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Help! Need something chow-worthy in DC...with restrictions.

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I have challenge for the DC Chowhounds! Hope you all can assist.

I'm treating my husband, kids and in-laws to a trip to DC to commemmorate my husband's service in the Army. I need to plan one more dinner for the group, which is more complicated than it seems. Here are the details:

- Our group has 8 people in total and the dinner will be on a Saturday night, so I really need a place that takes reservations.

- Due to budgetary restrictions, we also need something on the inexpensive side - entrees in the high teens or low 20s.

- Since we'll have young kids and my late-70s in-laws, we need something very close to a metro. Like a 5/10-ish minute walk? (We're staying near Union Station, which I know doesn't offer a lot of options)

- The kids are 2, 6, 15 and 18. They're all well-behaved and adventurous eaters. But I'd like a place where the mere sight of children won't anger the other patrons. ;)

- We've taken the older kids to DC a few times, and have been to Etete (our favorite), Oyamel, Pizzeria Paradiso, Zaytinya, the dim sum brunch at Cafe Atlantico and Matchbox.

- My in-laws are the opposite of adventurous eaters. So that eliminates a lot of options - Asian, Indian, Ethiopian, etc - that we'd normally consider.

- We already have reservations at Firefly for another evening. We're considering Toscana Cafe, but I've read that it's small and I'm not sure if they take reservations. I thought about Art and Soul and Johnny's Half Shell due to location but they're a bit out of our price range.

So, now that I've made it impossible....any suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. OK! At least you spell it all out! I love that kind of organization. I'd recommend Eatonville if you want a little Southern Fare and a chance to peruse the U Street corridor. It's very lively, and probably unlike anywhere else you've ever been. The menu is very approachable, and it's nice to get away from the tourist areas and see some neighborhoods. It's a short walk from the U Street/Cardozo metro on the green line. (The sweet tea is crazy good)
    Walkable from Union Station with those criteria....well, Carmine's is brand new (to DC- they are originally from NYC) and has received favorable reviews. Everybody likes Italian, right? It's on 7th Street. Don't eat dessert there- a few doors down is Pitango which is "Italy-quality" gelato and trust me, I know. I often forego normal food when I'm in Italy to make more room for gelato. This stuff is the real deal.

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    Eatonville Restaurant
    2121 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

    U Street Cafe
    1301 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

    1. This is tough - I don't want to veer you off the red line, since you'll have the seniors there and running to catch a transfer doesn't sound great. But you've also been to so many of the places I'd recommend (so kudos to you!). But what does come to mind, though it's not really exciting, would be the new Carmine's, a NYC transplant. It's been getting good buzz, and since it's family style, you should be able to dine very reasonably. It's just a block south of the Chinatown Arena exit.

      Of course, across the street from it would be Jaleo, which might provide enough accessible options for the in-laws that it could work, too. But you should check out the menu and see what you think.

      1. Old Ebbitt Grill, or Matchbox.

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        Matchbox
        713 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

        Old Ebbitt Grill
        675 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

        7 Replies
        1. re: sweth

          I agree with Old Ebbitt Grill or one of the Clydes (Gallery Place or Chevy Chase). They should be able to handle a large group, the food is pretty good, there is a range of offerings.

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          Old Ebbitt Grill
          675 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

          Chevy Chase
          6200 Chevy Chase Dr, Laurel, MD 20707

          1. re: ChewFun

            I wouldn't make a special trip to OEG. The place is a madhouse offering a corporate casual menu you can get in any burg. The noise level makes group dining unpleasant. I went with co-workers, we were 10, and forget about conversation. Since it is a historic restaurant near the White House, every tourist has already found this place. If you go, go with low expectations of a reasonably priced menu that still feels like you paid too much. Either stay close to home - Toscana Cafe- or travel to one of the better suggestions on this thread.

            1. re: Steve

              Come on, OEG is not that bad. Perhaps I have low expectations, but I have always enjoyed eating at any of the Clydes group restaurants. It is not the most adventurous food, but it is solid value for money and the service is usually pretty good. The Gallery Place location even has at least one separate room. I've traveled pretty widely in the US and would have loved to have a Clydes.

              1. re: ChewFun

                You're right, it's not that bad. I am just hoping we can do a little bit better for the OP who has a special week planned - under difficult circumstances.

                1. re: Steve

                  Given that they didn't want to spend much money, need a place that could handle a small crowd, wanted it to be near a metro, and needed to take into account non-adventurous eaters (along with more adventurous eaters), you Clydes seemed good to me. I have non-adventurous eaters in my family and we go to Clydes now, which is a giant step up from the places they used to have us go. Now if I could just get my in-laws from ordering Pizza Hut pizza.

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                  Pizza Hut Restaurant
                  540 W South St, Frederick, MD 21701

                  1. re: Steve

                    Oh please, OEG is a fine choice, the kids and adult will eat well and enjoy the history there. ChewFun, good suggestion.

                    1. re: spinachandchocolate

                      Sorry, but I went with a group and it was deafening and the food boring. Have you been there with a group? Late 70s in-laws might enjoy the food, but they will not enjoy the noise. They will feel isolated. Might as well just stay in the 'hood and go to Toscana. At least the OP will save the cab fare for a couple of taxis. The chef there was at Maestro and gets some props for a moderately priced menu. Sending people out of their way to go to OEG makes no sense to me. It is not a restaurant to travel for.

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                      Toscana Cafe
                      601 2nd St NE, Washington, DC 20002

          2. I suggest you consider Dino -- you'll find lots of positive discussion about it on here. It's right by a red line stop, at Cleveland Park.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mselectra

              Second Dino. I think it hits all of your requirements, easy.

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              Dino
              3435 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC 20008

            2. I'd make your way down to Barrack's Row (8th Street SE), which as the crow flies, isn't far from Union Station. On that one strip, you've got Belga, Matchbox, Ted's Bulletin, the Chesapeake Room, Cava and a bunch of other good restaurants. My favorite among them is Cava, which in spite of having a Mediterranean focus, may not alienate those among your group with more conservative palettes. All of their grilled meats (chicken, lamb) and shrimp dishes are flavorful but simple, and the ambiance is boisterous but classy. Most of their tables are not fixed in the ground, either, which makes it easy for them to accommodate groups.

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              Ted's Bulletin
              505 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

              1 Reply
              1. re: fisherdm

                Pretty sure Matchbox on the Hill and Ted's don't take reservations. Cava and Belga would be good, but are more likely to have patrons whom a 2-year-old would freak out.

              2. Everyone - thanks so much for your thoughtful replies! I truly appreciate it.

                After some quick research, I'm leaning towards Eatonville (Hubby is a sucker for sweet tea, and I love U Street in general) and Dino (its been on my "to-do" list the past few trips but haven't been yet - not sure why I didn't think of it!). But I will definitely look deeper into everything you all have suggested.

                Thanks again!

                1 Reply
                1. re: short_eliz

                  also you might try some of the restaurants on Mass ave on the Senate side of the hill near union station... the new Bistro Cacao comes to mind, or Cafe Berlin.

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                  Bistro Cacao
                  320 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002

                2. Bistro D'Oc (right near Metro Center) might be a good option for you. It's a cozy, moderately priced French bistro. Their menu probably offers a little bit of something for everyone--roasted chicken, steak frites, escargot, pate, ham and cheese croissants etc. Those that are more adventourous can find some tasty eats---your in-laws can stick to steak and chicken. They also have daily specials, which are delicious, that don't appear on the website.

                  Also on the redline, but a number of stop past Union Station is Dino's. That might be a good Italian choice for your group. They can accommodate a group of 8 easily, including children.

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                  Bistro D'Oc
                  518 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Elyssa

                    I second Dino, if you are interested in Italian. It's a very comfortable place with excellent Italian food - and it's reasonably priced for the quality you get. It's just a few steps from the Cleveland Park Metro on the red line.

                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                      If you have unadventurous eaters they might not have the easiest time at Dino's since it's not your typical red gravy italian joint. BUt they could probably through together a plate of spaghetti and meatball if you asked them nicely (and in advance) They do have a kid's menu where kid's can pay their own age.

                      You might want to try founding farmer's, they take reservations, their entres are in your price range and they serve a lot of american classics like fried chicken and meatloaf. The qualify of the food and service have changed based on different people's experiences though. I had great food and great service when I was there last time.