New York Strip Steak

Shambles, market price but usually around $55-$65 for 12 ounces

Grass-fed, organic, and wearing a cute little butter hat. Meg van Huygen

The Shambles may look slick, but it started out as a butcher shop, and it stays true to its heritage in its menu and service. E.g,. the meat part of the menu is just a chalkboard in the main dining room, updated daily with market prices. Don’t come here if you’re not in the mood for an impeccable steak or pork chop, basically. Now, you can’t make a wrong move anywhere on this board, but I always go for the New York strip, which comes in several sizes, so I can order depending on my hunger quotient. Succulent, clean, with singed fat on the edges, plated on a smear of demi-glace and topped with a li'l beret of tarragon compound butter and a sprinkle of good salt… maaaaan, there's nothing like a New York strip. The fact that this one's grass-fed, organic, and hormone-free from Painted Hills Beef in southern Oregon just skyrockets the whole experience into outer space. Ordering this steak means you love yourself, so have some respect. MEG VAN HUYGEN

I See a Light

Inside Passage, $18 for the cocktail, an extra $55 to keep the anglerfish mug (and you should!)

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One too many captain-and-cokes in college put me off rum for nearly two decades, but the cocktails at Inside Passage, a tiki bar tucked into Rumba on Capitol Hill, showed me the light. Literally.

Like every other dork in the millennial-heavy bar last week, I reflexively busted out my phone to capture the grandeur of the TikTok bait the server plopped on my table. I See a Light came in an anglerfish-shaped tumbler, complete with a little Christmas bulb dangling before its chompers. A multi-colored, plastic ice cube nestled in a mountain of pebble ice added to the spectacle, along with a purple lei orchid. It was purdy, and it tasted as good as she looked. Lemongrass dominated the lightly tart and herby sipper, all balanced by the warm-spice sweetness of the Japanese rum.

I would also highly recommend the Amazombie 2.0, which arrived in a plastic Amazon box with a QR code that led me to an article about the sinking of the Princess Sophia, a mysterious luxury cruise wreck that killed 353 passengers but didn’t receive as much news coverage as the Titanic due to the east coast bias. (Classic.) You can read the feature while enjoying the all-spice-forward drink, taking care not to get nabbed by the plastic zombie hand sticking out of the ice. I liked the Inside Passage, too. Dry ice billowed out of a cut lime, and the whole thing tasted like an elevated Capris Sun. And if you want something bright and clean, then order the Ballard Fog Cutter, which comes with a little field of dill and a smoke salmon crostini.

Yes, I See a Light costs $18. And, yes, the other drinks cost $22. Despite the high price tag, these vessels contained plenty of authority—and the bar seemed to know as much. As the host and servers will remind you more than once: Inside Passage only offers “an hour-and-a-half experience.” That’s plenty of time to sip two of these suckers (tops) and pound a couple spam sliders while marveling at the massive octopus dangling above the bar. RICH SMITH

London Fog Cake

Deep Sea Sugar and Salt, $80 for a 6-inch cake

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Deep Sea Sugar and Salt’s full-size cakes are pricier than most in town, and they’re often harder to get, too. The bakery—a green house on South Warsaw Street and Carleton Avenue South in Georgetown—can book up months in advance, and even if you just want a slice or two, the line can stretch down the block on sunny weekends. Go there anyway. Charlie Dunmire’s cake empire lives up to the hype, with a rotating menu of about a dozen different cakes and cupcakes on any given day, and there's not a single dud in the bunch. (Though I personally prefer a higher frosting-to-cake ratio than what's currently on their carrot pineapple cake. The browned butter cream cheese frosting is too good to be relegated to polite dollops! Pile that shit to the sky!) One surprising mainstay, and the cake you must try at least once, is the London Fog. The six-layer tower is stacked with intriguing components: Earl Grey cake, honey and Earl Grey syrup, bergamot mascarpone cream, and tangy cream cheese frosting. It sounds like it would be a flowery, herbal delight, right? Maybe an elegant dessert intended to placate discerning tea drinkers? Somehow, thanks to Dumire's wizardry, the combination of flavors surpasses the expectations of each individual part, and the grey, unassuming cake tastes like sophisticated Froot Loops. A bright, happy little party of flavor you'd never see coming. Surprise! MEGAN SELING

Tasting Menu with Wine Pairing

Bateau, $125 for dinner, an extra $85 for wine pairing

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If I'm paying north of $200 for a tasting menu and a wine pairing, then I better be eating a whole cow. At Bateau, Renee Eriksen’s steak place on Capitol Hill, I pretty much did. 

They use the whole bovine—tip to tail—to create plates that look like a million bucks but hit like diner food. In fact, every one of the dishes on the current five-course menu recalled classic greasy spoon fare, a high-class wink this erstwhile midwesterner welcomed. 

The carpaccio with bright paddlefish caviar, a creamy oyster emulsion, and four prisms of aggressively browned pomme paillasson tasted like a chunked and diced Waffle House hash brown at the ballet. The Crémant de Bourgogne Tentation, a sparkling white wine derived from Pinot Noir grapes, possessed enough acid and body to take on the potatoes and generally paired perfectly. 

That hearty start didn’t stop. 

The thin, tender bresaola topping a croquette stuffed with mushroom knocked me out and reminded me of stroganoff. The Grilled Oxtail sprinkled with preserved black truffle came on a bed of cabbage swimming in a bay leaf buttermilk sauce, and it tasted precisely like a corned beef sandwich. Two wines made from rare grapes in Italy’s northern Piedmont region attended each course; the first a light and lemony Derthona, and the second a cherry-red Verduno—both tremendous partners.

For the main course, they give you TWO steaks from two different parts of the animal. On the night I dined, I scored a short rib in anchovy butter and a petit sirloin with bone marrow butter. The former was super-fatty, unctuous, and indulgent; the latter was tender, grassier, and my favorite of the two. They also brought out a plate of collards stacked like a deck of cards (hence the “mille-feuille” title on the menu) and packed with umami from the black garlic. A surprise favorite of the night. 

After the two steaks, you get TWO desserts: a couple plum-stuffed donuts drizzled with beef-fat caramel and a sidecar scoop of cheese ice cream topped with a dollop of rutabaga compote. Sounds gross, but honestly this course set off a synesthetic response for which I was emotionally unprepared. I felt like I was eating mahogany in a mahogany room, and washing it all down with a mahogany tawny port. The savory/sweet/tart waltz going on in the ice cream and in the beignets, the balance of hot and cold, the high and low—it was a dream. After the third fried thing, the fifth wine, the 10th (or whatever) piece of beef, I felt as satisfied and warm as the restaurant’s amber interior. I wanted a cigarette and an ex-girlfriend. I felt like I was home. 

Sometimes you’ll drop $125 on food at one of these places and feel like you need a slice of pizza afterward. Not so at Bateau, god bless. RICH SMITH