driving and eating?
I am coming down for a day from Philadelphia with my parents. I have one food and one non-food question.
Food: I am looking for nice but not outlandish place in the $18-26 entree range. Big fans of new-american, locally sourced food, etc. Thinking of places like Blue Hill in NYC, pumpkin in Philly, or even the cafe section of Chez Panisse in SF.
non-Food: parking? We want to ditch the car for the day, will be mostly in National Mall Land. What do you suggest? find a lot? where? take the Metro in? where? There will be 4 adults and one baby.
I appreciate any advice, and would be happy to reciprocate when you come to Philly.
Can't really help you out with the parking part since I don't have a car but in terms of restaurants perhaps you would like to check out Hook in Georgetown. It's an all seafood restaurant so if anyone in your group is not a fan of fish I would go elsewhere. That being said this is one of my favorite new restaurants to open up in the city in a long time. Chef Barton Seaver's focus for the restaurant is on sustainable seafood. The preperations are clean and simple but the flavors really sing with what he is doing. They also have a very cool 1st course option of crudo (which is more or less Italian style sashima) Really cool options there.
Another place you can try out is Cashion's Eat Place in Adams Morgan. This is a neighborhood favorite. They use a lot of fresh ingrediants from local farms and markets. New-American with various other influences. Outdoor seating is available and moderatly priced. A great choice.
Btw, I would suggest making reservations for either of these places but especially Hook. It's one of the hottest restaurants in town these says so you could get crowded out at peak hours with out a reservation.
Hope this helps!
You should be fine parking around the mall, but you may have to drive around a bit.
For lunch the Native American Museum is good and there. I have never been to the places you mentioned. I know Agraria uses products straight from farmers, but not neccessarily local, Hook is into sustainable fishing.
I am not sure about anywhere else, though.
Also I imagine Restaurant Nora or Asia Nora would be the closest thing to Chez Panisse. I've never been to either restaurant but they have historical significance in the organic food movement since I believe they are the first restaurants in the country to officially be called organic. They are way out of your price range though for dinner.
Parking: There is parking near the Jefferson Memorial if you are willing to walk. The parking lot by the peddleboat stand has a 3 hour limit. Not sure if it is enforced. There is also parking at East Potomac Park and Hains Point if you follow Ohio Drive. As I said, a lot of walking but near the Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials. Personally, I use the metro. The lots at the metro are free on the weekends(surprising considering the fare hike being discussed).
Food: As for food, if you are looking for a quick lunch and something other than the Native American Museum, we usually head up to Teaism behind the Navy Memorial. It would work in a pinch. Also, if you need a gelato break, there are a few stands in the museums now. Not bad.
With the baby it's worth it to take the car downtown.
On the weekends, there's actually pretty much parking right around the mall, if you have the patience to drive around the mall once or twice and drive down the two streets that are one block off to the north and south of the mall.
My advice would be to #1: Drop off your passengers on the mall near one of the food trucks, or in front of the first museum you're going to hit. They can stretch their legs, use the restroom in the museum, grab a soda at one of the food carts, etc. You can then take the car and park. (Best would be if you know the 'final' museum and park near that one. It's nice at the end of the day to have the car right in front.)
Make sure to check the signs. There are a few time restrictions, but if the signs only mention Mon-Fri, you're all good Sat/Sun.
#2. If you want to pop somewhere away from the Mall, the metro rocks. It's clean, cool, safe, and baby-friendly. (Just make sure to check on the elevator status for where you're going.) The best places to 'pop out' and walk around: Dupont Circle (either exit/entrace of the station is entertaining), Cleveland Park (again either exit/entrace is nice), U St. (takes you to a really nifty, more trendy part of town.) Further out, both Bethesda and Silver Spring metro stops take you right to the 'action' but both are a bit more like an outdoor suburban shopping mall than something with DC flair. (i.e. chain restaurants and Barnes & Noble bookstores.)
Post more if you want pointers for places at those metro stops. Also there's great stuff downtown, just depends on how much walkin' you want to do, or which museums you're interested in.
This may be too late for you to read before you take off but since you'll be on what you call National Mall Land on a week day, you best bet is to put your car in a garage near 10th and Penn NW. There are parking places on the Mall but you'll have to feed meters, move the car every few hours or chance a ticket. The garage will cost between $12 and $16. The Natural History Museum is at 10th and Const. Michel Richard's Central is at 10th and Penn. Right near there are lots of the good restaurants that you may have checked out on this board including Zola that you mentioned above. It's near the terrific Portrait Gallery and the Spy Museum. Many of the great restaurants mentioned by others are away from the Mall area - easy to get to by Metro if you decide to leave for supper after the Museums close for the evening. There's a Metro stop at Archives/PennQuarter (7th and Penn) by Teaism and 701, both good restaurants with many fans on this board. You shouldn't want for good eats right on the North side of the Mall.
I really like Zola. The vibe is super cool with a sexy, chic James Bond decor going on (it's right door to the Spy Museum). The food is very good as is the service. I especially like their tuna tartar appetizer and my boyfriend said their shrimp and grits is one of the best in town (and there is quite a bit of competition there). It's not Chez Panisse but it's still very good and a lot of fun.
If you go make sure to check out the bathrooms. I don't want to ruin the fun but trust me...they are really cool.