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Oct 15, 2009 06:32 PM

An LA Chowhounder's Trip to D.C.

So, I was very excited to travel to Washington, D.C. for the first time. We stayed a block away from the White House. We were there for 6 days and ate at several places. I'm going to (try to) be brief. I posted a month or so ago and asked what quintessential D.C. fare there was to be had... and, the answer I received was, there really wasn't anything that D.C. was known for specifically. Well, I have an answer.... it has to be grease. While not everywhere I ate at was greasy, it was shocking how much grease there is to be had in the Nation's Capitol. My wife and I ate at several different price points... and walked out of one place.

In no particular order...

1. Bobby Van's - We went there with my only friend on capitol hill the first night we arrived, since we arrived late and missed our reservation at Oyamel. My friend suggested Bobby Van's because it was in close proximity to the hotel I was at and because it was a well regarded steakhouse. We were sat down without reservations after about 5 minutes at around 7:30pm on a Thursday, which was nice given how busy the place appeared. We ordered water and drinks. My drink never arrived until I told the waiter after he checked in on us after someone else delivered the entrees. Anyhow, I'm happy with water and I was thirsty, so I didn't mind. I ordered the french onion soup... and, I have to say, it was a mediocre at best rendition. There was an off flavor to it and it was saltier than I'm used to. Not impressed. My friend ordered the salad. Looked good but not worth the price. My wife skipped out on the starter and stuck with the main. My friend ordered crab cakes, which were about the size of a hockey puck and looked good. He enjoyed them. I ordered the filet mignon medium rare, and it came out medium on the inside and very charred on the outside. The flavor was beefy. The portion was large but overall a disappointment compared to some of the great steakhouses I've been to in my life. I ordered a side of sauteed spinach and, at the recommendation of the waiter, the hashbrowns. The spinach was served in a puddle of water, which required some drainage. Fortunately, it tasted good. The hashbrowns on the other hand... don't bother ordering them. They're greasy in an unpleasant way. Not worth it. My wife's halibut was slightly overcooked but my wife didn't mind. The service was not up to the level that I would expect from a higher end steakhouse.

2. Cosi - This is obviously a chain but we've never seen it before. We had lunch and breakfast there. The location we went to had a horrible workflow to order the food and the people behind the counter seemed confused. LUNCH- They screwed up the greek salad that my wife ordered, and the greek salad that I ordered. They fixed it immediately. The sandwiches were small but it tasted fine. The salad was also fine too. Nothing mind blowing. BREAKFAST - The coffee was undrinkable. They ran out of the majority of the flavors of what they call bagels (sorry, bagels are not square and shouldn't look like they're pressed out of a stamp machine) by 9am. My wife said they screwed up her bagel sandwich order. I decided not to eat there.

3. Corner Bakery Cafe - Well, it's a chain as well, and for a quick breakfast, it's decent.

4. Etete Ethiopian Cuisine - After a long, long walk, we made it there. I decide don this place after reading a lot of reviews. This was my first time eating Ethiopian cuisine. We ate upstairs. The service was spotty, particularly on the drink refills, when we wanted to order, when we asked for our check, when we put our credit card to be picked up, and, we got very little explanation or recommendations. Our server looked like she was 15 years old.. I wanted to go spicy but my wife and her friend can't handle spice. We ordered the Tikul (ground beef sauteed in butter... and, it was a bit dry and buttery... nothing wow), Yefem tibs (sliced seasoned steak... one highlight of the meal), Yebeg Alicha (a lamb dish), and a veggie combo dish. I actually don't think we got the lamb dish and they gave us 2 of the Tikul instead. However, I can't honestly tell you since the waitress looked at me like she didn't understand english when I asked her what everything was on the communal platter. The injera was bland with the texture of a pancake. I think it went well with the food. I love meat but I have to say the collard greens were the best thing I ate at that restaurant.

5. Coco Sala - After eating at Etete, we wanted to have some desserts. The restaurant is decorated in a dimly lit and somewhat stylish atmosphere. The patrons either looked to be couples on dates or groups of women in for their chocolate fix. My wife and I ordered two of the four chocolate 3 course menus (the xocolatyl/aztec/spicy chocolate experience and the grownup/american experience.) I enjoyed nearly everything I ate. The aztec experience started with churros and a dulce de leche dip. Delish. Everything on the main course menu tasted good but I have to say the chipotle truffle was disappointing in the sense that it was bland. The final aztec course had a very tasty chocolate horchata drink. The mexican wedding cookie was a decent rendition but not my favorite cookie in general. The american grownup experience was also tasty but didn't blow my mind away. The amuse was a tiny but tasty boston cream pie (the filling wasn't exactly the consistency that I'm used to, which was fine, because it was lighter) and a small but tasty coffee panna cotta. The highlight of the main course was peanut butter chocolate dessert. I don't think it was ice cream but it had a light peanut butter (not overly sweet) flavor with a chocolate on top. I'm not a fan of malted candy, so the shooter was the only item left on all the plates. The final petit fours course of a the minty cup and the popped rocked strawberry cheesecake lollipop were also just ok. I was expecting more of a mint burst. The best part about the lollipop were the pop rocks lightly crusting the outside. My wife's friend who accompanied us and is not adventurous, elected for the chocolate tasting menu. They had chocolates in firm (think lindt candy bar square), semisoft (think more of a truffle texture), and liquid (think chocolate milk) from a white "chocolate" to a 70+% coco bean chocolate. I had a taste just 2 of the firm chocolate (the closest to milk chocolate and the darkest chocolate). I'm not a huge fan of very dark chocolate, but it tasted good. It tasted a bit like a a regular dark chocolate covered espresso bean.

6. Ben's Chili Bowl - Okay, so we know it's an institution and has historical significance. One of the owners also just passed away the day before we went. We got off of the metro, walked upstairs, found it right away. There was a long line. . We stood in line for about 10 minutes, barely moving and in a barely ventillated or air conditioned restaurant.. We saw dish after dish pass us by. The chili looked okay, but the velvetta cheese liquid they had on the fries, looked unappetizing. On top of it, we were,putt off by the smell of grease. I honestly think I needed some acne medicine and a cholesterol lowering medication just from standing there. We walked out without eating anything. I'm sure the chili is tasty but the grease factor was just too big a turn off.

7. Matchbox Pizza - We went to their Chinatown location. The Chinatown area itself is hilarious, since it's not really a china town... looks more like a disney set with non-chinese restaurants with chinese characters as decorations. I'm guessing historically, chinese people probably were there but they look like they haven't been there in a long while. Anyhow, to the food... the pizza, albeit a tad greasy, was delicious. We ordered a half veg, half pepperoni pizza and 2 salads. My wife ordered the simple salad, which was good. I had the chopped salad, which was also good. The pizza was thin crusted with a nice char on the crust. The toppings were generous and tasty. I enjoyed everything I ate and based upon reading the menu, I probably would have been happy eating there every day.

8. Potbelly Sandwich Shop - Okay, another Subway like chain we don't have in LA. Scratch that, it's basically a Quizno's under a different name. I had the works and it tasted fine. My wife ordered the turkey, which was also okay. I think I liked it better than Quizno's but not as much as Subway (only because subway offers more veggie toppings). We also had their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which were pretty good.

9. Capitol City Brewing Company - You can really skip eating here. I would say, unless you're there to get drinks and happy hour specials, the menu is a total snooze fest and the food is mediocre. (My wife's friend with the bland palate suggested this place because she didn't know where else to go.) The service was a notch below the food quality. The bbq chicken salad was just average, to slightly below average compared to what I've had in the past. The burgers looked okay but nothing special. The sweet potato fries were initially served to use undercooked. I sent them back. They came back on the burnt side. I don't think they know what temp or time to fry them at.

When I go back to DC, I only plan on returning to Matchbox pizza. I would go back to CoCo Sala if their menu changes (just to try the new items). If you've never had etiopian, Etete wouldn't be a bad place to try (not that I'm an expert in this cuisine). I would however, ask them if you can get an additional side of just the collard greens. Yum.

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  1. Search Ben's Chili Bowl on this board along with the poster "Steve" and you'll understand that it is INDEED an institution. Take a picture there for posterity and go elsewhere. Generally Oohs and Aahs, but otherwise any number of places in the hood (or just head to DuPont, Adams Morgan, etc).

    Sorry you missed out on that advice (and other similar posts, incl Cap Hll). It's given very often here. Sorry you had such a string of misses. 6 days in that area would be awesome in any budget, and it's really a shame at least one meal wasn't Johnny's, or Central, or that you didn't hit Tune Inn for drinks.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S

      Hey Dennis... yeah, I was already packed and on my way when that post came up. I actually read about 10 pages of posting prior to posting up an "hey, I'm coming, any ideas?" type posting. I got some feedback but the boards in DC seem a lot quieter than what I'm used to in the LA boards. I'll add Oohs and Aahs and Central on my next trip. What's Johnny's all about?

      1. re: DrBruin

        Johnny's Half Shell. It's a mid-upscale place that used to be at DuPont but moved to a larger place near Cap Hill. Husband and wife team that used to run another place that's still going in Adam's Morgan. Seafood based, but with other offerings. Nearly a can't-go-wrong type of place.

        On the traffic, I expect it was a hit-or-miss affair. Sometimes those "coming into town" posts flood in, and there has been a bit higher than average traffic along those lines the past couple of months, so yours might have somehow slipped through, which is too bad.

        Hope we can help make the next trip much better!

    2. I think it's difficult to come to any firm conclusions of the DC dining scene based on your post.

      Bobby Van's: This almost never gets recommended on Chowhound. If you did a search, you'd have known. A transplanted NY steak house, so blame New York.

      Cosi, chain.

      Corner Bakery, chain.

      Etete. Your first real Chowhound find. But your first experience ever with Ethiopian food (maybe not your cuppa?) and you felt you needed to order cautiously.

      Coco Sala. This places has some great small plates. Great sliders, salads. You stuck to dessert and by your own admission you don't like dark chocolates or malt.

      Ben's: I specifically said no to this place in this post you participated in:
      In the post, I suggested soul food, crabs, and two Jose Andres restaurants. Sorry you missed them but don't say you had no clue. Searching Chowhound is not a bad idea either.

      Matchbox: this place does get recommended from time to time (not by me), but does anyone really think it's great food?

      Potbelly: chain

      Capitol City Brewing Co. A corporate casual place that has Champp's written all over it.
      Definitely not a Chowhound rec.

      The problem with your OP in August was that
      1) Many DC folks (including Chowhound regulars) are on vacation at this time, so you didn't get many responses.
      2) For some reason, you limited yourself to near the metro. What's wrong with catching a cab?

      As for foods unique to DC, in the thread linked above, I specifically mention soul food, crabs, two Jose Andres restaurants (Jaleo and Zaytinya) plus the crabcake at Oohhs and Aahhs.

      DC is far from perfect. I think you can order wrong even at the best of places.
      Still, a weird bunch of places to base any kind of opinion on.

      17 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        I agree. I had to find the OP:

        Not many responses but the ones offered were well thought out and good recommendations. It's unfair to judge a city by the chains tried. I like Etete and you can find recommended many dishes here. I think Ben's chili bowl is worth trying out, once, just because it is an institution but I thought it was overpriced and salty/greasy. I didn't like the half smokes, hot dogs or anything else we tried there.

        The best of DC food is not greasy but, yes, there are places that are, as with any city. Searching CH and going by what others have recommended is better than sticking with chains and places that have not been written about favorably. The first time I mentioned Capitol CIty Brewing Company here (I haven't been), it was immediately panned by many.

        1. re: chowser

          There was another related thread started around that time. Please DrBruin - next time in go to Ray's.

          Then go to In-n-Out and give them a tissue.

          1. re: Dennis S

            That's the thread that Steve referenced but most of the restaurants tried by the OP weren't recommended on either thread. I agree, try Ray's. There's just no comparison between In-n-Out, Five Guys and Rays. You can debate the difference between the two fast food places but not Rays.

        2. re: Steve

          I think Matchbox is great food...Maybe not gourmet, but so tasty...

          1. re: Steve

            Hey Steve,

            Nobody likes being insulted for starters...which is how your response felt. I feel like I'm on trial for sharing my experience. know. My overall impression was grease. From the live of Five Guys (greasy) to the greasy dish at Bobby Vans to Ben's... it just seemed like more grease than my body is used to. I am more of an adventurous eater but my wife is not and I enjoy her company so my dining options become limited when I'm with her.

            I did forget to mention one place that looked packed that my wife and I ate at. Loeb's NY Deli. This place was gross... from the ultra greasy breakfast, to the cheap, outdated decor, and the grumpy white lady yelling at her staff behind the front counter. While I didn't try their pastrami or corned beef, I doubt it was going to come close to a Langers (LA Institution) or Katz's (NY institution). I would recommend people go elsewhere if possible..

            - I don't live in DC, so how am I supposed to know everyone is on vacation? Was that part of the posting guide for DC? "Don't post during this month!" I must've missed it.
            - In that post you linked to, I was merely commenting on the burger part and didn't really commit to memory all the other posts prior to my posting.. While you were not thrilled with Ben's, it does seem to make it on a lot of tv shows and guidebooks. I don't know why after visiting there. Given the historical nature of the place, I thought my wife and I would check it out. I'm happy we didn't eat there. Frankly, after standing in the restaurant for 3 minutes, I wanted to leave the area... and missed out on the "oohs and aahs" place because we wanted to hop back on the metro.
            - I never insinuated that Capitol City was a chowhound rec. My wife's friend who lives there was at a loss on where to go and we were hungry and cold, so we went there. This is her friend with the limited dietary repertoir of chocolate and burgers. On the LA boards, you're "allowed" to comment on all sorts of restaurants...and, just in case someone wanted some info on the place, it's nice to be able to read people's opinions. I agree, this is not a place to go unless you're going there for drinks and cheap happy hour eats.
            - I was aware that Coco Sala does serve regular food but when a place is "all about chocolates" it screamed "come here for dessert." Most of the time I have been to dessert places that have a regular menu, the regular menu is not worth it. It's good to know that the regular food is good. I'm not a huge ultra dark (70+% coco) chocolate fan but I enjoyed the sample that I tried and most of the chocolate in the dishes was tasty. I'm not a malt ball fan, so I'm okay with this being the one of very few components of essentially 2 three course desserts and a 5 course chocolate tasting that I didn't like.
            - I acknowledged the chains. DC has a ton. LA has a ton. In our rush between museums, we tried the chains we don't have in LA. I wanted to share my experiences. Gimme a break.
            - Bobby Vans was chosen by my friend because we missed our original Oyamel reservation not because I was so very excited to eat there.
            - Etete: Well, frankly, I would've ordered everything on the menu that was on the spicier side (except maybe the tripe dishes), but I was with 2 people who aren't into spice or more adventurous choices,so ya do what you can. I enjoyed the experience, particularly the collard greens, which is a must try.
            - Yes, I was particular about staying near public transportation because I have never been to DC and don't know the city well enough to know when I'm in a place that I'm not supposed to be in after dark and whether you can get cabs in certain areas. In case you aren't aware, DC's safety rep in some areas rivals that of Compton out here in Los Angeles. Now that I've been to DC, I see just how many cabs there are and would go out to further areas....
            - We even almost went to Georgia Browns over Bobby Vans but my wife isn't much into Southern style foods. I also entertained going there for their brunch but the huge protest march that was occurring right outside the restaurant made going back into that area less appealing.
            - Re: Matchbox - A bunch of the guests at the wedding that I attended who were GW and Georgetown grads all got excited over Matchbox. So, I guess people do enjoy the food. I thought it was tasty enough to want to go back. Is it the best pizza I've ever had? No... you have to go to NYC for that.
            - After dropping a chunk o' money at the steakhouse, my wife didn't want to go to a Jose Andres restaurant. Personally, I wanted to go to Minibar but was discouraged about the reservation situation, so I didn't try. We have one of his restaurants out here called Bazaar which is on my "to dine at" list.

            I'm sure there are a handful of really tasty restaurants in DC, as there are in most every major city, but I went to DC to look at museums and to go to a wedding, not to spend every waking moment searching for hole-in-the-wall restaurants. The nice thing is, now that there is a more lively response, I know when I have to go back to DC this June, I'll have more places to try.. which is comforting.

            To the other postings (Joe H), I read about 2 months of postings, jotted down the names of restaurants that seemed to come up again and again. I decided to put up my own post and was disappointed by the response. Do I know who the "superposters" are in the DC forum? No, I didn't. I follow the LA boards much closer. (FYI, if you come to LA, read postings by exilekiss, das ubergeek to name two).

            Anyhow, I enjoyed my trip to DC... thank you all for your 2 cents. :)

            1. re: DrBruin

              P.S. - If I post in May before I head out to DC again, is this another bad month to post? Or, are the washingtonian ch'ers fulled thawed out by then from the winter? ha. jk

              1. re: DrBruin

                May is actually a good time to ask for advice, by August I think people are a little tired of all the coming for weekend or extended weekend near mall and white house threads and expect people to some on their own looking at recent threads from the past couple months all wanting the same things. I try not get tired of it and be helpful but sometimes there are threads with good advice on the exact same page and so I don't feel the need to post the same recs over and over again.

                Sorry you had a not so stellar experience. I don't think a lot of us locals go to many of the places you posted about (except Matchbox which I like for pizza and miniburgers) and Etete, but Ethiopian can be hit or miss I really don't like it at all. Hope to be able to give you better recs next time. And if you want steak Ray's is worth the metro ride or cab fare over Bobby Van's just so you know.

                1. re: ktmoomau

                  Yeah, I can understand getting tired of the same posting over and over but there weren't that many "coming in to DC" posts when I posted (just 1 and it didn't have a lot of responses either).

                  Ray's is different than Ray's Hellburger, right? Anyhow, I have my favorite steakhouses and I'll stick to them. I like going to new places I've never been to. With the exception of the corner bakery cafe (which we have in california), these were all new places to me.

                  1. re: DrBruin

                    Yes, Ray's the Steaks is the steakplace and Ray's Hellburger is where steaks go to die. There's another one in Silver Spring by a different name that I forget now. He's supposedly going to open a seafood place, but that might have been sidetracked by the popularity of the burger place.

                    Burgers done right! Even pics do it justice (Google search on images for the place...)

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      Rays the Classics in Silver Spring has steaks and has some of the Rays Hellsburger choices at the bar

              2. re: DrBruin

                Sorry that you didn't find a great dining experience here, but there are so many restaurants, you had so little time, and you did have some pretty narrow limitations (time, what your wife doesn't like, what your local friend who isn't a chowhound suggested).

                I'm not into grease either, and I'd expect grease at Ben's Chili Bowl. It's a historic place, that's all. 50 years ago it was something special because it was different from other food that you could get nearby. Now it's just another place where Barak Omama ate. As is Ray's Hellburger which I'm sure you would have enjoyed if you had the patience and didn't mind an excursion into Arlington and about a 5 block walk from the Metro. We have some excellent Asian restaurants but they're not in Chinatown.

                It sounds like you had a pretty busy schedule and perhaps you should have aimed for one great meal for which you could plan (your first plan would have been a good choice and it's too bad you were delayed) and then just settle for reliable non-greasy, non-spicy food for the rest of your stay.

                I don't go along with the "a lot of people were on vacation" excuse for not getting good recommendations. But I also don't think that you should expect that every Chowhound recommendation is going to be a really outstanding dining experience. Nor does every recommended restaurant do a good job every time. We all have different tastes - just look at some of the discussions about barbecue and Peruvian grilled chicken that we have here.

                Some posters are more descriptive than others and will give you more than just the name of the place, some places are mentioned so often that, to regular readers, no further description is necessary. This is one of the bugaboos of forum communication.

                By all means, next time you plan a visit to our fair city, feel free to ask for suggestions, but now that you know what you don't like, don't be afraid to say "I ate at xxx before and didn't like it because of yyy" and that will help with the focus. And don't be afraid to travel to the 'burbs if you can spare the time. Clarendon, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Ballston . . . all open up a whole world of places that you might enjoy. I wouldn't recommend that you walk the mile from the nearest Metro to Eden Center for Vietnamese food at night, but there are places where you can just step out of the subway station and find yourself surrounded by good restaurants. But, honestly, based on what you didn't mind too much around here, it sounds like you're a kind of nicer-than-Subway-but-not-too-risky kind of a guy (or maybe that's your leaning when you're with your wife). For someone looking for that kind of meal, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest a Cosi or Corner Bakery because you might get turned off by one of the hole-in-the-wall sandwich shops where they have ONE really great sandwich and if you don't get that, you might as well not go there.

                For good-but-ordinary restaurants, you might actually get better guidance from the Washingtonian Magazine or the Washington Post on-line dining reviews. While reviewers for those publications do occasionally write about a real chowhound-worthy place (I'm sure they read this forum for tips as to where to go) their largest readership is families looking for a solid meal, maybe a little special, where everyone in the party can find something to eat and be happy. Not everyone is a chowhound, and not ever chowhound has a sense of what "ordinary" people would like.

                1. re: MikeR

                  Thank you for the tips Mike. It's similar out here in LA where THE places to go are mentioned so often that you have to do a historical search to get detailed reviews.

                  i think I wore out 2 pairs of shoes walking in DC, so I don't mind walking. And, the metro takes you pretty close to anything... so I'll probably venture out to Arlington next time or Maryland (have to figure out when the soft shell crab season is in swing).

                  I enjoy food. I am not such a food snob that I would refuse to eat at a chain restaurant but I am not going to hit up restaurants with Andrew Zimmern either. I'll try just about anything once (for example, I don't think I'll be snacking on balut from the phillipines) and I'm not a huge fan of the taste of most organ meats.

                  I didn't find the Washington Post reviews to be that easily searchable. And, I never find Yelp to be that helpful.

                2. re: DrBruin

                  Steve's post didn't read as insulting in any way. In fact, it was very insightful, IMO.

                  As someone who grew up in L.A., I wish I had seen your post earlier and could have helped steer you in the right direction. There's no helping that at least 3 of your choices were chains. I personally avoid them at all costs, especially when traveling (except L.A., that is -- got to get my hometown fixes like Zankou!).

                  Some of these places I've never been, but Ben's is a notoriously greasy (but in a good way) institution in much the way Pink's is in L.A. Not sure if it was mentioned, but DC is not really a pizza town, although 2 Amy's and Paradiso continually come up as the city's best. Matchbox has decent pizza, but is more known for their cheeseburger sliders.

                  I do exhaustive research when I travel and it leaves us with about an .800 batting average for great dining. I find that cross-checking local Chow boards with local news outlets (a la LA Weekly / Washingtonian (or Post)), travel sites and other foodies boards will create an aggregate list that is pretty solid. It's a formula worth devising as you'll never be stuck in a similar situation. I've also learned not to "chance" more than 1 or 2 meals a trip by going off-list. Yes, it's fun to be adventurous, but learning the hard way by having some extra lousy food is just not worth it.

                  Glad you had a good trip. Hopefully, your next one will be much better.

                  1. re: biscuit

                    Well, he came across insulting to me, like he was insulted that I took time to post where I ate.... the fast food places I ate at were there due to time constraints (i.e. it was either eat at cosi/corner for breakfast and make it to the museums when they opened, eat at an overpriced breakfast place in a hotel, or spend time commuting for breakfast and miss museum time, or grab a sandwich on the way to Dulles). i went through pretty much everything I ate and didn't exclude the fast food places out of concern for "what would local ch'er's think." Honestly, there will be several visitors who come to DC who may be in a time crunch too and all they have is a choice of 1-2 fast food places... and it's good to get an idea about them as well. There is merit in discussing all places to eat.

                    I nearly went to 2 Amy's but I heard that they have are inconsistent with their crusts.

                    Thank you for the offer Biscuit... wished I could've had more of a response to my first post. ;) But, hopefully, you'll be able to recommend more places when I come back in June.

                    I'm sure you realize that in LA, people come down hard on Zankou... personally, the chicken is solid only at the Sunset (near los feliz) location but that garlic sauce is like spreadable crack. However, I don't think I'd slam someone for posting their experience about eating there if they came from out of town and went there because it's a local chain.

                    And, if you come back to LA and are on the westside, make your way over to Bay Cities (italian deli) and order a Godmother. You should be very happy.

                    1. re: biscuit

                      I have to expose myself here and side with the chains to some degree (and I will guarantee that my wife my faint if she read that statement).

                      First, there's the guilty pleasure thing, like Taco John's and White Castle when in the Midwest. Then there are the slightly meritous local/regional chains, like Imo's in Missouri, and then there is the slightly raised chain thing like the GAR line.

                      Why is there a chain - especially local/regional? Even just to check out a place to try to find an answer to that question is worthy of a hound - even if many of us will guess going in that it might disappoint.

                      And by going you can get a glimpse into that area for one, and maybe find some interesting facts (like anyone who's wondered about the Ledo's thing here and maybe luckily actually went to the original first). Going back to the GAR thing, if I heard so much good about any of the GAR's and then went to Jackson's I'd think you all lost your mind, but I could scan and see that a good few people think in fact that it is off the mark of the others (getting too big?). That's amplified with 5 Guys.

                      So anyway - 2.5 cents there.

                      1. re: Dennis S

                        I wondered if GAR would eventually outgrow quality. I like the food at the GARs I go to, not because they're amazing creative dishes but decent solid dependable food (which is important out in the suburbs). As chains go, I remember the original Legal Seafood, TGIFs, Chichi's, Del's Lemonade, Boston Chicken, fondly, back when they were good non-chain, or just starting to expand to another location. But, invariably quality is lost. It's too bad that it sounds like that's happening to GAR, too. As GAR goes, I wouldn't specifically take a visitor who loves food to it but I'd take someone who wants a decent meal at a decent price. But, I wouldn't take any visitor to the Corner Baker or Cosi. Five Guys? Only if we needed a quick meal.

                    2. re: DrBruin

                      Thanks for sharing your experience and it is important to have all reviews here, good or bad, because it helps people know what to avoid, eg. Capitol Brewing Company or those chains. I did assume, apparently incorrectly, that you hadn't searched the DC boards since you did end up at places that have never been highly recommended (Bens and Etete aside). And, it did sound in your review that you were slamming the DC food scene (when you said its specialty was grease), just based on the places you tried. As Ben's Chili Bowl goes, I've found a wide divide between people who love it or hate it. As I've said, I don't personally like it but it's worth taking people there, just as I'd take people to the Washington Monument but I wouldn't want to climb it often. As Etete goes, I think people who like Ethiopian tend to like it and I enjoyed it, plus had good service which it doesn't sound like you did. There isn't a general consensus on any restaurant that I can think of, outside of Rays Hellburgers and Rays the Steak (two different restaurants, near each other, same owner).

                      Having lived in both LA and the SF area, I don't think DC proper has as much of a food scene as LA and SF and some of the best places to eat are outside the city. That said, there are many excellent places in DC that I've found from these boards. I'm constantly writing down new restaurants that I want to try when I get into the city. Ktmoumau provided a nice list the first time you asked. And, since your post was at the same time as the other post, with the same question, people seem to have responded to the other one and didn't to yours--maybe redundancy? I don't know why some threads seems to generate a lot of responses and some none. You might find the same thing on the LA board but poster fatigue, when answering the same questions over and over, hits.

                  2. You're from LA and you've never had Ethiopian? It's the 2nd largest US Ethiopian community outside of DC.

                    1. To the OP:

                      Normally your original post requesting recs on Chowhound would have received a lot of responses. I was simply explaining why, unfortunately, you didn't get many.... so you didn't have much guidance from us. I am almost positive you would have eaten better if you did get more responses.

                      Also, I understand perfectly well why you ate at some of the places on your list. I've eaten at all those places myself, or I wouldn't voice an opinion about them. It's not a weird list of places to eat, but a weird list to base an opinion about dining in DC.

                      And Loeb's is truly awful. I still shudder visibly about the memory of once eating there.

                      In fact, I have a high opinion of your taste. If you said you ate at all those places and loved them, then I'd think you were daft!

                      1. You based your view on DC food based on 4 national chains (BV's, Cosi, CB, Potbelly), an "institution" (places that are widely KNOWN to have mediocre food and just be popular for their historicity) and only 2 real DC restaurants?? No wonder you had such a bad experience - and I expect more from a Chowhound!

                        Next time you come, try one of these, or any other local restaurant that the Chowhounds could have pointed you to:

                        Rasika, Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Central, Marvin, 2 Amy's, Et Voila, Proof, Cork, Brasserie Beck, Taylor (not to mention Palena, Komi, CityZen, Minibar and the other expensive but delicious restaurants out here.)

                        If I came to LA and judged it based on Au Bon Pain and McDonald's I think you'd agree I wouldn't have a good picture of the city's food culture.

                        480 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004

                        CityZen Restaurant
                        1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

                        3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                        Rasika Restaurant
                        633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                        Brasserie Beck
                        1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                        1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                        701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: rebeccayael

                          Thanks for the rec's Rebec's.

                          I missed my reservation to Oyamel's because the workers at the train station where the bus from the airport drops you off were lazy and unhelpful and it took nearly 1 hour to get a machine that worked to buy tickets.

                          I was very close to going to Jaleo's, and 2 Amy's but we didn't get around to it (based on my pretrip research). I really wanted to go to Minibar but I don't have patience to call 2 months and one hour and 53 seconds in advance of my desired time to get a reservation (hopefully you get my drift). While I may be a CHer, my wife is not and neither was her friend. In fact, I think my wife's friend was looking for a hamburger and fries on the menu at etete. haha. I personally wanted to go ba

                          Anyhow, I tried posting for suggestions prior to my trip but got very little feedback. I was not aware that most of the places (except Corner Bakery) you mentioned as being national chains were national chains since they don't exist here on the west coast.

                          I'll be heading back to DC again briefly this summer for a wedding out in Bethesda and hope to hit up at least one of these places that you've suggested. Gracias.

                          By the way, if you do come out to LA, you should go to In and Out (totally whoops 5 Guys), Pizzeria Mozza, Mo Chica, Rivera, and...well, about a million other delicious places... feel free to ask.

                          1. re: DrBruin

                            Uh, wrong again.
                            If you thought Cosi and Ben's are bad (and they are), you can also skip Jaleo (overpriced cold tapas), 2 Amy's (the most overrated restaurant in DC - charred soupy "authentic" pizzas), and maybe Minibar (food snob central) and Brasserie Beck (overpriced beer).

                            Brasserie Beck
                            1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                            1. re: a1234

                              Or, for a different opinion, I have the absolute opposite opinion of a1234, except for Cosi (chain not worth visiting).

                              Ben's definitely has the DC history and atmosphere even if the food is just diner food. Get a halfsmoke for the history, but the breakfast is actually the best food they serve.

                              Jaleo isn't consistently excellent, but it's always at least very good, and I have had excellent meals there.

                              2 Amy's not only has fabulous pizza (simpler is better, and ask for well done), but the rest of the menu is excellent.

                              Minibar I haven't been to, but if the "molecular gastronomy" idea suits you, this place should impress.

                              Brasserie Beck has very good Belgian comfort food, and the beer list, while not cheap, is fantastic. During Happy Hour, I think taps are half price, and this can be an excellent value.

                              Brasserie Beck
                              1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                              1. re: DanielK

                                Go to Cafe Atlantico on a Sunday for brunch (same place as Minibar except youre not at the bar). You can get in if you call a week or so before and it is less costly and I found truly enjoyable.

                                Cafe Atlantico
                                405 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                              2. re: a1234

                                Please let us know what you had at Minibar and what you didn't like about it. The last time this subject came up, it turns out you never ate there in the first place.

                                The price of a bottle of a Rochefort Trappistes #10 at Beck is not much more than at Westover Market when they have it - though it is rarely available retail.

                                Not everybody has to like 2 Amys - I always tell people to stick to the margherita - it is minimally topped, with hardly any sauce, so mine have never been soupy.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  Well, I may end up at Matchbox again if they're still around. I enjoyed their pizza. Maybe we'll try 2 Amy's next time around...this time the group will be larger.

                                  Minibar isn't really going to be a possibility... yes, the molecular gastro piques my curiosity but I I think I can just go to Bazaar by Jose Andres out here in LA and get this same schtick.

                                  I don't think I could go back into Ben's... the grease smell was nauseating i n an unpleasant way. I saw other places peddling half-smokes... and to be frank, it didn't really appeal to me.

                                  Anyone have any Bethesda recommendations? I'm not sure if this is the right board to be posting (Baltimore area, right?)? I'll be spending some time in this city too for a wedding.

                                  1. re: DrBruin

                                    On the LA scale, DC and Baltimore are the same place. Ben's is just a place to get chili dogs in a nostalgic setting. Matchbox is nice, but not fantastic. Bethesda has a ton of restaurants but I don't get there much these days. There is a branch of Andres' Jaleo in Bethesda.

                                    1. re: DrBruin

                                      Bethesda: my two favorite go-to places are Ren's Ramen (get the miso ramen and spring for the couple of dollars extra to get the fatty pork) and Mia's Pizza, which I like more than 2 Amy's. Both are within 10-15 minutes walk from the Metro Station.

                                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                        Vace (for pizza) is in Bethesda. not sure how it compares to the CP location


                                        Vace Italian Delicatessen & Homemade Pasta
                                        based on 54 reviews Rating Details ยป
                                        Category: Delis [Edit]

                                        4705 Miller Ave
                                        Bethesda, MD 20814

                                        (301) 654-6367

                                        1. re: vivinator

                                          I agree that Vace pizza is wonderful. The good news is that they sell by the slice, making it perfect for a grab-and-go snack. The bad news is that there is no seating there - it is to go only. For excellent pizza in a pleasant sit-down location, Mia's is the best choice.

                                      2. re: DrBruin

                                        Bethesda is a suburb of DC; it borders DC.

                                        Not in Bethesda, but Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring is not far, and it has food that less adventurous eaters would be happy with.

                                        If you are interested in what actually functions as DC's Chinatown, go a bit further north to Rockville. The restaurants and businesses are scattered across the city instead of clustered, but there are many of them. My favorite Chinese restaurant in the DC area, Joe's Noodle House (actually a Sichuan restaurant), is in Rockville. I usually get wontons in hot and sour sauce and whatever vegetable Audrey, the proprietress, recommends (other things as well, as I go with a group, but those are my favorites).

                                        I'm sure the area doesn't compare with LA's Chinatown, but there is good eating to be done there.

                                        Ray's the Classics
                                        8606 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

                                        Joe's Noodle House
                                        1488 Rockville Pike Ste C, Rockville, MD 20852

                                        1. re: Lori D

                                          just an aside I lived in OC for 2 yrs the best chinese food is not in la's chinatown like dc but in the San Gabriel Valley east of downtown LA. though I do think the LA chinatown is more of an actual chinatown as in Chinese actually living there though not sure.

                                        2. re: DrBruin

                                          I like Raku in Bethesda (esp. for lunch), and Guardado's for tapas, and I'd second Mia's for pizza.

                                          4918 Del Ray Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

                                          1. re: Doh

                                            Thank you... I'm getting hungry... I think I'll need to sneak off for some pizza.