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Planning a weekend. What do you think?

I'm traveling with my best friend to DC for a long weekend next month. We're looking for good food, but want to avoid high end fine dining. Casual,moderately priced, fun places with great food and wine are the requirements and great fresh seafood would be ideal. We're looking at the following places and want to know if these fit the bill.

Central
Black Salt
Brasserie Beck
Zaytinya
Johnny's Half Shell
Matchbox (for pizza)
Cork (for wine)

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

Johnny's Half Shell
400 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Zaytinya
701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

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  1. I consider Black Salt to be the best seafood restaurant in town - but to me it's "high end fine dining". I guess knowing your definition of "moderately priced" would help. Also, you need a car to get there.

    I don't think the pizza at Matchbox is anything special at all - though it certainly fits your requirement of "casual, moderately priced and fun".

    BBeck and Zaytinia would be perfect, I think.

    I like Cork, but I think it's pricey.

    I ate at Johnny's Half Shell a couple of years ago and can't remember anything about what I ate there. To me, it isn't memorable.

    I still have never been to Central - I MUST correct this oversight soon!

    6 Replies
    1. re: woodleyparkhound

      The prices online for Black Salt were fine. We just don't want to get too dressed up!

      1. re: olivertwist

        I've been to Johnny's Half Shell twice in the last six months and was not impressed -- I thought my meal at Hank's Oyster Bar (in Dupont Circle) far superior

        1. re: olivertwist

          My memory of it is that people dress nicely at Blacksalt. "Business casual" would be OK, I think.

          1. re: woodleyparkhound

            On weekend it is more casual, but all of DC is, I wouldn't wear shorts and an FBI T shirt, but khakis and polo tucked in for a guy, or a skirt or pants and a top should be fine. Mothers day lots of sundresses or casual cotton dresses were there.

            Weeknights there tend to be a lot of suits, but that is because the neighborhood is full of professionals and that is what they have been wearing all day.

        2. re: woodleyparkhound

          Another nix for Johnny's, there is just no reason to go out of the way for it. Zaytinya, is in my opinion, the better of the Andres restaurants at the moment. Seafood, by the way, is not a strength around here; I'd look into adding a steakhouse to your list in place of Johnny's.

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          Zaytinya
          701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          1. re: woodleyparkhound

            I finally went to Central last week and loved it. Really good food, unpretentious, and moderately priced (for DC). I think it would be perfect for your needs.

          2. I absolutely love Blacksalt. It is a cab ride, but definitely well worth it. They have great simply prepared fish, but things like their Boullibasse are really good too. And if you wanted to save some cash you could metro to Roslyn walk across the bridge to Georgetown and catch a cab there. And they also have big enough entrees I don't have to have a starter there or sometimes split and app or dessert with my husband.

            I agree that you probably really would enjoy Hank's too.

            I think Central, Zaytinya are also good choices. I haven't been to B. Beck in months, but really enjoy their mussels and desserts. Note they have big portions too. I like it though, and if you really like nice beer you will especially like it.

            I really like Matchbox. I can't articulate why I like their pizza so much except for it is thin, but holds up well with the toppings. And I like the sauce and cheese ratio. It is perhaps my number three on the pizza list currently. And they have two locations both pretty convenient to a lot of attractions.

            If for some reason you don't end up at Cork for wine, there are a number of other good spots, like Proof. Cork can get very crowded, just try to get there on the earlier side and you should be ok.

            But I think you have a pretty nice mix of places. I have never been to Johnny's on the Half Shell so I don't know too much about it.

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            Zaytinya
            701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

            1 Reply
            1. re: ktmoomau

              I love Matchbox -But I go for the AMAZING mini burgers w/ fried onions!
              I also love Coco Sala- American tapas that specializes in chocolate desserts and tastings. It is a few blocks from Matchbox so it may be a fun place to go for dessert. Proof has an extensive wine list, good food, and is also a few blocks from Coco Sala. I also recommend Granville Moore's (would need a cab or bus to get there) but worth it for excellent moules & frites in a cool atmosphere. I like Central, Brasserie Beck, Blacksalt. I would also suggest Creme and Hank's Oyster Bar.

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

              Hank's Oyster Bar
              1026 King St Ste 1, Alexandria, VA 22314

            2. Central really not moderate but good, Zaytinya good, don't waste your time at Beck (incredibly overpriced beer), others OK.

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              Zaytinya
              701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              1 Reply
              1. re: a1234

                I had one of the best meals I've ever had in DC at Brasserie Beck - mussels in an amazing veal and roasted caper broth that I wanted to bathe in, served with perfect fries accompanied by several delicious sauces -- for $20. There must have been two quarts of mussels/broth in my order. It was easily enough to feed two people and was stunningly delicious. I thought this was an incredible deal.

                The Belgian beer list is impressive - but steep, I grant you that. The cheapest one was $9, as I recall. Not a place to get wasted on the brewskis.

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

              2. On your list I would skip Matchbox (except for the mini-burgers) and Johnny's Half Shell (except for the wood-fired chicken wings).

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                Johnny's Half Shell
                400 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steve

                  Johnny's has half-price oysters during happy hour.

                2. If you are really into wine, you need to consider Dino. Fantastic wine list at better prices than anywhere in DC.

                  1. I would take Brasserie Beck off and add RIS. Same price range, but RIS has WAY better food.

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

                    RIS
                    2275 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: reiflame

                      I was thinking of Dino, too- Good suggestion. Also, Palena (the front room):
                      They are the same metro stop (Cleveland Park)

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                      Palena
                      3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                      1. re: chicken kabob

                        Thanks for all of the great responses. It's been a huge help. Keep 'em coming.

                    2. I really like Matchbox, but, if I remember correctly, they don't take reservations and the wait can be really long. But I really do like the pizza there, and I love the fresh doughnuts with Irish Cream for dessert. Pizza Paradiso in Georgetown is probably just as good, and there's a great beer selection at the bar downstairs (there's another location in DuPont without the bar). You could wear a ratty T and shorts to Paradiso.

                      I dislike the restaurant at Beck. I like going there when you can sit in the bar area. There are some amazing beers there. It's not the place to go and toss back decent $4 pints. It's a place to go have amazing beer that you cannot find elsewhere.

                      Any of the Jose Andreas restaurants fit your bill - Zaytinya, Jaleo, Oyamel, Cafe Atlantico - maybe Atlantico for the Latin dim sum brunch? The food I get at any of these places never blows my socks off (except one experience with the paella at Jaleo), but it's always a lot of fun.

                      I'm going to be honest: I hate Cork. It's always insanely busy. The staff thinks they're doing you a favor. The other patrons exercise no courtesy whatsoever. Try to avoid crowding the bar to leave room for people to order? Oh, well, five people are going to rudely elbow their way into that space and permanently plant themselves there. Even if it's right between you and the other half of your party. I remember the snotty rude people running their mouths about totally off base wine trivia more than I remember the wine. I went twice a year ago and haven't been back, though, so maybe it's better? So, I'd say, go to Dino. Don't they have a half-off wine night?

                      You might think about adding Kushi to your list - it can get pricey when you figure you're going to order at least 3-4 per person, but you can certainly dress casually there. Sit at the grill bar. Make reservations now - everyone is talking about this place.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Raids

                        Agree that you should take off Johnny's Half Shell. Mediocre food. Hanks in Dupont is excellent, or if you want to go somewhere in Capitol Hill, I would try Cava Meze. Great greek small plates, reasonably priced, and a fun atmosphere.

                        I also like Dino. Posto and Potenza are other good Italian restaurants that would fit your criteria.

                        1. re: Energy09

                          It's a shame Johnny's isn't what it used to be, but obviously that's the case after so many posts. And that the couple let go of Cashion's. What are they doing?

                      2. Zaytinya and Black Salt are winners. For seafood, I like Johnny's for the atmosphere but I have to go with Hank's Oyster Bar. If you're doing a DC taste tour, you have to add Cafe Atlantico and Granville Moore on the list. It's not in DC but just across the bridge in Clarendon, Liberty Tavern is always fun.

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

                        Hank's Oyster Bar
                        1026 King St Ste 1, Alexandria, VA 22314

                        Zaytinya
                        701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                        The Liberty Tavern
                        3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

                        1. That's pretty representative..... except go to 2 Amy's or Pete's for pizza and get to Matchbox for their burger ( I prefer the regular sized menu burger to their sliders).

                          Also, if you're feeling adventerous I'd get to Granville Moore's for mussels instead of Beck. It's got far more character and you'll see a different part of our fair city (by different, I mean "up and coming"....but definately worth it!)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JillianK

                            I 2nd Granville Moore's for mussels & frites- better mussels and atmosphere, in my opinion.

                          2. Thanks Chowhounders! Great foodie trip. I'll write a report soon.