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Fun DC Restaurants

My parents will be traveling to D.C. next week from Colorado and need some fun restaurant recommendations. They aren't into eating at super-expensive, high-end restaurants, would be more interested in restaurants in historic buildings and great views. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Also, what about Chinatown? Does it still exist and are there any fun places that they could try? They will not have a car, but access to Metro and good old fashioned walking. Would also enjoy recs for great bars to go enjoy a drink. Thanks!

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  1. Zola- spy themed restaurant
    Hotel Washington Skye Terrace- for drinks with incredible view
    Chinatown isn't much more than a few restaurants and lots of commercialism now, but there are a couple Chinese places left.

    What about the new bistro in the Willard isn't it? That is a historic building.

    Oh darn major brain freeze on historic in DC.

    Ben's Chili Bowl is fun and historic, too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ktmoomau

      Second the Hotel Washington. There's a rooftop terrace which as Washingtonians know, is a knock out view but not good for food, really (other than maybe apps etc). In the Willard is a well regarded new Bistro called Cafe du Parc (sp). The Willard is very historic and pretty stunning.
      Does anyone know if they have a prix fixe dinner in the grand dinning room?? I sort of think they do.
      Also along the lines of historic is the Old Ebbitt Grill, a block fro the Hotel Washington. It's an old standby with a very good raw bar and really decent food, if nothing exeptionally cutting edge. It's quite old school and charming in that kind of way.
      Also next to the HW is the Occidental. Again, it is another place with the ghosts of many a politician and lobbyist. The food has been getting praise.
      Zolo and Poste are good ideas too.
      If they are up to a bit of local tradition, you can take them to the new and temporary East Hall of Eastern Market. Market Lunch is up and running again. Bluebuck pancakes and crab cakes benedict draw(in the know) visitors from all over the world.

      www.piealamona.blogspot.com

    2. Speaking of the Willard, sounds like they'd appreciate the DC experience of a mint julep at the bar (what's the bar called, you all?) -- and they have a little historic display in a corridor in back of the lobby, FYI.

      3 Replies
        1. re: monavano

          That was what my brain freeze was over thanks for filling in round robin bar. mmm Eastern Market. You know I wanted to go to the Arlington Farmer's Market, but I just love Eastern Market so much I normally just metro all the way over there.

          1. re: ktmoomau

            There you go -- breakfast or lunch at Market Lunch at Eastern Market; mint julep at Round Robin bar; half-smoke with chili at Ben's Chili Bowl -- and you've got quite a cross-section of DC's history!

            Also, the usual suggestions for eating on or near the Natl Mall (at least I'm not the only one who always says this) is the cafeteria the Museum of the American Indian and Teaism, at 8th and D between the Natl Archives and American Portrait Gallery. Neither are what you'd find most other places (though I suppose you can get good fry bread in Colo).

            PS: I didn't mean to beta Ceiba, below, but the Willard Hotel, not sure what happened and I don't seem to be able to remove it. (Ceiba's not a bad restaurant ;)

            -----
            Teaism Penn Quarter
            400 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

            Ben's Chili Bowl
            1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

            Eastern Market Grocery
            225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

            Ceiba
            701 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

            Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe
            Independence Avenue Southwest Washington DC, Independence Avenue Southwest Washington, DC

      1. Throw in lunch during the week at CF Folks, 19th, just south of DuPont. Get the crab cakes, and don't get there too late (or you won't get the crab cakes). Have them sit at the bar - even if it's nice outside.

        For bars - Cap Hill. Tune Inn is my choice.

        Anyone - is the wharf still open? OP - make sure they DO NOT do the tourist seafood places on Maine Ave near the wharf, but if the wharf is open, that's a good lunch place or afternoon snack.

        Also, something I haven't done, but what about the Senate cafeteria? The navy bean soup is supposed to be great - though it was also mentioned recently for the onion rings.

        1. They should arrange to stop by their one of their Senators' or Congressman's offices. Many of them have regular coffee hours scheduled for constituents and will arrange Gallery passes to watch Congress in session or will have staffers give tours instead of the "cattle call" tours offered for tourists. Sometimes they'll arrange for guests to eat in the Senate or Members' Dining Rooms. The food is pretty good but the rooms themselves are really memorable. Best place to have Senate Bean Soup.
          The Lunch Special at Charlie Palmers Steak is a great value at $20.07 for an Angus Strip Sirloin that includes a dynamite view view of the Capitol Dome. The Monocle Restaurant is a great place for an end-of-day drink and place to watch politicians and lobbyists.
          The Tune Inn on Penn Ave, SE is a classic greasy spoon and favorite bar of congressional staffers and local on Capitol Hill. Hawk and Dove gets locals, staffers and even members of congress. One of the oldest bars in town. Check in at Trover to see who's signing books that day.

          -----
          Hawk and Dove
          329 Penn SE, Washington, DC

          Tune Inn
          331 Penn SE, Washington, DC

          8 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            It may be a staffer place, but I don't know I would recommend the Tune Inn to tourists. Or even the Hawk and Dove even though it is old. Tune Inn- it is just not the type of bar that I think of as fun. More greasy spoon, old and kind of the place I would only go if I was trying to pick out someone for an affair... I mean if you are a staffer and there are a ton of other staffers I am sure it can be fun, but if you are not both those places just seem a little overwhelming.

            If you wanted to see congressional types out and about I would suggest instead going to the senate cafeteria or Charlie Palmer.

            1. re: ktmoomau

              Esquire Magazine disagrees with you. It named the Tune Inn one of its Best Bars in America in 2006. http://www.esquire.com/features/best-... place has been around since 1955 and is a real classic. It's routinely mentioned in places like NYTimes, LATimes, airline magazines, Frommers, etc.
              Even with the tourists, it's beloved by locals from the neighborhood. I've seen lots of Members and celebrities there and at Hawk and Dove over the decades that I've lived on Capital Hill. They don't go the to Senate cafeteria for fun and the atmosphere is just different at Palmers.
              If you're not a neighborhood local, interested in political types or old-time classic watering holes, I can see why these places wouldn't appeal to you.

              1. re: MakingSense

                These are all great - my Dad is also asking about Chinatown. Is there still really a Chinatown and if so, any good eats there?

                1. re: atlantachowhound

                  Full Kee is a Cantonese place in Chinatown. Get the duck stuffed with shrimp paste (you may have to ask for this), oyster and ginger casserole, snow pea leaves, fried dumplings. Many recs on this Board for Full Kee.

                  1. re: atlantachowhound

                    It's more China block than Chinatown now. Full Kee is good, also might check China Express, where a guy makes noodles in the window (and noodles are what to order). DC doesn't have great Chinese, if they get it in Colorado, but the arch at the entrance to Chinatown is worth seeing for sure. It's also right at the Verizon Center by the Penn Quarter neighborhood which has completely changed in the last ten years and there's lots happening there, restaurants and otherwise.

                    I would recommend they head up to U St around 9th St for Ethiopian, instead -- that's the best so-called ethnic food in DC (lots of threads here on that).

                    -----
                    Full Kee Restaurant
                    5830 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

                    City Lights of China Express
                    1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC

                    1. re: mselectra

                      I just noticed that I beta'd the wrong China Express yesterday -- I can't seem to get beta to work lately, so sorry. Here's what should be the correct address:

                      China Town Express
                      746 6th St NW, Washington, DC

                      -----
                      China Express
                      3303 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22207

                      1. re: mselectra

                        oh, I'm having technology woes -- please ignore the Lee Hwy address, 6th st nw was what I was trying for. Don't know why beta won't let me remove, either....

                        This should be my last post trying to correct myself!

                    2. re: atlantachowhound

                      Burma Restaurant in Chinatown is good, and it won't break the bank.

              2. B. Smith's is located in the historic Presidential Suite at Union Station. It's a spectacular setting, but a Southern-themed menu which is not terribly expensive. The item I recommend there is Swamp Thang, which is a sensational mixture of shrimp, crawfish and scallops in a mustard cream sauce over greens. Also the lemon pepper catfish is very good.