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Jaded California food snob seeks like-minded fusspots to recommend good DC restaurants

mallhattan Feb 24, 2011 01:07 PM

I am sorry if this post offends others, but California generally has better food than most other places, including DC. Most of the restaurants we've been to in DC so far have been awful, despite excellent Yelp reviews. Case in point: Woodlands in Langley Park has 4.5 stars on Yelp with more that 80 reviews, yet the food was like a bad Hare Krishna lunch. The only conclusion is that people on Yelp in DC have terrible taste in food. This means they're not jaded and snooty like me, and now I fear that many of the Yelp reviewers have never even left Maryland before. Clearly, I cannot rely on Yelp for restaurant reviews.

The solution: I need recommendations from jaded food snobs like me (and you) from California who are really picky. You know the drill: really fresh seasonal food (new American/Cali style), authenticity if it's ethnic, simple menus.... service and decor are generally irrelevant: I seek FLAVOR

Also, good food doesn't necessarily mean expensive....are you listening DC?

yes, i'm a jerk: sorry :)

  1. m
    MrsWheatie Feb 24, 2011 01:19 PM

    Yelp is not as reliable as it is in CA. Follow this site and

    2 Replies
    1. re: MrsWheatie
      chefj Feb 25, 2011 03:07 PM

      Yelp is not reliable here in the SFbay area either.

      1. re: chefj
        Geeyore Jun 13, 2011 05:30 AM

        I've found over the years that Yelp people consistently overrate (often with !!!!! exclamation marks!!!) restaurants and services that I've experienced as horrible. You have to wonder when you have a 1- or 2-star experience in a place with all of those 5-star (with !!!! marks) Yelp reviews. In one instance a place I'd seen in decline for years was still packed with new 5-star reviews (with !!!!!), despite it becoming a transparently obvious ripoff operation.

    2. a
      anakalia Feb 24, 2011 06:25 PM

      Wow, you do seem like a kind of a jerk ;)
      That being said, Yelp also led us astray to the Woodlands in VA. It was absolutely awful, and I couldn't believe all the "great" reviews it received. Honestly, am still confused.

      1 Reply
      1. re: anakalia
        mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 04:21 AM


      2. s
        Steve Feb 24, 2011 06:26 PM

        Ok, so what did you have at Woodlands?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Steve
          mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 04:22 AM

          i had one of the thalis, an assortment of stuff, so i feel like i got a reasonable sampling. mostly overly creamy and heavy.

          1. re: mallhattan
            Steve Feb 25, 2011 02:05 PM

            That's very far from my experience, though it's been a while since I've been up there.

          2. re: Steve
            anakalia Feb 26, 2011 04:51 PM

            We had the weekend buffet -- which we had been told was supposed to be quite good. But it definitely was not. Bland, and grainy from the spice mixtures....

            1. re: anakalia
              Steve Feb 26, 2011 05:14 PM

              Woodlands in VA was never as good as the one in Langley Park and buffets - even Indian ones- are never a good way to judge a place.

              But it's been a while since I've been to the one at Langley Park.

              1. re: Steve
                anakalia Mar 1, 2011 12:48 PM

                Maybe I'll have to try out the Langley Park one at some time, to see if there's a difference. I know buffets aren't typically the best choice at Indian restaurants, but the Woodlands in LA has a very good, popular, South Indian buffet so I (wrongly) assumed it would be the same case at the VA one.

          3. w
            will_5198 Feb 24, 2011 06:44 PM

            "Also, good food doesn't necessarily mean expensive....are you listening DC?"

            In DC, it usually does. Some great exceptions in the suburbs, but DC itself is an expensive place to eat well. And Yelp reviews are generally horrible.

            1 Reply
            1. re: will_5198
              mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 04:22 AM

              yes, the best place so far for us was an excellent korean place in centreville

            2. hill food Feb 24, 2011 07:53 PM

              what I noticed when I moved to DC from CA, there's little great to be found in the mid-range, it seemed like every neighborhood in SF has more than just a few good and not expensive places, whereas in DC you really have to do your homework or be prepared to spend some $$.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hill food
                c oliver Feb 25, 2011 06:26 AM

                I defer to your larger experience having actually livedthere, hill food, but when we visited we had a plethora a great places to eat. And most of the recs came from CHs with you helping especially. (I'll never forget that "faux gras" at Central.) But ya got do the work. Here's part of what was graciously given to me:


                @OP: where in CA do you live and which restaurants in particular do you like?

              2. s
                SandyCat Feb 25, 2011 09:30 AM

                Saying DC-Baltimore area is like saying the San Francisco-Los Angeles area. They are too far apart and too different to be called a single metro area.

                That being said, there are lots of threads on the board with peoples' top faves. I would recommend starting there. Run a search for "best," "favorite," or "visiting." I agree with monkeyrotica's suggestion of Ethiopian. I generally frequent Dukem and Etete.

                I like everything from really fancy to super greasy guilty pleasure, so feel free to take my recs with a grain of salt.

                Places I would go to eat:
                - Bar Pilar for beer and small plates
                - Bibiana for something a little nice
                - Restaurant Eve for fancytimes (Old Town Alexandria)
                - Fast Gourmet for sandwiches and fries
                - Dicksons wine bar for the banh mi, and specials, not the wine
                - PX for cocktails (Old Town Alexandria)
                - Bistro du Coin for casual French (fave place to get a kir royale!)
                - Birch and Barley for beer and nice food
                - Oohs and Aahs for mac and cheese
                - Neyla for authentic and amazing Lebanese small plates (Georgetown)
                - Cork for wine and small plates
                - Rasika for fancy fusion Indian
                - Ceiba for their pork shank... I have never been able to deviate from that dish.
                - Blue Duck Tavern for general classy eats

                Places I haven't been but want to go to
                - Estadio
                - Komi
                - Palena
                - Pupatella
                -Too many restaurants

                I haven't quite explored all the food that's supposed to be good around the DC area. As others have said, you need to pony up some cash in order to eat well here. CHers in DC are super helpful; you've come to the right place.

                1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                Restaurant Eve
                110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

                1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                Bar Pilar
                1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

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

                1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                Birch and Barley
                1337 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203

                3 Replies
                1. re: SandyCat
                  Dennis S Feb 26, 2011 03:15 AM

                  Great post. First, I would add Black Salt to your second list.

                  Second, I think there's a matter of perspective on the distance thing. Now that I travel a few times a month to just South of Baltimore, it's long, but not that far, really. I would be tempted to go into the city at the drop of a hat. However, they are VERY different as you suggest.

                  The travel time between LA and SF is considerably greater, AND it would be a great bar conversation about which is more different: Balt/DC or LA/SF.

                  Oh, and on the cash thing - tune into the ethnic choices in the burbs. Great eating with little money. Based on your list I'd really recommend either Joe's Noodle House or Hong Kong Palace as the next sojourn. The weekend is just beginning, btw.

                  Hong Kong Palace
                  6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044

                  Joe's Noodle House
                  1488 Rockville Pike Ste C, Rockville, MD 20852

                  1. re: Dennis S
                    SandyCat Feb 26, 2011 09:49 AM

                    I agree, and I definitely love Baltimore; my main point of disagreement was the idea of "No way you DC kids can say that you're small compared to San Francisco; you're metro region of DC-Baltimore is giant!!" That's just an un-researched argument there.

                    I did forget BlackSalt from my list of yummy places! Yipes! I like that place a lot; seeing the kitchen is so fun.

                    I have made it a point to try to get out of the city to try more awesome restaurants; but if I want to make a difference in the District itself (to try to bring more awesome food closer to me), I need to complain on an internet forum. Err... I mean, spend money at places that are good in the city and thereby make the profitability of an area more noticeable to developers and potential new residents. But we are in agreement that I need to go out to the burbs. My last trip to Rockville to eat at A&Js was heaven.

                    4883 MacArthur Blvd., Washington, DC 20007

                  2. re: SandyCat
                    travelingirl Mar 24, 2011 07:40 AM

                    Great list!
                    I would also add Urbana. New chef, new menu, commitment to seasonal, local ingredients.
                    Oya. Can't beat their 3 course offer and they break away from the usual sushi combinations at the bar.

                  3. monkeyrotica Feb 25, 2011 09:26 AM

                    I had the Italian sandwich at Seventh Hill the other day. They take a calzone shape slab of fresh pizza dough, dust it with parmesian, bake it in the woodfired oven, and load it with Genoa salami, mortadella, capicola, provolone, arugula, and hot peppers. A fistful of intense, rich flavor for $8 and enough for two.

                    Seventh Hill Pizza
                    327 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

                    1. chowser Feb 25, 2011 11:55 AM

                      This will probably be deleted, too, but this whole board is about good food in the DC area by CH who are picky about food. I don't know if the OP wants all the info repeated in this thread, or is willing to search and ask questions. But, it seems kind of redundant to ask since it's the reason it's all here.

                      1. chowser Feb 25, 2011 05:05 AM

                        You're looking for new American/Cali style food in the winter in the DC area? You're going to be disappointed. This board is full of recommendations of good places to eat, nothing compared to Yelp (the bigger question is why continue to use it when you haven't had luck--can you imagine if someone slammed CA food because of Yelp recommendations?). Have you been to Eden Center, the various Ethiopian, Salvadoran, Korean, Afghan places recommended here? You can get great Korean food in Annandale and Centreville is quickly becoming a new Annandale.

                        Eden Center
                        Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chowser
                          mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 05:12 AM

                          thanks! fyi, i don't continue to use yelp, that's why i came here and thanks for the recs.

                          1. re: mallhattan
                            chowser Feb 25, 2011 05:18 AM

                            Being from California, I also love to wander around the Eastern Market in DC, more in the summer when there's produce in season, other than root vegetables. The various farmers markets are good in the non-winter months, too, but then again, I prefer to cook at home so love that type of thing.

                            If you're willing to travel and spend more money, i like Patowmack Farm restaurant--they have their own farm that supplies their restaurant and source locally.

                          2. re: chowser
                            mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 05:16 AM

                            also, there's lots of great seasonal winter stuff to eat, it just depends on the cook

                          3. c
                            cambridgeMike Feb 25, 2011 05:14 AM

                            I hate to also be an ahole but i kind of agree. it's taken me a while to find some places i like in the DC area. A few places I like in DC are Dino for rustic Italian and Againn for scottish. In the Md burbs I really like Tiffin for Indian and 8407 kitchen and bar in downtown silver spring for new american.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cambridgeMike
                              agarnett100 Feb 25, 2011 06:04 AM

                              It doesn't matter if your from CA, NY or Paris there are plenty of spots in DC that serve some tasty food it all depends on where you look and perference.

                              1. re: cambridgeMike
                                mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 06:15 AM

                                thanks mike for the kindred crabbiness :) and i'll take you up on these recs and report back

                                1. re: cambridgeMike
                                  mallhattan Mar 18, 2011 08:52 AM

                                  mike: 8407 was solid, thanks and i'll try all your other suggestions.

                                2. s
                                  sharonlouk Feb 25, 2011 08:01 AM

                                  I think you make a mistake when you try to find California style food in the DC area. I tend to prefer the cheap eats end of the spectrum, and my area of familiarity is Montco, so my favorites likely wouldn't be yours, but I would suggest that you try not to compare to your beloved California and go with the Chowhounds. They know what's good! Now, I just moved to the Philadelphia suburbs and food-wise, this is miserable, so I do understand the difficulty of leaving someplace where you had all your favorites to someplace where you can't seem to find any. Adjust your expectations and you may just find some real gems. That's what I'm trying to do.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: sharonlouk
                                    GraydonCarter Mar 1, 2011 01:55 PM

                                    > California style food

                                    I remember when I visited California and ordered a burger and it came topped with sprouts!

                                    Is that what the OP is getting at? Californians have adapted different taste buds? So our favorites in MoCo wouldn't be good for a Californian? Except maybe the California Pizza Kitchen in Rio?

                                    1. re: GraydonCarter
                                      hill food Mar 22, 2011 08:40 PM

                                      oh Graydon, CPK? I thought I trusted you...

                                      1. re: hill food
                                        GraydonCarter Mar 22, 2011 10:44 PM

                                        Heh, don't mistake that for a recommendation. Been once, back in the eighties.

                                        "Oven-roasted artichoke hearts, sautéed spinach and garlic with spinach artichoke sauce" sounds very Californian to me. My point being, it could be compared to ethnic food in terms of acquired tastes. If my favorite pizza doesn't have artichoke hearts maybe a Californian wouldn't like it so much...

                                        1. re: GraydonCarter
                                          hill food Mar 22, 2011 10:50 PM

                                          ok CPK or Puck in the 80's - well who wasn't? now I feel better (and that's what CH is all about, right? me?)

                                    2. re: sharonlouk
                                      windycity Mar 23, 2011 02:44 PM

                                      Everytime I'm in Philly I go to Capogiro and Lan Zhou noodles in Chinatown. I've had some excellent meals at Distrito as well. But yes, overall Philly is probably worse than DC foodwise. Amazing salted caramels at the Market.

                                      1. re: windycity
                                        kukubura Mar 23, 2011 03:03 PM

                                        Errr Philly is a fine food town. Some truly outstanding options. This is a weird thread.

                                        1. re: kukubura
                                          hill food Mar 23, 2011 08:55 PM

                                          Philly is worth a nice day/overnight trip or longer. it's got it's own thing going on (hey it is a major city)

                                          but that is one of the nice things about DC, when you get tired of the immediate and obvious there are other places for an easy weekend (megabus eh eh) but stick around DC for a while before you throw up your hands. plenty local, but short train trips and cheap air flights all over the Eastern seaboard. just can't get lazy and you can't be expected to eat out every night after all.

                                    3. j
                                      jfw Feb 25, 2011 08:39 AM


                                      Some spots to get good food:

                                      1. 2Amys: For your first visit, I'd recommend skipping pizza. Find a spot at the bar and explore. Small plates there are seasonal and simple. Suckling pig head salad is complex and a textural adventure. This time of year, roasted root vegetables are very earthy and offset by a rare, sweet vin cotto. Soft cheeses are rich and decadent. Smoked fish dishes are smoked in house and appropriately pungent. I could go on. Anyhow...the wine list focuses on southern Italian wines. Peter Pastan also owns and operates Obelisk in Dupont Circle. That Italian restaurant is still relaxed in atmosphere and vibe, but sits at a higher price point.

                                      2. Any of the 'Ray's' empire restaurants: Michael Landrum has forged a course in the region by providing very good value. He specializes in beef. His sommelier, Mark Slater, is widely respected and moved to Landrum's side after many years at Citronelle. See here:


                                      3. Palena: The restaurant now offers a bunch of dining options (a fine dining menu/space, a 'cafe' menu/space, and another mid-range/price point option in an expanded space next door to the original). The food is also seasonal and simple. Frank Ruta does many things very, very well, but his clear broths win much praise. He is currently doing a 'head-to-tail' type meal that is also garnering a lot of attention and praise.

                                      4. Birch & Barley: Nothing earth-shattering happening with the food here, but it is well-executed and hearty. The catch at this place is you can pair your food with hundreds of beers (presumably not in one sitting!). The list is pretty amazing and includes lots of hard-to-finds.

                                      5. Masala Art: Rasika rightly gets a lot of attention as DC's best Indian restaurant, but Masala Art is on par. The cuisine is not really contemporary and innovative like at Rasika, but Masala Art offers Indian flavors and dishes I don't see at any other Indian spots. I've rarely seen an Indian restaurant's menu change with any regularity, but Masala Art's does and there is often something new to try. I'm not versed in regional features or flavors, but I can tell you the food here is complex and exciting and cooked with care.

                                      Hopefully those suggestions help and get you started on realizing DC ain't, like, totally worthless. Welcome to town.


                                      3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                                      Masala Art
                                      4441 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, MD 20016

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: jfw
                                        mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 09:15 AM


                                        1. re: jfw
                                          mallhattan Mar 15, 2011 05:53 PM

                                          thanks jfw: we tried 2amys and yes the small plates were great. note to other posters: it was all seasonal winter root veg. pizza was pretty good too. all in all, simple, solid and not terribly expensive. that's what i'm talking about! i'm hopeful and will try your recs and report back.

                                          1. re: mallhattan
                                            jfw Mar 20, 2011 07:27 PM


                                            Very pleased to hear that worked out for you. I stand by the other recs and hope they also do you right. Keep me posted!


                                        2. kukubura Feb 25, 2011 08:54 AM

                                          You don't deserve it ;) but here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/520156

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: kukubura
                                            mallhattan Feb 25, 2011 09:14 AM

                                            thanks, bud, now that's the spirit!

                                            1. re: mallhattan
                                              c oliver Feb 25, 2011 01:24 PM

                                              So where is it that you live or used to live in CA? And if you give some examples of your favorites restaurants and dishes that would help also.

                                              1. re: mallhattan
                                                piafoodie Feb 25, 2011 01:41 PM

                                                Forget Woodlands - way past its prime. For South Indian Idlis and Dhosas, head out to Fairfax to Saravana Palace. My South Indian hubbie goes there when no family members are around to cook for him! They also have some Indian Chinese items - yummy!

                                                For the Indian food lovers out there - head over to the Kennedy Center during the Maximum India Festival this March. Chef Hemant Oberoi from the Taj Mumbai is transforming the restaurants there to Indian restaurants, with the help of Vikram Sundaram from Rasika. Should be some tasty treats.

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

                                                Kennedy Center
                                                2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20256

                                                1. re: piafoodie
                                                  Steve Feb 25, 2011 02:09 PM

                                                  Saravana Palace is an excellent rec, and together with Mazadar Kabob, make up the best two restaurants in the DC area that are next door neighbors.

                                                  1. re: Steve
                                                    anakalia Feb 26, 2011 05:10 PM

                                                    Hmm.. I guess I had a different experience, but I wasn't that impressed with Saravana Palace, and wouldn't recommend it to the OP! It was definitely better than Woodlands, but I thought the dhosas and kancheepuram idli we had there were just OK -- not a fantastic bargain and not that delicious. If I lived close by, I would go again, but I definitely didn't feel it was worth the 20-minute drive from where we live.
                                                    Still searching for great, tasty South Indian food in the area...

                                                    1. re: Steve
                                                      anakalia Feb 26, 2011 05:11 PM

                                                      Oh, but I wanted to add, piafoodie, thanks for the rec on the Maximum India Festival -- looks great!

                                              2. f
                                                flavrmeistr Feb 25, 2011 04:02 PM

                                                Really fresh seasonal food? Check back in season, roughly June through October. We're living on flour and lard this time of year.

                                                1. Jay F Feb 25, 2011 04:20 PM

                                                  My friends think of me as a food snob, too. (Hey, doesn't mean I'm wrong, right?)

                                                  I don't live in DC anymore, but if I were visiting, the first place I'd want to go to is Palena, on Connecticut at the Cleveland Park Metro stop. Frank, the chef, has recently been serving different kinds of fish in Saor, using Prosecco in addition to vinegar. Saor is such a favorite thing of mine, and practically no one has ever heard of it. http://www.palenarestaurant.com/Menus.... I would probably eat there every chance I got.

                                                  Also, I would like to go back to Sushi Taro at 17th & P in Dupont Circle and see if the sushi is still as good as it used to be. Apparently they've had a renovation, and some of the food may have suffered in the attempt to present a new image. At least, that's what I've read. I've also read that the food is still excellent, so I want to try for myself. It was my favorite sushi place.

                                                  There's another place just up 17th Street called Komi, which is supposed to be wonderful, but it can cost $250 a person, which my spendiest friend's spendiest friend said was "great, but $250 per person is just too much to spend unless you're in an environment like Per Se."

                                                  Rasika is an Indian restaurant downtown (Penn Quarter?) which my spendiest friend just adores, and he's never cared one way or the other about Indian. People use words like "upscale" and "fusion" to describe Rasika.

                                                  3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

                                                  1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                                  Sushi Taro
                                                  1503 17th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Jay F
                                                    c oliver Feb 25, 2011 05:03 PM

                                                    We had a lunch at Rasika and it was outstanding. We shared several small plates and wines by the glass. It wasn't expensive that way...and that's generally how we eat. Not JUST because of price but so we can try different things. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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

                                                  2. k
                                                    kriscolby Feb 26, 2011 06:28 AM

                                                    I just like the concept of being a fusspot.

                                                    As an ex-Californian myself, I remember well the satisfying sanctimonious feeling of telling people that my old neighborhood had more, better restaurants.

                                                    Then I realized I was hungry and decided to just go find something good to eat rather than spend my time feeling smug.

                                                    Many of the suggestions here are great. To them I would add some great treats that you can't get easily in SF (inconceivable!) like pupusas and pollo a la brasa.

                                                    Kris in SS.

                                                    1. h
                                                      hamster Feb 26, 2011 07:41 AM

                                                      I am a very critical eater (and person!), so I have sympathy for you. The truth is you need to start reading this board and figuring out which posters have your style. There is a lot of good food in the area, but you do have to work for it.

                                                      A few helpful links:




                                                      1. crackers Feb 27, 2011 07:11 AM

                                                        Do you hail from Northern or Southern California? Regardless, this Banana Slug is surprised nobody has mentioned Eric Ziebold's exemplary menu at CityZen. Chef Ziebold is ex-French Laundry/PerSe and knows from new American. True, it's pricey, but the three-course bar menu is still around $50.

                                                        You already were given the link to Grace Garden, but here are a couple of additional suggestions:

                                                        Tom Power at Corduroy has some of the best new American cooking in town. No gimmicks, just genuine, un-fussy well-prepared fare.

                                                        For Indian, if you happen to be in the Bethesda area, go to Passage to India where the menu is divided into different regions of the sub-continent.

                                                        CityZen Restaurant
                                                        1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

                                                        Passage to India
                                                        4931 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: crackers
                                                          c oliver Feb 27, 2011 07:35 AM

                                                          That bar menu at CityZen looks terrific. And the wine pairings at $25 keeps it reasonable. Tangentially, their website is so user-friendly unlike some.

                                                          BTW, I love that banana slug story so much I stopped at the UC Santa Cruz gift shop and bought a teeshirt a few years ago.

                                                          Hopefully OP is out eating at all these great recs since s/he's been so quiet.

                                                          CityZen Restaurant
                                                          1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

                                                          1. re: crackers
                                                            will_5198 Feb 27, 2011 08:46 AM

                                                            Corduroy also has a $30 three-course deal at the bar, for those on a smaller budget.

                                                          2. r
                                                            Raids Feb 27, 2011 07:41 AM

                                                            I haven't been myself yet, although I'm going soon, but people are probably right about Palena. Otherwise, I'd agree with Rasika, because many consider it to be the best Indian (yes, "fusion") place in the country. Don't go there and try to order whatever looks "authentic" - that's missing the point. Go and order whatever looks good, as long as that includes the palaak chat and mixed grill. I'd also recommend Againn, because it's not likely you'd find a place doing what they are doing out in Cali. Focus on the meat. Get the country pork pate.

                                                            Also, Etete or Ethopic.

                                                            And then you should also order some El Salvadoran stuff of the menu of one of those places around here, since it would probably be interesting to explore the difference between that and California-style Mexican, even though, back to back, I think the good Mexican places in California are probably better. I like El Rinconcito.

                                                            I think that pretty much covers everything I've said in every other thread posted by someone from Cali coming to visit D.C.

                                                            Yelp reviews for DC are *particularly* inaccurate. Seriously. Here's an experiment - I'm thinking off the top of my head of the worst restaurant and experience I've had in the city and....it has three and a half stars on Yelp. Which is the same as Againn. Ridiculous. I will say that looking over Againn's reviews, there is a trend with the negative reviews having ordered the fish and chips or the salmon salad, and I've never had either. Get some red meat.

                                                            Just wanted to add, also, that I had an $11 burger off the bar menu at PS7 yesterday that freaking knocked my socks off. So I might consider going to the lounge there also - it gets really busy, but you could grab a seat in there through 6:30pm last Saturday no problem.

                                                            1. j
                                                              juniormints Mar 1, 2011 07:56 AM

                                                              You're not a food snob. I completely agree...food in the DC area is overpriced, and GOOD food is hard to come by. And, that's coming from someone that's lived here for the better part of their life. That said, you can eat well around here, you just have to work harder for it. Yelp should never be trusted, and even CH can be unreliable. For places I haven't tried, I tend to rely more on food critics, select food bloggers, and the Don Rockwell forum.

                                                              For new American that doesn't cost a fortune, maybe try 8407 in Silver Spring or Woodberry in Baltimore. For ethnic, Thai House in Gaithersburg for their noodle dishes, Sichuan Pavilion in Rockville for their spicy dishes, Thai X-ing in DC for the chef's choice menu. I'd also suggest the Citronelle bar/cafe, the Ray's empire, and Bibiana for desserts. And while you're at it, some traditional Maryland fare....starting with blue crabs and beer at a crabhouse and gigantic soft-ball sized crabcakes.

                                                              Welcome to the area, and happy eating!

                                                              3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

                                                              Thai House Restaurant
                                                              8369 Snouffer School Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20879

                                                              1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005

                                                              1. chowser Mar 1, 2011 12:52 PM

                                                                Three good deals:

                                                                Lunch at the bar at either Restaurant Eve, the Lickety Split for $13.95; or at the Majestic, same owner, more casual, the Royal Pick for $12.95.

                                                                Ray's the Steak, $35 three course special for the best steak in the area

                                                                Restaurant Eve
                                                                110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: chowser
                                                                  ChoppinBroccoli Mar 22, 2011 02:53 PM

                                                                  Came to DC from Texas approx 10 yrs ago, and had the same impression. Unfortunately, our impression hasn't improved much over time. Agreed that DC usually feels overpriced, and left with a feeling of being underwhelmed. Of course, we also dine out in the less fancy places, and so that end of the spectrum may be another world unto itself. We live in DC and have tried most of the haunts. Our favorites are: Matchbox, Granville Moore's (for the Mussels), Rasika (as many have already mentioned--it is also in the pricey dept), and Thaiphoon. Wish I could recommend more, but those seem to be the go-to's.
                                                                  p.s. Have also spent a fair amt of time in Cali. As one person already mentioned, don't try lookin for Cali food in DC, you'll likely be disappointed. Same with Texas food and Louisiana food.

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

                                                                  2011 S St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                                                2. Pei Mar 22, 2011 10:49 PM

                                                                  Live in SF, visit DC often, am always blown away by:

                                                                  -Amsterdam Falafel (there's a bourbon bar next door I hear is good)
                                                                  -Greek Deli (best tzatziki ever)
                                                                  -MiniBar at Cafe Atlantico (reserve ahead of time for a molecular gastronomy dinner+a show)
                                                                  -Matchbox Pizza (yes, we have Delfina/Flour+Water/etc. but I was still impressed)
                                                                  -Eastern Market, just because we don't get blue crab out here. Crabcakes!

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

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Pei
                                                                    c oliver Mar 23, 2011 07:32 AM

                                                                    Re Eastern Market, also half smokes, hot for me. Never tasted anything like it. Ever.

                                                                    1. re: Pei
                                                                      hill food Mar 23, 2011 08:59 PM

                                                                      Pei: no blue crab? I find that (live no less, ok most are sorta live) in Asian markets where I'm currently incarcerated, although why ya would want that over Dungeness beats the hell outta me. and yes the tzatzilki at Greek Deli is about the only one I can handle (not allergic, just makes me burpy no matter the source cucumber)

                                                                      1. re: hill food
                                                                        GraydonCarter Mar 24, 2011 07:02 AM

                                                                        Thanks for sharing.

                                                                        1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                          hill food Mar 24, 2011 07:22 PM

                                                                          heh, TMI? be assured that's about as far as I'll ever describe after effects. cuke aversion is about as common as cilantro and not just the flavor. (I'm more embarrassed that I mis-spelled tzatziki)

                                                                    2. Pool Boy Mar 24, 2011 06:34 AM

                                                                      Palena (particularly the back room, but the cafe is wonderful too). There is no better place in DC that embraces food and flavor better. And seasonality. And if all you do is go there and get one of Frank Ruta's consommes, pot au feus or other broth based soups, you will understand.

                                                                      That's really all you need to know. ;-)

                                                                      Other places to try (though not always living up to your requirement of only local and only seasonal), of course, are--
                                                                      CityZen (is fine, but very expensive, and honestly I think Palena is superior)
                                                                      Restaurant Eve (which is fine, but also very expensive, and I was not overly impressed)
                                                                      Dino (near Palena, very good casual Italian place)
                                                                      Brasserie Beck
                                                                      Grace Garden way up in Odenton, MD
                                                                      Pick a Peruvian Chicken joint, I like Chicken on the Run in Bethesda, MD
                                                                      Mia's Pizzas
                                                                      Joe's Noodle House in Rockville, MD ain't bad either
                                                                      Tacqueria La Poblanita (Rt 1 North between Jessup, MD and Laurel, MD - though it probably still pales to what you can get in CA)

                                                                      That's a start, but there are loads of places to try and consider. FWIW, I think Yelp is pretty useless. You might consider other food related forums that focus purely on the DC area (they do exist!) for even more suggestions.

                                                                      PS7 Restaurant
                                                                      777 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                                      Restaurant Eve
                                                                      110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                                      CityZen Restaurant
                                                                      1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

                                                                      3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

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

                                                                      1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                                                      Grace Garden
                                                                      1690 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD

                                                                      Joe's Noodle House
                                                                      1488 Rockville Pike Ste C, Rockville, MD 20852

                                                                      1. o
                                                                        oceancrest67 Mar 24, 2011 08:06 AM

                                                                        I think people tend to gravitate and conform to the local scene (no matter where--food or otherwise) over time...it gets easy for people to convince themselves that what they are used to sets the standard elsewhere.

                                                                        I used to be called a snob or an elitist because I grew up moving about overseas...exposed to different cultures, foods and ways of living. I still cling to some standards and ideals from overseas but I have also had to keep my mind open to what is good locally. In this light, one can find good and bad anywhere whether overseas, in CA or here in DC.

                                                                        I agree with some of the other folks who stated it takes a bit more effort and perhaps a bit more financially to find good food in the DC area. Also...finding what is fresh, authentic, sincere, cooked right and served with distinction can be hard to find..whether a good sandwich or fine dining.

                                                                        I think it is easy for people to become clones to the processed chain restaurants without exploring or insisting on something else.

                                                                        1. f
                                                                          florwoman Mar 24, 2011 08:25 AM

                                                                          At the expense of repeating some good advice from others, here are some greta places in DC. Yes, many are expensive - it's just how things are in DC, and I can't comment much on the suburbs.
                                                                          Kinkaid's - wonderful seafood, expensive but gret special event restaurant;

                                                                          Blacksalt - we eat at the bar a lot and it's always marvelous (also a great place to buy seafood);

                                                                          Siroc - a favorite Itialian(ish) restaurant downtown. The chef makes everything fresh incl bread and gelato and is truly amazing. Moderate prices by DC standards. He also has opened Vento on P st, which isn't quite as good.

                                                                          Haandi - extremely flavorful Indian in Bethesda;

                                                                          Rasika - echoing others

                                                                          Johnny's Half Shell - at the foot of Capitol Hill - best crabcakes in the city

                                                                          Et Volia - great mussels, amazing gravlax, and authentic rude service in the Palisades;

                                                                          Bistro Du Coin - echoing others;

                                                                          Komi - start saving your pennies now for a worthwhile experience;

                                                                          Restaurant Nora - still great after all these years;

                                                                          Centrale - reliable Michel Richard but always a wait.

                                                                          Palena - ditto other positive comments

                                                                          I won't gush over Restaurant Eve like others do -- I've only eaten in the tasting room, and while it was good we found it a bit frou frou for us. Perhaps the regualr dining room would have been abetter fit for us, but haven't been back.

                                                                          Restaurant Eve
                                                                          110 South Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                                          3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

                                                                          Restaurant Nora
                                                                          2132 Florida Ave., N.W, Washington, DC 20008

                                                                          1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

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

                                                                          1222 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046

                                                                          Siroc Restaurant
                                                                          915 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

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