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Need help culling choices for a foodies week in DC


Heading to USA for 4 weeks from Australia

A week each in San Fran and DC, and 2 weeks in NYC

Have done a fair amount of reading and now have the problem of too many choices, which I am looking to the combined wisom of chowhound readers to assist me in culling it down somewhat..

For those of you that want some extra work, have a look at my other posts in San Fran and NY forums to see what is a duplicate of sorts, and which is better in DC :)

San Fran : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/648388
NY : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/648386

Anyway heres my DC list atm.....

Black Salt Fish Market
Granville Moore's Brickyard
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
HH Lenards
Tabard Inn
Cafe Atlantico
Cantlers Riverside Inn
Ben's Chilli Bowl
Eastern market
Central Michel Richard
Tosca Ristorante
Charlie Palmer Steak house
El Pollo Rico
Market Lunch

Have made up a holiday google maps to try and plan a few things



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  1. Big thumbs up to Courduroy and Tosca; I wasn't a fan of Citronelle, I've heard very good things about Marcel's, minibar, and Komi.

    1. I would add Kincade's, 2941, La Chaumiere in Georgetown and, if you're in Annapolis, Hell Point. Also, right down 7th Street from Eastern Market is Montmarte, a very pleasant French bistro.

      Be warned, you won't get the magnificently fresh seafood you're used to in Australia and we don't have Mudcrab but, the seafood's still pretty decent.

      And, if you want a taste of genuine mid-Atlantic hard shell crabs, try Bethesda Crab House. This is not fancy. It's a sleeves up, beer drinking, crab ripping feast. VERY casual and a real treat.

      Don't know if they have Private Message (PM) capability on this site but, if they do, send me your email address and I'll email you a copy of my guide to New York.

      1. Granville Moore's is really good, but in a dodgy neighborhood (hey I lived there for 20 years). Don't walk there at night. Oyamel is great. Try the tacos otherwise it could get pricey and you'll still be hungry. You don't need to have the cricket tacos there if you don't want to. Try something with mole' or pipian sauce. Go to the cafeteria at the American Indian Museum. Eammons is just okay. Alexandria is a nice place, but Eammons is not worth a special trip. If you are in Old Town Alexandria, try Majestic. The Market Lunch is good (closed on Mondays as is the rest of the market). At lunch, try the crab cakes. At breakfast, go for the pancakes. Nearby at Eastern Market, there is a good espresso place, Peregrine. Try crabcakes. Try Ethiopian food. Try Meso-American food, including Salvadoran pupusas, tacos, etc. Brasserie Beck is also a good place to go to and is owned by the owner of Marcel's, who also has a place in Alexandria, called Brabo.

        1. For Komi and MiniBar (start attempting to get a reservation NOW) it will be a matter of what you can get into. Add Ray's Hell Burger to the list and go there along with El Pollo Rico and Cantler's. For Volt it's Table 21 and you should also add Teatro Goldoni's Chef's Table (ONLY the Chef's Table). These last two will equal the best of New York and San Francisco (Per Se/Danko) with Komi only a short step behind. Include Black Salt (or Kinkead's). Also add Vidalia and Baltimore's Charleston. Go to Charleston-it is superb. Bourbon Steak or the Prime Rib instead of Charlie Palmer's.

          Day 1 Central lunch/Komi or MiniBar dinner
          Day 2 El Pollo Rico lunch/Black Salt or Kinkead's dinner
          Day 3 Ray's Hell Burger lunch/Teatro Goldoni Chef's Table dinner/Volt Table 21
          Day 4 Lexington Market (Balt.) or Bill's Terrace Inn for crabs/Charleston dinner (the Inner Harbor is fantastic)
          Day 5 Ben's Chili Bowl/Bourbon Steak (or The Prime Rib)
          Day 6 Proof lunch/Vidalia dinner
          Day 7 Narrows (Kent Island and Maryland's best crab cake and cream of crab soup)lunch/Cantler's Riverside Inn for "dinner" (two + hours of crab eating; especially interesting if you also go to Baltimore's Bill's) with Annapolis for the day.

          To cassidyM: are you serious that you can't get exquisitely fresh seafood here? Crabs are boiled live. Have you tried some of the Korean restaurants? Black Salt? The Maine Avenue wharf? Seafood here is much more than "pretty decent."

          1. You need to eat at Palena in Cleveland Park. Chef Frank Ruta is one of the best.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chadponie

              Having not lived in DC for a few years, my first tier restaurants would have been:
              Palena, Obelisk, Taberna Del Alabardero, Dino (super casual - awesome food and wine list)

            2. I like El Pollo Rico, ALOT, but I don't think its worth your time to hike out to Wheaton for it. I would recommend you add Ray's Hell Burger (worth the trip into VA) and an Ethiopian joint to your list. I personally think Oya is highly over-rated outside of happy hour.

              1 Reply
              1. re: HilkaryIC

                The original El Pollo Rico is in Clarendon, three miles or south from downtown.

              2. Marcel's - good restaurant but it's not something you can't get in NYC or SF
                Oya - never been because it looks like an average fusion restaurant
                Corduroy - very good and not too expensive - check their online menu as it changes
                Black Salt Fish Market - I didn't much care for it but others like it; however, this place doesn't come close to Le Bernadin, which should be if it's not on your list in NYC
                Granville Moore's Brickyard - never been, heard good things about their mussels (but good mussels can be had in plenty of bistros here, SF and NYC)
                Oyamel Cocina Mexicana - I think their tacos are worse than those that can be found in a hole in the wall here, SF and NYC - again, better off in SF or NYC
                Cafe Atlantico - latino dim sum?
                Eamonns - really good fish & chips
                Central Michel Richard - some overlap with Citronelle
                Tosca Ristorante - rather do Teatro Goldoni's chef's table
                Citonelle - must try
                Charlie Palmer Steak house - I prefer Bourbon Steak
                El Pollo Rico - you might ask around to see which branch is the best, or maybe another restaurant, I've not done my own taste test
                Minibar - must try
                Volt - must try
                Komi - must try
                Proof - haven't been because I don't find their menu very exciting

                Gaston Acurio opened a branch of La Mar recently in SF. I've never been to that one but his restaurant in Lima is fantastic, if you like Peruvian food, i.e., cebiche and anticuchos.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                  I think Granville Mooore's mussels & frites are AWESOME and it is in a unique, authentic setting. I like Proof, Black Salt, Central a lot- very good food and atmosphere. Cafe Atlantico is pretty good, but in my opinion not as good as the previous ones I listed. Komi is incredible! I have not been to the others. Have fun!

                2. What part of Australia are you from? That may make me change my mind on what you should get.

                  In any event here is what I would toss:
                  Oya, Eammons (you can get good fish and chips in Australia), Granville Moore's (their best food is mussels and you can get something similar or better in most metropolitan areas in Australia, but if you are feeling like the bars are too fancy this one won't be), Charlie Palmer Steak (it's good, but you can get similar menus all over Sydney- if you are craving steak go to Ray's instead it has more of a downhome, rebellious feel something I think you will appreciate), Corduroy (again you can get very similar menus in Melbourne or Sydney at a handful of places). And while I love Tosca both Melbourne and Sydney have some very nice high end Italian.


                  Cantler's is someplace I think you would really like- casual, fun, and great atmosphere and the crabs are very different. Have someone show you how to do it so you don't have to destroy them with a mallet. Although this is a ways from DC so you might not get there.

                  El Pollo Rico- no ambiance, but great chicken. Not something I saw any of in Australia while we there.

                  Central is a great example of American food at it's best. Some people think it is French, but it really isn't. It is great, but very American Bistro. Not the type of food I saw in Australia.

                  Marcel's is rich and delicious, Citronelle is as well- but very creative so you might enjoy it a bit more.

                  If you can get into Minibar it is really neat and very very different. A worthwhile eat- it is one of my top food experiences.

                  Ben's Chili Bowl- this is like the meat pie of DC. So don't expect it to be relevatory, but it's fun.

                  If you are from Melbourne, you will laugh at the Eastern Market- the Queen Victoria Market is sooo much nicer. But the crabcake sandwich or blueberry buckwheat pancakes at the Market Lunch are good. And it is close to the Capitol so it is a nice walk (probably 1/2 mile but nice sidewalks).

                  Volt is a long way away... good, but a long way away considering the number of nice places to go in DC. I don't know that I would take the time to drive up there. Maryland is very pretty, but the roads you would normally take to get up there just cut through suburbia and office parks so not a lovely drive.

                  Tabard Inn- good for a nice generous brunch.

                  Proof- I think this one should be a keep, their focus is less on fish than Corduroy and I really enjoy the vibe.

                  Oyamel- might be fun as it will be very different food- also it is near the museums so would be a good lunch spot.

                  So that is my two cents.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    I'm currently living in Sydney, but have also lived in Melbounre

                    Is catching a Cab to VOlt Practical?

                    We can drive although given that we will be having wine and not used to driving on the RHS of the road - would prefer not to have to (plus the chance of getting lost :P )

                    Currently thiking of trying to get reservations for Minibar (yes sounds like it will be a struggle) and Komi, alhtough got to wait for a month out for Minibar and Komi is apprarently closed for another week or so.


                    1. re: Blacken

                      Volt is about a hour away from DC not in rush hour traffic which would push the time up to probably two hour as the 1-270 corridor is probably the worst rush hour in the city. So that would be a very expensive cab.

                      Def try for Minibar and Komi they sometimes have cancellations to so you never know.

                      1. re: Blacken

                        A cab from DC to Frederick wouldn't be practical, but I believe that MARC trains go out to Frederick, and from there it wouldn't be a long (or expensive) cab ride. You would have to check the schedule for MARC (Maryland commuter trains). MARC trains from DC to Frederick run Monday through Friday only. See:

                        Another possibility would be to take the DC metro (subway) to Gaithersburg and then look into a bus or possibly a cab although a cab would likely be expensive. Depending on the available transportation options and the cost factor, you may be better off having lunch at Volt rather than dinner.

                        Definitely try to make it to Minibar if you can as well. Cheers.

                        P.S. Check out the amazing reviews for Volt on this board. I just added one yesterday.

                        1. re: Blacken

                          This is what I'm doing next month: the night before my flight out of DC, I rent a car 1-way downtown and go to VOLT for dinner, then stay a night near the airport. Next day, return the rental car and hop on my flight.

                          Roundtrip cab fare would be $$$ and MARC train would be hard to schedule to time the finish of your dinner. Opentable.com does not reserve Table 21 @ Volt - you'll need to call and book soon if that's what you're looking for, and it's only for dinner.

                          Another rec for DC: I really enjoyed Zaytinya last year and went twice in one trip. It's also by chef Andres. Jaleo was a big disappointment.

                          1. re: sjeats

                            From what I gathered, the OP is trying to avoid driving as he wants to drink and is concerned about not being familiar with the roads here. I also don't quite follow your logistics. Regarding the MARC train option, as I mentioned, it would probably work for lunch, but not for dinner. And unless I missed something, I didn't notice that the OP absolutely wanted to go to Table 21 at Volt. He would be fine eating in either the main dining room or going with the Chef's tasting menu. Of course, it's a good idea to reserve and except for Table 21, you can do that online through Open Table.

                            1. re: Gigi007

                              Well, if drinking is an issue then certainly cab it. OP wasn't clear and I'd just assumed that if he was interested in minibar he would be interested in Table 21, especially as a visitor I wouldn't spend so much time just to go to Volt for lunch an hour outside of DC when there's plenty of great places in DC. So if OP was going for dinner, then MARC train wouldn't be running after certain hours, right?

                              I'm renting a car 1-way from downtown DC and driving up to MD the day before my flight, so I can have dinner at Volt, then driving to the hotel near the airport for the night and return the car at the airport the next day. With this option it's only $26 for the car. Maybe OP can stay near Volt for the night if drinking much, and then drive to the airport the next day sober.

                              1. re: sjeats

                                In about 5 posts above yours, the OP wrote, "We can drive although given that we will be having wine and not used to driving on the RHS of the road - would prefer not to have to (plus the chance of getting lost :P )"

                                I suggested lunch given the transportation restrictions if the OP chooses to take the train (although that is only one option and suggestion). I had an excellent lunch in Volt's main dining room as have many other CHs and friends, so I definitely recommend it. And while Table 21 would be a great experience, I know a lot of other people who have enjoyed Volt's Chef's Tasting menu, express lunch in the bar, and regular dinner menu in the main dining room. In any case, if the OP gets a reservation at Minibar, I'd say that he'd have his fill of multi-course meals. If he has the time, based on my recent experience and the other reviews I've read here and elsewhere, I think a meal at Volt (be it lunch or dinner) would be worth it since it's quite unique.

                                Thanks for the clarification re: logistics. Your first post didn't make sense to me before given the OP's circumstances. But it sounds like you've got a good plan. Hope you enjoy Volt!

                          2. re: Blacken

                            Yeah the RHS thing can be a challenge. Although we just rented a car in Melbourne and only had one moment where I had to tell Hubby not to pull into that lane and I didn't think it was for turning right, I thought it was for people coming they other direction. But, I wouldn't drive as the roads are ridiculously busy and people drive very fast and aggressively on that road. DC isn't a fun place to drive, even for Americans. The Marc train does run out there from Union Station. If you want to go it would be your best bet, the metro plus cab ride would be still prohibitively expensive, Frederick is a cute small town.

                            I think you could have just as cool as an experience at Citronelle, Komi or the chef's table tasting at Teatro Goldini.

                            The Prime Rib reminds me a bit of the Meat Co. in Darlington Harbor (fyi jacket required)- if you want steak definitely go to Rays- it is in Arlington, but very metro accessible or an easy cab from the city. Although people say the Prime Rib does have good crabcakes, which is something you should try somewhere, but you could grab this for lunch at the Eastern Market.

                            The Eastern Market is about 1/8 to 1/10 of the Queen Victoria Market fyi, still fun, but just not what other people around the world would consider a great market.

                            So El Pollo Rico reminds me of the kind of place you would find on Brunswick Street in terms of food, cheap but great and very flavorful. Lacking that ambiance of that area, but a few blocks east is Clarendon if you go to the Arlington location which is pretty fun- has some nice bars, etc.

                            If you go to Marcel's- get the boudin blanc.

                            Also Annapolis is very hard to get to in terms of public transportation- the metro will take you to about 20 miles from downtown Annapolis, so probably about 35 miles to Cantler's. And Cantler's isn't exactly easy to find. You could rent a zipcar for the day, but I don't know if they have GPS, if not get a good map. There are places to pick crab in the DC area, but none hold a candle to Cantler's. So while it is something I really think you should do, it might be a challenge, as the buses in that part of the area are notoriously slow. Driving there wouldn't be quite as bad as driving to Frederick, but still not a ton of fun.

                            1. re: Blacken

                              Blacken, if you're going to spend US $400 for dinner at Table 21 another $200 total for cabfare from D. C. to Frederick and back is realistic. It's about 40 or so miles to Frederick from downtown D. C. I am certainly you can get a cab to give you a flat rate for the trip, US $100 each way. Renting a car would cost you $100 or so from, say, Hertz so I don't think this is unrealistic. But, it is ONLY Table 21 that would justify the trip. Volt is an outstanding restaurant but it is the Table 21 experience that is over the top.

                              Also, don't discount Enzo's Chef's Table at Teatro Goldoni. For myself what puts Table 21 a shade above is dining in the middle of the kitchen. The quality of what you are served is similar at both as well as the lengths of the meals.


                              For myself I believe the current best D. C. area dining experiences are, in order:

                              Volt's Table 21
                              Enzo's Chef's Table at Teatro Goldoni

                              All of these by the way are $125 prix fixe. Volt has the most reasonable wine list with Komi second while D. C. sales tax is 9.5% and Maryland is 5%. Komi will be a traditional dinner, i.e. you will be sitting in a dining room. At all three of the others you will be either in or adjacent to a kitchen or at a counter.

                              After your trip I would be very interested in your thoughts for how any of these (especially the first two) compare to Per Se, Daniel, Le Bernardin (best seafood restaurant in the U. S.) Danko or the French Laundry.
                              Best of luck.

                          3. Love Komi. The best way to eat there is to surrender all control and order the Tasting Menu. There is no list of courses on the menu. You'll only know what you're about to eat when the food arrives at the table and the server identifies it. For that reason, my husband and I had to carefully choose our dinner companions the night we dined at Komi. Our most frequent dinner companions would have hated most of the courses.

                            I'm a very big fan of Oyamel because it offers regional Mexican food rather than Tex-Mex cuisine. The ceviche, mole, and interesting vegetable/salad small plates are unlike anything you'll find in a Tex-Mex restaurant. I don't care if the tacos found at dozens of hole-in-the-wall places are better; I eat at Oyamel for its many strengths.

                            I think you should definitely visit a quintessential power broker restaurant in Washington like The Prime Rib. The food isn't cutting edge, but the quality and execution is wonderful.

                            1. I would take Volt off the list for logistical reasons. Cantler's too maybe, but that is a local experience, so if it's not a logistical nightmare you might consider it.

                              I didn't see Cityzen on your list. It might not be as good as Komi, but I liked it a lot (consider the bar there as an option too).

                              1. For the reasons already mentioned by others I'd take Volt off the list. It is a long way from DC.

                                Places I'd definitely recommend for dinner include Komi (but as mentioned, start trying for a reservation now, if books up early) BTW, they will not take reservations for a party of more than 4.

                                Palena is one of the best meals in town. Frank Ruta is on the top of his game and I've never had a meal there I didn't love.

                                If you really like Italian wine, Dino is a must. Huge list, (he sells more Italian wine than any other restaurant in the US) and probably the best wine prices in town. Dean is the guy with the beard and a Hawaiian shirt. He loves to talk wine and opera with folks and will be glad to make recommendations.

                                I like Citronelle, the food is very good, inventive, and sometimes whimsical, but the dining room is getting a little dated and could use a facelift. Excellent wine list, but not nearly the deal that Dino's is. Central is their less formal bistro and is excellent.

                                I would definitely try one of the better Ethiopian restaurants. DC has a huge Ethiopian community and it shows. My recommendation would be Etete.

                                Ben's Chili Bowl is a local institution, but the only reason to go is to get a half-smoke and to see the local political crowd that hangs out there. However, since half-smokes are unique to DC, it wouldn't hurt to go for lunch but don't expect anything fancy.

                                Kinkead's is not what it used to be, but if you do go, stick to the simple grilled stuff, they do that very well.

                                I like Corduroy, the scallops are wonderful and it is a very nice space. Menu changes often but again, I've never had a bad meal there.

                                Minibar takes reservations only 30 days in advance (not 29, not 31) and since it is only 12 seats, it sells out very fast.

                                Marcel's is French/Belgian, very old school in terms of ambiance and service, and the food is excellent. A less expensive option would be to try Brasserie Beck (owned by the chef /owner of Marcel's) and an excellent selection of Belgian beer.

                                Teatro Goldoni Chef's Table is fantastic. Tosca is also good for Italian upscale food.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: dinwiddie

                                  MARC doesn't run on weekends, fyi.

                                  1. re: jhouster

                                    And even when it runs, it runs into DC in the morning and out of DC in the evening. So, you would have to spend the night. For getting around without a car, something very common here, your best bets are going to Arlington, Bethesda, and DC. Alexandria is not so far away either. Beyond that, you will be spending a lot of time on the Metro.

                                2. Blacken, let us know where you end up going. After reading all of these opinions and suggestions, you certainly have a lot of food for thought! :)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Gigi007

                                    I must also add that Table 21 at Volt is no longer the "easy" reservation it recently was. It is now known. Between the television show and comments on boards like this it now requires a lot of advance notice. We are returning in mid October with another couple and found our first choice not available. They also now have two seatings on weeknights where before it was only on Friday and Saturday.

                                    1. re: Joe H

                                      Good to know, Joe H. No doubt, Table 21 is an amazing experience, but it certainly isn't the only reason to dine at Volt. Based on the excellent lunch I had at Volt during RW, I plan to return to Volt's main dining room for brunch or dinner. I also understand there's a Chef's Tasting menu served in the dining room shared with the kitchen. The OP will have to plan and also prioritize his restaurant choices. Hopfully, the opinions and suggestions here will be helpful to him.

                                  2. Restaurant Eve is great too.... def at minimum lunch. One of the best deals in town.