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S.O.S. I'm on a collision course with McCormick and Schmicks!

Chowhounders, come to my rescue!

The setup:
In two weeks time my extended family will be getting together for a dinner up in Bethesda. My father and his wife are visiting from Faribault, MN. My aunt and uncle are visiting from Fairhope, AL. Their respective vacations here in DC will overlap for a couple days and everyone thought it would be great to get together for a nice dinner. I have lived in DC for almost two years with my wife and feel pretty wired in to the dining scene here...thanks to plenty of good recommendations from you all.

The problem:
I spoke with my great uncle (a long-time DC resident) and he said that he's going to "book reservations" at McCormick and Schmick's up in Bethesda. He's been all over the world and has eaten fantastic food that most people can only dream of, so I was dumbfounded. My thoughts when he uttered the suggestion were: "Of all the places in Bethesda, why M&S?! Especially to out-of-town family who wouldn't mind a nice get together in the nation's capital..."

Where I need help:
How to politely suggest to my uncle a change of restaurants? What restaurants do you all recommend?
1.) It must be relatively affordable (forget Citronelle and its ilk); like $20-25/person with a drink or two
2.) Centrally located, either DC or Bethesda
3.) A non-chain restaurant that they can't find in Minnesota or Alabama
4.) Good atmosphere

Thoughts I have so far: Old Ebbitt's, Martin's Tavern, Buck's Fishing and Camping

Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Buck's is out with steak plates having breached the $40 mark.
    Old Ebbit is always lovely and within your price range.
    I wouldn't think that M&S is in that range, are they?

    1. My first choice for seafood in Bethesda would be Blacks Bar and Kitchen, but it might be over your budget. FYI- I have been to the Bethesda McCormick and Schmick for a few business dinners and for a 50th anniversary party and they handle large groups really well and the fish has always been good. Old Ebbit is part of the Clydes chain (they have a Clydes in Chevy Chase and one in Rockville- called Tower Oaks Lodge ), Martins isn't awfull , and Buck's probably can't handle the crowd.

      1. i don't know how familiar your out-of-towners are with d.c., but my family visiting ALWAYS wants to go to Old Ebbitt, if for drinks only. i think it is quintessential d.c., and there is good atmosphere. however, It's been SO long since i've eaten there, so i can't speak to food quality. Timing there is an issue, as the crowds at bar rush hour are amazing.

        What night will it be?

        1 Reply
        1. re: alkapal

          We're planning a Monday night dinner for a group of 8.

          Bar rush shouldn't be that big of a problem, and neither will dinner crowds. We can work around both.

        2. I don't think that any of the places that you listed fit the $20 - $25/person with drinks criteria. With drinks ranging from $7 - $14 (wine vs. cocktail) that doesn't leave much room for food. Or is that the point? ; )

          Let us know if the budget is reflected correctly in your original post, as it will help in coming up with appropriate recs.

          1. If you're considering Ebbitt's, you must be open to local chains, so how about Cafe Deluxe? I find it to be pretty reliable, and have good luck going there with people who aren't adventurous. The prices are very good, and they can usually accomodate large parties.

            4 Replies
            1. re: katecm

              with due respect, katecm. ebbitt's is not just a chain. it is a cooly-sported-out institution with gas lamps and a fabulous bar!

              1. re: katecm

                I have not enjoyed any meal at Cafe Deluxe. The menu always looked interesting, and the food did not live up to it.

                I havent found much that is good in Bethesda. If people are willing to go into DC, I would take them up on it!

                1. re: aletnes

                  I find cafe deluxe consistently good for the price point. I really like their tuna sandwich with pickled ginger mayo and breakfast. Not like one of the best in DC, but def not bad in my opinion.

                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    Good leg of lamb sandwiches; a nice alternative to a burger. Rest is just fair IMHO. But that lamb is outstanding and hard to find...

              2. G&G - Do you want a steakhouse-type restaurant; or would your family be amenable to ethnic food?

                2 Replies
                1. re: baird2028

                  It doesn't have to be "steakhouse", but safer fair might be the better bet. If we go out to an off-the-wall place everyone might get a little freaked out.
                  If it were up to me, I'd take everyone to Heritage India, but alas...

                  1. re: GarlicandGinger

                    Another idea would be Chef Geoff's, on Nebraska. It's much more charming than the downtown one, and the menu should appeal to all tastes.

                2. Grapeseed in Bethesda.

                  1. Once you have figured out your restaurant, I would say " Thanks for getting a reservation for us, but I have not been hearing good things about M&S lately. Since this is such a great occasion for us all to get together, I want to make sure everyone has the best meal possible. I was thinking we could try (insert resturaunt name here) cause I have just heard wonderful things about it/I have been there and it is wonderful. If it is alright with you, I'd like to make a reservation for us there instead."

                    And if you know that the restaurant cooks a meal particularly well that he would like, you can drop that during the conversation. "Their mussels are so wonderful, I can't have you come to DC and not try them."

                    Good luck.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: enginerd

                      enginerd, that's a perfectly diplomatic response. It almost sounds like you pulled it from an etiquette book or something.

                      And to the poster above, we live about a five minute walk from Chef Geoff's (it's on New Mexico, not Nebraska BTW)

                      1. re: GarlicandGinger

                        Haha no. I just used to "let people down gently" all the time in my previous job. Glad I could help.

                    2. A simultaneous thread describes a bad experience at M&S's at the other end of the country:


                      1. M&S is really better than those three places you mentioned; I would suggest Black's Bar & Kitchen or Blacksalt for seafood but the prices will breach $25, and definitely if that figure includes drinks.

                        Cafe Deluxe and Mon Ami Gabi (that is owned by a restaurant company from Chicago but is not a chain like M&S is a chain) in downtown Bethesda are good. So is Jaleo if tapas would work for the group.

                        1. You may not like McCormick and Schmicks but I think it's just right for your visitors. Go with flow. You are out voted by the other people eating. You are interested in food and they can care less, they view this more as a social occasion