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5 meals in DC

My wife and I will be in Dc from Sat night to Tues Afternoon, what should we not miss. Price is not really a concern but we don't want to bring dress clothes or worry about going back to the hotel to change .We are staying in Arlington and will probobly use the metro or cabs.

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  1. I wouldn't worry about dress clothes.Only three restaurants in Washington require a jacket for gentlemen, and they will all provide a blazer if you forget. Not to miss (the usual list): Cafe Atlantico Minibar (if you can get in), Cityzen, Citronelle, Komi, Restaurant Eve, Maestro. Next tier: Black Salt, Makoto, La Paradou, Rasika, Zatinya, Jaleo, Obelisk, Bistro Lepic.

    I should prgram a function key to automatically paste these, the question is asked so often. Others will add a few, nit pick these, but this is basically the list.

    1. Forget Minibar if you are from Chicago or NY, there's better where you are from. I'll echo CityZen, Citronelle, Komi, Restaurant Eve, but add Asia Nora (I still think it's better than TenPenh or howevever you spell it), 2941, and I'd try to get at least a breakfast in at the Hay Adams. Mainly for the history but the food is excellent as well.

      1. I understand your comment in regards to Chicago (Moto is similar but not better) but was is similar in New York (where I dine frequently)?

        PS: I agree with you about 2941 and Asia Nora (which is perennially under rated; TenPenh is for tourists).

        11 Replies
        1. re: Dakota Guy

          Wow, I must have ordered terribly at Asia Nora, or it has significantly improved, because my two visits in the late 90s were thoroughly mediocre enough that I have not returned and have no real intention of returning.

          I don't know that I would necessarily say TenPenh is for tourists...I don't have an official count but I would be quite surprised if Jaleo, and most likely Zaytinya, didn't draw an equal or greater proportion of tourists to their tables.

          And as I have posted before, Jaleo is hardly worthy of a "top 5" visit in my opinion. Probably the best tapas place in this area, but nothing too special as compared to the best in many other cities. If you want to do a small plates thing and/or José Andrés place, and you can't get into minibar at Atlantico, Zaytinya is a better pick IMO.

          1. re: Lowbar

            Call me crazy, I like Asia Nora and Nora. Both are probably only two stars but I like them both.

            See my comment below re TenPenh.

            1. re: Dakota Guy

              2 stars for Asia Nora? Are you on crack? It's easily a 3-3.5 star place.

              1. re: jpschust

                I meant that they are both perennially (under)rated at 2 stars or so. I already said I liked them both VERY much but they are not in the Citronelle, Cityzen, .... league. Your name isn't Nora is it ? :-)

                1. re: Dakota Guy

                  Nah, I'm not Nora, I'm just an Asia Nora fan. I prefer Asia Nora to Restaurant Nora, but both are excellent. I'm just Jonny :)

                  1. re: jpschust

                    I went to Asia Nora last year and had an sub par experience. We had a reservation.... but had to wait 20 minutes for our table w/o any acknowledgement of that fact. Our server knew nothing about wines and did not offer to bring anyone more knowledgable to help us out. My main dish (the only vegetarian one on the menu) was the same dish from 3 YEARS before. And it was sickly sweet. The only thing that redeemd our meal was going to Komi for dessert. At Nora we had the opposite experience... so I am not sure but I will not go back to Asia Nora

                    1. re: gooseterp

                      I'm sorry to hear about your subpar experience. I've eaten there probably 8 times in the last 18 months and had wonderful experiences every single time. Their tofu on that veggie dish is still the best tofu I've ever had in the area.

                      1. re: jpschust

                        Have you been to Thanh Son Tofu? You can get 20x as much tofu for the price and its excellent. Not a fine dining experience at all but it is some pretty remarkable tofu when had freshly prepared.

                        1. re: Lowbar

                          I haven't, but you've given me somewhere new to try :)

          2. re: Dakota Guy

            Every restaurant in downtown DC is for tourists when it comes down to it. Without them, downtown is deserted on weekends.

            We enjoy Tenh Penh greatly, as do the guests we take there. OTOH, we find 2941 to be an overrated, boring, hotel-like monstrosity, with mediocre service.

            -- Larry

            1. re: pltrgyst

              Fortunately, so many different opinions is one reason that so many different restuarants flourish. You have Tenh Penh and I have 2941 ; we are each happy.

          3. I dunno about that "tourists" pot shot on TenPenh... I think their Crispy Whole Fish is consistently great.

            1. Ethopian food on U St. (I vote for Etete but there a lot of good choices!)

              1. On Monday for lunch go to

                either Breadline near the White House for some exceptional sandwiches: definitely the Italian Sausage or the Philly Cheesesteak. Also recommend the egg salad and the felafel.

                or cf folks, a unique lunch counter with exceptional crabcakes or whatever else is on the blackboard. Peach cobbler for dessert if they have it. Definitely sit at the counter.

                1. ok, ok. Perhaps not just for tourists but certainbly not fine dining. Like the other restuarants from the same group, it is more concept than execution. None of them rank above two stars IMHO. I am not saying that they are not "good;" they are just nothing special.

                  1. A lot of the restaurants that have been suggested are great and should not be missed but for many of them, you will not be able to get in on such short notice.

                    Places that you probably could get into - there's no way you'd get into the Minibar on such short notice (only six seats). I would pick from Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico, Ray's the Steaks (in Arlington and they actually dry ages them for 4-6 weeks, unlike Mortons, Smith & Wollensky, the Prime Rib who all unfortunately now wet-age), Neyla and Vidalia. Nirvana, CF Folks, and Breadline for lunch. The Museum of the American Indian has an interesting and expansive food court. Definitely get Ethiopian - Etete or Dukem on U Street-ish. If you want Vietnamese, I would go to the Eden Shopping Center in Falls Church (all Vietnam, all the time). And this may be on the ghetto side, but Don Juan's carryout in Mount Pleasant has amazing tacos and Haydee's (also in Mt.P) has great fajitas. Not the prettiest places, but good holes in the wall.

                    For brunch, try Colorado Kitchen at 14th & Colorado. You might have to wait and it's a bit out of the way, but it's well worth it.

                    1. I don't agree with the advice to not worry about dress clothing at some of our top tier restaurants. Jeans and a rock-band T-shirt are going to have you feeling uncomfortable and quite possibly receiving substandard service--there have been complaints aplenty over the years about Citronelle's service to younger and underdressed guests, for example.

                      Not being sure where you are from, some of the Arlington area standouts where you will be comfortable in just about anything other than formal attire include Bangkok 54 and Thai Square for Thai (B54 is more upscale, both have outstanding food and they're near each other) and the Eden Center.

                      LeenLeem wasn't kidding about the Eden Center being "all Vietnam, all the time." You'll see rave reviews of a number of establishments there (4 Sisters is the food press's favorite but several of us have been underwhelmed, Huong Viet is consistently excellent for grilled meats, and Viet Royale serves one heck of a carmalized catfish) and it is probably difficult to get a genuinely bad meal. Be sure to try the hot tofu from the tofu-only line at Thanh Son Tofu. It is best when it is fresh from the fryer and the mushroom and lemongrass versions are more interesting than the plain.

                      1. A good Sunday excursion is to Eastern Market in the Capital Hill Historic District. The Market has been in continuous operation as a food market since the 1870s and has Euro style stalls inside with vendors outside.
                        Montmartre is a great moderately-prices French restaurant in the 300 block of 7th Street, SE, open 11:30 to 2:30 on Sunday. Wonderful food. Casual dress is fine here. Even jeans on Sunday. Lots of alternatives on nearby Barracks Row or down Pennsylvania Avenue. Belga (Belgian food) has a great brunch.
                        Best Metro Stop is Eastern Market.