Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Nov 18, 2012 01:08 PM

1st trip to DC since 1999 . . . where to eat.

My wife and I are heading to DC in February (don't ask) for a conference, and have six nights for dinner . . . ergo, we have six evenings for dinner reservations, and a couple for lunch. We live in the "Gourmet Ghetto" of North Berkeley (SF Bay Area), and are open to any and all suggestions, cuisines, etc. We'll be at the Omni Shoreham, but cabs are easy -- Metro, too, short of a blizzard, I suppose.

Of course, lots of places I *used* to know are closed now, not that I knew very many to start with. Likewise some are but a shadow of their former selves, so basically any and all info I have is all but useless.

So . . . help???

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. that's going to be a tough one to answer. restaurant-wise it's an entirely different city than it was even 6 years ago.

    comparing it to 1999, well you may as well approach it as a blank slate.

    7 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      My point exactly! >>> basically any and all info I have is all but useless. <<<

      1. re: zin1953

        well you have until February. (although some higher demand reservations need to be made soon)

        tool/search around on this board (it's a fairly active one), especially for specific neighborhoods/cuisines and maybe consider lurking on the WaPo's Wednesday dining chats, I've found the host reliable. Yelp is almost useless. City Paper is earnest but limited.

        1. re: hill food

          the high-demand reservations I referred to are places like Rasika, Komi, CityZen, Rogue 24, Volt's Table 21 (but that's waaay out of town) and Minibar (good luck with that one even though they recently expanded, there are threads dealing specifically with the frustration of getting through to them just to hear rejection)

          1. re: hill food

            That's a great list of great places, but be prepared to drop major bucks at those places........minibar is $225 per person before tax, tips and drinks!

            1. re: Bart Hound

              OP didn't say nuthin' about no price point...

              1. re: hill food

                True, and if we can in -- Minibar is certainly on the agenda!

                1. re: zin1953

                  you have better odds these days, and I understand the reservation system is all through e-mail so no more repeated re-dialing at 10 AM exactly 30 days, no more no less (or whatever it was) before the hoped for date.

                  to be honest, I've only been to Rasika a few times and minibar once. and minibar was yeesh 7 years ago? (where DOES the time go?) it was still new, I think it was around $140 pp back then. but fun.

    2. what worries me in your request is 'reservations' - since some of my favorite places are not the kind of spots one associates with reservations, host stands, or even having a telephone number.

      If I had six dinners to recommend to a visitor form SF, in town, here are my recs:

      Thai X-ing. Highly idiosyncratic apartment/townhouse. Reservations essential. Fixed price menu.

      Oohs and Aahs. Soul food, hole-in-the-wall. Four stools in front of a tiny kitchen. Shrimp and grits, lemon pepper wings, and the broiled (not fried) crabcake are my favorites.

      Mintwood Place. Bistro. French chef.

      Rocklands. BBQ, counter service. Chopped pork, corn pudding, greens.

      Etete, Ethiopian. Start off with the vegetarian platter and add the fish for $2 and get the derek tibs.

      Rogue 24, casual but very expensive tasting menu of 16 or 24 courses.

      Lunches: pesto waffles topped with escargot at Locolat, anything off the chalkboard at cf folks, ma po tofu and baby bok choy at the Great Wall.

      17 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        It's unfortunate that so many of the places I would recommend are an hour or more from the District by car, such as Myanmar, Grace Garden and Hunan Taste. Fast Gourmet was worth checking out at least once (thanks, Steve.)

        1. re: KWagle

          Fast Gourmet is great for the chivito, the cubano and the empanadas.

          On the higher end, I would highly recommend Rasika - probably the best and most creative Indian food anywhere.

          1. re: KWagle

            Someone who lives in the Bay Area is not at a loss for great Chinese (or Burmese/Malaysian/Singaporean).

            I would do Rasika - it's great Indian with unique dishes you don't see at most traditional Indian places. And we always just eat in the bar/lounge area and never have a problem getting in right away.

            As for other places that would be near you, New Heights is supposed to be good, and a metro stop up: Palena, Ardeo + Bardeo, Ripple and Dino are all good.

            1. re: mdpilam

              I would hit the Ethiopian Spots recommended by Steve.
              As far as soul food and Chinese - The Bay Area has comparable if not better spots

              1. re: mdpilam

                "Someone who lives in the Bay Area is not at a loss for great Chinese (or Burmese/Malaysian/Singaporean)."

                I can't speak for Burmese, though the food I've had at Myanmar is some of the best food I've had. AFAIK there are only three actual Hunan restaurants in the country, HT in Catonsville, a not very good place in Flushing, and I believe a place in Las Vegas.

                Grace Garden, however, is qualitatively better than any other Chinese on the east coast, and I'd be willing to bet it's qualitatively better than any Chinese in the US. I could list example after example of unique dish, or standard dish reinterpreted at a higher level, but this board is full of such discussions. As of last night I can add a wonderful interpretation of "ants climbing trees" to that list.

                It's *easily* worth traveling 500 miles to eat Chef Li's food. This guy isn't just running a great "Chinese" restaurant, he's running a great restaurant, period.

                1. re: KWagle

                  "three actual Hunan restaurants in the country"

                  I must be misreading this, or you are leveling me, but I've eaten at a number of Hunan restaurants in LA (San Gabriel Valley), and I know there are atleast a couple in SF. 3 in the country?!

                  I haven't been to Grace Garden (on my list, but it's far away and we don't have a car), and I'm sure it is very good, but I was just saying that it doesn't make sense for someone on vacation to make a big trek to a great Chinese restaurant when the Bay Area has a number of great Chinese restaurants.

                  1. re: mdpilam

                    What I mean by a Hunan restaurant is a restaurant serving dishes commonly cooked and eaten in Hunan province. I know of only three such places. There may be more, but I don't know about them.

                    As for GG, I'm *not* comparing it to *Chinese* restaurants, as you seem to insist on doing. (You recommend an Indian restaurant, are there no great Indian restaurants in the Bay area?) You're basically saying, "It doesn't make sense for someone on vacation to go to a great restaurant when the Bay area has a number of great restaurants."

                    But that would probably make more sense to you if you'd actually tried it. Book a flight to BWI and I or Steve or Jon Singer will pick you up and drive you there. Remember that they're closed on Sundays and several of their best dishes require a few days' advance notice. Book a flight. Yes, really. They're that good.

                    1. re: KWagle

                      >>> What I mean by a Hunan restaurant is a restaurant serving dishes commonly cooked and eaten in Hunan province. I know of only three such places. There may be more, but I don't know about them. <<<

                      You need to travel more. ;^)

                        1. re: KWagle

                          When I lived in SF in the late 70's, we discovered a tiny hole in the wall restaurant called Hunan. We became completely addicted and went there as often as we could. Eventually, they moved to a much larger location; now I see they have two locations and have changed their name. I always make a point of going whenever I return to the city. This remains the best Hunan food I've ever had. At this point though, it's been a number of years since I've been. I hope it hasn't gone downhill. I see they still have several of my favorites on the menu.


                          1. re: woodleyparkhound

                            wph - Hunan, I can't speak to their current state of affairs, but I used to work around the corner and every time we had to work late, which was often, it was the default place for take-out (on mgmt's dime!) it was good, but I got so tired of it, although never their scallion pancakes.

                            1. re: hill food

                              The scallion pancakes were always a "must order" for me - along with their dumplings. I also have fond memories of the shredded pork and celery.

                              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                ok we're going OT, but yes, the pancakes and the twice-cooked pork were always in every group order. and now I shall stop before I start going down memory lane (it's a nice path, but never really leads anywhere, much less for the OP).

            2. re: Steve

              I would add to Steve's Ethiopian suggestion, back in 1999 Zed's in G'town was the tops, but I'd give it a pass now. even Meskerem in A-M has been eclipsed. I'll let others duke 'em out (hint, hint) over this but most of the best places are now around U and 13th (and the injeera is vastly different than the best in other cities IMHO). there are exceptions. yet another example of how things have changed.

              1. re: hill food

                U and 13th? Maybe you meant 9th, which is Little Ethiopia? Madjet on U used to be my favorite but it closed, so now my gold standard is Zenebech Injera. Blows them all out of the water. It's further east, next to Howard Theater around 6th.

                1. re: hamster

                  I see that we are inventing new neighborhood names again. . . I'm not sure that a lot of restaurants of one particular type make.a historic neighborhood worthy of a new moniker.

                  1. re: hamster

                    I was thinking of the nearest Metro station (which yes I suppose is technically 14th)

              2. Here's a link to the Washington Post's Fall Dining Guide:


                This should help get you started.

                1 Reply
                1. The "Ray's" empire is new since 1999. Ray's Hellburger (original and 2/"too"), Ray's the Steaks, Ray's to the Third, as long as you're willing to head into Arlington. They are not mentioned in the Washington Post Fall Dining Guide. If you're unsure which to choose I would suggest Ray's to the Third for dinner and Hellburger for lunch. Those are my favorites for burgers or steaks.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: KeithW


                    If you are going to be in town, we should see if we can set up an off-line with some of the local wine geeks here. As to restaurants, it depends a lot on what level and type you are looking for. While I certainly wouldn't suggest Chinese here for you, Rasika would be an excellent choice. I'd also suggest you look at the Source (Wolfgang Puck's place here in DC) especially for the dim sum lunch. Places you need to try to get reservations for well in advance are Komi and Minibar if you want to go there. Palena is very good, either the fancier back room or the more casual Palena Cafe. Fabio Trabocchi is doing some wonderful things at Fiola. Eric Ziebold's CityZen is pretty darn good too.

                    Really fancy and expensive, but fantastic food and service, Plume. One of my favorites, is Belgian food (and beer) at Brasserie Beck. Noisy however, but great food and a pretty good wine list to go with a great beer list.

                    One place that is hot, and very good, is Mintwood Place. They make a great breakfast too.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      Nice list
                      Would add Etete for Ethiopian, 2 Amy's if you want pizza, great burgers at Rays Hellsburger and Dino for rustic Italian.

                      1. re: dining with doc

                        Etete is very good. However, another good place for Ethiopian is Ethiopic at 401 H St., NE.

                        Two Amy's, very good, also good, Comet Ping Pong at 5037 Connecticut Ave., NW, but somehow I don't see this as being the style Zin and his wife would go for as it is more a younger, louder crowd.

                        Small plates, try PS 7's at, where else, 777 I Street NW. Jaleo is still good, but was here in 1999.

                        Fancy southern food, Viadalia, 1990 M St., NW,

                        One other that has been around for a long time, but for elegant dining classical French you can't beat Marcel's 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW,

                        Want Spanish, the classic (and long standing) is Taberna Del Alabardero, but I'd also recommend Estadio. 1520 14th St., NW.

                        Best Thai food in DC, easily Little Serow, but, no phone, no reservations, very small, expensive, and folks line up before it opens. But the food is fantastic.

                        I also like Ripple, 3417 Connecticut Ave., NW, but I've always been a fan of Logan Cox's cooking.

                        Truth is, just a couple of blocks in Cleveland Park has lots of good places to eat, Palena, Dino, Ardeo & Bardeo, Ripple, Indique, to name a few.

                      2. re: dinwiddie

                        Where do you suggest for value dining with good wine lists and or reasonable corkage fees? Thanks.

                        1. re: dinwiddie

                          Where do you suggest for value dining with good wine lists and or reasonable corkage fees? Thanks much.

                          1. re: WineCounselor

                            zin is right. Dino. Free corkage Monday - Wednesday, fantastic and very well priced mainly Italian wine list.

                      3. If you like Italian, you may find this thread useful: