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Best place to eat alone on Fri Night in DC?

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Coming in from DC. Will be eating alone on Fri Night.
Avid chow-seeker from NYC. Love eating when I travel. Hate eating alone at a table in a fancy restaurant.

My requirements are:

-Most importantly, a place I can eat alone comfortably. Eg, a suitable bar to eat at, or a place where there are small tables up front, a place where you pick up food at a counter, etc...

-All price-points considered, but value is considered; in other words, if I'm going to drop $100 before booze, it better be a world-class place. No problem spending $10 if that's the best bet, either.

-No car, so only areas that can be walked/Metroed to are possible. Willing to go into the burbs or to the other side of town if necessary, but the farther the trip, the better the food should be to be worth it. I'm staying in the Fairmont, which as I gather is 5 blocks from the Foggy Bottom station.

-All cuisines considered, but anything distinctively of the area would be a nice bonus.

All help appreciated!

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  1. I often eat alone when I travel, and I try to seek out the best places when I do. See some of my reviews in my history from NY and Portland. I will do a table but I also enjoy food at the bar. Near your hotel, my choices would be the bar at Michel Richard's Citronelle (one of DC's best on a par with s 3 star in NYC), or Kinkeads (fresh quality seafood, a DC landmark, but not up to Le Bernadin or some of the better seafood restaurants in DC), or the Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt (regional, classic upscale tavern food in a chic setting). All menus are online.

    1. Places where I have eaten alone and enjoyed myself are Sette Osteria (affordable Italian--pizza, pastas, etc), Bistro D'Oc (delicious french bistro cuisine...if you can get the table downstairs near the window, you'll be happy), Acadiana (New Orleans/cajun cooking. The bartenders are friendly and the food is good), Tabard Inn (try to get a table in the enchanting courtyard or outside), PS7 (amazing inventive cuisine...eat in the lounge--you can have access to the entire menu), and my favorite Palena (INCREDIBLE Italian-inspired cuisine. You can eat at the bar and eat off the cafe menu or the more formal back room menu. One of the best restaurants in the city).

      I also hear that Central's bar is a nice place to enjoy a meal on your own, but I've only dined there with my bf. It is absolutly delicious though.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Elyssa

        Tabard is one of my favorites in the city, but I wouldn't recommend it for solo dining if you don't want a standard table. Palena is a superb choice -- the bar there is wonderful -- and you can order either from the simple but scrumptios bar menu (best roast chicken in the city) or from the more formal in the rear. But it's a fair trek to Cleveland Park from where you are staying. Probably $10-15 cab ride. It is, however, right on the Red Line in Cleveland Park.

        1. re: JRinDC

          the marble bar at Palena is pretentious and stuffy. with only 8 or 9 seats, you can't feel relaxed because someone else is eyeing your seat. This isn't a knock on the food, it's just the way that Palena is arranged strikes me as odd. When we went on a Wednesday night, we can't be seated until our friends arrived, but there are no seats at the bar (and plenty of empty tables in the cafe). So we should just stand in the middle of the restaurant with drinks in our hands? When we pulled out some chairs to sit down, we were promptly booted so the booth can be given to 2 diners, despite many other empty tables in the cafe.

          1. re: JRinDC

            Thanks all for the help! Here are my thoughts on the suggested options:

            Citronelle is just so expensive; $105 for din gets me into any restaurant in NYC short of Per Se and a handful of others. Is it really worth it?

            I spend a lot of time in Boston, so I'm leery of Kinkaids just because I'm spoiled by great New England seafood.

            (similarly, I also considered Kaz's, but again, I'm spoiled by great sushi here in NYC (just got to go to Sushi Yasuda on someone else's expense account today! Woo!) and I'm worried I'll be disappointed.)

            Blue Duck Tavern looks interesting, but a little derivative from Craft and I'm familiar with the Chef de Cuisine's old restaurants in NYC and I only thought them good, not great.

            PS7...I dunno, it just doesn't catch my fancy. The website is trying...so...hard.

            Now Palena, that's a place that looks interesting! Menu isn't very derivative, price seems right, has a bar area.....am I right in thinking this is the right path? I'm willing to take the train there and a cab back, and a little adventure is never a bad thing...
            Does anyone know if Palena has a nice wine-by-the-glass selection? I'm a big wine drinker and I noticed (and was impressed) by Citronelle's options....very yum, and actually fairly priced (as wines by the glass go).

            1. re: dzop

              Yes, they do -- and, this time of year especially, this is really an easy call: Palena is your best bet.

              1. re: dzop

                I think Palena is a great choice for you. I happen to disagree with Eric above, while there are only a few seats I have always felt comfortable and welcome at the bar while dining alone. Personally I wouldn't want to dine at Citronelle alone. I feel that part of the joy of the meal is sharing it with a dining partner, discussing the food and seeing the multiple dishes people choose. Just not as fun alone.

                Also, Palena's website it notorious for being out of date, so you will be pleasently surprised when you get there and see their up-to-date seasonal menu. I'm not a wine expert, but I've always enjoyed the wines by the glass I've ordered there. They have a great bartender (can't remember his name). Enjoy and make sure to report back!

                1. re: dzop

                  I agree with others re going to Palena, you'll love it. Since you're going on a Friday (tonight? welcome to town and our wow, lovely August weather!) I think you should plan on a relatively early dinner. otherwise, it'll be tough to find any chair to sit in up front, including the bar.

                  1. re: dzop

                    Palena is great, but still do consider Central. You still get to taste Michel Richard's handiwork without confronting Citronelle, it's a very lively place, and you'll be able to stay downtown instead of heading north to Cleveland Park.

                    When I travel on business and am alone, I always prefer to eat at the bar of a pretty high-energy place, and you'll find that at Central.

                    1. re: dzop

                      If you want really good wine, you might want to try Dino's at the bar first (Chris will take great care of you w his list of mostly italian wines) before going to Palena, or even Enology, a new wine bar on the Wisconsin Ave side of Cleveland Park. They have the requisite wine storage system that gives you the PROPER temp for a glass of red. We have only had wine by the bottle at Palena so i can't comment on the BTG selection...but the food is very good. Gee maybe you could hop...go to Dino first, then dine at Palena, and cab it over to Enology and then cab it home from there....

                      1. re: dzop

                        Brasserie Beck is a good place to eat solo (I've done it a handful of times). They have a great bar area and nice bar tenders.

                        Blue Duck is too romantic for solo dining.

                        Also try Central. They have a long bar and a great bartender.

                        Palena is delicious, but it's in Cleveland Park, which is on the Metro, but out of the downtown area. I'm not sure where you're staying. Palena's bar area is kind of stuffy, but it can mix it up a bit. The staff is great.

                      2. re: JRinDC

                        I agree with everyone who's suggesting Palena. It's true that they don't really have room for you to wait in the restaurant, but they will call your cell when your table/bar seat is ready, so you can walk around the neighborhood, which is nice (that's if you don't have a reservation, I've never actually gone there with a reservation).

                        I haven't been, but I wonder if the Lounge at Citronelle would be worth considering, if you're interested in his cooking but don't want to do the main restaurant. It sounds like it would be good for solo dining, but again, I've never been.

                        Also, I'm sure you would also be comfortable at the bar at Cashion's Eat Place, which is a wonderful restaurant that doesn't get mentioned as much. I've had the best experience with service there. (its website is totally out of date, also, or at least was last time I checked.)

                        1. re: mselectra

                          I would 2nd Cashion's- great bar service there- very "DC" and more reasonably priced than a Citronelle. Palena is also fantastic.

                          You may also want to think about Westend Bistro- Eric Ripert's place- for bistro food or Rasika for Indian.

                    2. These are all good selections, and choosing between Citronelle and Palena is like trying to pick between the head cheerleader and her extremely good looking older sister to take to the prom. Either way you'll be going home happy.

                      For the relatively small difference in price, however, I'd splurge on a few plates at Citronelle's bar. The cooking is top notch, and the bartenders, in my experience, are very friendly to solo diners.

                      1. Here's what I ended up eating:
                        Fri Night: Central-- steak tartare. Good, but...brasserie food is brasserie food. Excellent atmosphere.
                        Sat Lunch: McDonalds--you laugh, but I got fries fresh out of the fryer and they were delicious.
                        Sat Dinner: Hank's Oyster Bar (picked out by friends); simple things (fried oysters, raw oysters, coleslaw) were good; complex things (mac and cheese, scallops) were not.
                        Sun Breakfast: Leopold's (stumbled into while walking on M street): Truly top-notch breakfast. Got a table for 1 outside by the fountain. Superb pastries and excellent egg dish.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dzop

                          I was there in May for the Internists convention, alone. The Petit Auberge in Georgetown is great for French cuisine. The Obelisk near Dupont Cirlce is a wonderful ITalian place. They give you a little of evertthing like Spanish Tapas.

                          PS avoid Chinatown Hooters. bunch a no accounts. Worse EVER!!