Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#8 Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC

On Friday March 30, Ashley was back in town on Spring Break from college, and my other two daughters also had no school. So, I took the day off work. This was the first time I was able spend with all 3 of them together in almost 2 years. Ashley wanted to go to the National Zoo in Washington DC and I told her I'd take them out to dinner at Comet Ping Pong for our Triple D stop #8.  We got the the Zoo when it opened at 10am and it was a long day of walking around seeing all the animals by the time the Zoo closed at 4:30. We made a quick drive up Connecticut Avenue and found a parking place behind the set of buildings where Comet Ping Pong is located (parking in that part of town is at a premium). We had about 20 minutes to kill before the restaurant opened at 5pm, so we browsed around at Poets and Prose bookstore just a few doors down. 

By the time we walked over to Comet  after they opened at 5 o’clock we were ready rest our feet and dig in to some pizza. The “Guy Ate Here” stencil was right outside the door. When we went in most of the tables were empty, but people were filing in quickly.  It was obviously a bit of a neighborhood hot spot. Inside, the d├ęcor had the requisite “funky” artwork, including a huge metal sculpture and an old Vespa scooter hanging from the ceiling. We were seated at small booth with a table that looked like… a Ping Pong table. Cool.

Our server delivered the menus and we browsed them over to see a nice variety of interesting pizzas. When he came back I told him about the Triple D tour. He was duly respectful of that and after some discussion with the girls (convincing them go to along) I told him we wanted what Guy ate. Our server seemed to know the drill and confirmed what I already knew from reviewing the YouTube clip - that Guy had “The Yalie” pizza (with fresh clams, garlic, melted onions, thyme, parmesan and lemon with bacon added), and “The Stanley” pizza (with homemade fennel sausage, Comet tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and mozzarella cheese). The server explained that a couple of years ago when the shot the episode, they used to put homemade ricotta cheese on The Stanley, but they usually don’t do that now. He said they can add ricotta if I wanted it that way. Of course I did! 

I also ordered a “half pint” of Fat Tire beer on tap while I waited. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a “half pint” on a menu before, but it was just the right amount in this cute as a button size.

After we ordered, I thought we should take a peek at the ping pong tables in the back of the building, since that’s one of the unique features of the place. Walking past the bar we saw 3 ping pong tables and a foosball table occupied by kids and adults have fun together. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I played ping pong (maybe college?) and I don’t think any of the girls have ever played the game before. So, rather than trying to figure out the etiquette of waiting our turn to play, we just went back to our booth and enjoyed some family conversation. As we sat at our table and waited for our food, the buzz in the room and the energy of the place filling with families continued to grow.

From the time we place our order to when we got our food it was only about 15 minutes. The server brought out our two pizzas. First off they are pretty small pizzas, so I immediately said to the girls, “Do you think this is going to be enough?” After all, we just spent the past 6 hours walking all over the National Zoo, so we had worked up quite an appetite. The Comet pizza is about the same size of as a “small” pizza from Pizza Hut or Dominoes. But, unlike those chain pizza places, these pizzas are obviously 100% fresh, hand-crafted and straight out of the oven. The crust is thin, crispy, and light tasting - not doughy at all.
The “Yalie” was an uncommon and delicious pizza with an olive oil and garlic base instead of a tomato-based pizza sauce. There were about 3 or 4 clams on each slice of pizza and they were fresh, tender, juicy and seasoned just right. The sweet tasting melted onions complimented taste and texture of the clams. The salty and crunchy bacon was the final touch to this delectable pizza. (Everything’s better with bacon, right?) The girls were a little nervous about the idea of a clam pizza, but once they tried it, they were hooked and wanted more (and so did I!)

The “Stanley” was just as good, if not even better. It was a little more like a “traditional” pizza pie. The crust was the same, but the tomato sauce was light, but flavorful. It tasted fresh made, not like a tomato paste at all. According the Triple D episode they make it themselves from organic tomatoes. It was also available for sale by the jar. The fresh “Stanley” sausage was left in big chunks with about 2 hunks of deliciousness on each slice. As requested, it was also topped with several large dollops of ricotta cheese. The compliment of the ricotta and sausage was “out of bounds!” This pizza was amazing and worthy of the “rock star” fist bump of approval that Guy gave it.

We were so hungry that we devoured these two pizzas in less than 15 minutes and ended up ordering another. We ordered the third and final item that Guy had on his show, which I originally didn’t think we were going to be able to – “The Philly”. This is a calzone made with house roasted pork, garlic, red pepper, broccoli rabe and provolone and serve with a side of the Comet tomato sauce. With the light pizza crust folded over the whole thing was crunchy on the outside with a soft, gooey, yummy inside combination of the pork and provolone added with some crunch of the broccoli. That one really hit the spot, too!

After our meal, the server asked us which one was our favorite pizza. That was a tough question. We all looked at each other and gave it some thought. I was the first to say that I thought if I had to choose one as the “best”, then I would choose “The Stanley”. It turns out that the girls also agreed. Not that we didn’t like the other ones! We got our check for just a little over $50, which is not bad for a dinner for four in DC. By the time we left the place around 6:30 it was packed with families and some young 20-somethings having some after-work beverages.. The tables outside were starting to fill up, too. We could have left sooner, but the place was a really pleasant place to hang out on a Friday evening and we were just enjoying some family time together.

I recommend Comet Ping Pong, and would definitely go back again. It has a great atmosphere, fresh and flavorful food, and friendly staff.  The challenge of dealing with traffic, driving to DC and the parking hassle is the only thing that would keep me away in the future. We made a day out of it and added a trip to the Zoo to our adventure, so as a Triple D spot, it was definitely worth the trip.

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