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DC one night only - suggestions please - (french bistro fare?)

A few of us are coming from Baltimore for the day and are going to hit up a couple galleries/museums. Having lunch at Old Ebbitt's Grill as I've been told by a few (not all that trusty) sources. If this is a problem let me know! But we need a recommendation for dinner. We're probably going to be little pooped, and won;t have anywhere to change/freshen up, and probably won't want to drop too much money (definitely keep it under 40-50 bucks/person for dinner and drinks), so something super nice is unnecessary. I love old school french in a more relaxed bistro setting at the end of a tiring day -- anything recommnedable in DC? i should mention we'll eat anything, so if you have any fun ethnic fare that shouldn't be missed, lemme know. or something uniquely DC, lemme know.

thanks for any help!!!

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  1. If you're hitting the Corcoran or Renwick, try Breadline for better than average sandwiches at lunch.
    Old Ebbitt is good for burgers and sandwiches at lunch. Good selection of oysters and beers on tap. Atrium is noisy.
    M & S Grill or Ollie's Trolley nearby also have burgers and quick lunches.
    Jaleo at 7th and E has good Spanish tapas which would be a great lunch stop and is close to the Archives and Smithsonian Museums on the Mall as well as the Art Museum at Gallery Place.
    Zola at the Spy Museum is also fine for lunch.

    For supper, since you specified French bistro fare, it is hard to beat Montmartre on 7th Street, SE, at Eastern Market. Consistently excellent food with a good wine list. Casual attire is fine in a neighborhood favorite that is good enough to draw people from across town.
    Bisto d'Oc also gets raves from lovers of French comfort foods.
    La Chaumiere on the eastern edge of Georgetown has good French classics in a comfortable country style setting.
    All have websites for you to check.

    1. Recently ate at Le Chat Noir for the first time and had what I considered to be a fairly authentic French bistro experience (and I speak French). Crepes, escargot, steak and pomme frites - all quite good. Upper Wisconsin Avenue. Have fun!

      1. If you are in the museum area, I recommend Les Halles (12th and Pennsyvania). It is causal and has great mussels, roasted chicken, hanger steak, and fries. There are better bsitros but this is convenient, casual, within walking distance, an dhas good food [just not great].

        1. Yeah, I have a problem with Old Ebbitt's Grill. It's institutional food in a noisy crowded setting, 90% clueless tourists. I'm not sure you can do worse.

          If you want something that is DC and excellent, then Jaleo for Spanish tapas is near the museums and your best lunch bet. For dinner: Etete for Ethiopian or Pyramid for Moroccan or Colorado Kitchen for Homestyle cooking or 2 Amys for Napolitan pizza and Italian small plates or Nam Viet for Vietnamese.

          For further info about any of these places, I suggest you do a search on Chowhound.

          1. I strongly agree with the suggestions to go to Breadline and (especiall) Montmartre. Montmarte does NOT have a working website, but don't let that deter you.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Rosco1

              I agree the Breadline can be excellent (especially any sandwich on a ciabatta), but the OP should be aware that it is open for midweek lunch only.

            2. Montmartre is excellent for traditional French. Les Halles can be very good too (and easier to get a seat in), but is much less consistent and sometimes has real service problems. Les Halles has the big advantage of being walking distance from the Mall.

              For ethnic, go for Etete but if you're not familiar with Ethiopian be ready for some very different food (spongy bread, food eaten communally with your hands).

              For a big loud but exciting place, it's hard to go wrong with Zaytinya's Mediterranean small plates and any picky eaters have a better chance of finding something they like (but it's crowded and not cheap).

              I doubt you're going to be here on a weekday, but if you are I can't second the recommendations for Breadline. It's a very crowded sandwich place with decent but unremarkable food (opinions vary wildly on this one). It's also a long way away from the Mall museums.

              1. these are great suggestions -- thanks! i've got reservations for mantmartre at dinner , sounds like exactly what i want. and it looks like we're keeping our reservations at old ebbitt's, though i was pretty sure that it was going to be a touristy joint (as "steve" mentioned) but my friends want to go. as long as the oysters are fresh and decent i can be happy. thanks again...i'll try and report back...

                1 Reply
                1. re: fatstern

                  Tourist go to Old Ebbitt because it is near the White House, Treasury Building and Monuments but it is not a "tourist joint" by any means.
                  Many of the people you see there live and work in Washington, especially in the nearby office buildings, and frequent the popular bar which has been a hangout since 1800. It was first located in Rhodes Tavern at 15th and F (only a few yards down the street)which was demolished in 1984, despite a city-wide inititive that was overturned by the courts. The current bar, mirror and decor were salvaged and installed in the new place which lacks the "charm" of the old dive which many of us old Washingtonians still mourn.
                  The place serves good American food, not trendy, but dependable, and has for the decades that all of us have been going back time and time again.
                  We still miss Rhodes Tavern. Guess it's the price of progress.

                2. Excellent advice about Montmarte. We've eaten there half a dozen times and never been disappointed. Also like the informality and the service. La Chaumiere is very good. We were in La Chaumiere one night when who walks in with a party of four but the Secretary of Defense. I don't suppose I need to tell you that HE got very good service. Better table too. Sigh.

                  Also, what you're hearing about the old Ebbitt Grill is right on. It was a pretty cool place back in the 70's but has turned into very average (and noisey).