Sunday Brunch in DC
We're attending the Millenium March on Washington at the end of April and are looking for a fun sunday brunch place, great food, reasonable prices (we need to save $ for our Equality Rocks tank shirts), decent beverage. Neither of us are familiar with DC, but we are staying near the Nat'l Arboretum (the only place in DC to find a room under $300/nite) and will be spending the bulk of our time "on the Mall" where the happenings are happening. Sunday is the day of the March, and our last day in DC, and we've been told that the Banana Cafe in Dupont (which i hear is not a safe area) is great for Sunday Brunch. I decided to ask fellow hounds, because I take no other's word on food but you. Please keep travel time in mind -- I respect the fact the Metro is THE way to travel, but we simply don't want to spend the day underground as it is a time to be "out" and about and we don't want to take 40 minutes to get to brunch -- we need to have time to at least SEE the March, and then get going to the airport by 3:30. Fellow Chowhounds, we beg direction.
Lydia & Laura
We don't get into DC enough for me to give you guys a recommendation for in-town brunch, but whoever told you that Dupont Circle was not safe was way off base. And even more off base during daylight hours. You will have no more trouble there than in any other trendoid urban area.
On the other hand, whoever told you to stay near the National Arboreteum also gave you a bum steer. The Arborteum is great, but as for its environs, you'll just have to see when you get there. Ugly is not being unkind. If it's not too late, change your plans and stay over in northern Virginia. You'd be just as close to the Mall.
re: Bob W.
I strongly second the suggestion not to stay near the Arboretum - although you should definitely see it. On a day when there is a march in DC, you may be able to get around faster by metro than by foot - things all around the mall get very, very crowded, and you would be best off getting out of the way for brunch.
IMO, Dupont Circle is swank. I couldn't afford to move there, and I live in Midtown Manhattan now. I suppose it's all relative.
Just returned from visting the family in DC and seriously enjoyed the brunch out in Bethesda at Lousiana Express. Various eggs benedict variations (the spicy rice cakes under the eggs bayou are a perrenial fave), pain perdue (like donuts, but doughier), and eggs with red beans and andouille.
Beignet and callas (fried rice balls w/ cinnamon and sugar) are usually out of sight with a mug of coffee.
If you can get out there and like cajun, it is worth the trip.
It would be about a ten minute walk from the Bethesda Metro but you should probably check a map... Not the most convenient, travel-wise, but fits the bill on all other counts, I think...
re: Mike Zurer
do you mean good by Bethesda standards, or good by LA standards? It's fiendishly hard to find real Cajun/Creole food outside of LA...is this destination place quality?
I guess it might be hard for you to say from brunch alone...there've got to be some people out there who've been there for dinner....?
re: Jim Leff
I meant good by brunch around DC standards.
But they do some things very well all hours of the day. Generally, deep-fried == excellent. I have been underwhelmed by the rice dishes (etouffes, creoles, and "cajun stir-fry") which have seemed a little "gummy," mostly on account of uninspired sauces. The oyster loaf "peacemaker" is always a treat. Soft-shell crabs are usually good when they have them as well. The gumbo and the red beans and rice are both quite tasty.
Authenticity is not neccesarily the draw here. One odd item is a cajun cheese-steak. I avoided it for a while, but at the end of period of frequent visits while I still lived in DC, I broke away from my usuals, and was not disapointed.
They also have rotiserie chicken, but I don't think I, or any meal-mates, have ever had it.
The only things which I can confidently say measure up to NOLA standards are the beignet. And yes, I've had them at Cafe Du Monde...
I wish I had good restaurants to recommend south of the Mall, but I don't think I've ever eaten in that entire zone of the city. Most of the retail (and restaurants) is north of that area, with the highest concentrations in neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom and even Bethesda (on the DC-Maryland line). You'd be able to find a number of interesting brunch spots in any of those areas, but they're not at ALL on the way from the Arboretum area to the march site.
The real reason I'm posting, though, is to encourage you to make sure to visit the Dupont Circle area while you're in town, especially since you're here for the Millenium March. For lack of a better analogy, Dupont is the Castro of DC, where there are several stores (such as Lambda Rising) aimed straight (so to speak) at the gay and lesbian community. It's where most of the gay bars and clubs are, it's one of the few areas of the city where you often see same sex couples walking hand in hand, and it's also the place where the Human Rights Campaign has set up march headquarters. And it's TOTALLY safe, whoever told you otherwise doesn't know this city at all. Have a great trip and enjoy your march!
Oh darn, I just found out about this site and could have helped you out regarding Sunday Brunch. Millenium March was great, by the way! Well, if anyone is marching for Million Moms or coming for Pride Festival or whatever, maybe this will be helpful. First, Banana Cafe is not in Dupont Circle. It's on 8th Street in the Eastern Market Area of Capital Hill which is about an 8 block walk to the Mall. Banana Cafe offers Cuban Style food which I enjoy, but doesn't seem too authentic by Miami standards. Their brunch consists of scrambled eggs, sausage, and a few Cuban items like plaintains - all served out of those hot metal warming containers. Items can get dry. You can also order some of the cuban specialties such as the pressed Cuban sandwich, which unfortunately is too crusty for my tastes.
Another Capitol Hill option is Jimmy T.'s on E. Capitol and 5th St. This is a neighborhood institution, featuring traditional diner style breakfast, served by sassy wait staff and everyone knows everybody. Get there early (8) because there will be a line out the door by about 9. Even if you're late it might be worth checking out how far the crowd is out the door.
In a similar vein, with no wait is Sherrill's on Pennsylvania. They are also a bakery, but I don't care for their sweets too much. They do add vanilla to their short stack pancakes which gives them a sweet taste.
Finally, THE Capitol Hill breakfast institution on SATURDAY, not Sunday is Market Lunch. It's at the Eastern Market (7th + North Carolina) S.E. You stand in line to be served truly great southern food (although they also offer home fries but with Old Bay spice seasoning on them). When you shuffle past the cash register, the woman will demand $20 no matter what you order. The servers are impatient and will make sarcastic remarks if you're too slow and it's just absolutely hilarious. I was there this Saturday and the woman at the cash register was singing gospel tunes with some of the customers. Your seating options are outside with a tray at some beat up picnic tables or inside along a lengthy dining table that forces you to talk to total strangers. It's a ball. BUT THEY ONLY SERVE BREAKFAST ON SATURDAYS. Oh yeah, get there before 10 or prepare to wait for 30 minutes in line. Of course if you have enough friends with you, you can browse the farmers/flea market while one or two people hold your place in line. (But stand there as a group for awhile when you first get there, so no one gets upset about people coming up and joining you). Also, admire the dogs, for some reason everyone on the Hill has dogs and they treat them like little kids.
OK - real quickly, Mr. Henry's (Pennsylvania and 6th St SE) is a gay restaurant (which attracts plenty of straights to their brunch beginning at 11 or 12 on Sunday's) and has outdoor seating. Good friendly place. Annie's Paramount Steakhouse serves breakfast for the gay crowd - it's in Dupont on 17th Street. Reeves Cafe - midtown (16th and F???) is an old fashioned diner/cafeteria type place whose best feature is it's pastries.
Sorry this message is too long and too late for the march, but the next time you're in D.C. you'll have real breakfast options.
re: Cap Hill
Thank you all for your valuable input and insight. The March was FANTASTIC, and we didn't suffer from lack of dining options! Every place we went we had a great time, and even tho' the neighborhood our motel was in was horrendous, we got to spend time in Dupont, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, etc. Luna Cafe was fun for saturday brunch, we were at union station for kick butt bloody marys at the Station Grille, and DC was THE place to be this weekend. thank you all again! CHOWHOUNDS RULE!!!!