Need help with restaurants in Washington DC please.
August 15, 2012 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Need help with two types of restaurants in Washington DC please.

I am going to be in downtown DC on a business trip next week and have been given the task of finding places for us to eat. We will be staying near the National Mall.

Personally I like interesting, ethnic, hole-in-the-wall places... Indian, Thai, even vegetarian... but I also need more mainstream options since I am going with others who are less adventurous foodies.

So I need two sets of recommendations... restaurants I can go to with my coworkers (Chinese, steak, Italian, American, burgers, deli, etc) that are and interesting places I can go for my one or two meals on my own. For both categories, we wouldn't want anything too touristy, too fancy or too too far from the National Mall area.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by kdern to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (33 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
If you're looking for places within easy walking distance, can you be a little more specific about your location? Even neighborhoods that are both adjacent to the Mall (like Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom, for example) can be 3+ miles apart.
posted by argonauta at 2:04 PM on August 15, 2012

The Mall is big. More specific is needed. Can you name the closest metro stop? That's useful information. There is no 'downtown' per se.

But most of the good ethnic food in DC is out in the suburbs.
posted by k8t at 2:09 PM on August 15, 2012

for the non-adventurous: The Capitol Grille and the Old Ebitt Grille The Old Ebitt has been there for over a century a few blocks from the Whitehouse and is a must see in my opinion.
posted by bananafish at 2:10 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: Sure - we're probably staying near Metro Center station. Doesn't need to be walkable - a taxi or Metro ride is fine.
posted by kdern at 2:10 PM on August 15, 2012

There are no "ethnic, hole-in-the-wall" places within walking distance of the National Mall, unless you count some of the smaller places near the Chinatown metro stop.

Basically, the first part of your question is extremely simple: go to one of the many decent-quality restaurants that appeal to tourists near Chinatown/Verizon Center: Clydes, Matchbox, Zaitinya, Jaleo. If you're willing to venture towards Dupont Circle, burger places like Shake Shack and Orange Burger fulfill the "burger" requirement.

If you want to get more creative, you're going to have to deign to leave the immediate area around the Mall and hop on the metro.
posted by deanc at 2:10 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

deanc is right on for your non-adventurous locations. You will not find things that are not too touristy near the Mall. But DC is a pretty small city.

One place that I would whole-heartedly recommend in the city is Sichuan Pavilion. It's in Foggy Bottom, and it's got normal American Chinese food, but it also has great ma la spiced food and delicious Sichuan.

For your adventurous eating, jump in a cab and go to Thai X-ing (reservation needed). It's in this guy's house, and it's delicious. I would recommend Little Serow but you most likely won't have time - no reservations, so you have to be in line before it opens. Ethiopian food on U St, if you haven't had it before, is a must-do. That's for you, though. I'm sure it's about a $10 cab ride from Metro Center, but you can Metro as well.
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:15 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thai and Indian are not really what DC specializes in when it comes to ethnic food. Asian immigrants by and large (and the exception being the "legacy" restaurants that exist in what's left of Chinatown) moved immediately to the suburbs instead of coming to DC first. I cannot name a single notable Indian or Thai restaurant in the city that qualifies as a "hole in the wall" that would be worth going to (they exist, but they're there more if you have a specific craving that needs to be satisfied).

For Indian, what you want is Rasika. However, DC is home to one of the largest Ethiopian diaspora communities in the world, and there are a bunch of good Ethiopian restaurants in the U Street area, my favorite being Dukem.

The trend these days is sort of different varieties of ethnic small plates/tapas, which includes Jaleo, I mentioned before, along with places like Lincoln (American), Masa14 (Asian/Latin fusion), and Cava (Greek/Mediterranean).
posted by deanc at 2:19 PM on August 15, 2012

Suggest Malaysia Kopitiam on M Street.
posted by Wet Spot at 2:29 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe the cafeteria at the American Indian Museum or Teaism, both near the Mall, would also count as a little adventurous?

If you're willing to venture up to Columbia Heights -- walk over to Gallery Place Metro and hop on Green or Yellow for a few stops -- go to Park Road between 14th and 16th and choose among various cheap and tasty Latin American restaurants or award-winning not-in-the-burbs pho.

Also, Ethiopian food on U Street, as mentioned above.
posted by kayram at 2:31 PM on August 15, 2012

Head up to u street and get some Ethiopian food, it's one of the few cuisines that dc has a lot of that many other cities don't.
posted by empath at 2:37 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Dukem.

Yeah, get the on the Green line at Gallery Place and get off at U Street and go eat Ethiopian until you pop. It will also take way less time than a cab, especially at rush hours. The variety of Ethiopian restaurants in DC is the main thing I miss about living there.
posted by rtha at 2:42 PM on August 15, 2012

Georgetown is also a treasure trove of middling food. The best places are the bar menu at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel, and Pizza Paradiso is quite good. The rest is bland and inoffensive, particularly Sequoia (warning: music) which is right on the water.
posted by deanc at 2:50 PM on August 15, 2012

I'm a big fan of Bistrot Du Coin in Dupont Circle for good, reasonably priced French food.
posted by Vhanudux at 2:59 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

We like Full Kee at 509 H Street NW. Don't know whether it is in the area you want, but the food is great.
posted by lobstah at 3:01 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Skip Old Ebbitt unless it's for breakfast and go to The Hamilton instead. It's in the same office block but you enter at F and 14th (where the late, loved Garfinckel's store was.)
posted by jgirl at 3:15 PM on August 15, 2012

Seconding Malaysia Kopitiam, Rasika and Full Kee. I've never ordered the standard American-Chinese dishes at Full Kee, so I can't speak to their quality for your less adventurous colleagues...the Cantonese dishes are what to order. Also anything on the wall.

Etete for Ethiopian (9th & U Sts NW)

For a more causal dinner with the work folks, look into Hill Country BBQ. On one hand, its big, loud, kind of expensive, and a BBQ place from NYC. On the other hand the brisket is good and there's often live music in the basement. And they have Shiner Bock on tap.
posted by jindc at 3:40 PM on August 15, 2012

Granville Moore's for the best mussels and Belgian beer in town.
Founding Farmers for just an all around excellent meal that has something for everyone.
Ben's Chili Bowl because, well... it's Ben's Chili Bowl

It always baffles me in questions like this that people repeatedly recommend the cafeteria at the American Indian Museum. I've given it several chances and it's always, always awful... usually it's american fare gussied up with 'American Indian' names, like buffalo burgers or bison nachos, with flatbreads and pulled pork. Not really original, authentic, or tasty. But ymmv and to each his own!
posted by matty at 4:06 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, seconding Teaism - but I don't think they do dinner.
posted by matty at 4:09 PM on August 15, 2012

Oooooooo! If ya wanna go really crazy - try out our wide selection of EXCELLENT Food Trucks!

(sorry... I can't stop. I love love LOVE food. ;-) )
posted by matty at 4:15 PM on August 15, 2012

As others have pointed out, Rasika is great for Indian. Graffiato is worth checking out for Italian. The hole in the wall Chinese food you are looking for is at Great Wall Szechuan House (go for the Ma La menu) on 14th Street in Logan Circle, but unfortunately it is not terribly close to the Mall. For a quick lunch, Pret A Manger (the UK chain) is pretty good for quick, wholesome sandwiches and such, and there's one right at Metro Center.

Also, I know you don't want to go too fancy, but if you check around, there are some good deals on pre-theater dinner specials. One of my favorites is Tosca (not to be confused with the less-impressive La Tasca), which serves delicious northern Italian and has a fantastic wait staff to boot.
posted by roomwithaview at 4:57 PM on August 15, 2012

I lived in Washington D.C. for three years and love hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants. I have never ever gone wrong by picking a place recommended by Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide, and ordering exactly what he recommends that you order. Very few of the places he recommends are close to the National Mall, but many are metro-accessible.
posted by willbaude at 5:15 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bistro D'Oc is close to you on 10th between E and F -- good French bistro food ... don't be put off by the souvenir shops all around. Seconding Rasika on D for Indian -- get the spinach and yogurt starter, it is seriously one of the most fabulous things I've ever tasted. Haad Thai close to you on 11th near New York is pretty good Thai tho not a hole the wall. There's a couple Pho places I like north of you in Columbia Heights/Petworth -- Pho Viet and Pho 14
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:05 PM on August 15, 2012

willbaude has it. Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide has never steered me wrong! If you have a chance to venture into the suburbs, check out the Eden Center in Falls Church, VA for out of this world Vietnamese. It'd mean a metro + cab ride, but dang is it worth it if you have the time and energy.

I just checked out the dining guide for the first time in awhile and it seems as though Mr. Cowen has changed the format to something horrible and hard to read. I prefer the old one page format.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 7:11 PM on August 15, 2012

Nthing Teaism. There are multiple locations, but the one at 8th and D will be closest to where you're staying.

If you want good quality diner-type food, take a short hop on the metro to the Eastern Market Stop and go to town at Ted's Bulletin. Guaranteed that this will be tastier and more reasonably priced mainstream-American food than anything downtown/Chinatown can give you. Eastern Market itself is also fun to walk through on weekends, and there are tons of more adventurous food options there too. (Aatish on the Hill is great for Indian.)

The best true hole-in-the-wall food in DC, imho, is the pupusa. This article suggests several possible places to try one.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:54 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

No clue where it is in relation, but a fun ethnic place in DC is Marrakesh!
posted by Grither at 4:18 AM on August 16, 2012

The Mall itself is not famous for great meals. If you're spending the day on it, and don't want to go elsewhere to eat, plan to be around the National Museum of the American Indian around mealtime. It won't be the best South American food anyone ever ate, but it's by the far the best on the Mall that I know of. Link.
posted by troywestfield at 6:21 AM on August 16, 2012

Came to suggest Dukem, and I'm happy to see it's been mentioned!
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 7:00 AM on August 16, 2012

For Ethiopian, I prefer Ethiopic (warning - music) to Dukem. It's an easy taxi ride from Metro Center, or a couple of blocks from the Union Station metro. It's fancier than Dukem, though that's not why I prefer it. I also second the Thai X-ing recommendation for amazing food and an interesting experience.
posted by Latifolia at 8:02 AM on August 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies.

For future readers, here's a handy dandy overview of the responses above:

The Capitol Grille
Old Ebitt Grille (breakfast only?)
Shake Shack
Orange Burger
Jaleo (tapas?)
Sichuan Pavilion (Chinese)
Lincoln (American)
Masa14 (Asian/Latin fusion)
Cava (Greek/Mediterranean)
bar menu at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel
Pizza Paradiso
The Hamilton
Hill Country BBQ
Granville Moore's (mussels and beer)
Founding Farmers (all around excellent meal)
Ben's Chili Bowl
Graffiato (Italian)
Pret A Manger (quick lunch)
Tosca (upscale italian)
Teaism (??) ***
Ted's Bulletin. (diner)

*** Ethiopian food on U St
Dukem, Ehiopic, Elete
Rasika (Indian) ***
Malaysia Kopitiam (Chinese) *
Full Kee (Chinese)
DC food trucks
Ethnic guide:
(one page version
posted by kdern at 8:29 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also hit Eastern Market's linchpin counter for formidable breakfasts and the crab cake for lunch.

And the soft-shelled crabs!

I like Old Ebbitt, go often, but as a WaPo commenter said, it's as relaxing as having dinner at Metro Center during rush hour.
posted by jgirl at 11:10 AM on August 16, 2012

"Lunch" counter.

It is a linchpin of the community, though.

/iPad typing
posted by jgirl at 11:12 AM on August 16, 2012

Ollie's Trolley - convenient, a little goofy and they have crabcakes.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:32 PM on August 16, 2012

Chef Geoff's (on 13th b/w E and F) - for your "non-adventurous" list, excellent food and very close to the Mall. Can't beat the happy hour.
posted by mhaw at 12:01 PM on August 28, 2012

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