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Apr 12, 2007 02:33 PM

D.C. Dinner with French business colleagues

I need to arrange a dinner for 6 - 8 people, including 3 colleagues who will be visiting from Paris. We'll be out in the Reston area during the day, but would like to have one dinner in the District so they see a little of Washington. I'd like a restaurant:
--- quiet enough that we don't struggle to carry on a conversation
--- great American regional cuisine
--- interesting wine list
--- a great room or view or Washington feel

It will probably be a Tuesday evening in early May.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. I'm assuming price is not an issue? If so, I would recommend any of the following:

    Vidalia - classy southern style restaurant


    The Prime Rib - classic American steakhouse

    1. I'd recommend B. Smith's in the former Presidential Suite at Union Station. Upscale Southern. Historic gorgeous setting, and your companions will have had nothing like it back home. I recommend the Swamp Thang (scallops, shrimp and crayfish over greens) and the lemon pepper catfish.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        I realize that everyone has a right to their opinion but B. Smith's is simply awful. The ambiance, food, and service are forgetable, at best. I have tried it several times and been overwhelmingly disappointed each time. I would never return. I'd rather eat at Uno's or McDonald's in Union Station.

        1. re: Dakota Guy

          I have to agree. I was very underwhelmed at B. Smith's when I went there. If you are looking for gourmet southern food I would suggest Vidalia or Georgia Browns instead...much better in all aspects

          1. re: Dakota Guy

            Yeah, I can see where the Presidential Suite would have a lousy ambience. NOT. Have you tried what I recommended? Swamp Thang is outrageously good and several other Chowhounds who have taken my advice have thanked me for it.

            I do not say that B. Smith's is a great restaurant, but I believe it is the best suggestion I've heard on this thread based on what the OP is looking for. And I've been to almost all the others.

          2. re: Steve

            By the way, here is a photo of B. Smith's.... in case anyone would like to judge for themselves..... it is one of the most historic settings of any restaurant in the entire country!

          3. Johnny's Half Shell where the old La Coline was, near the Capitol Bldg., might even see the lobbyists and politicos hanging, heh. good seafood and great location. Johnny's was a fav in its old place in dupont circle. Ann Cashion was a partner in Johnny's Half Shell, may still be, but see below. Good wine list.

            I second Vidalia's or Georgia Brown's for southern upscale dining, but no views.

            Occidental Grill, Charlie Palmers for de rigueur steak house DC style. great big steaks bruddha, and probably lots of lobbyists around. good standard wine list. heh.

            I'd give a shout out for my neighborhood restaurant, Cashion's Eat Place, in Adams Morgan. A lively diverse neighborhood instead of downtown monotony, the restaurant serves exciting takes on new american cooking, though the place can be loud on weekends. It's won several awards and commendations, etc. The 18th St. strip is one block over for drinks, or music (check out Madam's Organ), or just wandering. No view except for a *cool* neighborhood, your mileage may vary ;-)

            Restaurant Nora, organic food (meat and vegs from local and near local producers) cooked very well, elegant atmosphere, good wines, in nice neighborhood (Dupont Circle).

            just a starting and fun list, happy hunting!

            17 Replies
            1. re: PakaloloDreams

              Ignore Madams Organ and just hike up the stairs at The Reef and go on the roof bar- best view of Adams Morgan and the best beer selection out there. I love Cashion's as well.

              We need to do a chowhound neighborhood meetup for AM

              1. re: jpschust

                Why AM? Am I the only one what would SSOOO much rather avoid the popped-collars, fake tans, mom and dad pay the tab, intern going scene that permiates Adams Morgan most of the time?
       cat...the H street bars are very decent.
                meh, maybe I'm just old and don't dig the post-fraternity scene.

                I had a good brunch at Cashions though!

                1. re: Jeserf

                  You just need to learn where to go in AM to avoid that. There are safe havens in the area- The Reef, Bourbon on weekdays, Asylum, sometimes Toledo Lounge, Pharmacy Bar, T.S. Mutleys only to make fun of Ohio State fans, Tryst during the week. There's a lot of really good stuff going on down in Adams Morgan and you don't have to suffer through the annoying weekend crowd if you don't want to.

                  I like DC9, I like Black Cat when there's good stuff there which seems to be getting less and less often, and H street is great, but still VERY crunchy after the bars let out and getting a cab is very hard there.

                  A few others that are great are Bar Pilar, Cafe St-Ex (never on weekends), Logan Tavern, Stoney's, I can go on :)

                  1. re: jpschust

                    I've to adams almost every night of the week that i can remember (my ex used to work near 18th st). I enjoy going for a few things that are only there - amsterdam falafal, etc, but the bars there are nothing special.

                    I'll never go back to Logan Tavern after too many times of being treated like an inconvenience to the staff. I used to live around the corner, and now...forget it.

                    Give me the red room any night of the week!

                    1. re: Jeserf

                      I'll find it hard to believe that The Reef, Bourbon, and Asylum are nothing special. The Reef regularly has beers on tap you'll rarely find in the United States, let alone in DC, Bourbon has one of the finest selections of bourbon I've ever seen in a bar, and Asylum- I mean it's a vegan biker bar. That seems pretty normal to me :)

                      Not to mention the live music regularly coming through the area.

                      1. re: jpschust

                        I know asylum...hard to be into scooters and not know it there.
                        I don't drink bourbon, so that's why I don't find it special, yet I did note the liquor selection as good at Bourbon. And noted that I liked the Bourbon in Glover a little better (especially when it's cold out because it's more cozy inside).

                        Doesn't mean these places are terrible...just that the vibe I personally look for in a bar is very much lacking in a large part of DC. But, c'est la vie!

                2. re: jpschust

                  Madams Organ: I just thought the French visitors would like to hear some live *funky* music in a DC dive and dig the locals who go there on a Tuesday night, and not just some DJ boom boom room, heh. But the Reef is cool, especially the aquarium and yah the view if the weather is all right, heh.

                  And, for the posters below who bemoan the weekend problems with Adams Morgan, yah, people, I live here so I know, but the OP was talking about a Tuesday night, and the weeknights here are wonderful, I know because that's the only time I go out in my neighborhood, hehheh.

                  1. re: PakaloloDreams

                    Just a note about the weather at the Reef, the Reef recently installed an entire tented roof system with heaters all around, so you can get to 60-70 degrees rain free 364 days a year now. They close on X mas day I believe.

                    1. re: jpschust

                      do they remove it when the weather is lovely? Can people smoke in the tent because it's technically outside?

                      It'd be a shame to miss out on open air on DC's beautiful nights.

                      1. re: Jeserf

                        Yes- it is fully retractable within about 20 or 30 minutes and yes, people can smoke in the tent year round.

                        1. re: jpschust

                          ah, well thanks for the info, i'll be sure to scratch that off my list. Tent's + smoke = worse than being in a smoke bar IMO.

                          1. re: Jeserf

                            Just a heads up- when people are smoking and it's cold out what they normally do is open a few flaps on the non wind side from what i've seen so there's still ventilation. I'd go up there and check it out next time you are in the area before writing it off- there's no cover nor is there a dress code.

                            1. re: jpschust

                              Wow! A bar without a cover OR a dress code!
                              I can't believe my good fortune!

                              1. re: Jeserf

                                And great raspberry beer too!

                                Does Madam's Organ have a cover?

                                1. re: BritInDC

                                  Madam's Organ virtually always has a cover because of the live music. That said, I've rarely seen it over 5 bucks.

                                  As an aside to this and I think we are beginning to get far afield of the original topic, but it's still somewhat relevant- I'm of the personal opinion that bars in general should NEVER have a cover charge unless you are getting a live DJ or live music. Make your money off my drinks, not off me walking in the door.

                                  1. re: jpschust

                                    yep, it's relevant b/c sending someone looking for food and drink to a place with a cover should be illegal on CH!

                3. re: PakaloloDreams

                  I'll second Johnny's Half Shell. Great views of the Capitol, Union Station, and a short walk to the Mall.

                  And the oyster po' boys ROCK.

                4. 1789. Ask for the John Carroll Room. Early maps of the city and prints from George Washington's time. You won't have an outside view--- but the food is spectacular, great wine list, and it's quiet/ refined atmosphere (jackets required for gentlemen- no jeans athletic wear). The restaurant is situated in a Federal period house in Georgetown, about 1 block from the university. The University grounds are quite pituresque for a short stroll after dinner.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ChocoHound

                    A great suggestion ! Many of the places mentioned above are fun, casual, noisy places but not appropriate for business dinners.

                  2. I 2nd the idea of Vidalia, Georgia Browns, or 1789...all have wonderful, truly American food with a nice ambiance and interesting rooms.

                    Other ideas:

                    *Blue Duck Tavern--especially if you want fresh local ingrediants, you can't beat it!
                    *Although I've never been someplace like The Caucus Room might be a nice, truly DC experience.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Elyssa

                      I should mention though that when I went to Georgia Brown's a month or so ago it was packed (Food and Friends night) and exstremly loud. I don't know if others have had this problem but while the food is fantastic it might not do for a quiet business dinner.

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        I have yet to go to Georgia Brown's when it wasn't deafening or packed, but that's usually on a weekend. Since the OP mentioned they'd be going on a Tuesday, that may not be a problem if they get there early.

                      2. re: Elyssa

                        I think BDT is a love it or hate it experience. I hated it (both times). Rather than the Caucus Room, places across Lafayette Park from the White House that are good include Equinox and the Oval Room. Might want to consider the Hay Adams or the WIllard for historical references. Their food is not as good, for example, as Equinox nor is their ambiance as Colonial Ameican as 1789, which is where I recommend you go.

                        1. re: Dakota Guy

                          I totally forgot about Equinox. With the amount of people you have I would most definitly request the private wine room. When I has a special event there we had an amazing experience with the service and pre-fixed meal.

                          1. re: Dakota Guy

                            I liked the Oval Room and Equinox when I've been. The company for which I used to work used these constantly for business lunches/dinners.