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Foodie daughter turning 21 and we're celebrating in Washington

I'm bringing my daugher, her roomate and my boyfriend to Washington the first weekend of May for a visit with a dual purpose: look at law schools and celebrate daugher's 21st. My daughter is an adventurous eater who loves good food and we're looking for a special occasion restaurant to celebrate on one of the 3 nights we will be there. My sister and brother in law from NJ will join us for that meal. Price is not a huge issue, but of course, these days, everyone is looking to spend less rather than more.

Here are the problems: Her roomate is not as adventurous and is more of a meat and potatoes kind of girl. My boyfriend does not eat beef, pork, lamb or any other red meat. My brother in law does not eat pork or shellfish.

We are very open to a tasting menu or prix fixe menu, but it would have to be one with a fair amount of choices instead of a strict chef's menu, so that boyfriend and b-i-law could avoid their respective no-no's.

My bf and I ate at Cityzen a couple of years ago on another trip and had a fabulous meal. Is it still great? We would not mind going back if it's still recommended, or would love something similar, with choices or something a little less expensive???

We are staying at the Palomar, but will have a car. Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. From what I understand CityZen is still very good, although I personally have never been. Perhaps you should check out the menu at Central. The restaurant has a great upbeat vibe, a fun and delicious menu and a great bar scene (she is turning 21 after all!). It's cheaper then CityZen and is more centrally located.

    It's a real hot ticket, so I highly recommend reservations. And your daughter might appreciate the open kitchen if she is a foodie, so you can make a special request for a table near the kitchen (although they tend to be a little noisier).

    Central's menu should also have a little something for everyone. The nonadventurous eater can try their great roasted chicken or cheeseburger. Your daughter should check out their faux gras and duck rillettes. And don't skip dessert. The kit kat bar and banana split are playful and delicious.

    1. Restaurant Eve (Old Town Alexandria) and Palena (Cleveland Pakr) both have tasting menus with a wide selection for each course. You can have all seafood or all redmeat at either restaurant. Both are considered top restaurants and fit for special occasions. Restaurant Eve now accepts reservation on Open Table (I think) but Palena still only takes phone reservation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ericandblueboy

        It might be a nitpick, or limited experience, but I'm not sure I'd recommend Restaurant Eve's tasting menu if you are looking for a wide variety of options, including for nonadventurous eaters (or at least you should check out the menu online).

        I think Cityzen is still a great choice, as are Central and Palena. If you think an Italian restaurant would meet everyone's needs you could try Tosca or Dino.

      2. I second Central and Palena, perhaps Restaurant Eve's bistro menu would be better? All are good choices. I might also add Corduroy to the list.

        1. I would take a young foodie to Cha , Bourbon Steak, or The source.

          7 Replies
            1. re: Elyssa

              i think its the new todd english place. is it open? is it good?

            2. re: keithdcil

              We've been to Bourbon Steak (love it) in Miami, and we've recently been to Da Campo Osteria, a Todd English restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. What type of food is Cha?

                1. re: elegantelliot

                  Elegantellot, you are correct it's an asian fusion/sushi bar. I was fortunate enuoght to be a guest at a private party/dinner after the Obama concert. Dinner was excellent... but I do not know if the food is the regular menu.

              1. re: keithdcil

                What are the prices like at The Source? The online menu looks really good, but there are no prices listed.

              2. I would suggest Corduroy - New American in a great little renovated townhouse. Neighborhood is meh but once you get inside you're golden. Great variety of things from seafood to meat.

                I also second the recs for City Zen and Palena. Both incredible places.

                14 Replies
                1. re: DC Taco

                  Thank you all for your suggestions. I looked up a lot of your recommendations and based on online menus and our dietary limitations, I have narrowed my possibilities down to Cityzen, Restaurant Eve (bistro menu), Proof and Dino.

                  Let me also mention that we are thinking about Central and Founding Fathers for our other 2 dinners in town.

                  I want to make reservations as early as possible, because I think that weekend is graduation weekend. I noticed that opentable doesn't take reservations for any of these place yet, though. It's too early.

                  1. re: tlubow

                    I would call each of the place regarding reservations, rather then relying on OpenTable in this case. They might be able to take your reservation over the phone early or let you know when the reservations will be available, so you can call that day and not get closed out.

                    A lot of places (especially for larger groups) get filled up quickly when the various colleges have graduation.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      Thank you all for your suggestions. My daughter chose Proof as her first choice. Unfortunately, they only take reservations one month in advance, so I will have to wait and give it a try. In the meantime, we made a back rup eservation at Brasserie Beck since this place appealed to her as a second option and was available.

                      Now I need a little more help: We will do one of these 2 places on Sat. night, and I have a reservation at Central on Monday night. We need to find something for Sunday night - hopefully a little more casual, fun, good food, etc. It can be any type of food/seafood, or ethnic food as long as there are poultry or fish options. We live in South Florida so we don't have great Indian or Chinese food - so either of those may be a treat.

                      Thank you again for your help!

                      1. re: tlubow

                        Although Proof is a hot restaurant right now, the last 2 times I went recently, I made my reservation about a week in advance and there was space, so I do not think you will have trouble getting in at all.

                        1. re: chicken kabob

                          Weekend night, though, anywhere from 6-9 are hard to get.

                        2. re: tlubow

                          Rasika is a delicious, stylish, elegant Indian restaurant in DC.
                          Be sure to get the chocolate samosa for dessert!

                          1. re: chicken kabob

                            Wow! Chocolate samosa?? I really do need to try Rasika. I think I'm going to be trying it in April when my bf comes to visit with his brother and sister-in-law. They love Indian food.

                            1. re: Elyssa

                              Rasika is fantastic!! You will not be disappointed. The chocolate samosa is incredible...my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Also worth a try is the cardamom ice cream. If you can, definitely opt for the tasting menu...

                            2. re: chicken kabob

                              It sounds great, but I don't think Rasika is open on Sunday.

                            3. re: tlubow

                              Indique and Indique Heights for great Indian. Indique is in Cleveland Park, while Indique Heights is in Chevy Chase, on the NW D.C./MD border. They are both less pricey than Rasika, but more traditional as well menu wise. Rasika is more contemporary by way of it's menu. All three restaurants are great for what they are.

                              1. re: tlubow

                                If your daughter's friend isn't adventurous are you sure she'll eat Indian? I think you'll be in a food coma after a weekend of eating, so Heritage in Dupont is a chill Indian restaurant. Ir you might want to grab some "gourmet" pizza at 2 Amy's or Pizza Paridiso. Another fun place is Bistrot du Coin for Belgium beer/mussels and French food. Or Lavandou, a lighter version of French, in Cleveland Park.

                                1. re: Jacey

                                  I 2nd Heritage, Bistro du Coin and Pizza Paradisio. All are good neighborhood spots that don't require (or take in some cases) reservations.

                                  Also in Dupont is Hank's Oyster Bar if you want New England-style seafood. You can also try Hook in Georgetown. I took my parents there this past fall on a Sunday and it was a really nice, relaxing dinner. I usually go there on a Friday or Saturday night and its pretty loud and happening, but on Sunday it had a more relaxed vibe.

                                2. re: tlubow

                                  I've heard New Big Wong in Chinatown is really good (probably the best Chinese food in the District itself). Unfortunately, everything good is posted on the wall in Chinese. The waitstaff is helpful if you engage them. Fresh seafood kept live in tanks.

                                  1. re: tlubow

                                    As an Asian-American who has lived in DC for 3 years, my recommendation would be to skip Chinese food here. Go with Ethiopian (Etete) or Middle Eastern (Neyla, Lebanese Taverna). If you -really- want Asian food, go for Korean BBQ in the suburbs OR Vietnamese noodles (pho) in Arlington.

                            4. Tlubow, you've received lots of great suggestions and I would endorse any of them. However, since you daughter is coming to Washington to study law, allow me to suggest some places that have a linkage to the law/politics culture.

                              - Martin's Tavern in Irish pub food in Georgetown (famous as the place that JFK courted Jackie)
                              - Old Ebbitt Grill in downtown (a historic eatery for the DC political crowd since Lincoln's time)
                              - Kinkead's in downtown (a place frequented by the Washington power-elite)
                              - B. Smith's in Union Station (exceptional Southern cuisine and destination for much of the Capitol Hill crowd.)
                              - Georgia Brown's in downtown (more exceptional Southern cuisine for much of the K. Street crowd)

                              Here's a link to a fairly good rundown of some of the area's more noteworthy places:


                              Enjoy your visit!

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Sean D

                                All of these places are pretty bad and tourist traps that few people in the District (no MD/VA suburbs) eat at. The one exception would Be Old Ebbitt. That might be a fun place to go...very "DC."

                                1. re: Jacey

                                  What are you talking about, Jacey? Tourist traps? Kinkead's? B.Smith's? Those places are frequented more by locals, than tourists...and they're usually a bit pricier than the places tourist tend to go. The site link I sent is also focused more toward locals, than tourists.

                                  Tlubow, try www.washingtonian.com, too.

                                  1. re: Sean D

                                    Sean D: I see you live in North Kensington, not the District. Look at my post where I say it's either a tourist trap or people who don't live in the District might come in because they "hear" about these places.

                                    Elyssa, it's good you haven't been back to Kinkead's in five years. I had to go there with a client about a year ago. He was from the Midwest and had eaten there years ago, and insisted we go there. The food was very so-so, and I wished I could have shown him another really good seafood restaurant in DC. It's past its prime.

                                    1. re: Jacey

                                      At the end of summer I had a lobster roll and heirloom tomato salad at Kinkead's that would make anyone jealous. But I have in general stopped recommending Kinkead's because it is inconsistent.

                                  2. re: Jacey

                                    I have to agree with Jacey on this one (although I have never been to Marvin's Tavern). These places tend to be very touristy, especially because they are in a lot of guide books, hotel magazines, and advertised in airplane magazines.

                                    The raw bar at at Old Ebbitt is nice and its a fun place to grab a drink for historic value. But I wouldn't necassarily have a whole meal there.

                                    The last time I was at Kinkead's was about 5 years ago for my birthday. It was very good, but I haven't been back since. I still hear good things though.

                                    I really have to disagree with B. Smith's though. It's a beautiful location but the food is very disappointing and it is pretty touristy, especially with the Union Station location.

                                    The poster can do a lot better.

                                    I would use the Washingtonian link over the other one though. Any list that includes Starfish Cafe and Banana Cafe loses major points in my book. I work near both of those restaurants and have been forced to eat there more times then I can count and both are entirely too mediocre to be recommended to anyone.

                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                      Thank you all! I've got some work to do checking out these suggestions. Does anyone else have any opinions about New Big Wong or any other Chinese options?

                                      1. re: tlubow

                                        Full Kee is another option in Chinatown (but it's a hole in the wall). Full Kee is good but from what I've heard, New Big Wong is much better. I can't link another site so google "new big wong reopens" and you'll find very recent reviews.


                                        1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                          Have you tried New Big Wong? I'm always open to good Chinese food since its the one cuisine where DC is seriously lacking compared to other places I've lived.

                                          1. re: Elyssa

                                            No I haven't but I fully intend to make a trip to Chinatown - just don't know when. It's on the list of places I need to go.

                                2. I would suggest Obelisk, esp since i am assuming the Palomar you are talking about is the one in Dupont Circle? It's about half a block from there. There is a 5 course prix fixe menu that is based upon what is fresh each day. 3-4 choices for each course. It's northern italian and unique enough to please the bday girl but with 'normal' enough choices to please the pickies. Best pasta course you've ever had and the cheese course is divine. It's small and intimate, not dressy or fussy -- it's all about the food but the service is warm and personal too. I think it's now $70PP weekdays and $75 weekends but a bargain for what you get. I don't know how early you have to call but you could give them a ring and find out. There is no website; as i said they make up the menu the day they serve it so no posted menu. It's my fave place in DC.
                                  Of course if you want the BIG blow out,drive an hour out to the Inn at Little Washington. It's indescribable but it should be for about $150-170 PP not including drinks. For my money i'd go to Obelisk.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: DCDOLL

                                    Great suggestion Doll...LOVE Obelisk. I celebrated my last birthday there (ummm, it was my 31st, not my 21st, but that's a whole nother issue!).
                                    The 5 course prix-fixe is excellent and definitely worth every penny. It's just as good as Tosca (maybe better, can't decide) but a much better value. I remember the 4 course tasting menu at Tosca being $70 pp and the 5 course at Obelisk being $70 or $75 pp. Also, the atmosphere is much more cozy and intimate than Tosca. It's not pretentious or formal in any way, but special enough for a special occasion.

                                    1. re: joann.hill12

                                      While Obelisk sounds great, I'm concerned about my special needs eaters in the group. Without being able to see a sampling of the offerings, it's hard for me to feel confident that there will be sufficient choices for them. In addition, my daughter mentioned that she was looking for an upbeat atmosphere, and I'm not sure the cozy setting will work. Frankly, I wish I had more time, opportunity and MONEY to try many more of these places, because so many of them sound wonderful.

                                      1. re: tlubow

                                        Obelisk is very accomodating to dietary requests if you call ahead. I took one of my interns and his family there for his Georgetown graduation; the family is Jewish, of various degrees of religious-ness, and we tailored the menu (no pork or shellfish) to them and had no problem. Plus there are choices for each course in any case, so there is always some meat, and some non shell fish fish.
                                        It is my favorite restaurant in Washington, superb food and a warm atmosphere. You'll feel like you're eating dinner in someone's home, who just happens to be a much better cook than anyone you know.

                                        1. re: brianV

                                          And as for your daughter wanting something upbeat, tlubow, if you go to Urbana wine bar, in your hotel for drinks first, she would get that whole vibey thing, and then you could head down to Obelisk for dinner. Unfortunately, at least in this town in my experience, if you get "Upbeat" you tend to compromise on the food & service, and you said she is a foodie. If she really wants a meal to remember, she wouldn't be disappointed. And if she still wants to party after, there are a gazillion choices of places to go in Dupont Circle afterward. As Brian said, you could express what you do or dont want ahead of time and they will take care of you. I do know people on here have said they are vegetarians and Obelisk created a great menu for them.

                                  2. Try Komi, my absolute favorite dining spot in DC. When you make your reservation you can specific any food allergies or specific requests and ask that the chef keep them in mind for your menu. I did this once for a friend who was allergic to wheat and was truly impressed by how attentive they were to her dietary restrictions.