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TO to DC - new/best for foode tourist? 3 days in summer

Hi DC Hounds,
I've spent a few days reading the content of the boards here and am not exactly finding what I'm looking for so thought I'd start a new thread to get the best answers.

I am visiting in August (admittedly down the road a bit) and am looking for a few tips.
WHERE: We are staying at the Donovan Hotel which I gather is "downtown", not far from "the Mall" (please tell me if there's a better way to characterize this neighbourhood). We are willing to take public transit far and wide for the best food, especially if there's other things to do (places to drink before/after meals) in the areas we might be travelling to.
WHAT: We have no dietary restrictions but I prefer veggies and seafood and my husband prefers pork or beef. Not too crazy for all-out-offal but we have dined at Incanto in San Francisco and Publican in Chicago and enjoyed them both. We love all varieties of ethnic cuisine but coming from Toronto have had our fill of good pan-Asian. Love traditional Italian but it has to have some non-pasta options. My favourite meals recently have been at ABC Kitchen in NYC, for reference. Husband loves microbrew/craft beers and I love good wine and wines-by-the-glass selections.
WHO: We are in our late 20s/early 30s, and like to dine and hang out all kinds of people. Don't mind trendy spots, love being somewhere that feels busy and buzzing, but don't like to dine among DBsm, of course. Good service is tantamount.
HOW MUCH: In terms of budget, we can do one or two dinners up around $100/pp with tax/tip/1 or 2 drinks, and are also looking for maybe one or two more affordable choices up to $50/pp. Also lunches in that range.

Wanting your tips for:

1. Food Explorations - i am a huge food-explorer-traveller, and love neighbourhoods where I can stroll and explore food shops, small tastes, coffee shops, bars, etc (in the last year, these have included Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Wicker Park in Chicago). Hipster neighbourhoods are okay, clearly, but I'm looking for interesting wandering neighbourhoods, happy to travel off the beaten path.

2. Dinner - as per above, looking for the newest, best food in the area, as well as old standards that are can't-miss.

3. Drinks - places near our hotel or near landmarks or near dinner destinations, where we can have afternoon-happy hour-post-dinner drinks, again the emphasis on local/craft beer and/or great wines-by-the-glass. Snacks optional but welcome as well.

Anything else you'd want us to know, about food culture in DC in general, please let me know.
Thanks in advance, so much!

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  1. I hope you have a nice visit, welcome to DC.

    Don't stress about "hipster neighborhoods" - DC is hipster-less . . . . Politicians are our rock stars . . . our hipsters are nerds.

    If you are here over a weekend you should take the Metro to Easter Market on Capitol Hill on either Saturday or Sunday morning. You should walk North from the station and check out the scene around the Market itself, and then head back south past the station and check out the places along 8th Street down to the Marine Barracks.

    You can grabs stuff from the vendors in and around Eastern Market to nosh on while you check out craft/arts vendors. If you’re up for it you can stand in line with the throngs for a little more substance at Market Lunch inside the main hall at the North end, although you may end up having to eat standing up somewhere.

    If you want a more formal sit down meal you should check out one of the restaurants on 8th St. I like the brunch at Zest way down at the end, but there are many other options ranging from decent pizza (Matchbox) to Greek (Cava). Also along this strip are several bars that you can jump into for a pint or two - if that Nats have a home game some of these joints will be pretty busy.

    For that matter it the Nats are in town and you want to take in a game, you can catch a shuttle from the Ugly Mug down to the ballpark. Tickets are always available and the park is great, but eating and drinking there is really expensive.

    3 Replies
    1. re: drewpbalzac

      We are visiting a Thursday-Saturday, so Eastern Market sounds great. What kind of food/which vendors are best there? (or, feel free to link to another thread)

      1. re: LemonLauren

        The inside stalls at EM are predominantly stuff you would get and then cook at home, butchers, fishmonger, green grocer, poultry. However - there is a cheese monger that will cut to your order, and across the way is Canales Deli where you can get some great cold cuts including Iberico ham.

        The Canales' also have a long case of prepared foods at their stall. There are 3 Canales' with vendor stall in the market; a butcher, a pasta/antipasto/gourmet goods vendor, and the deli. Great family - you should definitely check them out.

        At the very Southern end of the Hall is a bakery shop if you want bread or sweets.

        At the North end of the hall - Market Lunch churns out pretty good breakfasts and fried seafood sandwiches.

        Outside, there are a number of fruit and vegetable vendors, some of them farmer/producers and some of them selling other peoples stuff. I would definitely grab some of the cinnamon pecans from the cinnamon pecan guy. (His other nuts are OK - but the pecans rock) If Ma Brown has her table up I would definitely get a slice of cake or a mini pecan pie if she has any left. (Her Pecan pie is awesome!!!!!)

        I would loop the scene, then decide what to grab. If you want a formal meal there are a couple of restaurants right across the street, a couple of coffee shops, then there is the whole "Barracks Row" strip down 8th Street. Eastern Market and 8th St. SE is the best "scene" in the city during the days on weekends.

        1. re: drewpbalzac

          I'd add that, if you're walking north from the metro, after you pass the Eastern Maket building, take a left. You'll find a few more vendors in the pavilion in front of the public swimming pool, right next to Eastern Market, and these tend to be full-meal type vendors. Options include Indian, Cajun, crepes ... get what you want and take a seat on one of the benches. (I like the Indian best, by the way.)

    2. Absolutely the dinner you need will be at Birch and Barley. Lots of great bars to wander around to before an after, phenomenal food, incredible beers. Upstairs is Churchkey, where your husband will appreciate the cask beers. Please save room for dessert. It's stellar.

      For explorations, get to 9th and U and enjoy Ethiopian, which is fantastic in DC. My favorite is Etete. For drinks after, go to Dodge City, Dickson Wine Bar, or Vinoteca.

      For drinks, you MUST get to The Passenger, at 7th and New York. Their drinks are amazing, they have fun beers, and it's just a great spot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: katecm

        Birch and Barley Googled and it looks perfect! I am a runner, there's always room for dessert and few more k's the next morning :)
        Love the idea of Ethiopian and then various bars. How pricey is Etete?
        Thanks for the tips, I'll definitely add them to my list.

      2. I agree with all the recommendations you've gotten so far.

        Eastern Market is fun on a Sat. morning. Half smokes are a DC thing: I like the hot half smoke in natural casing that you can get at the meat market about half way down. You apply your own condiments and eat standing up for $2. The original Peregrine Espresso is nearby - great coffee. You can also get alcoholic milkshakes on 8th St. at Ted's Bulletin.

        Rasika would be a great place for you to go. It's a very inventive and modern take on Indian food - very unusual. If you go, don't miss the palak chaat. I like uhockey's write-up about it here: http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2010/05/b... You could start at the Passenger for a drink, then walk down 7th St. to Rasika. You will pass lots of places, including TangySweet yogurt, one of my favorite stops.

        Don't miss Churchkey for the best beer selection in town. Going there puts you in a neighborhood with great eats: Birch and Barley, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, Estadio, Cork Wine Bar (for your wines by the glass), Peregrine Espresso, and others. You could also walk up 14th to U St. and turn right, then walk a few blocks to Etete for dinner.

        For wines by the glass and excellent food, Proof gets a lot of positive comments on this board (I haven't been yet.

        )

        H St. NE is another good neighborhood where there is a lot going on. I like Granville Moore's for moules and frites and a good Belgian beer selection. The Argonaut is a nice bar over there. There is a hole in the wall that sells water ice that I like as well.

        "Newest and best" sandwiches in town would be at Sundevich, near 9th and N NW. A few interesting places have popped up in this area, including Seasonal Pantry and Rogue 24.

        That's about it off the top of my head. You are doing great research and will certainly enjoy your stay!

        1 Reply
        1. re: woodleyparkhound

          research is key. with only four days (and as I'm not a huge fan of museums, unlike my partner) i want to maximize the awesome.

          thanks!

        2. GREAT request. Wish everyone would be so thorough instead of just saying "coming to DC where should I eat?" You deserve all the great responses you have been getting (and I had to laugh - it is SO true that we don't have hipsters).

          My recs (sorry but I don't know anything about beer):

          Central by Michel Richard (great food, great bar, buzzy)
          Hank's Oyster Bar (great food, great bar, great atmosphere)

          Ethiopian is a great suggestion.

          For the pork-loving husband, you might want to try the Green Pig Bistro over in Clarendon, VA. New, getting great reviews, snout-to-tail eating focused on pig.

          http://dc.eater.com/archives/2012/04/...

          5 Replies
          1. re: Just Visiting

            Re: nose-to-tail pork... another place to check out would be the recently opened The Pig on 14th St. I haven't been yet, but it sounds intriguing.

            http://dc.eater.com/places/the-pig

            1. re: woodleyparkhound

              Just took a glance at the pig menu and it looks interesting. It'll be the next place I check out. Thanks for the tip!!

            2. re: Just Visiting

              Thanks! I figure, the more specific my requests, the more on-point the responses will be. Thanks for these recommendations!

              1. re: LemonLauren

                The Standard, a great biergarten on 14th, is now doing pig's heads. Seriously.

                Re: hipsters. I had a friend visiting from NYC and we went to Rustik (I live in Bloomingdale) for brunch. She said, "This neighborhood is so cool. It's so...NPR-y." I thought that captured it.

                1. re: katecm

                  NPR-y is to DC as hipter-y is to everywhere else. love it.

            3. Proof has some really nice fish dishes, but also has other good options and a nice wine selection and a good bar. Fiola has really nice Italian with good pastas and non-pasta options, the bartender makes some great cocktails too.

              The 14th and U St. area and the 14th st area have a lot going on right now: Pearl Dive, Estadio, The Standard, Cork Wine Bar.