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Mar 25, 2009 12:49 PM

First visit to D.C. since college and looking for recommendations

Hello! It's been about 16 years since I was last in D.C. and at that time I was following the Grateful Dead and eating veggie burritos in the RFK parking lot. Times have changed. I will be visiting Washington from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon of next week and I need to find places to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don't want to waste even one meal on mediocrity.

I will be staying at the JW Marriott on Pennsylvania Ave. I will not have a car. I look forward to utilizing the Metro, but a cab isn't out of the question.

Whenever I travel I like to eat locally - in Philly it's cheesesteaks and Italian food, in NYC I'm going to Chinatown but also to the places that are getting raves in NY Magazine. If I'm in Texas I'm eating at Mexican taquerias. I'm from ATL and eat at all the ethnic places along Buford Hwy AND at the "New South" places that are hopping until 4am. Ideally, there are recommendations for old school, non-chain breakfast and lunch spots near the Mall and maybe more cutting-edge, upscale places with good bar scenes for dinner/drinks.

I'm NOT interested in steakhouses a la Capitol Grille.

And, to make things a bit more complicated, I'm a female traveling alone, so no romantic, date-night places please. I've found that sushi bars are great for single travelers.... Any recommendations? Is the sushi good in D.C.?

I hope there are some D.C.-area Chowhounds who are dying to recommend their favorite spots. I'll gladly return the favor if you are looking for good NC barbecue (I now live in Charlotte). Thanks!

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  1. DC has a world class brasserie scene - try Central by Michel Richard or Brasserie Beck both are great alone if you sit at the bar. For a light breakfast go to Teaism. For lunch on the mall go to Mitsisam in the American Indian museum - better than typical museum cafeteria food. For cutting edge/good bar scene try Zengo for modern mexican/asian fusion.

    1. i probably sold you Rice Krispie treats at the Dead concert!
      I live on the Hill and love it so will make recs mostly around there:

      Sunday brunch: Belga. 8th Street SE Eastern Market metro. Get the green eggs or the goat cheese waffle. Fries are great.
      Sunday Dinner: I love Oyamel at Nat Archieves metro, 7th and D. Sunday shouldnt be too busy. Get the tuna ceviche, guacamole (spicy) flank steak, short rib (small plates) and the gaspacho estilo
      Monday breakfast: the Hay Adams hotel is quite a power scene and its really luxurious. Nice to sit in the comfy chairs -- and breakfast is cheapest.
      Monday lunch: Teaism seafood udon noodle soup or Capitol Q smoked chicken taco
      Monday dinner: PS7
      Tuesday bfast: Eastern Market grill. Ham egg and cheese sandwich, side of potatoes, side of bacon. Coffee at Peregrine.
      Tuesday lunch:Central. the burger or lobster roll
      Tuesday dinner; the Tabard Inn. eat at the bar. lovely place. leave time to sit in front of the fire.
      Wed breakfast: Jimmy Ts on East Capitol street. standard breakfast far at family owned place.
      WEd lunch: still deciding. some of it depends on what neighborhood you are in.
      Wednesday dinner? Dr Granville Moores, mussels with blue cheese and bacon. sournds weird, totally delicious. Petrus ale.
      Definitely try cupcakes at Red Velvet and Gerogetown CUpcakes, small wonderful. COmpare cotrast. This is all off the top of my head... will revise if I think of better options.

      5 Replies
      1. re: pam h

        Very good post, Pam.

        Have you tried the salmon ceviche at Oyamel?

        Teaism on R St in the Dupont Circle area is a trip. Love that place.

        Eschewing the bluebuck pancakes at Market Lunch? How is their operation since the fire?

        Central burger is very nice, but if the OP can get herself to Ray's Hellburger in Arlington, VA (really it's not difficult!!) then don't you think that is the product of someone who is insane about burger quality? or don't you 'cross the river?'

        1. re: Steve

          bluebucks only on saturdays, alas...but worth the trip if a saturday breakfast is in the offing. Get there EARLY though. the line is long long long. They make great buttermilk pancakes now too, and check out the sausage -- sometimes that have awesome specia sausages from north carolina...

          1. re: Steve

            if you can believe it I have NEVER been to any of the ray's...wil have to makeit a prioirity. I always forget! I dont have a car so I tend to hoof it when eating...

          2. re: pam h

            Thank you keithdcil, pam h, and Steve - I had a great trip to DC and had only one mediocre meal (not at a restaurant recommended by any of you!):

            Sunday dinner with a friend: Oyamel - Had the tuna ceviche (I could have eaten 3 orders), gaspacho estilo, seared scallops, papas al mole, barbecued pork taco (I wish I had ordered another one), and had the most delicious drink: Oyamel Pomegranate margarita. I found out as we were ordering that my friend has given up red meat for Lent, so I didn't get to try the short ribs... next time!

            Sunday night drinks at Central Michel Richard - a beautiful spot, but the service was a bit pushy. Our drinks would be three quarters-full and the waiter would ask if we wanted another. It was slow that night so maybe he was bored?... But I had the best cocktail of my trip, a cucumber + sparkling wine drink that I would like to have all spring/summer.

            Dessert at Red Velvet - yummy Morning Call chocolate + espresso cake with mocha buttercream icing. It was the perfect small, sweet way to end the evening.

            Monday morning: a visit to Politics and Prose. Asked the employee for directions to Teaism in Dupont Circle. The woman standing in line overheard me and said, "Oh Teaism. That is SO GOOD!" And the bookstore employee completely agreed. I wish the lady in line had given me a ride though, because I got on the bus and it veered off course so I had to jump off and catch another line.... I should have just gotten a cab.

            Monday lunch: Teaism - I told the friendly young lady at the counter that Teaism came HIGHLY recommended from Chowhounders and she said, "Yeah, the food is really good here." I ordered the seafood udon noodle soup based on pam h's recommendation (the woman in line behind me copied my order) and the counter person said, "You have to try our chai too." If I lived in DC I would eat at Teaism all the time. I left with 3 2-oz bags of different teas as souvenirs. I was surprised at how empty it was at 11:45am, but at 1pm there was looooong line and all seats were taken. Are DCers late lunch eaters?...

            Monday dinner: I was with a young group that was more interested in drinking in Georgetown than eating a nice dinner. So we went to J. Paul's. I started with a dozen raw oysters (the waiter recommended the Blue Points as the freshest) and the house salad (the peppercorn ranch dressing isn't bad) and had pulled chipotle pork with mac & cheese. The menu says it's gouda mac & cheese, but I didn't taste anything but regular, ol' American.

            Tuesday started early so I skipped breakfast but had an early lunch at Jaleo, sitting at the bar. I love cured meats so I had the Jamon Iberico Fermin (oh to have that on a sandwich...) and an order of the chorizo with the Pan con tomate - so simple but so delicious, especially with a glass of the sangria. And I loved the little fingerling potato-shaped olive oil crackers. The bartender was super friendly - we chatted about my trip and about where I had already eaten and where I should go next. He recommended Citronelle, but I had read that it was about $150 pp before wine. He said that it was worth it! Maybe on the next trip... I asked about PS 7 and he thought that if I arrived early I should be able to get a table.

            Tuesday dinner: I had my heart set on PS 7, but the young people (early twenties) who were born & bred in North Carolina, seemed a little unsure about it. "Chinatown? Really?" They started talking about various steak houses, so I said goodnight, see you tomorrow... I don't mind eating alone if the option is eating at a run-of-the-mill steak place. But my friend who trusted me based upon our delicious dinner at Oyamel told the group that I had done my research and that they should trust me about PS 7. I called and spoke to the manager Alex, who said that they were slow that night and could definitely accommodate a 7-top. He was very nice and said that it wouldn't be a problem that some of us were dressed in jeans. If I had to tell some of these guys - who were going to Fado afterwards - that they had to get back into their coats & ties I know that I would have lost them.

            The cab drove by a PACKED Zaytinya... It looks beautiful from the street.

            We had a lovely table overlooking the main dining area - surprisingly, the restaurant was only half full at 7:45pm. We started with the mini hot dogs and tuna sliders for the table. The waitress, Christine, brought out a complimentary duck flatbread that was INHALED by the young guys who were hesitant about coming. Now everyone was pretty excited about our meal. I had a "YES WE CAN-ton" cocktail, almost exclusively because of the Obama reference, but I ended up loving it as an apertif. We ordered 3 bottles of an Australian red - don't remember which one - and Christine came back to tell us that they were out, but she made a recommendation for another red that was actually LESS than the one we ordered. When does that ever happen? She was excellent.

            I really enjoyed my appetizer of the foie gras dotted short ribs and there was enough to pass around the table for others to sample it. My non-red-meat-eating friend had the scallops and loved them.

            I probably should have been more adventurous in my entree order, but I did enjoy the sesame-encrusted tuna and shellfish. The part of the dish that updated it from circa 1997 was the crispy udon cake (I liked the saltiness of it, but I can see how others might not). And the mild red curry broth was delicious.

            The man sitting across from me had the mushroom risotto that he inhaled. His wife, and probably 3 others, had the short rib and tenderloin entree and I don't think anyone had even a morsel left. Afterwards they all raved about it (this is the group that wanted to go to the steakhouse so I felt relieved that they were pleased). My friend had the Yuengling cured duck leg and he loved it.

            Christine checked in with us just enough throughout dinner and poured wine when glasses were getting low. I can't emphasize enough what a good server she was. When we laughed about the olive and chocolate cake (she said, "You know, it's like the salty and sweet thing - it's REALLY GOOD, like bacon ice cream!") she brought us one on her. I am an adventurous eater and will try anything once, but when I was raising a bite to my mouth there was such a strong smell of fresh olives that I almost hesitated. I popped it in and tasted olives first then dark chocolate. I did not enjoy it.

            Wednesday morning: tea-cured salmon, raita and naan at Teaism on 8th. Two cups of the delicious chai.

            Wednesday lunch: West Wing mess hall - amazing!!! And not open to the public, but if you know a staffer definitely try to have lunch there.

            I missed the ethnic food along U Street, and I didn't have any Ethiopian (even after I talked to an Ethiopian immigrant, who recommended Meskerem over Queen Makeda). I also didn't have breakfast at the Hay Adams or the marshmallow shake at Good Stuff. So I have to make a return trip soon! Thank you Chowhound friends!

            1. re: QueenCityHound

              Wow, you win the prize for most thorough report. Good to hear you enjoyed Oyamel; it's been a long time since I've been, so I think I'll have to return.

          3. Midweek lunch: Two essential spots open for midweek lunch only. Go to Breadline ( a block form the White House) for the Italian Sausage Sandwich. Then go to cf folks (19th st. above N) , a lunch counter for workaday Washington with a no-nonsense culinary bent. Look at the Chalkboard for your selections. Eat at the counter.

            At the U St/Cardozo Metro stop are two dives: right across the street at 10th and U is Oohs and Aahs for Soul Food. Get the grilled shrimp, lemon pepper wings or the broiled crabcake. Greens and rice with gravy for the sides. Four stools in front of an open kitchen. Around the corner on 9th below U St. is Queen Makeda for Ethiopian food. Ask for the green beans and carrots, red lentils, and go for the tibs wat. A true family run operation.

            Try the toasted marshmallow milkshake at the Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.

            If you visit the Cathedral (and you should), go to 2 Amys (on Macomb St) for the Margherita pizza. Extremely awesome, super minimalist. Also suppli, polpete, rapini.

            If you visit Georgetown, get to Georgetown Cupcake. My favorite is choc cake with vanilla icing.

            Chef Jose Andres is an institution in Washington, famous for his tapas restaurants. Jaleo for Spanish, Zaytinya for Turkish. Do a search on this board for recs.

            1. These are all such great recommendations. Thank you, thank you for your sincere replies. I am getting out the map now to plot my route. When I return home I will report back about where I ate/drank and what I thought.

              1 Reply
              1. re: QueenCityHound

                daunting task but here are my rec's
                1. Jaleo: tapas in Penn's quarter
                2. Zlatinya: Meeze in Penns quarter
                3. Central: French bistro from Michelle Richard
                4. Eat First or Chinatown Express: 2 crummy but great authentic chinese restaurants in Chanatown.. You will think you are in NYC
                5. Ceiba: Jeff Tunks latin fusion. try ceviche sampler and sample some tequila
                6. Granville Moores: mussels and pomme Frites- beat Bobby Flay last summer in a throwdown
                7. Pizza Paradiso: grown up wood burning stove pizzas near dupont circle
                8. DC Coast:
                9. Minibar at Cafe Atlantico: doubt you can get in but it may be worth a phonecall!
                10. Zola
                11. Matchbox