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DC Restaurant Week - share your strategies!

Never been to DC RW - it's coming up Aug 6-12 - I know there have been discussions about whether it's worth going during RW - any thoughts/strategies? I'm thinking of taking my husband for a fine dining experience during RW, but want to understand exactly how "restricted" the RW menus tend to be. Thanks in advance for any tips!

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  1. First take a look at restaurants who are participating:
    http://www.washington.org/restaurantwk/

    Second, check the websites to see who is listing thier RW offerings. It's important to see if the restaurant is very restrictive with your RW choices.

    Third, beware of upcharges! Many restaurants will offer a menu which offers more expensive items, but upcharges tremendously for them. Sometimes, the savings is very minimal when adding up 3 courses on thier normal menu.

    Fourth, get opinions about previous experiences. Look for previous threads to see which restaurants are high performers, and which ones participate reluctantly. That is, which ones have treated people like suburban chattle.....

    Fifth, does the restaurant run specials like pre theater menus anyway? Many pre theater menus are a better way to go since they are offered all the time, and you will avoid the crush of RW. A cursory view of the lists tells me that 701 and Butterfly 9 would be off my list for RW since they offer pre theater dining options. Since both do a fantastic job at offering a great dining experience at a bargain, I'd go there in a heartbeat. Just not RW.

    Sixth, pay attention to what is being offered; lunch or lunch/dinner. Some places are only offering lunches. Call to confirm and specifically ask for the RW menu if it is not given to you when you are presented with the menu.

    Seventh and last ( I think), keep an eye out for restaurants who are extending RW. Willow in Arlington is by one week. Corduroy and Dino usually do, just a heads up to watch them.

    That being said, a consistent high performer is Corduroy. When you decide what tops your list, book early! Some places fill up weeks in advance.

    8 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      monavano has given good advice. I'd also suggest that you search this and other boards (say things like donrockwell.com) to see what other folks experiences have been at different restaurants during the last RW. If the restaurant did a good job then, they probably will again.

      1. re: monavano

        Ok so Vidalia, Oceanaire, The Caucus Room and Sam and Harry's anyone have good or bad experiences with these?

        I have always liked Tenpehn for RW, but I like them normally so... I wish Hook was doing Dinner, that was a disappointment.

        1. re: ktmoomau

          I've been to TenPehn twice for restaurant week and they did a great job! They offer almost the entire menu which is great. Is 1789 on the list? This past winter I had an excellent experience there and my bf said Fahrenheit was really good. And Dino offers quite a bit and is always delicious in my opinion.

          Butterfield 9 for lunch was great.

          Some places...like Cafe 15 have an exstremly limited menu. The best thing to do is to call ahead and try to get the menu for the restaurant you are choosing or search online. You can always cancel the reservation if the items on the menu don't appeal to you.

          I was wondering about Oceanaire as well. Have they done RW in the past? Also anyone have RW experience with 701 or Viridian?

          1. re: Elyssa

            I wouldn't put 1789 on my RW list since they offer a summer menu promotion every day through September 11. Go to the 1789 web site and locate the mention of the Sizzling Summer promotion. Clicking on this link will generate a coupon for a three course meal for $36. The details of the promotion are clearly explained.

            Yes, I know this price is slightly more expensive than the $30.07 RW promotion. However, from my point of view, it's close enough that I'd save a visit to 1789 until after RW. During RW, I'd only visit restaurants that offer no deals of any type.

            Incidentally, a group of four of us dined at 1789 on Friday night. The food was excellent. I ordered the steak tartare and the tuna. The steak tartare had a wonderful flavor; however, I'm glad I decided in advance to share appetizers with one of our party who had ordered the baby beet salad. Otherwise, that course would have been too rich. If you like your tuna seared, specify the degree of doneness when you order. Had I not specified, the tuna would have been cooked to mediu. Two people ordered the lamb and raved about it. The final diner loved his mussels appetizer and scallop main. Desserts were really indulgent tasting, but happily very, very tiny.

            The one flaw in the experience were some awkward aspects to the service. At summer promotion prices, the problems weren't enough to turn me off the restaurant. More significantly, the food was really delicious. No complaints there! However, I would no longer put 1789 as my dining recommendation for the place to take guests when everything has to be absolutely, totally, no-margin-for-error perfect.

          2. re: ktmoomau

            Both times I've had lunch at Vidalia, I was happy -- Everyone else in our party seemed to enjoy his/her food too (with the exception of one pathetic-looking monkfish special). I can say the Endive Salad was a hit, and I believe I had some sort of fried chicken entree that I don't see on the online menu. For dessert, the lemon chess pie or pecan --- Yummy!

            1. re: ktmoomau

              I've done Oceanaire and Caucus room for RW.

              The Oceanaire was much less than impressive. Service was off, and food was eh. Since it was our first time there, it was quite a let down--so much so that we have yet to return (and this was for RW two summers ago).

              Caucus Room was disappointing as well. VERY limited menu (i.e. 2 choices in each course). Save your money and go somewhere else.

              Great RW experiences include Tosca (they used to do lunch and dinner but this year looks like only dinenr), 1789, 701, and Farrah Olivia (in Alexandria).

              This year we're planning to try TenPenH (been there before but not for RW), Vidalia (ditto), Corduroy (never been), and back to Farrah Olivia. Also doing a lunch at Zola.

              1. re: KWynn

                Hmm maybe I will switch from Caucus Room to elsewhere perhaps DC Coast? They extend their restaurant week though.... I will look into Tosca. Anyone been to Indeblue's RW?

                I haven't tried any items on Zola's summer menu, but I loved loved their winter menu. I have seen on a lot of sites people raving about Corduroy's RW menu.

                1. re: KWynn

                  Agree with Caucus Room. Did it during winter RW. Ltd. menu, the food was just OK, the service "eh". I recall that we ordered a full priced side of mashed potatoes...probably some of the best I've ever had and the only thing we had worth writing home about!

            2. Here is a thread I started this time last year to solicit people's suggestions of the best and worst for RW: http://www.chow.com/topics/311574

              Thinking about it not in terms of overall enjoyability of the meal but in terms of best RW experience: Of the places I have been personally, I really strongly suggest DC Coast. It is not my favorite restaurant, but having been both during RW and non-RW times, I think they do the best job of showcasing themselves relative to the short list of other places I have been during RW. I also really enjoyed Vidalia, but Vidalia is a lot harder of a place for me not to enjoy, if that makes any sense. I thought the service at Charlie Palmer steak suffered a bit but the food was good and the price was right.

              This year I am trying to get to Corduroy but haven't had internet for the past week so I missed all the doable reservations. Since I am working nights now and my S.O. works normal hrs our dining opportunity is pretty much limited to prime time.

                1. re: food.fiend

                  From what I hear they usually expand their RW deal for a few weeks...but I would double check.

                  Personally I like to go to places for RW that I usually can't afford or where the $30 is quite a deal for the restaurant. I don't necassarily feel this way about Ardeo. You can probably get a $30 meal there any night of the week. But I haven't been in awhile so someone should correct me if I'm wrong.

                2. I'm thinking of making a reservation for RW at a restaurant where I will most likely be dining alone. I'm interested in trying DC Coast, Tosca, Seasons, or KAZ Sushi. I've never been to either and was wondering about any opinions of these 4 spots for RW menus? Also are they appropriate for single dinners? Any other suggestions?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Tosca has a great RW menu, one of the best I've tried. I am not sure about eating alone there. The dining room is very formal/reserved (stuffy), not the type of place I personally would like to sit by myself.

                    1. re: chickenlover

                      So if I decide to go there certainly look nice...business wear type place I imagine?

                      1. re: chickenlover

                        Do they have a bar you can eat at? I don't mind doing that.

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          They have a bar, but no tables in the bar area. I am not sure if you can get the full menu at the bar.

                          1. re: chickenlover

                            Yes, they definitely have a bar and I've seen solo diners eating there. I suggest calling to confirm the RW menu will be available there. If so, I would go there.
                            We've done Seasons for RW. The menu was somewhat limited (i.e. several choices but not everything). The overall restaurant might be a little uncomfortable for a solo diner but there might be a bar/lounge area. Sorry I can't remember off hand.

                      2. re: Elyssa

                        Can't provide info about the others, but you'd be comfortable at KAZ. Maybe you could sit at the sushi bar. It seemed very casual and accommodating the last time I was there.

                        1. re: dcandohio

                          anybody else upset by the lack of top tier restaurants on this years list???

                          1. re: elegantelliot

                            Most of the time that's how it is. RW, from what I understand, was started to drum up business during the slow months. (After New Years and holiday rush in Jan and in the summer/August). I imagine most of the higher end spots who are so in demand (Komi, Citronelle, Blue Duck Tavern etc) don't have trouble with business so they don't participate. Or they think it's beneath them...which I imagine in some ways it might be. I don't know.

                      3. I have a simple strategy for RW--I avoid all restuarants particpating. They are packed, the servers are harried, and it is not a good time for fine dining. If you thinking of taking your spouse for a fine dining expereince, choose a restaurant that does not participate. Your expereince will be much more enjoyable.