Summer is but a heartbeat away, which (hopefully) means regrettable meals scarfed down while chained to one’s desk will soon give way to leisurely strolls and exploratory eating all around town.
Here’s a handful of palate-pleasing carryouts we recommend checking out during your downtime.
1. Sunrise Catering 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE
The opposing carts at Union Station — one serving traditional Jamaican cooking, the other catering to vegetarian and allergen-sensitive eaters — are the satellite arms of Sunrise Restaurant (107 Kennedy St. NW). They specialize in Caribbean cooking, doling out heaping portions of curiously spiced proteins (jerk chicken, curry shrimp, stewed oxtails) and heartwarming hand pies.
Their signature beef patty was, quite possibly, the best $2 we’ve ever spent. The golden crust is buttery and flaky. The filling is all about unrelenting spice, each probing bite returning masses of seasoned ground beef firing off sparks of cumin, ginger and black pepper.
The veggie patty partied just as hard, its pastry crust milder and perhaps a shade more tender than the meat pocket. But the interior gave no quarter, tickling the tongue with a medley of mushy peas, sweet golden corn and cubed carrots bound by a fake-me-out curry that slowly unfurls its creeper heat.
The fire-engine-red veneer spread across the jerk chicken certainly suggests this bird has spent time in the company of serious spices. The underlying meat, though pleasantly juicy, is nowhere near as fiery as it looks, making it an acceptable go-to even for mild fans.
2. The Pretzel Bakery 340 15th St. SE
Philadelphia native Sean Haney grew up eating soft pretzels and often wondered why he couldn’t scratch that nostalgic itch here in D.C.
When his last contracting gig expired, the self-taught baker decided to get serious about sharing the tastes of his youth with his adopted hometown. While he was busy tweaking his recipes, a friend on Capitol Hill just happened to be mulling what to do with a vacant lot. And so the Pretzel Bakery was born.
Haney sells 400 to 600 pretzels a day out of his modest shop, each salty-spongy twist more closely resembling a thicker-skinned croissant than the ampersand-shaped specimens most folks are used to. The warm, delicious treats retail for $2 a pop (three for $5 or a dozen for $18) and are accompanied by your choice of mustards (yellow or spicy brown), individual pods of Philadelphia cream cheese or premium dips.
Nutella is good —“the salty and sweet work perfectly together,” Haney said — but you’d be a sucker not to splurge on the spectacularly sweet caramel mustard. Haney imports that alluring combo, the most popular condiment, from a mom-and-pop shop in Rhode Island.
So, how long before we’ll be able to enjoy these D.C.-born pretzels at the ballpark?