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Aug 28, 2009 09:59 AM

Small Group Dinner With a Visitor to the Mall/Museums

Thought I posted this before, but it didn't seem to stick.

Friend coming to town to do a little work and will be spending a day on the Mall visiting museums. I'm looking for suggestions for a small dinner gathering of probably 4 to 8 people. Some will be coming from work and I figure he'll be pooped after a day of museum visiting, so although he'll almost certainly be on Metro, he probably won't be up for an excursion to Arlington or U Street.

I was thinking about someplace in Penn Quarter or Chinatown, preferably where a group of (presently) undetermined size can walk in without a reservation in the 6-6:30 range and get a table. We'd like to talk geeky stuff and we're all audio engineers so it shouldn't be a very noisy place, and not overrun with the after-work bar crowd (or at least have a dining area far enough away so that we don't get their noise). Chinese is OK, probably Indian or Burmese is a bit too far toward the ethnic. Plain ol' 'murcan food is OK, too. It should be under $30 per person with tax and tip and maybe an outrageously priced iced tea, excluding wine or cocktails.

I know a lot of names in that area from reading here, but I rarely eat in the area other than Nando's Peri-Peri (not suitable for a group) or RFD (too noisy). Would Matchbox work? Any other suggestions? He's staying with a cousin in Silver Spring, so a suggestion there wouldn't be out of the question, but it might be inconvenient for the few who are already downtown at work.

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  1. What day of the week? I think Matchbox is a bad idea for you, it's always been really really loud and crowded when I've been there. Full Kee probably fits your needs well.

    1. Matchbox is normally pretty noisy and crowded, although once you get seated it isn't as bad. Really depends on the night how crowded it is too. They don't rush you though which is nice.

      What about Oya- they have three courses for $30 and if you didn't do three courses it might be less depending on what is ordered? It isn't insanely loud and I think you could walk in.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ktmoomau

        I second Oya, the three course meal is a great deal (and I love the salmon course that's offered as an entree option). The fun cocktails can push your tab up though, so just be on the look out for that. If you go early (closer to 6 than 7) you should be ok as a walk in, especially on a weeknight. But if not, the Oya area is still a good choice, because if they're too crowded I'd just head about a half block to Zaytina. Good food as well (although I much prefer Oya, it's one of my favorites in the city), and a nice assortment of prices so shouldn't be a problem designing a meal around $30.

        1. re: mjhals

          I like Zaytinya, and I've never been to Oya, but I've found Zaytinya can be loud inside and there can be a long wait, although not necessarily if you get there early enough or/and on a weeknight.

          1. re: mselectra

            You're right, it's definitely louder than Oya. I wonder if there are non-noisy sections?

      2. I find Teaism to be deserted in the evenings hours. Food is Japanese fusion. Otherwise, most Penn Quarter stuff is crowded and noisy.

        1. Full Kee for Hong Kong style. I know there's a branch at Bailey's Crossroads, but the food is quite a bit better in Chinatown. I recommend the duck stuffed with shrimp paste, the oyster and ginger casserole, shrimp dumpling soup, and the chive flowers.

          Matchbox is exactly the type of place you're trying to avoid.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I'm getting the sense that maybe looking for a restaurant in that area, at that time of the day, might not be a good idea. Oya might be OK if this was more a Foodie group than an Ampex group, and the $30 deal is pushing the budget (sound engineers don't make much money). This group has done Tony Cheng's (upstairs) before and that's worked out OK. Probably not as impressive food as Full Kee but they have some large tables in case the group grows.

            Maybe I'll suggest someplace near a Metro stop in Arlington, where I'm more familiar with the territory. They'd probably like Ray's, but I'm afraid that without a reservation it'd probably be full up. How well does the call-ahead work? If we called at 5:30 with a head count, would we have a decent chance of being seated by 6:30?

            1. re: MikeR

              For Ray's it'll definitely depend on the night. I did about what you suggested last night (Fri), called at 4 for reservations that night (4 people), and they only had openings at 5 or 9:30. Same was true when I asked about Sat. night. But if it's any time Mon thru Thurs, you might have better luck AND that's when they have their $25 price fixe option.

              I'd suggest the same thing I did for Oya. Try a call ahead for Rays and if you can't make it, head up to Minh's (Vietnamese on Wilson, only about 2 blocks up from Rays).

              1. re: MikeR

                Full Kee has large round tables -- and American Chinese, too; it doesn't really seem that exotic, if you're worried about that.

                You know, there's an Austin Grill in Penn Quarter -- definitely not foodie, but it might work for you and there are also outdoor tables there. It's a convenient location.

            2. Well, we decided on Boulevard Woodgrill. Clarendon has the advantages of parking, good Metro access, and plenty of options for good food. We decided that our friend visiting the museums could take the Metro like everyone else coming from downtown. I didn't know that Woodgrill had a private room, which they said it wasn't presently booked the night we're coming in and that we could have if the party grows a bit (which it seems to be doing).

              Thanks for the in-town suggestins, though. Now I know a little more about what's available in that area.