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Oct 17, 2007 07:29 AM

D.C. Chowhounds who know Seattle dining:

I'm headed to D.C. from Seattle in a couple of weeks and I'd like to dine at a place that's truly local - a place that reflects the area's sensibilities as well as its food. Here in Seattle, Tom Douglas does that pretty well. Ever since his days at Cafe Sport, his restaurants have become truly identified with Seattle. So I guess I'm looking for a Dahlia Lounge or Palace Kitchen kind of place in D.C. Incidentally, I'll be dining solo, so please keep that in mind when making suggestions.


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  1. I travel to Seattle several times a year, and have enjoyed all of Douglas' restaurants for years. The Seattle restaurant scene includes many wonderful local food establishments (Ray's, Ivar's, Schultzy's etc.). You may not find a "local sensibility" restaurant here, with such quality. People may include "Ben's Chili Bowl" - and it is indeed a local institution one should try.
    But, quite frankly, having lived here all my life, I am at a loss to think of any restaurant that "reflects the area's sensibilities" in the manner to which you are referring. Unless, of course, a local "power" steak house in included.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jazzandfood

      Seattle has more "local character' than the DC area. They got salmon, we got congressmen.

      While a crab house isn't a lot of fun for a solo diner, that's the kind of local sensibility that we have here. I guess the Great American Restaurants ( - Carlyle Grand, Sweetwater Tavern, Artie's Mikes, Coastal Flats - are the sort of places like the Tom Douglas restaurants in the Seattle area, and they're all reasonably comfortable for a single diner. Trouble is they're all in the Virgina suburbs and none particularly accessible without a car.

    2. Maybe Ray's the Steaks in Arlington? I have never dined at the places you mention, but this is a real spot where locals love.

      Southern food is very DC, perhaps Vidalia?

      6 Replies
      1. re: ktmoomau

        Actually Southern sounds appealing. Vidalia looks like high-end Southern - is there more of a "down-home" authentic kind of place? I looked at Georgia Brown's but was scared off by the uneven reviews. I don't mind funky as long as it's in a safe neighborhood!

          1. re: Jeffo405

            Also check Creme and Cashion's Eat Place.

            The Wash Post's food section did a big thing on soul food in DC, maybe a week ago, that might have some good suggestions for you.

            In general -- I don't know the Seattle places you're talking about (wish I could get to Seattle, it's been too long!) but -- to get at a DC sort of sensibility, I would suggest (I know others can fill in or probably do this better than me):

            -Eastern Market, lunch or breakfast at Market Lunch
            -one of the famous Cap Hill pubs
            -mint julep at Round Robin bar at the Willard
            -Ethiopian food in U St area
            -which could be followed by dessert at Busboys and Poets (I agree with another poster about going there, good call)
            -half smoke with chili at Ben's (which is also U St) (and near Oohs and Aahs)

            I don't know if any of this would do it for you, as far as food preferences and all -- but at least worth checking on.

            1. re: Jeffo405

              My favorite real down-home southern place is Southside 815 in Alexandria. In a very safe neighborhood, but not really metro friendly. Vidalia is kind of new age southern as far as I am concerned, but they do have some nice dishes, good pie and I love their wine list because you can get small pours and try different things with each course without it being too expensive. (I still haven't been to Creme, yet, Elyssa, it's so far from me, but will try to make it there at some point to test authenticity)

              1. re: ktmoomau

                Hahaha,...I like how you already knew I was going to suggest it. It's very good. I wish it was in my neighborhood.!

              2. re: Jeffo405

                Georgia Brown's is good but the room can get very noisy. I certainly would recommend their dinner over their very popular brunch though. While the brunch is good it's waaaay to much of a madhouse and the noise level is to the point where you can't hear anything your dining partners say.

                For good Southern cuisine I would check out Creme on U St. Nice home-style cooking with moderate pricing. For cheap eats on U St. also check out Oohs and Aahs.

                And if you are into more Cajun Southern food I would suggest dinner (or lunch) at Acadiana.

            2. Ben's would count...

              but i even think you could say, in that area of town, Busboys has "local sensibilities" as well, in that the food is international, and the space very political.

              As far as using local ingredients, you could try Equinox.

              However, I think (and it's just my opinion) that since DC tends to have relatively few life-long DCers, the dining scene is not like many places where the population has stronger roots. Local specialties really only include half smokes, and possibly Ethiopian food. A lot of the great stuff here is a reflection of DCs international population.

              1. Nothing exactly analogous, but this should be: Colorado Kitchen.

                1. I've been to the Dahlia Lounge and Etta's; I've also been traveling annually to Seattle for almost twenty years. With all due respect to the recommendations below the local restaurants that would be most like Tom Douglas' would be Black Salt and Kinkead's both of which reflect our "local sensibility." Both are seafood, both are among D. C.'s best. Kinkead is a former James Beard regional winner and Black Salt may be a bit better today. Regardless, they ARE what you are looking for. At both you can have the full menu at the bar or in the dining room. Kinkead's may be your best bet, centrally located near 21st and PA. Black Salt is a bit west of Georgetown on MacArthur Blvd. I would also suggest the Beard winning (from '07) Vidalia which is regional Southern and an outstanding restaurant in its own right is well worth a visit as is Equinox. Acadiana is also a good suggestion (Creole/Cajun) and for a single diner at the bar could be a lot of fun.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Joe H

                    Joe is right that Black Salt might be closest we've got to actually *recapitulating* say, Etta's. (Although I haven't been to Hook, and it sounds as if that might fit the bill, too.) But I assumed the OP was looking for an analogy -- something that would show DC at its best, in a way that seemed uniquely local. Hence my somewhat unorthodox suggestions of CK (or Etete, or Oohs and Aahs), which does not have anything like the feel of Dahlia Lounge or Etta's.