HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


dress code at DC steakhouses?

just found the "not about food" category so i thought i'd take advantage! the new boyfriend is taking me to BLT steak for my birthday and i'm not sure what to wear. nothing in DC seems overly dressy, so i think i have to keep the little black dress in the closet... but i am pretty certain the jeans/dressy top combo that works almost everywhere else isn't completely appropriate, either.

help! what is good for DC steakhouses? i'm a girl, but also curious with respect to guys.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In my personal opinion I think women are given a little more leeway then men when it comes to wardrobe. I know many women who have their $100+ jeans that are their "dress up" clothes.

    Anyway I wouldn't over think it.......my only true words of advice are if the plans change for any reason do not let him take you to the DC Ruth Chris (Near the Ronald Reagan Airport). One of the worst steakhouse dining experiences of my life!

    3 Replies
    1. re: jrvedivici

      I concur re: Ruth's Chris, but my dreadful experience was at the Bethesda branch. They should be ashamed at the horrible food and terrible service (not the waitress - she was fine and not responsible for the 75-minute wait for the mains). We called to ask them about dress code and they told us jacket-tie for men. We walk in and see two men wearing flannel shirts, one wearing a jacket and no tie, and another wearing a sweater.

      Downtown tends to be a little dressier than the burbs, maybe because people often go out right after work, or on work-related meals. The DC branch of BLT is "bistro-like" and more cozy and casual than are many steakhouses.

      The BLT entry on OpenTable says business casual.

      1. re: jrvedivici

        Wow...that's really surprising. Although Ruth's Chris steakhouses are not by a longshot, the best steakhouses I've been to, I've generally had satisfactory dinners at the 4 or 5 I've been to. Not outstanding, but pretty good food and service overall. I actually had a really excellent dinner at one in southern CA (Irvine) about 2 weeks ago. Having been to various RC's at least 15-20 times, it's hard to imagine hem serving a truly dreadful meal. Thanks for the heads up re the DC venue!

        1. re: josephnl

          I am very similar to yourself and while I agree not the best I've ever been to it has been a reliable name to look for when traveling. That ended with the DC location!

      2. I think Prime Rib is the only steakhouse that still requires jackets for men. Everywhere else it's business casual, which in DC means as long as you're wearing pants and a wallet, you're good.

        1. If you want to wear the little black dress, wear it. If anyone thinks you're overdressed, just let them assume you are on your way somewhere amazing.

          4 Replies
            1. re: mpjmph

              Agree...always better to be overdressed than under!!!!

                1. re: MGZ

                  For normal people not looking for an argument

            2. Have you called BLT and inquired as to what they expect and would be appropriate? That is what I would probably do if I were unfamiliar with the dress code.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Fowler

                That isn't always a good solution. You have to assume that the person who answers the phone actually KNOWS. I did just that with Ruth's Chris and was told that yes, gentlemen are required to wear jacket/tie. My husband will never let me forget that he was one of two men wearing a jacket and the only one with a jacket and tie. Apparently, by jacket and tie, they meant "anything in the closet." Because it included flannel shirts and sweaters. I questioned the hostess when we arrived about one hour later and she claimed not to have been the one who answered the phone, and then said "it is business casual."

                1. re: Just Visiting

                  Hi Just Visiting,

                  Did the men that wore flannel shirts and sweaters call and ask the restaurant Manager what would be appropriate attire or did they propose the question on an internet board for advice?

                  I tend to trust what a restaurant Manager will advise regarding appropriate attire.

                  1. re: Fowler

                    I don't know. I didn't conduct a poll. It would seem that either they didn't ask anyone or if they did, they got bad info or they got good info and ignored it.

                    You can't always be sure of getting a manager on the phone. Not to mention that anyone calling himself or herself manager at Ruth's Chris Bethesda should fire himself or herself for serving such terrible food and for the horrible service.

                    You apparently didn't notice that I mentioned that the restaurant itself stated "business casual" on its OpenTable page. I would think that would be the equivalent of trusting the manager.

              2. One is always treated a little better if dressing more up than down. I am also more comfortable, personally. For men, that means a blazer without a tie, but dressed nicely. I hate to go to upscale steakhouses (and I frequent many) and see men come in in shorts and t shirts, etc. I am not sure what this translates to for the ladies, but my wife always looks great.

                3 Replies
                1. re: steakman55

                  I am with you.

                  While we dine in DC often, we do not often do "steakhouses." Still, I have a blazer and often a tie. Wife has a black dress and jacket, usually with some "glitter." Just our style, and we never look back.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Agree completely. Not only do we enjoy dressing up a bit when we go out, I'm sure that we're treated better when we do so...nicer table, better service, etc.

                    I realize that I shouldn't let it bother me, but when we go to a nice restaurant and are nicely dressed, I hate it when we are seated next to someone wearing shorts, flip flops and a baseball cap!

                    1. re: josephnl

                      Anyone that wears their hat in the restaurant needs to be flogged anyway!!!!!

                2. thanks all. i actually did call BLT and they said it is a little dressier during the workweek (since it's people coming for business dinners, coming after work, etc) and more "trendy casual" on the weekend. she said both nice jeans and a dress wouldn't be out of place.

                  i tend to be someone who errs on the more dressed up side (because you can't go wrong with that). so, if anyone cares, i think i'm going to do a more casual blue sheath dress and leopard print heels. nice, but fun/trendy. i'll post back later about how out-of-place i was ;)

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: poochiechow

                    so, just to follow up, in case anyone ever reads this... i did wear the sheath dress and fun heels and i felt totally appropriate. there was a pretty big range there - i saw a woman in a little black dress, and her date was in slacks and a blazer. i think the women next to me may have been in nice jeans/sweaters/heels, and there were several other dudes in collared shirts with no tie. so, definitely dress nicely, but to what degree depends pretty much on your own personal taste/occasion.

                    and since this is chow (even though it's 'not about food'), i have to report that the steaks were AMAZING. i'm not a big steakhouse connoisseur, but the medium rare filet was definitely one of the best steaks i've ever had in my life.

                    1. re: poochiechow

                      Sounds like you did everything right. You called them to inquire what was appropriate and expected and then used your good judgement as to what to wear.

                      I wish more people were like you, poochiechow!

                      1. re: Fowler

                        thanks! that's my usual. can't do much better than an informed guess sometimes, but at least you can be as informed as possible. :)

                    2. re: poochiechow

                      Oh well if you said you had a blue sheath dress and leopard print heels to begin with of course that would have been the suggestion!!!! (I'm teasing) Glad you enjoyed and sure you looked wonderful !!

                      1. re: poochiechow

                        There is absolutely nothing wrong with that philosophy. Being dressed "up" a bit, is not a bad thing.

                        On the New Orleans board, we often field questions about the "minimum dress-code" for restaurant ____ . My suggestion usually runs along the line of "most gentlemen will have on suits, and a tie, even if that is not the bare minimum." Some do not like that response.

                        If all gentlemen around me, have on jackets and ties, but I have a tank top, even if "allowed," not sure how comfortable I would be.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          I'm the same way....for whatever reason for someone my age (42) I'm considered old school. I'm in a suit and tie every day and slacks and a sports jacket is my normal "casual" dress for weekend evenings.

                          I love watching old sporting events like baseball or football games from as late as the 50's when the camera would span the crowd all the men were in shirt, ties and jacket's on or off.

                          I guess it was the 60's/70's hippy movement that changed all that. It was no longer cool to be formal or adult it was about casual and freeing your mind and soul. Although I was only born in 1970 I believe that is when/where a lot of our society decline started to take place. Just my opinion.

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            jrvedivici - I was going to say the same thing about sporting events. I have black & white photos of my Grandfather and his brothers at Chicago Bears games and they were wearing suits, ties, top coats and fedora-style hats.

                            I like the people such as you and the others in this thread that take pride in their appearance.

                            1. re: Fowler

                              If one has ever looked at archival photographs of airline travelers, from that era, they would see ladies in gloves, and gentlemen in suits, with hats.

                              For me, the hat comes off, when I enter the plane (or the Red Carpet Club), but the rest is sort of out of one of those old photographs. Now, most of my flying companions are wearing soaking wet running shorts, as though they had just finished a marathon, and the ladies are in their sweats. Such is air-travel nowadays.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Hunt...I too love dressing up. I often wear a suit, but recently usually a blazer and slacks for dinner. And, although my dad always wore a suit and hat for business, I do not even own a hat, and do not remember the last time I saw a gentleman wearing one. True, we live in southern CA, but we do travel a great deal and pretty much never see a man wearing a hat (not talking the unfortunately ubiquitous baseball cap here). Do you really frequently wear a hat?

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  I in fact wear what would be commonly called a Fedora.

                                  **Edit....I have added a picture from before the holidays in NY.

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    Now, I normally do wear a hat, but it is always removed, upon entering an interior space, like a restaurant. I normally hand mine off to the "coat-check" person, along with any overcoat, but have been known to place it on an empty seat, or a near-by ledge. Unfortunately, hat/coat racks are usually absent, nowadays.


                                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                                    True, Bill, but there used to be a lot more room for dress clothes on airplanes. They're much more crowded and cattlecar-like these days.

                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                      Yes, and please do not get me started on THAT. Now, we often have to fly CRJ's from Phoenix, with zero space to hang up my jacket, or my hat. I have learned to fold my jacket inside out (no stains on the outer surface), and then place my hat atop that. At least once I get out of Phoenix, in Business and First, there is usually space available for my wardrobe.


                                2. re: jrvedivici

                                  Now, my average day finds me in cargo shorts, with an Hawaiian print shirt (except recently, when I have had to dress, as though I am doing the Back Bowls at Vail), but DO dress for dinner. Maybe it is because we do 20 - 35 formal events per yer, or something else?

                                  Still, I have my blazer, and a tie (thought that might be back in the room... ) and am seldom under-dressed for an evening anywhere.


                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                    "I'm in a suit and tie every day and slacks and a sports jacket is my normal "casual" dress for weekend evenings."


                                    Seriously, though, I'm of the mindset that the days of restaurants requiring that men wear jackets are behind us - and I'm thrilled. To me, a tie is a metaphorical "leash" - worn as a form of subservience to someone or something. It serves no practical purpose (unless one uses it to wipe his mouth).

                                    Personally, I'm comfortable in any place in a tee shirt and jeans. If they will let me in that way, then I have no qualms about being dressed in my most casual attire. I simply don't care what other diners might think.

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      Interestingly, my super casual fiancé gets very put out when we are in a fine restaurant and te folks are not to his deemed level of appropriate attire. His pet peeves are sweats, t-shirts, jeans- through he abhors te dressy jean look on men, and baseball caps.

                                      Coming from the man who hangs his t-shirts in the closet as if they are dress clothes.

                                      1. re: melpy

                                        I submit that getting "put out" by the clothes worn by others is his issue and he might want to try and figure out where that comes from. On the other hand, my closet is mostly filled with tee shirts on hangers - long and short sleeve.

                                        1. re: MGZ


                                          Let me ask you this question then MGZ......how about men and hat's and or baseball caps? Removed at a bar or dining room? (Out side of a 19th hole environment?)

                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Well, I was raised with the rule that gentlemen did not wear hats at the table. So, typically I will remove mine when sitting down to a a meal. I would be lying, however, if I said that, over the years, I have not left a baseball cap on when dining in casual places (especially when I still had long hair).* Baseball caps are fine in bars.

                                            As you might imagine, I don't care much what others do.

                                            *At my first meal at Trinity, I met ChefMd - upon who's request I removed my cap. It was a funny moment and I suffered "hat head" throughout the meal.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              Why bother removing the baseball cap, if one is wearing a tee-shirt in a fine restaurant? Seems like its oxymoronic, but maybe I am missing something.

                                              If one wants cut-offs, a tank top and flip-flops, when doing fine-dining, why not just keep your baseball cap on? Heck, many show up in sweaty running shorts and a singlet, and expect to be seated and served. Same folk wear that attire, when flying too.