arena, Landover MD
Lousy acoustics.
WUST Radio Music Hall in DC
Mediocre acoustics, good view, and cozy atmosphere.

The Worst

DC Armory in DC
Dark and gloomy.

Music, video, and book stores

The Best

Best Buy in Rockville, MD
This place has an incredible selection and cheap prices. If you're looking for something in particualr, check them out first.
Big Planet in Bethesda, MD
Excellent selection of comic books. Nice service and subscription policy.
Border's Music in White Flint Mall in Rockville, MD
They have just about everything you could want, and a desert/coffee bar in the store. Willing to sell consignment indie albums. Great place to spend a few hours browsing.

The Wafflers

Blockbuster Music
Good selection but high prices.
Kemp Mill
High prices with only a decent selection.
Sam Goody
High prices, decent selection but the stores are kinda grungy for my taste.
The Wiz
High prices, decent selection.
Tower Records
For a large chain they are really nice to the indie artist, in that they will sell your album on consignment. They are also a somewhat convenient way to get tickets. Special kudos for staying open until midnight.
Waxie Maxie
High prices, decent selection.

The Worst


Cities/Locales

The Best

Baltimore, Maryland
The perfect place to take a day trip. Science Museum and huge Aquarium right on the water. Inner Harbor is not to be missed. Camden Yards is right next door.
Bethesda, Maryland
Indian food, comic book stores, public parking and a park with tables and chairs to sit at. The perfect place to spend the day.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
About as close as you can get to DC without actually entering. They have the Mazza Gallerie, some of the only good shopping in the area.
Chinatown, in DC
Authentic Chinese food and groceries. You have to check out the arch, it is amazing.
Dupont Circle in DC
Famous for it's traffic circle, this area is filled with coffee shops and unique boutiques. Tres trendy.
Fairfax County in VA
During the Fair season, this is a great place to spend the day: Food, carnival games, rides, informational tents and vertical rock climbing.
Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD
This is a fairly cool place with two pavilions for shopping and eating along with walkable access to the Baltimore Aquarium and Science Museum. The view at night is beautiful.
Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC
Greate place to be one with nature. It's hard to believe such a "serene" park is in the middle of a relatively crowded city.
The Mall in DC
No trip to the big city is complete without some time at the Mall. Just sit back and watch the people go by.
Pennsylvania Avenue in DC
Home of Bill and Hill, Old Post Office, Planet Hollywood, etc. It's a must see.
Rockville, Maryland
Home of the Centre for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB), where I did my graduate work.

The Wafflers

Adams Morgan, in DC
They have a little bit of everything you've been looking for but haven't been able to find. They even have Adams Morgan's Day, a big street festival with music, food and crafts. Kinda dirty though.
College Park, Maryland
Near UMCP, this has small town feel with little to do. There are a few nice places to eat though.
Falls Church, Virginia
Small town feel, clean, quaint. Worth visiting, especially when en route to Wolf Trap, but I wouldn't want to live there.
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Metro Dhaba, Denny's, Border's and a mall.
Twinbrook, Maryland
Home of the high class Double Tree Hotel, there is little else there except for Ambrosia, a wonderful Greek resturant.
White Flint, Maryland
White Flint Mall, Kinkos, Taco Bell and metro service. What more could you want?

The Worst

Tenleytown, in DC
You'd think that a place this close to a college campus (AU) would have more going for it. They are trying, though, with the addition of a Fresh Fields and Hollywood Video. Dirty and empty sum this place up.