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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.

                          2. I love a good thin crust pizza. Matchbox is close to where we are staying. Any good? Other places to get some good pizza and some better than average beer?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: JonH

                              No -- Matchbox is decidedly below par. The better pizzas in the city are Neopolitan-style. I'd head to 2 Amys (near the Cathedral) -- not only (or primarily) for the pizza, although it's very good, but also for the beer, the small plates (on the back of the white menu card), and the ice cream.

                              1. re: Marty L.

                                Agreed about Matchbox. Acceptable but nothing special. Love 2 Amy's but not really metro accessible. How about Pizzeria Paradiso? Perfect neopolitan pizzas, fantastic beer selection, and right off Dupont metro stop?

                                1. re: The Big Crunch

                                  The best thing about Pizzeria Paradiso is the beer selection - I rather have a pie from Vace's

                                  1. re: agarnett100

                                    Seriously? I know some people love it, but I truly hate Vace pizza. You know how most people wouldn't turn down a slice of pizza, even if it wasn't one of their favs? Well, I would actually refuse free slices from Vace. Pizzeria Paradiso makes neopolitan as good as anyone in this region. The crusts are perfectly blistered and the choice of toppings and pies is first rate. The Bottarga is as good a pie as I've ever had. Not sure if other locations are mediocre, but of the dozen or so times I've been to the Dupont location (both old and new spot) I've never been disapointed.

                                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                                      I vehemently disagree. Pizza Paradiso is terrible compared to il Canale, Pupatella or Orso.

                            2. So here is my updated plans:

                              Wed- lunch at SEI, supper at Zaytinya
                              Thurs- lunch at Rasika, supper at Jaleo
                              Fri- lunch open, supper at El Centro E.F.
                              Sat- lunch near shopping, supper at Birch and Barley

                              I need a lunch suggestion for Friday near the Air and Space museum. I also need a Saturday lunch suggestion near a shopping area. What would you choose?

                              39 Replies
                              1. re: JonH

                                Georgetown is probably the best shopping area. For lunch/brunch you can go to Peacock Cafe, Cafe Bonaparte or over in the West End (a short walk to Georgetown) is the wonderful Blue Duck Tavern and Ris.

                                Personally I don't love Zaytinya or El Centro. I think you could do much better. I would switch Zaytinya with Graffiato if you want to stick to the Gallery Place area. You are also geographically sticking to similar areas. Maybe instad of El Centro go to Mintwood Place or Cashion's and check out the Adams Morgan neighborhood or Hank's Oyster Bar and check out Dupont.

                                1. re: Elyssa

                                  Wife wants a big mall shopping experience. You folks have so many stores that we don't have. I might be wrong, but Georgetown does not sound like what she is looking for.

                                  I want tacos and margaritas one of the meals. Wineo gave El Centro some good reviews and not many like Oyamel. Need another option if neither of them is the place to go.

                                  I thought Zaytinya received good reviews here. Very unique menu compared to the greek places from my area of the world and the small bites means more things to try.

                                  I'm not partial to any of the areas really. Just trying to line up the restaurants with the touristy things we will be doing.

                                  1. re: JonH

                                    If she wants a big mall, definitely go with Tyson's. I like La Sandia there- lots of tequila and nice Mexican food.

                                    1. re: Hobbert

                                      I won't have a car and it seems like quite an ordeal getting there if I am reading the website correctly. Over an hour on the subway and a bus ride. Nothing closer that is on a metro line? La Sandia looks like he type of place I'm looking for though.

                                      1. re: JonH

                                        Yeah, the bus and metro would be a hassle. What about a Zip Car?

                                        1. re: Hobbert

                                          How about. Place called Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Seems to be right on a subway stop? Any decent food nearby?

                                          1. re: JonH

                                            The only thing I know of down there is Lebanese Taverna. I've been a couple times and enjoy it, particularly the lentil soup.

                                            1. re: JonH

                                              JonH -- Pentagon City is the shopping mall for you, very easy by Metro, nice big mall like you're looking for. As for eating near there, I won't be much help, but there are some nicer looking places on the back side, where Lebanese Taverna is. There is a Ritz Carlton adjacent to the mall with a bar. Across Hayes Street from the mall I believe is a Chevy's Tex Mex where you could get margaritas, but that's not a recommendation.

                                              Personally, I'd still go to El Centro for margaritas. I wasn't impressed with their tacos, but they weren't terrible. It's been a long time, but I think the margaritas at Oyamel were pretty good. I like Zaytinya, too, sounds like what you're looking for to me....

                                              I also strongly agree on the food trucks for lunch near Air and Space (if weather is okay). Or Mitsitam at the American Indian Museum, knowing that some on here really don't like it, I think you can do well there if you look around and understand what it is. I've had some soups there that I liked and wouldn't have been able to get anywhere else, for example.

                                      2. re: JonH

                                        For shopping mall experience, go to Tysons Corner Center in Tysons Corner.

                                        Also, I think Oyamel is alright. If you just want some good, above-average Mexican stuff and some margaritas, you honestly aren't going to do much better in DC.

                                        1. re: JonH

                                          For a big mall you are going to head out of the city. Either Tyson's Corner or Pentagon City. But not a ton of food options that I would feel comfortable recommending near those spots---just mall food.

                                          1. re: Elyssa

                                            pentagon city mall has the ritz carlton, and not in the mall but adjacent in front and rear ("pentagon row") are many non-mall-ish restaurants. http://www.pentagonrow.com/dining/

                                            outdoor seating in the pentagon row places, too.

                                          2. re: JonH

                                            Jose Andres is a nationally famous chef who has never turned his back on his hometown restaurants. Some of his chefs have gone on to fantastic careers of their own. They operate at a very high level, although any place could have some ups and downs over that many years.

                                            His original restaurant, Jaleo, got a makeover recently with a new menu. Periodically, standard menu items get a makeover too, so even if they remain on the menu, the recipe and construction change. I have now had four different iterations of his patatas bravas at Jaleo, and have seen changes at Zaytinya as well. In each of his places, he has drilled down deep into the cuisine to find the exceptional recipe that characterizes the cuisine. Zaytinya will be impressive. My favorite item is the bantijan bil laben (crispy eggplant). Some starters are half price for Happy Hour - they have tables in the bar area.

                                            When you go to Jaleo, go for the quail with rosemary sauce, patatas bravas, the mini-hambuerguesa, grilled asparagus, spinach with raisins, beet salad with citrus, and the baby wrinkled potatoes. Potatoes here are great. Order three tapas at a time and stop when you are sated or run out of money.

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              Second this. Anything with potatoes at Jaleo is fantastic.

                                            2. re: JonH

                                              So, Georgetown is basically an outdoor mall, city-style. Your wife will find most of the chain stores that she would find in a mall (Zara, Gap, Nine West, J Crew, Levis, etc) except for no department stores like Macy's/Nordstrom (which would be available in Pentagon City). Many high-end options as well.
                                              And the food options are a lot more interesting in Georgetown.
                                              If you go to Pentagon City (which is a perfectly nice mall and a quick metro ride from the city), I would recommend Lebanese Taverna or one of the other restaurants in Pentagon Row (just adjacent to the indoor mall).

                                              Tyson's Corner is really far and not metro-accessible (you'd have to supplement a long metro ride with a bus or a taxi).

                                              1. re: hamster

                                                Yeah, but Georgetown involves a metro ride and a bus. If they want a "mall" experience, Pentagon City is the way to go.

                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                  Not necessarily - they can take a long walk from Foggy Bottom, or else take a bus all the way there (say, the Circulator). I think for visitors desperate for city life, Georgetown is actually a pretty cool spot to visit. But you're right it's not the traditional mall experience. I just think they get more bang for their buck and their shopping desires might be fulfilled there anyways.

                                                  By the way, make sure to check out Thomas Sweet's for my favorite ice cream if you do go to Georgetown.

                                                  1. re: hamster

                                                    doesn't the circulator also go up to Dupont? which is the "Italian Shoe District" if memory serves...

                                                    there's some shuttle that links Dupont, GTown and West End.

                                                    I find Gtown sidewalks annoying (limit the damn parking already and widen them, there ARE a zillion garage spaces behind and under those facades) but if shopping mall-type places are sought within the District proper, it's probably the most concentrated choice without hiking up to Mazza Gallery.

                                                2. re: hamster

                                                  G'town is a unique high end shopping experience in DC, have lunch at La Chaumiere (great bistro) or il Canale (Neopolitan pizza).

                                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                    I second the Il Canale recommendation. I always forget to recommend this place for some reason but it really is great.

                                                3. re: JonH

                                                  Decided to cash in a free car rental for Saturday. Wife wants to go to the outlets. Saturday is filled now assuming lunch will be at a food court. Good thing I have Birch and Barley that night to make up for it.

                                                  1. re: JonH

                                                    The outlets in Leesburg? Try Blue Ridge Grill or Fireworks. Fireworks has great wood fired pizza.

                                              2. re: JonH

                                                For lunch on Friday - there are about 15 food trucks that park a block south of the Independence Ave side entrance of the A&S museum. That's probably your best bet.

                                                1. re: DanielK

                                                  I would go with DanielK recommendation hit the museum early, grab some grub from a Food Truck and than Metro to Pentagon

                                                2. re: JonH

                                                  Come back in a few months and you'll be able to Metro to Tysons Corner on the new Silver Line.

                                                  1. re: Bob W

                                                    yes, a few months.

                                                    this can mean SO many things...(really needs to be said with a bored and resigned inflection)

                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      Sadly, I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment.

                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                        Last week I was on the Toll Road and saw a Metro train rolling down the Silver Line tracks to Wiehle Ave. So it might actually be fairly soon.

                                                    2. re: JonH

                                                      Going to shop at Leesburg Premium Outlets on Saturday. Anything worth walking to for lunch once I there? Heard parking sucks and once parked, I don't want to get into the car again until it is time to go.

                                                      1. re: JonH

                                                        Oh and parking is completely fine. The food there does in fact suck. A lot.

                                                        1. re: Hobbert

                                                          I was at the Outlets on Saturday. The parking lot was a madhouse. And the food definitely sucks. If you are in decent shape you can walk across the US 15 bypass and go to BRG.

                                                          Got some good buys on shoes at the Bass outlet.

                                                          As for the drive, I live in Loudoun County and it still takes me a half hour to get to the Outlets.

                                                          1. re: Bob W

                                                            Eh. I park at the far end, behind the Saks knockoff. It's never bad. As for taking 30 minutes, well, Loudoun County is big so I'm not sure if you're saying that's good or bad. I've lived in Loudoun since I was 2 and still live here. And, like you, it takes me about 30 minutes to get to Leesburg. We can definitely agree on the food. It's probably the worst mall food I've ever had.

                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                              Yeah, just saying that the drive from DC is really not that bad -- everyone has to drive to get to the outlets!

                                                              I also noticed a new coffee cart outside the food court -- McCawley's or something like that. An alternative to the Starbucks inside. I stopped for coffee at a funky place on King St before getting to the outlets so I didn't try it, but I will always give an independent coffee place a try, so next visit.

                                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                                Gotcha. Yeah, I don't even bother going into the food court anymore but if there's a new place, I'll try it out. Thanks for the tip!

                                                        2. re: JonH

                                                          leesburg outlet parking will be fine, so don't worry about it. do worry about traffic coming back to dc on route 7, because that will take you maybe 45 minutes to an hour.

                                                          blue ridge grill website, fyi: http://www.brgrill.com
                                                          frankly, i'd skip the outlet, which is a drag to slug around, and the shops not that great. use your car and go to tyson's.

                                                          tyson's corner 1 & 2 would be ***MUCH*** BETTER SHOPPING and more comfortable, and has much better places to eat -- also a predictable return time to dc for your dinner reservation.

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            I dunno. It's a heck of a drive from DC but there are some good deals to be had. Depends on which stores they're interested in. But, I agree, the drive would probably be enough to put me off.

                                                          2. re: JonH

                                                            I highly recommend the Wine Kitchen in Leesburg for lunch. Small plates and wine flights plus a few small boutiques to walk around for shopping also. It takes about 10 minutes to drive their from the outlets.

                                                          3. re: JonH

                                                            Any good food options near the zoo? Wife may want to go see the pandas and was thinking of doing this Friday afternoon. Thinking lunch nearby then the zoo. Walking would be best but could travel a bit by metro.

                                                            1. re: JonH

                                                              You had asked for lunch near Air & Space museum originally and i was going to suggest Mitsitam in the American indian museum with food from all the Americas w/ native American populations. It's fantastic (albeit not cheap). But if you are now going to the zoo, there are a million options in Cleveland park just N of the zoo (tip: metro to Cleveland Park NOT Woodley Park/zoo and you will walk DOWNHILL to zoo not UPHILL). You could also do the zoo first and keep walking downhill to Woodley Park where there are lots of food options. In CP, you could get slices at Vace (no place to sit though) or Pho at the vietnamese place on the same side of CT ave as the zoo. Zoo i mid to late aft can be a bummer as many animals tend to be napping.

                                                          4. Here is a link to my trip report for anyone interested: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/902655

                                                            1. Zatinya is great...jose andres is a master of great food and atmosphere...Also if you want upscale excellent..blue duck tav.
                                                              founding farmers in foggy bottom for the best brunch ever...
                                                              and look for a fun selection of new hot places in the U st area..
                                                              around 14th nw....many hopping places....enjoy a great city