Make my life easy and tell me
where to take my Mom on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She'll be coming to town for a few days and my husband and I know we'll be ready for a restaurant by then. She is 66. We are 34. We can't do my original ideas...Blacksalt, Hook or even Cafe Atlantico because there's just too much seafood for her. She doesn't do shellfish at all, only scales and fins and I know we'll all want to do appetizers as well as entrees.
No Italian. We do a large Italian meal every Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Dino and Obelisk are therefore out.
No tapas...Zaytinya, Jaleo, etc... are out. Unfortunately.
We've taken her to Nora already and we don't want to go to Vidalia or Central. I think Proof is too trendy for her? She LOVES the whole Washington DC thing and Tabard Inn seems great but a little bit of a yawn-fest as far as the menu goes for my husband and I although perhaps it's not a terrible option in the end.
What about Marcels, or Blue Duck? Never been to either. Although I'd like to get a little closer to my own neighborhood. We are in the Hill.
And don't say The Source! We are saving that for ourselves...:>)
Bar at Palena may be a little bit Not-A-Big-Deal enough for her because she'll feel like we're Only Sitting In A Bar. (But for chicken like that I'd sit in the parking lot, personally.)
I feel like I should have an immediate list of places on hand and for some reason they just aren't coming....
I personally really like Blue Duck Tavern and find the food yummy and the environment comfortable. So that's always a good choice.
Other options: Bistro Bis, Brasserie Beck, Zola (perhaps she'll like the whole James Bond motif), the BACK room at Palena (perhaps more of a big deal feel), Butterfield 9 (recently took my bf's Dad there. He's a similar age to your Mom and he loved the food and the excellent service. They have a seasonal menu which is nice). If she likes steak The Prime Rib is classic DC with great food. For a more updated steak restaurant you can try Charlie Palmer. Finally, she might enjoy Acadiana if she doesn't get cajun-inspired cuisine that often.
re: Dakota Guy
I live in NY now, but do go back to DC occasionally, and am surprised not to see Lepic recommended more often on the DC board - it's one of the places we really miss in DC, and the kind of place we wished we had in NY - reasonably priced, v. well executed French food. I think Lepic would be a lovely place to go with one's mother. Discovered La Chaumiere only shortly before we left, but had a wonderful lunch there.
Marcel's is very good and you will be treated to a fine meal with great service. I would ask to sit in the back room.
I can't understand why anyone would go to BDT but many will (have) disagree with me.
If you are on the Hill, why not Cityzen? It's not too far away. Certainly in the top 10 in DC. Or Restaurant Eve in Old Town ALexandria (the Bistro or the Tasting Room).
I also love Blue Duck, but I haven't been since this summer. There were some complaints a few months after I went probably around September, but I haven't heard any recent reviews. If you go they definitely do meats well. I loved their veal with sweetbreads and grits. I don't think they do as well on seafood.
Elyssa had some great suggestions with Bistro Bis, which I really enjoy and it isn't really loud normally which is nice. Brasserie Beck is nice I think it is the type of food that seems good on a chilly autumn night and the back room of Palena. Zola is nice too, but a little modern, not necessarily the place I would go with an older Mom (well I would take my Mother, but I think she is even hipper than I am). BF loves Marcel's but it can be pretty pricey in my humble opinion, which doesn't bother me when he is paying, but...
Tabard Inn - "yawn-fest as to the menu" maybe - but that lovely sitting room! You never want to get up! Take your mom to Tabard for a drink or two, and sit in the parlor, then go there or somewhere else to eat ... the meal will definitely benefit from the warm emotional glow (and when better than the Thanksgiving season?)