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Short Stay in DC - Suggestions For Friday Night

My wife and I are flying into Washington for a few days mid May. We like big, bold flavors and would pick ethnic choices based on our limited selection here in Moncton, New Brunswick. I have Oyamel booked for Wednesday supper, Rasika for Thursday lunch, Jaleo for Thursday supper, and Birch and Barley for Saturday supper. We are staying near Chinatown but are not limited to meals in that area. Wife does not want Ethiopian and I would rather stray away from Italian. Wide open to any other suggestions.

I am looking for a fun Friday night spot where we can have some drinks and linger over our food for the evening. I have a number of more expensive choices booked for the other meals so I would be most interested in a lower price point than mentioned above. I'm thinking some sort of wine bar that doesn't break the bank? Maybe a good meal with a wine bar close by for afterwards?

I am also interested in a few lunch spots near the big tourist spots, but can travel for a meal worth travelling for.

What do you suggest? Thanks!

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  1. I have been impressed by the food at El Centro DF the last couple of times I have had it. A bit pricy for what it is, but probably my favorite non Hyatsville or Alexandria/Arlington true Mexican right now.

    The high food prices are offset by their killer selection of mezcal. Start with the tasting flight then go explore the single estates and varietal selections. I stick to the reposado' and blanco's, as anejo's just seem over-oaked to me. If I want that much oak and alcohol, I'd just drink the typical California chardonnay or cult cabernet!

    You can walk to Cork for an expensive (due to the minuscule portions) but nice, mostly domestic, cheese flight and great wines. There are better wine selections and far better cheese at better pricing elsewhere, but Cork is the tops on 14th street in my opinion.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wineo1957

      What have you ordered at El Centro? I went there about a year ago and was so underwhelmed by the cuisine (except for the cocktails and guacamole) that I haven't returned. I got the fish tacos and one other dish (which is now forgettable).

      1. re: Elyssa

        Tacos. I think we had the beef barbacoa enchiladas. The more complex food is passable, but the stuff that is simple & traditional is pretty good. I too had written off the place on an early visit but we tried their food at one of the charity events and it was good so we went for a light meal. Back again for major Mezcal tasting so my food recollections are as fuzzy as my head was the next morning but it was good. Not great.

      2. re: wineo1957

        El Centro DF looks great to me. Drink menu looks fun as well. Depending on the day of the week, it sounds like we could make a night of it here since there is music later in the week. What are your favorite dishes here? Thanks for the suggestion.

        1. re: wineo1957

          It's hit-or-miss. The pork platter is tasty, though a bit greasy, and the duck quesadilla is pretty good. Tequila selection is great. I recommend trying a soto or, if you like smoky scotches, a mezcal.

        2. For your Friday night dinner I would go to Estadio in Logan Circle. You certainly can get wine and cocktails there, along with delicious Spanish tapas in a fun environment.

          Afterward if you want to stop by a wine bar, head to Cork down the street.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Elyssa

            Estadio looks very good. I already have two tapas places (though a good recommendation might get me to switch out Oyamel) and wonder if I want a third. Small plates seems to be a theme in Washington.

            I had Cork on the list as a possibility. Is the food there worth making a night of it or do you recommend eating elsewhere then finishing the night at Cork?

            1. re: JonH

              Sorry I didn't realize that you were doing lunch at Jaleo. I guess 2 Spanish restaurants would be too much.

              The food at Cork is quite good, although I have to admit that I haven't eaten there in awhile. A must get item on the menu is the avocado and pistachio dish. It's so simple but so good.

              Another option for food (or drink) is Pearl Dive. A very lively atmosphere with tasty cajun/southern style food and a really nice raw bar.

              You could easily go eat at Cork and drinks upstairs at Pearl Dive or vice versa.

              1. re: Elyssa

                Pearl Dive sounds great. It is making the list. Love southern style food and my wife loves oysters. Thanks for the recommendation. How about some lunch choices near the touristy spots?

                1. re: JonH

                  If you are going to be up on the Hill there are a couple of places to go. Le Bon Cafe is a cute little french cafe with sandwiches, salads, coffee, baked goods etc. On a nice day you can sit outside. Also nearby is Good Stuff Eatery for good burgers and shakes. You also can head over to the Eastern Market area where there are tons of restaurants---I like Zest, Matchbox, Hank's Oyster Bar and Cava Mezze. Of course you can always just wander the stalls of the Market and pick up picnic items there.

                  On the Mall itself there is Mitisiam at the American Indian Museum. Really unique cafeteria food representing the various regions of the country and take on Native specialties (wild rice salad, fry bread, cedar plank salmon etc). It can be a mad house during peak hours so try to go a little early or a little late.

                  Other options off of the Mall: Central, Paul, Sei, Teaism....all different types of cuisines and different price points.

                  I also would google "DC food trucks" and see if anything strikes your fancy. You can follow most of them daily on Twitter or the Washingtonian has a daily posting of where they will all be. That could be a fun and different lunch option.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    I really like the look of Sei. Not many options for sushi in my area. I looked into Mitisiam previous. Pretty mixed reviews it seems but quite the unique menu.

                    1. re: JonH

                      Don't go to Sei or Mitisiam. Go to Daikaya or Seki.

                  2. re: JonH

                    There's always a wait at Pearl so plan for it. I've been quoted anywhere from 3-4 hrs for two people before.

                      1. re: Teddybear

                        I did not. I'm 1 for 3 in my attempts to eat there. Personally, 30-40 minutes is the most I'd wait for a table.

                        Has there been a thread dicussing people's threshold for how long you're willing to wait?

                        1. re: shake N baik

                          Unless I'm on a desert island with no other choices, fifteen minutes is my threshold -- if there's a really nice bar area, I might wait 20.

            2. Itinerary looks pretty good. I've been to Oyamel twice and both times I was underwhelmed by the food. Was there anything in particular that you wanted to try there?

              Perhaps you will consider Graffiato's take on Italian or Daikaya's ramen and izakaya fare.

              4 Replies
              1. re: shake N baik

                I agree about Oyamel. It's not bad but it's also not outstanding. If I was going to go to a Jose Andred restaurant I would personally choose Jaleo.

                1. re: shake N baik

                  The two best dishes on the Oyamel menu right now are the ceviche with passionfruit and the albondigas. I'd avoid the tacos or any other antojitos which are done better at a good taqueria.

                  1. re: shake N baik

                    We have no true Mexican food where I live now. Closest is chain tex-mex food, which isn't close at all. We use to live in the San Francisco Bay Area and had great Mexican there. Went back to visit in May and really liked Tacolicious. It doesn't get a ton of love on the Bay Area board, but I thought it was great. I'm a big fan of tacos, ceviche, magaritas... I thought Oyamel fit the bill for a few reasons: we would be able to try a number of things due to the tapas style of the restaurant, looked like it had a fun atmosphere. and it is very convenient to where we are staying. I'm certainly open to other suggestions but note that we do not have a car and would be more interested in places we could easily walk to from a metro station.

                    1. re: JonH

                      I am guessing that any place with the name Tacolicious does better than Oyamel's tacos, which are too precious. Go for the other foods, you'll be glad you did.

                  2. For one of your lunches, you should try Fogo de Chao if you like Brazilian churrascaria. It's right across the street from Federal Triangle.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: sarinaL

                      FYI: Fogo de Chao is a chain with about twenty locations in the US.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Not all chains are like Applebee's or TGI

                        1. re: Steve

                          Yup, and the OP is from Canada. Just because it's a chain doesn't mean it's bad. For the authenticity, variety and quality of items served, Fogo has it down pat.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Also a rather heavy lunch don't you think? Last time my fiance went there he was literally twitching from the large amount of protein intake.

                        2. Grafiato is in the Gallery Place neighborhood on 6th between G and H. Proseco on tap! Get the flatbread with pepperoni sauce.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Wvfoodies

                            Just went there tonight...meh. Over-rated and over-priced. Of the half dozen things we tried, only the vaunted chicken thigh with pepperoni sauce stood out. That is one sensational dish. Sadly, it is a single boneless chicken thigh on a plated of pepperoni spiked tomato sauce, though the crazy gnochi triangle that comes with it is also delicious. Everything else was good, but not even close to being worth the price. My advice is to go to the bar around happy hour, order a prosecco and a plate of the thigh (yes, one thigh, cut into two pieces), as well as bread and pepperoni sauce, and rest assured that with that order, you have probably sampled THE BEST thing on the menu.