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Mar 3, 2013 05:19 PM

Good local food near tourist locations

I'm coming to DC for spring break with my 2 teenage boys for the usual tourist activities. We are from Houston, so we get our share of great ethnic food, but we love to try good local places. Any suggestions for not to miss places - atmosphere and price matter, along with just good food would be appreciate. BTW - we are staying near GWU.

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  1. The book of convenient and great is a slim volume indeed.

    White House - Although it has gone downhill, Breadline is still a good bet for a convenient, economical meal (lunch only, M-F) that delivers on flavor. Any day midweek, go for the Italian sausage or the egg salad. On Fridays I go for the bbq on a ciabatta, on Thursdays the cubano is good, on Tuesday the shrimp po boy. I would ignore the rest of the menu.

    The National Cathedral- 2 Amys for the margherita pizza and Italian small plates.

    National Gallery of Art/Archives - Right up 7th st is Jaleo for Spanish tapas. The verduras are king here, so try the spinach with raisins, grilled asparagus, the beet salad with citrus, patatas bravas, baby wrinkled potatoes. This place has gotten pricey, although it remains very casual.

    Near your hotel- If you can make reservations at Rasika (lunch, M-F only, and dinner every night but Sunday), then you can enjoy their sophisticated Indian cuisine. Not cheap, but excellent food. The palak (crispy spinach) is everyone's favorite dish.

    Capitol/Library of Congress/Supreme Court- Good Stuff Eatery, go for the toasted marshmallow milkshake, the sunnyside burger, and the village fries. Village fries can feed three.

    Iwo Jima Memorial- if you go to Arlington, it's easy to grab a cab to take you to Sibarita (Bolivian - try the silpancho and the sopa de mani) Cafe Assorti (Kazakh - try the dupmlings and the stuffed breads), or Rays to the Third (fried chicken, burgers, cheesesteaks, and steaks). They are all fairly close to metro stops as well.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Thank you for these suggestions - I'm getting hungry already. Another question - is it worth a trip to Old Ebbitts Grill and/or Clydes (not sure if they are the same) for the history? Are there any other historical places you'd suggest, just for the atmosphere or because the food is so bad, it's worth the story :-)

      1. re: cathstewart94

        You should look on Trip Advisor for a list of historic crap food restaurants.

        OEG and Clyde's is part of the same corporate casual restaurant group. If that's the kind of thing you like, there's no need to go on a food-centric website like Chowhound.

        Neither place will produce a story. If you want a story, go to Oohhs and Aahhs, a soul food place with lots of character.

        1. re: Steve

          Got it. Just following up on parental memories. Thanks.

        2. re: cathstewart94

          If you like oysters, they're both worth it for their raw bar happy hour.

          1. re: 4X4

            Agree. Happy hour oysters at Old Ebbitt are a good deal and their other food is--not bad. It actually is a historic location. I've never understood why the Old Ebbitt generates so much resentment on this board. It's not Bob Evans.

            1. re: flavrmeistr

              It's simple: For a local, everyone has plenty of opportunity to decide for themselves.

              But if I was coming in from out of town looking forward to some great food, I would be severely disappointed following a rec on a food-centric board to eat at OEG.

              1. re: Steve

                I lived in DC for 20 years, and the only reason I ever ate at the Old Ebbitt Grill was its convenience and its ability to handle a crowd. The food was a bore. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone for its food.

                1. re: Steve

                  Would lunch at the Old Ebbitt would be a "severely disappointing" experience for a family in town to see the sights? Ol' Flav will go out on a limb and say...probably not. I'll go even further and offer up Blackfinn at 16th and Eye. That's 2 blocks north of the White House. Many famous lobbyists eat there.

        3. Some other ideas: Cava, Sonoma, Hanks on the Hill, Central. If you need something quick near GWU the Whole Foods there has really good grab and go options better than most of the Whole Foods- for instance Oh Fish sushi. There is also District Commons right there. Tons of options in Penn Quarter. If you have an idea what sites you are visiting can give you some other options.

          2 Replies
            1. re: Jay F

              and a Trader Joe's. surprising for that end of town, no?

              another grab'n'go not far from GW sort of on the way to the Mall is the Greek Deli on 19th near M, no seating. closes by 4 PM weekdays only. good for getting a gyro or souvlaki to take with you through the day.

              OP - you said you weren't looking for much in the way of 'ethnic' but DC's Ethiopian shouldn't be missed.

          1. Going to downtown DC? try the food tucks! They're all over the place. I'm a DC office drone, and I've investigated many of the Food trucks. To find out where they're going to be on thesday that you're in an area, check out Food Truck Fiesta:


            They tend to be loacted in the following locations:

            Franklin Square (13th and K NW
            )Farragut Saquare (17th and K NW), convenient to the White House
            Metro Center (12th and G NW)
            Union Station (Massachusetts Ave and N. Capitol St.)

            I think they hang out in Foggy Bottom, and L'Enfant Plaza area, but that's too far from my office, I don't pay attention.

            Some of my favorite trucks:

            BBQ Bus
            Sate truck
            Ball or Nothing
            Red Hook Lobster Pound
            Sang on wheels (laotian)

            There are lots of other good trucks, I can't eat at them all.

            Then there's District Taco, Roti (a "Mediterranean" schwarma/kabab joint, numerous branches, Also Hill Country on 7th st. NW,is a reasonable facsimile of Texas BBQ. Also, G street Food, 1700 block of G st. NW (near the White House), good lunch and breakfast fare. Oh, and we shouldn't forget Loeb's NY Deli, at 1712 I st. NW, a real Jewish (but definitely non-kosher) deli. My favorite is a pastrami on pumpernickel with coleslaw and russian dressin and a Dr. Brown's Cel-ray tonic., but they have lot's more. It's as good as anything you'll find in New York.

            Lots more, but this is just a sampling of wjere I find lunches when I'm to lazy to pact my own.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ConsApi

              The food trucks serve mostly 'captive audience' food. Yes, if you are stuck working in an office downtown they are a good idea, but the same food would not generally survive in a restaurant, it is overpriced for what you get, and in bad weather it's just a lousy idea.

              Loeb's is low-grade stuff, I'd just as soon eat at the supermarket. Hill Country has great fatty brisket and the sides are very good, but I wouldn't touch the rest of the bbq.

              Also, I'd take Moby Dick straight up over Roti anyday. Especially their ground chicken kabob, which is an option hard to find elsewhere.

              Most people working in DC are stuck with a few bad options unless they want to take the time to sit down at a restaurant.

              1. re: Steve

                " but the same food would not generally survive in a restaurant, it is overpriced for what you get, and in bad weather it's just a lousy idea."

                OK, you have a point with the "bad weather," but in a few weeks that won't be an issue. If the food is so bad, then why are the trucks successful enough to open brick& mortar restaurants? I eat at both kinds of places, the food trucks have good food and they're nit particularly overpriced for what you get. Sure, you can go to McDonalds and Subway and get cheaper. So what?

                "Loeb's is low-grade stuff, I'd just as soon eat at the supermarket."

                What supermarket do you shop at? I've been eating Jewish deli since I was a kid in New York, Philly, Baltimore, and Chicago, and Loebs is good. Sure, it's not the Mile End in Brooklyn, but then, the Pastrami sandwiches are less than $9.

                "Also, I'd take Moby Dick straight up over Roti anyday. Especially their ground chicken kabob, which is an option hard to find elsewhere."

                Yeah, but Moby Dick is way up Connecticut Ave, far from the tourist spots. And if you're going up there, I prefer the House of Kabob at 1829 M St. NW.

                "Most people working in DC are stuck with a few bad options unless they want to take the time to sit down at a restaurant."

                It's really not as bad as all the food snobs say, and eating at a real restaurant downtown will set you back at least 20 bucks for lunch. The food trucks and the more interesting carryouts will set you back $10, To go cheaper, it's national chains. All of the interesting neighborhood places are not near the tourist spots. That;s just the way it is. No need to be a foodie snob, there's plenty of decent stuff in downtown DC, it's just a bit expensive, as one might expect.

                1. re: ConsApi

                  I didn't say the food trucks were 'so bad,' but I think they're a bad suggestion for the OP. If I were a tourist spending all day on my feet, the last thing I would want is to walk a few blocks form the White House to stand on line at one of the Farragut Square food trucks, and then have nowhere for 3 people to sit or go to the bathroom. The food is just not that good. There are much better alternatives, including my limited recs at Breadline, and even G Street Food as you mentioned is a better choice.

                  "eating at a real restaurant downtown will set you back at least 20 bucks for lunch."

                  You are mostly correct, but not exactly, and this is what Chowhound is all about: finding the exception rather than the rule. For example, Casa Blanca is a real restaurant just on the other side of McPherson Square, and papusas or tamales will set you back just a few bucks.

                  For a nearby office worker, the food trucks are not a bad idea. Still I tired of them quickly and found them to be a bad value. For the visitor to DC, I don't suggest walking out of your way.

                  Food snobbery has its place if it means eating better. If it means only recommending unrealistic or expensive alternatives, that's when it gets to be a problem.

            2. I work right near the WH, and honestly, there are few "not to miss" places around here.

              Since the weather should be glorious, I would not dismiss the food trucks out of hand. Your boys might find them a fun change (and enjoy the views, hint hint). On some days you can find a dozen or more at Farragut or Franklin Squares. The lineup is always changing, but the variety keeps growing.

              One place that no one has mentioned yet is Mio on Vermont Ave., which serves very flavorful Puerto Rican/Latin American food.

              A couple blocks further east on K St is Brasserie Beck, which serves hearty Belgian food, such as mussels and frites. Very good for teenage boys with large appetites. I take visitors there often.

              One more fun spot with good food is DGS Delicatessen, which is a "new wave" deli on Connecticut Ave, an easy walk on a nice day from the WH.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Bob W

                Mio is a very nice place. I enjoyed the mini arepas and the fish when I was there.

                DGS is a good place, a very good choice for dinner, might have to reserve for lunch unless you get there very early. Not sure if it is overly crowded for dinner hours.

                1. re: Steve

                  OP here - you guys are fantastic!!! and I appreciate the interest in my culinary well-being. It is hard to find that balance between not to miss, cheap and convenient and I really appreciate all of the input. Keep the suggestions coming and I'll let you know how we survive.
                  BTW - (1) we are in Foggy Bottom, so the TJ/WF option will get us started. (2) there is a mystery writer I like (George Pelecanos) whose characters are always in DC's Greek diners, so I have to hit one of those; (3) I'll fix you all up with some real Texas BBQ whenever you come this way.

                  1. re: cathstewart94

                    The actual location of Pelecanos' father's diner (Nick Stefanos' diner) below Dupont Circle is now a little place called CF Folks, at 1225 19th Street NW. Most of the rest haven't existed since the 1970s.


                    AFAIK, the only one of the Greek diners that's left is the Trio at 17th and Q, and that may have been sold to someone non-Greek.

                    Here's some of the history of the Trio. George was the owner/operator all the years I lived down the street.

                    1. re: Jay F

                      Trio has never struck me as much of anything specific. it does have a pleasant sidewalk area.

                      CF Folks gets good marks, mostly for the daily specials.

                      1. re: hill food

                        Oh, I'm not recommending Trio for the food, which was always just one bit above execrable. S/he asked about the Pelecanos diners.

                    2. re: cathstewart94

                      Pelecanos also includes Silver Spring/Wheaton in his novels. (He actually lives in Sliver Spring.)

                      There are two places In Wheaton that are described in one of his books. One is Pho Hiep Hoa (the Wheaton location, on University Blvd.); the other is Ruan Thai:

                      You can walk to both of those from the Wheaton metro.

                      1. re: Lori D

                        You can also drive a little bit north up Route 1 (or take Metro - Green line) and have drinks at the College Park dive bar Town Hall (mentioned in one of Pelecanos' early books.) :)