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Classic Washington for One

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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.

              2. Agree with all other posters, but will add Clydes in Georgetown (heart of G'town on Wisconsin Ave), the original "fern bar" or the new, massive Clyde's at Gallery Place (7th St NW, nr Verizon Center), particularly for oysters.

                1. The minibar at Cafe atlantico, Johnny;s half shell, second old ebbit grill. Litteri's for a sandwich-though there is no place to sit...

                  1. Oh I meant to tell you Blue Duck has a very pleasant bar area. I don't know if they serve dinner there, but I assume they would, they serve some very tasty apps there so I don't think they would have a problem with it. Although I have never tried it. I went what was now a while ago and loved it, since then there have been some back and forth reviews. If you do go get their roasted/ braised meats, their meats are what they do well. Their veal with sweetbreads was very good with their grits.

                    1. I went to the bar at Ceiba and asked them to serve me "hot lava," their term for queso fundido. It's awesome and the bar area is very friendly and comfortable. The bar menu is limited but OK. But my experience shows they'll serve from ther regular menu.

                      Luigino, an upscale and creative Italian joint nearby (H and 13th, I think) has a row of seats for solos immediately facing the open kitchen, with ample room for reading matter if, like me, you sometimes dine alone with a book or a magazine.

                      1. Yes, there is bar seating at Blue Duck. I would also suggest the bar at The Source, Wolfgang Puck's DC joint. Also on the list are bar seats at Brasserie Beck and Central, Michel Richard's place. Mussels are a must, tho the neighborhood is out of the way at Dr. Graneville Moore's Brickyard. Belgian beers are the feature at this small but super cool hole-in-the wall.

                        1. Well, everyone, thanks so much for your great recs. I enjoyed Ben's Chili, mint juleps at the round robin in the Willard, some bar food at Eric Ripert's new place, and a really nice french meal at Bistrot du coin. I went to the back bar at the Old Ebbits twice, but both times there was no seat available. Old Ebbits does have a nice vibe, but the Round Robin is quite the unique experience and one I'd highly recommend (if the $16.00 juleps are not too much for you). Wish I had time for the Prime Rib, but that's for next time I guess. Thanks again for the lively discussion everyone!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: chefguy

                            Glad you reported back and that you had a good time! Next visit, really do go to Eastern Market, if just to look around -- it seems like a place you'd appreciate (especially if you are a chef), and it's definitely classic (even if the vendors are not currently in the historic building).

                            1. re: mselectra

                              Thanks for the tip. I thought about it, but it was a little out of the way for this trip. Oh, forgot to mention that I also made it to Queen Makeda. Now that's authentic...They don't even give you a fork, unless you request it. Gotta use that all purpose bread / napkin / tablecloth / sponge stuff which does taste great, particularly sopping up the doro wat....