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Jul 4, 2009 08:41 PM

Best DC neighborhood for food?

I will be visiting DC in September with my 70-something Mom. We will want to spend days seeing the sights, but I would like to stay someplace where there is good food. To me, good is simple food, well prepared, locally sourced, and made with some love. Mom can't tolerate spicy food so that will limit the ethnic choices.

My first inclination was to stay in the Capital Hill area, but from what I am seeing on this board, it might be tough to find nice bakeries for breakfast, and places that are walking distance or short cab rides for dinner... that it might be easiest to catch the Metro to see the sights during the day, but stay in Dupont Circle or Georgetown or ?

Help will be much appreciated!

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  1. Cap Hill has limited accommodations, G'Town has limited Metro connections, Dupont is sort of boring these days (IMHO).

    it's good you're reading the board, but this is a difficult question to answer without more clarification regarding priorities. within DC no cab ride is terribly pricey (if one likes to take cabs - and don't forget the NW/SW/SE/NE designation when giving the driver the address)

    so Mom has spice issues, is it spice are adventurous that's adverse? Is she a spry 70? will walking a few blocks be difficult?

    Penn Quarter/Metro Center has some of the most discussed places, but the other patrons may skew a bit too 30-something.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      Capitol Hill may not have a lot of hotels but Capitol Hill Suites is terrific and the location is fabulous. A block from the Cap. South Metro, on the same block with Bon Cafe, Pete's Diner, Firehook, and Starbucks for breakfast. The hotel has kitchens and you can pick up a few supplies at Roland's about two blocks away.
      Cabs are a snap from there because of Congress, if you get tired of the restaurants within walking distance or easy Metro access.
      A lot of bakeries and coffee shops within about 6 blocks. Some very good restaurants on the Hill and close by in NW.

      1. re: MakingSense

        as MS says it's not a bad location (although last time I checked google map was wrong by about a block or so), and DC being upside-down town weekend rates are often lower than weekday anywhere here (and esp. there - lobbyists)

        1. re: hill food

          This place looks idea... espeically since there is a small market nearby.

          1. re: firecooked

            that corner of the hill is kind of empty on the weekend (you really have to head East for street life. but to give you an idea of scale, it's probably a 15 to 20 minute walk down to the start of the Smithsonians. about the same amount of time to walk from Dupont Circle (itself) to Downtown and Dupont is quite a bit livelier with a wider variety of options (and I think I must have been feeling cranky when I called options there boring. when I stop and think there are a lot of great places, I'm just always saddled with friends that want to go to crappy places when I'm over there).

            and if you decide on Dupont, I know of a hotel that's a reasonable price for DC - tried to find an e-mail on your blog (maybe I'm blind) and don't want to post it here just to have a moderator delete it for being non-food so I'll comment on your most recent post there.

      2. re: hill food

        Mom is an active 70-something (plays lots of golf, walking not an issue). For spice, its the heat - even food with a bit of heat (to my taste) doesn't agree with her. Other than that, she's pretty open.

        I'll take a closer look at the map, maybe things are not as far away as I am thinking ... I live in the Phoenix Metro area, where its a long way between "neighborhoods" ... even with a car.

      3. I would recommend Dupont Circle. It is where my parents usually stay when they come to visit DC, and they enjoy it because there are a lot of places within walking distance and it has a nice urban feel. True, there are few stellar dining experiences there, but the cab rides will be cheap to go most places from that central location. And the metro connection is very good there. If you'll be there on a weekend, there is a nice farmers market on Sunday morning.
        Capitol Hill is much less dense, and I know I would not want to be stuck out there on my vacation. Just my opinion.

        4 Replies
        1. re: hamster

          I love farmers market... We are leaving on Sunday afternoon, at least I can go browse!

          1. re: hamster

            Agree with you completely - the Hill feels like the downtown of a suburb, not the city, and as a former bartender over there, I struggled many times to get cabs back to NW at all hours that weren't rush. And nearly all the city neighborhoods on Orange/Blue Lines are dead on the weekends.

            I think the best case scenario is staying at the Palomar or somewhere in West Dupont - few blocks to metro, right above the West End, colse to gerogetown. And you've got a couple of excellent restaurants right there on P St even.

            1. re: buzzy715

              If you haven't already booked: the Dupont Circle B&B Tabard Inn, which also has a popular restaurant, would also be a good hotel option. I haven't stayed there, but I'm guessing it's a good breakfast.

              1. re: mselectra

                Thanks - this looks like the perfect breakfast for me!

          2. The tourist spots don't have the best food around. My 2-3 recommendations would be Dupont Circle or Georgetown (there are a lot of reasonable/varieties here regardless of what some might say on this board) if you are with your mom. U St/Adams Morgan has a lot of good places too, but they are more ethnic and your mom might not like the areas as much. There are hotels in both Gtown/Fogy Bottome and Dupont.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Jacey

              I agree with Adams Morgan, Cafe Saint Ex is a great place

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Maybe Mom is tattoed up and likes to party hard? :)

                  On Capitol Hill you would really like Sonoma simple, excellently prepared food. There is Le Pain Quotiden and Peregrine for pastries and coffee. Also you would be a short cab ride to Penn Quarter which has lots of restaurants (or you could walk from the sites if it isn't too much then cab home). I also like Bistro Bis in that area, and MArket Lunch is good for breakfast or lunch (no breakfast on Sunday). Also Belga does brunch.

                  I would avoid Georgetown unless you want lots of cabs. Dupont is ok, but I would rather stay in Penn Quarter/Chinatown or Capitol Hill personally. They have some good restaurants, but it's a lot of walking and metro switching to see the sights and I like the atmosphere of the other neighborhoods better. Dupont seems so crowded and busy to me, with not a ton of worthwhile things (no offense just not my place). But I might be jaded I liked living on Capitol Hill much better than living in Dupont.

                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    i would definitely go with penn quarter/chinatown as the best neighborhood for food.

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      I highly disagree that Capitol Hill is one of the best eating areas.

                      1. re: Jacey

                        i think there are plenty of great places to eat in the capitol hill area, they are just very spread out and not as condensed as some of the other dining areas in other neighborhoods of the city. i still think penn quarter/chinatown is the best for dining

                        1. re: littlew1ng

                          "best" is relative, and highly dependent on the taste of the diner.
                          "Spread out" is irrelevant if you are selecting one destination for dining, and not going bar-hopping.

                          Remember that the OP described his Mother as a "70-something" and said that they'd be sightseeing all day. What might be a terrific and exciting neighborhood for 20-, 30-somethings might not appeal to someone who wants a quiet meal at the end of a long day. They're not looking for a street scene, just one great dinner.

                          Many of my friends loathe the small-plate, tapas, mezze format. They want their very own entree. Some can't bear the noisy, frenetic atmosphere of current restaurant design. They actually like to relax and talk over a two hour dinner.
                          This doesn't apply just to "older" friends either.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Penn quarter has a lot more to offer than small plates and tapas; it also has plenty of restaurants that are on the quieter, less-trendy side. Best neighborhood for food, to me, means highest number and densest concentration of great restaurants offering stellar food, and I really just think that area has more to offer in that way than capitol hill does. Trust me, I'm not a tapas fan and I don't like loud restaurants either; that's just not all the neighborhood is limited to.

                            1. re: littlew1ng

                              Excuse me, "highest number and densest concentration of great restaurants" is due to high concentration of office buildings and high-rise condos.
                              Simple density of population round the clock as opposed to an essentially residential community like Capitol Hill, which does benefit from daytime traffic from the Capitol Complex but not much dense residential development.
                              I certainly wasn't putting PennQuarter/Chinatown down. We long considered them part of our neighborhood too - even before it got so trendy - since they're even walking distance from much of Capitol Hill.

                              We often use hotels in the area close to the Capitol to give visitors the best of both worlds. One of the reasons I recommended Capitol Hill Suites upthread. All the pleasures of Capitol Hill's walkability, access to tourist sites, and historic character during the day, plus a terrific and easy access to a great choice of restaurants at night. You can get to PennQuarter in 5 minutes.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Look, I'm not ragging on Capitol Hill. If you'll look at what I said earlier I said "I think there are alot of great places to eat in the neighborhood, they're just more spread out." Also why does stating that the highest number and densest concentration of restaurants in an area merit an "Excuse me" from you? Or why does that disqualify a neighborhood from being considered the "best DC neighborhood for food"? I mean just because the reason for a neighborhood being filled with great food isn't residential doesn't mean the restaurants don't exist there anymore....

                                1. re: littlew1ng

                                  Sorry. Didn't mean that as confrontational. If you're speaking of density, Dupont Circle retires that trophy, even if it might not be your personal favorite.

                                  Your choice of PennQuarter/Chinatown is great for restaurants. As good as several in town but look again at what the OP asked for.
                                  He needed a convenient place to stay with his 70-something mother that could give them easy access to great places to eat after days of sightseeing.
                                  Capitol Hill has all the bakeries and small places for breakfast that he was seeking, plus a lot of stuff within walking/short cab distance, and easy Metro/Circulator access to everything including Dupont Circle, PennQuarter and Georgetown.

                                  In short, he wasn't simply looking for a place to eat, although I agree with you that he should look at the many options in PennQuarter. Some of my favorites are there too.

                        2. re: Jacey

                          Jacey - better than it used to be! (ok I'll stop with the boostery Babbitude)

                          while I love the hill, I think a tourist would indeed find it a bit dull after a few hours and would be happier with the abundant and close by options in NW. there are great neighborhood restaurants if one happens to be here, but not destinations in and of themselves really.

                2. As a Hill dweller, I need to point out a few things in its favor. 1) Eastern Market (136-year old continuously operated farmer's market on 7th St. It's huge! In addition to crab cake sandwiches and bluebucks at the Market Lunch, there's also new stands with crepes, pickles and almost anything else you can imagine. 2) The neighborhood pub, Tunnicliff's, serves up remarkably fine fare after a tough day negotiating the monuments. 3) On the same street is Monmartre, which I hear is fabulous, but I don't go to for personal reasons... long story. 4) New restaurants/bars on 8th street are worth exploring and ktmoomau had some good recommendations as well. The Hill is leafy, less congested than Dupont and my Phoenix-based parents love staying here... mostly for the dessert cart at Cafe Berlin near Union Station but they've also branched out to enjoy Turkish food at Cafe 8 on 8th St. You could base yourself on the Hill, then take a cab for a couple nights to some of the trendier restaurants near Metro and Chinatown. If you're near Eastern Market, you'll be on the orange/blue metro line, same as the monuments/mall.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mmmbacon

                    ok I'll bite you've begged 2 questions - 1. for the visitor a farmers market is prob. irrelevant and (as you know) mostly on Saturday 2. boycott Montmartre, are you vegan? if that''s the reason I can understand. otherwise a little education for me is in order.

                    although maybe there's a personal connection and in which case I should just shut my yap.

                  2. Just wanted to thank everyone. We had a wonderful trip. We ended up at the Capital Hill Suites (also checked the Tabard Inn, but they did not have a room available for all the nights of our visit). Mom was trooper, but was generally pretty worn out in the evenings. Fortunately the Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar was just around the corner, we ate there several nights. In addition to the good food and interesting wine by the glass, it was fun to watch (and listen to) the "power brokers". Also just around the corner was the Firehook bakery, which had great coffee. Other eating highlights included a very nice lunch at the Hillwood Museum (wonderful gardens, and a beautiful day made eating outside very nice ... just wish I had worn my pearls). We also had a lunch at the Smithsonian American Indian museum -- definitely a cut above the other places on the mall to eat, but not a destination and a nice dinner at a Turkish restaurant near DuPont Circle (great Baba Ganoush). We spent the last morning at the Eastern Market, and brought home some wonderful apples!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: firecooked

                      Glad you had a nice trip. Capitol Hill was a good choice for you since you can walk to the museums and have a nice neighborhood to come back to in the evening. The metro connections are among the best in the city (with Red, Blue and Orange lines nearby). You get a specifically Washington vibe. It has a good selection of restaurants of differing kinds and very few chains., Hope the apples were good.

                      1. re: ChewFun

                        If they were those Honey Crisp apples that Agora Farms has been selling lately at Eastern Market, they were damned good.
                        They were selling them at the H Street Festival along with that fresh cider that they have every Fall, and they sold every apple they had.
                        Have you had those Honey Crisp apples? Fabulous!

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Re: Honeycrisp apples, I bought some amazing ones Weds. at the Foggy Bottom Farmers Market from Quaker Orchard. They're huge, crisp, and yes, very honey-ish!

                      2. re: firecooked

                        Glad you enjoyed your visit and that you liked Sonoma and the Hillwood Museum cafe (two of my favorites!). One question: what's the name of the Turkish restaurant you had dinner at? Thanks

                        1. re: Gigi007

                          It was in Dupont Circle, so it's got to be Levante. There's also one in Bethesda.

                          1. re: ChewFun

                            Really? I would have never guessed that it was Levante's. Personally, I don't care for the food at Levante's. I was excited thinking that there might be a good Turkish restaurant in Dupont that I didn't know about. Oh well.

                            1. re: ChewFun

                              Yes, it was Levante. I think I liked best was the atmosphere -- nice table on the sidewalk on a gorgeous evening, with all of the diversity of the area on display (including a couple of Turkish guys at the next table over). The baba ganoush was very good, I had the spinach pide which hit the spot for me. Mom had the fish special, which honestly didn't look great on the plate (over cooked asparagus), but she was happy with it.

                              1. re: firecooked

                                I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sitting outside at an outdoor table in that area is pleasent. And I think I've tried Levante's baga ganoush and would agree that it's pretty good. I just haven't had good main dishes there. Overall, I'd say that you hit a lot of good DC restos and had positives experiences. That's always good to know.

                                1. re: Gigi007

                                  How about MOURAYO'S (Greek) in Dupont Circle?
                                  It is delicious, not too spicey, comfortable.