A Guide To Washington, D.C.'s Best Take-Out

If you've ever found yourself so dog-tired on a Friday night that even frozen dinner from the microwave seems too much to tackle, don't worry. I have just what you need: a list of fabulous restaurants that will deliver right to your door or have everything ready for you to pick up on your way home.

To choose the five best take-out restaurants in D.C., the following criteria were used:

· The restaurant is one I've eaten in and ordered from at least twice before.

· The restaurant has to offer sit-down dining service, too; no cash and carry places for this list, since we'll be doing that kind of story in a future post.

· Only the freshest, highest-quality, restaurant-style food is acceptable. Frozen, pre-packaged, fast food, or processed food was not considered.

· The prices must be affordable (meaning $30 and under per person, not including drinks, tip, etc.).

· If they offer delivery, then it must be within Washington, D.C. (sorry, Maryland and Virginia readers; your lists will be coming soon).

#5 Food Corner Kabob House
If you've been around long enough to remember the townhouse on P Street where Pizza Paradiso got its start in the 1990s, then you won't have any trouble finding this hidden gem. They took over the space and we are happy to have them on P Street.

If you are in search of different but delectable new cuisine to try, why not consider Afghani food? Influenced by the cuisine of the Indian Moguls, Persians, Asians, Middle East, and cultures trading along the Silk Road, the food of Afghanistan is boldly flavored and is delicately complex and nuanced.

Fresh zesty yogurt, nutty basmati rice, meaty kormas, and ubiquitous naan are all part of her regional fare. Elegant yet filling dishes are brought to life with earthy spices like cardamom, cumin, and allspice. These are in turn juxtaposed with crisp, tangy flavors from cilantro, cucumber, lemon, orange, and pomegranate leaving your taste buds tingling.

Be sure to place your order with Food Corner Kabob House online well before you want to eat. All of the food, including the naan, is cooked to order and the wait can sometimes be lengthy, but it's worth it.

Online ordering available
Delivery Range: Pick up only.

#4 Crisp & Juicy
The Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken from Crisp & Juicy is aptly named. In fact, it's not only crisp and juicy, it's downright addictive. That's because the chicken gets a generous rubdown with a slew of secret spices that make the meat deeply pungent and flavorful while it slowly roasts on a spit.

As the chicken roasts, the secret rub caramelizes the skin and seals in all the meaty juices, optimizing the flavor. Just be careful as you drive home with your tasty package, because you may find yourself overcome by the intoxicating aromas that slowly fill the interior of your car. The scent of cumin, onion, paprika, and garlic is almost irresistible. Try to resist the impulse to rip open the bag to get to the succulent chicken inside. Be strong because you will want to serve your chicken with the perfect complement... the delicious hot sauce.

Yes, yes, the name is simple, but this creamy, mayonnaise-based sauce packs a wallop of garlic, onion, and depth from the Rocoto hot pepper. This ancient pepper gives the sauce its special smoky character and tangy heat. You'll want to buy it by the pint and slather it on everything, from the perfectly fried plantains to the black beans and rice, to raw scallions, corn chips, and just about anything else that could use a bit of heat.

Must-Try Dishes
Quarter Chicken White: $5.90 | Quarter Chicken Dark: $5.35
Marinated rotisserie chicken seasoned with secret spices and roasted until crisp and juicy.

Carnita Argentine Steak Sandwich: $7.30
Served with grilled onions and green pepper on a sub roll.          

Fried Yuca: $7.25
Large yuca sticks fried and served with choice of two sauces.

Plantain: $14.95
Plantains sautéed until golden brown and tender.

Delivery Range: Pick up only.

#3 Café Divan
Americans are ardent fans of the Mediterranean diet and extol the virtues of its olive oil-infused foods, but it's usually the cuisines of Italy, Greece, Spain, or the South of France that come to mind first, not Turkey. This is slowly changing as Turkish restaurants like Café Divan introduce hungry guests to baklava, roasted lamb, stuffed grape leaves, and tabouleh. When you enjoy a meal from Café Divan, it's like taking a journey along the ancient Silk Road back into Turkey's glorious past. In Turkish food, you will taste the country's origins in the steppes of Central Asia as well as the flavors of Middle East, the Far East, Europe, the Balkans, and beyond.

The varied cooking methods, list of ingredients, and influences from every country under the sway of the Moors can be seen, smelled, and tasted in the vast array of dishes they offer. I suggest you create your own meze, Turkish for snack or taste, and order a few items from several categories. You will eat like a king, or in this case, a prime minister. If you aren't sure which dishes to choose, ask for help; most of the staff at Café Divan is from Turkey and they can tell you about many of the traditional dishes that are signatures of their cuisine. Be sure to try my recommendations too.

Must Try Dishes
Pastirma: $7.75
Sun-dried spicy Turkish beef baked with fresh tomatoes and herbs.

Imam Bayildi: $7.25
Baby eggplant stuffed with onion, tomato, garlic, and parsley, baked with olive oil.

Manti: $14.95
Small homemade pasta stuffed with spiced lean ground beef and herbs. Served with homemade yogurt garlic sauce and topped with fresh sautéed tomato.

Lamb Shish Kebab Sandwich: $8.95
Tender chunks of leg of lamb marinated and skewered with tomatoes, green peppers, and onions, char-grilled to order. Served in pita bread with lettuce, tomato and green pepper and yogurt.

Delivery Range: Within three miles of restaurant.
Delivery Minimum: $20

#2 Pizza Paradiso
If you've lived in D.C. since the 1980s, you most likely remember the lean years when pizza was little more than a cardboard-tasting disc slathered with acidic, flavorless red sauce sprinkled with rubbery, processed "cheese product." Thankfully, Ruth Gresser opened Pizza Paradiso in the early 1990s and shook up the status quo. She cooked her pizza in wood-fired ovens and insisted on using only the finest quality ingredients to prepare her pizzas. She proved you could succeed if you cared as much about quality as you did profits, and the rest, as they say, is pizza history.

Must-Try Dishes
Giardino Antipasto: $9
Roasted eggplant, broccoli rabe, roasted hearty greens, goat cheese, salsa verde, toasted homemade bread.

Atomica Pizza
9-inch: $13 | 12-inch: $19
Paradiso tomato, salami, Kalamata olives, hot pepper flakes, mozzarella. 

Genovese Pizza
9-inch: $12 | 12-inch: $18
Pesto, potato, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

Insalata Paradiso: $8
Baby arugula, goat cheese, sweet red pepper, mushroom, pine nuts, and citrus vinaigrette.

Delivery Range: Pick-up only.

#1 Tono Sushi
This little restaurant is one of my favorite go-to spots for tasty Japanese and Asian food. The food is fresh, the prices are reasonable, and they have a mouthwatering menu. While they don't deliver all over the city, it's worth it to see if they deliver in your area. One dish I always include my order is the hot and sour soup.

Originally from Vietnam, this fantastic soup is packed with flavor, and Tono Sushi always manages to deliver it piping hot. It's only mildly spicy and is so delicious you will want to order two of them; one for now and one for lunch the next day. What makes this hot and sour soup so irresistible is the harmony and diversity of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors and the crispy, crunchy, silky, and meaty texture of the herbs, mushrooms, broth, and shrimp. There is sweetness from the shrimp, earthiness from the shredded roast pork and bean sprouts, umami from the sliced mushrooms, a bit of heat from hot peppers, and a palate-pleasing tang from the tamarind-infused broth. As they say in Japan before a meal, "itadakimasu!"

Must-Try Dishes
Hot and Sour Soup: $4
Shredded pork, shrimp, mushrooms, cilantro, tofu, bean sprouts, and rich tamarind broth.

Vietnamese Spring Roll: $6
Deep-fried with chicken, bean thread, and mushrooms.

Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura: $8
Green beans, sliced sweet potatoes, carrots, and shrimp coated with light tempura batter and fried. 

Unagi Maki Roll: $6.50
Freshwater eel with cucumber and avocado.

Delivery Range: Two miles from restaurant, but don't despair; you can get their food delivered by GrubHub and Seamless too.
Delivery Minimum: $20+$1


Please let us know about your favorites. Compiling this list was so much fun, I've decided to make it a regular post covering a range of topics on food and dining in D.C. Stay tuned for the next installment.