20080410-erinzimmer-nonbread.jpgStill-warm, chewy bread is hard to beat in anticipation of a sit-down feast, but some places get points for thinking outside the bread box. "Fake," cheesy Mexican chains are great for bottomless chips and salsa, but let's go one step beyond that. In honor of next week's Tax Day, and our itch to get a few bones back from the Fed, here's a guide to the most unique pre-meal freebies at Washington D.C. eateries. When brainstorming, I asked my friend Sara Levine at Washingtonian—not related to Ed, as far as we can tell—who responded in a heartbeat with ideas. It's a good topic to be all over.

About the author: Erin Zimmer, our Washington, D.C., correspondent, is a new media analyst and frequently writes for Washingtonian, DCist, and other local publications. While Georgetown's food columnist, she investigated the cafeteria's omelet station, Hoya coffeeshop's cultish pumpkin muffins, and what exactly the basketball players ate.


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Costa Verde

Address: 946 N Jackson Street, Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: 703-522-6976
Freebie: Corn nuts, but not the packaged kind covered in partially-hydrogenated soybean oil. These are still warm and served with a bowl of tangy, pulpy salsa verde.

Hank’s Oyster Bar

Address: 1624 Q Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-462-4265
Website: hanksrestaurants.com
Freebie: Our cheesy, smiley friends. Goldfish crackers. A nice homage to the sandbox era, and the right aquatic mood enhancer before oyster po'boys and lobster bisque.

Jaleo

Address: 3 locations: 480 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004; 7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814; and 2250 A Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: 202-628-7949, 301-913-0003 and 703-413-8181
Website: jaleo.com
Freebie: Olives, in all colors and shapes. Green, black, muddy brown. I’m sure chef-owner Jose Andres hand-picked them all in Spain himself.

Wolfgang Puck’s The Source

Address: 575 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-637-6100
Website: wolfgangpuck.com
Freebie: Stir-fried Schezuan-style green beans, served with chopsticks, not a fork.

PS7’s

Address: 777 I Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-742-8550
Website: ps7restaurant.com
Freebie: Sesame crackers made in-house for the tables, and bowls of caramel-glazed popcorn for the bar counters.

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