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DC Restaurant Google Map, Many Questions, and Itinerary Help, Please. LONG!

Hey DC chowhounders - this is going to be a massive post, so please read as little or as much of this as you please – thoughts on any part of this huge list of questions/my itinerary are warmly welcomed!

I’m a native Washingtonian who has been living in Connecticut for the past 10 years, and now that my girlfriend has moved to DC, I have been working on generating a list of great places to eat when I visit her (as well as a list of recs for her when she is looking to eat out more casually without me)! I have either scanned or read every downtown DC related post on this board dating back to the beginning of 2011, and I am sure there have been things that slipped between the crack as I’ve combed through that high volume of writing for valuable information, or that some information is not as current as I would like it to be, etc., but all in all I think I have a good list going. I have made a GOOGLE MAP that is a WORK IN PRGORESS – I like to do this for cities where I plan to eat out a lot because I am very visual, and it helps me decide if my plans during the day geographically make sense with my choices for lunch and dinner, or if I’m looking last minute without a reservation, it helps me see exactly what is close by. I hope some of you find it to be a useful resource as well, and if you would like, check it out and give me any feedback on places that deserve inclusion: https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=2...

Purple = Expensive/Formal/Special Ocassion, Reservations generally advisable
Blue = step below purple in price and/or formality
Light Blue = quicker, more casual
Yellow = Brunch
Pink = Dessert
Green = Asian Cuisine
Martini glass = place is on the list mostly for drinks and/or snacks
Orange with black dot = Fast food(ish
)Orange without black dot = Late night food
*** The color system is a general guidline – I know some of these places fulfill multiple categories!***

Loosely speaking, here are some things I think I’ve learned about a few places that are on our short list for my first two visits to DC (and the questions I still have regariding a few of these places). A subjective pecking order might look something like this(?):

The Upper Echelon/High End
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Komi (Clearly alone on the top tier)
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Rasika
CityZen (maybe not quite as unimpeachably top tier as Komi & Rasika? Thoughts?)
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***Any help in differentiating the following three exemplary Italian places would be much appreciated***
Fiola (from what I have heard, the most “innovative/experimental” version of Italian cuisine of the 3 in this group, and maybe the one with the most buzz at the moment?…)
Obelisk (Or maybe Obelisk has a bit more buzz with the James Beard nom? but I have heard it mentioned on the boards less frequently than the next place on this list…_)
Palena (Cuisine from a chef who grew up in an Italian town right near my grandfather’s in Abruzzo. Seems to get the highest number of mentions on the CH threads. Is it just better, more established?)
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Rogue 24 – Potentitally excellent but possibly inconsistent
Equinox – solid, maybe a bit past it’s prime but a good option
Corduroy – good food, chef’s tasting is a great value but this doesn’t have the vibe of a special ocassion place?
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Deliberate Omissions:
Citronelle (closed due to water damage) – have eaten here before, very much enjoyed my meal
MiniBar – sounds like getting a reservation here is an impossible task, so unless I hear otherwise from everyone, I don’t think I’m to competing for a table here.

Further Questions:
What about Elisir? Not many mentions on this board, but those who do mention it put it on lists along with the names above.

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More casual but still exceptional places (grouped not by quality, but by category, i.e. tapas, thai, ethiopian, etc…):
Estadio
Zaytinya
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*** Have heard goog to great things about both – what makes the experiences different?***
Thai X-ing
Little Serrow
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***What differentiates these Ethiopian places? Which one to pick if we only try Ethiopian once?***
Ethiopic (the new “best” ethiopian in town?)
Etete (the long time best ethiopian in town?)
Dukem & Zenebech Injera (divier Ethiopian?)
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***Thoughts on how these three more casual Italian places compare, both to each other and the trio of Palena, Fiola, and Obelisk?***
Graffiato
Dino
Bibiana

I have also compiled this list of places that I (think I) am most interested in for brunch and would appreciate any thoughts on their relative merits:
Blue Duck Tavern
Tabard Inn
Founding Farmers
Birch & Barley
Greenhouse at the Jefferson
Poste Moderne Brasserie
Seasons at the Four Seasons
Cashion’s Eat Place
Mintwood Place

And finally, after bombarding you with all of those thoughts and questions, I have my itinerary for when I visit her this weekend (Thurs, Sept 13th – Mon, Sept 17), to which I welcome any comments or critiques - this itinerary is certainly subject to change based on your wisdom!:

Thurs – Rasika dinner (res made)
Fri – CityZen dinner (res made)
Sat – Founding Farmers brunch (res made) - a good choice for brunch? I really have little idea
Sat – The Source dinner (res made) – ***girlfriend likes asian fusion. Do you think this place is worthy of being on our short list of places? Would you recommend the DimSum brunch instead?***
Sunday – Tabard Inn brunch (res made)
Sunday – Estadio dinner

The next weekend I visit her, which will be in October, our itinerary looks like this:

Thurs – Rogue 24 dinner (res made) – I know there have been mixed feelings on the food, but the girlfriend likes the idea of this meal as a fun, innovative, culinary experience where we both understand some of the 24 dishes might miss the mark.
Fri – Komi dinner (res made) – anything special I should know about? I know we just let the chef do his thing and bring us his creations with no menu, which sounds fantastic…
Sat – Blue Duck Tavern brunch (res made)
Sat – Palena (res made – but this one is clearly open for discussion, if I’m only picking of the three. I think I maxed my gf out on Italian food for a while in NYC this summer when we went to Lincoln, Babbo, Del Posto, and Ai Fiori).
Sun – Seasons at the Four Seasons brunch (res made)
Sun – Ethiopic dinner (res made)

I apologize for the incredible length of this post - I considered breaking it into parts, but then realized I did not want to have 5+ threads started by me all in one mass at the top of the board. As you can tell I am extremely into the research and like to into a weekend of special meals feeling confident that I'm choosing places that are exceptional in their category, whether that means they are some of the flat out best restaurants in the city, the best in a particular ethnic cuisine, or even just a great ice cream place. I promise that though I am not a great writer, I will be sharing with you all my thoughts on every food related experience I have. Thank you in advance, and if this long long post breaks any sort of board etiquette, please let me know!

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    1. yer dreamy... (heh)

      the only one I'd be hesitant about would be Founding Farmers. never been myself, but have heard too many so-so things to get enthusiastic. and yeah scoring a reservation at Mini-bar is one for the OCD crowd. was hard 7+ years ago before all the press.

      1. Since you're having dinner at Palena the same day I would nix Founding Farmers and go for something lighter and fresh like oysters at Pearl Dive. I'm surprised you don't have Birch and Barley on there as the head chef and pastry chef are both James Beard noms. Also, if you've been to Ai Fiori, Del Posto etc the Italian place of choice along those lines would be Fiola.

        You've done a good job planning...hopefully you have the capacity to eat all that food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: shake N baik

          Thank you. Birch & Barley is certainly on my radar, but I think that during the course of my research, I somehow developed the (quite possibly misguided) impression that while the food is very good, it's not quite on the level of those other places on my first list. It is definitely near the the top of my list of slightly more easy-going, perhaps slightly less sophisticated dinners to try in DC. Does that seem appropriate, or does it deserve more acclaim than I am giving it (which is easily possible)? Another factor in my thinking that I am just realizing is that between brunch, the wonderful beer selection, and the acclaimed desserts, I feel like I will heading to Birch & Barley many times for various reasons, so maybe it felt a bit less urgent that I have dinner there.

          I will be floating the idea of a weekend meal at Pearl Dive - we will see how my gf, who is a brunch traditionalist (and to be fair, I am, too - I love my eggs), takes to the idea. Pearl Dive should've been already on the map - thanks for the reminder!

          And as far as Palena v. Obelisk v. Fiola goes, the menu definitely gave me the impression that Fiola is most similar to those NYC places, but that's not necessarily a vote in its favor. I grew up eating home-cooked, more trattoria-style Italian, and while I greatly enjoyed my meals at those places in the city (although I find Batali's food occasionally runs a bit salty for my tastes), I don't think of that as the ideal or pinnacle of Italian cuisine - in fact, I might even welcome a change of pace. More than anything else, I'm curious to get a sense for what Obelisk is like - perhaps its the mystery created by not having a website, a menu to browse, or the fact that descriptions have created this little romanticized image in my head of a highly attentive, intimate experience in a cozy DC row house, but for whatever reason I want to get a sense for what it's like.

        2. I'd sub The Source's Pan Asian brunch on Saturday for your current Blue Duck reservation, shifting Blue Duck to Sunday. I'd eliminate Founding Farmer's completely.

          I don't think Bibiana is any less formal than the three currently in that Italian category. At any rate, it's not in the same category with Dino and Graffiato.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Indy 67

            I have eliminated Founding Farmer's based on your and nedh's advice - thanks for helping me out on avoiding it!

            I proposed the idea of switching to the dim sum brunch, but I got the sense that if we are gong to do one meal at The Source, she would be more excited about the dinner. Do you, or anyone else have thoughts on the relative merits of dinner vs. the brunch there? If they are both good, and we will probably stick to the dinner.

            In that case, the question is: which brunch experience should fill that opening in our schedule? I am thinking Birch and Barley - would love to hear what others think, since it seems to me that there is less consensus on the city's top brunch spots...

            1. re: DolceStilNovo

              I've read reviews praising the brunch experience as more special within the brunch category than a dinner is within the dinner category. That said, both meals will be delicious at The Source.

          2. I agree, get rid of Founding Farmers.