Planning a D.C. Vacation around food
My wife and I always plan our vacations around food and sightseeing so I'm looking for a little help in both departments.
We are going to be in D.C. for a Saturday and a Sunday in the last week of September and Annapolis on Monday. We need to do all of the tourist things like look at the landmarks and such, we aren't really into musuems but we always check out must see exhibits.
We are looking for some breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas based around a day of sightseeing. We definitely would like to eat ethiopian since we know D.C. has the best. We are coming from Los Angeles so Asian and Mexican are not really the top priorities but we really want good food and food that we can't get in D.C. We like places that people know are D.C. (in LA we have Phillipes and Pinks, etc). We are looking for reasonable meals and maybe one more expensive dinner around $20/entree.
Is it better to stay in D.C? I'm going to be in College Park the week before, should I just stay there and ride the metro in for the weekend?
Help us with some food recs based around sights (anything in Annapolis is welcome too). Thanks
Stay and eat at the Tabard Inn on N off Dupont Circle. Great Sunday brunch esp. homemade doughnuts. Nice patio for evening dining in this great weather we've been having too. Close to metro and everything. I started staying here in the 90s when I lived in Ohio and still recommend it to visitors and eat there often.
We really enjoyed Giovanni's Trattu Italian Restaurant
1823 Jefferson Place NW. Very reasonable, wonderful menu.
Billy Martin's Tavern 1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW A great place for breakfast, brunch or lunch. A piece of history in Georgetown.
Many famous politicos and other celebs were/fixtures there. As for one of the special booths. One of those places you shouldn't miss.
Clyde's Of Georgetown 3236 M St. NW A good place for lunch or reasonable dinner. Busy and bustling. Food was o.k. not great. Don't go out of your way but if you find yourself in Georgetown it is an option.
1789 Restaurant 1226 36th St. NW. Upscale. Nice wine list. Overall quite good. We enjoyed it but not sure if worth money.
Old Ebbitt Grill 675 15th St. NW. Close to the White House. Stop in for lunch or just for a beer. Again - one of those places with alot of history.
I pretty much agree with "on Sep 03, 2006 writergirl replied"
DC is not too interesting when it comes to food. Bens Chilli Bowl is an original. Ask for the half smoked and after that go to the Saloon two doors down. Good beer. Their used to be a good Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan, but because of gentrification I am not sure it's still there. It's close to the corner with Florida Ave. I think it has a blue awning. If you are lucky to have an Ethiopian cab driver ask him where he would go.
Annapolis is a tourist trap. If you have time go to Stoney's in Broomes Island - 1 1/2 hours south. http://www.stoneysseafoodhouse.com/
No good chili in DC area? I think the chili at Hard Times Cafe certainly qualifies as better than the chili at Ben's Chili Bowl. Only go to Ben's if you are drunk at 2am. And don't go if travelling the next day, b/c you will want to be near a clean bathroom.
Sunday Brunch at Georgia Brown's is great! 15th between K and Eye Streets downtown. For $30, you'll leave stuffed with an entree for dinner in your hands. Quality southern brunch.
My favorite sushi is at Sushi Taro at 17th and P in Dupont. My guess is that good sushi isn't hard to find in LA though.
Dukum is very good Ethiopian.
Florida Ave Grill is a good greasy breakfast and very unique.
Colorado Kitchen is the most over-rated restaurant I've ever been to. It is okay. And it IS out of the way.
Lebanese Taverna in Cleveland Park is very good. If you order several appetizers and don't drink alcohol there, it is a great value.
Heritage India in Dupont isn't the best Indian food in town, but I highly recommend going and sitting at the bar for an afternoon snack. Order some of the Indian "streetfood" with a beer or a glass of wine. Unique and delicious!
The burger at the bar at Palena in Cleveland Park is the best burger (at a restaurant) I've ever had.
Just wanted to post my $0.02.
Don't miss Eastern Market on a Saturday morning in late September. The Market itself is an historic gem, in continual operation as a food market since the 1870s and on Saturdays there are farmers from nearby VA, MD, PA, WVa. set up outside the building as well as a great flea market.
Two excellent nearby restaurants, Montmartre (French) and Belga (Belgian), have moderate prices.
Capitol Hill Suites at 2nd and C, SE usually has great weekend rates and they're a block from the Metro and the Capitol Building.
Great piece in the Washington Post Opinion section 9/3/06 on ethnic restaurants in the DC metro area - they've been moving to the suburbs!!! The author mentioned a number of Ethiopian places so you may want to read it.
Absolutely, crabs, softshells and crabcakes in Annapolis! Go down to the Harbor in the historic district and ask the locals around the docks to find the real thing. I have a house on the Eastern Shore and that's how I always find the best local food. In this case, you aren't looking for decor.
I agree. Don't go somehere that has mediocre food just because it's around the corner. That's why I recommended Jaleo, convenient to tourist attractions AND delicious. How often does that happen?
I'm also amused by people who don't want us recommending places
that take some effort to get to. I do it all the time, even when I'm on vacation.
Sigh. No, of course D.C. ain't NY, LA or SF when it comes to food. No place else in the U.S. is, either. But the original poster asked for things that can't be found in L.A., and there's enough of that -- as well as plenty of really great places to eat that would fit in very nicely in L.A. or any other town (including, e.g., 2 Amys, Komi, and tons of varied Korean joints).
1. Ethiopian, Vietnamese, some Indian/Persian/Pakistani, Bolivian/Peruvian -- what am I forgetting? -- might be even stronger here than in L.A.
2. Although I wouldn't be surprised if there are excellent tapas places in L.A., I'll bet none of them is just like Jaleo, which is a great place to eat. Zaytinya was, too -- although I haven't been in a couple of years -- and there probably isn't a Turkish/Greek place like it in L.A.
3. Ben's is not historic because it survived the '68 riots. So did 99% of all the other restaurants in town. The food at Ben's is not noteworthy -- but it's a great D.C. scene, esp. late at night. In that same neighborhood are OOhs and Ahs, Pyramids, Tropicana, and a number of great Ethipoian places. Florida between 6th and 12th is probably the most interesting food-spot in town right now.
4. Cakelove is a great idea gone bad. Horrible, overpriced cupcakes (served by very nice, well-meaning and hard-working people). If this is on par with L.A.'s best bakeries, then that would be reason enough to avoid L.A. (But I know it's not.)
5. To be sure, Colorado Kitchen is a nice neighborhood place. But it's much more than that, too. Gillian Clark is inspired at worst, magic at best -- and no one in these parts fries fish (and other goodies) as well as she does. It is *not* "way out there." It is in the center of town, in the midst of where thousands of human beings actually live.
6. Marvelous Market is ok, but not what it was under Mark F.
7. Burma is one of the worst choices you could make in that area of town. There's much better Burmese in Silver Spring (Mandalay) and NoVa (Myannmar). In Chinatown, try Full Kee for Cantonese.
8. Writergirl is correct, however, about Corduroy (good) and Kramerbooks (bad).
re: Marty L.
I don't think the food in DC is bad. I just think some of the places recommended wouldn't be that thrilling to someone who lives in LA. I've had the advantage of living in both cities, so I was trying to figure out what someone going from LA to DC would find interesting. Jaleo's fine, ate there often when I lived in DC. But if as a Angeleno now, I wouldn't find it all that different from places here (clearly if a restaurant isn't a chain it won't be EXACTLY like one in LA. But it could be similar enough for the OP to be underwhelmed.)
DC has good international food for the same reason LA does, people bring their cuisine with them when they move here. Here, Little Saigon in Garden Grove has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. Part of the Fairfax district has been officially named Little Ethiopia (they claim it's the only neighborhood in the States named after an African country, don't know if that's true.) And there's a reason some call it Tehran-geles, plenty of Persian food. That's why I didn't recommend those types of restaurants to our LA visitor.
And come on, if you don't have a car and you're a tourist, Colorado Kitchen is way out there! Myanmar may be better than Burma, but if this person's in DC for two days, heading to Chinatown might be a little more practical then heading out to Northern Virgina. I like Burma, I like Full Kee too. Of the two, you're more likely to have eaten at a restaurant similar to Full Kee than eaten at one similar to Burma in LA.
I didn't say Cakelove is on par w/LA's bakery, didn't say it wasn't. I think it's a nice place to grab a little snack. Chi-cha's is a fun DC place, you'll get a taste of the DC scene which makes it different than LA.
My relatives who lived in the U district (or Shaw as it was once known) before it became suddenly popular, can attest to the fact that while 99% of the restaurants in Georgetown or other parts of DC survived the riots, that certainly wasn't true along U street. My first introduction to Ben's was with someone who lived there during the 60s and that's one of the first things he said about the restaurant. A lot of businesses fled the area, Ben's didn't. The OP wanted to know what the DC equivalent to Pinks is, if there is one, you'd have to say Ben's. (BTW, LA doesn't have good chili that I've found, so that's another reason I suggested Ben's.)
BTW, I meant to say Polly's is good for BREAKFAST. I'll be editing the original post. I've never even been for dinner.
If you ever post that you're coming to LA, I promise to try to suggest restaurants that a Washingtonian will find different! I'm thinking fish tacos...
I'm not a big fan of the DC restaurant scene. I lived there for years, and many of the places listed here would be considered just ok in LA, SF or NY. I'm in LA now, and I would say skip Jaleo's, it's fine but nothing you couldn't get in LA. Ben's Chili Bowl is indeed the Pinks of DC, landmark wise. In fact it's a pretty historic place, surviving the '68 riots. It has much more than hot dogs btw.
Ben's is on U street, and there are a few places there you might want to check out. There's a bakery called "Cakelove" that has great baked goods. Down the street, Chi-Cha lounge has small plates that are good, but it's also a fun bar with great people watching. Going the other direction, Polly's Cafe is a good place for dinner. All are metro accessible.
People in DC love Kramer's Books. The food sucks and is too expensive. There, I've said it! (Great people watching though, but you can do that in the bookstore, or at the bar. George Stephanopolous (sp?) used to live upstairs.)
Colorado Kitchen is a nice neighborhood place, but unless you have a car, cross it off your list. It's way out there, and there's no metro.
Someone mentioned Corduroy, which doesn't seem to get much notice, but it is good. It's in downtown, very metro accessible. (McPherson Square)
DC Coast was good a few years ago, also in Downtown, not far from Corduroy. It was once the hot new place, don't know how it's settled in.
Teaism is a cute lunch place, I don't think they serve dinner. And again, the food just never seemed all that. But it's a nice place to recharge after a long day on the mall. There are a couple of locations throughout the city. A good grab and go lunch place is Marvelous Market, with tasty healthy (premade, but fresh) sandwiches salads, and great baked goods.
Restaurants in Adam's Morgan can be hit or miss. But I think you should check it out, it's a lively neighborhood, a good place for an after-dinner stroll. It's still one of the most diverse in this very segregated city, despite gentrification. Just a warning, the "Woodley Park-Zoo-Adams Morgan" metro station is a little hike from Adams-Morgan. If it's hot and muggy out, you may want to take a cab. It's a nice walk, but summers in DC can sap your strength.
Speaking of gentrification, in Chinatown (or China block as we called it) check out Burma on 6th just below H street. The tofu and tomato is something I haven't found in other places, ask for it spicy. While you're there, around the corner at Wok and Roll, check out the plaque that shows it's where the plot to assassinate Lincoln was hatched history AND lunch (no need to eat at Wok and Roll however.)
As for staying in College Park, don't do it. It'd be like trying to arrange an eating vacation in LA and staying in Torrance. Nothing wrong with the town, but no need to spend any more time there than necessary.
Have fun! DC has a lot of things to offer, the museums and architecture are amazing. But I think going to DC for the food is like coming to LA for the history! ;) You'll find some interesting things, but not the best.
I find it curious that writergirl disparages the DC Chowhound scene while recommending places that I'd never take a visitor to. For example, in the U St area which has become a Chowhound mecca, Polly's Cafe, Cakelove, and Chi-Cha are easily eclipsed. And while I appreciate a half-smoke chili dog and a cherry shake from Ben's Chili Bowl, I still think it's criminal to go there when any of my favorites are open:
Pyramids, (6th and Florida) the wife is Moroccan and the husband Egyptian, and betweeen the two of them they produce lovingly prepared food. If you get lucky, they might have a seafood b'stilla, which is thankfully not sweet, but extremely thin layers of pastry given some heft with glass noodles (!) surrounding a savory seafood stew. Not outdone by the eggplant, spinach, lamb tagine, and carrot salad. You'll struggle to spend more than $12. This is a place where you can ignore the menu and just ask.
Etete (9th below U St) for Ethiopian. See recs in my previous post.
Oohs and Aahs, ( U st and 10th) Soul Food. The proprietress is from Coastal South Carolina, so go for the shrimp, but also turkey chop and short ribs are good. There is seating upstairs, but try to get a seat on the stools downstairs.
For a very different take on soul food, head off to NE DC for the Ohio Restaurant (14th and H Sts NE), where the soul is infused with a bit of Ethiopian spicing and sensibility. I recommend the meatloaf, the yams and the greens.
re: Sam Fujisaka
Florida Ave Grill has plummeted to the very depths of desperation. Used to be a favorite, but I can no longer ignore the decline.
Ben's is great for a chili half-smoke and a cherry shake when the nearby Oohs and Aahs is not open. But during regular hours, it's practically criminal not to go to Oohs and Aahs instead.
I have to disagree on the recommendation of Meskerem precisely because it is more "americanized." If you are in DC you might as well get the real deal food and experience. You can get good, somewhat "Americanized" ethipoian in just about any metro area (and some less so, I've had it in suburban Durham NC). I have no real problem with Meskerem, really, but if you are only going to eat at one Ethiopian place I'd go elsewhere. I think the tickets to Meskerem's success has been its location and accessibility moreso than food relative to local peers.
And coming from LA, I'm afraid that Adams Morgan won't seem particularly interesting or diverse...it has been on a sharp decrease in representation of both those traits for some time now...and LA is generally tough to compete with in that regard.
I will also reiterate my suggestion of Zaytinya rather than Jaleo here, since you have many better options for spanish tapas in SoCal.
Big yes on Ooh's and Aah's.
As far as places "people know are in DC," in the vein of Pink's and Phillipe's, which nobody has really been giving you here...we've got Ben's Chili Bowl, which is in a way our counterpart to Pink's (another historic hot dog type joint but a very different history). Get the chili half-smoke. Can't really say I recommend it for the food overall, but it is a historic landmark on the local food scene.
i agree with other posters that you should try to stay in the city. it will make your visit much smoother, and you won't have to worry about delays on the metro. plus, it heightens the experience.
now, on to the food! the restaurant at the native american museum has many delicious offerings; you won't be disappointed.
Chinatown also has numerous cheap, yummy eats. Burma and Eat First come to mind. nearby, Zola (located in the spy museum) has a fun bar with a somewhat limited menu, i think.
Matchbox, in the same neighborhood and a couple of blocks from Zaytinya, which other folks have recommended, serves up great pizzas (from an in-house wood-fired oven) and salads at very reasonable prices. if you eat meat, the mini burgers consistently receive rave reviews: www.matchboxdc.com
Zaytinya is also very good: www.zaytinya.com
on the more expensive side: i regularly spend my money at Cashion's Eat Place in adams morgan (www.cashionseatplace.com); Komi in Dupont Circle; Olive's in downtown area; Citronelle; Cafe Atlantico
Palena in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, as others have noted, is also very good (though a bit too stuffy for me).
Someone recommended Dino (also in Cleveland Park) for Italian fare, but I have to disagree. On my first visit, the food was delicious. On my second, third and fourth trips, my dishes were bland, and I haven't been back since. The wine selections are good, though. But across the street, at Sorriso, I've had several excellent Italian meals. The wine selection is also very good. www.sorrisoristorante.net
Next door to Sorriso is Indique, a very good Indian restaurant. (But not as good as others in the city, namely Rasika and Nirvana.)
If you like Thai, Rice in Logan Circle and Regent Thai in Dupont Circle/Adams Morgan area (on 18th st NW) are both great.
Oh, and for a casual meal in a fun environment, check out Busboys and Poets in the U Street area.
Finally, toss my name in for the aforementioned votes for Jaleo and 2 Amy's. both consistently serve up delicious food. 2 Amy's has the best pizza in the city (though Pizza Paradiso and Matchbox also deliver great pies).
While Etete is acknowledged by many as the "best" Ethiopian in DC don't sell Meshkarram short. It is more "Americanized" but still good, has been around for a long, long time so it is doing something well, and is in Adams-Morgan, one of the funkier, ethnicly diverse neighborhoods in DC. The area around Etete is somewhat more sketchy at night, but still OK.
The bar at Palena is excellent, but can be crowded, but the back room is also very, very good and never crowded (more expensive as they only serve meals as 3, 4 or 5 course)
If you are "into" wine, I suggest that you try Dino in Cleveland Park (one block south of the METRO stop) for the best, and best priced Italian wine list in town (it runs over 45 pages) and Dean Gold will be glad to help you navagate it. His prices are exceptional at every price level. The food is not bad either but Italian is everywhere.
The bar at Citronelle is a very good choice if you don't want to spend the arm and a leg (and other parts of the anatomy) that a full blown, multi course meal in the dining room will cost. The food is wonderful.
If you want to eat cheap, go get a kabob at Moby Dick's near Dupont Circle.
If you are interested in a fancier (but not quite as fancy as Citronelle) meal, great food, and not an arm and a leg, try Corduroy in the Sheridan Four Points (the restaurant is not affiliated with the hotel). One of my very favorites.
Stay downtown near Dupont Circle as opposed to staying in College Park. Not only is it easier to get around, but there aren't thousands and thousands of college kids around.
You should go to the Smithsonians since they are free and they are world class. The Air and Space is the most popular, and the American Indian Museum is quite impressive, and the Natural History is always a child pleaser (grownups too), but there are also some fantastic art museums on the Mall.
Thanks for all of the help. Do you know if the renaissance marriott is a nice hotel and if there are any good breakfast or late night spots around there? Looking for more recs too
So far here is what I have, multiple recs have asterisks
Teaism - Dupont Circle
Meshkarram (Ethiopian)- Cleveland Park
Etete (Ethiopian) - U St/Cardozo Metro*
Dukum (Ethiopian)- U St/Cardozo Metro
Patisserie Poupon - Georgetown
Woodlands (Indian)- Langley Park
Jaleo - Smithsonian Museums*
2 Amys - Near the National Cathedral
Citronelle: Georgetown (My friend worked for the chef when he was in LA)
Oohs and Aahs - U St/Cardozo Metro*
Pyramids - U St/Cardozo Metro
American Indian Museum cafe - Smithsonian
bar at Palena
Make that three, do not stay in College Park, the metro is fine but there is often track work on the weekend and getting from that station to where you are staying at night could be a major hassle.
As for dining, aside from the reccos mentioned, try the bar at Palena (amazing roast chicken), Jaleo for fun tapas. If you have to eat in College Park, Lupo's Chop House is decent Italian
My advice: Steve speaks truth. You definitely want Etete rather than Meskerem for Ethiopian.
Not at all in the tourist area, you may want to check out the Colorado Kitchen, which is one of DC's local gems. Eastern Market is a fun destination for food lovers (though I don't necessarily recommend eating something substantial there, it's fun just to walk around. Some people like Market Lunch, I think it's just ok).
You don't say if you'll need recommendations in College Park, but if so, drop into the Food Factory, an Afghan place with very good bone-in chicken kabobs and fantastic naan, all cooked in a wood-fired tandoor. The other dishes here are so-so. Another good option is South Street Steaks, a philly-style cheesesteak place.
I work in College Park and live nearby. Please trust me when I say: don't stay in College Park over the weekend. It's not a bad place, but you'll have a much nicer experience in Washington.
Neither much charm or dining riches in College Park, unfortunately. A few exceptions, but I don't have enough experience to detail.
Dupont is a great base for a hound.
If you're eating while visiting Smithsonians, consider the American Indian Museum cafe. Gets a wide range of reviews here, but for what it tries to be, it's always worked for me.
For a nice Maryland experience, head up to Jimmy Cantler's near Annapolis for blue crabs.
Sign up for the Galileo e-mail and you have a good chance of hitting a grill opening. One of the best bargains for cheap chow in town, right there with Old Ebbitt Express.
Ethiopian: Etete, get the fastening food platter, add the fish for $2 and order the derek tibs.
Near tourist points of interest:
College Park, MD The Nixon Tapes are kept here as part of the National Archives. Pick out a tape and listen. Then eat at Woodlands for dinner, purely vegetarian Indian in Langley Park. Paper dhosa, mutter paneer.
Smithsonian Museums: Jaleo for lunch. Spanish tapas at 7th and E. Many recs on this board.
Near the National Cathedral: 2 Amys. Also many recs on this board. Please do a Search.
Georgetown: your splurge dinner could be at the lounge of Citronelle. Small a la carte menu. Also do a search for recs.
Other recs: two true hole-in-the-wall-tourists-never-go-there recs: Oohs and Aahs for Soul Food and Pyramids for Moroccan. Both are near the U St/Cardozo Metro stop. (same neighborhood as Etete)
There are good spanish tapas places in SoCal, better than Jaleo IMO. For something a bit different but also of the small plates genre, perhaps try Zaytinya...mediterranean and middle Eastern. www.zaytinya.com
I'm actually not that big of a fan of the place, but everyone I know likes it and everyone on this board seems to like it, so I'm assuming the problem is with me and not the restaurant. might be worth a try if the menu looks good to you.
the Metro is excellent but I've never stayed in College Park. There is certainly nothing wrong with doing it that way. Look into special packages available at St. Gregory's. Dupont Circle area has lots of restaurants and shops. A great place for a different yet good b-fast or lunch or just a snack is Teaism. there are a few but we go to the one in Dupont. they have outrageous homemade Chai and other teas. Salty Oat Cookies, and asian stuff (sorry!)
Meshkarram (sp) is a Ethiopian classic, lookup Washingtonian magazines food section. there are also some good restaurants
out past the zoo in Cleveland Park area. Georgetown is another food destination. great French, b-fast/lunch at Patisserie Poupon I believe on Wisconsin.
Enjoy - great city!!!
oh, almost forgot major restaurant row and hotel selection in Bethesda!!!