Where to eat during the Cherry Blossom Festival
I'm going to be in town for the festival on April 1-4. I'm trying to travel as cheaply as possible and I'm looking for cheap but good food. I'll be staying at the hostel on 11th street and my main form of transportation will be the metro. Especially interested in Japanese cuisine. Thanks.
After doing some research through all the posts I've come up with a small list of places that I want to try. If anyone could give me suggestions on what to try at the restaurants it would be appreciated. If you know of a website for any of these places, I would also be grateful for the link. I have the links of Rice, Murky Coffee, and Cafe Atlantico. Also, I see that there is a Trader Joe's in DC. Is there a location that can be reached by the metro?
I don't like your list. In part.
Soul food - I've posted about Saint's Paradise before, but its a specific rec more for families with kids, near the convention center, for breakfast, etc. However, it's just cafeteria food. FLORIDA AVENUE GRILL (11th and Florida, NW) is a temple of soul food with excellent baked stuffed chicken and very good corn bread.
Go to JALEO instead of Cafe Atlantico. Try the eggplant flan. Man, is it goood.
At FULL KEE, you Must Order one of the casseroles. Chicken with eggplant or oyster with ginger and scallions are Chowhound favorites.
Have you had Salvadoran food before? EL RINCONCITO is about a block away from the Columbia Heights metro stop (1300 block of Park Road). Get the carne deshilada and a papusa. Glorious.
If the weather is nice, you might want to visit the National Cathedral. About a block away is 2 AMYS for lighter than air, aromatic pizza.
In DC, NAM VIET is near a Metro and has very good Vietnamese steak. The nearby AMERNICK's has exceptional cookies.
The Adams Morgan neighborhood (centered on Columbia and 18th, NW) has plenty of good cheap eats. Try any of the Ethiopian places. They're all good.
Neyla and Amma are interesting choices for Georgetown, but you can probably get better Middle Eastern and Indian elsewhere. I've never heard anything about Rice on Chowhound, so you must have gotten that info from somewhere else. Maybe others can chime in, but I don't think anyone will tell you to go out of your way for it.
El Rinconcito also has a downtown location at 1129 11th St NW, very close to where you are staying. I've only been to the other Columbia Heights location mentioned by Steve, but I love the sopa de res, empanadas de platanos, pupusas, fried corn tamales (elote), tacos al carbon, horchata, etc.
Also close to you will be Haad Thai and Sushi AOI.
Full Kee is a good bet, but stick to the recommendations on this board.
You may also enjoy the dumplings from Chinatown Express. Also, if you are here during the week, there are two hole-in-the wall Vietnamese carry-outs in Chinatown on 6th Street. One is called Jack's the other is (I think) Viet Deli. I like the honey grilled pork at Jacks. You can get it to go and eat it on the mall if the weather is nice.
If you are going to check out the blossoms, you might also roam over to the nearby Maine Avenue Seafood market for a fried fish sandwich.
Teaism on 8th Street is another good suggestion. I like the plum ochazuke, tea-cured salmon and bento boxes (and the oatmeal cookies).
Cafe Atlantico is definitely outside the realm of "cheap eats." I agree that Jaleo or Zaytinya would be a better bet.
Add a slice from Vace to your list, if you are going to Amernick's next door.
Enjoy the blossoms, it's the best time of year to come and it's heartening that, even in DC, for a few days flowers supersede politics.
On that list the only ones we have tried so far is Pizza Paradiso in Georgetown, and Full Kee. We visited both of them late afternoon after lunch but before dinner, and avoided crowds. For example, we visited Pizza Paradiso about 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday, and parked in the lot behind, which charges (if I recall correctly) $10 an hour, nowhere to park in the street, but the restaurant itself was almost empty. This appears to have been a stroke of genius or a stroke of luck, but that's what we usually do at DC restaurants, go late afternoon.
One thing you need to remember is how very crowded the DC area is, especially during the Cherry Blossom fesival. The restaurant scene in your hipper neighborhoods are so crowded I would not go anywhere without a reservation, or if no reservation, expect a long wait, or try hitting it at an off hour.
I think it would make sense to figure out what else you plan on doing while in DC, and look for good restaurants in that vicinity. Nothing chowish is all that close to the Tidal Basin, unless you are in superb shape, so look for places near a metro stop that is also close to other places you want to go, is my opinion.
Forgot to mention, please don't plan on driving to see the Cherry Blossoms, unless sitting for endless hours in a car sucking in the fumes of every car around you is your idea of fun.
Take the metro and walk.
For us, the nearest metro stop would be at the Arlington Cemetary, and we would walk across the Potomac on the Memorial Bridge. This is a very pleasant walk, the sidewalks are quite wide, and the police will have at least some of the area cordoned off.
Depending on where you are staying, your closest Metro stop may well be Farragut West, which is near a lot of good restaurants, or Smithsonian, which is not near a lot of restaurants.
Kotobuki is in my neighborhood (Palisades), which is not Metro-accessible. The quality is just ok, but if $1 a piece sushi is appealing enough, you can take the D5 bus to get here. Georgetown isn't Metro accessible either--not sure of the bus line on M Street (the D5 drops you on Wisconsin and P) but I recommend Amma Vegetarian for $5 dosae and also Moby Dick for excellent low-cost kabobs.
Teaism is downtown - one location is across from Cafe Atlantico- and will be a good option in your price range for a Japanese food fix. Cafe Atlantico can be fairly pricy.
Trader Joe's is only in the 'burbs, but Rodman's has lots of ethnic and gourmet options and wine at fair prices, and is located on Wisconsin, near the Friendship Heights Metro station.
Georgetown is semi-Metro accessible. You can take the Georgetown Metro Connector -- aka the shortie blue bus -- from either the Dupont Circle or the Foggy Bottom/GWU metro stop. The 30 buses (30, 32, 34, 35, and 36) run through downtown to M St in Georgetown (and all the way up Wisconsin if you want to go somewhere up there, like the National Cathedral or 2 Amy's). They stop at Farragut Square.
Amma in Georgetown is good -- I've only had the dosa (dosae?), but it has never been bad.
I live near Amernick bakery and recommend it -- sample a bunch of cookies (after grabbing a slice of pizza at Vace a few doors down...mmmm).
You are gettting bad advice on the TRADER JOE's grocery store locations: You don't have to go all the way to Bethesda to get to TRADER JOE's !!! There is one right in D.C., just two or three blocks from the Foggy Bottom metro stop and not far from Georgetown. Incidentally, the Foggy Bottom stop is the closest metro stop to Georgetown, if you want to go there. There is Ammas in G'town as well as Pizzaria Paradiso, but they are a little hike from Foggy Bottom stop. Wear good walking shoes and you will be fine.
By the way, of the places mentioned, I love Jaleo for Spanish tapas and Pizzaria Paradiso or 2Amys for Pizza... I really like Amma's Vegetarian Indian Kitchen as well, but as long as you realize its a vegetarian place.
If you're looking for great Indian food, you might want to try Heritage India, there is one in Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Not sure it would meet your need for cheap eats, tho? ... http://www.heritageindiausa.com/index1.htm
The Ethiopian places in Adams Morgan are great, that is true. Cannot go wrong there.
I want to add that maybe you should try out BREADLINE (http://www.breadline.com/index.html) for cheap eats for fabulous sandwiches, grilled cheeses, salads, vegetable piadinas YUM, french fries, pastries, etc. I LOVE their vegetable piadina sandwiches -- fabulous. Its like a big crazy packed packed packed cafeteria style place and the cooks are kind of N.Y. brusque but the food is great.
Think its only open for lunch, tho.
Hope this helps and enjoy your trip!
Yes, I was just about to say that of course there is a Trader Joe's in DC, near the Foggy Bottom metro. Also, there is a $1Circulator bus that goes near your hostel into Georgetown and also stops not too far from that Trader Joe's. Be sure to look up the Circulator bus before you get here, it can really help with a tightly budgeted trip and there are a few lines now that connect tourist areas -- I have trouble remember its exact stops, but you can download the map.
Another thought for easy and inexpensive food is the "On the Fly" food carts. I know there is one set up at the Smithsonian Castle, which would be somewhat convenient to the cherry blossoms, depending on how you're going. Also, I guess not chowworthy, but just a thought -- cafeterias in federal agency buildings can be a non-touristy and insider-y way to get an inexpensive meal. The Department of Labor cafeteria's terrace has one of the best views in the city; I haven't been to it, but Department of Agriculture is convenient on the south side of the Mall near the Smithsonian metro stop, where places to get food are few and far between. You need photo id to get into these buildings.