Eating in Washington D.C.: Rural Society and Little Serow
I did it. This post officially gets me caught up on the tales of my summer travel eats!
Before this latest trip, it had been 3 years since my last visit to Washington D.C. Hard to believe that much time has passed because I feel like it was just yesterday that I was enjoying some amazing meals at Rasika and Zatinya. Oh, and of course that insane chocolate-laden brunch at Co Co. Sala! Certainly can’t forget that one.
This time around I was traveling for work, and because I had a seminar that would keep me busy for much of it, I didn’t really make a plan for my first night in town. Instead I figured if I felt like eating something when I was done working, I’d just grab a quick bite from a bar near my hotel. Well, turns out I didn’t have to actually go anywhere. Instead, food came to me!
When I returned to my room from my class (that was also being held in my hotel, the Loews Madison), there was a charcuterie board, crepes, and a note waiting for me on my desk. The note? An invitation to come dine at the hotel’s newly opened restaurant, Rural Society.
Now, do you think I’m going to pass up that offer? Of course not!
From the moment I walked in, I was thoroughly impressed. The decor definitely makes you forget that you are in a hotel restaurant. My favorite part of the design are the private dining nooks with vintage bars. If I was dining with a couple of friends, that’s definitely where I’d want to sit. But, I wasn’t, I was alone. Since I was solo, the perfect spot for me was obviously the Chef’s Counter, where I was front and center for all the action happening at the expansive wood burning grill.
Why the large grill? Well, Rural Society is a contemporary Argentine steakhouse. The smells wafting from that kitchen had my stomach rumbling and before long I was devouring one plate after another. Even though grilled meats are their specialty, I absolutely loved the Carpaccio de Pulpo: braised octopus, tomatao escabeche, and malbec chips. Another favorite was the braised Wagyu beef belly empanadas. And remember those crepes that were sent up to my room earlier in the evening? They were divine. As in, the best crepes I’ve ever had. Dulce de Leche crepes with blackberry gastrique and wood roasted pecans. Enough said.
1177 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
Where do I even begin when it comes to Little Serow? Plain and simple: I’m in love.
There are so many little things that I am enamored with about this entire concept. From the no frills basement location to the service staff’s clothes to the spicy hot, tear-inducing cuisine to their playlist, I can’t quit thinking about how much I want a place just like this in Nashville.
It’s a little different than your average restaurant concept, so here are some bullet points:
- They serve a set, family-style Thai dinner on a first-come, first-served walk in basis. No advance reservations. They don’t even have a phone!
- Cost is $45 per person (plus a little extra if you’re partaking in booze) for 7 courses
- They update the menu each Tuesday afternoon for that particular week. Changes or substitutions are not possible.
- They can only accommodate groups of 4 or less and there are only seats for 28 people.
- As I mentioned, it’s in a basement and there is no signage, so look for the line. Chances are there will be one unless you arrive by say, 4 pm for the first 5:30 pm seating. You may actually claim the first spot in the line if you’re willing to wait that long!
My very good friend Kandace works just a block away from Little Serow, so after my conference ended at 4 pm, I walked to her office from my hotel, grabbed her, and then we walked over to claim our place in line. Yes, I waited for 45 minutes. In the rain. And yes, it was completely worth it.
I don’t want to give away too many details, because for those of you that may actually go there yourself, I want you to feel the same way I did as I soaked it all in for the first time. All I will say is that I felt like the $45 spent on this meal was a screaming value for what I experienced.
Word of warning: the cuisine is not for anyone that doesn’t enjoy spicy food. Some are milder than others, but ALL bring some heat. Kandace and I were a little shocked at how combustible a couple of the dishes were, but thanks to the bowl of sticky rice and cold vegetables they provide at the beginning of the meal, we were able to calm down our tongue’s reaction!
I’ve eaten foods before that are so hot you can’t even taste the flavors, but that is definitely not the case with these dishes. They are SO flavorful and complex and delicious that even when my eyes were watering and my nose was running, I kept reaching for more.
Lapp pla duk chiang mai: Catfish, shallots, lanna spices
Tow hu thouk: tofu, cilantro root, peanut
si krong muu: pork ribs, mekhong whiskey, dill
If you are a fan of Thai cuisine and can handle some heat, you simply must visit Little Serow if you find yourself in D.C.!
1511 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036