We here at Immaculate Infatuation have been making trips to D.C. for various reasons for many years now, and we've found this is a great city, full of culture and diversity. There are also some excellent restaurants here, and we’ve always wanted to tell people about them. Enter the Knob Creek® Taste Experience. We hopped a quick train from New York down to D.C. for a weekend with one mission: find the best eats in town, drink some Knob Creek® Bourbon, and tell the world about what this city without a state has to offer. This wasn’t to be just another food excursion. This was our duty as Americans.
Hank’s is one of those places in D.C. that we’ve been coming to for ages. The Dupont Circle location is right in the middle of one of our favorite neighborhoods, and we like to hit it for oyster happy hour from time to time (that is, always). Hank’s also does a mean fried chicken every Sunday, which we highly recommend.
Obviously Hank’s also does a lot of seafood, and they have a huge selection of oysters that will make any bivalve enthusiast happy. The lobster roll is often heralded as one of D.C.’s best, and they have a great bar with excellent cocktails. They also have Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey on hand, which we’ve become quite fond of over the last few months.
Hank’s has a big daily selection of oysters from both coasts. You’ll also usually find a few varieties from Virginia, which you don’t typically see in other parts of the country. We always get a few of each and go to town.
Hog Island Style BBQ Oysters
These oysters are named for the Hog Island Oyster Company in California, which is where this preparation comes from. A sauce of shallots, Tabasco, garlic, and other delicious things is put on the oysters, and then they’re topped with breadcrumbs and put under a broiler.
Everyone loves a good lobster roll, and the people of D.C. really love this one from Hank’s. It’s a nice mix of lobster meat and mayo, and the Old Bay fries on the side don’t suck either.
Oyster Po' Boy
Fried oysters are a thing of beauty, and they look pretty damn nice in a roll, too. This is a monster of a po' boy, and while it’s a bit difficult to eat as a sandwich, it’s worth the effort.
Mac and Cheesy
A pretty insane baked mac and cheese that’s delicious but will also probably make you feel bad about yourself after you eat it. Good thing those fried oysters were healthy.
Knob Creek® Straight Rye Whiskey, neat
Knob Creek® Straight Rye Whiskey in a glass, no rocks
Knob Creek® Old Fashioned
Knob Creek® Bourbon, muddled bitters, Demerara sugar, and an orange peel
Knob Creek® Straight Rye Whiskey. Neat.
Oyster Po' Boy recipe: huge pile of fried oysters, bun.
Gettin’ grabby with a dozen of D.C.'s finest.
The ramen trend has made its way to the District, and Daikaya is arguably the best of the new ramen shops in town. They also now have an Izakaya upstairs, which if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is essentially a Japanese gastropub. Just our kind of place.
As is usually the case, the ramen section of Daikaya is a small, lively restaurant, packed with people slurping up noodles. They serve four different bowls of brothy goodness, and here you’ll find more traditional preparations than you would at other ramen joints. What we loved most is the fact that each bowl had its own subtle nuanced flavor, and the soups were more delicate than the sodium pork bombs that this trend has come to represent. We recommend the traditional shoyu ramen, with an additional topping of corn and butter. That’s right, butter.
As for Daikaya Izakaya, this is where the cocktails happen, and it’s also where the culinary talent behind this place is most obviously on display. They do not serve any ramen in this part of the establishment — instead you’ll find a large menu of brilliantly executed small plates like fried garlic with miso and a perfectly cooked Onsen egg. The drinks they prepare here are also next-level, thanks to their beverage director Eddie Kim, who previously worked at another well-known D.C. cocktail spot, Room 11. (More on that to come.)
Eddie mixed us up a few excellent drinks using Knob Creek®, which we sipped on while we ate our faces off.
If you’re at Daikaya Ramen, you need to start your meal with these pork dumplings. They’re some of the best we’ve ever had.
Traditional, delicate, and very delicious. As we mentioned earlier, this is not the highly porky, overly salty ramen that you’ll find in so many other places. This is all about the aromatic broth. Slurp away.
This ramen has a bit more punch to it, thanks to the rich soy sauce in the broth. Maybe throw some pork on top for good measure.
A simple sliced cucumber with garlic, yet this has a ton of flavor. It's also probably a good thing that we kicked off this meal with some vegetables.
Grilled Avocado with Ponzu and Fresh Wasabi
Who knew that an avocado could taste this good? Actually, scratch that. Everything with ponzu tastes this good.
Crab Croquettes with Old Bay
Good lord, these things are awesome. Each croquette has a little nugget of crab in the middle, which is a nice touch.
Fried Garlic with Miso
Don’t be scared. This isn’t going to give you dragon breath for three days. These soft, tasty fried pieces of garlic are mellower than you might expect, and when dipped in miso, they take on a whole new flavor. Order these.
Onsen Egg with Uni
An Onsen egg is essentially a perfect egg. Cooked in a bath of water that’s 65 to 70 degrees, the end result is a white and yolk that are essentially the same consistency. In this instance, the egg is served in a little bowl with ponzu and sea urchin. So. Damn. Good.
What would a Japanese meal be without some sashimi? This beautiful plate featured three selections — salmon, tuna, and squid.
Of Hearth and Home
Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey, Zucca, Cherry Heering, Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters, and star anise
Knob Creek® Bourbon, matcha green tea soda, yuzu, and lime
The Izakaya in all its glory.
This is how ramen is born.
Noodles and such.
Some Knob Creek® getting hot in this cocktail, the Daikaya Chu-hai.
Onsen egg, uni, and spoon. That’s all you need to find enlightenment.
Fried garlic with miso. More delicate than you might think.
Crab croquettes with a dusting of Old Bay, as you do when you’re near the Chesapeake.
Star anise, with a side of social media.
The Tabard Inn is one of D.C.’s oldest hotels, built between 1880 and 1900. The hotel is also home to a fantastic restaurant, and it’s no secret to the people who live here; it's always packed, especially at brunch. The food is excellent, the people are nice, and there’s a great back garden for dining outside when the weather is pleasant. This is a must-visit destination for anyone venturing to D.C. with eating in mind. We hit it up for brunch on our Knob Creek® Taste Experience trip, and had a few stiff drinks alongside our eggs. Smart move.
The Tabard Inn makes their own donuts, and you want them. You want all of them.
They also have oysters, which are always fresh and expertly shucked. They put diced carrot in the mignonette, which adds some nice crunch to the mix. We like those little details.
Eggs Benedict with House Smoked Salmon
Everything you want eggs Benedict to be, and then some. The smoked salmon is perfect, and the hollandaise is tasty and lighter than you might expect.
Sure, you can have some Mexican food for brunch at the Tabard Inn. As a matter of fact, they make their own tortillas, then top them with eggs, salsa, beans, and guacamole. Olé.
Asian Chicken Salad
You can have Asian food at the Tabard Inn too, though we’re not sure an “Asian Chicken Salad” is really a thing anywhere in Asia. No matter, this is a really tasty plate of food.
Knob Creek® D.C. Rickey
Knob Creek® Bourbon, lime juice, syrup, topped with club soda served on the rocks
Negroni with Knob Creek®
Knob Creek® Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari, and an orange slice
A lone donut, ready to be devoured.
Tabard Inn’s take on the classic D.C. Rickey. With Knob Creek®, of course.
Gotta have the salmon if you’re having the benedict.
You’ve probably had an Asian chicken salad before, but you haven’t had one this good.
Huevos Rancheros por la raza.
We used to watch a lot of Top Chef back in the day, and Mike Isabella, chef of Graffiato, was one of our favorite contestants on one of our favorite seasons. Mike now has a handful of restaurants in D.C., and Graffiato is probably the most popular. Here he cooks up a bunch of Italian small plates and a variety of pizzas, including one called the Jersey Shore, which we were ashamed to like as much as we did. At least it wasn’t called the GTL.
Graffiato also has a really solid cocktail selection, and they use a lot of Knob Creek®, as evidenced by the sign out front. And those drinks go nicely with the simple and deftly executed Italian plates.
We’re seeing a lot more roasted cauliflower on menus these days, and we’re not mad about it. Time to switch it up from the brussels sprouts.
Amish Chicken Thighs
On Top Chef, Isabella became know for his “pepperoni sauce,” a tomato sauce cooked down with pepperoni that he learned from his grandmother. That sauce makes an appearance in this dish, under a plate of chicken thighs. We liked all the flavors here, but we’re not sure that trademark sauce was much better than any other solid tomato sauce.
New Jersey Scallops
This scallop dish was one of our favorite things at Graffiato. The shellfish comes with some charred eggplant and lemon zest for good measure.
The pastas at Graffiato were all highly satisfying, and this gnocchi was the one we liked best. Probably thanks to the pork ragu and whipped ricotta.
Another solid pasta, this time with a lamb ragu.
Compressed Asian Pear
The waitress pushed this one on us, and we’re glad she did. This pear comes served atop stracciatella cheese, and is accompanied by yuzu and green peppercorn. It was sweet, but not so much so that it can’t be eaten midway through your meal. Order it.
This is octopus done right, with some nice char and a tender consistency. We also love pickled onions, so we were glad to see some topping off this dish.
This is one rich pizza, thanks to black truffle, fontina, and a soft egg in the middle that you break and spread all over that joint. So good.
Jersey Shore Pizza
A delicious and also somewhat shameful pizza featuring fried calamari, tomato, provolone, and cherry pepper aioli. We were uncertain about how fried calamari would work on a pizza. Turns out it works really well. Next up: funnel cakes.
Graffiato Market Punch
Knob Creek® Bourbon, prickly pear, lemon, and hopped grapefruit bitters
Oh you know, we’re just standing here drinking, talking about whatever. Not posing for a picture at all.
Looks like we’re in the right place.
How’s that for presentation?
Charred octopus, flexing.
We'll be having the punch.
The Countryman pizza getting the egg treatment.
Room 11 is a cocktail bar in the Columbia Heights section of the District that has a serious cocktail program and some serious eats. These guys do drinks like almost nobody else in town, and they also have a really solid menu of elevated bar food. They even make their own version of Cheez-Its, and they’re incredible. What do you snack on where you drink?
Grandma’s Cheese Crackers
Yep, homemade Cheez-Its. These things are so good.
Pinoy Boy Sandwich
This is one hell of a sandwich. Filipino adobo chicken, sriracha puffed rice, jalapeño, and an Asian slaw are all stuffed into a baguette. It’s a monster, and it’s absolutely delicious. Don’t come to Room 11 and not order one.
Classic Grilled Cheese
Nothing soothes like a good grilled cheese, and this really hits the spot on a rainy night in D.C.
Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie, served up. This glass of dessert is incredible.
Cry Baby Rickey
Knob Creek® Bourbon, homemade celery shrub, lemon, lime and orange juices, soda, Angostura Orange bitters, and cucumber
Burnt Sugar Old Fashioned
Knob Creek® Bourbon, burnt sugar, Old Fashioned bitters, and an orange peel
Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey, Aperol, sage, lemon, and sea salt tincture
Room 11. Award-winning drinks for the people
The Room 11 lineup: Cry Baby Rickey, Biz Marquee, Old Fashioned.
Pinoy Boy Sandwich.
A big glass of dessert.
MINTWOOD Place is a spot that we heard about from someone at one of our other favorite restaurants in D.C., Little Serow. Little Serow is a beer and wine only establishment — otherwise they would have been Restaurant Number One in this feature. At any rate, a tip from a local in the food business is always a good one, so we booked a brunch reservation at MINTWOOD to scope out the situation.
It’s a good situation.
MINTWOOD is a casual restaurant in Adams Morgan that’s got a somewhat upscale vibe, at least when it comes to the food and the service. These people are serious about what they do. Luckily, that doesn’t translate into an uptight atmosphere. It’s a lively scene where you’ll find people hanging out and enjoying good food and good drinks. It’s a great destination for dinner if you’re in the area, and don’t miss it for brunch, if only to get some chocolate chip pancakes. Good lord, those pancakes.
Buttermilk Pancakes with Chocolate
Quite possibly the best pancakes we’ve ever eaten. They basically taste like giant, soft chocolate chip cookies. That you put syrup on.
This is one big bad breakfast sandwich. It’s almost too big. They put about 20 eggs and whatever meat and cheese you want on a croissant. This thing must weigh 10 pounds.
Bacon & Onion Flammekueche with Mushrooms, Sunny-Side Up Egg
What’s a Flammekueche you ask? As far as we can tell, it’s a German or Swiss word for “delicious breakfast pizza.” It’s like a crunchy flatbread topped with all kinds of good stuff, like bacon, mushrooms, and egg. You should eat one.
Suckling Pig Hash, Sunny-Side Up Egg
As if we weren’t going to order this. Pretty much any dish with the words “suckling pig” in it is going to get put in our mouths. This is a heavy breakfast item, but we’ve got heavy-duty appetites. You should too if you’re going to order this.
Man on the Moon
Knob Creek® Bourbon, citrus juices, champagne, and bitters
Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey, Figoun, Trimbach Kirschwasser, Angostura bitters
Last meal of the trip. How do we look? Hopefully not like we feel.
The pancakes of our dreams.
Brunch drinks are good drinks.
All photographs courtesy of Rey Lopez.
That's a wrap on the Knob Creek® Tasting Experience...for now. In the meantime, check in on Andrew and Chris at Immaculate Infatuation, relive their trips to Dallas, Seattle, San Fran, New York, and Philly, or go on a Knob Creek® Tasting Experience yourself.
Knob Creek® is a registered trademark of Jim Beam Brands Co. and is used with permission.