Not that I absolutely don’t adore the embassy’s dining facility (known from now on as the “DFAC”), but it is nice to mix it up every once in a while. I’m sure there are typical restaurants dotted around Baghdad, like any normal city (because that’s exactly what it is…a normal city, right?), but inside the IZ it’s a bit different.
We don’t have “normal” restaurants. We have Dojo’s Diner. I don’t yet have the whole story about how Dojo’s came about, but the owner is a sweet Southern gal, graduated from Ole Miss, somehow found her way to Iraq and decided to open an American-style diner. She offers beloved diner dishes to the best of her ability, with some expected limitations…
…for example, both times I’ve been there, they’ve been out of “L” for the BLT. Cucumber made a decent substitute though.
I’ve been to Dojo’s twice so far; it’s starting to become the typical place to go for going-away parties.
**Side note about going-away events: They happen ALL the TIME! Somebody is always leaving, so there is always an official event to bid them farewell, followed by an awards ceremony at a separate time, and then a “casual” (and mandatory?) barbecue for the entire office.
…A Dojo’s farewell, on the other hand, is for the people we actually care about. The people who’s company we will actually miss. It makes the night a bit more meaningful (awww).
So how is the food at Dojo’s? Not too bad! It has its niche, and it fills it well. The food is simple, and if it were served in Washington, DC, it probably would not be that remarkable. But because it’s homemade burgers and apple pie in Baghdad, that’s what makes it great.
Unfortunately it was already dark the first time we went to Dojo’s. The electricity away from the compound isn’t too reliable, so we ate on the roof by candlelight (cute!!!). I was feeling adventurous, so I went for a fried noodle dish.
It turned out to be raman (the kind that comes from a plastic package and is probably the sole reason why college kids still get scurvy) with stir-fried cabbage, carrots, and chicken. I can’t complain though, compared to the DFAC’s “Taste of Asia” specials, Dojo’s stir-fried ramen noodles were great! Our table finished the night with a round of brownies.
The brownies were gigantic! Dense, chocolatey, fudgey, and topped with real whipped cream. Seriously, it was shocking how real it was. I haven’t had any sort of whipped cream in a long time, so to have a whole block of it covering my brownie was…hmmmm, a nice, artery-clogging treat.
On my next voyage to Dojo’s, we arrived early enough so that there was still enough light to take pictures of the food. Yay! I took a risk with beverages and went for a refreshing Kiwi juice.
Now…again, for people who have lived/vacationed/whatevered in the Middle East, you must be familiar with all of the fresh juice stands that exist in most downtown areas. So, this is the logic I followed when ordering a Kiwi drink:
– Middle Eastern cities have fresh fruit juice stands
– I’m in the Middle East
– Kiwi is a fruit
I was half-expecting fresh Kiwi juice…not that far of a stretch, right?!
…refreshing nonetheless. It reminded me of those brightly-colored popsicle sticks, stuck together in skinny plastic pouches. It’s like Dojo’s just has a crate of them in the back, snips one open and pours it over some ice. There may be some actually kiwi flavor in there somewhere, but the green color and sticky sweetness was what stuck out.
My green drink inspired me to order another child-ish dish for dinner, to keep with the same theme.
Now, chicken tenders and fries are typically nothing special. Every restaurant has their own version (and by “their own” I mean they try to make up some weird name for the dish, no originality with the actual food), but I was very pleasantly surprised with Dojo’s version! There’s just something so much more satisfying about such a simple dish when it is homemade and done well.
And what better way to round out the meal than with a big chunk of good ol’ American-style apple pie?
All in all, Dojo’s is an excellent reason to break out of the compound and escape the endless cycle of DFAC food. For now I have Iftar bar, but when that ends…Dojo’s will be a saving grace. I heard rumors of an “authentic” Arab restaurant and even a “Chinese” restaurant lurking around the IZ, so stay tuned for more reviews and (decent?) pictures!