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Good French and Steakhouse in DC?

My wife and I are traveling to DC and we're hoping for a good French place and a good steak place. From other boards Bistro du Coin and Bistro D'Oc have gotten high praise (neither of which showed up on Washingtonian.com as one of DC's BEST 100 though).

I've also been recommended Annie's for steaks.

We're coming from New York and are huge foodies. We're staying around Dupont Circle but are quite used to taking subways everywhere.

I'm also thinking Eastern Market for lunch, Queen Makeda for Ethiopian, Bar Pilar for dinner one night, Kramer and Afterwords for a brunch, Science Club for booze, and Hank's Oyster Bar for pre-booze.

Maybes are Creme, Marvin, Hotel Tabard, Florida Ave Grill, and Ben's chili for a halfsmoke.

We like unpretentious, simple food. Quiet, stuffy places and places with one, super-expensive bite-sized "entree" made with frozen foam or some crap (I'm looking at you mini bar) ain't gonna cut it. If you've been to NYC our favorites are The Spotted Pig, Prune, Babbo, The Little Owl, Barney Greengrass...places like that.

Thanks. If there's anything else you think is a must-eat or if I'm way off base in my ideas...let me know. I promise to write back after my trip (Valentine's Day weekend by the way...so I've already got issues with restaurant's over-hyping this fake holiday with "Sweetheart menus" which almost always suck.

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  1. The Washingtonian doesn't get too much love around here, so shhhhhhhhhhh...

    The best steak is actually at Ray's the Steaks in Arlington which is reasonably accessible by metro, but I don't know which stop exactly. Maybe Courthouse or Clarendon?

    For classic French bistro food, stick with D'Oc (semi-quiet and cozy) or Coin (semi-raucous). Also consider Montemartre in Eastern Market and La Chaumiere in Georgetown. For a more American take on French techniques, Central is usually the hands-down favorite.

    11 Replies
    1. re: aburkavage

      Ray's is between Rosslyn and Courthouse metro stations on the Orange line. Coming from DC, get off at Rosslyn (the Blue line also stops there) and walk up the hill on Wilson Blvd about 5 blocks or so, it'll be on the right side in an old strip mall.

      Why come to DC and limit yourself to French and steak? The best foods in DC are arguably the ethnic places. One not to miss place is the Eden Center in Falls Church (East Falls Church station, walk down Sycamore St about a mile on your right) with its varied Vietnamese hole in the wall places. NYC has no good Viet places so DC has it beat by a mile.

      1. re: aburkavage

        Ray's the Steaks is between the Rosslyn and Courthouse metro stops.

        Ray's Butcher Burgers (also known as Ray's Hell Burgers) is in the same strip mall.

        1. re: aburkavage

          I m a native New Yorker, over the last 8 years DC has been my second home.

          Aburkavage is right on with his Ray's suggestion. IMHO, the best steak in the DC area BY far. The room is nothing fancy, but the steak cant be beat!
          I really like Marvin, the service can be a little spotty, but anyplace that has a nice selection of Belgium beers is ok in my book. Ben's is a fun DC experience, the food is not great, but its something one should experience. As for the Florida Ave grill, i m a huge fan. But letting the truth be told, i have not been there in a good 2 1/2 - 3 years. I recently read(on chowhound) thats its gone downhill. Not as famous as Ben's but its also a DC instution(IMHO). Its actually very close to Ben's so hitting one after the other might be an option depending on your schedule.
          One more suggestion is a place in Alexandria, Va its called Restaurant Eve, its located in Old Town(15 minutes away). An Irish bloke and his wife own and operate RE along with Eamonn's(a few doors down) and the barkeep at RE(Todd Thrasher) is one of the best in the area.
          Avoid italian in DC most comes up short of your local pizza place in NYC, if italians a must go to Tosca on F St NW. There s actually a decent/good pizza place called Pizzeria Paradiso thats in Georgetown. Only whole pies, no slices.

          1. re: baldwinwood

            Cool...thanks and keep them coming.

            I saw the Eden Falls places on No Reservations. Looked good but I don't know if we'll be traveling outside the DC area. If we do...that's where we'll go.

            What about Bar Pilar? It reminds me of Garde Manger in Montreal: fun, laid back with interesting dishes. Is my assumption correct?

            1. re: pastoralia

              I'm not a fan of Bar Pilar, but that's mainly based on ubiquitously poor service a couple of years ago.

              For a few dollars, I'd consider Cashion's Eat Place or Johnny's Half Shell (which gets you near the Mall).

              For Cap Hill unpretentiousness for drinks, head to Tune Inn.

              For a nice hidden gem for weekday lunches, hit CF Folks, just north of M on 19th. Order from the specials menu. Try to sit at the bar.

              1. re: pastoralia

                Eden Center is pretty amazing. Nothing like it anywehere else in the country, that's for sure. There are three interior courtyards that are hidden from view which contain many cafes, bars, etc. You just have to look around.


                Bar Pilar is a nice place to have in the repertoire, small, completely laid back, can get very crowded and noisy. This is not a place you go for service, as you just may have to get up and order from the bartender. I've only had their small plates, which are very tasty but also pricey. Sliced peach sauteed in olive oil and sea salt, that kind of thing.

                1. re: Steve

                  Eden Center counterparts exist in much larger scale in Orange County, CA's Little Saigon in Westminster. Just as crowded and with the same variety of stores and restaurants.

                  1. re: dpan

                    I think that Eden Center is the largest Vietnamese shopping center on the East Coast, though.

                    1. re: dpan

                      I am unaware there is a shopping center the equivalent of Eden Center in Orange County. What's the name? Is the food similar?

                      1. re: Steve

                        It's been over a dozen years since I was last there. It's the Asian Garden Mall on Bolsa Ave. www.asiangardenmall.com. Looks like a huge temple type of structure, with two stories. Inside are numerous restaurants, shops, food court, etc.

              2. re: aburkavage

                Ray's is the best. Good portions, though you pay for it. Well worth it.

              3. I wouldn't put Bistro d'Oc or Bistro du Coin in my top 100 either.

                You really need to go to either Central or Brasserie Beck. Or both.

                Central is Parisian Bistro plus some inventive takes on American food. Combo 'faux' gras and duck rillettes are a must order. Food is very filling here, so be careful not to order too much.

                Beck is Belgian. Food here is also very filling. Gratin of potatoes with pork belly. Brussel sprouts, liver parfait. This is a boisterous place, which I don't normally enjoy, but the food is high quality.

                if you are going to go for soul food, you really should consider Oohs and Aahs, though it is a true hole-in-the-wall. Grilled shrimp, lemon pepper wings, broiled crabcake, rice with gravy are the best orders. Carry your food upstairs where there are a few tables. Be patient. Great food takes time.

                Queen Makeda is an excellent choice. red lentils, greens, tibs wat, you can't go wrong. I like my meat cooked, so I ask for the kitfo or gored gored that way. Actually, I've never looked at the menu, I just ask them for what I want. Their homemade tej is lovely.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steve

                  Brasserie Beck is a must. 11th and K, and you can eat in the bar. We also like Vinoteca on 11th Street near U and Corks on 14th around R. The entire U Street area between 9th and 14th will keep you happy the entire weekend.... that's not to limit you, but it's really an amazing urban renaissance experience there.

                2. I think you can do better than Kramers for brunch -- Cashion's Eat Place might cost less and will be better. I think Cashion's might actually be your kind of place for dinner, too.

                  Not sure it's worth getting basic bistro French food here, really, if you're coming from New York.

                  I'm a Bar Pilar fan, but it's more like I go because there's a wonderful bartender and then am really happy with the food. Cafe St. Ex (same owners) is up the street. They're nice neighborhood places, not the super-trendy feel (to me) of places in Penn Quarter.

                  Definitely don't miss Market Lunch at Eastern Market (but personally I'd go for breakfast).

                  And -- I don't think anybody's mentioned Granville Moore's, if you can get yourself over there I'd say it fits your criteria. I can't compare with Brasserie Beck (they're both known for moules et frites and lots of Belgian beers), since I haven't been there, but I'm guessing it's less pretentious-y.


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mselectra

                    I'm with you, mselectra. I'm not a huge fan of the Penn Quarter places, but feel comfortable around U Street.

                    I wouldn't go to Kramers, the food there is pretty bad.

                    I have been complaining about Eden Center being un-metro accessible for years now, but I finally went out there last week and it was surprisingly easy. It's a quiet 1 mile walk from the East Falls Church metro (or take a cab parked outside), and it really is an amazing place. Maybe not amazing to people who have access to Queens-type ethnic diversity, but it's pretty great. We had a memorable dinner at Cafe Saigon, which is actually across the street from Eden Center proper.

                    1. re: mselectra

                      I second Mselectra for Granville Moore's & market lunch (for breakfast.)
                      Chowhounders sent me to both these places this past weekend-
                      and they were both great in the food and atmosphere department-
                      truly unique places IMO.

                      1. re: chicken kabob

                        I agree too...Granville Moore's looks like a great place.

                        I emailed Bistro D'Oc about a week ago for reservations and they never got back to me...they're off my list for poor communication.

                        Wanted to go to Central for steak tartare but that place is booked already...does anyone know if they do lunch?

                        1. re: pastoralia

                          You can use Open Table to make reservation at Central and they do do lunch.

                          1. re: pastoralia

                            The Bistro D'Oc website doesn't even list an email address. Why would you expect to be able to make a reservation that way?

                            1. re: Hal Laurent

                              Oops...I meant Bistro Du Coin...Glad you made me check. Now I know who to correctly be mad at.

                      2. Nothing beats New York's food so good luck in the DC area...politicans know nothing of good food...except for maybe Jefferson...

                        As a foodie, my next excursion will be to Florida Avenue Grill for their ham hocks, greens and sweet potato. Then onto U street not too far from Florida Avenue Grill to Chi-Cha hookah lounge, happy hour has 1/2 priced hookahs.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Pesel

                          C'mon... New York is singular and in a class by itself, but New Yorkers do travel and Washington has come way up in the food world....

                          1. re: jkosnett

                            Wow...thanks for all of these new suggestions! I'm going to do some web surfing and check them out.

                        2. Pass on Annie's, you can do better almost anywhere else for steaks.

                          1. Ok.....Look.....If you are looking to go to a nice DC French or Steakhouse….Spend the money....there are several different directions you can go with this... I will lay it out as far as what I know, and in this area it is more rather than less....But remember, some of the good restaurants are those that each to their own likes…..

                            • Citronelle – Best French in the city****My Opinion $$$$
                            • Bistro D’Oc $$$
                            • Café Du Parc @ Willard Hotel $$$
                            • Le Paradou $$$$
                            • Bistro du coin is good – Yannis is a great chef, but the room is a noisy one $$
                            • L'Auberge Chez Francois – In Va…but not to be missed $$$
                            • Adour – Alain Ducasse $$$
                            • Gerard’s Place $$$


                            • Prime Rib on K Street – Best in the city – Bring a coat and tie $$$$
                            • Bourbon steak @ Four Seasons $$$
                            • BLT Steak I street by the Whitehouse $$$$
                            • Charlie Palmers on Capitol Hill $$$
                            • Bobby Vans NOT THE GRILL – 15th street 1 block from the Whitehouse $$$
                            • Sam & Harry’s – still a good steakhouse, just not innovative like BLT or Bourbon Steak $$

                            Other Great Eats in the city

                            • Cityzen @ Mandarin Oriental $$$$
                            • Central – Another Michel Richard Establishment $$
                            • Blue Duck Tavern $$
                            • Restaurant Eve – Alexandria Va $$$$
                            • 1789 Restaurant $$$
                            • Old Ebbitt Grill – Good Oysters and bar scene! $$
                            • Acadiana – Jeff Tunks does Bayou food $$
                            • Becks – Should not miss this one…$$
                            • Equinox $$$$
                            • Ardeo $$
                            • Restaurant 701 $$$
                            • Zaytinya $$
                            • Jaleo $$
                            • Mini Bar @ Café Atlantico $$$$$ (think about refinancing your house, expensive)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: themeatguy

                              Gotta disagree strongly about L'Auberge. Overpriced mediocre food at best. Good Manhattan French like Fleur de Sel would blow that place out of the water.

                              1. re: dpan

                                I agree completely. I have been very very disappointed with the food at L'Auberge every time I've been...

                              2. re: themeatguy

                                Thanks for all of your hard work. I didn't realize there was an Alain Ducasse restaurant in DC. Does Central have a bar you can eat at?

                              3. Have to agree with the Hords on Ray's the Steaks being the best steak in the city, it isn't stuffy, in fact the walls are bare, the tables small, the staff, although always nice to me has been known to be a little uncaring, the incredible taste of the meat more than makes up for it. I really enjoy the peppercorn seared steak there. And the mashed potato side and creamed spinach they provide are good.

                                There is another very recent thread on French you could look for more, or really less as once you get done reading it you will be just as confused probably, insight on French.

                                6 Replies
                                  1. re: pastoralia

                                    Then go to Ray's trust me... I grew up on a grass eating beef farm, haven't found anything that tastes as straight from the cow in a good way.

                                    And yes Central does have a bar you can eat at, although it can be a little busy, you can normally score one of the small tables around the bar if you are a tad bit patient, if elbow room at the main bar isn't looking good.

                                    1. re: ktmoomau

                                      Definitely hit Ray's...best steak in town. Search the board for "Ray's the steaks" to see how religious some people are about that place. Only thing to point out is that they are going to be moving to new (larger) digs soon, so if you do want to try it, definitely check the blogs right before you come to town, just to make sure you aren't disappointed by them being mid-move.

                                      1. re: dutch

                                        Speaking of which, does anyone have a Ray's update? I'm planning on going there on Friday for my 30th birthday, and really, really don't want to find them closed.

                                        Yeah, and obviously my vote for best steakhouse is Ray's, far and away.

                                        1. re: mjhals

                                          I don't believe he has any intention of closing the original location until the second is open, and then he's going to repurpose the original location into something else. You will have no problems getting a Ray's steak this Friday.

                                    2. re: pastoralia

                                      Oh Damn....
                                      To bad you weren't here when Blackies was around. They had Really good steaks and always put a good char on them....

                                      Now the only guy that does that ....THAT WELL is Rays....Go to Rays..