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1 romantic original un-stuffy dinner in DC?

My fiance and I are taking an overnight to DC from Southside VA to play tourist and visit the museums and the zoo. We'll be there on a Tuesday night looking for dinner, and since we'll have a nice romantic hotel room to come back to, we're looking for a nice romantic meal to close off the day. Considerations to make in your recommendations should be:

-No suit/tie/jacket requirements. Not that he won't wear one, but I don't want the kind of place that requires it.

-Prefer to lean toward upscale, but not by DC standards. We'd like to stick between $100-150 for the two of us with everything.

-Somewhere with a view would be greatly preferred, but I'm willing to give that up for a fantastic meal.

-No franchises. I can get that at home. Looking for original DC venues.

-Major consideration: I am an incredibly picky eater. It's mental wiring, not upbringing. I know this is a foodie board, so I hope you can still help. I'm a consistency whore, so no gourmet menus where I can't pronounce anything and no meals the size of a crouton. I'm not big on French or Thai, and I'm more of a red meat, potatoes and chicken type of girl. However, my beau will eat anything you put in front of him, particularly fish and vegetables, so a diverse menu would be appreciated.

-Something close to a metro stop would be greatly preferred, as I know about the parking issues downtown. We're staying at the Omni but it doesn't have to be superclose to that.

-Please provide personal recommendations from places you have been to in the past six months or so, and any users that can second or third the recommendation would be greatly appreciated. I'll be sure to post my decision and review once we get back, and thanks to all in advance!

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  1. Hmmm...I was going to say the upstairs of Bistro LePic until you said you don't like French (what is it about French you don't like?).

    Tabard Inn may be your place. Great food that is upscale American but absolutely approachable, a relaxing and romantic bar area with a fireplace, and a Dupont location that's easy to get to:


    1. Perhaps Blue Duck Tavern? The food is unfussy but very, very good, and they have a nice emphasis sourcing their supplies. I've been very pleased the two times I've been there, both times with "meat-and-potatoes" types. They have a lot of dishes that are uncommon cuts (marrow, trotters, etc) to keep me interested, and fair amount of uncomplicated dishes.

      No great view, but view+great food I have found to be a non-starter in most cities.

      Blue Duck Tavern
      1201 24th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037

      1. OK, you know what, my wife just had a great idea. Go for drinks at Off the Record in the Hay Adams, then go to Central, which is at 10th and Penn. The view from outside Central, looking down towards the Capitol building, is amazing. You will both be happy with the food there. It's not that romantic...but -> Off the Record is very romantic (tip the concierge to see if you can check out the view from the roof).

        1. Mendocino Grill in Gtown- intimate wine-bar with FANTASTIC food. You can have dessert there or move to the bar at Citronelle for some of Michel Richard's creations. The only issue is that Gtown is not metro accessable but it is an easy cab ride and the food is sooo worth it.

          I also love Palena and it is right near the zoo. You can sit in the front of the restaurant (which doesn't take reservations) and simple the food of one of DC's best chefs for a really good price. He does some very creative dishes but you could also sample his famous burger and fries or roast chicken, both of which are awesome.

          Also, I agree with the Central rec. and I think it fits the bill completely in terms of your food tastes. My only reservation in rec. it is that I wouldn't call it particularly romantic. Still, it is very "DC" and you can't go wrong with it. Reservations are hard to get, however.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JAC13

            She said she's picky, so I'm guessing that Citronelle is not going to be a good choice. Also, it's not really romantic.

            1. re: reiflame

              I said for dessert at the bar after dinner at Mendocino.

          2. Thank you all so much for the recommendations so far. I've heard good things about Tabard Inn from a few other places, so I guess that's the front-runner for now, and Central seems to come up among foodie boards quite a bit so I'll definitely keep the two of those in mind. I've looked up some other places, and if you have any opinions of them please let me know:

            Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar
            Teatro Goldoni
            Cafe Saint Ex
            DISH + Drinks
            Mendocino Grille
            Le Paradou

            Also if any of these places are perhaps not what I've taken them to be like from food editor's descriptions, please let me know. I haven't been to DC since I was 10 so I know nothing about where anything is or what certain areas are like!

            6 Replies
            1. re: pickypicky83

              Hook - Waaaay over rated, and overpriced to boot.
              Le Paradou - French. You don't like French.
              Mendocino Grill - Agree with JAC13. Pretty great.
              Firefly - Romantic interior. Good food.
              Komi - Too adventurous for you, but one of the top foodie joints in town.
              Sea Catch - Decent food I guess, but the interior feels old and dark. Haven't even considered going there in ages.
              Ray's - Yes. Yes. Yes. But prepare to wait, and the Arlington location is about a ten minute walk from the Metro and is in a strip mall. Not very romantic.

              1. re: GyroBall

                My only problem with Firefly is the tables are very close together. That kind of kills the romance for me.

              2. re: pickypicky83

                I'll chime in for those that I can speak to. IMO, the Ray's that's closest to DC, while intimate, definitely isn't romantic, Teatro Goldoni isn't particularly romantic, and if you have cocktails or wine, Le Paradou, Vidalia and Palena are likely to exceed your budget. Based on your criteria, I'd suggest Firefly and Tabard Inn. Too bad it's not warmer, the patio at the Tabard is wonderful. Their bar is wonderfully cozy and romantic, particularly by the fire in the winter, and while the menu and price fit your criteria, I can't speak to the ambiance of the indoor dining room. But I'd trust others recommendations here. My only concern about Firefly is that I know some of the two-tops can be a little too close for comfort, though it's been a while since I was there. So I'd suggest asking for privacy when making a reservation so they don't seat you on top of another couple.

                1. re: pickypicky83

                  Tabard Inn is a good choice. Moderatly priced and very cozy and romantic. I like their salmon.

                  Hook is great but I wouldn't call it romantic. More trendy.

                  Zola is very good. I find the decor very sexy and intimate.

                  1. re: pickypicky83

                    I think sharing the banana split at Central could be romantic, just a thought... the ice cream is really good.

                    1. re: pickypicky83

                      Hook- not way overrated in my opinion is more modern and trendy, but the food is great, if you like fish, if you don't like fish, don't go.

                      Ray's is great, but no reservations and the decor is sparse, but I love it best steak I can remember eating.

                      Zola is sexy/chic I love it, it will have something for you both.

                      Le Paradou- I love it, but it's french, no getting around that. Very French. And I think you would feel out of place dressed casual.

                      Firefly- don't go you feel packed like a sardine, and will hear everyone elses business while sitting at the table to eat.

                      I really agree on Blue Duck, it is great for meat. And will have interesting meat preperations for the man. You will be fine in whatever you where.

                      Central is another good choice mentioned above.

                    2. Obelisk is my fave here; it's a little spendy, at 65 PP but its' wonderful. It's a 5 course prix fixe northern italian menu with several choices for each course. Nothing you can't pronounce and no fussy foams or weird things on your food. There is usally a meat, seafood & chicken course (or you can do all veggie if you ask in advance). If you only had one glass of wine each you could stay close to your target (well not including tip). But the food is wonderful, atmosphere cozy like being in someone's home and you can wear dressy casual with no problems. ITs very close to the dupont circle metro at 2121 P street.

                      1. Is there still a bar on top of the Hotel washington? I have not been there for a decade, but it is a great place to look down at the White House and Treasury (and see the the snipers on the roof). very romantic and not expensive; I wouldnt eat there, tho.

                        1. Hotel Washington is under construction...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: elizzy

                            elizzy is right they are re-doing it - it's always been closed between Fall and Spring anyway, but the service was always complete and utter crap.

                            one drink - you're outta here.

                            I hope they work on that. stunning view, and some of us actually live here... and do indeed tip...

                            why do visitors get the best views? (and the jerkiest experiences)

                            1. re: hill food

                              It's being taken over by the W hotel. I think that is a shame. Especially because they are glassing in the rooftop terrace, it being open was one of myf avorite parts about it distinguished it from the other penthouse view places.

                              1. re: ktmoomau

                                I liked it too esp. once when a (rare and cool for there) waiter said he'd pop a bottle at the you-know-what for a sawbuck (after consideration we declined). prob. wouldn't have made it past Treasury anyway.

                                plus being open-air you could smoke.

                          2. Blue Duck Tavern is a great option since they do grilled meats very well. The view isn't there but there is an open kitchen. It's difficult to find a good view AND good food in this town.

                            Another place to consider would be Charlie Palmer Steak House for great steak and a beautiful view of the Capitol building.

                            Finally (again no view) I would recommend Butterfield 9. Get a corner banquet and if they offering a soup for appetizer certainly order it.

                            1. Is Ray's Silver Spring the same as Arlington?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pickypicky83

                                same owners but a little different set up & menu i think; but i havent' been. Ray's is pretty loud and not very romantic (the arlington one).

                                1. While I think Ray's is excellent, it's really not romantic at all. There are no decorations, and its very small.

                                  What about restaurant Nora in Dupont? Very good meat and potatoe type of home cooking, I'm pretty sure you could get out of there for less than 150.

                                  Also, have you heard of/considered DC Coast downtown on 14th and K? It's seafood, and they have excellent chicken/steak dishes as well.

                                  I would also agree with the Butterfield 9 recommendation.

                                  1. Nora's is great - service is wonderful. I was not impressed with Butterfield 9 - food wasn't that good and service was not very good. Vidalia doesn't have a view but you can find a nice cozy table, especially if you let them know in advance. Komi would be my 1st choice. Although the food is simply prepared mediterranean with a Greek flair, it does have some things on the list that you may not be able to pronounce. But if you get past that you will have a delicious meal!

                                    1. Hello all, and thanks again for all the recommendations. We ended up choosing Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse. It was perfect! Great view of the capitol, wonderful design of the interior, bar drinks made perfectly. I had the filet and he had the bass. My filet was in the top 3 I have ever had, served in its own natural juices with a flavor I've never experienced from such a simple steak. His bass was perfectly cooked and flavored, and we both cleared our plates. The cheesecake is TO DIE FOR. We've been duped into thinking New York style is the best, but CP's Philly style is perfect! The best part, though, was the service. It was truly flawless, and made our experience that much better. We will definitely be going again!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: pickypicky83

                                        Thank you for reporting back - that makes this board so much more useful!!