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Washington DC, get in my belly & iPhone
May 4, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Spending a long weekend in D.C. Looking for off the beaten path restaurant, app suggestions & other recommendations.

I'm going to DC later in May for the first proper visit since I was a teenager. Looking forward to seeing the museums, monuments, etc. and have done my homework on that front but now I'm hungry. I've skimmed through most of these and didn't see anything current so I thought I'd ask here.

I'm looking for recommendations for a nice dinner for a Fri. or Saturday night. Not necessarily fancy, but a nice experience to connect it with our trip as my travel partner & I enjoy doing. As a point of reference, we went to Jardin Nelson while in Montreal last summer. Only real criteria is no chain that we could get at home (NYC) or in most other cities. No dietary requirements as we're both pretty much omnivores. Metro accessible preferred, but we will have access to a car, if needed.

Also, I've looked through the app store . I've bookmarked these two questions and am generally reading up on tourism info. If there's an app you recommend or something we must see that we might not have found, feel free to let me know. We love the arts and history and know fully well that we can't see DC in one weekend but we'll see what we can. As far as apps, I love "NYC Way" and "Exit Strategy" - are there comparable ones for DC?

Thanks!
posted by TravellingCari to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (37 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 


I haven't lived here for very long and don't do fine dining much, so I'm working from a limited sample size here, but my favorite restaurant in the area is the Lost Dog Cafe, which is just over the border in Arlington. Fantastic pizza and hot sandwiches.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:59 AM on May 4, 2012


Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide. Some of these require a car, but basically, it's a list of all the best food in the DC metro area, with specific ordering recommendations.
posted by decathecting at 8:00 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]




If you can swing it, Little Serow is one of the best places in town. Since you're a tourist, you can take advantage of their no reservations policy by getting in line first (I'd recommend maybe 4ish for a 5pm seating on a weekend?). It is delicious Issan Thai food cooked by the exec chef of Kumi. $45, fixed menu. It is definitely outside my normal budget but I've been once and it was absolutely worth it. Dupont Metro.

My favorite bars are all green/yellow line bars. In Columbia Heights, the Wonderland Ballroom is good on weeknights (but horrific on weekends). Room 11 up there also has great cocktails and nice outdoor seating. Good small plates. Petworth has Red Derby and Looking Glass Lounge. The Raven is in Mt. Pleasant and is the diviest of great bars. The Passenger, in Mt. Vernon, is cocktails and beer; it is very New Yorky. Potomac Ave has Trusty's (a dive bar with a school bus inside) and Wisdom (a very fancy cocktail bar).

I strongly recommend you check out H St. DC hasn't really had the ramen craze NY has, but we have Toki Underground out there. Little Miss Whiskey's and Jimmy Valentine's are nice. (LMW's has a vodka-peach slushie, which is great in the heat.) Also, Church & State if you're feeling a bit more classy. Sticky Rice out there is great.

Kushi in Mt. Vernon is good for sushi, but also izakaya.

From Tyler Cowen's recs - I love him, but if you're in DC for a short visit and are normally in NYC, there's not too many small local cuisines you're missing. I'm not a huge Ethiopian fan, but we do have better Ethiopian than NYC. (Try Dukem on U St.) Eden Center in Virginia is great for Vietnamese, but I definitely wouldn't drive out there if you're just here on vacation (there is nothing to do there).

Oh, also, Thai X-ing is DC's other great Thai place, but they may be full up. A guy cooks for you in his house and you sit in his basement and eat whatever delicious things they bring you.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can you help us narrow it down a little by saying where you're staying: downtown, Va. or Md burbs?
posted by MichelleinMD at 8:20 AM on May 4, 2012



Can you help us narrow it down a little by saying where you're staying: downtown, Va. or Md burbs?


Whoops, sorry. Seem to have edited that out when I was editing post. Staying in Arlington at/near Crystal City metro stop. Stayed there before when my sister-in-law ran Marine Corps marathon so I'm familiar with getting into DC from there. Part of why we chose it when it seemed everything in DC proper was sold out that weekend.

Thanks all for the links so far
posted by TravellingCari at 8:23 AM on May 4, 2012


Do you have iphones? If so, when you hit the National Mall check out bluebrain's location-music app.

If you're using the metro/bus, DC Metro Transit app on Android is super helpful.
posted by inigo2 at 8:23 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you don't mind something a little spendy, we loved going to Jaleos (a Jose Andres tapas restaurant) in Crystal city. Right by a metro with lots of access to free parking too.
posted by Kimberly at 8:26 AM on May 4, 2012


I have former work colleagues who fashion themselves as foodies and they seem to like Grafito. It opened a little less than a year ago and the chef was a contestant on Top Chef (season 6). In addition to my friends patronage, it seems to have gotten good reviews. It is on the edges of Chinatown, very walkable and metro accessible.

Coincidentally, on that same season of top chef, two brothers by the last name Voltaggio, came in first and second and they have a restaurant in Frederick, MD, named Volt.

I personally am rather fond of Jose Andres restaurants in DC, particularly Oyamel (the ceviches are spectacular and he's worked a lot with Diana Kennedy to make his recipes more authentically mexican). He also worked with the National Archives and opened a year + long "pop-up" restaurant, American Eats Tavern, that is scheduled to close on July 4, 2012. All of Andre's DC restaurants are in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. Very metro accessible and walkable from most of the sites on or along the national mall.
posted by kaybdc at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2012


Tabard Inn for your nice dinner. Sweet little outside courtyard. Good food. On N near Dupont.
posted by Cocodrillo at 8:29 AM on May 4, 2012


Crystal City? Well, definitely go for Lost Dog then, it's pretty much a straight shot up the road from where you are. Also, if you pass by the CEA building, look up and wave.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:29 AM on May 4, 2012


oh yes, iPhones for both of us and one has an iPad. Whoops, this was a total editing fail. I lost an entire small paragraph.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:33 AM on May 4, 2012


It was a few years ago, so I don't know what's the current trend, but I had a really delicious meal at Proof last time I was there.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:38 AM on May 4, 2012


The Spotcycle app has a map of Bikeshare stations with bike/dock availability in near realtime.
posted by exogenous at 8:47 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


We love Lost Dog's sandwiches but if you're in CC you're walking distance to our favorite pizza joint, Cafe Pizzaiolo. You may not be interested as someone in NYC but it's a good simple place.

For a good but not overly snazz joint there's two in the Penn Quarter area close to each other and conveniently walkable from several metro stops: Acadiana has what I think is the best gumbo outside of New Orleans and Againn, on the other side of the block, always has good food. Like kiltedtaco, it's been a few years since I have been to Proof but they have a fantastic charcuterie assortment; we've just asked them to pick for us and been delighted by the result.

You might also see if you could get into the Columbia Room over at the Passenger. I've never eaten in it but I've had the bar food and more cocktails than I care to admit in the Passenger. All have been good.

If you want to get over to H Street it's hard to go wrong with the mussells at Granville Moore. Not metro accessible so you'll bus or drive (or be careful on your bikeshare).

If you want other ideas I'll plug our food coverage at We Love DC; here's today's piece about Blue Duck.
posted by phearlez at 9:04 AM on May 4, 2012


Check out the Washington Post going out guide. They have tons of recommendations.
posted by emilynoa at 9:14 AM on May 4, 2012


Wait, so I've been walking past one of the best pizzas in DC on my way to the bus every day? Now I feel dumb, but thanks for the recommendations.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:16 AM on May 4, 2012


Room 11
posted by Ironmouth at 9:26 AM on May 4, 2012


The Tune In. Behind the Capitol. You may run into a senator or two.
posted by Gungho at 9:47 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just a quick thanks. These are some awesome tips/recommendations.

I think my taste buds & appreciation of history have changed a lot in the 16 years since I've been in DC to sight see. Can't wait for the trip
posted by TravellingCari at 10:04 AM on May 4, 2012


If you're an Air and Space person, take advantage of the car (maybe there's public transport there now?) and go to the Udvar-Hazy Center out towards Dulles, instead of the main museum in DC.
posted by inigo2 at 10:10 AM on May 4, 2012


When dining, remember that DC has the largest Ethiopian community outside Ethiopia.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:41 AM on May 4, 2012


You are getting some great food recs. Here is some art. This exhibit comes down May 20 - it's small, but it was worth the trip to see it. This one goes UP this Sunday, and I can't wait to see it.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:42 AM on May 4, 2012


While you're doing the museums and such, the National Museum of the American Indian has an awesome cafeteria.
posted by SixteenTons at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the exhibit tips, ersatzkat.

I'm slowly making a Google map of some of the things we want to see/do and then I'm going to plot in some of these wonderful food tips.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're game for Ethiopian our favorite continues to be Etete on 9th and U St NW, but actually there's also a very good one there in Crystal City - Harar Mesob.
posted by phearlez at 11:14 AM on May 4, 2012


I've heard amazing things about
Ethiopic,
Pearl's Dive (if you dig seafood),
Church Key is one of the top destinations for beer in the country,
The Passenger is an awesome cocktail bar with tasty New Orleans inspired food, although more on the casual end
Boxcar has a nice balance of casual and classy and is very affordable

The Cleveland Park neighborhood in NW DC (best metro stop to get to the National Zoo) has a ton of nice restaurants all located along Connecticut Ave.
posted by forkisbetter at 1:30 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


My favorite restaurant in DC is Rasika. Yum. It's consistently written about as one of the best Indian restaurants in the country (it's not traditional Indian, it's different). There are two locations now - one in Chinatown, one in Foggy Bottom.

If you want to go somewhere near your hotel in crystal city, then definitely check out Jaleo, it's delicious. I also love Dino in Cleveland Park.

If you're a meat person, try to get a reservation (or just wait) at Ray's the Steaks in Arlington - I don't eat steak, but my husband does and he loves it (their crab dish, which I get, is also delicious).
posted by echo0720 at 2:28 PM on May 4, 2012


My favorite restaurant in DC is Rasika. Yum. It's consistently written about as one of the best Indian restaurants in the country (it's not traditional Indian, it's different). There are two locations now - one in Chinatown, one in Foggy Bottom.

Maybe your reservations early. Rasika is in OpenTable, as I recall, so you can do so without difficulty. You might also consider Ray's East or Classics in Silver Spring since you'll have a car (though your map shows nothing that far N or E that you intend to see)
posted by phearlez at 3:03 PM on May 4, 2012


Thanks for the tips on which need reservations and/or are on OpenTable. Glad to know OT is available in DC as it's indispensable here in NYC.

You might also consider Ray's East or Classics in Silver Spring since you'll have a car (though your map shows nothing that far N or E that you intend to see)

Map is work in progress as I plot recommendations of the food and sightseeing variety. I'm not familiar with DC and what's where so I'm plotting places as I go and then will figure out what's doable/priority/etc.

Thanks again all. Will be monitoring this until we go & then will update after the trip for future searchers.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:37 PM on May 4, 2012


Back. Had an absolutely AMAZING time. Couldn't have asked for better weather.

Of course the map ended up wildly ambitious, which we expected. It still served as a good set of choices for things to do.

For future DC visitors, here's an update/some notes/some ideas for a 2.5 day itinerary:

as mentioned above, the Mitsitam Cafe at the American Indian Museum was awesome. Good range of choices for both full meals and snacky items. There is also a great food court at Union Station if your travels find you up that way. Adjacent to Union Station is the Postal Museum - small but kind of fun if you're into history and of course, the famous taxidermied dog (thanks AskMeFi!). We then wandered down Pennsylvania toward the White House, found some things we wanted to see later in the weekend, and were penned in on the Eclipse as Obama took off from the White House.

Holocaust Museum - either get your tickets online in advance, or line up at 10am or shortly before to get your tickets for later in the day. We lined up about 10:10 and got the last tickets for the 1pm entrance. Free, but timed ticketing.

Reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln is empty and under construction, so no Forrest Gump moments :-( I found the WWII memorial to be slightly out of place, but awe inspiring. Due to the construction related fencing it's currently impossible to get to the Korean from Vietnam, vice versa, or to either if you're walking on the inner path next to the former? reflecting pool, so plan wisely there. Found the Lincoln (and later the tidal basin monuments with the exception of MLK) to be surprisingly uncrowded on a beautiful Spring Saturday. As a history buff, I loved Arlington. It needs better signage though because the first time, we missed RFK & Teddy Kennedy's graves

Holocaust Museum says to allow an hour for the permanent collection - personally I'd allow two. I didn't care for the layout, however, as it essentially forces you to choose which side of the corridors you want to read. It's information overload, but very well done. Having previously been to Yad Vashem, Auschwitz, Birkenau and Terezin, some of the material was a repeat but always good education.

If you head out onto the Tidal Basin for the monuments there (Jefferson, FDR, MLK and George Mason (missed him)), bring water. There's only one small stand open between Jefferson and FDR and it's already getting quite warm.

For dinner, we ended up at Johnny's Half Shell (warning, auto play video with cheesy music) between the Capitol and Union Station. Absolutely delicious if you like seafood. On the list above, we tried but couldn't get reservations for Rasilka, Proof or Oyamel. Will plan further in advance next time.

Newseum was nice, but you really need to take advantage of the two-day access with your ticket as it's information overload in only one day. Not sure if either are part of their permanent collection or rotate, but First Dog and President's Photographer exhibits were very cool. I also liked seeing Tim Russert's desk. The view from http://www.newseum.org/exhibits-and-theaters/permanent-exhibits/terrace/index.html">the Newseum's Terrace is phenomenal and depending on the weather, nearly worth the price of admission alone. Speaking of view, didn't make it to the top of the Old Postal Pavillion, but I've heard it's amazing especially with the Washington Monument closed for the forseeable future.

After the Newseum we ended up checking out of the hotel & taking the car to go back to Arlington because the history geek in me badly wanted to see the Changing of the Guard. So worth the trip back and parking fee.

App wise, in addition to those above I suggest the National Parks Service's National Mall app. It's great for seeing what you're near and planning an itinerary.

All in all, amazing trip. Thanks for your tips. Can't wait to go back to see more.

Marking those I did as best - but these are all awesome ideas for future DC visitors.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2012


Sounds like a great time. For future reference, but I think that Oyamel must keep some of it's tables for walk-ins. Yes, it's likely that you'll have to wait a bit, but if you're there after happy hour ends, you should be able to find some room, if not a seat, at the bar. Of course, I imagine the situation gets worse as the summer tourist hits high gear (usually not until mid-to-late June when the kiddies are out of school). I tend to avoid Penn Quarter from June - September.
posted by kaybdc at 12:17 PM on May 21, 2012


If you head out onto the Tidal Basin for the monuments there (Jefferson, FDR, MLK and George Mason (missed him)), bring water. There's only one small stand open between Jefferson and FDR and it's already getting quite warm.

In fairness, there are a lot of water fountains. We just took friends to the WW2, MLK, & FDR and stopped at several. Having a water bottle to fill is nice but we've got a good municipal water system now and fountain access/repair are way better than they used to be.

I'm still not a huge fan of the WW2's location but it's grown on me; you sadly missed the nice vista is makes for when the reflecting pool is filled and not surrounded by scaffolding and fence.
posted by phearlez at 2:45 PM on May 21, 2012


Apologies for busted HTML above... and of course Eclipse is Ellipse...

Sounds like a great time. For future reference, but I think that Oyamel must keep some of it's tables for walk-ins. Yes, it's likely that you'll have to wait a bit, but if you're there after happy hour ends, you should be able to find some room, if not a seat, at the bar. Of course, I imagine the situation gets worse as the summer tourist hits high gear (usually not until mid-to-late June when the kiddies are out of school). I tend to avoid Penn Quarter from June - September.

Good to know. I hope to be going back soon. I think our only dabble in Penn Quarter was when we used the stop near the Navy Memorial to get to the Newseum. Heat & I aren't friends so I don't expect to go back before the fall. Imagine it would be pretty with leaves changing.

In fairness, there are a lot of water fountains. We just took friends to the WW2, MLK, & FDR and stopped at several. Having a water bottle to fill is nice but we've got a good municipal water system now and fountain access/repair are way better than they used to be. I'm still not a huge fan of the WW2's location but it's grown on me; you sadly missed the nice vista is makes for when the reflecting pool is filled and not surrounded by scaffolding and fence.

True. I guess a water bottle to fill might be key. I personally found myself very dehydrated and the water fountains to be lacking pressure. That might be personal preference.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:14 AM on May 22, 2012


Cocodrillo: "Tabard Inn for your nice dinner. Sweet little outside courtyard. Good food. On N near Dupont."

For posterity, I should note that, while the Tabard Inn's dinners are pretty good (not what you'd expect from the place on the outside), their weekend brunches are ohmygodtodiefor. Reservations are required, usually weeks in advance, and are totally worth it.
posted by schmod at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2012


I had a late brunch there a couple of weeks ago, no reservation, no wait.
posted by empath at 9:46 AM on June 18, 2012


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