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where do the locals go?

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there is a strong possibility that my husband and i will be moving down to DC this spring. next weekend, we are heading down to spend a few nights and take it all in.

we both do business in the area often and have spent some time there, so we're lucky enough to have been to most of the big name restaurants. this time, we want to know - where do the locals go? neighbor gems and little places that we won't necessarily find on a list. we are open to all areas of the city and are looking for it all: restaurants, bars - the works. budget isn't really an issue, just great food and great atmosphere. we want to be surrounded by people who live in DC! thank you all in advance :)

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  1. That's a tough question since the region is so large and spread out. Many folks who work in DC live in the suburbs, and might go out more to restaurants in those areas, where, despite a lack of high-end stuff, you'll find the best ethnic restaurants.

    Speaking as someone who recently moved from Silver Spring to Logan Circle, my girlfriend and I enjoy The Pig (don't go there if you're a vegetarian) and Cork a fair amount, as well as Bar Pillar. Pearl Dive has some nice happy hour deals, including delicious Po' Boys and excellent flatbread pizzas upstairs at Blackjack. Further up on U Street, for bars we enjoy American Ice Company and Solly's. Of course the problem with all those places is that they're also in trendy neighborhoods and on weekend nights, they will be packed by 9:00. I enjoy going to Churchkey every couple of weeks and sampling from their massive beer list (a hundred some on tap and a thousand or so in bottles) but, again, on weekends it becomes packed to the walls so I usually go on tuesdays or wednesdays. Further up still, in Columbia Heights, I like Wonderland Ballroom and Room 11 for beers and El Chucho for tasty tacos and tortas.

    1 Reply
    1. re: The Big Crunch

      this list is a great start! definitely not vegetarians :) although, will even eat vegan if it's a great place. we will definitely be checking out a lot of neighborhoods, but are pretty much committed to staying within the city. we'll be in town both on weekdays - and weekends - so will

      trendy works! as long as it's a good spot. good stuff - thank you!!

    2. Locals tend to go local, except for the occasional Big Night Out or to check out a Chowhound hot item. If I'm typical (and I don't thing "typical" fully applies to anyone here), I have a local circuit of about half a dozen restaurants. Since I rarely go out for dinner more than once a week, I only try out a few off-circuit places a year. And they can be anything.

      If you're going to be trying out the area, stay in a place where people live, not at one of the major downtown hotels, unless that's where you're planning to live. Every neighborhood that you'd want to live in has enough local restaurants so that you don't have to go far for a decent dinner out.

      .

      12 Replies
      1. re: MikeR

        Upvote this. Brooklyn66 - when you figure out where you might be living, update and we'll help guide.

        1. re: Dennis S

          as someone who lives in brooklyn and eats all over the city - we'll pretty much go anyplace for a good meal :) any and all info is helpful!

          1. re: brooklyn66

            Sorry, but prepare for reality. Metro is focused on getting people into and out of downtown. That's it. You will shoot someone (possibly yourself) if you try too much just "driving around" to check out places. For instance, it's easier to say the non-rush hours. Weekdays, before 6am, after 9pm and potentially between 11am and 2pm (potentially).

            We do want to help, including myself. But you need to give us more about where you'll be working and living. By those two pieces of info, we can guide for either and the in-between.

            Welcome to the area, btw.

            1. re: Dennis S

              I'm not sure that's entirely fair. DC proper is not all THAT big and Metro provides far more navigational options than just getting one from a suburb into downtown.

              1. re: Dennis S

                Agree, be prepared for a shock at how much the DC area is a series of villages where people don't travel as they do in NYC. We have the WORST traffic in the USA with some stretches of road having special federal traffic ratings unique to DC. Those of us who travel around the area are more the exception.

                Tell us where in DC you are looking.

              2. re: brooklyn66

                Not on a 'list' (but I make no claim about atmosphere):

                Locolat - a tiny, super casual spot that specializes in savory Belgian waffles. Go for the escargot, queens delight, or beef stew over pesto or garlic waffles.

                Oohhs and Ahhs: Coastal Carolina soul food: go for the shrimp and grits (ask for the vegetables with this), the lemon pepper wings, and the broiled crabcake. Broiled will take a long time but is worth it.

                Thai X-ing: must reserve. Super casual, like eating in somebody's apartment. Mostly a no-option meal, its just a guy cooking.

                1. re: Steve

                  I would second Thai X-ing. It's amazing!

                  1. re: idealist

                    sounds amazing and just what i am looking for! thank you!

                    1. re: brooklyn66

                      When people praise or decry something, I wish they would post the reasons. Otherwise we are left with: "Love McDonald's" meaning "I love cheao food no matter how bad."

                      1. re: law_doc89

                        Or at least post an example of a place that does (x) better. And saying, "the NY pizza is SO much better in NYC" doesn't count.

                  2. re: Steve

                    Ate at Thai x-ing the other night based on your recommendation (in town for work for the past month) and REALLY enjoyed my meal. Was there on a vegetarian night and had great food and great service. Thanks for the rec!

                    1. re: lucyj

                      Glad you liked it. I haven't been in a long time, so it's good to know.

                      What did your meal consist of?

            2. I have to agree with the folks in the thread that say "local" isn't a city-wide event. If you live in Capitol Heights or Capitol Hill or Dupont Circle, "local" won't be the same. Pick your neighborhood and then ask for local places.

              19 Replies
              1. re: Terrie H.

                gotta agree, when I lived on the Hill, I mostly only left it to go to work or DCA.

                Courthouse? sounds nice, but could be Boston AFAIK, G'town, ooh, sounds exotic! maybe one of these days...

                1. re: hill food

                  I think it is funny that there are many in greater DC who will not cross the Potomac unless it is for work.

                  1. re: law_doc89

                    + 1,000. I gotta feel for the people who put up with the Chinese food in Chinatown. Or the people who won't leave Reston for downtown DC because they heard someone got mugged there once.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      OMG! I once couldn't get someone from Burke to go to Foggy Bottom at night.

                      1. re: law_doc89

                        This is one of the reasons I felt like I enjoyed more dining options when I lived in Silver Spring than after I moved to Logan Circle last May. In the seven years I lived in Silver Spring, I thought nothing of driving to other suburbs for an interesting meal, nor did I have any problem driving or metroing into DC for a good meal, even if it was just some humble little spot that was getting attention. Actually, on my salary, the humble cheap eats place was more than likely what I could afford. Now that I live in Logan, I feel like I only consider the same few handful of places within a 4-6 block radius when thinking about eating out, and I never venture back out into the suburbs for a meal unless I'm already out there for something else. The move into DC was my GF's idea, and there have been some nice changes. I love walking a few blocks to the metro and taking that up to Bethesda for work, rather than driving every day. But I do miss the cheaper and far more diverse ethnic dining options I often ate at in Rockville, Silver Spring, and especially Wheaton, or when my GF lived in Arlington, all the great Vietnamese food in Falls Church. I don't the think District even has a Vietnamese place, nor do I think they have any kabob joints. Oh, how I miss being able to run over Ravi Kabob and get an amazing meal for $13. I feel like in a suburb with easy access to DC you get the best of both worlds, but in DC, you get stuck with the limitations of eating in DC proper, whose dining options are in some ways more limited, and a LOT more expensive.

                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                          There's a Moby Dick kebab joint in DuPont. As for Viet, you have a lot of adequate pho joints, but nothing particularly outstanding.

                          The issue with good, cheap ethic fare is that you need to go where those ethnicities live. Most times, that isn't downtown DC.

                          1. re: The Big Crunch

                            I definitely see where you're coming from. Good news is that things are getting better in DC, though we're still behind the burbs. I live in your neighborhood, and would encourage you to check out:
                            Pho 14 on Columbia Road (Adams Morgan) or Pho Viet on 14th (above Columbia Heights)
                            Fast Gourmet on 14th
                            Zenebech Injera
                            new Cuban place on Park Road near 14th (got to find my other thread on that)
                            Shawafel on H Street (not a kabob place exactly)
                            Tacos Chilango at 12th and V

                            These places are all cheap and delicious.

                            1. re: hamster

                              Important Update: The original creators of the food at Fast Gourmet have left there and started up a new place, TakEatEasy around 19th and M.

                              FG may not be what it once was, though the menu hasn't changed.

                            2. re: The Big Crunch

                              <I don't the think District even has a Vietnamese place, nor do I think they have any kabob joints. >

                              Sorry, but you don't know DC.

                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                I did overstate my opinion a bit, however I've lived in DC proper for a year, and the area for over a decade so to say I "don't know DC" is incorrect.

                                How about this... There are some Vietnamese places and Kabob places in the District but neither type of food is as common nor as good as it is in certain areas of the suburbs in which I've spent considerable time.

                                1. re: The Big Crunch

                                  OK, that's fair. The way you had written it, I seriously believed you didn't think we had any Vietnamese or kebab houses!

                                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                                    or "none worth going out of your way for in the District proper. is it there? yes, is it the best? NO!"

                            3. re: monkeyrotica

                              "people who put up with the Chinese food in Chinatown. Or the people who won't leave Reston for downtown DC"

                              you can imagine how ecstatic I was about 6 or 8 years ago when 8th street SE really started revitalizing and there were (gasp!) no more tumbleweeds and choices! decent choices at that!

                            4. re: law_doc89

                              In no way did my point say that no one will cross the river or even the street to go out for dinner, but DC is a collection of neighborhoods, and the OP asked for where the locals go. In that vein, their local spots are neighborhood driven.

                              It's great that so many of you have the means to travel all over the city and suburbs, but I don't interpret "where do locals go?" to mean quite the same thing.

                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                That's true, I did. And there are many places many will not go no matter how mediocre the local choices.

                                1. re: law_doc89

                                  That makes no sense at all in this conversation. Who suggested that anyone go to mediocre places?

                                  1. re: Terrie H.

                                    I meant that people will eat mediocre local rather than travel; now make sense? All in the parsing.

                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                      I'm definitely guilty of this. I know I can find a better version of (x) in a particular neighborhood, but I don't feel like dealing with the crowds/traffic/parking, so I opt for the less-better/adequate version that's more conveniently located. On the flipside, I've been known to make up excuses to go 20 miles out of my way for a particular meal, so maybe it all evens out in the end.

                            5. re: hill food

                              I have a friend who is flying in from Vancouver with her family. Poor dear actually thought she could arrange a group dinner with someone who lives near Mt. Vernon, someone who lives in Burtonsville and won't even to to downtown Silver Spring, and us (Bethesda; we travel all over the area for good food but avoid downtown DC due to traffic/parking hassles). Well not suprisingly, friend near Mt. Vernon won't go past Bethesda but will go downtown, friend in Burtsonville fuggedabout it.

                          2. Somewhere close to the house, most likely. That's the definition of "local". Where do you live? What do you want to eat?

                            1. Three places that come to mind: Greek Deli (carryout only), MGM Roast Beef (shutdown counter with great sandwiches and breakfasts), and Deli City (best Reuben in town and lots of Metro workers picking up lunch and breakfast).

                              1. Ooh, I will watch this thread with interest as I've just moved here (Dupont) with my husband. We've found a few places so far just by walking around, seeing what looks good and busy but there's nothing like inside advice from locals.