Appetizers
September 1, 2011
Summer in the city: a stroll, a stop for Korean BBQ, a seat in the park, and something about Dave Bender

It was a perfect day to venture outside for lunch and join in with downtown residents and workers alike as they soaked up the sights and sounds and, yes, the flavors of our city.

On Thursday, we managed to multitask at midday - a walk with the dogs, a terrific little lunch, some people-watching, and a little browsing and buying at the curbside farmers market along the east end of Capitol Park.
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From home, the GF and I - and two out of the three dogs (it was too hot and too far for the old golden) walked to GoGi's Korean BBQ at the corner of 15th and L, where you order at a walk-up window. This little joint combines Korean BBQ with tacos and burritos, along with a street-food immediacy that has become a bustling addition to the lunch options downtown.

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On this visit, we were looking for something on the lighter side without sacrificing flavor, so we ordered a spicy pork bowl and a BBQ short rib bowl. These $5 bowls, which come with rice and shredded cabbage (along with choice of meat or tofu) are just right for a lunch that is not so big that you're fighting to stay awake at your desk by 2:30 p.m. The pork lived up to its billing - it was pleasingly spicy as well as tender. The short ribs, as expected, were very tender and, though they weren't as bold as the spicy pork, certainly had enough flavor to get your attention.

Service was brisk. In months past, the lines had been long and occasionally the wait for the food was on the slow side. GoGi seems to have sped up considerably. Moments after tucking my wallet back into my pocket, our order was ready. We even received a bowl of water for the panting dogs. Oscar, especially, found the water to be cold and crisp, well balanced and with an appealing minerality on the finish (OK, no, I made that up).

Across L Street is Capitol Park, and on this day (Thursday), the seasonal farmers market had vendors lining 15th Street. Someone was sitting at the park bench we wanted - in the shade, beneath the big tree - so I had to think quickly. What could I possibly say or do to inspire irrational excitement? In a moment it came to me. "Isn't that the handsome and perky TV personality and certified meteorologist Dave Bender over there by the seedless grapes?" And sure enough, our bench was suddenly empty. It wasn't really Dave Bender. It was simply a very short man with a full head of hair.

Now seated in the shade, we dug into the food as we chatted and did a little people watching. And we wondered what it must be like to be someone like Dave Bender. Does he see it as a burden or a privilege? Does he know that we know that he's actually pointing at a green screen and not a map when he does the weather? But I digress.

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The dogs? As any dog owner knows, Capitol Park is loaded with squirrels - so the Big O and Abbey could hardly contain themselves watching the cheeky squirrels frolicking nearby. The last time I let one of my dogs loose in the park, it was years ago, and my amazing chow, Leo, took a good line on an unsuspecting squirrel trying to escape to a tree. Leo wasn't fast, but she was cunning. The squirrel zigged as Leo zagged and, right in front of a man with his two young daughters happily tossing peanuts, Leo ate the squirrel like Joey Chestnut eats a hot dog. The girls started screaming, dad glared at me something fierce and I pretended it wasn't my dog. But that was years ago, and Leo, sadly, is no longer with us to terrorize children with her squirrel-loathing escapades. (Quick aside for foodies: I once had to sign a "model release" form for Leo, after she was photographed by a Bon Appetit photographer while we were visiting Carmel and sitting at our favorite little coffee shop).

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This time, the dogs were on leashes and there was peace in the park. After we ate, we bought some plump plums, a few cucumbers and a large bouquet of flowers. I wanted some heirloom tomatoes, too, but I was a little late to the party, as a woman ahead of me got the last of them.

All in all, it was a nice summer outing, and, even without an actual celebrity encounter, it was a pleasant reminder of what city living has to offer.

By the time we got home, Oscar was ready for his seventh nap of the day.
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