Need Dinner Recommendations for Bethesda Area
Four of us will be staying in Bethesda for a few days in mid-May & are looking for evening dining recommendations for what I guess you'd call semi-upscale to upscale food. Good food is most important, more so than price or the specific cuisine. We're from SF & Boston so we're used to a wide range of cuisines & preparations. Just want it to taste good, and not be 45 minutes from where we're staying (across from Westfield Montgomery Mall at 270 & Democracy).
I did a couple of searches on Bethesda & saw delis well-represented on the lists. That'll do for lunch, so I'm hoping you folks can get us squared away for din-din.
not sure of any deli in Bethesda worth going to, Bethesda has over 100 restaurants, some which are very good. also a great range in prices
lunch: Cornacopia- a small italian gourmet grocery store that has a few small tables and makes fantastic sandwiches with fine cured meats and cheeses, expensive balsalmic reductions and arugula. Taylor Gourmet- fantastic subs named after streets in Philadelphia, I love the fried chicken cutlet with provolone, roasted red peppers and brocolli rabe. South street Steaks- authentic Philly cheese steaks.
Dinner- Blacks- upscale seafood, fine dining. business casual, Ruths Chris Steak, Green Papaya- upscale vietnamese, Tako Grill- Sushi and Japanese grill house, Jaleo- spanish tapas, Haven Pizza- upscale New Haven style thin crust pizza including a great white garlic fresh shucked clam pizza (can do this for lunch) , Bethesda Crab House- MD style steamed hardshell crabs and beer, Mussel Bar- Belgian mussel and beer bistro (also can do for lunch)
Depending on which part of Bethesda, you may find driving/parking a nightmare. There are two parts to Bethesda. The area north of the metro/Hyatt, bounded by Wisconsin (355) on the east, Old Georgetown Road on the west, and Rugby Avenue (actually a very small street) on the north is called "The Triangle." It has what little is left of the un-glam Bethesda, but it is mostly renovated now. There is street parking and a few garages.
The other part is below the Metro/Hyatt, bounded by Wisconsin (355) on the east, but there are quite a few restarurants on the east side of Wisconsin and a block or so east. It is bounded by Arlington on the west, Bradley on the south, but most restaurants are on Woodmont or north. The center of this area is Bethesda Row, which is centered on Woodmont and Bethesda Ave. This area is always a PITA because people double-park and the garages are always crazy. Now it is even worse because one of the largest garages has been closed for demolition. They have tried to improve things a bit by putting up a sign at the garage on Bethesda Ave reporting how many spaces are available. Nonetheless, it is really a hassle. I'm not sure this section has a name so I will just call it "downtown."
As for restaurants, both sections have plenty of great choices. Many have already been identified, but I am sorting them here into Triangle and downtown.
Green Papaya (Vietnamese)
Black's Kitchen and Grill
Jaleo (tapas) - note that this location is the weakest of the chain; I've never found it worthwhile
Mussel Bar - gets mixed reviews
RiRa - Irish pub
Newton's Table - healthy gourmet
Taylor Gourmet (deli)
Cosi (chain, but great for lunch - better than most delis)
Nando's - South African peri peri chicken - great for lunch
Redwood - gorgeous, opens right onto the pedestrian plaza, great vibe, good food
Mon Ami Gabi - chain, but one of the better chains
Grapeseed (always gets high marks)
Freddy's Lobster & Clams - right next to Grapeseed; same owners, great New England style seafood
Passage to India (always gets high marks)
Brasserie Monte Carlo
Bistro Provence - highly regarded chef but seems to be still finding its way...mixed reviews
Tragara - top-end Italian, expensive but worth it
Sweet Basil - for my money, best Thai in Bethesda
At the fringes:
Persimmon (upscale for dinner, great food) - southern edge of downtown, on Wisconsin
Someone mentioned Bethesda Crab House. Don't. It isn't horrible but if you want hardshell crabs, this is NOT the place to go. The places to go are all far outside your driving distance. Also avoid Louisiana Kitchen. Formerly known as Louisiana Express, it was a Bethesda favorite. It closed and then re-opened in a new location and, I think with new owners. It is borderline dreadful now. Avoid: Les Vieux Logis. Once quite good traditional Alsatian & French, it is now very weak and frequented mostly by superannuated people who have been going there for decades.
Someone also mentioned Ruth's Chris. Well, it is a bit more of a drive, but if you want phenomenal steak (with some fish and chicken items), go to Ray's the Steaks in Clarendon, VA or Ray's in Silver Spring. Less expensive, less attitude. Just great food served straight up.
For full list, addresses, phone numbers, websites: http://www.bethesda.org/
OK, now a couple of non-Bethesda choices that are still within your driving distance:
Praline - great French (mostly bistro) food in a shopping center in the Cabin John area of Bethesda. Not much to look at, but great food. Downstairs is a bakery (take some things back to the hotel! but note that they run out of the baguettes, croissants, and pastries by mid-day) and eating area; upstairs is more of a restaurant seating area and a big outdoor patio if the weather is nice.
Addie's - owned by the same people who own Black's Kitchen and Grill. It is in a funky little old house on Rockville Pike (six-lane hell) but it is set back off the road. Small, even with the large tent outside, so make res. They have another place about 5 minutes away, hidden in a residential neighborhood. Black Market Bistro. I personally do not like this place but most do.
In Rockville town center - several good choices, including La Canela (Peruvian, always great food) and Spice Xing - always gets high marks.
Clyde's Tower Oak Lodge. Part of a local chain, large, reliable but nothing fantastic. Quite close to where you are staying but on the other side of 270.
Also on Rockville Pike - Matchbox. I mention it only because local people who might be in your meeting are likely to recommend it because it is so popular. Don't. Just don't. It's just that - trendy and mediocre. Not a place for people who really enjoy good food. And if it is pizza you want, try Mia's or Haven in Bethesda. The latter is new and it is, as the name implies, New Haven style. On the east side of Wisconsin/355 in "downtown" Bethesda. Mia's is great wood-fired pizza with excellent toppings. In the Triangle. Has outdoor seating and usually has lines.
re: Just Visiting
From where you will be, you will be able to head north/NE just as easily as into Bethesda. Within a 20 min drive, you have some of the best food in the area- it's just not upscale.
Joe's Noodle- (Szechuan not noodles. they didn't get new signage)
Also, many suggest the Ethiopian in DC is the best in the area. If you don't want the hassle of driving into the city. park in Bethesda, take the metro. Easy.
Second the Cleveland Park idea & Passage to India and Mia's and Green Papaya. Parking is a little tougher in Cleveland Park.
Spice Xing in Rockville Town Center (on the edge of the 25 min drive limit) is very good, and parking is easy.
I wouldn't limit myself to Bethesda. Where you are is less than 20 minutes from downtown DC, and if you are willing to go the METRO route, drive over to the closest stop (Probably Grovsnor) and take the red line to a slew of much better restaurants than you will find in Bethesda. Besides, parking in Bethesda proper is a major pain.
If you must go to Bethesda, Black's Bar and Kitchen 7750 Woodmont Avenue is good (not inexpensive) and has a parking deck right next door.
Sorry but it takes more than 20 minutes total even if you take Metro. You've got to get to a Metro (driving in rush hour traffic in Bethesda or Rockville), find parking, and then wait a few minutes for the train (unless you get lucky). And hope the train doesn't stop for no apparent reason, which is actually fairly frequent. When I have to go downtown for a meeting, I always allow a full hour. Yes, I am usually early, but better than the alternative, and the actual train part is 20 minutes at a minimum.
For those who recommended Cleveland Park, which is not downtown, Metro is the only realistic way to do it because parking is virtually non-existent, especially at rush hour when there is no street parking on Connecticut.
And if you are getting from Montgomery Mall to Wheaton in 20 minutes at rush hour, I am going to stay off those roads, because there's no way. That's at least 20 lights, and even if you don't hit all of them red, you still have long, slow lines of cars moving off the reds.
FYI for the Metro in Bethesda, there is a HUGE parking garage across Wisconsin from the Hyatt. It is a public garage and the meters run until 10 p.m. (as is true in most of Bethesda, and they ticket like mad so feed your meter!). There are always spaces. If you cross Wisconsin at Montgomery Lane (across from the police station), there is an elevator to the Metro. If you cross at Old Georgetown, there is a large plaza with escalators.