Some things are best kept in your back pocket for the right time to shine—like a lighthearted icebreaker for awkward conversations, or a playlist of baby animal videos to console you through a messy breakup.
This principle applies to restaurants, too. You need some regular-occasion spots that are versatile and easy to get into, just in case. Places that may not be mind-blowingly good, but also aren’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination. Places like Ciudad in Georgetown, a casual-but-not-too-casual Middle Eastern spot where you can eat some great grilled meat and flatbreads with just about anyone, on just about any occasion.
The first thing you see before walking into Ciudad is the charcoal grill right outside the front door, and that lets you know what you’re in for food-wise. The Mediterranean/Middle Eastern menu is heavy on different types of grilled meats, which you order by weight, making this a great place for sharing. Start with some bar snacks like fried almonds, and definitely get some hummus and flatbread, as well as the spicy/sweet/salty snap peas with tomato sambal and burnt honey. Then, pick your meat(s). The herb-marinated hanger steak is the best, and even just the smallest available portion is very substantial, not to mention inexpensive. Finally, choose some sauces, like smoky yogurt, chimichurri (our favorite), or black garlic aioli. A round of mezcal lemonades is also a very good choice. For the most part, everything—other than the too-dry kofta—is well-executed.
The warehouse-style space is pretty spare, besides the mural that looks like a graphic novelist’s take on something you’d find at a pediatrician’s office. As long as you don’t mind the paintings of hippos cut in half, the grim reaper, and a skull shaman casually taking a phone call, you’ll enjoy your meal.
Does Ciudad have the best Middle Eastern food in the city? No. But will its quality mezze and grilled meats make you happy with your decision every time? Absolutely. Keep it in your back pocket.
Hummus & Flatbread
Flavorful flatbread with hummus that will ruin the store-bought kind for you forever. Fried garbanzo beans on top add some nice crunch.
Fava Bean Falafel
Kind of an interesting spin on falafel, these crispy fava balls come with a green tahini (which we didn’t love) and a smoky yogurt (delicious). The falafel mixture itself lacks flavor, though. Skip this.
Snap Peas & Crispy Carrot
These charred snap peas topped with tomato sambal, a drizzle of burnt honey, and a pile of well-seasoned fried carrot chips are the best vegetables on the menu.
Charred Kale & Ricotta Salata
Grilled kale tossed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with crumbled ricotta salata, crunchy almonds, and a Calabrian chile relish that you should stir up with the greens. Very good.
Herb Marinated Hanger Steak
The steak here is fantastic, especially with their bright, herby chimichurri. Not only does it have a delicious marinade, but you get an enormous quantity of it for only $7.50. This is a very good deal.
Harissa Marinated Chicken
The spice on this chicken is awesome. It’s pretty juicy, too, and well-charred on top.
Beef & Lamb Kofta
We’ve had these little grilled meatballs twice - one time they were semi-dry, and one time they were completely dry. Go for something else.