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Best of DC for San Diegan

  • d

My first post ever on chowhound. . . My hubby and I are going to be in town for a few days and I was hoping to get some help selecting some places NOT TO BE MISSED in Washington DC. We're staying near the convention center and chinatown, but are savy with public transportation, etc. I'd love rec's on at least one nice restaurant and maybe a few that have great or interesting food. Thanks so much for the help.

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  1. It's always a bit intimidating making recs for San Diegans, as you hail from a food mecca! But. DC is a fantastic food town and you'll love it (just brace yourself for the heat and humidity).
    A relatively new trend here is the opening of several casual bistros.
    Cafe du Parc in the Willard Hotel. The Willard in of itself is a great place to visit.
    Brasserie Beck
    Michel Richard Central

    Also, not to be missed in DC is the Ethiopean food.
    many, many more.....

    High end:
    Citronelle in Georgetown (take the Circulator bus)

    Do you have any specific food interests?

    1 Reply
    1. re: monavano

      I just had an extraordinary meal in the lounge at Citronelle. Eggplant gazpacho and an appetizer of the soft shell crabs. It sent me back $30 (before tax and tip) and you get to eat like a king from one of the finest chefs in America. You don't need reservations or a jacket to eat in the lounge. Another great choice is the mushroom cigars. You will be surprised and amazed. Go.

    2. I just got back from San Diego a few weeks ago. My first time ever there. One of the meals was sushi in La Jolla at Roppongi. Best Washington equivalent is Kaz Sushi Bistro on Eye St. Another meal in San Diego was at Agave -- we probably don't have genuine Mexican cooking here, but a great fusion place with an outstanding taste of Latin America and the Caribbean is Ceiba on 14th St.

      And where you're staying is not far from Jose Andres' restaurants. He's one of the best Spanish chefs in the world -- Spanish as in Spain -- and you're staying close to Cafe Atlantico, his flagship, plus Zaytinya and Jaleo. Just Google Jose Andres and you'll be fine.

      Please bring some of your weather with you!!!!

      9 Replies
      1. re: BigEats

        There are (were? its been a while) at least 3 sushi places in San Diego that are significantly better food-wise than just about any sushi I have had in DC (Roppongi was not among them, so maybe my tastes are different, but I did really like one of their desserts), so I frankly would probably skip sushi. Similar story on tapas...though Jaleo is certainly good, there are a couple of very good tapas places in San Diego and I would probably focus on stuff you just can't get a good rendition of in SD. If you want to go to a Jose Andres joint I'd suggest Zaytinya if you like the small plates thing. Everyone I take there loves it.

        Absolutely get Ethiopian. Etete or Dukem are good choices. Neither will break your bank.

        If you want to go for one super-nice meal as you suggest, I am not the best assessor of this as I am of relatively humble means, but Citronelle and CityZen are certainly on the top of my wish list.

        A great and nice place that won't do quite as much financial damage is Vidalia: www.vidaliadc.com.

        I have heard only good things about Brasserie Beck (and seen good things here recently) but have not been myself yet, menu and beer and wine lists available here:

        Please bring with you a couple slices of Bronx Pizza, a frank roll from sushi on the rock, a sandwich from point loma seafood (I'm not picky), and some dry air.

        1. re: Lowbar

          Thanks so much everyone - great responses so far! I'm hearing you about the weather and now I'm a little SCARED. I'll be in DC on Saturday (6/23) and with the heat and humidity I'm afraid I don't know what to pack. Sounds like I'll need changes of clothing. Hopefully I'll bring some nicer, milder weather with me.

          From reading many posts, it appears ethiopian is not to be missed. Sorry I don't have a specific type of food I'm interested in. What I love to do when I travel is eat what the area is known for. So those type of suggestions are very welcome. Perhaps throwing in a good place to get a crabcake?

          I'd love to bring you all some bronx pizza, some carne asada burritos and sushi. Too bad it won't keep in my luggage!

          1. re: dde

            As for clothes, just be sure to wear breathable clothing and comfy sandals. That'll do you. If your into seeing the Mall and Monuments, simply go very early in the morning, or wait til after 6 pm or so.. The mall has very little respit from the sun as well as the heat.
            Great to know you are open to all foods.
            Crabcakes: easy....CF Folks. Call to see if they're on the menu the day you go.
            I'm sure others will give you an idea of thier favorite crabcakes, which is a great "must do" when in this area.
            Vidalia is a great suggestion too.
            For something you can't get anywhere else? How about the view atop the Hotel Washington. The roof terrace restaurant is not exactly recommended for food, but the view will knock your socks off at night. You are directly across from the Monument, and can see the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, as well as the East Wing of the White House. Go get a drink there before or after dinner. Maybe dessert? I take visitors there as a matter of fact.
            It's outdoors, so dress appropriately.

            Just up the street, there is a DC institution called the Old Ebbitt Grill. What's been whispered inside those walls is the stuff of DC lore. It's quintesentially DC. I wouldn't make it a dinner destination, but for lunch or brunch or breakfast, most definitely. They have a fantastic raw bar, which from about 2-6? Mon -thursday, and after 11pm? (please call them to be sure) is HALF PRICE. Orca platter anyone????

            1. re: monavano

              Please note that CF folks is only open M-F as far as I know, and only for lunch. But that's where you want to get your crabcake in DC.

              A good second choice if want a crab cake might be the Market Inn, which was featured on a Food Network show for its crab cakes (you can decide if that is a good or bad thing), and while they are not my favorite crab cake ever, they are decent enough and I would much sooner eat one of those for lunch than not have blue crab at all on a visit from the west coast. Since Old Ebbit was mentioned here, I actually thought their crab cake sandwich was surprisingly decent, but I generally don't recommend the place for anything other than its fantastic raw bar (and historical value).

              If you want to have what many consider the best crabcake in the world, you'd have to make a road trip (or train trip) up to Baltimore and hit Faidley's in Lexington Market.

              1. re: Lowbar

                Faidley's is famous, sure, not expensive, I like going there. But best in the world... I've never heard that one before. Personally, I find it has too much filler (saltines) to be a serious candidate for being best of anything.

        2. re: BigEats

          Note that Jose Andres doesn't really cook anymore and the quality of his restaurants continue to slide.

          Skip sushi- you've got Sushi Ota in San Diego, far better sushi than we get here.

          Now let's talk the good stuff- One nice restaurant- go to Palena or Vidalia if you want to stay in DC, if you want out of DC to see some other stuff hit up Alexandria and go to Restaurant Eve.

          On the somewhat more affordable side try Michel Richard's new restaurant Central. Also, if you want to go to a more neighborhood eatery hit up Dino for top quality Italian food- one thing that San Diego is sorely missing.

          Ray's the steaks is far better steak than you'll get at Donovan's and it's at half the price.

          Avoid chinese food like the plague around where you're staying- it's odd but the quality chinese food takes you to the suburbs.

          I'd really hit up Ethiopian in DC if you haven't done that before- another thing San Diego doesn't have.

          1. re: jpschust

            As an aside...Sushi Ota, Sushi on the Rock, and Zenbu (in that order) were the three sushi places I was thinking of in my earlier post :).

            As far as Italian is concerned, I agree that most of the finer dining Italian joints in San Diego disappoint, particularly those around the gaslamp where they always seemed to be popping up (and down) while I was there. But, as much as I resisted it at first, I would love to have a place like the Godfather in Kearney Mesa around here...maybe I just haven't found it yet.

            And I would extend jpschust's warning on Chinese to some other cuisines...you are better off in the 'burbs for Vietnamese, Korean, and arguably Indian as well (among others).

            1. re: Lowbar

              I totally agree with you about Italian in San Diego. Good Italian simply does not exist here. Some of the best Italian I've ever had has to be in San Francisco. Thanks for the warnings about Chinese food. I'll make sure to heed that. No good Chinese in San Diego either! Since we've just got a few days, I think we'll be sure to hit the Ethiopian food and a few other recommendations from fellow hounds. Cheers!

              1. re: dde

                For sure, make sure to report back. I'm from San Diego and relocated to DC a few years back (though I'm soon to relocate again). In my mind right now the finest restaurant in San Diego is Nine-Ten, though there are so many places out here that can blow Nine-Ten out of the water- you'll see a lot of those mentioned on here, but I'll restate a few- Vidalia, Palena, Restaurant Eve, CityZen.

        3. Don't miss Ethiopian at Etete

          1. The two best meals I have had so far in 2007 have both been at Le Paradou, at 7th and Indiana (walking distance from where you are staying). Both times were dinner; I had the nine course tasting dinner (there is no menu for this -- the chef just cooks for you) and it was absolutely out of this world. It puts other recent dinners in the area (Citronelle, Inn at Little Washington, Obelisk) to shame, in my opinion.

            1. Some of the best food in the DC area is Korean. Yechon (BBQ, Banchan, Stews), Gom Ba Woo (Stews) (both in NOVA), Da Rae Won Korean Chinese- (fried chicken, sizzling rice seafood, slivered salad, mandoo, hand pulled noodles) & Myong Dong (noodle soup, fried chicken) (Beltsville), Yet Gol (Seuol Long Tang with tripe, Seafood Panchan, soon du bo) are all superb and there are many more.

              1 Reply
              1. re: deangold

                There is no doubt...if you wanted to expand your food exploration beyond (but not far beyond) the city limits and easy reach of mass transit, you can get some truly excellent Korean and Vietnamese food. Good Bolivian, Salvadorean, and Peruvian as well.

              2. Actually, DC is not known for any particular food (unless it is a halfsmoke) but is know for having almost any type of ethnic food. It also has a lot of very good fine dining restaurants.

                I highly recommend Dino, not only for the food (the appetizers and small plates are the stars) but also for the fantastic and extremely well priced wine list specializing in Italian wine.

                This is the best place in the country to get Ethiopian food. Etete (9th Street) or Dukem (12th and U) are both excellent examples.

                Palena (the back room) is one of the best for a 3, 4 or 5 course meal that will knock your sox off. Wonderful cooking, though the wine list is a little skimpy.

                Citronelle is very good, very fancy, and very expensive. Central is a bistro version that is more affordable, but can be up or down. I like both Cafe du Parc and Brasserie Beck better. CityZen is amazing, and expensive. You might also enjoy Zyatinya for meze (small plates) it is hip, very nice decor, and great food.

                3 Replies
                1. re: dinwiddie

                  Dinwiddie beating me to the punch again.

                  Palena back room is amazing. So is Komi.

                  For something unique to DC, and a total joint of a place is Ben's Chili Bowl. Make sure you get yourself some halfsmokes (with chili!) and fries and a shake. So bad for you but so good.

                  Crabcakes are harder to come by IMO in DC than say in Baltimore or environs. But many restaurants make a good try and you probably won't be disappointed.

                  Jaleo or Zaytina are both great for tapas and mezzes. An easy lunch stop IMO. Cafe Atlantico for lunch is also decent, particularly the tableside made guacamole.

                  If you can get to a Crisp & Juicy, well, can you say Peruvian Chicken? SO good, but generally more suburban.


                  1. re: Pool Boy

                    dde...You mentioned you are mass-transit friendly...You can get yourself an excellent (and one of a few board favorites) Peruvian chicken place called El Pollo Rico by taking the Orange line out into Virginia to the Virginia square stop. From the exit of that metro station, you can walk to Fairfax Dr (some nice passerby should show you the way), go Right on Fairfax, and walk a couple blocks to Kenmore Steet. By then you will smell the goodness. Take a right and EPR is almost immediately on your right. The place doesn't look like much, and the sides are basic (thick cut fries and slaw), but the chicken is really superb. And you can get absolutely stuffed with it for less than 10 bucks. Arguably a long way to go for what basically amounts to a fast food meal, but I'd do it once if I was in town from SD for several days (and often did when I was back in this area visiting when I lived in SD).

                    1. re: Lowbar

                      Thanks for the tip. My mouth is watering. I love peruvian food. Exceptionally hard to come by in SD. I'll keep it in mind. I like having all these great tips at hand and I'll just have to see where my wanderings take me. :) Love everyone's suggestions. Many thanks. Will report back after my trip - taking the red-eye tomorrow night. Wish me sleep!