Saturday, August 9, 2014

G by Mike Isabella Food Review

Suckling Pig

Washington, DC was just named America's coolest city by Forbes (it's about time!) and if you're in need of proof... look no further than DC's suddenly vibrant sandwich scene. Gone are the days of Potbelly, Quiznos and Subway atop the "sammy" charts. Now it's Top Chef city, led by the likes of Bryan Voltaggio's Lunchbox and G by Mike Isabella. I fell in love with the former last month; and heavy in like with Isabella's G yesterday.

G resides along 14th Street, NW, just north of the U Street corridor. It's an area I used to avoid, but one that's swiftly moving up DC's culinary charts. It bookends Isabella's fancier corner eatery, Kapnos; yet manages to keep pace with its older sibling in terms of looks and quality of food. It may not look big, but G offers a generous number of seats for those who want to dine-in. Carry-out business is good great (the phone literally never stopped ringing, the full run of my visit) but I prefer to take in the ambiance, whenever I can. Lucky for me, the first thing that greets you at G is the Heavenly smell of various meats (goat, lamb, pig, etc.) and warm, tasty breads. Cue ravenous appetite.

Housemade Potato Chips

I ordered one of G's most popular sandwiches, the Suckling Pig ($13... I never said it was cheap) with a bag of Housemade Potato Chips (only $2) and a Vanilla & Ginger milkshake for an additional fiver. Free water is available too (big cups!) as well as all kinds of housemade sodas, beer & wine. I sat down at a middle table, with my back to the flat screen TV (Nats-Mets replay) above me. Music pours in overhead (1979 by the Smashing Pumpkins) a little too loud for my taste, but apparently par for the course. Seats are quite comfortable, and I totally dig the industrial look with dark-stained, G-embossed tables and chairs. Service runs warm and cold (one person is very nice, another not so much) and it was good to see somebody come around and clean all the tables.

Vanilla/Ginger Milkshake

Once my name was called, I went up and collected my chips, sandwich and freshly-spun shake (no annoying pagers to tote around.) Let's start with dessert first: The shakes are nice & smooth (not thick at all... just the way I like 'em) and mine had a very unique taste (more like egg nog.) Trust me, you won't forget it (which is more than I can say for about 80% of the shakes in DC.) Throw in another three bucks, and you can have yours spiked (not my style, especially at 1 in the afternoon.) Grade: B+

Next up... the star of the show, so far as I'm concerned. G's Housemade Potato Chips with peppercorns and sea salt. $2 never delivered so much happiness. They're insanely good (I Tweeted out "Best in the World," and I stand by it more than 24 hours later.) How good? Crunchy, with perfect hints of salt and pepper (the pepper hits you last.) Perfectly cooked (not one overdone... talk about rare) and sinfully delicious. God only knows how I managed to sneak out of there without buying two or three bags for the road. That said, I'd literally go back for the chips alone (seriously.) Grade: A+

On to the sandwich, G's giant Suckling Pig. It might be $13, but you're really getting two sandwiches (conveniently cut in half.) The seeded sub roll is top notch, and the perfect balance between soft and hard. It's packed with a decent amount of pork and delicious Italian peperonata (sweet onions, stewed tomatoes and peppers.) The pork isn't as tender as I prefer, but still mighty tasty (I also like a bit more zest in the meat. Thankfully, the peperonata delivers that and then some.) My biggest problem? It didn't smell good. Not off, of course... just not very aromatic, is all. Considering it took me less than five minutes to devour the whole thing, you can hardly call it a deal breaker (just something worth noting.) Grade: B

Overall, it's hard to find much (if any) fault with G by Mike Isabella. Some of the sandwiches are a little pricey; but overall the prices are more than fair (the wildly popular Roasted Cauliflower is only $9.) I'd love to see free WiFi in the future, and hopefully flavored chips too: Can you imagine? In the meantime, Isabella continues to hit the ball out of the park... placing a close second to fellow Top Chef finalist Voltaggio for best sammy joint in DC. Living in the nation's capital has always been good; but thanks to guys like Mike Isabella, it keeps getting better and better.