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DC for the weekend. 1st time there. Your top 5?

the boyfriend and i are heading from nyc to dc for the weekend. looking for some great places to eat that arent super duper spendy. looking for a great BRUNCH place (that serves a late brunch and has delicious bloody marys), best place to get COFFEE, and other than that its just delicious food we seek. it can be cheap and a hole in the wall, or nicer and a bit pricier, ethnic, american, french, tacos, tapas, fish n chips...doesnt matter so long as its yummy. this is my first time in dc. if theres anything around or not too far from the smithsonian for lunch that would be cool too as we'll be spending some afternoons there. thanks dc-ers!

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  1. I'm just going to preemptively say that I think you'll have to give people a little more direction, including locations you are willing to go to/where you are staying, average price, ambiance, etc.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DCLindsey

      i'm sorry. i suppose my request does seem pretty broad and vague.
      so....if you were moving out of dc in 3 days what are the five restaurants you would absolutely definitely visit before leaving? any type of food, any price range, in dc proper. i hope that makes it a bit more manageable of a request :)

      1. re: littlepiggy

        that's still vague

        perhaps do a board search for Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle, etc.

        I'm sure the list is basically:
        The Source
        Cafe Atlantico
        West End Bistro

        yada yada

    2. I loved Central, Banana Cafe (kick ass margaritas and all around good cuban), Rasika (can't recommend that place enough, awesome indian, great decor) and La Tasca (spanish tapas). Brunch is difficult as I don't like bloody mary's, but bread and chocolate near eastern market has some tasty coffee.

      1. Musts: Go to Market Lunch at Eastern Market for breakfast (or lunch); get Ethiopian food around 9th and U (search the board for recommendations). Neither will be high end.

        Probably not a must, but if it's your kind of thing: a half-smoke with chili at Ben's Chili Bowl is very DC (and very much not high end) and gets you to the fun U St neighborhood.

        I'd suggest Tryst (in Adams Morgan) for coffee and you can also get their coffee at Open City (which is convenient for the zoo if you're going) which is okay for brunch. (You should find lots of brunch info with a search.)

        Which Smithsonian?

        Where (more or less) will you be staying?

        1 Reply
        1. This list shows many people's "top 5's," and it shows why your request is too broad:

          Ben's Chili Bowl
          Bistro Bis
          Bistro du Coin
          Brasserie Beck
          Butterfield 9
          Charlie Palmer's
          City Zen
          Le Paradou

          3 Replies
          1. re: foodiesf

            its ok that it seems like a broad request. my goal was to get multiple peoples favorite TOP 5 places. obviously we won't make it to all of them but we're definitely going to try!

            1. re: littlepiggy

              I understand, and I don't mean to be difficult. You are free to do it your way, of course. But then you have to live with the less-than-perfect answers you are getting. Truly, I'm trying to be helpful. If you want really good recommendations, you have to give some more perameters.

              The problem with your request is that most hounds can't give you their "5 tops" without qualification. There's the "5 tops" when it comes to fine dining when cost is not an object. There's the "5 tops" that you take tourists to when they come to DC. There's the "5 tops" neighborhood restaurants, "5 top" ethnic restaurants, "5 top" cheap eats, "5 top" restos near DuPont Circle, "5 top" restos for late-night dining, etc.

              Do you eat red meat? Do you not like Ethiopian? What about a car -- will you have one? Does it have to be located near your hotel or the Smithsonian, or are you willing to do the suburbs? Are you a wine fan -- does the restaurant have to have a liquor license? There are literally dozens of questions like this that skew the answer to "What are your top 5," yet your only qualification is that the recommendation "has to be yummy."

              With that as a guide, many hounds won't respond because they don't know what you mean by "yummy." We don't want to waste our time, or yours, guessing and writing what our interpretation of that is. So you end up getting very little accurate information. And you miss out on recommendations that might have been right on point and very helpful.

              1. re: foodiesf

                thank you for your comments, i'm not offended at all. my inspiration for this post came from one i responded to recently on a new york board, the posting was successful and was top 3 restaurants to eat at in ny if you were moving:


                i definitely dont want to waste your or anyone elses time. its no problem if its too much to ask. i just wanted some different suggestions from different chowhounds. while we all have different ideas of yummy, we all love yummy food. thank you for your suggestions, i apprecciate them all and it seems some of your favorites have made it onto others lists of favorites as well!

          2. I probably sound like a broken record ;-) always suggesting that chowhounds check out Dupont Market on Sun. morning for the amazing array of food and people watching. Many vendors have samples so you can graze through the market, as well as pick up terrific pastries at Bonaparte Bakery. After the market, head to Pizza Paradiso for lunch! http://www.eatyourpizza.com/

            1 Reply
            1. re: monavano

              super! i love a nice stroll through farmers markets!

            2. Just moved back from 2 years overseas, so my top 5 are the restaurants that I had to go back and eat at RIGHT AWAY:

              1) Lauriol Plaza (Dupont/Adams Morgan area) - shrimp and scallop enchiladas are so fantastic that I don't think I've ever ordered anything else. No reservations taken, so be prepared to see & be seen by the bar if you go on a weekend night.
              2) Sequoia (Georgetown) - my favorite DC brunch, bloody marys and crab omelets are spot on, view isn't too shabby either.
              3) Zatinya (Dupont) - mezze by the MCI, I mean Verizon Center.
              4) Eastern Market - already covered by other posts
              5) Filomena (Georgetown) - a little pricier than my other fav's, but how often can you walk past the ladies literally making your pasta in front of you? Decadent sauces and seafood top some great pasta.


              8 Replies
              1. re: jbiedell

                those are great recs thank you so much. crab omelets sound yummy.

                1. re: littlepiggy

                  Just an opinion here - almost NO ONE recommends Sequoia for the food. The view is awesome. The food...it's almost universally panned. Your experience might vary, as might that of others. Just don't go there with very high expectations. Check these boards. You won't see good recs for Sequoia.

                  1. re: dcandohio

                    Hate hate sequoia:

                    For brunch go to Poste or Tallula, I prefer Tallula, but it isn't metro accessible, but their pancakes and corned beef hash and pretty much anything else for bunch is really good. The pancakes are really out of this world good with ricotta and sour cherries.

                    For fish and chips Eammon's in Old Town Alexandria is the place to go.

                    Tacos are good at the little place on capitol hill forget the name.

                    French you really should go more spendy Le Paradou and Marcel's are my favorites.

                    For tapas I like Zaytinya, but if you want authentic tapas go to the tapas happy hour at Taberna del Aberdero.

                    And you should really go to Central it is excellent every time I go. Most recently I had the rabbit with schnitzel which was excellent.

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      those pancakes with sour cherries and ricotta sound amazing! and i always love a good hash! thanks :)

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        Rabbit WITH schnitzel? OK...please clarify. Schnitzel is a cutlet dipped in egg and flour and then fried. Was the rabbit in cutlet form or was it served with a cutlet of some other meat? I am dying to know.

                        Either way--YUM

                      2. re: dcandohio

                        2nd this, littlepiggy, PLEASE don't go to Sequoia

                        1. re: dcandohio

                          Likewise for Lauriol Plaza, which hasn't been good for years unless your goal is to wait in long lines for OK food.

                        2. re: littlepiggy

                          I'd also say that, although I do really like Lauriol Plaza for a Cal-Mex craving (DC does not do Mexican well), I think it wouldn't make most kinds of top-5 lists -- though I can totally see it if you've been overseas and away from that kind of food.

                          You can do better around here with Salvadoran and Peruvian, actually (in the Latin American category).

                          It does really depend on what you're looking for.

                      3. "Good" food is such a subjective topic. Folks get passionate about their favorites and you can't tell them different, despite all culinary evidence to the contrary. That said stay away from Sequoia, it's one of those places that doesn't have to worry about their food because people will keep coming for the view. As a DC native I've grown up with the legend of Ben's Chilli Bowl and as a native I must say I love it (and it wouldn't be a lie) however as someone who takes his food seriously I couldn't in good conscience recommend it. I can hear the groans now but face it people Ben's strength lies not in its' flavor but in an ability to induce heartburn. Lauriol Plaza can be good but not necessarily worth the wait (Mexican suggestions to come).

                        For coffee Tryst in Adams Morgan is very good (The Diner and Open City are sister locations and also have great coffee).

                        When on break from museum hopping head over to the Museum of the Native American by the Capitol. Inside you'll find Mitsitam Cafe (some will say it's the only reason to visit this museum) where they serve Native American food from different reigions of North America, truly a unique experience.

                        Market Lunch at Eastern Market is a good spot for local food made fast (think crabcake sandwiches and scrapple with your eggs).

                        Someone mentioned a taco place on Capitol Hill which is very good, but only open for lunch on weekdays. For authentic tacos head up 14th St. to the Columbia Heights neighborhood Taqueria D.F. is the real deal and definitely worth going out of your way for. There is also a truck that parks near the intersection of Columbia Rd. and 16th St. (Mount Pleasant) on weekends that I've heard good things about.

                        For BBQ try Capitol Q in Chinatown, Old Glory in Georgetown, or Rocklands in Glover Park.

                        Burgers and fries- Five Guys (multiple locations in DC look it up online).

                        If you're on U St hit up Marvin for great ambience and Belgian inspired fare (it's actually at 2007 14th St but right at the intersection).

                        Being that you're from New York pizza offerings will not wow you but some posters have mentioned Pizza Paradiso and I would also point you in that direction. If you do go the Georgetown location has one of the best selections of beer in town.

                        If in Dupont Circle try Hank's Oyster Bar- comfort seafood in a cozy location.

                        DC has much to offer foodwise and I hope some of these suggestions help. They are all "good" while at the same time not "super duper spendy". Have fun and happy eating.

                        1 Reply
                        1. Responding to items you specifically reference:

                          1) Creme (U Street): Great brunch spot with delish bloody marys. $10 or $12 used to get you unlimited (I can do two at most if I'm planning to walk afterwards). Good variety of brunch items including fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, along with more normal brunch fare. I consider it a good neighborhood for strolling, window-shopping as there are some interesting independent boutiques and stores.

                          2) Ethnic: Etete for Ethiopian (U Street). Good food, not spendy at all. Queen Makeda nearby also gets fanmail on Chow, but I haven't been.

                          3) Near Smithsonians (north of, actually): Teaism (Gallery Place/Penn Quarter) I like the atmosphere, bento boxes and other light lunch fare at this place, though not everyone is a fan. Also, in this neighborhood for grazing/gazing: Cowgirl Creamery and Gifford's Ice Cream shop, a locally-owned ice cream shop.

                          1. I would say if you can get into Komi--do.

                            Washington, DC area

                            1. Brunch: Dupont Grille - very good bloody marys.
                              Lunch near museums: Matchbox - great pizza and miniburgers (near the newly redone Nat. Portrait Gallery and American Art).
                              Dinner: Zengo - Unique mexican and asian fusion.

                              1. in no particular order

                                1. def go to Etete for Ethiopian. Get the fastening platter and derek tibs if this is your first time

                                2. Komi

                                3. Market Lunch in Eastern Market for brunch. Get the Bluebucks, grits, sausage... or get the crabcake benedict. caveat, no bloody marys

                                4. Brasserie Beck or Central. I prefer Brasserie Beck; get the mussels in curry and one of the great belgian ales (im partial to Saison Dupont)

                                5. Palena. get either the burger (by far, best in the city) or the roasted chicken. so good, and cheap if you eat in the bar area. This is one of my favorites. make sure you get there early

                                1 Reply
                                1. Does anyone know of "the little taco place" in Capitol Hill to which an earlier poster referred? By name or more specific location?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Five Must eats in DC area: All are five-star Chowhound-only exclusives.

                                    Red curry salmon at Thai X-ing. And get the tofu soup and pad kana while you're there. A unique experience, only one table - but they made room for some friends and I when we showed up and the table was taken! (mostly carry-out)

                                    Oohs and Aahs - Soul food. Get the grilled shrimp with sides of greens and rice with gravy. Lemon pepper wings also a great choice. Only four stools in front of the kitchen.

                                    Queen Makeda - Ethiopian. True family operated place. Tibs wat, red lentils, greens, carrots, shiro, gored gored (I prefer it slightly cooked here).

                                    Jaleo - finally, something near the museums, Spanish tapas, tortilla espanol, patatas bravas, grilled asparagus, trumpet mushrooms, spinach with raisins. A great place to eat your veggies.

                                    The Lounge at Citronelle - ok this is where it can get expensive. But imagine an opportunity to eat at one the great restaurants in America casually, without reservations. Start off with the mushroom cigars, the tuna napoleon, the peanut-chestnut soup, and finish off with dessert. Abbreviated menu in the Lounge, but a fine opportunity to indulge wthout the time and budget commitment of the formal dining room.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Steve

                                      oh youve delivered the motherload!!!!
                                      thank you thank you