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Feb 24, 2013 11:41 AM

Washington D.C. Food Itinerary

I will be visiting the nation's capital for the first time next month from March 31 to April 2. I will be arriving by train from New York City, but don't have my hotel yet. I plan on staying in Penn Quarter of near the White House. I like most food, including spicy, but need your opinions on the restaurants I have planned for right now.

Day 1:

Dinner at Rasika

Day 2:

Lunch at Le Bon Café or Mitsitam Café (At NMAI) (Have a tour of the Capitol at 12:30, so a restaurant nearby would be nice)

Dinner at Etete (Never had Ethiopian food before!)

Day 3:

Lunch at Bistro Bis (Leave D.C. from Union station at 1 P.M.)


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  1. Mitsitam has been getting mixed comments lately, and it's at the SW foot of the Hill, while the Capitol's visitor entrance is at the top and on the East, of course, but if it's nasty weather you can cut through the House office buildings' basements for almost the entire length from the NMAI (just be sure not to use a members only elevator - they get really ticky about that. and about the private tram that links the whole complex) but if time looks like it might be an issue, you may want to consider Le Bon or others in that area. or putting off lunch until after the tour altogether. for DC the area you've picked for dinner has a bit of nightlife even on a Monday, so a late meal might be preferred anyway.

    I'll let others argue which Ethiopian is better or worse than Etete.

    One often needs a booking at Rasika, but I've heard many stories that it's easy to score a seat at the bar with no reservations and the PQ is a relatively quiet neighborhood on Sundays if there's nothing going on at the arena.

    given your itinerary, the where shouldn't be much of an issue, if Metro is going to be used, I'd try to stay near where the Red intersects the Blue/Orange line at Metro Center and it's a simple transfer at Chinatown to go up the Green/Yellow to U street for the Ethiopian fix and (with luck?) you might very well understand its addictive quality.

    6 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      A small warning - weekend closures of Metro stations for repairs is common, so please do yourself a favor and check ahead of time if you plan on using Metro. It could add significant extra time to your journey and mess you up for a reservation. A cab ride would be a good alternative if needed.

      edit - this should have been posted to the OP.

      1. re: hill food

        or for lunch on Capitol tour-day if Jimmy T's is open on Mondays (and I have a hunch it's not) is a classic diner, classic as in not 'plastic retro' but has just always been this way with million year-old cobwebs to match (not really) fits in with your mood, well that's right on East Capitol just 5 short flat blocks. and you can play "which house was Ashcroft's?" or is that too DC political geeky?

        maybe swap a late lunch after the tour at Bistro Bis for a pre-train ride lunch at Jimmy's? oh hell at the point you may as well hit Johnny's on the Half Shell before the train.

        1. re: hill food

          Jimmy T's isn't open on mondays, but sounded good. Also, I definitely won't be able to have a late lunch because of how hungry I get early on (I don't eat a lot for breakfast) and would be miserable during the tour. How about Steve's suggestion Good Stuff Eatery?

          1. re: lhenry

            never been out of a spiteful grudge/dislike over that TV show "hat-boy" was in. but why not, the shakes get good marks. the veggie deli by the liquor store near 4th has received good comments also. the Mexican, Chinese and Thai on that part of the Hill can be easily ignored.

            1. re: hill food

              For what it's worth, I had an excellent cheese omelet at Pete's Diner, right next to Le Bon Cafe. And they have some interesting specials at a decent price. And it's fairly close to the Capitol.

            2. re: lhenry

              Shakes at good stuff are in fact pretty good. The toasted marshmellow one is worth the sugar high. Also the sodas at "we the pizza" are pretty good.

        2. On Capitol Hill, I think it's hard to better than the toasted marshmallow milkshake and the sunnyside burger at Good Stuff Eatery.

          Mitsitam would not succeed outside the museum setting.

          At Etete go for the vegetarian platter and the derek tibs.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I'd actually argue against the veggie platter. It's not that it's bad, but IMO most Ethiopian veggie platters all taste the same, and besides, as I recall, you get your choice of two veggie side dishes with a main dish at Etete. I recommend the Kifto, served raw (not partially cooked) at Etete. They do a wonderful job with it and their spiced butter (which coats the Kifto) is the best I've had in the area.

            I also think Mitsitam is over-rated and a bit pricey, but, it's also the best option in that area since the Mall/capitol grounds proper simply don't have a lot of dining options. Steve's right though, you can hop the metro (or just walk a few blocks) and you'll be in the more restaurant-heavy region of Capitol Hill as neighborhood, rather than the actual grounds of the Capitol.

            1. re: Steve

              Thanks to Steve, we had a great lunch with him at Etete a couple of years ago. We'd never had Ethiopian food either but loved it. I'd order the way he recommends.

              We had lunch at Rasika and it was completely delicious. You won't be disappointed.

              Have fun. It was our first visit also and everything just blew us away.

              1. re: Steve

                <Mitsitam would not succeed outside the museum setting.>

                Exactly. Not very good and not a good value. I don't expect a lot from museum cafeteria food, but it was esp. ghastly and overpriced the last time we went.

              2. I think your itinerary is great! You are enjoying a nice cross section of what DC has to offer. Which Rasika location are you planning to go to? Personally I prefer the West End location only because I don't find it as busy or as loud as the Penn Quarter location. Either way though I would make a reservation.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Elyssa

                  I planned on going to the penn. quarter location. I don't mind the noise, but is the food better at the west end location?

                  1. re: lhenry

                    Do not miss the fried spinach at Rasika!

                    1. re: lhenry

                      I think the food is amazing at both and I honestly can't say one is better than the other. It's really an ambiance choice.

                      And yes---you must order the palak chat regardless of which location you go to.

                  2. My favorite Ethiopian in the city is Zenebech near Howard Theatre. It's not pretty, in fact it's quite dingy, but the food is amazing.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: idealist

                      I put Zenebech at well below average. Have you been to Ethiopic in DC or Eyo in Northern Virginia? Eyo is my favorite right now, as its been awhile since I've been to Etete which has been reliably delicious in the past and has a better location for the OP.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Steve, have you been to Zenebech recently? The combo plates are absolutely the best I've had in DC, and I have had many very successful meals there over the last year. It's definitely my favorite in DC. The individual meat dishes can be disappointing, I admit.
                        Etete was disappointing on several occasions a year or two ago, so I have stopped going there.
                        Ethiopic is great, but unnecessarily pricey. If it's a more convenient location (near Union Station), it's worth going for sure.

                        1. re: hamster

                          I went to Zenebech not long ago. I have not been back to Etete in a long while. There is a place in NoVa, Eyo, that is much better than any of the places in DC at the moment. There are a couple of MD places in the recent WaPo 40 Essential Eats list that look intriguing.

                          I agree that Ethiopic is pricey and I'd rather not spend that much.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Steve, does Eyo have 100% teff injera available?

                    2. I was able to get a reservation at Rasika Penn. Quarter, but didn't have availability until the next night. Hopefully Etete will have room a day earlier.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: lhenry

                        if Etete doesn't, there are plenty of options within a block or two.

                        1. re: hill food

                          Etete had availability, and am excited about my first ethiopian restaurant.

                          Also, I would like to thank you all for your suggestions. I will post a reviewed itinerary when I get back.

                          1. re: lhenry

                            Etete really isn't what it once was. I went a couple months ago and found the portions and cooking both severely lacking, on top of terrible service. What about Ethiopic, the consistently highest-rated Ethiopian food in the city right now? I would hate for you to be disappointed by Etete, particularly when you've never had this cuisine and are so looking forward to it.

                            Check out my comment/question to Todd Kliman (food reviewer for Washingtonian Mag.) and his response, "RE: ETETE, on 9TH ST. NW ...:"

                            ETA: Here's the missing link, oops

                            Alternately, Lalibella on 14th Street is popular with the (largely Ethiopian) cab-driver crowd, and the food was good the last time I was there a few years ago, although not as good as Etete's used to be. I've been hearing good things about Habesha near U Street as well, although it's more of a carryout atmosphere.

                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                              I rank Ethiopic as leagues better than Lalibela.

                              1. re: Steve

                                Definitely agree, but wanted to offer a more central option in Northwest in case the location is a dealbreaker.

                              2. re: ChristinaMason

                                I know we're supposed to be tossing out superlative suggestions, but even mediocre Ethiopian in DC (anybody go to Zed's anymore? Meskerem?) is miles ahead of other cities (and that's not 'Babbit'-y boosterism, I've tried it in many cities) so maybe the very best will cause disappointment down the road... ehh whatever, nice memories count too and will bring lhenry back.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Zed's has another name now, I don't know if it is just a name change or has completely changed.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    that rings a bell, I think I did hear it had closed or something a few years ago. - just illustrates my point.

                          2. re: lhenry

                            BTW, there's a super gay, sports bar/restaurant next door, Nellies :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              my friend Margaret and her wife like Nellie's! (but then they're both jocks)

                              wow, (introspective moment) I'm totally cool with and for S/S marriage, but writing that I realize the terms still sound unusual.

                              1. re: hill food

                                We enjoyed ourselves! Totally straight-friendly. Hi btw.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  hey c! BTW I feel most comfortable in places that are all-inclusive whatever the patronage demographic.

                                  "ain't nuthin' but a party y'all"

                                  1. re: hill food

                                    Totally agree. It was fun to have an early lunch at Etete and then move to Nellie's for football (for Bob). You definitely enhanced our trip. Thanks again.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      HEY lady - don't smear my fingerprints on that Toonerville Trolley train wreck. I may have had a few suggestions but I don't recall those (I think I pitched for Dukem then)... heh, glad you left with a good impression and memory. it's all we can ask for out of life. get DC folk out of their cars/jobs/ties (any element of competition essentially) and they're usu. a good-sport crowd.