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Looking for good food and great beer in DC

I will be in DC (staying in Maryland suberbs) Monday night and would like a casual dinner for four or five with good food and a great beer list.

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  1. This is a sorta-help post. There used to be a place near duPont Circle that had over 400 kinds of beer. They even have old cans around the whole perimeter of the room, including ones that looked like old oil cans of the 20's and 30's. If it is still open, it's worth the trip. Maybe a DC person can help us here

    1 Reply
    1. re: FriedClamFanatic

      You're talking about the Brickskellar and yes it's still there. Food, however, is not all that great. Stick with simple stuff like a burger or a sandwich and you're fine. And make sure you have at least 3 alternative beers; they tend to run out of EVERYTHING.

      RFD in Penn Quarter has slightly better food and a wide craft beer selection. But the best beer/food combo would be Rustico in North Old Town near the Braddock Road Metro. Several cask ales, thirty-some taps, huge beer selection right behind the bar for you to see.

    2. If you like Belgium Beer I would check out Brasserie Beck.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Elyssa

        And not just Belgian Beer. Trust me, Brasserie Beck is where you want to be. Make a reservation or go early. The bar fills up. It's an impressive beer list and great food.

        1. re: Elyssa

          I agree with Beck. Great food and I personally don't like beer but everyone I've gone with has raved about the selection.

          1. re: dcfoodie13

            Another vote for Brasserie Beck. Excellent food and good selection of beer. Definitely make a reservation or plan on going early. Birreria Paradiso in Georgetown is another good bet (food is limited to pizza, very good pizza! though).

        2. You might try the new Commonwealth "gastropub" in Columbia Heights, it's a British pub inspired place. It's right at the Columbia Heights metro, which is pretty easy to get to from Md suburban metro stations, and a cheap parking garage across the street, too.

          They do half-pints, so you could try a few, and the food is good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mselectra

            I'll second Commonwealth, although the focus is on old school British cuisine. If you're hungry for Spanish tapas or chicken caesar salads, this isn't your place. But if you're into cask ales and welsh rarebit and roasted bone marrow salad, you're in for a treat.

          2. definitely Brasserie Beck if you are a beer connoseur. We ordered a bottle of wine and the waiter treated us to a beer tasting of everything they had on tap too (thank God i wasn't driving!) Food was good too.

            If you are willing to trade great wine BTG for beer, you might consider Grapeseed if you are in the Bethesda area...great food & wine.

            1. Definitely a full vote vote for Brasserie Beck, and only a half vote for Commonwealth as I haven't been yet.

              RFD and Brickskellar, however, get negative votes. While having very impressive beer selections, their food is pretty crappy. The only edible things coming out of either kitchen are deep fried, and I wouldn't exactly call that "good food."

              2 Replies
              1. re: aburkavage

                Deep fried can be better than half bad-- it can be good, even great food. The Brick is a beer place... the food is an accompaniment.

                1. re: ClevelandDave

                  You're absolutely right, deep fried can be better than half bad. Eamonn's in Old Town is a perfect example of that. However, when a restaurant buy bags of frozen jalapeno poppers and chicken fingers from Costco and then throws them in a deep fryer (like RFD and Brickskeller do) that's an entirely different animal.

                  I'm not saying that there isn't a place for that food, because quite frankly after 6 or 7 beers at RFD, it's just what ails you! My point is that I don't think that's what the OP meant when he referred to "good food"

              2. You might also look into Pizzaria Paradiso in Georgetown. The downstairs is called Birreria Paradiso and they have some fantastic stuff including some cask ales. The pizza is also quite good.

                1. I'm reading the above about RFD and Brickskeller, and I def agree with the negative feedback. The Brickskeller is out of everything all the time. RFD has HORRENDOUS service, even when sitting at the bar, and I'm really curious if anyone finds their beer selection to be quite maddening. They seem to carry the wrong beers by the right brewers, e.g. they'll have Victory products, but no Hop Devil. Or Rogue's Mocha Porter and not Shakespeare Stout. Ephemere instead of Trois Pistoles or Terrible. The list goes on. Although, in spite of this complaint, I do at least appreciate their effort - DC is generally just awful if you like good beer.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: buzzy715

                    Granville Moore's has awsome moules & frites and an extensive beer list- cool vibe and nice atmosphere. Best to take a cab there.

                    1. re: chicken kabob

                      I know I'm going to sound soooo stupid but what is a moule?

                      1. re: baymom

                        Mussels (French) ...No question is stupid (I also teach first grade=) Glad U asked.

                    2. re: buzzy715

                      Id definitely have to disagree with the notion that DC is an “awful” place for good beer. It may not be San Francisco or Chicago but as far as big cities go its not half bad. Certainly above average. Just in that one area alone (China Town) you can find five or six places worth checking out if you enjoy decent beer in addition to RFD. Chop House, Old Dominion, Brasserie Beck, Cap City, Matchbox, Gordon Biersh, etc. Not to mention that decent beer has made its way into many “common” pubs and bars more so now then ever before and more so in this area then some other areas of the country I have noticed. I can walk into a Kramer Books or a Big Hunt and find a Rogue or a Haufbrau on tap. I can wind my way through many bars on Capital Hill, Adams Morgan or Georgetown and find more than one great beer at one establishment after another (I mean Piz. Paradisio is ranked in the top 10 beer bars in the country!) And nevermind the eclectic and numerous brewpubs and beer bars from Leesburg to Columbia that ring the DC area. You could do a lot worse then DC and surroundings if you are a real beer lover.

                        1. re: Insidious Rex

                          The last time I was at Matchbox they had maybe ten taps, if that. All were judiciously chosen, but honesty, that's not going to get me on the Metro and down into that mess. The bar up the street from my house has Trois Pistoles and Lindeman's Framboise, but those are 2 of a grand total of about 12 bottles (incl Bud, etc.). Nice for me that my local carries those, but I'm not telling anyone to head there for their impressive beer. Bars with more than let's say 20 really good and interesting beer options (bottle, tap, or both) don't exist in any serious quantity here. Generally, when I walk into a random restaurant or bar in this city, I'm counting on the fact that I will be drinking Sierra and that's if I'm lucky, and anything else is a genuine surprise. Maybe my view is skewed because I'm from Pittsburgh, and the cities I've spent more time in as an adult are Chicago and Philly, but just because DC is better for beer than, I don't know, Omaha, doesn't make it good. I will admit, things have improved over the past couple of years, but we've got a way to go. Why is a bar like the Big Hunt, a regular, sort of shitty joint with like 15 taps, still such an aberration here?

                          1. re: buzzy715

                            Yes apparently your point of view is most definitely skewed since you’ve lived in Pittsburgh and Philly and Chicago. Those are all great beer cities! And I suppose like the New Yorker whose cultural spoils have limited his perspective to the Hudson being the edge of the known world, your perspective from the cities you have called home has caused you to see DC as unacceptably subordinate and on the same beer level as Omaha…

                            I mean to define being “awful” as not having a large number of bars with at least 20 great beers available!? I envy your elitist standards and fortunate circumstances no doubt my friend! Frankly, some of the best bars Ive been to have had less taps then I have fingers and some of the scariest have bragged about having 99+ taps (Yards anyone?). And from my travels to those cities you mentioned and dozens more I find this area to be high on the list. And yes Ive been to Chicago, San Fran, San Diego, Portland, Denver, Boston, New York, etc. All fantastic beer locations. But thats a pretty short list of cities if you think about it and the DC area would be in the same discussion with them. In fact in at least two of those “best beer cities” polls by beer sites or beer publications they include the DC/Baltimore region somewhere between 5 and 10 consistently. So to trash the area because they aren’t Philly and/or because they aren’t awash in 20+ tap gourmet beer bars (although we have 2 of THE top 20 beer bars in the country) is a little ridiculous and short sited in my opinion. Frankly high end gourmet bars are just one measure of the beer quality of a place. Its not just about how many celebrated, rare or obscure names you can put on your many tap handles. You gotta have solid brew pubs and decent restaurants that believe in good beer as well. Not to mention a beer “culture” or scene that is burgeoning and healthy like it is in the DC area complete with world class brewer talent and a beer appreciation movement that can be seen in the popularity of dozens of events throughout the year including the SAVOR premier tasting event where THE best brewers come to DC and no other city to personally pour their beer for our enjoyment. Not to mention some of the best Belgian and Real Ale Cask festivals outside of Europe as well as Smithsonian sponsored beer appreciation/education events. But I digress…

                            I too didn’t have DC on my radar for the longest time. Just figured DC was DC and Chicago was a REAL beer city or San Francisco or Boston etc. But in the past decade or so, as I traveled more and more and DC evolved along with the craft beer scene, I began to realize I could compare it to the great American beer cities and that it was worthy in its own right. Furthermore, I discovered through my associations that it had begun to be included on beer destination trips for beer geeks along with a dozen or so other big cities/regional areas. And yeah, Omaha is gonna be pretty deep on that list…

                            Is Pittsburgh a better beer town then DC? Probably. Is greater Philly? Many would argue. But does that mean DC is “awful”? Far from it.

                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                              I think I just saw something about tickets for Savor going on sale. I'm generally leery of those huge events where you have to stand on line 10x a night to get a sample, but you make it sound much more attractive. Can you tell me anymore about it?

                              1. re: Doh

                                Sure. I went to the event last year and was pleasantly pleased with it. Im with you about the lines and the crowding at public beer events. While this one isn’t free of lines, I didn’t find them to be a real inconvenience once inside the venue. You were able to get samples and chat with the representatives without waiting an eternity or feeling like you were holding things up. And frankly for almost $100 a pop they better make such accommodations…

                                Now the lines for the bathrooms were another matter entirely…

                                But what was most cool about the event was that EACH brewery was represented by someone who was actually affiliated with the breweries. Not some chump volunteer who was just along for the ride so they could drink some free beer later like you experience at so many larger (cheaper) beer festivals and tastings. Oh no… I had Rob Todd pour me some of his Allagash Black and tell me about the brewing process. I had Vinnie Cilurzo’s wife pour me some Pliney the Elder (Vinnie wasn’t there because he was accepting a brewers award that day). And at the middle area I walked up to Brooklyn’s table to find a beaming Garrett Oliver extending a glass of his Local 1 for me to sample. Next to him Sam Calagione was handing out glasses of World Wide Stout (!!) and took the time to talk to anyone who came up, even taking pictures with them. And did I mention Jim Koch was often found manning the kegs at the Boston Brewery stand?

                                So yeah imagine a beer festival complete with beer geek celebrities. Id say its worth trying out at least once. And a lot of people enjoyed the food pairing aspect of the event although I generally don’t go to these things for the food. And some of the seminars they ran were intriguing, featuring many of the aforementioned beer luminaries (and others. Charlie Papazian I think?). Although I would think they are all long sold out at this point.

                                1. re: Insidious Rex

                                  Thanks for the info. Yeah, the seminars look great but they are all sold out.

                      1. This might be out of your way and not sure if you have a rental car. But, I would recommend Rustico in Alexandria.


                        Decent Beer and Food!

                        1. I'm really late to the party but Eatbar in arlington is another good choice.