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Classic Washington for One

I'll be in DC for a few days by myself, and I'm looking for some classic bars, restaurants, cheap eats, etc., particularly those that are "classic Washington DC." Fine dining suggestions are welcome too, but I'll be dining alone. So, for example, is there bar seating at the Blue Duck? Because that's a place that sounds pretty good to me. Otherwise, suggestions for dive bars, Ethopian, Chinese, other international cuisine, and the places that the politicos hang out to make those shady deals -- all would be welcome. Thanks in advance!

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  1. These come to mind:

    -- Old Ebbitt Grill (oysters and/or a burger at the lively bar -- very classic Washington, if a bit overrun by tourists).
    -- Capital Grille (steaks in a clubby atmosphere -- maybe a quiet booth).
    -- The Monocle (also steaks, or maybe some liver and onions).
    -- Ben's Chili Bowl (half-smoke at the counter).
    -- Tune Inn (Capitol Hill dive).

    1. When I think of Classic Washington, I think of bad food. How about places and dishes to make you feel like a super insider?

      I recommend Thai X-ing. Get the salmon red curry and the tofu soup. there's only one table, but they'll make room for you.

      Or sit at one of the stools at Oohs and Aahs and get the grilled shrimp with greens and rice with gravy. Soul Food from Heaven.

      Queen Makeda for family-run Ethiopian. Red lentils, yebeg alicha (lamb curry), any of the vegetables.

      Find a seat at the bar of Brasserie Beck, a Belgian beer spot, and get the gratin of potatoes or maybe the brussel sprouts. Add the pork belly to make a meal of it.

      Or enjoy the great olive mix which is served free at Jaleo and order a tortilla espanol, trumpet mushrooms, and an apple and manchego salad.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        This is a good list. I dine alone in DC often and find that it's pretty friendly to that type of thing.

        I would add to this list Butterfield 9 (you can dine at the bar alone), Breadline for lunch, Cafe Atlantico, The Diner, CF Folks (for lunch), and The Prime Rib,

        1. re: Elyssa

          mmm breadline.

          the mascarpone sandwich cookies rock

          1. re: Jeserf

            If you are indeed in DC during midweek lunch, Breadline is a MUST. Their best sandwich right now is served Fridays only, I order the BBQ pork on a ciabatta. Any other day, go for the Italian Sausage Sandwich.

      2. Mint julep at the Round Robin Bar at the Willard (where lobbying was supposedly invented).

        Market Lunch at Eastern Market.

        Half-smoke with chili at Ben's Chili Bowl... and/or stop by Florida Grill.

        Ethiopian seems more like a shared meal, but certainly worthwhile on a DC trip.

        1. Nice list. Thanks a lot everyone! It looks like the Capital Grille is a chain...Is the DC outpost the original? Otherwise, keep the recs coming. Thanks!

          3 Replies
          1. re: chefguy

            Capital Grille is a chain. If you want real old school classic Washington and excellent steak (mainly prime rib) I would suggest going to the Prime Rib. The sides and key lime pie is incredible and it's top notch service. You should be aware though that you will have to wear a jacket (and tie?) to dine there.

            1. re: Elyssa

              Ties are required at the DC location but not at the Baltimore one. I agree that Prime Rib is worth going to not just for the food, which is great, but the experience.

            2. re: chefguy

              If you like oysters and a good drink I like the Old Ebbitt Grill. A lot of people around here don't prefer it because it tends to be a tourist trap. If you know where to sit, and when to go, you'll find a lot of DC regulars there on a consistent basis.

              My suggestion is to go during the week (Monday-Thursday) between 3-6PM or after 11 if you are in the mood for a late snack. This is when they run a half price raw bar menu. A dozen oysters for 12 or 13 dollars? Can't beat it. Also make sure to eat and drink at Grant's Bar which is located in the back of the restaurant. Most tourists stay at the main bar and it can get crowded. A guy named Mikey works weekday nights at Grant's Bar. Great bartender. You'll be glad you went.

            3. All the power brokers and local celebs congregate at The Palm. Too bad the food sucks. For meat, you're better off at Prime Rib, where you can watch the 70-something gentlemen show off their 50-something trophy spouses.

              A burger and a beer at Sign of the Whale is tough to beat on the low end. The new Stoneys on P Street is just as good as the old location. Their steak sandwich is a steal and they know how to cook to order.

              Classic DC cheap eats include Deli City, Horace & Dickies, and Hodges Sandwich Shop which has been around town since the 1890s. No liquor licenses, but down the block from H&D is Dr. Granville Moore's mussels and frites; excellent selection of Belgian beers on H Street. I like the bar at Brickskellar; the food not so much.

              2 Replies
              1. re: monkeyrotica

                Definitely check out the Prime Rib. Note they require a jacket and tie (but they do have loaners on hand). The bar area is hopping and the restaurant's namesake meat is not to be missed, along with the mashed potatoes and creamed spinach!

                1. re: KWynn

                  Be careful with the loaner jackets at Prime Rib. I got stuck with one that was particularly skunky and probably hadn't been laundered since the Mckinley administration. A curious bouquet of armpit and Ben Gay that did not enhance my dining experience.