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Coming to D.C. in April...We know nothing!! Need some good recs.

We are coming in from Massachusetts with our daughters (4 and 6) for 3 nights in April. We are staying downtown/Chinatown and would love some ideas for good lunches and dinners anywhere nearby. We plan to hit the zoo, the Botanical Garden and a few of the Smithsonian museums, so anything within a 15 minute walk or a quick trip on the Metro would be great. We love almost anything and the girls are very adventurous eaters. Mexican, Indian, Southern, Chinese would be our first choices.
I would appreciate any help!!! Thanks so much.

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  1. Chinatown/Penns Quarter/Verizon Center is the epicenter of one of the great restaurant areas of dc. There are hundreds of great restaurants within a 5 block radius
    chinese: my 2 favs on H street between 6 an 7th is Eat First and on 6th at H is Chinatown Express
    indian: Rasika
    Tapas: Jaleo
    Meeze/greek/middle eastern small plates: Zaytaynia
    Mexican: Rosa Mexicano
    Latin : Cafe Atlantico
    25 course tasting meal: Minibar at Cafe Atlantico: only 2 seatiings on 2 nights a week for 6 people. a chemistry class in tasting and cooking. toughest reservation in town
    Sunday Brunch: Latin Dim Sum at Cafe Atlantico
    Cuban: Cuba Libre
    Southern: nearby by cab are Vidalia and Georgia Browns
    Cajun: Acadiana
    Bar Food high end/ wood burning stove pizza: Matchbox
    There are a number of great high end restaurants nearby including Proof, Poste, Zola's, Corduroy,Wolfgang Pucks The Source
    The washingtonian magazine most recent addition included the top 100 restaurants and would be a good guide for you. Eat well and stay thirsty my friend
    There are numerous more restaurants in the Penns Qtr, chinatown area that I am sure I am leaving out

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

    Rasika Restaurant
    633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

    Eat First Restaurant
    609 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

    Vidalia
    1990 M Street, Washington, DC 20036

    Chinatown Express
    126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

    Acadiana
    901 New York Ave NW Ste 200A, Washington, DC 20001

    Georgia Brown's
    950 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

    9 Replies
    1. re: dining with doc

      wow. thank you so much. i will write these down and hopefully we'll get to try a few.
      please keep 'em coming!!

      1. re: saintp

        Those are all (at least the ones I've been to) great recs, but I don't know that I would bring kids your daughters' ages, no matter how well-behaved they are, to Rasika, Minibar, or Vidalia.

        1. re: marcj

          I agree it's a little silly to put minibar on the list, but you might be able to do Rasika for lunch.

          For something more casual, I like Teaism, behind the Navy Memorial (it has a small koi pond on the lower level and the salty oat cookies are a pretty good dessert option).

          In addition to the other suggestions you've gotten, in Cleveland Park (near the zoo) I'd recommend Dino's, if you are open to Italian food.

          -----
          Rasika Restaurant
          633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

          Teaism
          2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

          1. re: marcj

            i agree. i checked out some of the websites and a few were pretty pricey. we really appreciate a good "cheap eat" or a classic dive, which i should have noted earlier. i love researching good food options, though, and you guys are going to keep me busy!

            1. re: saintp

              Oyamel is small plates mexican and one each would satisfy the little ones with 2 - 3 being good for the adults. They have a lovely brunch on weekends too.

        2. re: dining with doc

          Chinatown Express is great for noodle soups and dumplings -- at $5 each. If you like coffee, don't miss Chinatown Coffee Co. at 475 H St. NW. Matchbox is great for kids -- their pizza and sliders are very popular -- be forewarned, the place gets loud! I love TangySweet tart frozen yogurt on 7th St. -- I think green tea is their best flavor.

          1. re: woodleyparkhound

            A 45 minute wait is pretty common at Matchbox, so you may want to take that into consideration. No reservations.

            1. re: Steve

              They do take reservations - or at least they did as of a few months ago, when I went for dinner.

              1. re: kathleen440

                From the Matchbox Chinatown website:

                We are currently accepting a limited number of reservations for parties of 6 to 12 guests from Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, seating is on a first come, first serve bases (please, no exceptions). Please phone 202.289.4441 to determine availability.

        3. You have lots of good recs above. Near the zoo Lebanese Taverna is good and has very accessible Lebanese food for all, I think I would have been able to find something there I liked as a little girl. Ardeo and Bardeo is up there, a little nicer, but still probably accessible, in Cleaveland Park there is also Nam Viet for Vietnamese. If you want good Indian up that way Indique is up that way.

          I took my two nieces to Nando's Peri Peri in Chinatown for lunch and they liked that. I think Jaleo is another good suggestion, or Oyamel. I really dislike Rosa Mexicana, I would do Oyamel or Cafe Atlantico instead.

          Mitsam at the Native American Museum is good for a cafeteria. Also if you wanted to head past the Capitol to Capitol Hill you could check out Spike Mendelson's Good Stuff Eatery or We the Pizza. Or Cava for very accessible Greek. I would think Zengo might be a fun place for adventurous kids too.

          I am not crazy about most of the Southern places in DC.

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

          Nam Viet Restaurant
          3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

          Good Stuff Eatery
          303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

          Indique
          3512 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008

          Zengo Restaurant
          781 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

          10 Replies
          1. re: ktmoomau

            I agree with these Cleveland Park (zoo) recs, and would add Vace for one of the best pizzas in the city served by the slice or whole pie -- the bad news is that it's to go only. But if you want to grab a quick and cheap bite before hitting the zoo, it's perfect. Also, to go to the zoo, take the Metro to Cleveland Park, not Woodley Park, so you can walk DOWNhill to the zoo!

            I second the recs for Nando's, Jaleo, and Good Stuff (very good burgers and the best shakes in town).

            1. re: woodleyparkhound

              I was going to say the same thing about Metro to Cleveland Park. I usually look like a crazy woman on the Metro because when I see an exhausted looking family with a stroller riding north on the Red Line, I usually tell them to get off at Cleveland Park instead of Woodley in order to have a shorter walk, and one that is downhill. Darn Metro with it's silly labels.

              1. re: katecm

                Although mixed reviews on here, I recommend Founding Farmers.

                And I strongly second Matchbox. If you go for an early dinner or lunch then you will eliminate a long wait, I think.

                -----
                Founding Farmers
                1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006

            2. re: ktmoomau

              i have a question. on another thread, many people recommended Etete, an ethiopian place on 9th at U. What do you think? I haven't had ethiopian since we moved out of chicago about 10 years ago and would love to have some....also think the girls would love it. is Etete kid-friendly?

              -----
              Etete
              1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              1. re: saintp

                Etete is a wonderful place - highly recommended. I think it's kid-friendly, but being childless, I'm not the best judge of that.

                -----
                Etete
                1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                1. re: saintp

                  With kids your age, I think I'd go to Queen Makeda instead, which is across the street from Etete -- at least, I've often seen families there with very young children. But I think you'd be fine at Etete, too.

                  Near the zoo, you probably will also want to know about Open City, which is in Woodley Park and very kid friendly. They also have good coffee, you can get a beer, etc. But if it's a weekend, the wait for brunch can be really long.

                  -----
                  Etete
                  1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  Queen Makeda
                  1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  1. re: mselectra

                    Very recent reports on another foodie site say that the Ethiopian chefs have not been around for a few weeks, and Queen Makeda has turned into a nightclub-and-wings place. I'm not in that area so can't say firsthand if this is correct or not.

                    -----
                    Queen Makeda
                    1917 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    1. re: weezycom

                      oh thanks for correcting me! I haven't been over there in a while either and have been wanting to, will look for the other report you mention. There are plenty of places to eat in that area anyway, if first choice doesn't work out.

                    2. re: mselectra

                      We had lunch twice at Etete a few months ago and I wouldn't hesitate to take children. And LOVED the food. Attractive place also.

                      -----
                      Etete
                      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                    3. re: saintp

                      Yes, I agree with the other posters, Etete is great. It's my favorite ethiopian in DC. I would say that it's kid-friendly too. The atmosphere is a little on the quiet side, but not so much so that you wouldn't be okay with kids.

                      -----
                      Etete
                      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  2. There are tons of lovely places for a couple to dine, but I'll focus on the kid-friendly places in the area.

                    I second (or third, fourth, whatever) Chinatown Express -- they have a guy making noodles and dumplings in the window which is fun for kids to watch, and the steamed pork and leek dumplings and roast pork wonton soup are deeelicious.

                    Also agree with Teaism, tuna bento box, chai, chocolate salty oat cookie.

                    Also Vace, the pizza.... mmm. I think they have a daily special there too? It was taped up on the register last time I was there, but I forget what it was.

                    I do love the sliders at matchbox, but Steve's caution about the wait time at dinner is well-earned.

                    I hear that Pho DC opened up on H St in Chinatown, but it has mixed reviews, and seems a little pricey for a bowl of pho ($12 as opposed to the more normal $7ish in the suburbs), but I guess that's what happens when you are paying Chinatown rent. Nonetheless, might be fun. Not sure how kid-friendly it is, though.

                    Happy eating!

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: kallisti

                      thank you for the kid-friendly ideas. chinatown express definitely sounds like a good stop for us and matchbox sounds great too. maybe we could do an early dinner and then continue on for some more sightseeing.
                      thanks chowhound....this makes trip-planning so much fun!!

                      1. re: saintp

                        when I posted originally I failed to notice the age of your girls. There are a lot of innexpensive appropriate places near chinatown including Chop't (salads and wraps), Five-Guys (burgers), There is a BBQ place a few stores down from Matchbox, Fuddruckers (burgers), Taylor Gourmet (great philly style subs), The Green Turtle (sportsbar with bar food). In addition there is a small chinese bakery next to chinatown express that has interesting meat as well as dessert chinese buns. There is a new Vietnamese Pho restaurant on H street in chinatown and Wok and Roll is pretty good for sushi and has $1 pieces of sushi during happy hour.

                        -----
                        Taylor Gourmet
                        1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                        The Green Turtle
                        601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004

                        1. re: saintp

                          Althought the Chinatownn Express noodles may be fun to watch being made, there is nothing special about them and if ordered in a stir-fry, will be soaked in oil. They have some nice steamed dumplings, ok roast meats, but expect the rest of your food to be low grade.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Agreed that stir-fried they are terrible, but I really like them in soup -- and I love the steamed dumplings!

                            1. re: Steve

                              I'm going to be a little harsher than Steve. My experience at Chinatown Express was abysmal. In between all the oil in the entrees, the mediocre dumplings and rank bbq meats, I've had better at Chinese buffets in strip malls.

                              -----
                              Chinatown Express
                              126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

                              1. re: bigmackdaddy

                                Me too. Absolutely wretched the one time I tried it, years ago. Too disgusted to try again.

                                1. re: hamster

                                  Wow, I've never had a bad experience there (though I admit it isn't the cleanest place), and I've been there a bunch. And as I mentioned, I think the steamed pork and leek dumplings are deeelicious :)

                                  Too bad it wasn't as good for you guys!

                                  1. re: kallisti

                                    I never veer from noodle soups or dumplings at Chinatown Express with the condiments provided on each table; those are all I recommend. I also appreciate the prices they charge for them ($5 each).

                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                      Yeah, the one thing I had was fried noodles with beef. Sketchy beef. I think I should go back and try the dumplings.

                                      1. re: hamster

                                        I made the mistake of getting the fried noodles -- once. It was revoltingly oily. Yuck.

                                        1. re: hamster

                                          The dumplings are ok, but add the condiments at the table and you have a very good meal for $5 or so.

                                          Sitr fry there is lousy.

                                  2. re: bigmackdaddy

                                    Since the reports on Chinatown Express are mixed, does anyone know of another good Chinese option in the area? When we eat Chinese we tend to get seafood/noodle dishes. Or if there's not an obvious Chinese choice, what about Thai?

                                    -----
                                    Chinatown Express
                                    126 Carroll Island Rd, Baltimore, MD 21220

                                    1. re: saintp

                                      Hop in a cab or Metro to Shaw and go to Thai X-ing. If you're feeling adventurous, order the chef's choice menu: http://www.thaix-ing.com/

                                      1. re: saintp

                                        Full Kee for Cantonese food. Get the oyster and ginger casserole, soft shell crabs, and the duck stuffed with shrimp paste. Excellent. Also good are sauteed chive flowers, clams in black bean sauce.

                                        -----
                                        Full Kee Restaurant
                                        509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          Ditto on Full Kee for Cantonese--the best!
                                          Also, Ben's Chili Bowl is a DC must. And if your Pho selection is meager in NYC, go to Pho 75 on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington--cheap and the best!
                                          Buon Apetito!

                                          -----
                                          Ben's Chili Bowl
                                          1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                          Full Kee Restaurant
                                          509 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                        2. re: saintp

                                          We have been going to Eat First on H street in chinatown for years and the food is good. Some of my favs there are the whole fish dishes, the honk kong noodle soup with shrimp dumplings, the roasted duck and bbq pork, clams in black bean sauce, chicken with ginger and mushrooms in clay pot, Aberdeen Shrimp (with heads on), great lo mein. Make sure you look at the specials on flourescent paper on the walls as well as the authentic chinese on the lucite stand on your table. not the greatest atmosphere but the food is always good.

                                          -----
                                          Eat First Restaurant
                                          609 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                          1. re: saintp

                                            I'm a big fan of Royal Thai in Chinatown, around the corner from Chinatown Express. I've taken a number of people there and everyone has been very happy with it.

                                    2. re: kallisti

                                      We had a late lunch at Pho DC today, and while pricey, it was very good. My son liked his brisket pho, which I would order next time, rather than the beef. It was far more tender.

                                    3. A couple spots we enjoyed on a recent trip to DC with two 10 yr old boys in tow..

                                      Pizzeria Paradiso in DuPont Circle. Killer thin crust and a great beer selection.
                                      Lost Dog Cafe out in Arlington... good pizza and again, a great beer selection.
                                      Ben's Chili Bowl... a great mix of people. It's crazy busy, but a great experience. We lunched near a group of 12 guys from the Dept. of Defense. Can only imagine the decisions made in that place over the years.
                                      And if you're out in Arlington, try Boccato Gelato on Wilson. Yum!!

                                      As for fine dining... I only know the accounts with which we do business, several listed above. With two 10 year old boys, one adventurous (my son) and the other, a junk food junkie (a nephew), it was tough to find something to appeal to all. I will recommend hitting up the International Square Food Court to satisfy all tastes. While one half of us had Five Guys, I settled for Indian, and my son had his favorite... sushi!

                                      -----
                                      Ben's Chili Bowl
                                      1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                      Lost Dog Cafe
                                      Arlington , VA, Arlington, VA

                                      Pizzeria Paradiso
                                      3282 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: VeggieHead

                                        That reminds me-- there's now a Pitango gelato on 7th St between D and E that's very good.

                                        1. re: VeggieHead

                                          Yes, definitely try Boccato on Wilson... try everything that looks good and don't forget to get a cup of their loose leaf tea.

                                        2. I just had one more thought. I'm sure people will call me crazy for this one, but in Cleveland Park, by the zoo, there is a Cereal Bowl restaurant. I haven't been, but it might be a fun treat for the girls. They can mix and match cereals and crazy toppings: http://www.thecerealbowl.com/

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: katecm

                                            The Cereal Bowl is now closed, I believe.

                                            1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                              Ha ha, seriously? That was fast! Guess there are fewer stoners in Cleveland Park than the company expected.

                                          2. This is my neighborhood! It's best area for restaurants in DC, truly. You'll have a million options. Mostly I just have thoughts on places doc already covered.

                                            I agree on Rasika. Make the reservation as soon as you can though because they are perpetually booked. I took my parents there over Thanksgiving weekend and they are *still* talking about it, and it was the best meal I ate all year also. Some critics consider it to be the best Indian restaurant in the country, if not the most authentic. Kids would be okay there, I think. It's a nice place, but it's not stuffy and people always think it's on the loud side.

                                            I also agree on Jaleo - nice place, one of the first tapas restaurants in the country. I always send people visiting from out of town there. And kids are fine there also.

                                            And I'd recommend Oyamel for Mexican. I would not go to Rosa Mexicana. It's just not a good restaurant by local standards.

                                            Anyway, those places will be kind of pricey.

                                            Other less pricey options - Vapiano's is a casual Italian place. It's not the most amazing food ever, but it's convenient and easy to get in and out - all counter ordering with a card system.

                                            For Chinese, Chinatown Express, although I've decided I kind of like Wok 'N Roll. Warning: this not the best Chinese food in the area - it's all out in the suburbs, but it's cheap and it's decent Americanized Chinese food. Some people are devoted to Full Kee, but I think it's gross. I'll let you decide - the place is very well-known.

                                            The Thai place - Thai Chili - in the Verizon Center is pretty decent. If you're open to sharing dishes, Carmine's is casual and really good, but they are serious about the family style portions.

                                            The good food carts make their way through this neighborhood often. If you see the lobster truck, I'd think about eating that. I've seen them a couple of times by Chinatown Coffee Co., which is one of the best coffee shops in the city, IMO.

                                            I have to disagree with Doc about one more thing: nobody should ever, ever consider eating at the Green Turtle. The food is slightly worse than Applebees. If you just want regular American fare in Chinatown, go to Clyde's.

                                            Other people know more about Capitol Hill food, but I just wanted to say that the botanical gardens are really great and everyone always loves going there.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Raids

                                              wow. thank you for the input. i still have 3 months to wait for this trip and i'm already planning it out meal by meal. maybe i'll try for a reservation at lunch for rasika. it looks lovely. i usually only cook Indian at home because the few restaurants near us are sub-par. and as for Mexican, it's a drought around us, so that would be a treat as well.

                                              1. re: saintp

                                                If you're going for lunch at Rasika, try reserving for a later lunch hour. Those are more likely to be available, since there are lots of offices and other tourists wanting to eat lunch at Rasika, as well! Hope you have a great time and find some time to report your thoughts on the food scene in DC.

                                                -----
                                                Rasika Restaurant
                                                633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                                              2. re: Raids

                                                raids:
                                                Green Turtle is ok for a cold beer and a burger- for lunch with young kids. not gourmet food--sports bar food is what it is. Agree not a gourmet experience. But they have a good selection of drafts and it is near where they are staying.

                                                -----
                                                The Green Turtle
                                                117 S Main St, Bel Air, MD 21014

                                                1. re: dining with doc

                                                  I've only been to the one at BWI, but they had some pretty good wings.

                                                2. re: Raids

                                                  We were able to walk into Rasika for lunch. They had to seat us in the bar but it's a very nice space and perfectly appropriate for children. But it's such outstanding food, I'd definitely go the reservation route.

                                                  -----
                                                  Rasika Restaurant
                                                  633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                                                3. I love Makoto. It's a Japanese restaurant which is kitchen oriented than sushi. The irony being they have some of the best sashimi and sushi I've tried. Their saba and ume are second to none. They change their menu a lot so I can't really tell you what to orser outside of the sushi. However, order prixe fix and you will not regret it. It's in Georgetown (4822 MacArthur Blvd NW Washington, DC 20007 (202) 298-6866) and I'd make reservations a few days in advance. Have fun!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: bigmackdaddy

                                                    Makoto is indeed delicious, but it's very pricey, and not a place to take two young children. Try their upstairs sister, Kotobuki for delicious sushi (by pretty much universal report, though I haven't gotten there yet unfortunately) at a reasonable price.

                                                    -----
                                                    Kotobuki
                                                    4822 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, DC 20007

                                                    1. re: kallisti

                                                      Yeah, I said it was strictly for adults. I also said that although they have terrific sushi, Makoto's really a Japanese kitchen. A very delicious kitchen, which indeed, you may pay between $60 & $80, pp.

                                                  2. Make sure you take the metro to Eastern Market on Saturday or Sunday. There are so many options in the food hall--amazing pastries on one end, half-smokes in the middle, a gourmet cheese guy... make sure you bring your camera and your appetite. On Sunday you've also got the flea market in the adjacent lot. It should be fun for your kids!

                                                    Another option is the Maine Avenue fish market. Definitely have some fresh-shucked oysters, chowder, and corn on the cob. They'll also steam and season whatever you buy, so wander around and enjoy!

                                                    1. This thread I started has some great info. Can't remember if anyone mentioned but DC's Metro is SO easy to use so you don't need to limit yourself very much geographically.

                                                      19 Replies
                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        So, we leave for DC in one month and I'm starting to compile all of your suggestions! We can't wait for our trip....I might be as excited for the food as i am for the sights. We'll be returning around April 20th and I will report back on our food experiences. All i know so far is that we will be making a reservation for Etete for dinner (how is it pronounced? I've been saying "Ay-tet").
                                                        Thank you for everyone's input!!

                                                        -----
                                                        Etete
                                                        1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                        1. re: saintp

                                                          FYI - Ben's Next Door serves the same food plus other options as Ben's Chili Bowl. They also have a full bar.

                                                          1. re: saintp

                                                            If you have a smart phone on great thing to do is make a google map with all the different places saved on it, make a tiny url for the google map then pull up that URL on your smart phone map (I know Iphone does this). That way if you need something close to where you are you can pull up the map, it will show where you are and what is around you.

                                                            FYI DC is a very reservations town, so highly suggest them for any place that is a hot spot or a must eat for you. It always amazes me how far in advance people make reservations around here. Not that you still can't get into places last minute or walk in, it just means you could have to wait a bit.

                                                            1. re: saintp

                                                              pronunciation - good question, I always guessed "uh-teh-tay" but people will understand what you mean "Oh yeah that place!" have a good time, a beautiful time of year to go.

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  Omigosh! I'd have never guessed. Next time(s) I'll know the proper way. Thanks.

                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                    interesting, (I'm no linguist so please forgive the terminology) no stop, hesitation, acknowledgment of the first "e"?

                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                      thanks for the pronunciation tips! i never would have guessed tay-tay!!

                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                        Not that I know of. I don't know enough to say why......

                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                    So, we leave in about 2 weeks. Here's a tentative list for meals so far. Breakfast is included at the hotel (which is sort of a bummer, because i love eating out for breakfast).
                                                                    Saturday, arrive at 2:30. Check in, walk around a bit. Early dinner at Oyamel.

                                                                    Sunday, zoo for the morning.
                                                                    Lunch at Lebanese Taverna.
                                                                    Afternoon open.
                                                                    Dinner at 6:30 at Etete....already made a reservation.

                                                                    Monday: museum (not sure which one yet)
                                                                    Lunch at Matchbox
                                                                    afternoon open
                                                                    Dinner at El Rinconcito.

                                                                    Tuesday: train departs at noon, we'll probably get some sandwiches from Taylor Gourmet to take with us.

                                                                    Any suggestions or comments about our plans?

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Taylor Gourmet
                                                                    1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                    Rinconcito Cafe
                                                                    1129 11th St NW Ste Lowr, Washington, DC 20001

                                                                    1. re: saintp

                                                                      You hear such mixed things about Oyamel lately - but really good things from people who should know, like other chefs - that I think it's worth really thinking about what to order there, maybe even with some professional help.

                                                                      http://www.washingtonian.com/restaura...
                                                                      http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/res...

                                                                      I'd tell you my own favorites, but I don't remember all that well beyond the margarita with salt air and the amazing ceviche.

                                                                      Was at El Rinconcito a couple of weeks ago again, and it was still really great. I think we were the only people there who weren't El Salvadoran. The neighborhood is definitely not touristy, but it's totally safe, by the way, in case you start wondering. Maybe keep your wits about you if you're taking the metro off the Mt Vernon stop and it's at night, but it's fine.

                                                                      1. re: saintp

                                                                        Lebanese Taverna is about the worst food I've had recently. Truly bad. There are several locations, so maybe not all are bad, but I used to be a big fan and they completely lost it. Go anywhere else, including fast food.

                                                                        At El Rinconcito, I highly recommend the carne deshilada with egg (a must order), the papusas de loroco, and the tamales. The rest of the menu is only 'eh' but should suffice for your clan.

                                                                        Get the mini-burgers at Matchbox (another must order) But make sure you order not more than medium-rare.

                                                                        Al an Ethiopian restaurant, you should start off with the vegetarian platter, then add items as you like. A whole fish is only $2 more!

                                                                        Instead of Lebanese Taverna: you will either spend you whole day at the zoo (it's hard to leave by lunch with kids), or if you really have some time free, you could easily take a cab over to the Washington Cathedral which rivals the great cathedrals of Europe - sort of. It's actually very interesting, filled with non-religious imagery of Helen Keller, MLK, and others. Nearby the Cathedral is 2 Amys for margherita pizza and Italian small plates like suppli, polpete, rapini. Specials are usually very interesting and exquisite. Just an idea.

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Rinconcito Cafe
                                                                        1129 11th St NW Ste Lowr, Washington, DC 20001

                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                          I wasn't at that location, but have been to the Arlington one and had some great food recently seemed to be pretty on point with what I expected in comparison to other Lebanese places in the area I go to. I don't think it is the worst place you could eat, by any means. I certainly wouldn't eat fast food instead.

                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                            Two Amys is not open for lunch.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Two Amys
                                                                            3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016

                                                                            1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                                              Woodley - I think you are mistaken they are open for lunch except on Monday's

                                                                              http://www.2amyspizza.com/index.cfm?f...

                                                                              1. re: agarnett100

                                                                                Sorry, my mistake. It must have been two separate Mondays when I stopped by there.

                                                                          2. re: saintp

                                                                            good you're hitting the zoo in the AM - that's when the Pandas are most active, call ahead and find the schedules and you can catch the keepers feeding the animals (I esp. recommend the seals and sea lions being tossed fish and chum) if you time your walk right, you can kind of keep finding the rolling wave of animal feeding. you're missing very little on b'fast in DC, difficult to find unless we're talking power breakfast. museum on Monday? I love the modern art at the American (right by Matchbox, but the kids might appreciate the Natural History and the sculpture garden more.

                                                                            1. re: saintp

                                                                              Love Taylor Gourmet, but Cowgirl Creamery sandwiches might be better if you're packing for travel.

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                                                                              Taylor Gourmet
                                                                              1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                              1. re: repete

                                                                                Don't forget that Taylor has cold sandwiches in addition to hot, and they're similarly delicious. I've had them days later, when I bought a ton during my house remodel week, and still enjoyed them.

                                                                          3. I just had lunch in the Cafe at the Museum of American Indian -- it was great. I had a pumpkin seed tamal and a glorious smoked green apple soup. They have a range of selections based on AI regional groupings -- several things like fry bread and tacos are non-adventurous kid friendly and the roasted pheasant with cherry sauce is not anything I've seen in a museum before. It's cheaper if you're a smithsonian member - my two dishes and drink were 15. And the museum is great to boot!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: jwernimo

                                                                              I was shocked last weekend when I tried the awesome salad bar in the basement of the American History Museum. Everything was fresh. The variety was excellent. Everything from standard items to very interesting, such as, pumpkin w/ cranberries, jicama w/ orange segments.

                                                                            2. Just reviewed your OP and wanted to mention how much I love the botanical gardens, and also their proximity to Capitol Hill. You could go to the Matchbox over there for lunch and hit the botanical gardens in the afternoon? Then, weather permitting, you could walk across the Capitol grounds back over to Penn Quarter (maybe a mile and a half, and its really pretty) and jump the train two stops from Penn Quarter/Navy Memorial to Mt. Vernon metro and walk over to El Rinconcito.

                                                                              My personal favorites on the mall are the sculpture gardens, the National Art Gallery, and the National Archives, where you can see the actual Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and an original copy of the Magna Carta. Your hotel is probably very close to the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum - don't miss the presidential portraits. They're all so familiar from textbooks and the exhibit with Lincoln's plaster masks in creepy in an excellent way.

                                                                              16 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Raids

                                                                                I would love to see the Archives, but I'm afraid it would be lost on our two kids. I might save that for a trip in a few years! If we can squeeze it in, the National Art Gallery is on my wish list, but I know how hard museums can be on little kids. More than an hour or two and they are dead. That's why I'm trying to do all this food planning in advance...to save us time walking and traveling to and fro.
                                                                                Thank you for the Matchbox rec and combining it with the botanical gardens. That's the kind of planning I like!

                                                                                1. re: saintp

                                                                                  True enough. Air and Space and the Natural Science museum are pretty awesome for kids.

                                                                                  Another idea is to take a look at the schedule for the food trucks before you head out and pack a picnic blanket if you're going to be crossing paths with one of them. Here's a website, but you can also sign up for their Twitter updates if there are a couple that you are particularly interested in - the lobster truck was even featured in the Post's dining guide:

                                                                                  http://foodtruckfiesta.com/

                                                                                  1. re: saintp

                                                                                    So, 40 hours away from a potential government shutdown and I'm sick to my stomach. After all of this planning!! We might be coming to DC JUST for the food, now. nevermind the historic museums and the zoo. aarrgghh!!! Maybe I should add one more meal per day to the plan, so we'll have something to do!

                                                                                    1. re: saintp

                                                                                      Major DC attractions that would be open during a government shutdown include the following:

                                                                                      * Mount Vernon Estate
                                                                                      * Corcoran Gallery of Art
                                                                                      * Phillips Collection
                                                                                      * National Building Museum
                                                                                      * International Spy Museum
                                                                                      * Newseum
                                                                                      * National Crime and Punishment Museum
                                                                                      * Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
                                                                                      * National Museum of Women and the Arts
                                                                                      * National Geographic Museum

                                                                                      I saw another good guide on what things to see and do, but I can't find where, I thought it was wapo, but can't seem to find it there.

                                                                                      Not quite what I saw but close: http://www.dclikealocal.com/dclikealo...

                                                                                      I will be really bummed if the Kite Festival is cancelled/postponed.

                                                                                        1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                                          I thought of a few of these, but most of them are more appropriate for adults and older kids. i myself would love to see the phillips collection and the national crime and punishment museum sounds intriguing, but i don't think it would have the same impact on our 4 year old as the zoo would!! keeping my fingers crossed.

                                                                                          1. re: saintp

                                                                                            Well, to look on the bright side, you can spend more time wandering neighborhoods and eating, then going into the actual museums. Honestly, most of my guests here in the past 5 years (ranging from 11 years old to 64) have enjoyed that more than seeing things you could see in a book. I like to structure the activity around the meal - so go to 2Amys, and the National Cathedral, for example. Also, all the monuments will be visible and the outside of the musuems. And while the pandas are nice to see, usually they are just siting there liked stuffed animals or hiding and little kids don't have the patience to wait for them to move (experience taking a 3 year to the zoo, she was much more interested in her snack!). My point is, there is lots to see or do here, without everything being open.

                                                                                            In fact, my plan is to stalk food trucks - I figure it fits my unpaid, unemployed status :)

                                                                                            1. re: DCLindsey

                                                                                              would the zoo actually close? it's not like the animals can go on a fasting diet and other than trash collectors and vendors (and believe me, you don't want that hotdog anyway) there aren't that many employees FOH other than the keepers and security guards a lot of the FOH people are volunteers/docents.

                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                It is my understanding that, yes, the zoo closes, since the personnel needed for visitors are non-essential. A staff of keepers probably is essential. I've heard that they actually rope off the monuments also, but if you google photos from the last shutdown it looks like they don't close off access - they just don't have visitor services running.

                                                                                                However, in the event of a shutdown, there would be no DC trash collection services and the police presence is down to a bare minimum, so there are certainly major drawbacks. Keep your fingers crossed, it's looking better today.

                                                                                                1. re: Raids

                                                                                                  The zoo will certainly be closed, it's part of the Smithsonian and they'll all be shut down, as will the Natl Gallery of Art. (Zoo keepers allowed in to take care of the animals, the zoo police will have a list.... I'm a volunteer there and I won't be allowed in.) I'm not sure, though, about the Building Museum, it's really popular with locals with young children (they have a play area) so might be worth checking, in case.

                                                                                                  Cultural Tourism DC has posted a good list of alternative things to do, I think taking children into account, as well.

                                                                                                  And it turns out Arlington Cemetery will be open (I don't think it was during last shut down) and so will the Kennedy Center, but with some limited hours -- they have a great view and room for the kids to move around, plus the free 6pm concerts every day seem to attract families.

                                                                                                  I think restaurants etc will be very grateful for the tourist dollars, you could eat well! -- since this could be a big blow to the local economy, for sure.

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                                                                                                  Kennedy Center
                                                                                                  2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20256

                                                                                                  1. re: mselectra

                                                                                                    one: good for you mselectra, two: really? even as an unpaid volunteer (I know, redundant) they won't accept your services? seems kind of short-sighted.

                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                      hill food -- volunteers who help care for the animals would have been on the list to get in, but I'm not that kind of volunteer... Fortunately all that is moot now (for now) -- and maybe I'll run into saintp at the zoo!

                                                                                                      1. re: mselectra

                                                                                                        whew!!! i was dreading telling my 4 year old that we couldn't go. "government shutdown" is sort of hard to explain to kids! so the planning is back on! maybe i'll wear a big CH sign so that i can meet some of you who have been so helpful. i will be sure to provide a trip report when we return!!

                                                                                                        1. re: mselectra

                                                                                                          ms: the helpfiest (is that a new word? if so I'm copywriting it) volunteers were the ones watching and documenting the animal behavior, maybe not essential but all had such passion they wanted to share with the visitor. there was one that was REALLY into Prairie Dogs. but had tons of info on flanking enclosures. I'd like to think that was you, although that encounter was about 7 years ago.

                                                                                                          oh yeah I'm glad saintp you don't have to break a four year old's heart (I can't see the fun in that myself) look for the overhead apes in the main concourse. (and seriously skip that hotdog)

                                                                                          2. re: saintp

                                                                                            Also looks like the Cherry Blossom Parade and perhaps the Kite Festival will still happen. The Kite Festival on Sunday was a favorite of mine as a child. We would always come down for it. If it happens I will be manning a pirate ship in the sky!

                                                                                            1. re: saintp

                                                                                              Well, Baltimore is 40 minutes north. Lotta good food and cool attractions up there.

                                                                                        2. Here it is: my trip report of our great trip to Washington D.C. First, thank you for all of the advice. even though we obviously couldn't make it to every restaurant, I think I was able to get a good feel for the city while reading all of the posts and checking things out for myself.

                                                                                          So, we arrived this past Saturday. After checking in and taking the girls to the hotel pool, we walked from the hotel over to Matchbox. We arrived at 4:45 (hungry, having woken up at 5 in order to make the train that morning). We were seated immediately, but the place was filling up quickly. We started off with 6 sliders, medium rare. They were perfectly done and very good. Should've ordered 9. My husband got the matchbox chicken sandwich (ciabatta, mozz., prosciutto). He said it was slightly overdone. The girls got a pizza, which was good. Not great.
                                                                                          I had a tuna nicoise salad, almost rare, it was very good. All in all, a very good start to the trip.

                                                                                          The next day we made it to the zoo for the opening (thanks for the metro tip. got off at cleveland park.) Spent 3 leisurely hours there. What a beautiful zoo. It was sunny and sort of cool and we loved exploring. We then walked a few blocks south to Lebanese taverna. We had to wait about 20 minutes (1:45 on Sunday)....i think they were understaffed. We ordered a falafel sandwich, the taverna platter (hummus, shawerma, meatball, tabbouleh...) and these tasty little meat pies (kibbeh?). Maybe we were just very hungry, but everything was really tasty. It was perfect. Except for the fact that we were stuck in the black hole for service. It was like we were invisible. But the food was good.
                                                                                          That night we ate at Etete (I asked our waitress the pronunciation: a-tay-tay...it's the word for mother or mommy). this was certainly the food highlight of the trip. excellent. We ordered 2 sambusa to start (triangular pastry with lentil, jalapeno, onion). Crisp, nicely spiced. For dinner we had the vegetarian combo (collards, red lentils, cabbage and carrot, split peas), Yebeg Wat (ground lamb with berbere and spices) and Zilzil tibs (strips of beef, onion, jalapeno). The lamb was my favorite. But everything was simply wonderful. The service, the food, it was perfect. If I lived in DC, I would be there every few weeks.

                                                                                          The next day we walked the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Botanic Gardens at the Capitol. Lunch was at the Natural History Museum, forgettable, but necessary at the time. If i had a smart phone, i would have searched out the food trucks. maybe by our next visit i will have entered the 21st century!
                                                                                          Dinner our last night was at Oyamel. We really enjoyed our dinner. Very pricey, but the restaurant was lovely, the service was excellent and the food was all good. We had 2 different ceviches (red snapper with avocado and salsa and tuna with pecans and amaranth...very different flavors). A shrimp with a mojo de ajo preparation was wonderful, very flavorful and the shrimp was done perfectly. We had 2 orders of the tamal verde (shredded chicken with tomatillo sauce, garlic and cilantro). That was like comfort food. then we had a bunch of tacos: grasshopper (because we had to....crunchy with a rich spice, we both liked it, the girls were aghast!), BBQ pork with red pickled onion (very good), house pork belly with pineapple and a tinga poblana (shredded chicken with potato). It was all quite tasty and a lot of fun.

                                                                                          All in all, our trip was a total success. The people were nice across the board, the metro was easy to use and so clean. DC is a beautiful city and we are looking forward to our next trip.
                                                                                          Again, thank you all so much for helping us plan...it's been a lot of fun!!

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Etete
                                                                                          1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: saintp

                                                                                            One more thing i forgot to add. We grabbed sandwiches at Taylor Gourmet to take with us on the train. I got the roasted pork with broccoli rabe and provolone. it was wonderful. My husband got the chicken cutlet version and the girls got turkey with provolone which they claimed was the best sandwich ever. thank you for the recommendation of that pork sandwich. what a great combo!

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                                                                                            Taylor Gourmet
                                                                                            1116 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                                                                                            1. re: saintp

                                                                                              Great report. Not specific to DC but (just) one of CHs greatest assets to me the terrific advice I get for trips. I'm not one to overstructure things but being able to go literally anywhere in the world and have great recs in my pocket is huge. Obviously you just had the same experience.

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                absolutely. i can't wait to make it back to europe with chowhound knowledge. there's just something about getting good ideas from locals and avid tourists/foodies, instead of stumbling into any old place when it's dinner time. once in a while you can get lucky doing that, but i prefer to go in with a bit of knowledge. i never would have found Etete without CH and i'm still thinking about that meal!

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                                                                                                Etete
                                                                                                1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                                                                1. re: saintp

                                                                                                  I always love hearing about people's impressions of our city. I am glad you had a good time!

                                                                                                  1. re: saintp

                                                                                                    When we ate at Etete (twice) in November, they were the first times I'd had Ethiopian food. I was bowled over. And it's a good looking place with friendly service also. Actually we never had a meal that disappointed. Looking forward to another house exchange there.

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                                                                                                    Etete
                                                                                                    1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                                                              2. re: saintp

                                                                                                Great report, thanks so much for giving us the valuable feedback!