I will be traveling to DeeCee and NYC later this month and can't wait to check out some of y'all's recommendations. I will be at the Chop House so I wil be sure to try the mussels appetizer and will get to Full Kee if at all possible for the softshell crab.
What else must I absolutely try while in DeeCee? Please note that I will be on a tight budget though I may be taken out for lunch and/or at least once.
Also, I will be with young children for at least one day and have never found a truly decent, child-friendly place downtown (near the mall or maybe by the Zoo).
I will be without a car but will be staying with friends who probably can be persuaded to chauffeur me to any truly remarkable eating establishment.
Any and all suggestions would be appreciated. Truly open to all types of food but don't try suggesting pizza. I will make it a point to visit the pizza shrine at DiFara's when in NY.
That's a pretty tough assignment, if you limit it to the areas near the Zoo and the Mall (especially the mall). If you want a remarkable eating (and cultural) experience, I would recommend the Eden Center shopping center on Wilson Boulevard in Falls Church, probably the Four Sisters restaurant or one of the pho places. Reportedly, this is the largest Vietnamese shopping center outside of Vietnam, and the grocery store and coffee shops are very interesting places.
Another cultural/culinary recommendation is the food court at Lotte Plaza on Route 50 in Fairfax county. This is a huge and interesting Asian grocery store, with about 5-6 restaurants in the back with varied pan-Asian cuisines. Good and interesting.
If you're limited to DC, try Johnny's Half-Shell at 22d & P for the oyster po-boys (unless you're from New Orleans, of course), Malaysia Kopitiam on M between Connecticut and 19th Street for a different kind of Asian, or (my favorite) Oodles Noodles on 19th Street between L and M for great pan-Asian food (if you can take spicy, the phuket noodles can't be beat).
re: Doug Herbert
You should NOT miss Eastern Market for breakfast on Saturday. Defintely bring the kids. Get em up early -- arrive before 9 or prepare to wait in a long line, especially if the weather is good -- and go. I have waxed what I hope was eloquent about it before so will spare everyone and get right to the order: ham, egg and cheese sandwich; blueberry buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup (costs extra, if they have it); side of bacon, side of fried potatoes. The fried oysters are great but I don't believe they are in season.
Check out the market while you are there as well -- farmers and crafts people outside, the regular market inside...oldest continuously operating farmers market on the East Coast. a REAL neighborhood experience. There's a great used bookstore across C street from the market. Tell Jim, the owner and a retired admiral, I sent you.
The bakery on the south end sells very good gingerbread.
Eastern Market metro (come up the escalator, cross Penn Ave at 7th Street (by the CVS) walk 1 block north on 7th and you won't be able to miss it. Pretty good coffee on the way at Stompin Grounds. E Market is the last of the cities former network of farmers markets.
Dean & Deluca in G-Town occupies one of the original buildings.
Near the zoo, the kids might enjoy firehook bakery on Connecticut (above zoo, below Porter stret) -- there is a nice open garden to eat in in the back (the former Roma Restaurant) and on the weekends they make omelettes.
Back on the hill, for a great diner experience go to Jimmy's at 5th and East Cap for homemade lemonade and home made ice cream milkshakes. burgers, grilled cheese etc. Avoid the morning hours unless you are very early. otherwise, go after lunch to avoid the crowd. They close by 4, maybe 3.
Pete's diner is also cheap good plentiful food -- 2nd St SE, below Penn, next to Le Bon Cafe. interesting sweet potato pancakes.
the kids might also enjoy the fish market, a large lively funky smelling actual market on the potomac -- Maine Ave around 5th Street SW. They sell cooked crabs, shrimp, fried fish, corn on the cob. I like to go there with my dad when he's in town and we eat crabs on the dock. a wacky, wacky scene -- every single ethnic group represented buying bivalves you've never laid eyes on but will desperately, suddenly crave.
have fun. it's a great town for kids...