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1st Time Visitor to DC

I'd love to get some tips for good and cheap eats in DC. I'm staying at the Embassy Suites - Convention Center w/o a car and the group has some pretty non-adventurous eaters. We'll be spending one day on the Mall and I've heard good things about the restaurant in the American Indian museum - any other suggestions? We'll also be going to the zoo and could use a lunch suggestion. I've read about Open City but it's getting mixed reviews. Would also like ideas for unique / special / historic bars - not clubs. My husband is into craft beers and unique scotch. Thanks in advance!

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  1. If the bar at the top of the Hotel Washington is still open it is unique and special for the view.

    1. Craft beers -- you want the new Brassierie Beck. Belgian beers abound. Scotch and history, the Round Robin Bar at the Willard is where you want to imbibe. Also the bar at the Old Ebbitt Grill.

      For cheap eats by the convention center, Matchbox or Zaytinya would be my choice.

      10 Replies
      1. re: JRinDC

        I 2nd the recommendation for Brasserie Beck. Not only is the beer selection excellent but the food is wonderful as well. It's a hot spot in town right now though so I would certainly try to make reservations.

        Open City is pretty good---and more or less your best bet in that area for lunch. If you want to head up to Cleveland Park though you can grab lunch at Spices for good sushi and there is also a really good Vietnamese restaurant there (name I can't remember but I like their soups).

        Certainly eat at the American Indian museum...it's quite a treat. If you are in town Monday-Friday I would check out CF Folks in Dupont Circle for lunch. It's a little hole in the wall but they have hands down the best crab cake sandwich in town!

        If you husband likes beer a fun place may be Brickskeller, They have a dictionary size beer list and is a fun, dive bar type place in Dupont Circle. They also have nice, greasy cheese fries. Some people don't like this place as much but it's always a fun time out...especially if you just open the book and point to any random beer...it's fun with a group and a unique spot in DC.

        1. re: Elyssa

          Maybe also Vace for lunch in Cleveland Park, for the zoo day -- cheap eats for nonadventuous eaters?

          1. re: mselectra

            Yes but do they have a place to sit at Vace? I thought it was only take out.

            I guess you would have to take it somewhere or walk around with the pizza. Pretty big slices if I remember correctly but delicious (and I'm not even a big fan of pizza!)

            1. re: Elyssa

              Oh, I think you're right. Maybe do it like a picnic at the zoo?

              1. re: mselectra

                You certainly can bring food in. I actually often times bring a picnic with my boyfriend and then we enter through the entrance closer to Adams Morgan (not a ton of people know about this entrance but I think its where the parking is). There is a big grassy area with park benches and picnic tables. Perfect on a sunny fall day. :)

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Yeah! -- in fact, from around Metro Center you could take the 42 bus all the way up (and see some of DC on the way), get off at the Harvard St. stop and walk down Harvard to that entrance -- maybe a shorter walk than from either of the Red Line stops on the other side. Then you could walk through the zoo, exit at the other, Connecticut, side and walk up to Cleveland Park for a nice meal.

                  Or get off the bus at Columbia and 18th, eat in Adams Morgan (breakfast at Tryst?), and walk to the Harvard zoo entrance from there. I tend to do that with visitors.

                  Just a thought -- like you said, I think a lot of people don't know about this option.

                  1. re: mselectra

                    An even better picnic idea would be to take the bus to Columbia and 18th and then pick up sandwiches, potatoe salad, chips, cream sodas, deli pickles etc at So's Your Mom and then picnic outside of the Zoo. My boyfriend and I use to do this a lot when I lived in Adams Morgan. So's Your Mom makes great sandwiches....another good lunch option.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      I love So's your Mom. Pretty decent corned beef and chopped liver sandwiches.

                      1. re: cleveland park

                        I use to get a sandwich from there almost every Saturday for lunch when I lived down the street.

                        I would get the smoked turkey on pumpernickle with swiss, bacon (if I was feeling healthy I would leave this off...but its better on!), lettuce, tomatoe, onions, and Russian dressing. Then I would get a side of potatoe salad or their pasta with feta salad. And a medium coffee. Heaven on bread! So yummy!

                        Now I have a craving. Guess that's where I'll be going for lunch sometime this weekend! :)

          2. re: Elyssa

            Question about Brasserie Beck... It looks pretty upscale and if it's a hotspot, what would you say the dresscode is? We get in this evening and I'm thinking it could be a good place to just go have a beer at the bar and talk about our plans. What do you think?

        2. I would hop on the green line metro from Gallery Place to U Street and go to Ben's Chili bowl for classic DC half-smokes and chili cheese fries or Ethiopian food at one of the several spots in the area (Dukem, probably most accessible and fun) and then Saloon for their wide selection of international beers.

          For great beer selection with more craft/microbrews near where you are staying, I would recommend RFD. They are owned by the same folks as the Brickskeller and literally have a book of beer with several options on tap. RFD's food isn't so hot, but there are plenty of options in Chinatown area to eat relatively cheaply, including aforementioned Matchbox and Kanlaya for decent Thai.

          1. The classics are great suggestions. Hotel Washington's view and Old Ebbitt's tradition (as well as the Round Robin) are classic and I always take visitors there.
            Also, near the zoo, is Palena. The Cafe at Palena is casual.

            1. You're getting really good suggestions! Do try the cafeteria at American Indian. And usually CHers suggests Teaism for visitors, the one on the north side of the Mall, above the Nat'l Archives at 8th and D (salty oat cookie!). It's definitely worth checking out Ben's Chili Bowl (a DC institution) and the Ethiopiean places near there a must.

              Just thought I'd add Eastern Market, as well, for a great slice of DC: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/441040

              With the suggestions you're getting here, you'll have a nice mix of good places for tourists and non-touristy DC as well.

              Oh, also, Open City is a fine place to go near the zoo. I tend to think if you're from out of town, you might want to spend your food time elsewhere -- but everyone in your group will find something to eat there, and it's a nice setting run by nice and cool people. Just not the foodiest food, or anything you couldn't get somewhere else, you know? On weekends it is a very very long wait for brunch.

              There's better food in Cleveland Park than in Woodley Park -- they are equidistant from the zoo which is about a ten minute walk from both those metro stops (an uphill walk from WP, a downhill walk from CP to the zoo, FYI),