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Apr 19, 2012 10:30 PM

'Hound-worthy chow recs for a 4-day trip to DC, near Mt Vernon Square?

Greetings from a fellow Dallas- and Chicago-based hound!

I will be flying to DC next week for a conference and staying at the Renaissance Downtown right beside Mount Vernon Square. Looking for advice on chow-worthy spots that are within walking distance/Metro. I love all cuisines, all meats, offal, but for this trip I'm probably looking for more moderately priced restaurants (<30 an entree) and less destination restaurants due to the company I'll be with. Also excellent/innovative cocktails are a big plus, and I'm a huge craft beer fan with a palate leaning towards the hoppy (IPA's e.g. Ballast Point Sculpin, Stone Maharajah, etc) and imperial stouts (Deschutes Abyss, Old Rasputin, Great Divide Yeti, etc etc) though any place with a nice beer selection will do. Having gone to undergrad in Baltimore, I used to enjoy running down to DC for a nice meal and drink (Kaz Sushi Bistro comes to mind), but that was so long ago that I've since forgotten all the other places I used to love.

Some examples but all suggestions welcome, from the most casual to the most delicious, I'm game for anything!

-SUSHI - really would love one dinner to be some amazing sushi, for these the price limit is less applicable as I know sometimes I can spend 3x as much as a more reasonable dining companion if the uni or other specialties are just that good/interesting
-Moules frites
-Pho or Banh Mi
-Korean (I remember I used to go to Annandale for fantastic Korean staples, I love all Korean food such as taengjangjigae, ssamgyupsal bossam, nakji bokkum, soondoobu, etc)
-Mediterranean - gyro, shwarma, taramosalata, fried cauliflower, I know this unfairly groups several distinct ethnic palates but trying to get to get too carried away here
-anything with pate/rilettes/etc
-Japanese/Ramen (like Maruichi in Mountain View, CA or Ippudo or anything with amazing tonkatsu ramen)
-Ethiopian (I remember several good restaurants, heard ethiopic was good)
-Oysters/Crabs (anything like Faidleys in Baltimore? drool the memories)
-Best Sandwich - whether Cuban or a Uni-Mini chicken parm, anything reasonably close to my hotel? Or something like Xoco by Rick Bayless in Chicago
-Menudo or any authentic Mexican restaurant (any region) especially those with various moles
-Beer-oriented places - like the Brickhouse in Atlanta, Flying Saucer, Common Table, Meddlesome Moth in Dallas, etc
-Cocktail oriented places - like the Violet Hour or the Aviary in Chicago, Cedars Social in Dallas, etc
-Neapolitan pizza from a wood-fired oven (like Il Cane Rosso in Dallas)
-Chinese - especially Taiwanese or Cantonese style cuisine

Anyway, I know that's an expansive list, but I'm really game for anything and the more authentic, delicious, or unique, the better. For the most part, I think I'll only have time to venture out for dinner, doubt I'll have time for any hound-worthy lunch. Thanks all for your help and happy chowing!

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  1. Mileage may vary on all my suggestions. Others may have had different experiences with the some of the restaurants.

    Kushi will be close by and I've found their sushi pretty good. Stop in for a bento box at lunch and see if you like it.

    Mandu is right next door, but I've never had the chance to eat there so I don't know if it's good or bad Korean.

    Bistro d'Oc is probably your best chance for moules frites in the area, and is a favorite of mine. Mostly because I love watching the tourists at Ford's. But I think there are probably better restaurants for moules in the area.

    Chinese is harder. You could try Chinatown Express, but a trip out of the city to the Wheaton Metro stop and New Kam Fong would get you a better meal.

    Ren's Ramen is in the same general area, but again I think the board would have better ideas for ramen in the city then I would.

    While you're in the city I'd like to suggest you try some of Jose Andres restaurants. You'll be incredibly close to 4 of them. (America Eats, Jaleo, Oyamel and Zaytinya.) Zaytinya is Mediterranean, but I don't think they do gryos. America Eats has a great oyster po' boy and they have a $1 oyster happy hour.

    1. For oysters, Clyde's Gallery Place for their raw bar happy hour. Old Ebbitt Grill has the same deal, but Clyde's is a little bit closer to you.

      1. Thanks for all the specific info you put in your request!

        Sushi - Kushi is near you. I don't know that I would call their sushi "amazing", but it's reasonably good. I usually order izakaya when I go.

        Craft beer - the best place is Churchkey on 14th St. - arrive early to get a place to sit. However, very close to you is The Passenger - a great bar with better-than-average bar food. In the back of The Passenger is The Columbia Room (reservation required). I haven't been to the CR yet, but I'm dying to go. It has a great reputation for excellent cocktails.

        Moules frites - I love Brasserie Beck for this, which you could walk to. Granville Moore's on H St. is also very good.

        Pho / bahn mi - I like Pho Viet on 14th St. for pho. It's about 6 blocks north of the Columbia Heights Metro. It's a neat-as-a-pin, small neighborhood place run by a very nice family. There is better pho in the suburbs, but this is my favorite in DC proper. I have never had a decent bahn mi in DC so there's nowhere I'd recommend.

        Korean - Annandale is the place to go. I went to Mandu once and was unimpressed. I wouldn't bother with Korean if you can't get to Annandale.

        Mediterranean - Zaytinia, which is walkable.

        Ramen- Ren's Ramen, two blocks from the Wheaton Metro

        Ethiopian - I've also heard that Ethiopic is good, but I haven't been. My favorite is Etete, very near the 10th St. exit of the U St. Metro.

        Oysters - Pearl Dive on 14th St. Love the place, but no reservations. 1-2 hour waits are common, so arrive early!

        Best sandwich. Best Cuban sandwich is definitely at Fast Gourmet on 14th and W - in a gas station, just north of the U St. Metro (13th St. exit). This is the best Cuban I've ever had - including the ones I've had in Miami and in Cuba. They have another great sandwich there - the civito. I have heard great things about Sundevich, but haven't been; I think it's very near you.

        Authentic Mexican - I think you are out of luck here. There is a great Mexican place in Alexandria, but it isn't Metro-able.

        Beer-oriented restaurant - Birch and Barley, below Churchkey in the same building.

        Cocktail-oriented restaurant - PS7 Oh, another great place for cocktails is The Gibson, a speakeasy at 14th and U. Love the place - no signage of any kind out front - you have to know where it is. Reservations recommended.

        Neapolitan pizza - lots of people love 2Amy's. I'm not a huge fan. Also, it's nowhere near you. There is also Il Canale in Georgetown. There nowhere I'm superexcited about recommending for this.

        Moroccan - Marrakesh, but I have never been, so I can't vouch for it.

        Chinese - you are pretty much out of luck. The good places are all in the suburbs.

        1 Reply
        1. re: woodleyparkhound

          For oysters, I'd also recommend Hank's Oyster Bar - no reservations taken here either, but we only had to wait about 10-15 mins., despite being told we had a 1 - 1 1/2 hr. wait.. Hank's has been around longer than Pear Dive and isn't in as high of a demand at the moment, but we all thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Hank's. I went Sat. night and had a fantastic oyster po-boy, served with a large helping of a slaw I really liked. I thought this plate of food was a bargain at $15. A friend also ordered onion rings, which were excellent.

        2. Of places mentioned above, I think you should definitely go to The Passenger and Fast Gourmet, At FG get the Chivito, a Uruguayan sandwich which is wildly delicious, but also get the corn empanadas. The chivito is very, very large. I'm not sure what's on the menu right now at The Passenger, but it is inexpensive bar food done with a lot of care. I was impressed with their muffaleta and also the half-smoke, a purely 'local specialty' sausage. Cocktail-oriented place.

          I also think you should consider Thai X-ing which is more like eating in someone's apartment than going to a restaurant. They offer a $40 tasting menu. Funky, not refined.

          Etete for Ethiopian.

          Very close to you is Againn, an Irish gastropub. Definitely not cheap. Very high attention to detail.

          And if you want to go with what this area does best (rather than any pre-conceived laundry list), the I recommend Oohhs and Ahhs, which is a tiny kitchen with four stools serving Coastal Carolina Soul Food. I go for the shrimp and grits, the lemon pepper wings, and the broiled (not fried) crabcake. A first-rate hole-in-the-wall. More expensive than it looks.

          Kushi gets great reviews, but I found nothing special about the 'chef's assorted sashimi platter.' I did not try the grilled items.

          1. I was just asking VaPaula today about Louisiana cuisine in the metro area and now I see Acadiana is located right across from your hotel. Has anyone been there? Pretty good marks from yelpers and they are open for lunch.