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Week-Nov 3-Bethesda Hyatt 4 days, Arlington

Sorry, I know this will be a long post. Son recently graduated from VT, lives 1 block from Ballston Metro stop in Arlington, working at Carderock in North Bethesda since Sept 1. Husband has 3 day conference at Bethesda Hyatt (on metro), I have 1 day conference in Chantilly. We are from Alabama, so can skip BBQ, southern comfort and New Orleans food. Son has car but will be working during the week. They must watch LSU-Bama game Saturday evening at 5-don't know if this is nationwide broadcast or not. I will ride the metro to DC at least one day that the husband is in conference and son is working (assume it would be safe to do it alone) and will try CF Folks for the crabcake sandwich. Son is very cheap and hasn't eaten anywhere good yet. Son voted to eat in this order: sushi, Italian, Thai or Indian, Brewpub, Steak, Ethiopian, American, French, Pizza, Spanish. Husband voted Greek or Mediterranean, Italian, French, Thai and then quit voting but said not Ethiopian. Son wants to try happy hour at Cafe Mozart, as he misses the German beer on his European graduation trip. I am considering Restaurant Eve, Ray's the Steaks, David Craig, Matuba, Passage to India, Black's Bar, Palena, Sushi-Ko, Thai Square, Dinos, Asahi Kaiten. We might go to Mt Vernon one day, anything there? So I need help eliminating or maybe better suggestions. Son might be able to swing lunch as well, but I can't eat 2 giant meals a day. Sunday night will be at cousin's in Fairfax. Now that you know our life history, any recommendations?

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  1. For the beer, you could show him Arrowine which is in N. Arlington on 29 east of Glebe (there's a little strip of "cute" store fronts - it's in there). Also the German Gourmet, which now has a location somewhere on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Of course, you could go to Brickskeller downtown (has 900+ beers) but not much chow worthy items for food (though the brats with warm potato salad is good).

    Thai Square is solid and something he would be able to afford after you leave.

    I'd say Black's if you're in Bethesda, but for a nicer treat hit BlackSalt on MacArthur Blvd in DC (this is easily reached by traveling N on Glebe, across the Chain Bridge and then a left on ? - sorry I can visualize but not recall name of street).

    Ray's is solid, but another nice place in a similar vein is Del Merei Grille in Arlandria. Steaks not quite up to the same level, but the overall experience matches or exceeds, imo. (Get the frickles if you go!)

    For the game, probably safest bets for watching it is ESPN Zone downtown, or Summers in Arlington (Courthouse area), but neither are chow spots.

    If you're interested, the area also has great Korean offerings, largely in Annandale or way at in Chantilly. Also Sichuan fare is fairly plentiful and very good. Hong Kong Palace at 7 Corners or Temptasian will be the closest for most of your trip. Either of these would probably be good for all of you and show your son some things he could afford after you leave.

    In any regard, for a recent grad living in Ballson, he needs to know about El Charrito Caminante on Wash Blvd, the multitude of Peruvian chicken places (El Pollo Rico being the starting point - on Kenmore), and the kebab places, like Ravi (on Glebe at Pershing). These will give him endless good food for cheap!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S

      Dennis, Thanks! He became a big fan of kebabs in Europe. And a big fan of beer in college!

      1. re: Dennis S

        So far I'm thinking for dinner - Saturday sports bar, Sunday relatives, Monday Rays the Steaks, Tuesday Restaurant Eve, Wednesday Palena back room (he can go to the bar area when we're not there), Thursday sushi (Sushi-Ko or Matuba, which should we do?) Friday son will be gone to Blacksburg and we fly out of Reagan around 8 PM, so we would have to eat very early-any suggestions? For lunch I'm thinking Thai Square, Jaleo, C F Folks, Passage to India or Indique Heights (which?), Pita House or Hank's Oyster Bar. That leaves out Persimmon, David Craig, Blacks, Grapeseed and loads of others. Is there something else we should do instead? I think I posted this in the wrong place. Thanks for all the help so far!!! Gail

        Oh, and I need dress code for these options if possible so we know what to pack. Thanks again! Gail

        1. re: glecroy

          I can't help you any more with food, I have never been to either of those sushi options. If you are flying out of Reagan and want early dinner you could do the Jaleo in Crystal City which is near the airport?

          Dress code wise: Rays is pretty casual you will see people in suits to jeans here, Restaurant Eve and Palena I would go for a jacket for guys, not necessarily a tie, but a nice button down shirt and slacks at least and optional but on my part highly recommended jacket since it has gotten a little cooler and the equivalent for ladies these are very nice places, and Washingtonians tend to be a little more formal than some other places in their dress.

          Your lunch places are all pretty casual, I think you will be fine in whatever is most comfortable here. The weather has been so back and forth lately, but it is getting a little cooler.

          You have a top list. Be sure to get reservations! And enjoy some wonderful eats.

          1. re: ktmoomau

            I'm actually thinking about Blacks happy hour on Friday before we go to Reagan. It's from 4-7, so I think it could work and looks pretty good.

          2. re: glecroy

            For sushi, Sushi-Ko is much better than Matuba, but put me in the camp that also recommends Raku (in Bethesda, not Dupont Circle).

        2. Try Raku in Bethesda for sushi and interesting pan Asian cuisine. It's great for lunch or dinner.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Ellen

            Ellen, I had that on my list, but have more places than we have nights. Lunch would be a good option if it's near the Hyatt, as we won't have a car most of the time.

            1. re: glecroy

              It's about two blocks away from the Hyatt on Woodmont.

              1. re: Ellen

                Do not go to Raku. Thoroughly mediocre, just like 99% of the Bethesda places. If you're eating near the Hyatt, definitely make it Jaleo for tapas.

                1. re: MartyL

                  You're right. Plenty of mediocre food in B'da. But Raku is not one of them. I like it. Lots of other people like it. It made Sietsema's top 100 last week. So they must be doing something right.

                  1. re: Ellen

                    Raku is wonderful in bethesda. Maybe MartyL is thinking of the Raku in Dupont - pretty medocre . I think they have different owners.

          2. You have a wonderful list, with many of what I consider the best eats in the city:

            I would go to Ray's if you can. It is known on this board as the best steak in the DC metro area, by popular vote, although I am sure there are a few people who will disagree. There will be a wait, but they will sell you glasses/bottles of wine while you wait. It is also not out of this world priced for a steakhouse, and especially the amount of food you get. I think it would be a good place to take him so he knows if he wants to splurge, but not break the bank he can get some good steak. And maybe he will also notice there are a lot of busy places there because the other restaurants in that strip are very good too.

            If you are going to Mt. Vernon your best bet is to eat lunch in Alexandria. With the above votes I would suggest The Pita House which is excellent, and both your husband and son should be happy. You could also do Rustico for the brewpub feel, but I think the Pita House would suit more tastes. And it isn't very expensive for lunch so he may go back! There is also some decent thai in Alexandria, but not as good as Thai Square, although Mai Thai is good and has a very pretty view over the water.

            Restaurant Eve is one of the top restaurants in the area so is Palena. I love them both dearly. Palena is more Italian, although kind of a mix I think of French/Italian. The front room can be really busy, the back is more elegant and takes reservations (the front part might now too) so you can choose where you want to go. The front room you can order off the cheaper cafe menu or the back room menu. There pastas though are incredible. Their gnocchi is a sublime experience.

            Also for Indian I really like Indique Heights.

            I figure he will find out about the cheaper places normally himself so why not splurge a little and take him places he wouldn't go? After getting out of school one of my favorite treats was when the folks would come to town and take me to nice places I couldn't afford.

            I haven't been to Raku, yet, but a friend in the area keeps wanting to take me when I am free.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ktmoomau

              Go to Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring if you don't want to deal with the no-reservations-just-stand-outside-and-wait routine at Ray's the Steaks. Same great food, same you-are-here-for-the-food-not-the-ambiance appearance, and a whole lot closer. Excellent Portuguese food in Chevy Chase (a few minutes from the Hyatt) at Tavira's on Connecticut Ave. Word is that you do best if you choose from among the specials. I worship Palena.

            2. The best things you can eat , of all that you mentioned, are at Thai Square and Passage to India.

              At Thai Square, go for both the crispy, lacey catfish and the tile fish appetizers.

              At Passage to India, order the selection of pickles and also the spices from the last page. Make sure you get some black lentils, lotus stem, and some other vegetables. Again, choose items that you can't find easily where you are from. Happy eating.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Steve

                So am I missing some of your favorite places or am I good to go? Thanks for the recs. Yeah, I bet there are a number of items we can't find easily here!

                1. re: glecroy

                  Sure, you'll miss some of my favorites, but you can only cover so much territory, plus you have to consider the wishes of the rest of yout family. Between cf folks, Thai Square, Passage to India, and Jaleo, you are doing very well for yourself.

              2. Bethesda-

                Hop on Metro to Cleveland Park and eat at Palena and/or Dino as your budget and tastes (N. Italian/Prvencal/Californian for Palena, N. Italian for Dino) and budget allow.

                1. I think your husband would enjoy Lebanese Taverna. http://www.lebanesetaverna.com/

                  1. I didn't know we were in the MotherLode of Bethesda restaurants until I started looking up all the addresses and how to get there, but there must be many within a few blocks of the Hyatt and Bethesda metro stop. Is Grapeseed good? It looks like Black's Bar, Raku, Passage to India and Jaleo are all right there. Is there parking anywhere around for my son if he comes there to meet us after work or at lunch from Carderock? Has anyone been to Dino since new chef Stephan Boillon started? Looks like from the website he is new.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: glecroy

                      Bethesda has many public parking lots - part of the reason it is so popular. Jaleo, grapeseed, and blacks seem more like dinner places to me. Raku in bethesda has great bento boxes at lunch.The irish inn at Glen Echo is right near carderock and has parking.

                      1. re: glecroy

                        I ate at Dinos two weeks ago. They have a three course $24 deal from 5:30 to 7:30 (7 after Nov. 4) that rocks. Not all dishes on the menu are available though but still a very nice selection of apps, mains, and desserts. Their wild boar ragu with papardelle is outstanding. Nice wine list too with plenty available by the glass. Do think about trying them. I haven't tried Black's Bar yet but have liked their other restaurant Black Salt. I am so happy about this whole discussion. I just started working in B'da so it's really been helpful.

                      2. Today a client who moved to AL from Woodbridge said RT's is the best seafood in DC-right or not? He also recommended the sushi and other items at Asia Bistro in Pentagon Row before going to watch the football game at Champs. In Bethesda he recommended Fuago De Chao and Jaleo, which was a unanimous pick here. What is the best night to go to Palena or is it crowded every night? What about Ray's the Steaks? Are weeknights better? In Alexandria for lunch I was debating between Hank's Oyster Bar, Pita House or RT's.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: glecroy

                          Not to insult your client, but I think you made better choices. I wouldn't put RT's as the best seafood, it is cajun, and not bad, but...

                          I have never really heard Asia Bistro talked about much in the best sushi threads although sushi ko always is I have never been to either, but if I had a choice I would go to Ko. Fogo de Chao is a brazillian steakhouse, the one in DC is pretty good, will be lots of meat, I haven't been to one in Bethesda. Ray's will be less crowded on a weeknight for sure. Get reservation if you want the backroom of Palena. It might be less crowded on a weeknight, but you will probably still need reservations. If you do RT's I would go for lunch, I wouldn't pick it over one of your good dinner options. I think the best seafood in town is at Hook, Oceanaire or Blacksalt myself. But I think you have already chosen pretty much the best in DC I wouldn't change...

                          1. re: ktmoomau

                            I have to eliminate either Rays or Restaurant Eve as I'm out of dinners, thanks to the football game and relatives. That leaves Palena, Passage to India and Jaleo, and for lunch CF Folks, Raku, Thai Square, early Blacks Bar happy hour before our flight, my sister's, the seminar, and either RT's, Pita House, or Hank's Oyster Bar for my last lunch option. Which do I pick for dinner and lunch? Thanks for your help! Gail

                            1. re: glecroy

                              Not sure if anyone has mentioned it, or if it would still be helpful -- but your son could easily meet you for lunch at CF Folks -- he'd take the metro in to Farragut West, while you'd be taking it to DuPont or Farragut North.

                              Doesn't look like you're asking for food around the Mall -- does that mean you won't have any time to be a tourist? (It would also be easy for him to Metro in to meet you in that area). Just FYI. (I don't know the Bethesda or Arlington places well enough to advise on that question).

                              1. re: mselectra

                                We are planning on going to the Mall on Saturday after we fly in and before the ball game if we have time after lunch, maybe Mt Vernon on Sunday before we go to the relatives for dinner, and then husband and I to DC during the week. The son is not on the metro at Carderock in West Bethesda. I thought easier for him if we eat lunch in Bethesda where we are staying and he can drive there on MacArthur Blvd (maybe). He might want to skip a few meals with us! Maybe he can eat at CF Folks some Friday lunch when he's not working and not headed to Blacksburg for a game. I didn't think there was much good food around the mall anyway. I guess there are good places at Dupont Circle. Have you been to the National Arboretum? If so, is it worth going? We've been to a number of tourist places on previous trips and were going to hit the ones we haven't seen before-Natl Geographic, Pension Bldg, Alexandria, Bureau of Engraving, Natl Botanical Garden and several art museums (by myself when they are working/in conference). Am I allowed to post non-food questions on this board? If not, sorry.

                                1. re: glecroy

                                  Well, you can fit in a trip to the Washington Memorial (different from the phallacy on the Mall - it's in Alex). Great tourist stop and then you can take in food in Alexandria. All by metro.

                                  1. re: glecroy

                                    The Arboretum is lovely but as you might imagine, this isn't the best time of year to appreciate it and the weather is iffy. It is in a dismal part of town and there's nothing to eat anywhere in the area. My advice would be to save it for another trip, at a nicer time of year. Driving from Carderock into downtown Bethesda is not a trivial matter. We don't measure by miles. We measure by time. That's a short drive in miles, but at lunchtime, it will likely take 30 minutes, possibly more, from his parking lot to a garage in Bethesda. If you want to do something wonderful, visit Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. Great history, great gardens (though again, not the best time of year), collections of pre-Columbian art - wait. Never mind. The museum is closed until 2008...so make it a "next trip" item and then you can treat yourself to dinner at Hook - superb fish and seafood in Georgetown.

                                    1. re: glecroy

                                      sorry -- I thought you said your son was in Ballston, so that's why I said he could easily metro in to the city to meet you (don't mean to add to confusion to your already complicated planning!)

                                      There actually are good places to eat lunch around National Geog -- actually CF Folks isn't too too far from there, and Hank's Oyster Bar, which you had mentioned, is not far.

                                      Near the Natl Bot Garden is the Museum of the American Indian, which has a cafeteria that actually is quite good and pretty special -- it gets super crowded at lunch time, though.

                                      Just FYI!

                                      Sounds like you're going to have a great trip -- you've got a lot packed in!

                                      1. re: mselectra

                                        Son lives in Ballston, works at Carderock. Too many places, not enough meals! I made reservations for Jaleo, Palena, Rays the Classics, Passage to India, Restaurant Eve (lunch), and Raku (lunch). Also plan CF Folks, Thai Square and Blacks Bar happy hour with no reservations.Still trying to decide between RT's, Hanks Oyster Bar, and Pita House for lunch in Alexandria and CA Tortilla, Chicken on the Run, and Vace for the other lunch in Bethesda. Not sure I can eat that much though.

                                        1. re: glecroy

                                          Dino, Dino, Dino. Didn't make your list. I don't know why more people aren't raving about this unassuming, fabulous place in Cleveland Park. Found it on the internet and went there last night. Plain marble top tables, no white cloths, no attitude, friendly earnest waitress, owner walks around like an owner should, excellent crusty bread from TriBeCa Bakery in NJ, wonderful food and a killer wine list. The owner personally selects the wine and provides a real value, not a ripoff. Go to their website where you will see the menu and winelist and learn about the $24 "earlybird" and the "bring your own wine without a corkage fee Tues and Thurs"...these factoids were not on the menu but his wines are worth tasting anyway. I can't recommend this place enough. Go.

                                          1. re: sherrylr

                                            Really... I agree...

                                            This place opened after I left town. But the first time I went back to visit I wound up eating there... and every time since. I am hooked. The place is amazing.

                                            1. re: sherrylr

                                              sherrylr, So could you please tell us what you ordered to eat?

                                              1. re: sherrylr

                                                My new plan is to cancel the Rays the Classics reservations and go to Dino instead. Husband's other work folks at conference want steak, but Morton's is in our hotel and Ruth Chris a block away and it seems like somewhat a hassle to get there with no car. I think they'll go eat steak tonight while we're at Passage to India, then maybe we all go to Dino tomorrow. Steak is something we do very well at home anyway.

                                              2. re: glecroy

                                                In Alexandria, I haven't yet been to RT's or the Hank's Oyster Bar (just opened)... Pita House is okay, but I probably wouldn't go out of my way for it (except maybe for their fish kebob). If you're looking for fast, then the Perfect Pita on Fairfax is nice, but it's a take-out place. There's a new Lebanese place at 905 King St which is also only ok. I'd probably take Pita House over that. I guess I'd try Hank's. :)

                                                In Bethesda, California Tortilla is very fun, especially if you're a hot sauce fan. They've got many kinds from which to choose. It's certainly not haute cuisine, though. Matuba is nice for lunch in that same area. Haven't been to the other two you mentioned.

                                                Have fun!

                                        2. re: glecroy

                                          If I was really forced to choose I would say go to Restaurant Eve, it is really the best (In the top 3 for most people alhtough there may be arguement over who is number one) in the DC metro area right now, as far as most people are concerned.

                                          1. re: ktmoomau

                                            Are your top 3 Citronelle, Palena and Restaurant Eve or something else? I'm already salivating! Thanks for all your help. The board is great.

                                            1. re: glecroy

                                              Well just going on ratings including critics probably Citronelle, City Zen and Restaurant Eve, but I haven't been to City Zen, yet. But on ratings from critics and because of awards being given out those are the general top three right now on most lists, although on my list of personal eats you were right on with my top three for the city.

                                              Yeah, I love this board, lots of people and very active Chow members which makes it so nice.

                                    2. Here's what we've done so far-Saturday lunch Thai Square. Sorry for those of you that love it, but this wasn't up to our expectations. The crispy flounder (great sauce) and squid were the best. The catfish was probably supposed to be that way, but I guess I wasn't expecting it to be dehydrated, and yellow curry was so hot it burned under your toenails. Saturday night-takeout from Super Pollo, within walking distance of son's apt, so we walked there during half time (had the game won and let it slip away at the end). It was good and really cheap. We got yucca, fries and plaintains. Sunday brunch Hank's Oyster Bar in Alexandria. The crabcake eggs benedict were great. Son and husband had asked and were told the oysters were fresh. But they were still crunchy from being frozen. Must not have liquor license yet as all they had was wine and beer, sake in Bloody Mary, though it was good. Sunday night at relatives, Monday lunch in Hanover PA with more relatives. Monday night $1 sushi night at Matuba in Arlington, close to Thai Square. Son and husband loved the sushi, the tempura and salad were also good. Tuesday lunch C F Folks. Husband had fried oysters, I had crabcake sandwich. Both of us were pleased. Tuesday night Palena back room. Very expensive but very good. Husband thought lobster bisque was best appetizer, son and I thought the ceviche was better. We also had gnocchi. For main course husband and I had haddock and son had snapper. Haddock was better. Desserts were chocolate banana cream pie, apple tart and chocolate semi freddo. All were delicious. We were totally classy and passed our plates around so we could try everything. We're from Alabama so we don't know any better. More later. Thanks for all the recs.
                                      Gail

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: glecroy

                                        Home again. To finish up, husband messed up a couple of the plans due to his conference, so I didn't get to go to Restaurant Eve or Passage to India. Dino was great, especially for the price! We got early bird specials, though we had to get the waitress to correct our bill, which she was glad to do. I had antipasti, halibut and chocolate trio, husband and son had meatballs, wild boar pasta, one with tiramisu, one with chocolate trio. We had an Italian wine recommended by the bartender through the waitress. The owner came by and asked how we liked everything and gave us more restaurant recs. The service was not as good as Palena, but the food was as good or at least almost as good. Son liked the informal atmosphere better. We went back to CF Folks for lunch, chicken with olives and crabcake sandwich, with wonderful blueberry cobbler and ice cream. Many tapas at Jaleo with son, fun and good. Happy hour at Black's Bar before going to airport. Husband had sesame fried oysters and gumbo, I had blue cheese hamburger. We split poached pear dessert, yummy. We'll have to hit Passage to India and Restaurant Eve on our next trip. Thanks again for all the suggestions, the food was wonderful!!! Gail