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Help finding a "normal" lunch spot for lunch with my parents!

  • r

When we visit we usually have a normal rotation of restaurants we like to go to: A&J, Bangkok Golden, Karaikudi, China Bistro, Etete, DC Sandwich, Yas Bakery etc. All of these places are either too exotic or too spicy for my parents. Home made red sauce Italian food is my parents comfort zone but mom is very picky about Italian when going out so we want to avoid sit down Italian other than pizza. We're going to be in DC doing museums but will have a car and don't mind up to a 30 min drive. Off the top of my head all I can think of is the Italian Store for some pizza and Ray's Hell Burger. Anything else you can recommend?

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  1. So what about basic American food? Ray's Hell Burger is closed; Ray's to the Third is open diagonally across the street and has a more extensive menu including a fantastic turkey burger, salmon, and chicken. However, I'd consider going to Ray's the Steaks instead. You don't say where you will be staying but it sounds like you are oriented towards Arlington and there are plenty of good choices up there, especially in the Clarendon area. In Alexandria, Majestic Cafe is probably a place your folks would love.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Just Visiting

      We're staying in Falls Church but will be visiting monuments and museums in the morning so somewhere not too far from DC would be great. THanks for the info on Rays hell burger, had no idea they closed!

      1. re: Just Visiting

        Since OP asked for *lunch*, Ray's to the Third is open, but Ray's the Steaks will not be.

        1. re: DanielK

          Oh, sorry! You are right. I guess I'm not getting the idea of spending the day downtown but schlepping into Virginia for lunch. Unless maybe they are not going back downtown after lunch?

      2. I think a place like The Hamilton usually pleases all types of people. They have burgers, salads, pasta, entrees, even sushi. Hard to go wrong there.

        1. ehh I'd be tempted to say screw it and go to a Clyde's. they're decent and non-threatening. practically designed for a situation like this.

          12 Replies
          1. re: hill food

            oh OK Old Ebbitt's - part of Clyde's and a nice Orwellian take on a post-Edwardian eatery.

            but seriously my mom is the same way - garlic is exotic, and there is no pasta except for spaghetti (lasagna is a different beast) but she would love the room (and their boring yet well made menu)

            the patio at Poste? has it closed for the season already?

            1. re: hill food

              I just took some clients to OEG and they really enjoyed it. The meal was just fine and in a nice setting, fun for tourists, easily accessible from the Mall.

              To the OP I'd say if your parents are like that, just stop trying to push them off the edge of their comfort zone and go with safe American chow.

              1. re: tcamp

                I had a miserable lunch at OEG. The place was totally packed and noisy. I literally had to fight through the crowd to get to the bathroom. The noise level was horrific. The food was not as good as 'ok.' Maybe some days are better than others, some times of the year better, but it was not worth the hassle.

                1. re: Steve

                  I had a good lunch at Matchbox. It wasn't one of the best I ever had, but it was better than just ok for what it is. I liked it.

                  1. re: JonParker

                    The mini-burgers at Matchbox are excellent, if ordered medium rare.

                    1. re: Steve

                      I would second Steve's mini-burger advice. We recently visited the Mosaic Matchbox and got an order of six mini-burgers. My wife ordered them medium. They had a nice char on the outside and were still pink on the inside -- or at least five of the six were still pink. I could definitely see them getting overdone in a slammed kitchen, so medium rare is the way to go.

                      This was our first-ever visit to a Matchbox and we were pleased. Very nice pizza crust. Good for a family with varying degrees of adventurousness.

                      1. re: Bob W

                        Cooking a slider to order is a special skill. Not many people can do it right. It's too small to cook like a normal burger. The ones I had at Matchbox were very good. We also had a pizza that was pretty good.

                2. re: tcamp

                  i had a delicious dinner at OEG a while back -- everything from wine, starters, mains. great service, too (maybe because we were buying expensive wine, LOL).

              2. re: hill food

                I agree completely. You can have a perfectly OK meal at Clyde's. People like OP's folks tend not to be worried about more than "perfectly OK."

                1. re: hill food

                  It's been many years now, but the best description of the Clyde's Group I ever heard was from a Chowhounder whose name I have forgotten.

                  He called it "like eating a big bowl of ok."

                  1. re: JonParker

                    yes Clyde's will get no raves but when dealing with "the fuss-pots" it is safe and edible. and there's no nauseating "FLAIR!" on the waitstaff.

                    if the OP wants to push the 'American' envelope there's always Central right on Penn. and that's more of a nudge. even my folks would probably like that.

                  2. re: hill food

                    The Hamilton is also part of Clyde's. Personally I like the Hamilton more than Clyde's or Old Ebbit. They have a salmon burger that I really love and a few salads that I get often for lunch.

                    1. In DC, Eatonville and DGS
                      In Arlington, Lyon Hall
                      In Fairfax, Artie's

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Steve

                        I don't know Eatonville, but based on OP's description of his parents, I'm guessing that DGS will be too exotic. I mean: matzoh brei, tongue sandwiches. Yes, I know they have more basic stuff, but if OP's parents were like mine, they read the menu, start frowning, commenting on all the things that are unfamiliar or not made the way they think they should be made. My in-laws, too. Took them to a restaurant that had ONE thing on the huge menu that was unfamiliar to them (orzo). My FIL spent 20 minutes asking the waitress about this one dish even after we'd told him it was pasta shaped like rice. My MIL kept asking "what kind of place is this?"

                        My parents were the same way and I had the same problem whenever we went out (still do, with my mother). And someplace like Clyde's or Chef Geoff's (in all their iterations and variations) always turn out to be perfect.

                        I mean these are people who complain about portion size. I get so tired of saying to them, as one would have to say to a child, "Eat what you want and leave the rest or take it home."

                        Once I told my mother I was giving up and taking her to Silver Diner. She was thrilled!

                        1. re: Just Visiting

                          All menus can be found online. I am merely pointing out places I think can work based on my parents' serious food limitations. YMMV.

                          1. re: Steve

                            It was not a personal comment meant to criticize you. It was a comment meant to help the OP.

                            Personally, I am often tempted to say to my mother and in-laws, "Let me tell you about the Ice Floe Cafe...."

                            1. re: Just Visiting

                              yeah but The Ice Floe usually only has seating for one (if it's a good night).

                        2. re: Steve

                          i'm not sure about lyon hall for this app, steve.
                          i'd go more for liberty tavern in arlington.

                        3. ted's bulletin? more casually, silver diner? taylor gourmet for sandwiches? i also like wise guy for pizza.

                            1. Perhaps Founding Farmers? Most of the menu is pretty unthreatening--when I was there, they had pot roast, gnocchi, shrimp and grits, fish, etc. But everything is housemade, reasonably priced, and with good portions, so that puts it a step above your typical "American" restaurant. I've never seen it too loud or crowded nor totally empty. It makes a pretty good compromise restaurant. Plus the location is convenient.

                              1. Founding Farmers or Art and Soul both sound possible. Old Ebbitt Grill is very busy and in the middle of everything so it has a very DC feel, if you want that kind of setting. If you do want pizza, I'd say also consider Pizza Paradiso or Two Amys. Any of the Clydes group places are fairly reliable and not exotic.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: Elder Berry

                                  I am sitting here giggling at the thought of OP's parents looking at a menu with words like "boudin balls" or "smoked beef tongue with sauce gribiche." Quinoa.

                                  If the downtown Founding Farmers is as plain-out-lousy as the one in Rockville, it doesn't matter what is on the menu. Six of us went for breakfast and of the six different dishes, only one was enjoyable - the pancakes. The rest of us took a couple of bites and then pushed the food around for a while. If you can't do breakfast right, then there isn't much hope for the lunch and dinner dishes!

                                  1. re: Just Visiting

                                    I went to a place in LA last week called "LA Farmers" (not my call) and I wondered if there was any connection to Founding Farmers here in the DC area. Same schtick--a send-up of traditional American dishes that incorporate some ironic, jarring twist that make you wish you'd read the menu more carefully. The food was just bad, the interior dingy and vague, the staff mopey and listless. It's as if the place were designed and staffed by junkies.

                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                      Are you talking about LA Farm? That has long been a 'see & be seen' place for Hollywood folk to talk business. I do not know if it retains its status to this day, but it used to be on the short list for celebrity sightings.

                                      You weren't canoodling with SAG/AFTRA people, were you?

                                      No connection, as Founding Farmers was started up, I think, by an agricultural co-op based out of North Dakota.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        As a matter of fact, I was....and with a few thousand other folks at the LA convention center. In the midst of all that, LA Farm(ers) was nearly deserted while all the other restaurants in the vicinity (Flemings, Rockin' Fish, etc.) were jumping. My first instinct was to flee, but I was with a group so it was impossible.

                                      2. re: flavrmeistr

                                        Interesting---because I find the food at Founding Farmers equally as lackluster. Lots of talk, very little walk.

                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                          "It's as if the place were designed and staffed by junkies"

                                          well that narrows things down in LA...

                                          apologies to my Angeleño friends. the bulk of LA offers wonderful fare, but every now and then there's a place like that.

                                          1. re: hill food

                                            No slam on our Angeleno friends. LA Farm was the one low point during the 9 days in LA. Lots of ahi poke and seafood, even some decent Cuban food in Manhattan Beach. LA has lots of great food, and pretty reasonably priced by DC standards.

                                            What I've concluded is that any upscale restaurant with the word "farm", "farmer" or "grandma" in their name should be avoided, no matter where they're located.

                                            1. re: flavrmeistr

                                              flavr: or "Old" anything on a liquor bottle.

                                                1. re: JonParker

                                                  Indeed. A top-notch American rye with a venerable history. Affectionately known as "Old Overcoat", it was America's best-selling whiskey prior to Prohibition. It's enjoying a resurgence of late, which I'm glad to see.

                                    2. How about Busboys and Poets...food is good, interesting, fresh and the menu is varied enough to please everyone

                                      1. CF Folks - if during the week.

                                        1. Ovvio Osteria for pizza and pasta - more authentic than red sauce but simple and good. Their pizza is as good as Pupatella and the pastas are good as well. Or you can take them to Matchbox for pizza and sliders.