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NY Hound Not Fooling Around

OK-first week of April with 4 nights with the babysitter so Mrs. GG and I can go out in style while our 8year old recovers from touring the Smithsonian and the zoo. Thinking about Inn at Little Washington, Citronelle, Maestro and CityZen. Substitutions? Also looking for best pizza (2 Amys?), burger,prime rib, sushi,oysters, crab and banh mi for lunch and other nights. Kid friendly places (and activities) too. Thanks fellow D.C. Hounds.

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  1. Hope the OP realizes the Inn at Little Washington is not in DC, about a 90 minute drive from downtown.

    1 Reply
    1. I love CityZen. It won't disappoint. For something unique in DC, have you considered Minibar? I have not found anything in DC as good as Saigon Banh Mi.

      1. Wow. What a list. Stick to it, and you'll be full and happy. Couple additions: if you look around on this board you will see that Michel Richard has recently opened a second DC resto, called Central. I have not had the good fortune to go there yet, but I don't anticipate being disappointed. Also, it will be a little easier on the wallet, which might be nice if you do go to the Inn at Little Washington. And if 90 minutes is nothing to you, consider heading to Annapolis for your crabs. 2 Amys is it for pizza, but it's not particularly close to anything else you might be doing, and others will also suggest Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle. Lots of opinions on those two joints if you search around on here. There's a good oyster place right up the street from Paradiso -- others will tell you the name. Might be Hank's? Don't like 'em much, so not sure. I like Tonic for burgers -- it's a local bar, vaguely close to the zoo in the Adams Morgan area, and they serve tater tots with it rather than fries. They are GOOD tater tots, although heavily salted.

        1. Maestro? I think there's better food at Palena. And why not see about a reservation at Minibar, which I think is amazing. Central is not a substitute for Citronelle, and needs some time to get it's act together anyway. That oyster bar in Dup Circle is no longer, alas. Johnny's Half Shell is now on Capitol Hill, and not the same place. There is Hank's, on the other side of Dupont, recommended for happy hour oysters. Forget Pizzeria Paradiso, to which I've devoted more than a decade of my eating life. It's over. 2 Amys is the best pizza in DC, and the only I've ever had in the US that reminds me of the pizza in Naples.

          5 Replies
          1. re: moreskordalia

            Because the service and the food at minibar leave quite a bit to be desired, as does Hank's for any time but happy hour.

            1. re: moreskordalia

              "Maestro? I think there's better food at Palena."

              Ludicrous! These two places should not even be mentioned in the same breath. Keep Maestro on your list and forget Palena. The horrible service alone will taint your DC dining experience.

              1. re: CDouglas

                While the service is often stuffy at Palena, I'm going to suspect you had a singular bad experience, though I am curious what made your service so bad?

                1. re: jpschust

                  Well Dean, the evening went south when we did not order a bottle of wine as I was not drinking - kid free night but I had to drive home. Sorry if that offends. The waiter essentially dismissed us as serious diners from then on. Huge waits for everything and zero (ZERO) checks to make sure all was well. I don't demand more than indifferent service as long as the chow is worthy but this felt purpo$eful. I had to get a drink from the bar for my wife at one point. Check actually dropped with dessert. Food was great but simply not worth the "service".

              2. re: moreskordalia

                I also suggest Palena...especially since you are looking for a damn good burger. It's delicious...seriously superior to any other burger I've had in a long time. And it's gourmet. Or you can opt to kick it up a notch (or 5) and dine in the back room which is fancier with a multiple course menu

              3. IMHO, IALW is only worth it if you can splurge to stay the night. It's 90 minutes one-way, and that's not counting on the inevitable I-66 West evening traffic. And a long 90 minutes back. All that said, it is a unique experience...

                3 Replies
                1. re: bordeauxfan

                  Very true, Bordeauxfan. A good compromise is to eat at the IALW, but stay at another inn in the Little Washington/Flint Hill area.

                  1. re: Gonzocook

                    For the record, the FosterHarris House in Little Washington is a wonderful B&B, walking distance to the Inn and WAY less than the cost of a night at the Inn. Everyone at the breakfast table the next morning you'll likely have seen at dinner the night before.

                    1. re: Meg

                      I'll take it a step further. I would avoid IALW till you have the opportunity to stay AT the hotel as well... so you can take in the whole experience.

                2. Couple options not on your list...
                  Komi, Restaurant Eve, Zatinya

                  Banh Mi: Head to Eden aka (Little Saigon) in Falls Church, VA. You can pop into any number of vietnamese restaurants and cafes.

                  Happy eating, I think you'll find our local scene might not have the quantity as NYC but the quality is definitely on par with NYC.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: novasupra

                    Zatinya is ok, but very, very skippable when looking at the rest of the suggestions out there and the original itinerary of the OP. I believe the other Andres place put out there is Minibar and that is the one the poster should hit, if small plates are the thing you are looking for Jaleo for tapas in Penn Quarter is the original and leaps and bounds above its sister mezze joint in Zatinya.

                  2. If you go to 2 Amys, and you should, go for the margherita. The National Cathedral, which is an amazing tourist destination, is right nearby.

                    1. I'll second Komi and Restaurant Eve but veto Zatinya- you pay a lot for atmosphere and the food is just slightly above acceptable.

                      1. Of your 4 restaurants that you've listed, the only one I might consider nixing is Cintronelle. I think it's over-rated. It's not like you will have a bad experience or anything, but I don't think it deserves to be in the same category as Maestro (which is the best dining experience you can have in the DC region!), CityZen, and IALW.

                        I'd rather dine at Charlie Palmer's or 1789 than Citronelle. I've never been to Eve or Komi, but I'll bet they're more adventurous than Citronelle. And, I've eaten at Palena once about a year ago and had the worst service I've had at any upper-echelon restaurant in years. The food was good, though.

                        1. Two more things... I think the best oysters around are served up at Black's or Black Market (same owner). Also, Sushi Taro is bustling enough for kids to go unnoticed and the sushi is real good.

                          For a great Japanese dining experience (the best in the city), go to um, geez, what the hell is the name of that place on MacArthur? I've eaten there a few times, but the name is escaping me this very minute... a little help, chowhounds?

                          1 Reply
                          1. If you've got a child in tow while doing the Smithsonian, you'll want a break for a decent lunch. You won't find that at any of the food service offered in the museums, even the American Indian cafeteria. They tried but even the creative menu is still institutional.
                            Near the newly renovated National Portrait Gallery, you can find good pizza and burgers at Matchbox on H Street, NW. Spanish tapas at Jaleo. Lots of other good choices in this neighborhood which is called PennQuarter/Chinatown/Verizon Center. Zola is a decent choice right next to the very entertaining Spy Museum.
                            My Brother's Place at 237 2nd St, NW, is very close to the East Wing of the National Gallery. A little north of the Mall is 701, right on Pennsylvania Avenue at the Archives. It's a little fancy but does have burgers on the menu for your child if nothing else suits.
                            Some of the menu items from Citronelle are available at Central, Michel Richard's other, less expensive restaurant. It isn't open for lunch now but may be by April. Plain old food court food is offered at National Place at 13th and F, NW, including burgers by Five Guys, a local chain. There's a McDonald's across the street if you gotta.
                            On 15th, between F and G, you'll find Old Ebbitt Grill, a local hangout that draws a lot of tourists and is routinely trashed by a some people on this board. It has a good raw oyster bar however with 1/2 price offerings in the late afternoon and pretty good sandwiches.
                            If you visit the Capital Building and Supreme Court, there are some good, very child-friendly places nearby as the neighborhood just east of the Capital is residential.
                            Two Amys is a good neighborhood pizza place in Cleveland Park. When it gets busy, the pizza can be undercooked. The biggest objection many people have is that it's full of kids which won't bother you since you'll have one yourself.
                            The Prime Rib does best what it is named after. It's still the place to go if that's what you seek.
                            Frankly, it's a long, long trip fighting traffic out to Little Washington after a day of touring. There are so many alternatives in DC. I'd skip it if I had only a week.
                            Local blue crabs are out of season. Any that you find will have traveled further than you have, mostly from the Gulf Cost. Come back again to enjoy them this summer.

                            1. Just went to IALW, and the food was incredible. But so was the cost. Truly, think about the best food you've had in NY (Per se, maybe?) and then think of how much more they would charge if everything had to be carted 90 miles away, and the only diners they served had to make a weekend (or overnight) out of it. That's about the difference in price. The markup on wine was by our estimation 4x retail. The food was amazing and did not disappoint, but the value really did. If you do go, don't miss the cheese plate. The options and amount provided were incomparable.

                              CityZen is excellent, and I disagree with the negatives on Palena. Their food is incredibly imaginative. Service could be better, sure, but the food is worth it. Komi is terrific but not an all-night affair, if that's what you are looking for. I really have enjoyed Blue Duck Tavern, which is not as high-end as some of the others, but is in keeping with the organic trend now. All the food is assigned to its origins, farm, etc. It's very fresh and delicious.

                              The best oysters are at Sea Catch in Georgetown, with Hank's a close second. But Sea Catch also has a great happy hour, so if you want to have a drink with your oysters, go there. I agree with some that Pizzeria Paradiso tops 2 Amy's. One more idea with chow-adventurous kids - try Ethiopian. DC has excellend Ethiopian, and no kid I know does not like to eat with his hands.

                              As an aside, keep an eye out re: the Cherry Blossom Festival, expected between March 31 and April 15 this year. Tourists pour into town, so you may want to lock down a few things (including a hotel) early.

                              1. Also please allow me to throw Dino out there...A gem of a resturant serving real "Italian" food in D.C.....(i.e. no chicken parm or spagetti and meatballs).

                                1. Note that 2 Amy's is a Neopolitan pizza and Paradiso is a traditional style, different but good in their own ways. Value-wise, 2 Amy's and Mia's Pizza offer their's in a 12" for the same price. Paradiso offers an 8" or 9" at the same price point w/ the 12"/14" available for much more $.
                                  In regards to 2 Amy's, I had trouble looking for them the first time so I ended up there at 1pm. Pizza was undercooked (extremely chewy) and not sliced. With the exception of the dough issues, it was better than Paradiso. Busy or not, the pizza should be cooked to temperature and be sliced when brought to the table. I will have to try again either before/after lunch rush.
                                  OTOH, I've had a consistently good experience at Paradiso (3 times at Dupoint, 1 at G-town, 1 at Mia's [related]). While particulars of Paradiso may rank slightly below 2 Amy's, it's their consistency that has me loving them. Being able to snack on the olives is a nice bonus too (which they brine in-house).

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hungryT

                                    In Italy, piza served in a restaurant is typically served in a single person size and served not sliced. Pizza al Taglio is pizza for take away and is served sliced. In fact, you indicate how large a slice you want and they weight it and charge you accordingly at most places.

                                    Also, there are different pizza traditions in different places. Roman Pizza has a crackery crust, Neapolitan more bready yet not thick crust. Some areas the tradition is Focaccia and not pizza. Rmember that Italy is a country in name only. In reality, it is still a collection of city states.

                                  2. Others seem to have your specific Restaurant choices covered...here are some food-specific req's:

                                    Prime Rib: The Prime Rib on K St.

                                    Oysters: Sea Catch and Old Ebbitt Grill are my favorites. Both have excellent oyster happy hour specials and will have 5-7 varieties available. One caveat: I don't really recommend the rest of the menu at Old Ebbitt, and if you're here during Cherry Blossom time, it will be overrun...but their oyster service is excellent. I have been to Hank's a couple times since it opened and its fine, never really understood the gushig over it, other than the good location. I've heard only good things about Black's oysters but have not been myself.

                                    Banh Mi: You might enjoy a short trip west on 66 to exit 69 (about 6 miles west of DC), go left at the end of the ramp and go about a mile, you'll hit Eden Center on the right. Basically a vietnamese strip mall. A couple of excellent vietnamese restaurants, and a few little sandwich shops among other merchants. Unfortunately I don't remember the names of them, I just know where they are. But you can poke your way around the shopping center (there are some interior corridors too) and see what tickles your fancy.

                                    Sushi: How about Kotobuki? Excellent and, as a bonus, on the affordable side.

                                    Pizza: I can't imagine seeking out pizza in DC when coming from NYC, but if you're seeking good "upscale Neapolitan" pizza then 2 Amy's would be my suggestion based on what I have read here/heard elsewhere, followed by Pizzeria Paradiso. My grandfather, who immigrated from Naples to upstate NY, built a pizza oven and used to make pizzas all the time when I was a kid. From what I recall of them, they weren't really that similar to 2 Amy's or PP. That may be why I am not particularly fond of either.

                                    Crab: Road trip! I would pick Baltimore over Annapolis...several good places to choose from in either...but in Baltimore you could spend the afternoon up there (aquarium, ft. mchenry, etc) then also sneak in a trip to Helmand, which is my favorite Afghan restaurant in the US. April is earlier in the year than I would typically eat crabs.

                                    Hope some of that helps...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Lowbar

                                      LP Steamers in Locust Point fro crabs. No atmosphere, beer only for beverage, great steamed shrimp with onions and old bay while you wait for your crabs, then glorious crabs.

                                    2. I'd recommend Dukem or Etete for Ethiopian--D.C's only unique food offering. Your kids might enjoy ripping off pieces of the Injera bread and scooping up food with their fingers. Scratch the pizza idea. You can get better pizza walking down any street in NY and stopping at any two-bit pizza joint.

                                      1. Any crabs you find in April will not be local.

                                        If a long drive is really not an issue, then save the crab feast for another visit. Please. July, August, or (even better) September will find the waterfront crab house crabs at their peak. It's a don't miss experience that is worth the wait.

                                        1. Also, while you'll find better crabs in Annapolis or Baltimore than in DC. The best crabs, crab houses, crab experiences are in the rural areas along the bay. Here is an excellent resource for planning an outing.


                                          1. These days its hard to find local crabs most anywhere. Aside from Harris, most crabs are flown in year round. LP Stemaers uses LA waters crabs pretty much year round. I have had great crabs there at all times of the year with July actually being the best season.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: deangold

                                              Lots of places have local crabs in season but not the places catering to city folks and tourists. They want mega-crabs which has driven the restaurants to import blue crabs from the warmer waters of the Gulf and Carolinas where they grow larger.
                                              From all of the crabbing areas, the best crabs are actually Fall crabs, when they have fattened just prior to slowing down for winter. This year's September and October crabs were the best they have been in many, many seasons. That's when most of the watermen wait to enjoy them.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                It's not a popular view in these parts, but I don't think there's anything wrong with Gulf or even Carolina crabs. They just don't cook them right where they come from. I buy mine live and cook them myself.

                                                1. re: Hal Laurent

                                                  The famed Angelina's crabcake (R.I.P.) was made from crab from the carolinas or from Louisiana if not available from the carolinas.

                                                  1. re: Hal Laurent

                                                    Agree completely.Crabs from the Gulf Coast are great!
                                                    I'm originally from New Orleans and it took me awhile to get used to steamed crabs. My family still prefers them cooked the Gulf Coast way and served chilled so I have to boil them myself up here. The meat is much spicier and firmer. I love them steamed too. Just a different preparation. All the same Beautiful Swimmer.

                                              2. Any other suggestions for the OP?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: guttergourmet

                                                  It may have gotten lost in some of the other references, but IMHO Restaurant Eve is one of the best restos in the area right now. Tasting room or Bistro, it doesn't matter, both have great food and drink. I like it better than Maestro, City Zen and IALW (never been to Citronelle). Not that the food suffers at any of them, they are all great spots, it's just that I like the style better at Eve. If you don't have time for that, and are touring Old Town Alexandria, stop in at Eamonn's (same owners) for the best fish and chips in the area.

                                                  For sushi, I like Sushi Ko and Kotobuki. Either are good with children, but Kotobuki is pretty small and there might be wait on weekend nights.