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One meal near the White House?

ipsedixit Jul 8, 2008 10:44 PM

I've got one meal in DC, but it has to be somewhere near the White House.

Considering Matchbox, Ellas or maybe Zengo.

Any other suggestions? No real food preferences. Just looking for something good and not too expensive.


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  1. hill food RE: ipsedixit Jul 9, 2008 12:34 AM

    Matchbox and Ella's fit the relatively inexpensive criteria. if there's no wait I'd vote Matchbox. they're both in Penn Qtr./Chinatown about 9-10 blocks from the WH - not a bad stroll and a very cheap cab ride, a walk to the nearest Metro would already get you halfway there) but within a few blocks of either and in between are a whole slew of great places that won't break most budgets.

    The Post critic has a chat on Wed. at 11:00 ET (free with registration, and I think they use the same server as CH as my CH screenname here shows up in the Welcome X! header.


    someone is bound to ask a similar question tomorrow (today).

    you're in LA right? forget suggestions for most Asian and Central American around there. only Atlantico in PQ and for Japanese would be Kaz in my book and that's not cheap and better to be found in CA.

    what can you not find in LA that would impress you for your price point?

    we seem to have largely the same culinary contributors just in far fewer numbers and mom and pop jewels of all varieties seem to fold on a daily basis sadly (but we may have you beat on Ethiopian - short cab ride up to U).

    1 Reply
    1. re: hill food
      ipsedixit RE: hill food Jul 9, 2008 09:08 AM

      Thanks for the link to WaPo. I'll check it out.

      I'm not really worried about finding something I cannot get in LA. Just looking for a good place to grab a bite to eat for dinner. I'm having other meals in DC, but this is the only one where I'm on my own.

      Thanks again.

    2. d
      dcandohio RE: ipsedixit Jul 9, 2008 04:14 AM

      Others will disagree wildly, but Old Ebbitt Grill is close and quintessentially DC - especially if you get the 1/2 priced raw bar specials at one of the comfortable bars. You are also close to Taberna del Alabardero, near the World Bank, which serves very fancy and delicious but expensive tapas. In the bar, tapas are 1/2 priced from 3 until 7. If you can dine for a very late lunch or very early dinner, I'd combine 1/2 priced tapas (and Sangria) from Taberna, and then end with raw oysters (or vice versa) from OEG.

      4 Replies
      1. re: dcandohio
        Elyssa RE: dcandohio Jul 9, 2008 05:46 AM

        Taberna would get my vote! Their Spanish tapas are amazing and their happy hour deal is a steal (get the croquettes!!!!).

        Another option would be Jaleo in Gallery Place/Chinatown.

        Matchbox is good but not some place I would go out of the way for if I only had one meal in the city.

        1. re: Elyssa
          bordeauxfan RE: Elyssa Jul 9, 2008 05:50 AM

          But Penn Quarter is not as close to the White House. I'd suggest Equinox, which is just a few blocks north of Lafayette Square.

          1. re: bordeauxfan
            Elyssa RE: bordeauxfan Jul 9, 2008 07:36 AM

            Equinox is an excellent choice, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. But it's pretty expensive (I'm pretty sure the last time I ate there the bill for 2 people was around or over $160.)

            I agree that Penn Quarter isn't that close but ipsedixit was asking about Penn Quarter restaurants so I just figured they thought that was close enough.

        2. re: dcandohio
          mselectra RE: dcandohio Jul 9, 2008 07:54 AM

          Good idea. Taberna is really great and good deal at happy hour -- which is just M-F, though.

          What about the place at the Willard, would it count as not too expensive?

        3. d
          Doh RE: ipsedixit Jul 9, 2008 06:11 AM

          If you want something very close to the WH and inexpensive, I'd consider Teaism.

          1. f
            FlaHopper RE: ipsedixit Jul 9, 2008 06:12 AM

            I agree with bordeauxfan, with the exception of Old Ebbot Grill (a tourist magnet) many of the places suggested so far are a pretty good hike from the White House. I'd suggest Chef Geoff's (www.chefgeoff.com) or Les Halles (www.leshalles.net). If you're willing to spend a bit more money, consider The Bombay Club (www.bombayclubdc.com/bombayclub.html) or Olives (www.toddenglish.com), both of which are hangouts for White House staff and other Washington insiders, or Central (www.centralmichelrichard.com), which just won a couple James Beard awards, including best new restaurants. More importantly, all of the places are within four blocks or so of the White House.

            9 Replies
            1. re: FlaHopper
              dcandohio RE: FlaHopper Jul 9, 2008 07:33 AM

              Not Les Halles. Mediocre food. Bad service. There's so much better in the area.

              1. re: dcandohio
                Elyssa RE: dcandohio Jul 9, 2008 07:37 AM

                I agree. Same with Chef Geoff.

                Brasserie Beck and Bistro D'Oc are not that far away from the WH and they won't cost you an arm and a leg to eat there.

                1. re: Elyssa
                  FlaHopper RE: Elyssa Jul 9, 2008 07:49 AM

                  Alright, I'll agree to disagree about Les Halles because I've read and heard several mixed reviews (though I've never had a bad meal there), but Chef Geoff's is a solid restaurant that's close to the White House and not terribly expensive. Brasserie Beck, however, is practically in Chinatown, expensive and a bad restaurant. As for Bistro D'OC, I've never been, but it is a bit far. However, I've heard good things.

                  1. re: FlaHopper
                    Elyssa RE: FlaHopper Jul 9, 2008 07:59 AM

                    Bistro D'Oc is only about 2-3 blocks away from Chef Geoff's.

                    1. re: Elyssa
                      caphil07 RE: Elyssa Jul 9, 2008 08:46 AM

                      Beck is leaps and bounds better than Chef Geoff's IMO. Given the choice between the two I would eat at Beck 10 times out of 10. I would also avoid Olives at all costs. Service is shoddy and food is tired in my one experience there.

                      Restaurants with a little bit more DC appeal could be Jaleo (Penn Quarter) or Zaytinya (also Penn Quarter). Both are Jose Andres restaurants with better than average food, and good crowds. You can get away with not spending much since everything is small plates and shared. Out of the two, I prefer Zaytinya. People on this board have mixed feelings about Andres and his mini-empire of restaurants, but I find the food there to be fine and in some cases (depending on what you order) it is excellent.

                      1. re: caphil07
                        FlaHopper RE: caphil07 Jul 9, 2008 10:31 AM

                        Jaleo and Zaytinya are two of my favorite restaurants, but they're 10 blocks from the White House. As for Brasserie Beck verses Chef Geoff's, I don't know that a debate over which one is better helps ipsedixit too much. I think Beck is an overrated, subpar restaurant that's a hike from the White House, especially for someone who's not from the area, and think Chef Geoff's is a quality restaurant that's only a couple block's away from the White House. So we can agree to disagree. Still, I wouldn't consider Beck close to the White House or particularly inexpensive.

                        1. re: FlaHopper
                          caphil07 RE: FlaHopper Jul 9, 2008 10:37 AM

                          Agreed that Beck isn't all that close to the White House. On proximity alone, Chef Geoff's is a good choice.

                          Cieba is another restaurant close to the White House. I have never been, but a few people I know have, and they seem to like it. Not sure about the prices there.

                          Another option (as stated by a previous poster) is the much discussed and highly controversial (on this board) Old Ebbitt Grill. Passable food. Right near the White House. A DC establishment to be certain. If you like oysters I still think this is the best spot for them in DC. Worth a look in this case, I think.

                          1. re: caphil07
                            ipsedixit RE: caphil07 Jul 9, 2008 11:03 AM

                            Thanks for all the great suggestions everyone. I'll report back on where I end up.


                            1. re: caphil07
                              Elyssa RE: caphil07 Jul 9, 2008 11:07 AM

                              I 2nd Ceiba. They also have a good happy hour with free appetizers. They list the special drink and free food on their website.

              2. s
                Steve RE: ipsedixit Jul 9, 2008 08:16 PM

                Brasserie Beck is a winner. A true Belgian Bra. It's not cheap, but some absolutely sensational items don't cost much, either:
                Gratin of potatoes with pork belly, liver parfait, brussel sprouts. That and a bottle of Rochefort Trappists 10 and you'll be in heaven.

                Of the three restaurants you named, DO NOT go to Ella's. Zengo has good main courses, but three fourths of the menu are filled with overpriced mini-appetizers. Matchbox is only ok. But I would skip all of those in a heartbeat to eat at BB, and you don't have to spend more money.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steve
                  Bood RE: Steve Jul 18, 2008 09:07 AM

                  I agree with Beck. It's close enough. For comparison, Old Ebitt is at 15th and NY....Beck is at 11th and K (K is on block north of NY). That's a cheap cab ride (now that we have meters) or a nice walk. The beer is out of this world and the man who is in charge of the beer selection (can't remember his name) loves a good challenge and would be willing to suggest beers you may never have heard of. Also, the food is amazing. The skate wing is delicious. My BF really likes the lamb. The mussles are also wonderful. Big and plump with a sauce worth drinking on it's own. Order the brussel sprouts as an app. (they're a side dish option). Very good!

                2. ipsedixit RE: ipsedixit Jul 17, 2008 10:44 AM

                  Reporting back (so, it looks like I had more than one meal to occupy myself with...)

                  Old Ebbit Grill. Truly an awful meal. Skirt steak was tasteless (how is that possible??), the Walrus Burger was so dry my companion almost choked on it, and the crabcake sandwich was a travesty as even the liberal use of the salt shaker couldn't save it.

                  Acadiana. Fried oysters and deviled eggs were highlights of the meal, as was the gratis biscuit basket. Gumbo, however, was bland and unmemorable. Crab cakes were delicious though.

                  Ella's. Matchbox was too crowded. Good pizzas, but nothing really memorable. I usually like cracker like crusts, but on some of our pies it was burnt.

                  Tosca. Did the 6 course tasting menu with wine pairing. It was good, bordering on very good. The chef allowed us to substitute the lamb course with the sockeye salmon that was listed as a special that night. Nice gesture. The best dishes on the tasting menu were the pasta dishes -- risotto was outstanding, as was the pasta with rabbit ragu. None of us were big fans of the gorgonzola ice cream, which sort of ended what otherwise was a very nice meal on a rather empty note.

                  Thanks again to everyone for their great suggestions.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    Steve RE: ipsedixit Jul 17, 2008 02:25 PM

                    I really wish Chowhounds would stop recommending Old Ebbit Grill. We are not a living history website, we are a food website and this is a below average example of corporate casual.

                    1. re: Steve
                      hill food RE: Steve Jul 17, 2008 07:23 PM

                      I think the thing about Ebbit is it's considered sort of "safe" and an "institution" I've been once (on another's tab) and it seemed like a good place to take one's grandmother.

                      beyond that...

                      1. re: Steve
                        DanielK RE: Steve Jul 18, 2008 06:03 AM

                        Happy Hour at the raw bar at Old Ebbitt Grill remains one of the best deals in town. Half priced seafood, including oysters, clams, lobster, shrimp, etc., and drink specials.

                        The rest of the menu, eh. Safe, nothing interesting, but a decent attempt at local ingredients, and usually cooked competently.

                        1. re: DanielK
                          arugulafilesdc RE: DanielK Jul 18, 2008 10:45 AM

                          Here's my two cents:

                          Central - tasty food, mid range
                          Ellas - good food, inexepnsive
                          Brasserie Beck - more expensive, trendy, tasty

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