Which ten restaurants would you most want to live next door to?

Seherli Tandir, in Baku, Azerbaijan is now on my list, but let me first explain the criteria. This is not about the best restaurants, it is about the ones that give you the most consumer surplus. For most of the “next door restaurants,” as I shall call them, you want them to be inexpensive, to offer some healthy options, to satisfy some of your cravings, to offer unique dishes, and not to take too long serving you.

It is not a mistake, if you are visiting Baku, to simply have each and every one of your meals at Seherli Tandir — the other restaurants in town are dominated assets.

The menu allows you to order three different types of cherry jam. Get the one in the middle, the sour one (don’t let them tell you that you should not be ordering a jam, and don’t put it on anything, just eat it).

Have I had better yogurts and rices? Order the little dumplings with sumac (gurza), asking for yogurt sauce on the side. The qutabs — thin breads stuffed with either pumpkin or meat — are the surprise knock-outs. The soups, the stews, the dolmeh. Did I mention the pilaf with the chestnuts? The “tandir” bread-baking oven in the middle of the restaurant?

The typical entree costs about $4-6. And the staff is friendly and helpful.

The restaurant is located in the old city, on the “restaurant street,” near four or five other excellent but nonetheless inferior options (when in doubt in those order dishes with pomegranate seeds). Go to the tower, and start walking up to the right, maybe 5-7 minutes. No taxi can take you there, as it is in a pedestrian zone. Simply ask when you get lost, as the restaurant is quite famous. You can’t make a reservation and may need to wait out in the sun, thus another reason why it should be next to my home

In general, Azerbaijani food lies in the space between Persian and Georgian cuisines, a double yum.

Which other restaurants should be in the top ten you want right next to your home? And why aren’t those restaurants simply the best period?

p.s. watermelon jam tastes better than you think.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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Baku bleg

What should I see and where should I eat? I will be there soon, and any assistance or advice you can offer is much appreciated, thanks!

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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10 Things I Learned: Tyler Cowen

That is a short interview with me from Northern Virginia magazine, here is one excerpt:

When did you feel you had “made it”?

Jan. 21, 1962 (his birthday). That was a turning point of sorts for me.

How do you define success?

Learning something new all the time, and staying healthy. Getting paid. Interacting with smart people. Having the chance to pass something along to others.


What do you do after a disappointment?

Bid higher next time.

Give us an idea of your work/life balance philosophy.

Do I even try to do balance? For me they are more or less the same. I know that makes me difficult. But I’ve ended up writing about what were once hobbies, and using so-called “leisure” time to prepare for research, writing, speaking and so on. My social life is pretty closely tied to my work life.

And at the end:

Any advice for those who are going into your field?

Listen also to the advice of people who are not in your field. A lot of budding academics listen too much to their advisor and don’t receive enough feedback and mentoring from a broader set of sources.


Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


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Kaliwa, web site, 751 Wharf St SW, Washington, DC, 202-516-4739 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Ylp]

One of the best ethnic restaurants in DC right now, and the best not-super-expensive place on the Wharf. Kaliwa offers Filipino, Thai, and Korean dishes, and the Filipino entries are the ones to get. They are designed and cooked by the same people who used to do the Filipino menu for Restaurant Eve, and the results are excellent across the board. The rest of the menu seems “good enough,” but not a reason to go there. I expect to return here regularly, and there are not many first-rate Filipino options around, given the long lines at Bad Saint. Definitely recommended.


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Xian Gourmet

Xian Gourmet, web site, 316 N Washington St, Rockville, MD, 301-875-1544 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Ylp]

Wow. Word is this is from the people who brought you Panda Gourmet in DC. As a Sichuan place, it would be one of the region’s five best, but that is not even their real strength. For Xian food it is a clear first in the region. Get their soups, most of all the beef with chili and noodle soup (contrary to the name it is not spicy) and the lamb soup with bread. The Dan Dan noodles I found to be a slight disappointment, but overall this is one of the very best Chinese places around plus it has many dishes you won’t find elsewhere. Pleasant service, great prices, no downside here that I can see.

Xi’an – China


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Asian Origin

Asian Origin, web site, 1753 Pinnacle Drive, McLean, VA, very close to Tysons II, 703-448-9988 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Don Rockwell | Ylp]

Mostly Sichuan, this is the best Chinese food in Virginia right now. You could try the spicy fish with potato and lotus root, the dan dan noodles, or Chairman Mao pork belly, among many other classics. I’ve had numerous dishes here, and not one of them has misfired. Somehow people don’t seem to know about this place yet, but it bowled me over with its subtlety and appreciation of tradition. There have a very nice private room, the menu is relatively good for vegetarians, as Chinese goes, and the décor is good enough that you could bring a client or business associate here. And yet the food totally delivers. I don’t think there is a separate Chinese menu, but you can always try asking about special Chinese dishes, no promises however but they might have one or two for you.


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Ethiopian food in Ethiopia


Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia


I will compare to Ethiopian food in the United States, so I won’t be starting from scratch here.

The good news is that the product is tastier in Ethiopia. But the other good news is that the U.S. version of the cuisine is fairly similar, and it really does give you a pretty good idea of at least mainstream restaurant cuisine in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopians really do eat a lot of injera, made out of teff. Firfir dishes, which use injera soaked in spices, are far more common in Ethiopian cuisine in Ethiopia than in the U.S. equivalent. Overall, the quality, subtlety, and diversity of injera is higher in Ethiopia, as you might expect.

Bozena Shiro is another staple, present in both countries but again far more common in Ethiopia.

Doro Wat — chicken in the red sauce — is the dish that improves the most in Ethiopia. The sauce is richer and more subtle, more in the direction of a Mexican mole than just a mere curry.

I had two meals in private homes, one in a well-to-do apartment in Addis, the other in a rural village. Neither overturned the basic impressions I have been receiving from the restaurant food.

I ate kitfo [raw beef] once and did not get sick or even feel queasy.

The fresh honey is much better in Ethiopia than what you might get in a restaurant in America. And they pop fresh popcorn rather frequently.

Especially outside of Addis Ababa, prices are very cheap. I stayed in the nicest hotel at the number one tourist site, namely Lalibela, with its underground, rock-hewn churches. A single course at breakfast cost about a dollar and was enough for a meal. Presumably some other prices are cheaper yet.

This is a wonderful country for vegetarians and vegans. I am told that for the Christian religiously observant, about one-third of all days specify an abstention from meat. So virtually all restaurants have a wide selection of vegetarian food and it is no worse than the meat dishes, perhaps better on average.

As for foreign cuisines, I had the best outcome with Indian food, perhaps because many of the spices and cooking techniques are similar. There are Sudanese and Yemeni restaurants in Addis, Italian food is plentiful (it’s not always exactly Italian, but Castelli’s is amazing), and the Chinese meal I had was decent but not sufficiently Chinese.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.


Why Ethiopian Cuisine In Washington, D.C. Will One Day Be As Popular As Pizza



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Fava Pot

Fava Pot, web site, The Shops at West Falls Church, 7393 D Lee Highway, Falls Church, VA, 703-204-0609 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | BizJournals | Washingtonian | WaPo | TripAdvisor | zabihah | NoVA Mag | Ylp]

[Fava Pot] Must-Try LAMB FATTAH from EGYPT to the States – Falls Church, VA (Egyptian Food)

Finally, this dreadful strip mall has a good place indeed an excellent place. Might this Egyptian restaurant be the best Middle Eastern food around right now? Everything tastes fresh and vital, including the more or less standard Lebanese appetizers such as hummus. The veal kabob is a welcome change of pace, if you would like to try something new. This place attracts a real crowd: it is very well-lit, extremely comfortable to sit in, actually feels yuppie and bland, but in terms of the food it really delivers. A welcome addition to the repertoire. I should note that while it is reasonably priced for the quality you get, this does not qualify as a super-bargain restaurant.


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Royal Nepal Restaurant

Royal Nepal Restaurant, web site, 3807 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA, 571-312-5130 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Zagat | WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

[Royal Nepal] when NEPAL invites YOU – Alexandria, VA (Nepali Food)

Right by the Birchmere, a while ago there was a Sri Lankan place here. I am happy to recommend the lamb chops, tikka masala, and duck-fried rice, at the moment this place is a clear first choice in the Nepalese category. It mixes in many Indian dishes, is not really trying to play the mom and pop game, and maybe they don’t have the very best momos. But their best dishes are really quite special.


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Pittsburgh bleg

Duquesne Incline To Mount Washington, Pittsburgh

A loyal reader writes to me:

Maybe a bleg on MR at some point (not naming me) for good places to eat and things to do in Pittsburgh?

The suburbs stretching out to eastern Ohio would count too…and is there a Tyler Cowen of Pittsburgh when it comes to ethnic dining?

I thank you all in advance for your wise and mature counsel.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

What to Do in Pittsburgh | 36 Hours Travel Videos | The New York Times

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