Planning a trip to D.C., have a couple specific food questions...
My husband and I live in San Francisco and will coming to D.C. in the fall. I'm starting my planning already, and have two questions:
1. We're hoping to stay in a hotel that is walking distance from a good variety of foodie-friendly destinations of all price ranges. What neighborhoods (or hotels for that matter) should we focus on?
2. What foods are D.C. known for? Specifically, which ethnic foods are strong there? We don't want to miss out on things we can't get here!
Thank in advance!
P.S. feel free to chime in with any specific "can't miss" restaurants.
1. Neighborhood — I would choose the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area.
2. Foods — half-smokes, Ethiopian, Vietnamese (outside the city)...i know there are more but i'm not thinking of any at the moment.
Regarding question 2. There are great ethnic foods in the DC metro area. In Northern VA you will find a huge Vietnamese population as well as Korean. Also, there are large Peruvian and Salvadorian populations. All those are extremely well represented in restaurants. There are also some very good mughlai/kabob type places and a half a dozen excellent Ethiopian restaurants. If you would like specific recommendations, just let me/us know.
I agree that Chinatown/Gallery Place/Penn Quarter is probably the best neighborhood for your needs - but there are others in the second tier: Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, U St. ... Also, the DC Metro is very user-friendly and easy to navigate so I would suggest using it to branch out of whatever neighborhood you find yourself in.
I agree with what others have said about foods that DC is known for - especially Ethiopian and the "DC half-smoke." However, I've had better Vietnamese food in SF than I've had here. In particular, I have been searching in vain for a bahn mi that rivals Saigon Sandwiches on Larkin St. or for a Vietnamese place that could come near the Slanted Door (at least before it moved - not sure about it now). Korean places here are worth going to, but the best ones are not accessible by Metro. I would add soul food to the list.
For can't miss restaurants, this would be my list:
The quintessential place to get a half smoke is the ultra-famous Ben's Chili Bowl, but I think a better one can be found at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, which is very fun to go to on a Sat. for many reasons. The half smoke is absolutely a food that DC is known for and they can be good, but I don't think it will rock your world.
Rasika - upscale, very creative, adventurous food that uses Indian as its base, then takes flight. Their palak chaat has a huge fan club!
Oohs and Aahs (soul food)
I hope you enjoy our city!
Or if you want have fun w/ crabs, go to the Seafood Wharf under the 14th St bridge.
Its one of the last (might be the only) open air seafood markets on the East Coast/Mid Atlantic. You buy the crabs live. They spice and steam them on the spot, and you break them open over newspaper in the small standing tabled eating area nearby, over looking the docks/water. Other little shops at the Wharf sell crab cakes, sandwiches, chowders, oysters... all kinds of seafood meals.