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The Inn at Little Washington, Blue Duck Tavern, Tabard Inn, Elsewhere?

We'd like to buy a gift certificate for a really nice romantic dinner out as a wedding present for friends of ours. Not being from DC, I was wondering if you DC hounds might be willing to help us choose where to send them?

A few options we were considering: The Inn at Little Washington (overrated?), Tabard Inn? Blue Duck Tavern? Someplace else entirely?

We'd like to send them someplace that feels romantic and special, but also with delicious food, ideally fabulously delicious. They're omnivores, so cuisine genre isn't much of a concern.

Any help would be much appreciated...

Tabard Inn
1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

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  1. I would suggest Marcel's -- I think it's one of the most romantic restaurants in DC. Elegant, sophisticated, impeccable service, fantastic food. It would be my first choice.

    Re: the restaurants you asked about: Tabard Inn has a nice patio, but the indoors is quite loud and not romantic at all, IMO, except for the lounge area outside the restaurant proper. The IALW can be romantic, but only if you make sure you're not stuck on a banquette rubbing elbows with your neighbor. It's also about 90 minutes west of DC, in case you didn't know that. I'm among those who think it's overrated -- it used to be incredible, but now many restaurants have caught up and surpassed it. I don't have any experience with Blue Duck Tavern.

    Tabard Inn
    1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

    Blue Duck Tavern
    1201 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodtrip

      100% agreed with the Marcel's rec. It's romantic, the food is consistantly outstanding, and the service is alway gracious.

    2. How much do you want to spend? Because a $200 gift certificate to Blue Duck will cover a meal but at the Inn it's won't even come close.

      I'd recommend RIS.

      2275 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

      1. The price point for each of these three restaurants is so different that it's hard to offer some recommendations. That said, here are some comments you may find useful:

        The verdict on IaLW varies widely. Folks who have been there over the decades feel the menu is frozen in time and no longer holds up against the newer restaurants. One poster who dines well is vocal about his disappointment. Still others report back about fabulous experiences. (For what it's worth, my husband and I have a reservation over the Labor Day weekend for our first meal there. Since we're already going to be in the area for a quiet get-away, we've taken the effort to get there/back that had previously upped the ante for expectations off the table.) Incidentally, even those who still admire the food are sometimes turned off by the shabby chic decor and the you-cannot-have-too-many-chintz-patterns-in-one-room point of view.

        Blue Duck Tavern isn't a place I'd call romantic. The decor seems too modern and minimal for that label. I love BDT's food and the service is superb. (The apple pie sets the standard.) Watching the kitchen perform in full view of the dining room is a great treat. But romantic? Not by my standards.

        Here's a very short -- highly personal -- list of places that make the cut for both romance and a great kitchen: Marcel's, Courduroy, and 1789. The last recommendation offers two possibilities: In winter especially, the front room with the fireplace at 1789 qualifies. Year-round, there's a little nook in the Manassas room that is more isolated and, therefore, more romantic than the other tables. The Manassas room decor isn't romantic per se what with the focus on the Civil War battle, but this nook is nicely private.

        1. you need to tell folks here what you want to spend. it will really affect the suggestions.


          you can see from the restaurants that you mention an idea about the prices they charge. by far, inn at little washington is going to be the costliest.

          1. My two favorite romantic places are L'Auberge Provencale and Patowmack Farm. The first is a little French inn and the restaurant is amazing. It's cozy and warm.


            Patowmack Farm is the opposite, a glass conservatory overlooking the mountains. The food is locally sourced, much of it from the farm. It's not as warm and cozy but the view is beautiful and you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere--feels like outdoor dining but you get A/C and/or heat and no mosquitoes. Both are outside the city but closer than the Inn at LW and far less expensive.


            1. I think Blue Duck is fabulous. I do think it's romantic, too - they might not want to sit too close to the kitchen because it's (amazingly, deliciously) distracting, but it's where my boyfriend and I like to go most for anniversaries and birthdays. I also think the desserts add to the romantic quality - they're delicious and the portions (especially for the ice cream) and generous, so they just beg to be split.

              1. Um...for me a no-brainer. The IALW gift certificate - for a wedding present, that is about as gracious and elegant as it gets!

                1 Reply
                1. re: RolandParkGuy

                  gracious indeed. OP, what is your budget ?

                  (this is why i have to restrain myself from getting involved in these "one-off" threads!).

                2. Thanks to all for the suggestions! I'd like to spend about $200-250. Which it seems really does rule out the Inn at Little Washington. (I like to be gracious, but I also like to be able to pay my bills.)

                  I'm thinking either Marcel's or 1789 vs. Blue Duck. Which seems like a choice b/n old-fashioned sophistication vs. modern foodiness. Or am I off base with that characterization?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: stgrove

                    1789's decor is old fashioned but I don't think the food is. That's not to say that you won't find some quite conservative options on the menu, but that's to satisfy the neighbors who have been dining there for decades no matter who is the chef. Some dishes are going to remain on the menu no matter how much foam or sous vide or whatever else is contemporary creeps in as well.

                    I love the flexbility of Marcel's menu.

                    Each of these restaurants has a web site that includes a representative menu. If you haven't looked at these menus, you may find one speaks to you more than the others.

                    And just to reassure you, you can't go wrong with any of these choices.