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

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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.

          1. I just skimmed the email and the google map, I don't know if you are looking for more DC recs, but I can't resist sharing these spots I think you're missing:

            Bistro du Coin
            Lauriel Plaza
            Pasta Mia (show up 30 before it opens, or prepare to wait)
            Jyoti

            6 Replies
            1. re: iriedesign

              Thank you for sharing these with me - my map is far from fully developed, particularly in some popular neighborhoods like Adams Morgan. Anything particularly outstanding at these places that I should be aware of? I love knowing how to take a good first stab at ordering well upon my first visit to a restaurant, so that the place has the best chance to shine!

              1. re: DolceStilNovo

                I love your map. This is something I would do. Then my GF will want to go to McDonalds.

                1. re: DolceStilNovo

                  Bistro du Coin (good to make a reservation), I always get the muscles and frites, and last time I had Moules Bretonnes, which was outstanding. I was with a big group and everyone loved their meals. Bistro is noisy and happening, fun with a group, though I think 8 should be your max.

                  Lauriel is probably best for lunch, if you go during a popular time might have to wait (no ressies here), but just ask the bar for some chips and get a drink. Also a noisy place, has excellent outdoor seating options. The chips and salsa are excellent. I also recommend the ceviche, any of their salads, and the mariscos saltados. And no matter what you order, ask for some tortillas, they are made on the premises and are amazing. I guess not everyone loves Lauriel, so you can always just stop in for a drink and the chips and salsa.

                  Pasta Mia, tiny little place, opens at 6.30, and the entire restaurant fills up immediately. People start getting on line around 6 (it's worth it). Otherwise you can try to time "second seating". One cook (from Italy), no altering the menu, everything comes out oversized and very fresh. Very traditional Italian food. Come hungry.

                  Jyoti, anything tandori, and their baingan bharta is the best I've ever had. The Saag Paneer and breads are also delicious.

                  Since you don't know Adams Morgan, at some point stop in at Madams Organ for a beer and some live music, it's a DC Institution.

                  Ovbiously all my rec's are at the low-end of the "food chain" but since you had Bens on your list I figured you'd want to know about other places on that level.

                2. re: iriedesign

                  aaagh Lauriol? serious? nice seating on the roof, but the food? not on my dime. I'd rather eat better in a basement.

                  sorry if that sounded harsh. it's a coolish-y place but I wouldn't go for the food.

                  1. re: hill food

                    Also, Dolce, don't go to Pasta Mia, really don't. Based on everything else you've said on your two threads, and you're Italian and... it has its place but... just don't.

                    We order delivery from Jyoti a lot since it's nearby, but it woudn't be considered on a top list of Indian places in DC, I wouldn't think, but I'm no expert.

                    By the way, I haven't been to Room II for brunch (in Columbia Heights), but I have a feeling it might be pretty good. We like Cashion's Eat Place for brunch, and in general -- and it is in Adams Morgan -- though don't get to go very often. Those are just possibilities for your to-try-eventually list, though.

                    (I agree with hamster that I never got Tabard Inn, haven't been in years but always had slightly weird and not great food experiences there. Not terrible and the decor doesn't bother me, just not great. Wait, was that on a different thread? I lurk don't post much, might be getting OT)

                    1. re: mselectra

                      mselectra, I love how we're often on the same page! Agree with you about Jyoti, it's nothing special. Masala Art, now that's a destination.

                      I've been meaning to try Room 11 for ages. Have you checked out El Chucho yet on 11th? I was pleasantly surprised by my first visit a week or so ago. Some interesting dishes, good serving service. I enjoyed the corn on the cob and huaraches, and the tacos were fine.

                3. Thai Xing would be awesome!

                  1. I couldn't agree more on Founding Farmers it is completely overrrated and I hate to say just sortof awful. The food leaves you wanting for something edible. Also, Rogue 24 is extremely disappointing as well. I couldn't help but gape at the largeness of my bill and the overall inadequacy of my experience. I really think you should include Little Serow into the list somewhere, delicious Northern Thai cuisine with excellent service and a cozy atmosphere. Also, you completely left off the Best Restaurant in the district right now, Toki Underground (well at least for 10 dollars).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

                      Fantastic and much appreciated input. Will add toki underground to the map immediately. Also very thankful for your input on rogue 24 - given how divided opinions are for a place at that price point, I'm starting to shy away from it. If I cannot sell my girlfriend on little serow's Thai cuisine (we just had quite a bit of Thai in NYC this summer, otherwise we both love the cuisine, definitely have little serow on our list and will get to it eventually) what would you suggest might help round out the early stages of our dc dining eperience given that rasika, cityzen, the source, estadio, and Komi are definitely on the docket? After extending one of my weekend stays and jettisoning rogue 24 from the agenda, I have 3 nights without dinner reservations for those two weekends. My initial inclinations are to go with 1 Ethiopian place, one Italian place from the fiola/palena/obelisk triumvirate of Italian fine dining, and a third option TBA. Our plan is to start out with the best of the best (we don't know for how short a period the gf will be based in dc) and then get deeper into the dining scene as time progresses. Thanks to everyone who has given advice so far - it has been wonderful to get your inputs and improve my plans!

                      1. re: DolceStilNovo

                        If money isn't that big of an issue, try Fiola, arguably the best Italian in DC, if not the most expensive. Just shy away from the wine list, as the mark ups there are ridiculous. Jeff Faile (the Bar manager) makes some of the best cocktails in the district right now (he has about a dozen variations of a Negroni and they are all delicious). I like Obelisk a lot too. Extremely value driven for what you get, it is around $65 a person for food and you get three real courses and a bunch of little plates. The wine list there (like both of Peter's restaurants ) is very reasonable and has lots of small producers doing really cool things. I literally live 5 minutes from Palena but you couldn't pay me money to go there ( the service is usually lacking (at least in the Cafe) and their wine list is 'meh' at best. The mussels place is St. Arnolds and a solid Brunch/Lunch spot with a very respectable beer list. An other place I would like to put on your radar is El Cucho in Columbia Heights, a simple taco joint with a lovely rooftop deck and solid margaritias. Not mind blowing by any means but very enjoyable for the price point. Trust me, after doing CityZen (amazing service and food) and Komi, the last thing you are going to want to do is sit done to another 10+ course tasting menu. If wine is your thing, Cork Wine Bar on 14th (right up the street from Estadio) has one of the best value driven wine lists around. Enjoyable little plates as well.

                    2. In Adam's Morgan, a perfect really chill really low key Sunday dinner (or the night before you are heading back up north) is Himalayan Heritage. After all the heavy weekend eating get the vegetable tandoori kabab and the cucumber salad. Yum. Smoke and Barrel is also a fun spot there if you go on a Sunday or are here during the week. Just avoid the neighborhood in general Thur-Sat nights,

                      Your list has plenty of upscale spots but if you are looking for good food but some fun seems like you are missing some key places. On 11th street (CH neighborhood that has changed greatly since you lived here last) Kangaroo Boxing Club is good bbq, Maple is a cozy spot for good Italian, Meridian Pint good if you like beers on tap (like a more affordable church key).

                      In Cleveland Park there is a newish mussels place next to Ardeo that is a bit too rich but fun and tasty.

                      1. Having had dinner at Obelisk, your conception/notion is right on. The menu is quasi pre-fixe in that each of the courses (app, entree, and dessert) each have 3-4 selections amongst them. The only consistent no choice is the antipasti (amazing and generous) and the cheese course.

                        1. Do you eat out every day/every meal???