Try this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841397 and specifically the post from ajb05854. At first I was wondering why she'd come to DC with a focus on food without having checked out Chowhound or local food boards. But then I read her report and I was really impressed - he was adventuresome and didn't stick to the tried-and-true, although in her wanderings, he found a fair number of the well-known spots such as Eastern Market. But he found a place I've never heard of - Bistro Bohem - that sounds terrific.
With Chowhound and donrockwell.com and a population that has money enough to eat out all the time but not time enough to cook at home most days, there is little that is truly off-the-grid.
It would be really helpful if you specified:
AREA/Transportation issues. Will you be in DC, VA, MD? Will you have a car?
TYPES OF FOOD - is there anything in particular you really like? really hate?
re: Just Visiting
on our grid that is a must try is the hong kong pearl seafood restaurant in falls church. they are very friendly, and have great food. there is a real hong kong atmosphere in the place, according to mr. alka, who knows. two of my personal faves are the shrimp and chive bun at dim sum, and the fried shrimp ball other times.
I think Trummer's on Main is off the grid a bit.
Le Bledo Dalat Bakery in Springfield while not high end I think goes under the radar for what it is.
Ardeo Bardeo and Ripple to some extent, as well as, New Heights.
Laylinya- not for chowhounders, but generally.
Potato Valley Cafe.
Sou'Wester- in the Mandarin Oriental so not completely off the grid, but also not on the immediate radar.
Do you mean off the Chowhound grid? Or the mainstream media grid?
Off ALL grids:
In DC, Locolat for their savory Belgian waffles and chocolates, Casa Oaxaca for their moles. El Don for their papusas.
Peking Palace in Germantown, MD for Hunanese specialties of preserved pork and hot pots.
In Falls Church, VA, Jerusalem for Palestinian food (masukhan, makluba), Eyo for Ethiopian, Luzmilla's for Bolivian (not open for dinner), Fairfax Inn for daing na bangus (Filipino marinated milkfish, not open for dinner).
For my Chowhond picks, consult my Profile.
Grace Garden Chinese Restaurant in Odenton MD is a crummy but fantastic restaurant. search it on chowhound and you will see the over 200 replies to the original blog
Rays Hellsburger in Arlington has great burgers. I love the peppercorn crusted burger on brioche with melted cheese and foie gras
Cantlers Crab House in Annapolis is waterfront and has steamed hardshells, steamers-softshell clams in a iconic MD crabhouse.
re: dining with doc
I consider Hellburger to be extremely ON the grid. I mean, Obama's been there. Twice.
Cantlers is definitely a local-insider place but be warned: in nice weather/crab season, you need to go extremely early, like 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The parking lot overflows and the cars back way up the road - they have kids walking up the road warning you that the wait is 90 minutes to 2 hours or more!