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DC restaurant itinerary 5 nights


Just wanted say that I am having a great time reading your very informative posts on DC restaurants. My mouth is watering already, which is a problem, since I won't be in DC until late May.

I'll be in Washington May 23-28 with my parents and have been given the assignment (Yay!) of researching restaurants (my favorite part of a vacation). If I were travelling alone, I'd probably put Citronelle on my list as I really like to enjoy one true splurge; however, I'm not travelling alone and I don't think I can put it on my list this time. I'll be back, however -I live in the NYC area and I plan to take more mini-vacations to DC.

For now, though, I've got the following:

Central (ok, it's not Citronelle, but it is Michel Richard and it sounds like fun)
Komi (I'm not thrilled with the items on their extremely small menu but apparently the menu changes daily and it's getting way too many raves for me not to give it a chance)

I thought Zaytina and Cashion's were going to be definites as well, but now I'm seeing some very mixed reviews for both. With only 5 days, I'd like to find restaurants where there is more of a consensus as to how good they are. Jaleo's is also getting mixed reviews. Thoughts on these?

Colorado Kitchen seems like a really fun choice with a homey menu - is this a good dinner restaurant or is it really best for lunch/brunch?

Johnny's Half-Shell looks great, too, but I'm wondering if it's a better lunch spot (LOVE po boys). How's dinner? Looks like they don't have banana pudding anymore......too bad (LOVE banana pudding), but really everything else sounds out of this world.

Ideally I'd also like to try some Ethiopian (that's sure not something I can get on Long Island), but may save that for when I'm in DC again.

I know Palena's getting great reviews - not sure that we want to do two expensive restaurants in DC and I didn't think I'd lean toward any Italian places while down in DC (I can get tons of that up in the NY area). Still, it sounds delicious.

I'd appreciate any thoughts or tips you could give me - if there are other restaurants I'm missing, please.....I'd love to hear about them.


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  1. I don't think there are any *concensus* restaurants in DC. I've seen dissenting opinions on just about every place you mention.

    You can definitely get dinner at the Colorado Kitchen. They have a Sunday bruch that is good, but it's also quite often mobbed. The dinner menu changes weekly, but duds are few and far between. I would point you to a favorite, but I get something different almost every time I'm there. Fried and pan-roasted foods are almost always excellent. Be aware that they are closed a couple days (IIRC, Monday & Tuesday).

    Palena has a casual cafe in the front that is inexpensive, so you needn't rule it out on the basis of expense.

    1. To make Palena less expensive just eat off the bar menu- the chicken (I know this sounds strange) is divine.

      Personally for consistency I'd skip Cashion's, and I don't like Zaytinya or Jaleo.

      You really should hit Vidalia- the new spring menu is to die for.

      Central is excellent as is Komi.

      For ethiopian go to Etee or Dukem.

      Go to CO kitchen for brunch, skip it for dinner.

      If you have a car get out to old town and go to restaurant Eve or 2941 instead of either Komi or Vidalia for an expensive meal.

      1. I guess everyone has their favorites. Personally, I find that most places that try to do upscale Southern charge a lot of money for making food that shouldn't be too fancy, so I can't abide too much by Vidalia. Colorado Kitchen, on the other hand, never puts on much of a flourish, so it's just fine technique and some very good ideas. Very good for dinner.

        Jaleo for Spanish tapas, 2 Amys for Neapolitan pizza and Italian small plates, Central for American by a French master, these are some of my favorites. If you do a search for Jaleo on this board, you'll come up with many, many posts offering recommendations.

        And Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria is sure to be a delight. Go early in the day and check out the Torpedo Factory.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Wow, thanks for all the tips. Lots of opinions to sort through.....

          We won't have a car -I'm not sure that that puts Restaurant Eve out of reach as much as the price. The tasting menus are $95.00 and $125.00 - NYC prices. My parents rarely go out to restaurants that expensive; with wine, there's no way they will go for that. The Bistro menu looks nice enough, but if I were to spend the $ on a cab to Alexandria, it would be for the tasting menus - something I might consider if I were alone.
          Maybe next trip, because I've heard raves about this place.

          I love the idea of spanish tapas so I'll do more research on Jaleo. They don't have very many places like this on Long Island -it gets a bit tiresome to have Italian all the time- so it sounds appealing.

          Researching restaurants is fun, but it's tough -for every restaurant I put aside, another one pops up that sounds just great.

          Thanks for your help! I'll keep reviewing this board and will let you know what my list ultimately looks like.

          1. re: Betsypaige

            You don't have to do the tasting menu at Restarant Eve. Just order a la carte at the Bistro. Tourists of all kinds seem to be able to find their way to Old Town Alexandria, a tourist destination in its own right.

            And if Jaleo is interesting to you, then by all means search this Board. So many favorable posts over the years. Favorites there include the tortilla espanol, patatas bravas, spinach with raisins, grilled asparagus, eggplant flan, cod fritters, trumpet mushrooms, apple and manchego salad, and queso de tupi.

        2. While they're slightly different, Cashion's and Johnny's are owned by the same people. I prefer Johnny's (though like Cashion's) - I would think it would be a good lunch place though I've not gone there at that time.

          I know you mention nights, but a nice lunch only spot to consider is CF Folks, on 19th south of DuPont. If it's a nice day you can sit outside. Breadline is also a lunch only spot (each really are only at lunch during the week).

          Just to toss out a couple of other possibilities would be Black's in Bethesda or Acadiana on NY. Each do a different flair on Gulf coast fare - Acadiana focusing on Cajun/Creole.

          Last suggestion would be an early steak dinner over at Ray's in Arlington. It's a few block walk from a metro stop but the cab ride should be cheap.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Dennis S

            I would second Palena at the cafe in front. Quite good. I'd also skip Cashion's. I've never been thrilled, though I've never hated it, either. I've just always ended up being a bit disappointed. Johnny's Half Shell always was better in my view, echoing the previous poster, but th restaurant that took over Johnny's spot at 20th and P, Montsouris, has proven to be very good each of the five times I've been. For the original poster, I'd highly recommend putting it on your list. It is not expensive and turns out good French food. I think it fills a hole that has existed here in DC's restaurant repertoire.

            1. re: Dennis S

              If you're looking for a po'boy, Acadiana is head and shoulders over Johnny's Half Shell. They bring Leidenheimer's bread up from New Orleans and it is all about the bread. They get the whole thing just right, down to the dressing!
              Highly recommend Central. Fun way to experience Michel Richard's witty take on American food at a reasonable price. Great way to close out a day at the Mall museums.
              Beck may be open by the time you arrive. The new bistro by Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel's. Everybody's waiting for this one.
              Consider Taberna del Alabardero rather than Jaleo. They have excellent tapas and it's less hectic. They also serve a full menu of Spanish food in elegant surroundings. Considered by many Spanish ex-pats to be the best Spanish restaurant in North America.
              NYC spoiled me forever for US pizza so you're probably right to skip that. If you want quick lunch downtown, CF Folks is wonderful and I think more creative than the sandwiches at Breadline.

              Taxis are cheap within DC so you can get around easily. Three people sharing is often less expensive than Metro. To figure out how to get places by Metro (or connecting to bus if you have to) and how long it should take, use www.MetroOpensDoors.com

              1. re: MakingSense

                "Taxis are cheap within DC"

                If you consider $11 for two people cheap (for a one zone trip).

            2. Opinions vary greatly on your choices as you can tell, but I'll throw mine out there:

              I'd try to pick places in different parts of the city so you get to see the different areas while you are here. So, I would vote for Palena in Cleveland Park, Jaleo or Zaytinya in Penn Quarter, Komi near Dupont Circle, and something in Adams Morgan (either Cashions or Ethiopian)...you get to see four fun, hip, walkable parts of the city that way.

              Palena-I wouldn't call this 'Italian' if you are worried about that. I'd call it American, with various European influences. And the front room is cheaper so you don't have to worry about busting your budget, as several people have already stated
              Jaleo-It's just my personal taste, but I prefer this to Zaytinya. I think every visitor to DC needs to check out something from the tapas empire in the Penn Quarter. Check out the Jaleo specific post from about a week ago to get ideas of what to order. Actually, I would have a couple tapas (with some Sangria) at Jaleo and then walk directly across the street to Oyamel and have some other more Mexican style tapas there.
              Komi-Some of the things don't sound that exciting on the menu. Trust me, they are.
              Cashion's-I've actually only been once. Good, but didn't thrill be enough to go back. Since you've never done Ethiopian, try that in Adams Morgan instead. I know there are 'better' Ethiopian recommended on this site, but Meskerem is quite tasty and has a great atmosphere right smack in the middle of Adams Morgan.

              Agree with Steve that Vidalia is overpriced for what it is - I've had food just as good or better in South Carolina for much lower prices (esp. shrimp and grits). And I don't care how beautiful it is, I never can quite shake the feeling that I'm eating in a basement. My in-laws love it though, for what it's worth.

              Have fun! Post a trip report after your visit if you get a chance.

              1. Hey there.

                I just wanted to comment on Ethiopian. I am new to the D.C. area, but I had an Ethiopian cabbie one night and he turned me on the the best Ethiopian I have ever eaten and I have been eating it for more than 15 years. It is called Dukem and is at 11 and U (NE? Not sure but I will list the website). Just a warning, the service is abysmal, both times I went it sucked something awful, but if you can tolerate it, the food is really a notch above any other of its type. Here is the URL: http://www.dukemrestaurant.com/index2...

                I used to live in Manhattan, there are a lot of Ethiopian places in the city. I don't know how far out you are, but I remember a place on the southeast corner of 123rd and Amsterdam that is still there. Inexpensive and delicious, I used to practically live there when I was in college.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sekelmaan

                  Thanks to all for your comments! Still so many hard decisions to make. I do think it's a good idea to pick restaurants in different neighborhoods.........I'll do more research and be back......and I will definitely give a report upon my return. I appreciate all of your help!

                2. Any restaurant will get mixed reviews because people's tastes differ.
                  I had brunch at Cashions and it was ok, but I'm a big fan of brunch at Tabbard Inn.

                  I also do like Jaleo and Zaytinya, but the Jaleo in Bethesda is way more consistant than the one in Penn Quarter. I also like 2 Amys.

                  Taxis aren't cheap by any stretch in this city - a big rip off and you are easily ripped off by a driver if you don't know where you are/are going.

                  List any restaurant, someone will love it and someone wont. That's the joy of chowhound!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jeserf

                    Cabs in DC are cheaper than in other US cities - sometimes by a lot because of the zone system, particularly when there's traffic congestion. Tourists should check with the doorman at their hotels for information or with restaurants when they leave for the approximate cost of their ride..
                    I use public transportation all the time but when I'm going home late at night, I use cabs for security. Sometimes I don't even want to walk to my car.
                    If someone is eating at good restaurants and staying at downtown hotels, they may be more likely to use cabs late at night than walk around neighborhoods they don't know, wait alone at bus stops or deserted Metro stations and transfer between lines. Tourists especially do this in cities they're not familiar with because it's just good sense. Every guide book cautions this.
                    Everyone, tourist or not, is always more vulnerable in a neighborhood they don't know and a few dollars isn't worth the risk to personal safety.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      cabs are convenient, not cheap. there's a difference. 4 of us took a cab from dupont to ethiopian on u street b/c the tourists in the group were dead tired, and it was $18.

                      cheap? no. convenient? yes.

                      and metro stations are very rarely deserted even if you're far out. Guide books recommend things that save their butts because you know someone would sue them if they didnt mention that crime exists.

                      Doesnt mean you shouldn't cab it, but be prepped to pay at LEAST $10 a ride.

                  2. If you consider $18 for a bacon cheeseburger to be a bargain ( plus 10% tax, tip and drink) then Central is a bargain.

                    I would highly recommend a dinner at Corduroy. It is exceptional food, superlative service and very reasonably priced. If you eat at the bar, try the steak frites or their off-menu burger. I am confident you will enjoy it. Also, Mendocino Grille in Georgetown is doing great things these days.

                    Finally, take a quick Metro ride up to Silver Spring and walk one block to Ray's The Classics for the best steak dinner in town.

                    Komi will blow. you. away. If you can get a reservation, by all means go!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: round hound

                      So true about people's tastes being different - so, all I can do is find a place that feels right to me based on my tastes and my research and go for it.

                      I'm sure we'll be taking the Metro for the most part - but Colorado Kitchen is apparently out of the way (we are staying near the convention center) and I think that a cab for 3 people is the likeliest option. For one night, yes - spending a few extra bucks for the convenience of a cab might be worth it. I've travelled solo many times and usually take the subway -unless it's out of the way or the weather is bad.

                      I've read some great things about Corduroy - that's definitely an option. 2 Amys also gets great reviews, but I think that would be more a lunch place if we are in the area. NY has great pizza, so I'm not sure I would go out of my way for that in DC.

                      Rays sounds so good -nothing beats a good steak. Might have to wait until my next trip to DC....and I love being blown away by good food, so Komi sounds perfect.

                      Thanks again for everyone's help- I'm going to read up more now on Corduroy

                      1. re: Betsypaige

                        It's also a nice thing about CH. When you get to know someone's taste over time, it helps guide you (I could include many of you, but I don't want this to be an oscar speech).

                    2. I recently visited Komi and trust me the menu can be deceiving. It is a wonderful restaurant that by far exceeded my expectations. To give you a point of comparison, even though it is very small and the service is not as formal I enjoyed it more then Jean George, Per Se and miles more then Babbo. Truly a restaurant not to miss!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: oysterspearls

                        I'll take a closer look at Restaurant Eve - it might be nice to get out of the city for a bit and I have heard raves about it. I have no doubt that the bistro food is delicious....mmm, I think I'm already convincing myself of it.

                        Yep, there have been tons of posts about Jaleo - it will be touch and go between that and Zaytinya, but I'm sure I can't go wrong with either one.

                        Komi is a must for sure but now I really have to see for myself. I had two of the best dining experiences I ever expect to have in Chicago (Alinea and True) and now the raves for Komi equal what I heard about those places (esp. Alinea). I'm pretty psyched about it.....hopefully we won't have problems getting in any of these places, given that we'll be there the Wed. before Memorial Day and leaving on Memorial Day itself.

                        Thanks again- wow, such great tips!

                        1. re: Betsypaige

                          You might consider an afternoon exploring Old Town Alexandria before an evening at Eve. It's a charming reminder of our area's history. What Georgetown used to be before the chain stores moved in. There's ticky-tacky shops but lots of wonderful galleries and delightful independent boutiques including La Cuisine cookware that has hard-to-find specialty baking supplies and a very knowledgeable staff. Worth a stop. Amazing cookie cutters of their own design, including a few x-rated ones.

                        2. re: oysterspearls

                          Don't miss out on Komi. It's truly one of the best places in DC. Small, innovative, amazing.

                        3. I'll heartily endorse Vidalia. One of our faves. We love the food, the room and service.
                          With 4 other nights to fill, and family in tow, I would do Kinkead's for sure as well as Cafe Atlantico (unless the folks are really into food and then I'd try to get into Minibar first). Given our future wishes, the other 2 nights would be Jaleo and Acadiana.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: GroovinGourmet

                            Hmm, I hadn't considered Old Town Alexandria before - I have put Georgetown on our tentative itinerary because I loved it when I was down here some years ago, but OT Alexandria sounds wonderful. I'll definitely bring that up to the folks.

                            I was thinking about Kinkeads when I first started planning the trip, but it's gotten lots of mixed reviews. I really hate to reduce a restaurant down to how many mixed reviews it has, but since I only have limited time in DC, I don't think I'll get to it on this trip. Glad to hear about Vidalia - I've been to Charleston, SC and had tremendous food there. Am I under any impressions that this is completely authentic? Not really, but it just sounds delicious. I'll take a look at Cafe Atlantico as well - .sigh. One consolation is that I can always come back down to DC for another vacation and try all the restaurants I won't be able to get to on this trip. Thank goodness for Amtrak and short flights.

                          2. I just wanted to give a vote to Zaytina. I think the tapas are much better than Jaleo, but probably just a taste difference. If you can sit outside they don't take reservations for this but if you can get it then it is very plesaent. So just wanted to help tilt the scales back to the middle to complicate your decision. Even if you can't do the tasting at Eve it is very good.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ktmoomau

                              Hi again!

                              Well, I've just made 3 reservations tonight: Central, Komi and Vidalia. That leaves two nights - I tentatively have Palena Cafe for Wed. May 27, e. The 5th night (Saturday) I'd like to go to an Ethiopian restaurant, but my mother is not very adventurous at all and I'm not sure she'll go for that. If not, I'm thinking Colorado Kitchen or maybe the Majestic, which will get allow us to spend some time in Old Town Alexandria. Thoughts?

                              Thanks again for everyone's help!!

                              1. re: Betsypaige

                                Majestic is great in its reopening, I'd also look at Rustico and Eve (for the high end). Each of these would put you right on or next to the heart of Old Town.

                                1. re: jpschust

                                  I did look at the Restaurant Eve bistro menu - the regular dining room is a bit too high end for this trip. My parents aren't into spending that kind of $, but I would consider it for a splurge next time I'm in the area.

                                  I love homespun kind of places and I think the Majestic may just fit the bill. My only concern is that it's just opened and it may not be running as smoothly as it surely will in a few months. Still ........it sounds right up my alley and if the locals are flocking to it, it must be good.

                                  1. re: Betsypaige

                                    I would second the notion that you must visit at least one of Jose Andres' Penn Quarter tapas restaurants (Jaleo/Zaytinya/Oyamel). Zaytinya in particular I think is unique, nothing really like it in NYC to my knowledge. Remember that Zaytinya is open for lunch, including on Saturday; this is a great place to stop by if you're visiting museums on the mall and need a nice lunch break since it's right at a Metro stop (you should also try the Mitsitam cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian).

                                    I'd also second the recommendation for Corduroy, which may be the best value in upscale dining in all of DC. Wonderful service and food: some of the best scallops you'll ever have, and the steaks are among the best in the city.

                                2. re: Betsypaige

                                  Colorado kitchen for brunch isn't too bad if you get there by 10:50 am or so (opens at 11 am) -- you might have a little wait, but I've made it in pretty quick after getting there right at 11 am the last 2 times I've gone on Sunday. Its also in the middle of nowhere, though, and pretty far north, which might cost a bit for cab fare. Never been for dinner yet.

                                  Ray's the Steaks, as mentioned above is a fantastic place for dinner (love the onglet, good key lime pie, but no reservations), never been to Ray's the Classics, but I'm sure its great too.

                                  Ethiopian -- Etete gets my vote, but I've had a mixed experience there - last time wasn't as great as the last few times.

                                  Eamonn's is pretty good in Old Town for a fish & chips lunch as well, if you're heading in that direction and want to make a day of it (and the deep-fried candy bars are pretty good too). Although I have no idea where its located relative to any of the other locations there.