Rise & Shine Cafe

Rise & Shine Cafe
7995 Solomons Island Road
Owings, MD  20736

Rise and Shine Cafe is a cute little cafe that is located in the Reid Building plaza.  They offer wonderful homecooked meals, such as breakfast options (breakfast sandwiches, omelets, etc.), lunch options (sandwiches, wraps, soups, etc.), dinner options (entrees such as BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Tilapia, Bourbon Rib-Eye Steak, etc.), desserts, and drinks (soda, milk, and teas).

The hubs and I stopped by to have lunch, and we tried the following: ‘Slap Ya Mama’ Fries (french fries topped with a generous amount of shredded melted cheese, bacon bits, and your choice of ranch and/or sour cream; with the ranch sauce, it was yummy; while this app was filling, it wasn’t overly greasy!); Homemade Cream Chip Beef over Toast, served with Homefries (the hubs was a total fan and thought this was one of the best chipped beef dishes he’s had! This had a great creamy taste, filled with a generous amount of chipped beef; the slices of toast were a great complement; I was such a fan of the homefries, as they were sliced thinly, crispy, seasoned wonderfully, and had some great sauteed onions mixed in!); a Classic Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sandwich (you can choose for the crabcake to be broiled, fried, or blackened; we opted it to be fried; the crabcake was tasty and seasoned well, with pretty much no filler; this came with a side of yummy and creamy rémoulade sauce that had a nice zippy tang to it, and a generous amount of fries); Southern Maryland Fried Chicken (4 pieces that included a thigh, a breast, a wing, and a drumstick, this had a seasoned batter and was moist; we both thought it was okay; the entree also came with a choice of 2 sides – we chose mashed potatoes and gravy (this came out super super hot, and I loved this – creamy and delicious!) and macaroni and cheese (the hubs was a fan); and, a Backyard Burger (topped with slices of ham, bacon, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, onion rings, and chipotle mayo – the patty was handformed and delicious; while this burger was generous in the toppings and its size, I think a regular bacon cheeseburger would have been just fine for me!; this also came with a side of fries).

I also tried their homebrewed sweet tea that had a nice sweetness to it.  We were a little sad that the desserts had run out, but that just gives us an excuse to return again, very soon!

This lovely establishment is run by Ms. Dianett and Ms. Danielle – both were so so so super sweet and welcoming and checked up on us to make sure that everything was great.

This is definitely a hidden gem in the Owings area, and I highly recommend in making the trek to get yourself filled with a lovingly-prepared, satisfying, and comfort fare.  I can’t wait to return to try out their meatloaf, their Bourbon Rib-Eye Steak, and their desserts!

+homecooked breakfast/lunch/dinner
+homefries
+jumbo lump crab cake
+rémoulade sauce
+mashed potatoes and gravy
+handformed patties for burgers
+ranch sauce
+ask for Ms Danielle and Ms Dianett
+parking available in lot

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Martin’s Soul Food & BBQ

Martin’s Soul Food & BBQ
3063 Marshall Hall Road
Bryans Road, MD  20616
301.375.7247

Martin’s Soul Food and BBQ is located in the Safeway plaza off of Bryans Road.  They’ve only been opened for a few months and offer a variety of soul food and BBQ options (pork and beef rings, brisket, pulled pork, wings, subs, burgers, etc.).

The hubs and I came here for lunch, and we tried the following: Beef Brisket (this wasn’t too fatty and it was super tender and moist – the taste was pretty delicious, and the hubs was a total fan!), Pulled Pork (with a little kick, this was meaty and it didn’t have any of the strong ‘pork’ odor – I loved finding the little end crispies and it was great with the side of spicy BBQ sauce), Porkchop (you can choose between smothered or fried – we opted for the fried version – this was just okay, as it was smaller than the typical deep-fried porkchops we are used to; it also wasn’t too flavorful), Wings (simple, fried wings that was great with the Texas Pete hot sauce), Ribs (there are pork or beef versions available – we opted for the pork; these were super juicy, had a lovely crisp exterior, and it was meaty and not too much fat; great with the spicy BBQ sauce), mac and cheese (the macaroni was fully-cooked and the cheese sauce was creamy; there was a bit of black pepper to give it a slight kick), sweet corn (the hubs liked this, as he is a huge fan of sweet corn), potato salad (this was just okay, as it was more tangy than creamy), collard greens (simple; I just wished there was a little bit of meat in there and a bit more seasoning), a Half Smoke (perfectly-halved and -smoked, this was pretty delicious!  You can add toppings, but I chose only the grilled onions; yum!), and a cup of Banana Pudding (housemade, this had a generous amount of banana slices within).

Staff were super friendly and attentive, and there were a handful of tables to sit and dine.

Just make sure you re-check and re-confirm your orders, as if the manager is not on-site, you are unable to get price adjustments/refunds.

I’d love to come back and try out their subs and burgers, but I’ll definitely be back for the ‘Q!  Check this cute local place out!

+pork ribs!
+pulled pork!
+beef brisket!
+Half Smoke with grilled onions!
+mac and cheese!
+spicy BBQ sauce!
+banana pudding
+friendly staff!
+located in the Safeway plaza
+plenty of parking in the shared plaza lot

Bulldog Bistro

Bulldog Bistro
9255 Center Street
Manassas, VA  20110
571.292.1920

Bulldog Bistro is a family-friendly, neighborhood restaurant that is family-owned and -operated. They’ve been around since last November, and their menu has both British comfort foods as well as a good selection for anyone with a discerning taste (Colonial Chicken, Pan Seared Wild Salmon, Buttys, Shepherd’s Pie, Steak & Guinness Pie, Blackened Chicken pasta, burgers, wraps, soups, quesadillas, and salads).

The hubs and I stopped by, hoping to pick up some shepherd’s pies, but we were disappointed that on Sundays, only a brunch buffet is served. But, to not waste a trip and to really make use of our stomach space, we decided to give the buffet a try!

The spread offered a nice variety!  Breakfast potatoes, mini chocolate chip pancakes, pork & beans, sausage links, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy, mini scones, quesadillas, red beans and rice, jerk chicken, blueberry muffins, and a vanilla/chocolate pudding – all were super delicious!

The breakfast potatoes were savory, seasoned perfectly, and had a nice crisp on its exterior; the mini chocolate chip pancakes had good batter and was slightly thicker (which I actually loved); the cut-up sausage links were super delicious and quite addicting; the sausage gravy was thick, hearty, and had great flavor; the quesadillas were tasty, and no need for sour cream or hot sauce!; the jerk chicken had great flavor, and the meat was moist and juicy.

I had a nice conversation with Mary Kate, who shared that everything is cooked and prepared by her father, some of the specialties that they offer, and the updates being shared on their social media.

All the staff members (who are siblings) are all super sweet, super friendly, and super welcoming; I’d love to talk with the owner on the next visit!  I can’t wait to come back and try out their Shepherd’s Pie, the Buttys, as well as the rest of their menu.  Be sure to check this cute place out – the locals are so lucky!

+closed Mondays & Tuesdays
+Sunday AYCE brunch buffet (no regular menu offered)
+British comfort foods offered
+all cooked and prepared by the owner!
+super friendly and welcoming staff
+parking available in lot

Rick’s NC BBQ

Rick’s NC BBQ
5482 Southern Maryland Boulevard
Lothian, MD  20711
410.741.0227

Rick’s NC BBQ is owned by Ricardo, but Ms. Chrissy and her son, Michael, runs the place.  This small carry-out place offers BBQ pork ribs, sandwiches (pit beef, chicken salad, chicken breast, rib sandwich, and rib dog), NC pulled pork, fried/baked chicken, chicken strips, wings, shrimp, BBQ meat by the pint, kid options (nuggets), various sides (cole slaw, wedges, beans, corn nuggets, mac n cheese, collard greens, and potato salad), and party tray/catering options.

The hubs and I came here for lunch, and we tried the following:  1/2 Slab of Ribs Platter (this is dry-rubbed, the ribs were pretty okay, but a little too fatty for our liking – we’d probably ask for a leaner cut next time; comes with the NC vinegar sauce as well as the sweet sauce; the platter also comes with your choice of 2 sides (we opted for corn nuggets and collard greens; the corn nuggets were little deep-fried nuggets filled with cheese and sweet corn – more sweet than savory; the collard greens was fantastic with the vinegar sauce, as it gives that nice little Old Bay kick to it – was pretty addicting!); NC Pulled Pork (cooked perfectly, this was super moist and had some nice exterior crispies – great with the sweet sauce, but the hubs preferred the vinegar sauce); a 4 oz Pit Beef Sandwich (I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED this sandwich!

I’ve tried the pit beef in Baltimore, and I was just not a fan; however, Rick’s version was juicy and flavorful, in thick-cut slices, and the 3 sauces that came with (the chipotle, the creamy horseradish, and the sweet sauce) just pushed this sandwich out to another dimension!!!). The bun that was used (Martin’s Potato Roll, I believe), was soft and fresh, and really held the meat well together.  This was super delicious, that I had to get the bigger version, the ‘7 oz Big Momma Pit Beef Sandwich, with extra sauce, of course!!!

We also tried the Chicken Platter (this was more of like a baked chicken – thin crispy skin, seasoned well, but very simple and not greasy; I just wished there was some type of a better hot sauce than Tabasco!; this also came with a choice of 1 side, so we opted for the mac-n-cheese (I wasn’t a fan of this, as it wasn’t a thick creamy kind that I usually prefer it being).

We added some wedges (a little less crispy, but you can request them to be prepared more crispier), beans (slightly sweeter, I enjoyed the little bits of white onion throughout), and the potato salad (more egg-y and tangy, this was creamy and yummy).

To wash it all down, we had their house-brewed Sweet Tea – this was quite refreshing with the perfect amount of sweetness!

Service was super friendly – Ms. Chrissy and her son, Michael, were sooo incredibly sweet and awesome!

This little gem is worth checking out!  I can’t wait to go back to get more of their Pit Beef sandwiches and try out their fried seafood and wings!

+Pit Beef sandwich with the 3 sauces!!!
+Sweet Tea
+Collared Greens with vinegar sauce
+Potato Salad
+Beans
+Corn Nuggets
+ask for Ms. Chrissy and Michael
+friendly staff!

Rivera’s Restaurant

Rivera’s Restaurant
6552 Backlick Road
Springfield, VA  22150
703.451.5344

Rivera’s Restaurant is a small little Latin restaurant offering appetizers (such as pupusas, yuca fritas, taquitos, ceviches, etc.), soups, tacos, pollo a la brasa, fajitas, fish/chicken/seafood dishes, and daily lunch specials.

I tried their #38, which was the Lomo Saltado de Carne (you can also opt for chicken instead), that came with a side of yummy fluffy rice and beans.  This was an extremely generously-sized plate, with super flavorful sauteed beef strips with red onion slices and sliced tomatoes – this dish was absolutely DELICIOUS!!!  The beef was juicy, and the sauteed onions were just lovely!

You also receive two bottles of green and the aji sauce.  The aji sauce, while more mustard-y, was a perfect pairing for the lomo saltado dish!

We also tried a Pupusa de Queso, a cheese pupusa – this was a bit forgettable, as there wasn’t much cheese within, and the exterior wasn’t as crispy as I usually like it to be.

The hubs and I also tried their horchata, which was had the perfect creaminess, not-too-grainy, with a nice little kick of cinnamon – very refreshing!

One thing I thought was hilarious was that the restaurant had 2 TVs, one playing K-dramas, dubbed in Spanish – it was super entertaining!

Service was super sweet and friendly – Ms. Mirna and Ms. Damaris were both wonderful!  I’ll definitely be back for their lomo saltado as well as to try out their pollo a la brasa!

+#38 Lomo Saltado de Carne
+mustard-y aji sauce!
+Horchata!
+ask for Ms. Mirna and Ms. Damaris
+friendly staff!
+dubbed K-drama (!!!)

The Sushi Bar

The Sushi Bar
2312 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA  22301
571.257.3232
Daily, 5 PM – 12 AM
http://www.sushidelray.com/

WHERE HAVE I BEEN FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS?!  I never knew that The Sushi Bar had been part of the Del Ray neighborhood for a couple of years now.

This small, unassuming sushi restaurant with a small obscure sign, owned by Chef Saran (also known as ‘Chef Peter’, who apparently trained under Chef Hiroyuki Sakai, my most favorite Iron Chef of all time!!!) Kannasute, offers literally one of the best ‘contemporary’/’creative’ omakase that I’ve experienced!!!

The hubs and I came here for a little date night, and calling in advance, found out that the restaurant does not take any reservations – first come, first serve.  When we arrived, we only waited for about a few minutes to sit at the sushi bar in the back.  While waiting, we were served some water as well as the menu to look over.

The hubs and I decided to go with the omakase – and, I’m so glad that we did!!!  We started off with some authentic Japanese Kobe tataki (!!!), with some microgreens and a house sweet sauce – slightly seared, the Kobe was cooked perfectly and subtly tasted grilled; Blue Fin tuna with some duck pate and tobiko; salmon belly nigirizushi with fresh ginger sauce; some bluefin tuna tataki with sesame; toro tataki with some garlic ponzu, carpaccio sauce, spicy sesame oil, and schichimi togarashi; and, a tower of fatty tuna, sea urchin, monkfish pate, tobiko, garlic ponzu, and chili lime sauce.  The uni/sea urchin was literally one of the most freshest, most creamiest, and the most delicious uni I’ve head in ages – it had such a clean and wonderful taste, I was super pleasantly surprised!  The eel?  Perfectly grilled and had the perfect ratio of the sauce.  None of our plates needed a dip in the soy sauce or anything – everything was perfect seasoned, dressed, and drizzled on!

For dessert, we were presented with a black sesame ice cream on a crispy phyllo bird’s nest – super amazing!!!  The crispy phyllo nest had a lovely drizzle of honey, and the black sesame ice cream was not too sweet and a great complement – a wonderful way to finish the meal!

Each plate was beautifully-presented, creative, had great attention to detail, and all the fish was just super fresh and wonderful – you can really taste the quality!

Chef Kannasute and Chef JJ were both super sweet, friendly, and welcoming, and the staff (Kirin, Ashley, and Nathan) were all just super awesome and attentive!!!  The hubs and I were both huge fans and really believe that this is literally the best restaurant in VA!!!

Even better, the omakase also changes, so just let the Chef know and he’ll always provide a different, creative offering the next time!!!

Just note that the sushi bar has only 6 seats, so you may have some wait – however, it’s totally worth it!  I also LOVE the fact that this place is 18+, so no screaming/whining kids (there may be some adults doing these acts, but that’s a whole another story AHAHA).  The restaurant has a deep red decor, is clean, small, and cozy.

Definitely check this gem of a sushi restaurant out – you will NOT be disappointed!!!

+order the omakase!!!
+contemporary and creative = keep that in mind!
+super fresh fish!!!
+black sesame ice cream for dessert!
+ask for Chef Kannasute and Chef JJ
+ask for Kirin, Ashley, and Nathan
+18+ only!
+limited street parking off of Mount Vernon
+located in between Holy Cow and Pork Barrel

Cocoron

Cocoron
61 Delancey Street
New York, NY  10002
212.925.5220
Tuesdays – Saturdays, 12 PM – 3 PM, 6 PM – 11 PM
Sundays, 12 PM – 3 PM, 6 PM – 10:30 PM
http://www.cocoron-soba.com/

I’ve been wanting to try out Cocoron for a while, a little soba shop owned by Yoshihito Kida.

This small eatery has few tables and a wrap-around counter seating, and offers appetizers, salads, kobachi, cold and warm soba, vegetarian soba options, and desserts.

I really liked the cute little characters, decorating the menu as well as the chopsticks.

The hubs and I shared a Yokozuna Dip Soba, which was a miso-based broth that comes out bubbling, filled with vegetables and meat.  It was saltier and slightly thicker, but the saltiness is offset by being paired wonderfully with the perfectly-cooked soba noodles.  Some just dump the whole noodles into the broth, but those who like to eat dainty-ly, dip the noodles in it.

Once you are done, you are given a little jar of hot soba water where you ‘dilute’ the leftover/remaining broth.  This changes the taste of the broth completely, which you can now drink it more of like a soup (called ‘soba-yu’).

I’ve only had cold soba noodles before, but this dip version is just so delicious and much more preferable!  The broth is super flavorful, and it really warms you up – perfect for cold weather or if you’re sick!

Service is super friendly and super sweet, and once you’re done, you are given some hot green tea.

I highly recommend in avoiding the bathroom, as it is super small, unisex, and the heater is on non-stop (I almost passed out!) – just use it to wash your hands!

Another note is that this place is cash only.  I can’t wait to go back!

+Yokozuna Dip Soba
+Soba-yu (dilute with soba water with remaining broth to sip)
+friendly staff
+avoid the bathroom!
+cash only

Kobe Japanese Steak House

Kobe Japanese Steak House
860 Capital Centre Boulevard
Upper Marlboro, MD  20774
301.333.5555
Daily, 11:30 AM – 10 PM
http://www.kobeJS.com

There are actually 7 locations (Upper Marlboro, MD; Largo, MD; White Marsh, MD; Leesburg, VA; Martinsburg, WV; Grandville, MI; and, Kansas City, MO).  This one is located in the mall, the Boulevard at Capital Centre (across from Cold Stone Creamery).

The menu offers different hibachi options and sushi and specialty rolls (each location has their own special line of rolls, so be sure to check out the menu carefully).

When we walked in, we were seated promptly at one of the teppanyaki tables.  My husband and I decided to share the Dynamite roll from the ‘Appetizers’ section, which is described as the ‘#1 seller’ – it is deep fried with salmon, tuna, and red snapper, drizzled with a nice tangy Japanese mayo and a spicy sauce – it had a great batter on it, and it was actually pretty tasty (I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the sushi chef was Japanese!)!

For our entrees, we picked the Hibachi Filet Mignon – this came with the mushroom soup (I usually pass this on to the hubsters), salad with ginger dressing (loved the dressing as it was very tasty and was served with a great amount (I love it when the lettuce is literally swimming in it!), 2-piece shrimp appetizer (juicy and delicious), stir-fried vegetables, noodles (slightly on the sweeter side; it has been a while since I’ve seen a hibachi place offering noodles as part of the hibachi experience!), and, fried rice (at an extra charge; otherwise, you can opt for steam rice instead).

Our chef was Moddy, who stated that he was from Indonesia – he had a great laugh and was quite entertaining.  The onion volcano didn’t work (which is my favorite part), but the food was seasoned and served up wonderfully!

All the items were delicious, and there was a LOT of food – I was impressed at how much meat they gave you, as I thought they made a mistake in adding an extra filet!  I loved how generous they were with the meal – my husband finished up all of his (amazing), but I still had plenty of leftovers for the next day.

Our server was Ms. Regina, who was such a sweetheart, and she checked up on us throughout our dinner.  This place was happening, even on a Monday night – you can tell that this place is a favorite, and the fact that it was even busy at the beginning of the week shows you how well this place does!  I found out from Moddy that it was Korean-owned, so that was interesting to know! Definitely a great experience and a wonderful find, I’m glad I was able to check this place out – I will definitely be back!

+Hibachi Filet Mignon!

o1

Potatopia

Potatopia
378 6th Avenue
New York, NY  10011

212.260.4100
Sundays – Thursdays, 10 AM – 10 PM
Fridays – Saturdays, 10 AM – 11 PM
https://potatopia.com/

I think Potatopia is just super cute!  If you’re a fan of potatoes (who isn’t?!), be sure to check this place out – their menu offers build-your-own potato hits (you first start off by choosing a protein (oven roasted chicken, marinated sirloin steak, spiced beef, vegetarian chili, BBQ pulled pork, smokehouse bacon, or cajun shrimp), then you pick your potato (baked potato, baked sweet potato, mashed potatoes, tater tots, smashed red skins, thick-cut chips, shoestring fries, cajun curly fries, sweet potato crinkle cut fries, or waffle cut fries), toppings (such as marinated tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, hot pepper relish, parsley, fresh garlic, etc.), cheeses, and a sauce (like savory bacon aioli, greek yogurt honey, horseradish, BBQ, etc.)), or for those who are indecisive, you can try one of their signatures.

I tried their Bacon Overload, which contained shoestring fries (regular fries), double smokehouse bacon (an overwhelming amount!), red onion slices, smoked gouda, and scallions; I swapped out the chipotle aioli for the garlic aioli, which was a great substitution – the fries were super crispy and hot, and the toppings were of massive amount.  I really liked how this place takes the ‘bacon overload’ literally, as there was tons of bacon in it!  The garlic aioli was creamy and was of a generous drizzle that there was enough for dipping opportunities for all the fries in the bowl.

I loved the potato logo that they have (on the napkins and on the cups), and there is even a little pad where you can sketch your own ‘potato’ – AHAHAHA

Staff here were super friendly, and there is plenty of counter/bar seating.  If you’re craving for some potato-y goodness, check Potatopia out – you won’t be disappointed!

+’Bacon Overload’ – swap the chipotle aioli for the garlic aioli!
+cute potato logo

The Espositos

The Espositos
9917 Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA  22030
703.385.5812
Lunch and Dinner – hours vary

The Espositos Italian restaurant has been around in Fairfax since ’82.  Some dear friends, the hubs, and I came here to have lunch, and we were all pleasantly surprised!

The menu offers items such as Panini al Forno (subs), Frittate (omelettes), soups, salads pizza (in piccola or in grande sizes), antipasti, pasta, main entrees, as well as desserts.

We started off with some antipasti/appetizer plates:  the Mozzarella in Carrozza (fried mozzarella with anchovies, these were large block patties of lightly breaded mozzarella cheese with a light olive oil/butter sauce – I really liked the salty bits of anchovies that comes with!) and the Zucchini Fritti (fried zucchini; these were super lightly battered, and I personally was not a fan of these; the light marinara sauce it came with was a great complement for the fried mozzarella, though!).

For our entrees, I tried their Spaghetti Carbonara (spaghetti with onions, eggs, and pancetta ham – the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the dish was pretty overwhelming in terms of the amount of pancetta!  It was a good, slightly salty dish!); the hubs had the Fettuccine Romana (homemade flat pasta in cream sauce; this could have been more creamier and cheesier, as it was a bit too bland for me) and the Gnocchi Bolognese (potato dumplings in meat sauce – this was literally one of the best gnocchi dishes we’ve had!  The dumplings were pillowy-soft, cooked wonderfully, and it had some cheeses in there (but, not too much) that made it perfectly melty and yummy – this dish was delicious!); the friends had the Spaghetti alla Polpetta (spaghetti with meatballs) and the Linguine Vongole (linguine with clams in tomato sauce).

The complimentary bread was soft with a nice little crust, and the salads that came with the pasta dishes were super fresh and tasty!  Those marinated sliced carrots are out of this world (I kept stealing the hubs’) AHAHA

At the end, we enjoyed a delicious tiramisu, that was of perfect temperature – it was creamy, light, fluffy, airy, and had a great balance of the creaminess and the espresso flavors!

Our server, Ms. Esposito, was super awesome – she was friendly, welcoming, and made sure that our beverages were always refilled and our dishes were great.

This restaurant is definitely a little gem, and I would love to go back and try out their subs, pizzas, and their other pasta dishes.  Check this place out!

+yummy salad with marinated sliced carrots!!!
+Gnocchi Bolognese!!!
+Tiramisu!!!
+ask for Ms. Esposito!
+friendly service!