On Thursday, I finished my last day of work at the law firm I’ve worked at for over four years. This was in preparation for my big move to Boston to start grad school. I’m just starting to adjust to life outside this law firm.
Four years is a long time to be in a job, especially for someone my age. I have gone through a big chunk of my adult life thus far while working at this firm. I learned a lot about myself and life in general. I also ate a LOT of good food. Between the time I’ve lived in Bethesda and all years I’ve worked here, I have tried just about every restaurant in downtown Bethesda. I have seen restaurants come and go. So, I thought I’d give a shoutout to ten restaurants who have stood the test of time and made my time working in Bethesda better.
I absolutely love this deli. In my opinion, this is the best place to get sandwiches in Bethesda. Sure, there are plenty of places to get sandwiches in the city, but nothing can beat the quality of St. Elmo’s for their price. Most of their sandwiches are $6-7 dollars, which is incredibly low for this area.
St. Elmo’s Deli is owned by Korean immigrant, Hyeon Kim. He has been running this restaurant for over 20 years. Kim’s wife runs a similar style deli, Cafe X-Press just a couple blocks away. I personally enjoy the selection at St. Elmo’s Deli better. It was also just a half a block away from my office, so it had the added convenience factor.
I will admit that even after four years, I tried relatively few things on the menu. That is because the first sandwich I ever tried there was so good that I ordered it 90% of the time. That would be the fresh turkey sandwich with fresh mozzarella and pesto mayo. I get it toasted on wheat bread. The fresh carved deli turkey with the fresh mozzarella and pesto is a dynamo combination. I highly recommend it. Even though I have not tried many things on the menu, this deli is was very popular with many of my co-workers, so this endorsement does not just come from me.
Must Try: fresh pesto turkey, fresh mozzarella sandwich; chipotle roast beef panini
Jetties is another great sandwich shop. This is a part of a regional chain of artisanal sandwich shops in DC, with six locations total. The menu is simple but unique with hot sandwiches, signature sandwiches, and signature salads. You can also create your own sandwich or salad. I often have used their create your own salad option when I need a reset on my eating patterns. I like being able to pack the salad full of protein starting with fresh carved turkey breast.
If I am up for something less healthy, they do have amazing sandwiches. Their sandwiches are much more expensive than St. Elmo’s, but the splurge was worth it every once in awhile. The Nobadeer is one of their best and most popular sandwiches throughout the year, even though it is basically Thanksgiving dinner on a sandwich. This is the best Thanksgiving sandwich I have ever had. It is a huge sandwich with all the elements I want (turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayo). Other great options are the Surfside (carved turkey, bacon, avocado, havarti, and whole grain mustard on sourdough) or the Swift Rock (chicken parmesan sandwich with pesto and baby arugula on a sub bun).
Must Try: Nobadeer; Surfside; Swift Rock
I have come to absolutely love Peruvian food. So, I greatly enjoyed having this Peruvian restaurant so close to my work. Chicken on the Run focuses on charbroiled Peruvian chicken. You can chose anywhere from a quarter chicken to a whole chicken with various sides. My favorite sides are fried yuca, plantains, and mac and cheese. The chicken is always juicy and tender, even the white meat. The chicken is served with two sauces (aji verde and aji amarillo). The yellow sauce is my favorite.
You can also get some other Peruvian dishes like lomo/pollo saltado and chaufa (fried rice) con pollo or carne. I prefer to get the lomo (steak) saltado (a traditional Peruvian dish) and the chaufo with the chicken. Those are two of my favorite things to get here. I am very much going to miss this restaurant. I hope Boston has some Peruvian food worthy of my attention.
Must Try: lomo saltado, chaufa con pollo, charbroiled chicken with choice of sides
Even a place like Bethesda can have some good barbecue apparently. Admittedly, I am not from the South, so my standards for for barbecue might be lower. However, I greatly enjoy this place. The platters are great, with the pulled pork being my favorite. The platers are served with corn bread, slaw, and one side. My favorite side is the mac and cheese. Their mac and cheese is considered their best seller, and I understand why. It is unbelievably creamy and delicious.
If you really want to splurge calorically, try and bbq bowl with the base as mac and cheese. Then, it is piled high with meat, bbq sauce, and other toppings. I personally recommend the pulled pork.
Must Try: pulled pork platter, mac and cheese, bbq bowls
This has been one of my favorite restaurants in Bethesda. Its focus is on Mexican street food. We had a number of work lunches and after work happy hours here. During weekday happy hours, you can get $6 margaritas and sangria. I am always up for a good margarita.
If you ever have a chance to go here, I highly recommend getting the duck nachos. They are hands down the best item on the menu. I also really enjoy the green chile queso. Their house made tortilla chips are the bomb. They serve you chips and salsa after you get seated, but you will get more chips if you order any of the quesos or guacamole.
You also have to try some tacos. I’ve never had a taco there that I didn’t love. Most recently I got the carnitas tacos, and they were delicious. This is a wonderful neighborhood spot, and I hope it stays around for many years to come.
Must Try: duck nachos, green chile queso fundido, tacos!
I go to Kadhai when I want a good fill of Indian food. They have an amazing lunch buffet for $12.95, available on weekends, too. There are so many good options at the buffet, and everything is cooked so well. I have never had lamb cooked so perfectly before. It is flavorful and oh so tender. In fact, when I go during dinner hours, I always get some lamb entree.
I will admit that the food here is very heavy. I normally don’t eat for a good 12-24 hours after eating here, especially after the lunch buffet. When my co-workers and I would go here for lunch, it was hard to go back to work due to the food coma. We just wanted to take a nap. This is still one of my favorite spots in Bethesda though.
Must Try: chicken tikka, saag paneer, lamb dishes
Hanaro is my go-to sushi restaurant in Bethesda. I enjoy many of their specialty rolls. I can’t remember all the rolls I have tried but I know I have tried quite a number of them. I liked the spider roll and volcano roll. I am sure that you can’t go wrong with any of their specialty rolls.
They also have nice lunch specials if you are dining in, which include sushi roll combinations, bento boxes, and a number of entrees. This restaurant is quiet and a great place to get lunch.
Must Try: spider roll, volcano roll
This was one of my go-to happy hour spots. They have good deals for happy hour, with discount drinks and $5 food options. One of the best happy hour food items is the ball park pretzel served with jalapeño queso. The soft pretzels are wonderfully chewy. They pair well with the queso.
Rock Bottom is a great place to get bar food, like fried foods and burgers. I recommend trying the fried pickles and crispy chicken fingers off the starters menu, or any of the burgers with cajun fries if you are wanting some classic bar food. If you want more of an entree, try the chicken fried chicken or mac and cheese. They also do have lighter options if you don’t want a heavy meal.
Must Try: ball park pretzels, fried pickles, chicken fingers, burgers
Every other restaurant on the list was already in operation when I started my job in 2015. This restaurant is a little over a year old. It actually went into the space where my beloved Tequila Bar, Parva, was. That restaurant closed at the end of 2015. It wasn’t until Dog Haus opened in April 2018 that this space was occupied again.
There really isn’t a restaurant like this in Bethesda. After Bold Bite (which is no longer open) changed their menu and got rid of their famous half smokes, there were no restaurants in Bethesda serving hot dogs. Out of curiosity, I have gone several times to try various menu items. I have tried the corn dog, various hot dogs and sausages, and even one burger. I personally would stick to the dogs and sausages rather than the burgers. Though, they do have an impossible burger and a veggie sausage that I have heard are very good. I have enjoyed what I have eaten here. I hope this restaurant can do well long-term.
Must Try: chili cheese tots, the fonz, old town, chili the kid
I added this to the list because it was our office’s go-to spot for St. Patrick’s Day. They serve a mix of bar food and traditional Irish fare. Our office goes here every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and we normally demolish quite a bit of food with our beer. The mini meat Guinness pies are typically a hit, as well as the basket of fries with curry sauce.
I once tried the mashed potato flatbread pizza, which is basically like a pierogi pizza. It was quite good. I didn’t go to Harp & Fiddle very much outside of St. Patrick’s Day (aside from a couple happy hours). I do have fond memories of my time here, so I figured I’d include it in my list.
Must Try: mini meat pies, mashed potato pizza, curry fries