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Looking for great mid-price lunch spot near Int'l Spy Museum


I will be visiting the Int'l Spy Museum tomorrow. Looking for a great mid-price lunch spot not too far from the museum, something casual but w/ great execution like Hank's Oysters Bar. Coming from the SF Bay Area, I would like something different, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, french bistro, or regional american. I definitely prefer not eating Asian, Indian or Italian. I love Central but have been there twice already. Is there anything close to it but not quite as pricey? Not into driving too much around DC proper so would prefer something within 5 miles of the museum.

BTW, just had dinner at Marcel's last night, I adore the boudin blanc and the alaskan king crab. The venison tastes great, but I wasn't really into the wild rice (?) side that went with it. The poached pear dessert is to die for, still can't figure out how they do it. Great restaurant w/ great service, albeit a tad fawning. But that's fine by me, fawn away.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. We had a terrific lunch at Zola a couple years back, which is actually in the Spy Museum - can't get closer than that! Not sure if the prices are what you're looking for, but certainly less than Central, and it has a casual but stylish atmosphere - lots of spy-related touches, not surprisingly...


    2 Replies
    1. re: rovingfoodie

      I 2nd Zola. You might also like tapas at Jaleo or the lunch menu at PS7.

      1. re: rovingfoodie

        Related to Zola, but much more casual is the Zola Wine Kitchen on 9th and E. They have a daily special that is $10, communal tables and the goat cheese tots are a must!


      2. Ethiopian is a short Metro ride up to the U street area. (much less than 5 miles by car - do a search for current faves) and blows all Ethiopian in the US out of the water.

        immediately there, well all the Jose Andres' restaurants are represented.

        1. Zaytinya would fit the bill. Pan-Hellenic tapas. bantijan bil laban is great. They are particularly deft with frying here.


          1. @Rovingfoodie, the menu at Zola looks intriguing. Any specific dish(es) you would recommend?

            @hill food, which Ethiopian place(s) would you recommend in the U street area and elaborate if possible?

            @steve, thanks for the rec, but I forgot to mention I've been to Zaytinya, which is really great, but I want something new.

            4 Replies
            1. re: KathyM

              down the street are two places I love...CoCo Sala which has a great $20 lunch deal (lots of food) and Cowgirl Creamery which you have in SF but there are very fresh and delicious sandwiches that you can enjoy for like $5.

              1. re: KathyM

                For Eithiopian, I like Etete, and it's open for lunch. U St. Metro stop on the green line from Gallery Place.

                1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  Etete makes a vegetarian platter that is very good. You can add fish to this for something like $2, so go ahead and do that. The derek tibs are excellent as well. Etete is the highest qualtiy all around and will be open for lunch.

                  Queen Makeda, across the street, is excellent as well, more a mom n' pop, but might not be open for lunch. At Queen Makeda, order the gored gored lightly cooked, and just ask for a variety of vegetables, especially the red lentils.

                  1. re: Steve

                    replying too late to help for this visit, but I'd add Dukem to that short list http://www.dukemrestaurant.com/

                    but the others mentioned are good too.

              2. proof has a great lunch special, an entree and a glass of wine for $12.

                1. If you want very casual I would add in Nando's Peri Peri for their wings (they are double wings so you need half as many as normal). I really enjoy the hot, but get half garlic herb to appease my tummy. Very casual order at the counter, but good.

                  1. Bistro d'Oc does the French classics, a decent hanger steak, excellent cassoulet at a reasonable price. Don't expect fawning service though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Hi everybody,

                      Thanks for all the recs. Just wanted to report back. We went Zola after all. This is probably one of the best designed restaurants I've ever been to; love, love the booze carts/islands in all the spaces. I ordered the house cured pastrami & cheese sandwich. At $17 for a sandwich, I was expecting thick slabs of pastrami like Katz'. Alas no, it tastes more like a thinly sliced roast beef sandwich w/ hints of pickling spices. It was good, but not what I had imagined. The accompanied parmesan shoe string fries were addictive. I also tried my sis' pulled pork sandwich, pretty good. Overall I like the space and the attentive service but the pastrami was not to my particular taste. Not bad, just not really pastrami as god intended it to be.

                      BTW, I forgot to mention I've been to Proof last year so I didn't want to go there again. Great place but I think Hank's and Central are still my favorites so far for mid/upper mid range places.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KathyM

                        Glad you enjoyed Zola, though sorry the pastrami wasn't up to speed - I'm also a big fan of Katz's and usually don't bother with it elsewhere (which is probably better for my health anyway!) As far as specific dishes (belatedly), I remember liking the lobster mac and cheese and the tuna tartar app; we went for RW, so we also got some good desserts, though I can't remember the specifics. In any case, glad to hear the space is still great - maybe we'll bring the in-laws on our next visit to DC!

                      2. Oyamel is a more recent Jose Andres restaurant, and in my experience he seems to be giving it more attention than he gives Jaleo