Charlottesville, VA – Day 2

Waking up the next day was a little tough considering the festivities the night before, but we had a full day of activities ahead of us.  Our first stop was Bodo’s Bagels, a local bagel chain that Matt swore to us had the best breakfast sandwiches in the area.  Judging by the line of customers at the location we went to (and seeing the crowd outside the UVA campus location) it appeared that most of the people in Charlottesville agreed with him.  There wasn’t anything flashy about the restaurant and line moved quickly.  Bodo’s offers the usual bagel flavors and cream cheeses, as well as the typical bagel sandwiches.  The menu also features lunch sandwiches at a reasonable price.  I think the best way to describe the place is that it’s the blue collar Bruegger’s Bagel.

As much as I wanted to love the place, I was lukewarm about what I had.  I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on an everything, whole wheat bagel.  I wasn’t blown away by it.  Maybe it was because it was Sunday morning and busy, but the bagel itself wasn’t very toasted, and the kids in the kitchen left off the cheese.  The bagel itself was actually pretty good and like I said earlier, the price was cheap.  I’m more than willing to go back there and give the place a second try to really impress me, but I have to admit, I still prefer Bruegger’s Bagels.

After our breakfast, we had a few hours to kill before heading to watch the New England Patriots game.  Since we were in Charlottesville, it wouldn’t have been a trip down there without at least a trip to the Monticello area.   Our first stop however was at Carter Mountain Orchard, which is down the road from Monticello.  The orchard was located high up on a hill overlooking downtown Charlottesville.  The view was spectacular, and it was so serene being able to just sit back and enjoy the view.  Since it was early November (which is past the prime season for apple picking) there wasn’t much of a crowd.  But there were still pumpkins to be sold, hayrides, and it looked like there were actually still some apples that you could pick.  For those of you who don’t know, when you pay the orchard for a bag and go into the orchard, you keep the apples you pick.  You don’t give them the apples.  Yes, Mel asked us this.

We didn’t end up taking any hayrides or picked any apples.   But we did enjoy the hot apple cider for 50 cents and a delicious apple cider doughnut (which tasted almost like a apple pie strudel crossed with a churro crossed with an old fashioned doughnut).

After the orchard, we made our way to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson.  We arrived to the main visitor’s center and quickly came to the realization that we had spent so much time at the orchard, that we didn’t think we’d be able to squeeze in a trip to the actual house that TJ built for himself.  The price to see the house (which required a separate bus ride up the hill) is $17, and we elected to save the actual house visit for another time.  There was however, time to see the free museum exhibition, which consisted of an impressive gallery of antique items that Jefferson owned (such as his journals, pocket watches, dishes, etc).   There were also interactive computers and movies about how TJ built the house and his general history from youth through the Revolutionary War to his death.  Walking through the museum, both Mel and I regretted the decision to skip seeing the actual house, but it gives us an excuse to return.

We wrapped up at Monticello and headed back into town to Wild Wing Cafe.  This chain restaurant is pretty similar to any sports wing bar like Buffalo Wild Wings or Quaker Steak, so there isn’t really much to tell other than it was uniquely connected to an old-school Amtrak terminal.  I can say the wings there are very good however.  The “Virginia Fireballs” were tasty and spicy enough to have a kick, but not make you wish you had a glass of milk next to you.  That isn’t the case however with some of their other wings.  Both Matt and I each tried a “China’s Chernobyl” wing, and were literally sweating bullets in our seats.   To Mel’s credit, she ate an entire plate like it was a plate of cheese.  So we challenged her to try the “Braveheart”, which is Wild Wing Cafe’s hottest wing. The waitress brought her one wing, amusingly garnished with lettuce and jalapeno peppers, and we (along with every table around us), watched Mel take it down.  Mel being the spicy food lover she is left us disappointed initially, and gave no indication that the wing was at all the spicy wing it was talked up as.   Then a minute later, it set in and she gave us the painful look on her face we were waiting for.  Her exact words were “It’s not the heat, it’s the knives going into my tongue that hurts”.  But she’s got more balls than I do; bravo, Mel.

Let’s just say the weekend didn’t end on a high note as the Patriots got their asses kicked by the Cleveland Browns.  But that wasn’t enough to dampen what was a fantastic 48(9) hours of good times and I’ll be taking a trip back down there for sure before Matt’s time at UVA is up.

Charlottesville, VA – Day 1

So my buddy Matt has been a student at the University of Virginia (UVA) law school and is in his final third year.  The entire time he’s been there, he’s been trying to get me to drive down from Washington, D.C. to check out the sites of Charlottesville, Virgina where the university is located.  I finally decided to get my butt down there this past weekend had a great time and have come to the realization that I should have done the trip much sooner.

Charlottesville is located about two and half miles south of Washington, D.C.  If you Google map, and/or Garmin the directions, both will tell you to take 95 south all the way down.  Here’s a tip from the locals: Take 66 West, to 29 South if you’re coming from the north.  The trip may take a little longer distance wise, but there’s a very good chance that you’ll hit traffic on 95 and waste seeing a good amount of pretty (for lack of a better word) foliage on the way down.

So I jumped in my car, along with my friend Mel, and we got down to UVA around 1 PM on Saturday.  The first order of business was lunch since we were all pretty famished.  Matt took us down to the “Corner” which is essentially Main Street UVA.  There you run into a street full of undergraduates and can buy any sort of Cavaliers gear that you can imagine.  For lunch we grabbed a couple of slices of pizza at Christian’s Pizza on the Corner.

Christian’s was a perfectly decent take-out pizza joint (you could eat there as well, which is what we did) with the basic offerings of pizzas, calzones, etc.   The pizza itself was above average, but not spectacular.  I had a chicken parmigiana slice and a spicy chicken and peppers slice; both were quite tasty with a nice NY style thin, crispy crust.  Although, I was a little surprised at the price and thought that it was a bit more expensive than it should be considering it’s a local college pizza place.

After we ate, Matt took us to the main UVA campus.  Needless to say, Thomas Jefferson (who founded the school) went to great lengths to make it architecturally majestic and he succeeded.  Being in the college textbook business (my day job), I’ve seen quite a few college campuses and this one was up there with some of the finest.  We walked by the statue of TJ on the Rotunda, where the students go to get some good luck before their exams.  After walking by the Rotunda, we strolled over to the “Lawn”.  The “Lawn” was a site to see.  It’s pretty much how you would envision the perfect college campus scene.  A perfectly green strip of grass running down with trees along side.  On the “Lawn” were families, dogs, students studying, a group playing football, and anything else you can think of as being stereotypically “American”.  I half expected to see Joe Montana quarterbacking group playing football and John Mellencamp playing the guitar under a tree.

The most unique and impressive thing about the “Lawn” however were the  unique little dorm rooms within the building along the outside that actually formed the courtyard.  Each one of these one bedroom dorms were actual rooms from the old days.  They were small, had wooden floors and walls, and were heated by wood.  From what I could tell as well, each came with a rocking chair of some sort.  According to Matt, the only students who were lucky enough to reside in these “Lawn” dorms pretty much had to be the All-Stars of UVA (the high caliber students who excelled in class, star football players, or were very active on campus), and they had to apply well in advance for these 20 or so dorms if you wanted one.

After getting the tour of UVA, we decided to take a drive down to the Starr Hill Brewery.  Starr Hill is a local brewery that makes the award-winning Dark Starr stout and Jomo lager to name just a few.  For those of you not in the Mid-Atlantic region reading this, you probably haven’t come across this brand since they’re not huge outside the area.  But if you do come across it at any point, I would highly recommend their brand.

The brewery itself was nothing special; just a typical factory with huge steel containers fermenting beer, a place for the hops, and a machine to bottle the batches.  But the 30 minute tour itself was quite informative, run by one of the 27 employees there.  Their passion for beer is evident, especially during the tasting session at the makeshift bar they have set up.  During the tasting, they let you try all 8 beers that they have on tap (a mix of all year, and seasonal beers), and give you a little story behind each type.

We went back to the main Charlottesville area after the brewery and picked up a few more of Matt’s friends.  We headed to the Mall area of Charlottesville which is a quaint little outside, walking commercial area.  Along the brick corridor, which had a hint of a European feel to it, were shops, cafes, movie theaters, and banks.  We stopped over at Miller’s Downtown, a great little old-school drug store turned into bar, for a quick drink.  The place itself is nothing to write home about, but it was comfortable and had a dark, pub-like feel to it.  The beer list there was quite extensive, and the prices were good considering the offerings.  Since we had just come from the Starr Hill Brewery, I decided to help out the local company and ordered a Jomo Lager.

For dinner, we made an attempt to go to Blue Moon Diner, a little diner near the Corner area.  Much to Matt’s chagrin, the Blue Moon Diner was closed that evening (yes, on a Saturday night) and Matt went on a rant about how they have the best breakfast and great burgers, but that the hipsters who work there are so unreliable.  So, I guess if you ever make it in there when it’s open, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

But alas, our back-up plan was Boylan Heights, also on the Corner, two doors down from Christian’s Pizza.  Boylan’s had more of the modern, sports bar feel than Miller’s, although there was a random giant-sized painting of the movie “Rushmore” that I never really got the story of why it was there.  I’ll say this much, if this was the “back-up” for getting burgers to Blue Moon, than Blue Moon must be awesome because Boylan Heights had one of the best burgers I’ve tasted.  Literally, the burger could probably be in the Top 7 or 8 best burgers I’ve had the pleasure of consuming.  Their gourmet burgers have patties that melt in your mouth and a bun that is buttery and soft.  The patties are probably the size of a typical Five-Guys or In-and-Out patty, but Boylan’s are far juicier.  The burger I had, “The Room 121”, has a Boylan’s sauce which I’m not totally sure was, but tasted a hell of a lot like a mix of Thousand Island Dressing, Ranch, and Honey Mustard and was delicious.  Also, the menu offers a build your own burger option on a form that you fill out (much like at a sushi bar).  And the prices there were reasonable, not any more than you would pay at Chili’s or Applebee’s, but the food was far superior.  If I were a UVA undergrad, my freshman 15 could have easily  come directly from Boylan Heights.

After finishing our delicious meal, we headed back to Matt’s apartment for some pre-game fun with his law school pals and a growler of Starr Hill Gift ale that we purchased at the brewery.  After some drinking games, we grabbed a taxi for the Biltmore Grill, which was back on campus.  From what I understand, the Biltmore’s patrons consists of more of the older crowd (graduate students, law school students, etc), versus some of the other bars in the area that allow kids of a questionable drinking age into their venues.  I can’t really say anything exceptionally good or bad about the Biltmore.  The drinks were cheap, the crowd was fun, and the place had a huge patio for the smokers.  And since we were switching the clocks back that evening, we all celebrated Daylight Savings Holiday when 2 AM turned into 1 AM, allowing us another solid hour of killing our brain cells.

When the night was done, we jumped back into a cab to head home, when it was explained to me that the cabbies in Charlottesville work in a far different way than they do in any major city.  Most of the cabbies actually give out their business cards in order to get repeat business from the students.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but the cab we took to the Biltmore was actually called ahead in advance by one of the girls in the group, who had used that cab driver’s services before.  It was quite bizarre, yet refreshing having a cab driver be extra nice and conversational with you because they want the repeat business.

Up next: Charlottesville, VA – Day 2 (obviously)

Travel Gifts for Girls

With the holidays coming up, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about potential gifts for those of you who know avid travelers.  Here are some gift ideas for the traveling females out there that you need to shop for (this list is for the ladies, as it was put together by my female friend Ady; although I know a couple guys who would probably want the Dynamic Duo Makeup bag):

1. Pick Your Place Versatile Travel Journal from UsefulBooks on Etsy.com
2. London Art Print, 8×10 from studiokmo on Etsy.com
3. Dynamic Duo Makeup Bag & Dressing Table Bag from Anthropologie
4. Leather Lined Passport Case from Cole Haan
5. Printed eye masks from Odds & Blobs on Etsy.com
6. 3 Little Soaps with Travel Dish from Clinique
7. Canon PowerShot D10 Digital Camera from B & H Photo
8. Townhouse Carry-More Bag from Tumi
9. Opteka DF-TFT8 8-inch Digital Picture Frame from Amazon.com
10. Metal Chain Stud Square Scarf from Sabina Les

Excerpt from Ady Schneider: Tales of a twentysomething in NYC

Virgin Mobile Freefest Part III

After we escaped the scene in the “Dance Forest” we made our way back to the stage where Ludacris was finishing up.  Up next was M.I.A, whom most of us had on our list to see.   Now I had heard her album Kala a couple of years ago, and like most people know the song “Paper Planes” which was featured in Slumdog Millionaire and Pineapple Express.  But I hadn’t given her newest album Maya a listen yet, which apparently a much more of a techno edge to it.

I’ll say this right off the bat.  M.I.A.’s performance gets top billing for the most interesting show I witnessed that night.  This isn’t exactly a compliment either.  First off, she started 30-45 minutes late.  Her DJ sidekick was up there spinning some dance beats trying to keep the crowd entertained.  Randomly, there were also three “people” up on stage at the microphones, but covered in full body, multi-colored berkas and motionless.  I thought they were mannequins for a while.  I’ll get back to them in a moment.

Eventually, Maya, the lead singer, came out on stage and began performing.  The first few songs I didn’t recognize (actually I didn’t recognize most of the songs in the performance), but they had a good beat to them and most of the crowd was getting into it.  Nothing was really out of the ordinary at first.

Then, Maya started to get a little weird.  She kept asking for the sound people and the audience to turn up the volume.  That itself doesn’t sound that weird, but from the way she kept yelling it, one really started to get the sense that she wasn’t exactly sober.  But that was still speculation at this point.

Things started to get really bizarre in the next few songs however.  Remember those three motionless berka figures that were just standing there?  Yeah, at this point, they whipped out power drills and pretended to start shooting into the audience.  You know that face that Jim Halpert on The Office makes?

 

M.I.A. - What is going on up there?

That was the look on the faces of most of the people around me.  Oh and before I forget, it was pretty clear someone on stage kept getting a text message (I’d like to think it was Maya just to keep the weirdness going).  And no, the “bleep” noise could not have been part of any of the songs because it happened so randomly. But because the show already took a weird turn, it was probably the least strange thing happening.

So for her “last song”, she actually invited people in the audience on stage with her.  Let’s just say I was holding my breath the whole time while a flood of drunk fans rushed to try and get on stage.  It could have been bad.  Luckily it wasn’t and the group did their best to try and impress the audience with their not-so coordinated dancing skills.  Eventually, Maya finished up and walked off stage with her crew.   Now this is where people were confused.  Was she coming back?  Was there an encore?  This was the Virgin Freefest, so there probably shouldn’t have been an encore because of the time constraints and her already starting late.  But the lights were still down, and the set wasn’t being cleaned up.  So we all stood around for the next 15 minutes to see what would happen.

Our patience was rewarded with Maya stumbling back out.  And I mean, she literally, kinda stumbled back out…in her pajamas…with a bottle of patron in her hand.   Literally her first few words to the audience as she came back out were “I have a bottle of tequila!  I’m in my pajamas!”

So needless to say, I’m giddy as hell watching this.  C’mon, it’s a free show, so I couldn’t really expect too much.  Maya continues to perform, with the bottle in her hand, cell phone going off, and weird berka people still standing behind her.  She tries once again to get people on stage, but this time security puts a wall up in the front row that the Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” would be proud of.  So Maya went into the crowd instead, and performed for her last song “Paper Planes” while rolling on a group of spectators.  Now this is where I can probably say most of the people in my group got disappointed.  After waiting around, and watching the shitshow unfold on stage, I think people were really excited to hear “Paper Planes” and she botched it up.  It’s hard to be on key when you’re crowd surfing with a dude’s hand grabbing your breast.  After she finished singing, the security guard, literally, carried her off stage and her DJ sidekick awkwardly invited the crowd to some bar down the street for the “after party”.  I think after that show, we’d all had enough partying.  My grading here is going to be a little schitzo.   The performance gets a C, but the show from a purely entrainment, “what just happened?” standpoint gets an A.

I don’t even know how to follow up with the fact that we caught the end of the LCD Soundsystem on the way out.  I’ll make three quick comments about them.  From what I heard, I thought they were pretty good.  We caught “Losing my Edge”,but I unfortunately didn’t get to hear “Daft Punk is Playing at my House”.

Once again, the lead singer is nothing like what I pictured.  Even more so then the lead singer from Temper Trap, this guy was not the hipster, nerdy white dude I envisioned.  The dude was a straight-up lumberjack.

 

Don't judge a book by its cover? I guess don't judge a musician by his/her sound.

Finally, in hindsight, I wish we had left M.I.A. early to catch more of LCD Soundsystem.  From most reports, they had put on the best performance of the entire festival (aside from the random few that loved Pavement. Why were they there again?).  From the fragment I saw, LCD gets a B+.

But all in all, I got to see some great acts, hear performances from artists I wouldn’t normally get to see in real life, and witness things I wouldn’t normally witness on a typical Saturday in September.  So, I feel like I got my money’s worth.  Oh wait a sec, it was free. 🙂

Virgin Mobile Freefest Part II

After Temper Trap wrapped up their show with “Sweet Disposition”, we moved onto see Jimmy Eat World.  Some of us went over to Trombone Shorty and you can read about that act here at Dwain Smith’s blog in his “Media Binge” section (I heard it was quite an excellent performance).  Of all the performances, Jimmy Eat World was probably the least exciting.  I’m not saying that they weren’t good, because they were.  But as far as early 2000’s bands go, they weren’t exactly the go-to band that everyone had targeting on the day.  They just played a relatively vanilla show, but it was fun hearing “Sweetness” and “The Middle”.  It was actually kind of funny because most of the crowd responded like they were listening to it on the radio.  People got into it and were happy to hear it, but still kept their conversations going, milled around, etc.  I’d give Jimmy Eat World a “B-“performance.

As Jimmy Eat World wrapped up, more people started coming over to see the next band: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.   Edward Sharpe is a new band that has just recently gotten popular with their hit “Home”.  You’ve probably heard it on the radio or seen the new NFL commercial featuring the song.   The band looks like what the Arcade Fire might look like if they came out of the woods of West Virginia.

 

Alex Ebert, lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Yes, his name isn't Edward Sharpe.

 

But their music hits that perfect combination of folksy, bluegrass catchy tunes that have been a hit on the airways.  They played “Home” as well as their other popular song, “Janglin”. (See the Ford Fiesta commercial).   B+

Joan Jett came on after Edward Sharpe.  Now I must admit, I knew who Joan Jett was, but I really honestly couldn’t tell you before the concert a name of a song she sang.  I also have to confess that it wasn’t until around the time of the concert that someone had to tell me that the Sunday Night Football song on NBC was actually a Joan Jett song that Pink/Faith Hill reworded.  Joan Jett did in fact play “I Hate Myself for Loving You” as well as her other hits, such as “Love Rock n’ Roll” and “Bad Reputation”.  The fact that this was probably the only time I’ll see Joan Jett was the only reason why I actually skipped Thievery Corporation for her performance (those guys tend to play a lot of shows in the D.C. area), but I don’t regret the decision. Because even though she looked a little old to be up there, she was actually still rocking out like it was 1981.  Joan and “The Blackhearts” get a B.

Next to come on the main stage was a band that I was looking forward to seeing and was one of the highlights of my day.  Matt & Kim comprises of married, dance, punk duo Matt Johnson (on keyboards and vocals) and Kim Schifino (on drums) and easily win the prize for cutest musician couple I’ve ever seen on stage.  Their enthusiasm, humor, and pure joy was intoxicating.  I’m not sure if they were on something, but they both had smiles from ear-to-ear throughout the show.  Their biggest hits to date are “Good ‘ol Fashion Nightmare” and “Daylight” – both can be heard on the first episode of NBC’s “Community”.  They performed those hits as well as a few covers (such as their rendition of “Let Me Clear My Throat”) because it seemed like as much as they wanted to play their music, they really wanted to get the crowd going and just plain have a good time.   Matt & Kim get an A-.

From Matt & Kim I moved with a group over to Ludacris.   Now you’d have to be living under a rock to not know who this guy is.  Even if you can’t name a song of the top of your head that’s his, you more than likely have one of his songs on your Ipod and don’t even know it.  That’s probably the biggest reason why I went over to his act.  To a lot of people at the concert, Ludacris probably should have been the headliner for the day and of all the performances I saw, his may actually have been the most packed.  While I enjoyed his performance a lot, I don’t listen to much hip-hop so I wasn’t as caught up as most of the crowd.  The one complaint I heard from most people was while he performed well, he actually only performed parts of a lot of songs, rather than a few whole ones.  But what can you do, it’s a free show.  Luda gets a B.

 

That's right, Yous a ho.

 

I actually left Ludacris before the end of his set in order to catch Sleigh Bells.  As day turned into night, it was a little tough to find my way to the “Dance Forest” where they were playing.  The “Dance Forest” was a stage on the edge of the pavilion where there was a thick grouping of trees (Obviously. I have no idea why I just bothered to write that last sentence).  It was hot, it was dusty from all the dirt kicked up, and it was really, really f**king smoky.  The trees trapped in all the dust and smoke and it was pretty difficult to see/breathe.  That being said, Sleigh Bells broke through all of it.  They were another boy/girl duo, but unlike Matt & Kim you got the impression these two had a lot more angst and they tore through your ears with hard, electronic rock.  Think Evanescence meets the Insane Clown Posse meets any European DJ.  Their performance was easily the most intense of the day, and maybe even that I’ve ever seen.  The sheer volume of the electric guitar, while rocking, also felt like you were getting hit by a train.  Apparently, there was something of a mosh pit going on up front where two of our group got sucked into inadvertently.   And although Sleigh Bells only had 30 minutes, they made the most of it.  Most of their music hasn’t hit the mainstream yet (although I just saw the new commercial for Honda that features they’re song “Riot Rhythm”), but I’m guessing songs such as “Rill Ril”, “Tell ‘Em” and “A/B Machines” will make Sleigh Bells a household name soon.  They get an A-.

The finale will be next.

Virgin Mobile Freefest Part I

Last week, those of us in the D.C. area were treated to a free, all day music festival for the second straight year; courtesy of Richard Branson and his Virgin empire.   The line up, while not as impressive as last year’s in my opinion, still had enough acts that I wanted to see that would make the trip up to Columbia, MD worth it.

The event (I just found myself cringing that I used that word, damn you NBC!) was held at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.  The actual pavilion (where normal shows perform during the year) acted as the main stage, and they set up a second west stage about 200 meters away.  There was also a “dance forest” set up – I’ll talk more about that later.

If you ever decide to see a show at Merriweather, here are a couple of tips.  1) Bring a bottle of water.  Yes, they’ll let you bring in one factory sealed bottle – which means as long as that gallon jug of water you want to take in is sealed, it’s all good.  And you don’t want to be paying $7 for a bottle once you’re inside.  2) Park at the Columbia Mall. The mall is literally a stone’s throw away from the back entrance of the pavilion.  State police “tried” to tell people to not park at the mall so that there wouldn’t be congestion, but we got away with it pretty easily.  If you park at the mall, park on the food court side.  You can get out of the area quicker and instead of paying $10 for a shitty plate of 3 chicken tenders (which I ended up having to have to do anyways since I got hungry 6 hours into the festival), you can hit up the food court at the mall before you go in.  Actually the food court is rather impressive with, seriously, pretty much every food vendor available.  This makes the pavilion actually a pretty good place to see a show during the week, since with the mall being right there, you can eat dinner before the typical 7:30 start time.

But back to the Freefest.  Before we went into the show, my group of friends had decided on what acts they most wanted to see.  Since a lot of the bands’ performances overlapped with each other we all did our best to try to plan so that we could get to and from the Main and West stage as well as the “dance forest” at the right times. Since most of the acts were on average 45 minutes, there was a lot of walking around.  But also, because the acts were generally shorter, all the bands played more of their famous songs and crowd pleasers to satisfy the masses.

As we walked in we noticed that the event holders were smart enough to have convenient tents and covered beds for the concert goers to relax in between shows.  There were also several vendors giving away souvenirs such as those plastic back sacks, wristbands and bandannas (that they refreshingly soaked in ice cold water before they gave to you).  Jeremiah Weed was also there with their sweet tea.  Yes, it was $10 for a Dixie cup sized cocktail, but it was damn tasty and damn refreshing on the last hot day of the year.

 

One of the cozy relaxation beds

 

(Thanks to the DCist for the pictures, my camera is broken)

Collectively, we all started at The Temper Trap on the west stage.  Most of you probably know the song “Sweet Disposition” from either the Diet Coke commercial, or the movie 500 Days of Summer (good flick to check out btw).  They were a solid B+, and I learned that they have both an Indonesian lead singer (the first of a few vocalists that day that I discovered I had wrongfully pictured in my head) and the most animated bassists I’ve ever seen.

I’ll get to more of the concert in the next post.

Ted’s Bulletin

505 8th Street Southeast
Washington D.C., DC 20003-2835
(202) 544-8337

Open Daily 7am-10:30pm

Some of you may or may not know, but I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. these past few years.  Recently this town has becoming quite the go-to place because of the recent presidential election, various reality television shows (e.g. The Real World, Housewives, Top Chef, and much to the annoyance of the 33rd St. residents in Georgetown, that cupcake shop show on TLC), and of course the food.  D.C. has become quite the foodie town with high end restaurants popping up all over the place, along with competing burger joints left and right.  And I think it’s safe to say that most everyone in this city is a foodie.  My theory is it’s because of the size of Washington.  It’s not huge like NYC or L.A. where because there are thousands of places to eat, you don’t have to be picky because you’re overwhelmed by the choices around.  You’ll probably find a place within a block that will have what you’re in the mood for.  But it’s also not so small that there are only a few good restaurants worth trying.  Cities like D.C. and Boston are that right city size where the people tend to be more foodish because it’s still a growing restaurant environment, but the standard local places are still around.   So you’ll hear a lot of “I like this burger place more than that, I think the seafood here at this new place is better than there.”   And believe me, the folks in Washington have their opinions.

So as a resident D.C. foodie, I’ve banded together with a group of friends and we’ve been affectionately calling ourselves Team Dinner Out (TDO).  For the past year, every week or so the seven of us try out a new place to eat in the D.C. Metro area.  Choices have ranged from the swankiest of French bistros to literally hole in the wall, no table service BBQ joints (which “the hole in the wall” part was unbeknown to the member of the group who chose that particular venue for that week and tried to call for reservations).

This past week, to celebrate the one year anniversary of our group we had dinner at Ted’s Bulletin.  The restaurant is located south of the U.S. Capitol in an area called Barrack’s Row (named as such because at the end of the street is a Marine Corps barracks).  Ted’s just opened up recently and is the product of the owners of another popular restaurant chain called Matchbox.  Unlike Matchbox, which is quite good, but almost a little too fancy and shi-shi for the simple American food that they serve (think of a yuppie T.G.I.Friday’s), Ted’s has more of the home style feel.  The restaurant itself looks like something out of the 1930’s, with several wooden booths and tables, and a giant chalkboard with the day’s deserts and children’s menu written on the wall.

When we sit we’re greeted by our waiter who pours us water out of old milk bottles and we’re given what looks like newspapers that you would find in your grandma’s basement.  When you open the newspapers, on the inside are the actual food choices.  The menu itself isn’t anything remarkable (burgers, pastas, breakfast food, diner food essentially), but don’t let the simplicity of the choices fool you.  All the food we had was excellent.  Ted’s Bulletin hits that comfort food bulls-eye.

For starters, we ordered french fries covered in gravy (the white kind since there are two vegetarians in the group, and the staff was kind enough to bring us our special request) and it pretty much foreshadowed how good our meals would be.  Several of us, including myself, ordered the breakfast food (served all day) for dinner.  The hash browns were that perfectly brown shredded potato kind and the homemade pop tarts were delectable.  The bacon was crispy and wasn’t fatty, just the way I like it.  The eggs were just okay, I would have liked to have them a tad bit less dry.  However, to go along with my eggs and bacon, I had to try the Mac and Cheese, and I’m glad I did.  The side order I got came in a little iron cast dish, and the Mac and Cheese was savory, warm, and had a nice little bread crumb crunch on top.  Other members of our group ordered regular dinner type food.  The herb roasted 1/2 chicken probably could have been a little bit juicier, but it was still bursting with flavor. And of course, I can’t forget the milkshakes that two members of the group ordered.  These milkshakes were meals themselves, coming out in a full, large pint glass along with the still half-full shaker it was mixed in.  We tried the Cherry Vanilla and S’more shakes; both were heaven.  They also offer “Adult” milkshakes such as Bailey’s Caramel Macchiato and Spiked Thai Coffee that I need to go back and try sometime. If there was one flaw in an otherwise excellent meal, it would be the Peanut Chocolate cake.  To be fair, I was already pretty damn full when we started eating it, but it really wasn’t that impressive.  The cake itself was chocolate, but dry.  And the peanut part was literally peanuts on the back of the cake, with peanut butter acting as the frosting.  For how much it cost ($7.00) it wasn’t worth the extra calories.  I did hear however that the Blueberry Pie a la mode was quite good, so maybe I’ll give that a shot next time around.

All in all though, I would highly recommend this joint.  The price is right, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the food will leave you satisfied.  But be warned; the restaurant is extremely popular for brunch on the weekends, so don’t try to stop in at 11 on a Saturday and expected to be seated without a 30-45 minute wait.  Grade: B+