NY CH-er coming to DC
I haven't been to DC since i went to college there 7 years ago and will be in town from next Monday through Wednesday. I know a lot has changed- plan on hitting Ben's Chili Bowl and El Guapo's, but what is new that i should be getting? Would prefer things that I are special to DC. Can range from inexpensive to very expensive- looking for all meal suggestions. I will be staying at the Madison Hotel in Downtown. I will not be in Virginia and don't want to go further than Bethesda as far as Maryland is concerned. I will be spending the bulk of my time in the Georgetown/Foggy Bottom/Dupont Circle areas.
Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009
4515 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
I don't think much of your first two choices. In the Ben's neighborhood, you can do much better by going to Oohhs and Aahhs for soul food. My favorites there are the grilled shrimp, lemon pepper wings, and the crabcake. Get rice with grave on the side plus greens. I can make a MUCH better half smoke than Ben's by going to Eastern Market and cooking it at home. Not even close.
I used to live about a block away from there. The bad news is that there is nowhere *right* there that I'd recommend - don't even think of going to Mio and Zentan in the Donovan is really hit or miss (although the cocktails are good). I like Juice Joint on Vermont if you want to grab a sandwich. Fairly close on P St on the N side of Thomas Circle, though, you have Birch & Barley (the restaurant) and Churchkey (the lounge) upstairs - I'd definitely stop by if you're into beer (50 taps and 5 cask ales, which is nearly unheard of, as well as hundreds of bottles) and the restaurant does great seasonal American cuisine. You'll need a reservation for the restaurant. The whole 14 St corridor is really developing quickly and is worth spending a lot of time in since that's where you're staying anyway.
If you want to spend the $$ (and it's a lot), and you can get a reservation, Komi is really close to you and it is generally regarded to be the best restaurant in the city. Also up on P St by Birch and Barley is the fairly new Estadio, which does great tapas, or, for the traditional choice for tapas, you can always go to Jaleo in Penn Quarter. I'd stack Rasika (Indian fusion) in Penn Quarter against anything NYC has to offer as well - the palaak chat is legendary.
There's not a lot I'd make a point of hitting in Georgetown or Foggy Bottom - I really like the downstairs bar at Pizza Paradiso in Georgetown, but it seems that recommending our Neopolitan-style pies in D.C. to a New Yorker is not the done thing. Fantastic belgian beer selection there, though, and I like the atmosphere. Dupont is not my favorite restaurant location anyway - I like Tabard Inn (famous for brunch in DC) and Blue Duck Tavern (*not* a tavern, but an upscale, modern restaurant with an amazing apple pie and perfectly brined chicken) but I'm sure you can get the same stuff in NYC, and probably done better.
Otherwise, thinking of cuisines that are unique to DC, if you can leave your neighborhood, I'd recommend Ethiopic at 4th St NE (yes, it's there and open on the right if you're coming from the NW through all that construction) and El Rinconcito on 11th St NW - kind of a hole in the wall that serves El Salvadoran. Looks like they've opened up another location in Columbia Heights, but I haven't been there yet. I'd go with the papusas and the soups - the tamales are interesting too, they're in a softer, looser style.
I have been to El Rinconcito (also order the tamarind drink, yum!), Estadio, and Birch&Barley all in the last three weeks, and I have enjoyed all of them. Estadio had the best (and the most expensive) food of all three. Make sure to get the mind-blowing chorizo sandwich.
You could also consider getting Ethiopian at Etete on 9th Street and U. Adjacent to the 14th Street corridor, the U Street neighborhood has changed a lot since you left and you might enjoy seeing it.
I also second Rasika. One of my and the board's favorites.
If you're in Georgetown and want a QUICK lunch, check out Morso Express on M Street. Surprisingly delicious Turkish food. Really good quality. Or get the Nana's Original at Muncheez Mania (Wisconsin Ave, just south of M St) for a very unusual Middle Eastern sandwich with labne and zaatar.
If you're in Georgetown, you can take a very quick taxi ride to Ray's Hell Burger, which has become quite an institution. Absolutely knock-your-socks-off hamburgers. Lots of posts on this place.
1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Ray's Hell Burger
1713 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209
1129 11th St NW Ste Lowr, Washington, DC 20001
U Street Cafe
1301 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Yeah, with Estadio I think it's a good idea to review the menu beforehand and make decisions about what you're going to order and still be satisfied, because otherwise you might end up ordering 5 $12 menu items before you know it, have some drinks, order a few more things, and have a $100 tab. If you, OTOH, fill in with some cheaper options you can do a LOT better. Have some olives and a couple cheeses to share to start. Then a salad, then maybe a mini sandwich (missed the chorizo last time!), and then a vegetable and meat and/or seafood. The duck was really amazing. If you split the olives and cheese two ways, you're only out just over $35 and still under $50 if you get a meat and seafood order. And you'll be stuffed. I need to get back there - I want these wild mushroom croquettas. And that chorizo sandwich.
For higher end, consider Palena and Komi.
For fun and still good, consider PS7s, Central, Brasserie Beck and even Proof and Corduroy
For colorful and still (greasy) good -- Florida Avenue Grill
Rasika is really great modern Indian - highly recommended
I'm not up on the various Ethiopian places in the city, but you should think about going to at least one place while you're here
777 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005
1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036
Florida Avenue Grill
1100 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009