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Requesting 3 great restaurants in DC

Staying at Sofitel end of Sept. 06. Would like recommendations for 3 great gourmet/foodie type restaurants. Any price. Prefer DC proper or reasonable cab ride. Husband would like a great steak but doesn't have to be a steak house. Would love recommendations from diners who have eaten at restaurant in last 6 months. What I consider great:

Peter Lugers, NYC
Aqua San Francisco
Slanted Door San Francisco
Bayona New Orleans
Lineage Boston
Frontera Grill Chicago

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  1. For the great steak try either of the Ray's restaurants either Ray' the Steaks in Arlington or Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring. Arlington is a cab ride but Silver Spring you are better off with the metro. Easily the best steak in the area. Search this site for more info.

    For sometihing a bit more distinctive try to get a reservation at Komi.

    Also try,

    or Charlie Palmer.

    Have fun. If you want something purely fun and washingtonian head to Ben's Chili Bowl and get a chili half smoke. YUM.

    1. I second the Ray's recommendation for a steak. The Arlington location doesn't really take reservations, though, so I'd go with the Silver Spring location, which is nicer anyway.

      I like Corduroy and Komi greatly, and Charlie Palmer is good, but I woudln't lump La Tomate anywhere near the others.

      If money is truly no object, you want also to be looking at places like CityZen, Maestro, Citronelle, Palena, Eve, Vidalia, and 2941. For good Italian with an amazing wine list, also look at Dino.

      For a truly outrageous dining experience, check out Minibar.

      1. I ate at CityZen and had a truly memorable dinner. I'm surprised how little attention it seems to draw on this board. I'm from B-more, though, and haven't tried a lot of the faves here. Give me time.

        1. Yes, CityZen!

          Michel Richard Citronelle would figure in most observers' top three, though my experience there wasn't a standout. I haven't been to Maestro or Eve yet, but from what I've heard I would make one of those my third suggestion.

          Based purely on firsthand experience, I would say CityZen / 2941 / Palena.

          1. Thanks so much! Ok, I think I've narrowed it down. Ray's the Classics for my husband, Charlie Palmer Steak because the menu looked good and now I'm torn between Citronelle, Komi and Palena. Any help narrowing it down? Am I making a mistake with Charlie Palmer?

            3 Replies
            1. re: lisaomay

              I have yet to hear a good thing about Charlie Palmer but I've never been so it could be hearsay.

              I've eaten at Slanted Door and Bayona (both this year - lucky me!) and can highly recommend Corduroy. And my friend, the painfully harsh critic, raves about CityZen. Hope that helps.

              1. re: lisaomay

                I would skip Charlie Palmer if you're doing steak at RTC. They do have a menu outside of steak, and it's good, but there's too much overlap with the other places you've chosen.

                For a second night, choose one place to blow the budget. That's Citronelle, Maestro, or CityZen. Or Minibar, if you want to try incredibly inventive food, in 30 1-2 bite courses!

                Then go with something still outstanding, but not quite as decadent as the others. So that's Palena, Komi, Corduroy, or Eve.

                1. re: lisaomay

                  One thing no one has mentioned about Palena is that you have the option of the front room/bar at Palena vs. the back room. The bar has very comfortable seating areas (it is not all barstools!) and offers some lighter fare on the menu, plus they'll bring you items from the full back room menu. If you have any suspicion that you will be feeling a bit overstuffed by your third evening, Palena's front room might be a good compromise between deliciousness and overdoing it.

                2. Hi there - I second the Ray's recs for steak and amazing scallops and key lime pie - I'd do Maestro over Citronelle if money is no object, and over Cityzen as well. Hit Eve if you'd like to check out Old Towne, which is definitely worth checking out if you have time, and you'll have some spectacular food. Think it's a reasonable cab ride but not sure. Also, Palena is really good - I'd recommend sitting at the bar though - more choice, same great menu.

                  1. For some places, you will need to make reservations soon, or in the case of Citronelle, you can eat in the lounge without reservations.

                    All delicious. But in order of preference.
                    Citronelle: Inventive. Minibar: Experimental, sit on stools. Restaurant Eve: Cozy Hideaway, food with an eye toward modernity. Colorado Kitchen: the wild card. Diner ambience. Serious homestyle food.

                    1. Thanks to all for recommendations.

                      1. Frankly, considering your list of what you consider great, I think the suggestion of Ray's, Corduroy, Palena, Dino and Charlie Palmer in the city, and the idea of needing to travel to Alexandria to experience Eve, all to be ridiculous. These are groupie favorite restaurants that in most cases (Ray's. Dino, CP) are not worthy of half the hype they receive.

                        To experience the best of the city (meaning DC proper), which I think is your question, you should do whatever it takes to get into Citronelle (finest meal in DC), Kinkead's (most acclaimed restaurant in DC), and Minibar (funnest 32 courses you've ever had).

                        But that's just my opinion.

                        1. Pappy has a point. However, I must defend Dino only for his wine list. If you are into wine, especially Italian wine, he has the best priced list in town and it is huge.

                          As to where to eat. While Corduroy and Ray,s are excellent restaurants and well deserving of the praise they receive, they are not up to the scale of Citronelle (one of the best restaurants anywhere and my favorite sommelier in DC), Maestro (which is in the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner, not DC proper but oh my so good) or the Minibar at Cafe Atlantico (just too much fun and great food, but the hardest reservation to get).

                          Almost as good and excellent in thier own right are Marcel's, CityZen, and Komi. Kinkead's is also very good, but has slipped a bit to being only excellent instead of stellar. I happen to like Palena very much and though it is not as posh, the pris fixe meals in the back room are superb and very reasonable.

                          Best steak is a problem as everyone has an opinion. Charlie Palmer has a great view of the Capitol and is a "power" restaurant that serves an excellent steak, but is not a classic steakhouse. It has a very good wine list, but the place is pricy, even for a steakhouse. The Prime Rib (jacket required)is an old style steakhouse that has fantastic prime aged steaks and prime rib (and great crabcakes) that is what the classic steakhouse of old was. And Ray's is a favorite of many, but is not as posh, in fact is very casual and homey, or as easy to get to. The steaks are very excellent but it does not deserve to be in the same category as the restaurants you listed in your opening request.

                          So, best bets, Citronelle, Maestro, Marcel's, Minibar, or CityZen for posh surroundings, great food, and great service.

                          But, if you are a true foodie, DC is the place to be for ethnic food. Try one of the excellent Ethiopian resturants (Etete is my favorite) for a meal that is not the same old thing.

                          1. As a huge fan of Ray's, where I have been eating since opening week, I must agree that to send someone from out of town there for a "great" meal on the scale of Aqua in San Francisco is a bit misguided. Ray's is a very satisfying meal and an excellent bargain. It is not that kind of great.

                            My list would include 2941, which I think is the best in the area, and Kinkead's. I do not agree that Kinkead's has slipped; I just think we've collectively gotten sick of it because so much of what Kinkead's serves is what it served 10 years ago.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mnadel

                              I agree that you're not going to Ray's the Steaks for a "great" meal on par with the other 4-star restaurants we've named here.

                              However, the original post specifically mentioned that she wanted "steak" one night. And I can think of no place that I'd rather go for a steak than Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring, especially since they DO take reservations, and it's a much finer "experience" than RTS in Arlington. And unlike almost every other steakhouse in the area (excepting possibly Charlie Palmer), non-steak menu items shine just as brightly as the steaks there.

                              1. re: mnadel

                                You are so right on Kinkeads...surprised no one mentions Vidalia..I find it very reliable, great wine list, and interesting foodie type menu...

                              2. If you decide on Rays in Arlington, they no longer take any reservations and it is very noisy. Just a warning. They open at 5:30, but even then there is a line.

                                1. The Palm for steaks - DC power place and very good steaks

                                  Kinkead's - best fish in town

                                  Bistro Lepic - a little french plce with a great wine bar

                                  Mama Ayesha' - great arabic

                                  1. Thanks again for all the great help. We will be in DC for a week so the other recommendations are also helpful. I'm leaning toward Kinkead's for location and menu choices for picky husband. If it were just me, I think I'd choose Citronelle or Minibar.

                                    1. Kinkead's is living off past glory. It is not memorable; please don't waste your time. If you want seafood, Black Salt is the best in DC. Other memorable dinners would be found at Restaurant Eve, Citronelle, Cityzen, and Cafe Atlantico Minibar although reservations are difficult at the latter [call NOW--it only seats 6 and two seatings per night, 5 nights per week].

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Dakota Guy

                                        Completely agree about Kinkead's. Never have understood its appeal other than maybe it's for people who don't really like seafood.
                                        Minibar is not everyone's cup of tea. If the OP's hubby is a Peter Luger guy, this might not be his idea of dinner. But you never know.

                                      2. Totally disagree with the above poster re: Kinkead's. Still a DC classic, with the best sommelier we've yet to meet.

                                        Vidalia gets a big thumbs up from us too.

                                        But...if you can get into Minibar during your visit YOU MUST GO!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: GroovinGourmet

                                          Agree re Minibar, but you must understand it is a very different dining experience. Jose Andres is a disciple and former worker with Ferran Adria, and Minibar shows that influence--it is maybe as close as you can get to the Adria experience in the US (there are others of course such as WD50 in NY so who can say). I would also add that Eve deserves some consideration, but you should do the chef's table there not the regular restaurant. Same is true of Citronelle. Maestro too should be on your list, and it is effectively one big chef's table.

                                        2. No one has so far recommended it, but my favorite restaurant in DC remains Obelisk,exceptional ingredients, simply cooked in an Italian style. Very small, fixed price, reservations essential.
                                          I would favor Prime Rib for steak; not just good steaks, but the last really old fashioned lobbyist restaurant in DC.
                                          My one meal at Citronelle I found very disappointing.
                                          I second the recommendation to try Ethiopian. Etete is good, but so are others; much discussion on this Board.

                                          1. UPDATE Need rocommendations for lunch in Old Town, Alexandria

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: lisaomay

                                              For lunch in Old Town, I'd recommend Hard Times for their chili (warning: it isn't a fancy place AT ALL but I love their chili). Other recommendations for lunch would be O'Connell's (the pub side not restaurant - I'd save that for dinner). And of course, as the other poster mentioned - restaurant Eve is very nice as well. Not sure that I would go there for lunch though. But that's just me. It seems more like a dinner place...

                                              1. re: schoenick

                                                I've had lunch there, and the bistro at Eve lightens things up a bit during the day.

                                            2. Restaurant Eve is in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, if that's what you mean. Bouillabaisse, pork belly, and the cod are all excellent choices.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Thanks! I just emailed for reservations, they aren't answering their phone.