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Suggestions for specific style of restaurant

Hi there,
first time of posting on Chow.com, but I've been a fan of the site for years: some amazing recipe ideas, with the feedback on whether they actually work or not (unlike some other places...). Anyway, I was wondering whether I might tap your collective knowledge for a restaurant recommendation?
A couple of months back I took some customers and my boss for a meal at a restaurant called "La Tupina" in Bordeaux, France (details here: http://www.latupina.com/pages-en/inde...). It serves very traditional food South-West French food, with an emphasis slow cooked meat, poultry roast over an open fire that can be heard and smelled around the entire place, fries cooked in animal fat, good local wines... It is in the older part of town, been around for 40 years, and is probably best described as cozy. We had a great time.
So good in fact that we are now hosting the same crowd in D.C./Georgetown in mid December, and I have been tasked with repeating the evening. I've been to D.C. a few times and have been running through the lists of places that I might choose, but am coming up short. I can find plenty of places that serve good meat; plenty that are cozy; plenty that are older and more traditional. But nothing that brings all of these together. I'm not looking for a French place in the US, rather a US equivalent to LT.
Does anyone have any suggestions they'd care to share?
Many thanks,
Richard

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  1. As for open fire, I can't think of any places in DC that do that. Otherwise, if you want to drive, is the Ashby Inn probably fits the bill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Just Visiting

      Thanks for the suggestion, but I don't think the drive out is going to go down very well - we're staying in downtown DC (a couple of blocks from the White House).
      If we ignore the open fire, are there any options in DC/Georgetown?
      Thanks again.
      Richard

    2. My first thought was Blue Duck, but it's not cozy. Then I thought of Restaurant Eve, which is cozy but not meat-oriented.

      Then I thought of Tilth, which would probably be perfect but is in Seattle. We need a Tilth equivalent. This is a really hard set of criteria to meet!

      12 Replies
      1. re: reiflame

        Thanks for the thought Reiflame, but indeed Seattle is a little far to go for dinner from DC!
        I'm sorry to have set such a tough request - I'm normally quite self-sufficient when it comes to places to eat, but I am truly stumped here.
        If I adjust expectations: somewhere in DC/Georgetown that serves good meat and is cosy as opposed to a "see and be seen" sort of place?
        Thank you all for your patience with this!

        1. re: richardmp

          How many people? Are you willing to take cabs? Maybe a private room at Adour? And if you talk to them in advance, perhaps they can tailor them menu. Though I have to say that there are things on that menu that make me want to book a table right now!

          1. re: Just Visiting

            Thanks JV. There'll be between 6 and 10 of us. Taking cabs is doable, and Adour (private room or not) would be a good idea, but Ducasse doesn't really hit the buttons for cozy.
            Sorry, I know I'm being particularly difficult, but so far I've had all my main choices (Adour was on the list, as was Blue Duck) turned down... I'm tempted to take everyone to Ray's Hellburger!

              1. re: richardmp

                The closest analog I can think of in DC would be Little Fountain Cafe-- very cozy and easy to overlook, but I've always enjoyed my meals there (although I admit I haven't been in a couple of years and it's not particularly meat oriented).

                I think you might have to loosen one of your constraints. One possibility would be to go with a French place like La Chaumiere (which last I checked had a working fireplace) or Bistro D'Oc.

                1. re: Doh

                  Graydon: Westend Bistro makes it to the shortlist, but I think it may not pass the "cosy" test
                  Doh: La Chaumiere looks like it could be the place to go - have asked someone to go take a look for me.

                  For my own curiosity now, is there an equivalent to the above that specialises in US food rather than French?

                  Thanks again for the help,
                  Richard

                  1. re: richardmp

                    Years ago, I would have recommended Taberna del Alabardero. This restaurant followed the European model in that the table was yours for the night. My husband and I used to do a lot of socializing there. Unfortunately, the food is no longer excellent, other than the tapas at the counter, so I cannot recommend it.

                    2941 has a small private room off the main dining room that could hold a group your size and provide a cozy experience. The restaurant went through a re-do about a year ago, simplifying the menu and lowering prices. Seemingly, most patrons missed the original concept and the menu has undergone yet another make-over. Over the past 12 months, the restaurant has gradually returned to choices closer to the previous style of cooking and I can recommend the food enthusiastically. Still, the main dining room is sleek rather than cozy.

                    I've never been to Corduroy, but I get the sense that it would be cozy since it is located in a townhouse which suggests to me that the rooms will be smaller. 1789 is cozy, especially if you can snag a table at one of the rooms with the fireplace. I don't know what the food is like under the current chef.

                    Obelisk is a cozy place, but I'm in the minority in my indifference to the cooking. The meal starts off memorably with the antipasti but never finishes quite as strong. I've never had a great secundo there.

                    Generally, I don't think US restaurants value cozy. I think they value sleek style, buzz, and bravura cooking. Your group certainly doesn't want to have your evening interrupted repeatedly by servers who offer instructions about how to eat the food you're being served or recite the pedigree of every ingredient that comes to the table.

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      Indy - thanks for these. Taberna looks like a nice place, but tapas aren't going to cut it. Also, I was born and brought up in Spain, so I'm very familiar with Spanish cuisine, and tend to get upset when it's not as good I expect it to be!! I'll look into the others, they seem to be very interesting options.
                      I understand what you mean with valuing cozy, and you are exactly right: over attentive service and dishes that require doctoral theses to describe are not the idea :-)

                      1. re: richardmp

                        FYI: Taberna is not a tapas restaurant, although a small list of tapas is available at the bar.

                        1. re: Steve

                          Sure, I understand. I was just going on what Indy said about the food no longer being excellent...

                      2. re: Indy 67

                        I really liked Obelisk when I went, and the room is definitely cozy. That actually might fit your bill. I will agree that the dessert course when I went wasn't the highlight of the meal.

                        Corduroy is excellent but I wouldn't call it cozy - the room is very sleek and modern. Plus, it doesn't really have the focus on meat that she's looking for.

                        1. re: reiflame

                          The OP will have to weigh in on whether he wants Provencal chintz cozy or smaller rooms with reasonably normal height ceilings -- even if the decor is modern. Two very, very different vibes but both meet my definition of cozy.

                          If the group were only four, the absolute perfect place would be the table inside the pergola in Marcel's. Delicious food. Impeccable-but-unobtrusive service. And that cozy pergola!

          2. Tabard Inn has a beautiful fireplace and a cozy feel, especially in the small upstairs rooms. Check it out.

            1. I have never been, and so only pass this on based on others' experiences, but people seem to like the Tabard Inn: http://www.tabardinn.com/restaurant/m...

              Sorry, did not see the above!

              1. I think Chintz might be a step too far. Definition of cozy, while not exact, is more along the lines of warm colours, gentle buzz as opposed to raucous noise or stony silence. As it extends to the food, the point would be not to need a doctoral thesis to understand the dish and the provenance of each ingredient. Smaller rooms without the modern decor, regardless of ceiling height are fine; large, open rooms where diners are "exposed" (call it see and be seen) are not fine.
                If the people I was with were OK with sea food, I'd be booking at Sea Catch.
                Thanks for the suggestion of the Tabbard Inn, will have to explore that one too!

                1. I haven't tried eating at Seasonal Pantry, but if you had 10 and were able to book the whole place, that might make for a nice experience (but probably not so traditional).

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Doh

                    Thanks Doh - that sounds like an amazing place. I've put it to the boss, see if he buys into the idea. if he doesn't, well, I'm in town all week, will try to get there with some other people!

                    1. re: richardmp

                      Richard - I wonder if trying to replicate the experience so closely isn't a mistake? Maybe it was a special experience that should be cherished for what it is, and the best idea is to create another wonderful experience that is different but just as special? I think everything you try will suffer by comparison and will somehow diminish the specialness of the original. I went to a place near Merida in the Yucatan some years ago and had the most amazing meal of my life. I would never try to replicate that. Special is almost always unique, or nearly so.

                      On another note, can I have a job? I want to work for someone who takes employees and clients to France!

                      1. re: Just Visiting

                        I second Just Visiting thoughts, any attempt to relive that experience will probably not live up to memor. Create a new memory instead!

                        1. re: Hue

                          Since my husband and I will be in Bordeaux in 2013, I was curious about the French restaurant that produced such a successful dinner, and I went to the link to the restaurant the OP provided. No one should worry about duplicating the dining experience here in DC. Not gonna happen!

                          The closest in food philosophy is L'Auberge Chez Francois with its emphasis on well-sourced food and traditional preparations. However, the photographs of the Bordeaux French restaurant are charming and cozy -- there's literally a soup kettle simmering away constantly in a wood burning fireplace. L'Auberge's decorations are quite kitsch-y. (I don't even want to think what the place might look like now that we're in the Christmas season.)

                          I know L'Auberge doesn't get a lot of love on this board, but I think it does the classics of French cuisine extremely well. If you want innovation, don't make the long drive out there. If you want a meal that doesn't deviate one iota from the traditional versions of French, especially Alsatian, dishes you could do far, far worse than L'Auberge.

                          I think one of the OP's inherent problems is that Washington, DC is very much a see and be seen town. There are plenty of places that match his description of subdued color palatte and gentle buzz but the spaces are wide open, the better to be seen.

                          Does anyone have experience with Plume, the upscale restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel? That used to be a go-to place for the experience the OP wants, but I haven't been since the major rennovation to the hotel.

                          1. re: Indy 67

                            Thanks for this Indy - I've eaten at la Tupina several times, and it has always made for a great meal - both in food terms and the general ambiance.
                            For DC, clearly we can't repeat exactly, but I'm sure, with the options proposed here, we'll be just fine.
                            If you're in Bordeaux next year, do try La Tupina if you have the time. If you're in town a further recommendation would be a place called La Belle Epoque, down by the river, I've had some quite memorable dishes there.

                            1. re: richardmp

                              Corduroy is a winner in the District of Columbia. It's small, cozy, private, and comfortable. The meat dishes offer some real winners, from the char-grilled pork (among the best dishes I have had in years) to the antelope with chestnut puree (companions raved about this). No open fire, but otherwise it would fit the bill.

                              I have also recently enjoyed a meal at L'Auberge Chez Francois, which -- if the group is willing to venture a trek out to Great Falls -- provides a lovely drive up the Potomac, rewarded by some very good Alsatian cooking (for us, choucroute and amazing frites).

                            1. re: Hue

                              I thought Tersiguel's had closed many, many years ago after it burned down. I didn't know they'd re-built it. I used to work in Ellicott City and clients and co-workers always dragged me there. I never had a meal that was above mediocre and many that were downright lousy. Maybe the son is a better chef than was the father. But what a schlep.

                          2. re: Just Visiting

                            JV - you have a very valid point about replicating the experience to the detriment of the original. But, given the people involved, taking them to a starchy/cold/sleek place where we are required to concentrate hard on the food, as opposed to "merely" enjoying it would be even more detrimental. But if I can repeat the ambience we had then, it will be a success. And I guess that is why we're trying to find somewhere cozy, unstuffy and with good food.

                            In terms of a job, we're based in Switzerland, and we were all in France for a conference... I guess it's a bit like getting from DC to Chicago, and not quite as special as it should be. That said, we are going to DC later this month!

                        2. re: Doh

                          Wow! Glad I am following this thread - this place sounds wonderful!

                        3. I wonder why nobody seems to have picked up on the Bistro D'Oc suggestion, since the name says it is from the southwest. Here's some comments on it; mixed, but mainly positive: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/820763 . Also has a fireplace. Now I want to go, as I love the food of this region

                          1. Well, it is almost mid-December and you've probably already made your reservations but in case not, I just saw this review in the WaPo and thought it sounded like it might fit the bill:

                            http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifesty...

                            http://www.legrenierdc.com/index.htm

                            Though I admit it sounds more kitschy than cozy. The drinks look great.

                            They are apparently the owners of a restaurant I've passed by hundreds of times and never even thought to try - I don't know anyone who has ever been there but someone must be eating there because it has been around quite a while:

                            http://www.lechatnoirrestaurant.com/m...

                            I hope you will let us know where you ended up.

                            1. Hi there,
                              sorry for the long silence, and thank you all for taking the time to offer up suggestions and experiences.
                              It was a hectic week in DC, a great conference, and we managed to get in some good food along the way.
                              On Saturday, after flying in from Europe, negotiating CPB at Dulles airport, braving the traffic into town, conducting a recce of the venue, we decided on somewhere quick and easy for dinner. Arlington was deemed to be too far(!) so Rays was off the list, but we did make it to BGR. Now, remember, we came in from Europe where there is not much of a good burger culture, so we had a blast. Between the 4 of use we tried the highlights of the selection, washed it down with a few beers and headed for the hotel. When McDonalds or Burger King become the standard for a regular burger, you lose track of just how crap they are. On the plus side, it makes somewhere like BGR an amazing experience: the buns, the meat, the cheese...!

                              Sunday - we went to an old stalwart: J Pauls in Georgetown. Many years ago the place was HQ for my colleagues whenever they came over to DC and stories of excess abound. We were pretty tame by comparison, but we massacred a large plate of shrimp, some oysters and a load of crabcakes. All washed down with some microbrewery beer. We were very pleasantly surprised by the variety and excellence of beer available in DC.

                              On Monday meat was needed, so we went to Fogo de Chao as it was a couple of blocks from the hotel. A first time experience for a couple of my colleagues, and we had a great time.

                              Tuesday - Several of my colleagues were out to dinner with customers and suppliers, leaving 3 of us to hold the fort. After the meat-fest of Fogo we decided for fish and went to Sea Catch. I first went there nearly 12 years ago, and have loved it since. The lobster bisque special we great, and the crabcakes were better than J Paul's. No beer this time, the wine list here is too good.

                              Wednesday - La Chaumiere. We checked out a bunch of places in the run up to this dinner, and settled on a private room here: combination of availability, menu and the feel of the place. I'll be up front and say that I found the front of house staff rather harried when we walked in for a look around. I had used a concierge to make the booking and they weren't very happy that it wasn't me who had called through and spent some time "looking" for the reservation. I ask you, though: how many unusual surnames with bookings for 10 people do they get for a Wednesday?
                              On the night there were 8 of us, and the upstairs room, while large enough to accommodate two or three times the numbers, was a good choice as the main room was very noisy and we would not have been able to talk easily.
                              The menu choices were good - perhaps too much to choose from, but the dishes we opted for were well cooked. Personally I had the pike quenelle with lobster sauce and the Weds. special of couscous. The former was tasty but texturally unremarkable; the couscous was excellent: well cooked, well flavoured and a good quantity. Colleagues and customers had a variety of steak, mussels, sweetbreads, snails, and everyone was very pleased.
                              We had one main server and several "porters" looking after us, all generally very efficient and the banter was pleasant.
                              I was rather surprised, however, after asking for a particular wine by name and bin number, to be brought one that was $35 more expensive and already opened to the table. "It's not the one I asked for" was met with "but this one is better". I begged to differ and he was quite annoyed at having to take it back. I was seriously unimpressed, but with important customers on hand I was keen to avoid a scene. We went through half a dozen bottles (of the cheaper, supposedly worse one), so I expect their bottom line was not that badly affected at the end of the night.
                              The check was substantial, but I think fair value for what we had. Certainly, we got what we wanted: a cozy room where we could have a relaxed, gently lubricated dinner. With the huge choice in DC, I'm not sure I'd go back on my own despite the good food - there it too much yet to explore - but with a group, I think it is a good choice.

                              Thursday - End of conference, pack up and race to the airport. With a 7 hour flight back it made sense to eat before departure, so a few of grabbed a bite at the 5 Guys burger place in the airport. Not quite as good as BGR, but for an airport place, pretty amazing. How do I convince them to come to the UK?

                              Sorry for the long-winded nature of this post, but thank you all again for your help. If you're ever in Europe and need some suggestions, I'd love to return your kindness.
                              Richard

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: richardmp

                                Thanks so much for your "follow up"...sounds like all went very well..hope the conference was a success.

                                1. re: richardmp

                                  BGR is my favorite burger place in the area. You did VERY WELL for yourself.