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DC Food Itinerary - What am I missing?

Reposting since my original message "disappeared"...

I'm planning our family vacation and would appreciate your advice on our food itinerary. This will be my stepchildren's first visit to DC (they're ages 13 and 17), and they are excited to try some new cuisine. My husband and I are thrilled about this...we've been trying to coax them out of their "picky eater" habits for years now.

After a thorough reading of this board, I've come up with the following options for lunch and dinner:

Lunch (predictably near the tourist sites): Jaleo, Teasim, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chinatown Express, Mitsitam Cafe
Dinner: Etete, Oyamel

I'd love more recs for dinner. We're staying at the Palomar, but we don't need to eat near Dupont Circle as long as the restaurant is Metro accessible. I'd love something that has entrees in the $18-$22 range (or less)....if there is such a thing. So far, many of the restaurants I've checked (Vidalia, Tabard Inn, Brasserie Beck, Cafe Atlantico, etc) seem to be more of the $25+ range. Maybe I'm just searching for something that doesn't exist?

Also - I would truly appreciate some recs for breakfast either near Dupont Circle or near the Mall, which is where we'll be starting most of our days.

And of course, opinions on what we've already "chosen" are welcome.

One last thing - Zaytinya is out of consideration. We've been before and will *not* go back. And Indian is also out. Despite my best efforts, its just not something the rest of the family enjoys. Yet.

Thank you in advance for your help!

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  1. You might want to try Matchbox, Zengo or Fado's over by the Verizon Center - I think they are all good and moderately priced. Also, there is Hank's Oyster Bar, which I hear is pretty good if you all like seafood.

    What kind of breakfast food are you looking for? Something quick, more of a brunch type of deal?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ALLex16

      We'll be there for about a week, so we'll probabaly be doing brunch at least once. But for the most part, we'll be looking for something quick.

    2. You are very close to Monsouris which is at 2002 P st NW right by your hotel. It is French bistro fare. I really like it, and you can get streak frites for about $20 (depending on which of the options you order).

      Near by on 18th St NW is Vapiano, which is a german chain of Italian restaurants (or something slightly strange like that). It has a nice concept for a less expensive dinner, where you go to the different stations and they make the food upon your order in front of you. Its pretty inexpensive for either lunch or dinner and because you don't have a server it can be a nice place to linger. Also near you in Dupont is Luna Cafe - on Connecticut -- which is pretty inexpensive as I remember.

      Thaiphoon and Mai Thai are Thai places near dupont that would fall within your price range.

      Near the National Cathedral is 2 Amys for authentic Italian pizza (yes, subject to constant debate) but its a good combination of tourist attraction plus food.

      The cafeteria in the American Indian Museum is good but beware - it quickly gets pricey!

      1. What a great trip you have planned! I hope you enjoy DC!

        Your family might enjoy Matchbox. It won't be "new" cuisine for your family, as it's pizzas and sandwiches, but the pizzas are more gourmet, for lack of a better word, than your stepchildren might be used to. I especially love the prosciutto white pizza at Matchbox.

        If your family plans to visit anything across the river, like Arlington National Cemetery, I highly recommend taking the metro into the Clarendon or Ballston area for Peruvian charbroiled chicken at Pio Pio or Super Pollo. It is excellent chicken! I think your family would really take to it as it's a familiar protein but a probably new taste. You can feed your family very inexpensively at either of these restaurants.

        The Mitsitam Cafe is a great choice! I think your family will enjoy that. I'm not a huge fan of Old Ebbitt Grill, but it is certainly worth a visit if you're visiting for that DC-insider sort of vibe.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dckw

          If you do make it across the river to Arlington, I would recommend El Pollo Rico over Pio Pio.

          There are several very good Vietnamese restaurants in Arlington. My favorite in Arlington is Minh's; others recommend Nam Viet. There is also pho at Pho 75, but that might be too exotic for the kids. All of these are walking distance from Metro stations.

        2. In Dupont Circle you can check out Pizza Paradisio and Bistro du Coin.

          There isn't a ton of breakfast options in the area. You can go to Luna Grill which has decent omletets, eggs etc. Hudson may or may not be offering breakfast yet...I know they have brunch on the weekends. (If you need brunch/weekend breakfast options let us know). Kramerbooks and Afterwards serves breakfast I believe. It's only so-so but it does the trick. If you are willing to walk up a little ways to Adams Morgan there is always the 24 hour Diner. SoHo coffee is a great little nieghborhood hang out on P St that serves breakfast. I personally like their breakfast burritto.

          In the moderate range there are a lot of options. Creme (your kids might enjoy checking out U St. Creme has great southern inspired down home cooking). Also on U St is Busboys and Poets which is a very cool spot--part coffee house, part restaurant, part art gallery, part lefty book store. Very unique DC spot.

          You should consider Jaleo since you can share all the options on the menu and therefore get out of there for around $22/person or so. Also near the Mall.

          There are some good Thai options around Dupont Circle. I personally prefer Mai Thai and Regent Thai...all affordable. For affordable and delicious sushi check out Sakana (try the Sakana Tempura Roll...best...roll...EVER) on P St.

          1. If you are looking for Brunch on Sat/Sun Dupont Grill is good for families.

            1. I'll second the recco for Zengo...It's one of the fusion types of places that actually works. And you can control the budget there pretty easily and still fill up.

              I think Oyamel is overrated, but some of the tacos there (the mushroom one especially) are very good. You might think about trying Michel Richard's Central as something in the same general vicinity -- I've heard good things. Teaism is fun -- try their salty oat cookies.

              In the Dupont Circle area, you could try (for a dinner or lunch) the Bistrot du Coin. Up in Woodley Park just a half a black from the Woodley Park metro stop is Dino (and Palena, but that gets pricey), which is a great Italian joint with a great wine list to boot. It's easy to keep the costs controlled there and the food is great and Dean's a wonderful host.

              There's loads more to try, too.


              1. I highly recommend you consider the Blue Duck Tavern. Its entrees begin at $17 and it may be a great gateway restaurant for your children . . . traditional rustic American fare . . . but unusal by today's standards. The portions of the sides are very large and the meals are served family style . . . making this a great place to dine for families that are willing to share. To be clear, it's pushing the upper end of your price range, but there are several entrees below $22 and, again, the portions are large. You can find a full review for the restaurant on my blog, Food Rockz http://foodrockz.com.

                Also, though by no means fancy, you might consider a lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl. I doubt there's anything on the menu that your children haven't had before, but it's a DC institution.

                Have fun!

                1. Since you're at the Palomar, I would recommend Logan Tavern for lunch or dinner, or brunch. They are located on P Street between 14th and 15th, across from the Whole Foods.

                  Luna is a good, inexpensive option, which a few people have already mentioned. Also, upstairs from Luna is Skewers...same owner, but they focus on Mediterranean food. http://skewers-cafeluna.com/cafe-luna...

                  I second the 2 Amys recommendation. I went there for the first time last week and WOW, it was good. The website doesn't really do the menu justice, since they have a lot of small plates available that aren't listed on the site.

                  Sonoma in Capitol Hill is very good for dinner, and they give you the option of smaller plates or more "casual" fare. You can get a burger (one of the best I've ever had), or a "single" portion of delicious pasta, or you can get a more pricey entree. Reservations are recommended. http://www.sonomadc.com/

                  If you're in Gallery Place/Chinatown, a good lunch option is Chop't, which is a new salad-based restaurant that gives you about a million choices. It's pretty cool and it offers a lot of variety for the family, obviously. http://www.choptsalad.com/indexflash.htm
                  Do not be sucked in by the massive black hole that is Clyde's, which is across the street from Chop't. It's owned by the same folks who own Old Ebbitt, and the food is basically the same.

                  If you find yourself in Old Town Alexandria, Vermilion is a good place, and easy to get to from King Street metro. http://www.vermilionrestaurant.com/
                  Also in Old Town is Eammon's Dublin Chipper, a fish and chips place owned by Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve. Definitely a deliciously bad for you lunch option. Chef Armstrong also owns the Majestic Cafe, which I've never been to but I've heard very good things. The entrees appear to be in your price range, too. http://www.majesticcafe.com/

                  Have fun in DC!! Don't rent segway scooters, please. We hate that here.

                  1. For Breakfast if you are near the capitol or the mall you can go over to the Eastern Market for blueberry pancakes. Also Teaism also has breakfast so you could do it for breakfast instead of lunch. Other mention Luna Grill and that is a good option. Brunch on the weekend would open up more options and there are tons fo threads on brunch.

                    For other places I would also add Pho75 in Rosslyn although it is a little walk from the metro for good pho. (A lot of the best ethnic places are in the burbs since that is where there are communities of people with different ethnicities).

                    You should definitely get some soul food most of it won't be out of your kids range and will be considered classics to them, but it is something we do well.

                    Perhaps consider Ethiopian as it really is different and we have a lot of good Ethiopian restaurants in the district.

                    Lebanese would also be something different. There is a lebanese Taverna (a local chain) in Woodley Park and one at Pentagon City. There are other lebanese options, but I don't know that they are metroable.

                    Also in addition to the cafeteria at the Native American Museum, the newseum also purportedly via washington post has a good cafe it is the faster more downscale part of the Wolfgang Puck restaurant The Source. You might search the archive of the Washington Post food section online it had a good article about museum food in DC.

                    And just fyi Blue Duck although excellent normally ends up rather pricey more than the entree as most of their meat dishes don't come with sides so you need to order sides for the table, although they are family style and would feed a couple people.

                    Regent Thai in the Dupont/Adams Morgan area is excellent Thai in DC, as is Rice and Simply Home in the U ST. corridor.

                    1. Raku for sure in dupont circle. good, cheap/fast for dinner.

                      Breakfast, would head up to Tryst/the Diner in adams morgan

                      1. Sietsema's chat addressed the breakfast question today:

                        \Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for a place to have a nice breakfast on a weekday in the Penn Quarter/Chinatown area. Not many places seem to be open (except Teaism). Any other suggestions?

                        Tom Sietsema: Isn't Poste open for breakfast?

                        Washington, D.C.: Hey, Tom -

                        A question for you about breakfasts. I love sitting down and having a nice, white-tablecloth breakfast once a week or so. I live on the hill, work downtown, and usually switch between Les Halles and Old Ebbitt in the mornings. Lately, though, I was looking for a change. Do you have any suggestions for nice breakfast spots, open early, in either of those areas?


                        Tom Sietsema: Both Cafe du Parc near the Willard and Johnny's Half Shell on the Hill offer the a.m. repast.


                        1. Some recommendations...
                          if you're going to the White House. hit Breadline. They are open for breakfast and lunch, and you guys can get lots of yummies there (17th and Penn), and perhaps even see some famous people (then again, famous in DC tends not to be famous elsewhere...).

                          If you're at the Capitol, on the House side, a good breakfast/lunch spot is Le Bon Cafe. Very tasty. On the Senate side, there is that taco shop in the CSPAN building that is tasty (probably more tasty if you eat meat/fish!)

                          Dinner...take the family to cleveland park. Mid-week, try to get a spot at the front room of Palena. It's very tasty and a good deal.

                          I second Matchbox - it's a good place..reliable...and everyone can leave happy. Just be ware that it's usually busy at lunch, and busy at happy hour, so I'd suggest 11:30 for lunch (then walk right over to the portrait gallery), or dinner before 6 (or after 8) to avoid the happy hour crowd.

                          I'd also recommend Bens Chili Bowl on U Street.

                          Other good options for dinner include a stroll to Georgetown - I'm no expert on food there, but everyone can find something. Which easily includes breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. Tasty.

                          1. Bistrot Au Coin is a real french bistro, steak and frites style, but won't scare the kids. We Washingtonians don't really want to tell anyone about this place, it is our little secret.

                            Across the street and down one block from the Hilton on Connecticut above Dupont Circle.

                            1. Just a couple comments...looking down the list...

                              Poste is open for breakfast and excellent at that but expensive.

                              Jaleo is excellent but I would be worried with taking teenagers and still coming out of there at $22 a person. I took my brother (17) and he ate a ton but still felt hungry so I had to find him food later anyway. For lunch it may be better but be warned.

                              Krispy Kreme is in Dupont, when the Hot sign is on...how can you say no?

                              1. Just a note that I don't think posters have been clear about whether they're recommending Luna Grill on Connecticut (which I've heard is good for breakfast, but have only been for dinner, it would be a good family place, convenient for you), or Luna Cafe over on 17th which is below Skewers.

                                There's a Teaism in DuPont and also near the Mall, and it's a good choice for a simple breakfast, too, or afternoon snack (tea only, no coffee).

                                And Eastern Market has already been mentioned, do go there for breakfast or lunch.

                                Luna Grill & Diner
                                1301 Connecticut Ave NW Frnt 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                1. Wow! I can't thank you all enough for your thoughtful replies. There's so much to consider. I really appreciate your recommendations, and I'll be sure to repost after our vacation!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: short_eliz

                                    For breakfast fairly close to your hotel try Teasim. They have tons of wonderful teas (duh!) and to die for salty oat cookies & scones. They also have really yummy cilantro scrambled eggs. There is a starbucks next door if anyone really has to have coffee.. .) It's at CT ave and R in dupont. A good dinner suggestion would be Skewers which is on N between 16th and 17th on the east edge of dupont. They have really tasty middle eastern food, good service and close to your hotel. If you are going to the zoo, you might try Lebanese Taverna which is at the zoo metro stop (either lunch or dinner). One metro stop further up on the red line (2 north from dupont where your hotel is) is Cleveland park which has a wealth of good places to eat -- Dino is good italian, There is a Greek place there (Yannis i think??) Lavandou is yummy provencal cuisine, and Vace is a carry out mom & pop store that has good pizza by the slice. If you want a really nice meal Palena is up there too. And if you want a REALLY nice meal, just half a block from your hotel think about Obelisk, northern italian 5 course prix fixe, chef does daily menu from what is fresh & local (3 or so choices per course). It's spendy -- $65 PP -- but it's one of the best meals in DC AND has the advantage of not being fussy or overly dressy. Everything is homemade. Service low key but great. There is also a Morrocan place (i think) on the other side of your hotel on the same side of P street called Pasha i think?? never been but the Morrocan dining experience is unique...no utensils, elaborate hand washing before the meal, etc and belly dancers! the kids might get a kick out of that. And for mom& dad the wine bar in your hotel is decent; it's called Urbana and it a local 'cool' see & be seen spot. have fun!
                                    Oh yeah the Mitsitam cafe in the indian museum is great for lunch...really different. if they have it try the wild rice and the smoked squash and the maple baked apple...YUm! Mexican hot chocolate rocks too.

                                  2. Hi everyone -

                                    Just wanted to take a few moments and report back now that my family has returned from our DC vacation.

                                    Thank you again for all of the thoughtful recommendations. We had the best of both worlds - spent lots of time at the tourist sites and didn't have to settle for McD's, thanks to you all!

                                    For lunch, we stopped at Pizzeria Paradiso which my husband loved. He spent several years living in Italy and is in constant search for wood fired pizza that transports him back - and Paradiso certainly did. He ate an entire 8 in and half of the kids 12 inch. We also did the Mitsitam Cafe, which I really enjoyed. Although, I didn't catch the kids before they purchased chicken strips and fries. I fail to understand why so many places lower themselves to the most common denominator by providing this type of "cop out" meal....but I loved my tamale and jicama salad so I decided not to complain. Matchbox, as you all mentioned, was perfect for us! Familiar food but still very tasty. Definitely worth the walk and the visit. We ended up stuck in Union Station on a really rainy day and decided to stop at B Smiths. (I had nixed the kids Pizzeria Uno suggestion, so that was the compromise) It was only after we were seated that we noticed everyone else coming in was in a suit....and while we were all presentable, we definitely stood out. Oh well...live and learn, I guess! My mac and cheese was yummy. Not the best I've ever had, but very good indeed. And my stepson ordered the ribs, which were huge and very tasty.

                                    We had dinner at Etete, which was a family favorite. My husband and I have been before and loved it just as much the second time. This was the first time we tried the derek tibs (thanks Steve for the rec!) and we ate every single last bite. They were fabulous. We also ate at Oyamel, which I felt was solid but not spectacular. My biggest issue was that 7 of our dishes came out at the same time. That made us feel very rushed. Our server had assured us that we could order everything at once and items would arrive when they were ready, otherwise, we would only have ordered a few items at a time. Last but not least we ate at Mourayo, at the request of my husband, who loves Greek food. While the sailor uniform-clad wait staff was a bit much, we all had an excellent meal. I think the kids were pleasantly surprised that they liked the food as much as they did.

                                    For dessert one night we visited Kramerbooks/Afterwords which was the perfect match for our sweet tooth. Also, my husband and I had a great visit to the Brickskellar. And although I had warned him that many Hounds have mentioned the bar is often "out" of its many beers, every IPA he chose was available. And the prices were phenomenal.

                                    And one last thing...I did get to try a Ben's half-smoke, although it was at National's Park. Next time I'll be sure to try an "official" version from U St.

                                    So thanks again for all of your assitance. Looking forward to another visit to DC, hopefully soon!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: short_eliz

                                      Thanks for reporting back Eliz. Looks like you guys had a good trip and covered some food culinary ground with the kids. I love hearing about parents exposing their kids to different types of cuisines like Greek or Ethiopian. :)

                                      1. I'll comment on where to get breakfast. Right across from your hotel there's a bagel shop and a new crepe place. You can walk to Hudson's for breakfast, Cosi right by Dupont Circle or Lawson's.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Jacey

                                          Just FYI if you read the thread they already went and came back.

                                          Eliz, thanks for reporting back it is always great to hear back what visitors like and find to be good places in DC.