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4 Days in DC

We're taking a family trip to DC in a couple weeks, staying in Dupont Circle area. My last visit to DC was a couple years ago, and included:

- minibar - you can read about it here - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5202...
- Jaleo - enjoyed it, might well return
- Vidalia - nice but underwhelming
- West End Bistro - good, but don't know that I'd go back.

That was a solo trip, this time we'll have kids in tow (13 & 11) but they are pretty wide-ranging and well-behaved eaters, so that doesn't restrict us much other than that lengthy tasting menus are difficult (though I'd go back to minibar in a heartbeat if we could get in, and I bet they would love it).

I'm looking for recommendations on (1) new and exciting and opened since 2008, when I was last doing my homework; (2) high-end food in a not-too-stuffy environment; (3) good, authentic Korean, Vietnamese, Ethiopian; (4) any great restaurants walking distance in Dupont Circle area; (5) decent lunch suggestions around the typical touristy sites.

My not-so-short list so far:

- Bistrot du Coin
- Café Atlantico sunday dim sum brunch
- Central Michel Richard
- Etete
- Firefly
- Mandu
- Palena (cafe side - is it no reservations, is there usually a long wait?).

I've purposely omitted Komi (menu format won't work with the kids, probably can't get in anyway) and Rasika (kids don't love Indian food).

Comments on any of these, and additional suggestions, are all welcome.

1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

Central Michel Richard
1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20004

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

1990 M Street, Washington, DC 20036

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  1. hey, frod. this is tinymango from twitter.

    i would def do etete, central and palena. god, esp palena.

    regarding palena, i imagine if youre eating with kids, youll probably get there fairly early (rite?) and i havent ever had a problem, if it's early enough. one of the best in dc, hands down. central is just all around great, in my humble opinion.

    one of the v important questions regarding your ethnic food query is are you going to have a car and are you willing to go to the northern va burbs? or silver spring, md, theyre where the real, authentic ethnic food is. it's kinda watered down within the district and the metro area is fairly easily accessible by car.

    that being said, eden center in falls church, va is a humongous vietnamese shopping mall with tons of great food options thta you can find by searching it on this board. honey pig in annandale,va is a super fun and authentic 24 hour korean bbq. and wheaton/silver spring are home to both ruan and nava thai, both very good (though i give ruan the edge, gimme that crispy watercress/seafood thing..).. within the district the only thai place i can reccommend is the very ineresting thai xing but its incredibly small and fills up ridiculously fast. im talking microscopic, here.

    are you looking for another ethiopian rec besides etete? i think etete is v good. queen makeda maybe.

    what about southern food? do you guys get a lot of that in miami? there's oohh's + aahh's, eatonville is pretty rad, levi's port cafe, art and soul is kinda more nouveau but, still good as of recent reports.

    maybe also consider trying to find the lobster roll truck. <3

    the greek deli is also a great choice for lunch. really really awesome greek food.
    ill come back if i think of anything else.

    1. You've gotten lots of good suggestions from MPE...

      Central is wonderful; they are open for lunch M-F only.

      I would say don't bother with Mandu - unless you are hell bent on having Korean without leaving the District. If you really want good Korean, you have to drive to Annandale, VA, unfortunately. Honey Pig is fantastic.

      I love Etete; Queen Makeda is also very good. Lots of people on the board rave about Ethiopic on H St. NE (I haven't been).

      Palena Cafe - do get there early. (Combine with a trip to the zoo????)

      For Vietnamese, Eden Center is your best bet, but it is a very unpleasant walk from the Metro Station. It's better if you drive there. My favorite Vietnamese in DC is Pho Viet on 14th St. (Columbia Heights Metro, or take a bus up 14th St. which gets you much closer).

      Ruan Thai in Wheaton is fantastic and is only a couple of blocks from the Wheaton Metro. Nava Thai seems to have gone downhill. Thai Xing is good, but is TINY as MPE said. I don't think it's good enough to deal with the hassles - especially with kids in tow.

      The Greek Deli is open M-F only, as is The Breadline, a fantastic lunch place near the White House. Get there on Fri. for their pulled pork on ciabatta.

      Lobster truck is great, but costs $18 and the line is about an hour long. I wouldn't want to do this on a four day trip with kids.

      New since 2008 is Birch and Barley on 14th St. I haven't been yet, but it's gotten tons of accolades and great press -- and great comments on CH. Also new since 2008 is Againn, an Irish gastropub with great food and cocktails.

      I like Teaism, which is very near the National Gallery. Don't miss the salty oat cookies for dessert.

      Maybe for lunch on Sat. (not Sun.) check out Good Stuff Eatery (Capitol South Metro) for very good burgers and the best shakes in town. Spike Mendelsohn's other place, We The Pizza is next door. Their pizza is good, but their homemade sodas (e.g. sour cherry) are fantastic.

      It's common that a lot of places that are open for lunch during the week are closed for lunch on the weekend. Make sure to check on this before heading to a destination place for lunch on Sat. or Sun.

      Have fun!

      1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

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

      Ruan Thai Restaurant
      11407 Amherst Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902

      3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

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

      2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

      Greek Deli
      1120 19th St NW Frnt 1, Washington, DC 20036

      Good Stuff Eatery
      303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

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

      1. You've got a good list there, though I haven't been to Firefly in years and I wouldn't expect authentic Korean in DC, but I imagine you won't have a bad meal at Mandu. You may want to consider Thai X-ing, which is a unique experience. Only two tables in a basement apartment, must reserve, but very casual. If you are given a menu choice, then ask for the red curry salmon (a must) and the pad kana.

        1. Thanks for the responses. A bit of follow-up ->

          - Palena - when you say early, how early? Here in Miami, anything before 8pm is "early". They open 5:30pm - if you're there before 7pm, what are the chances of getting in without a wait? 6:30?

          - Mandu - got bonus points because it's very close to where we're staying. Mrs. F had Korean in Georgetown when she was in DC a few months ago and enjoyed it. Can't remember the name - any idea where it might have been?

          - Southern food is an interesting thought. As you may know, the south kind of ends at the northern border of Miami-Dade County, which is where Latin America begins, so there's not as much Southern food here as you might expect.

          - At risk of losing my Chowhound credentials, I'll confess it is unlikely we will make a pilgrimage to the suburbs just on a food expedition, unless I can convince the family that it's somewhat on the way to something we'd otherwise be visiting (any help in this department is certainly welcome). I spent a lot of time trying to plot an excuse for the 5-hour pilgrimage out to Chilhowie to Townhouse before Mrs. F caught on.

          - We were just in Maine last summer so I'll probably skip the lobster roll truck. Good idea, though.

          - I like Thai food but the only time I've really found it to be transcendent is at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. Is Thai X-Ing or Ruan Thai so good that you'd make it one of four dinners you'd eat in DC?

          - Breakfast suggestions for Dupont Circle area also welcome. There are already a few threads, I see Tabard Inn, Teaism, Luna Bar & Grill, Pain Quotidien. Any additions to the list or comments on any of those?

          - "tinymango," "monpetitescargot" - what's the obsession with little foods? ;)

          Thanks for the help.

          Ruan Thai Restaurant
          11407 Amherst Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902

          3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

          Thai X-Ing
          515 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

          2009 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009

          Tabard Inn
          1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

          3 Replies
          1. re: Frodnesor

            Palena can be a little bit odd about when it fills up. Last month, I went around 7:30 p.m. on a Friday and we were immediately seated (although the restaurant was near full). The very next day, they had an hour-plus wait at 6:30 p.m.

            In general I'd shoot for 6-6:30 p.m. if you have a party of 4. Closer to 6 p.m. if it's a Friday or Saturday.

            1. re: Frodnesor

              For your four dinners, I'd do Etete, Central, Palena and Oohs and Aahs for southern food in a hole-in-the-wall type environment. All these places are conveniently located in DC and near Metro stations (O&A and Etete are very close to each other) - no trips to the burbs necessary.

              If you can't make it out to Annandale for Korean, I'd eliminate Korean from the mix.

              1942 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

              3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

              1. re: Frodnesor

                Ruan Thai is exceptional - however it does not qualify as being on the way to anything. Thai X-ing is a unique *Only on Chowhound* experience, the red curry salmon is the stuff of legend, if they let you order it. It's worth a phone call.

              2. If you want to stay metro accessible and still try some great Vietnamese- try Minh's in Arlington (about 4 blocks up from the Courthouse metro on Wilson blvd). Great family-owned place with authentic dishes (I like the bunh with grilled shrimp paste on sugar cane, number 16, I think). Good atmosphere, and a decent wine list with some good rieslings. Very well-priced to boot. Man, I'm just reminding myself I need to get back there asap.

                2500 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

                1. Frod! Fancy seeing you here! Guessing you are doing research for the ABI conference, as was I when I saw your post.

                  Last year our family of 2+2 hit some of your short list:

                  Central: conveniently located, very formal for my kids (younger than yours), but the fried chicken was pretty amazing.

                  Cafe Atlantico: we also did the sunday brunch. We returned to Miami that night and 60 minutes had the profile of the chef (complete coincidence). The price was so reasonable, and the concept seemed so unique that I was really prepared to be blown away, but I was a victim of my high expectations. I'd still say it is worth doing, but lower expectations first.

                  I just called Minibar today, and best I could do was 10th on the waitlist for the Friday night (zilch for the Thursday), so shame on me for not thinking ahead.

                  You might want to consider that the cherry blossom festival is that same weekend, and you might want to incorporate some part of that into your itinerary.

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

                  1. PersonaPly I would skip Bistro du Coin. About the only thing it has going for it is the foosballtable upstairs. If you feel like mussels frites or steak frites, I'd recommend either Et Voila or Bistrod'oc. Both good with kids, although Et Voila is a Little cramped.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ejr

                      I have to agree on Bistro du Coin not being worth it. Went there on Thur -- it's near our hotel and was recommended here, plus the menu sounded promising.

                      The salade frisée aux lardons was alright, but the moules Catalanes were pretty awful, and you'd think they'd at least get their mussels right. Feh. Incredibly popular, though. Place was packed to the rafters.

                      1. re: ejr

                        The smoked mackerel salad and the croziflette at Bistro du Coin really hit the spot, and put this place in a unique category of restaurants where you will see a menu that you might actually find in France. A bit sloppy, but delicious.

                        1. re: ejr

                          I agree. try Granville Moore's (1238 H Street, NE, (202) 399-2546) it's a gastro-pub. Not the ideal for kids though. nd they don't take reservations. Fine late-lunch place.

                        2. PS: You're there with kids, so you MUST try the Dolcezza Gelato on Conn. Ave north of Dupont Circle. The dulce de leche is worthy of an addiction.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: linguafood

                            I second Dolcezza Gelato... great stuff. I love the lemon/ricotta/cardamom (which doesn't taste of cardamom), but all their flavors are excellent.

                          2. If oyu go to Capitol Hill (and you should), then the toasted marshmallow milkshake at Good Stuff Eatery is Chowhounding of the first order. Same thing for the homemade sodas at We the Pizza next door, mostly the sour cherry and the vietnamese coffee sodas.

                            Good Stuff Eatery
                            303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

                            1. Try Marrakesh (617 New York Avenue, NW, (202) 393-9393). It's a fun place. The food is pretty good and the restaurant's been around for about 30 years. You eat with your hands from a communal plate (except the couscous which comes with spoons) and the seating is a la Marocain with round brass low tables, and kilim-covered benches. And they have a belly dancer. It could be fun with kids. They are by reservation only and plan on using their valet parking.
                              Let me know how it goes.

                              1. Wow, lots more good advice here, thanks. Here is how the itinerary is shaping up so far ->

                                Sat. lunch - Mandu or Teaism (Dupont Circle)
                                Sat. dinner - Jaleo
                                Sun. brunch - Cafe Atlantico
                                Sun. dinner - Etete
                                Mon. lunch - Good Stuff Eatery
                                Mon. dinner - Palena Cafe
                                Tue. lunch - Breadlne or Teaism
                                Tue. dinner - Central Michel Richard

                                Lunch choices are being driven primarily by where we expect to be any given day.

                                Bistrot du Coin was tempting mostly for the location and the menu, which really is a "greatest hits" compilation of French bistro food (including some stuff you don't see very often - blanquette de veau, tartiflette), but if the execution is mediocre, we'll skip.

                                The kids will surely appreciate the gelato recommendation.

                                Marrakesh might be fun but I think we'll have our fill of eating with our hands if we do Ethiopian one night, as we hope.

                                NS - actually just going up for spring break with the kids, not for the conference. Good luck on the minibar waitlist, I've done the same for while we're up there but I'm not optimistic.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Frodnesor

                                  Hi Frod, I read you avidly for your informative and on hte mark Miami opinions, as I'm down there almost every month, so now its my turn! I don't really like your brunch selection as I don't think you need a Latin influence, and I have read about too many off experiences there, that I think you could do better. Check these places out for brunch: Blue Duck Tavern, Tabard Inn (both of these are really attractive in their own way), Leopolds in Georgetown, Perrys, Peacock Cafe, Marvins on U Street, Matchbox (for the kids) and Bar Pilar.
                                  I also don't think Good Stuff Eatery is worth the visit. It has no charm, the seating is not very nice at all, the burgers are only so so in my opinion, and I just think you can do much better for lunch than there. Almost anyplace is better. Palena is amazing, my favorite restaurant in DC or almost anywhere. Have the Gnocchi!

                                  3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                                  Tabard Inn
                                  1739 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036

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

                                  Good Stuff Eatery
                                  303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

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

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

                                  1. re: susabella

                                    Thanks! I'm interested in Atlantico's brunch more for the "minibar-lite" menu options rather than the latino influence (which from the online menu doesn't seem that prevalent anyway). What I've heard and read has been mostly good, surprised to hear of off experiences. Don't really need a traditional "Sunday brunch" experience anyway.

                                    Blue Duck Tavern looks really nice, I'm just not sure if we'll have a chance to squeeze it in.

                                    I had doubts about Good Stuff Eatery myself, both from looking at the menu and because I find Spike Mendelsohn's on-camera persona to be so unappealing. But we are going to be close by at the Supreme Court one day of our trip, so any other lunch suggestions in the area are welcome.

                                    1. re: Frodnesor

                                      I'd say stick with Good Stuff. I like their burgers, especially when you ask them to leave off the sauce they put on and replace it with one of the homemade mayos near the drink dispenser / mustard / ketchup, etc. I like the sriracha mayo best. While not the best in town, (that would be Ray's Hellburger) the burgers are good, I think. But the real reason to go are the shakes, which are fabulous and ARE the best in town. The black and white is my personal favorite, but all are wonderful.

                                      As was mentioned upthread, the sour cherry sodas next door at We The Pizza are tremendous as well. I wish they sold the sodas and the shakes at both locations!

                                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                        Totally agree with woodley about Good Stuff. The burgers may not be the best of the best, but some people really like them (count me in that crowd- I like their burger to bun ratio). And I think the onion "petals" or whatever they're called are amazing, as are the shakes. In short- there's lots of good reasons to keep it on your list, but if you're near the SC anyway, it's a no-brainer IMO.

                                          1. re: Frodnesor

                                            I think the pizza is good, but not great (like the burgers). I'd pick GS over WTP because of the shakes, but if the family is in the mood for pizza over burgers, go to WTP for pizza and homemade sodas, then head next door to GS for a shake for dessert.


                                            1. re: Frodnesor

                                              You can order whole pies made just for you, or you can order by the slice. Whole pies can be half and half, or you can even get every slice different, but then it is not made to order. Homemade sodas are the star here, but the pizza crust is serious. I'm not that into reheated slice pizza, so it's not my bag, but quite good for the genre.

                                              They have a deal with two slices and a homemade soda for $10 which saves a buck.

                                              Good Stuff Eatery has a really good mushroom burger (portabello instead of meat) and the sunnyside burger (with bacon and egg) is a damn fine concoction.

                                              Don't be put off by the celebrity status. Both places make a valuable Chowhound contribution. And the toasted marshmallow milkshake is an ace.

                                              Good Stuff Eatery
                                              303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                That mushroom burger sounds like a spin on the Shake Shack 'Shroom Burger - in fact, not only the name, but the description sounds almost exactly the same too.

                                              2. re: Frodnesor

                                                I think the pizza at We the Pizza is among the best in DC, or at least among the best I've tried. Unfortunately, that's a relative term, but on the whole I think We the Pizza is worth a trip.