Washington DC Dining?
July 30, 2013 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Washington D.C. between Christmas and New Year's, and I need suggestions for a restaurant for a bit of an occasion dinner. Please hope!

I'm looking for someplace nice where my mother and I can celebrate my 40th birthday (belatedly). I haven't been to DC in twenty years (!), so I have no ideas myself. (Is that semi-swanky place in the main hall of Union Station still around? Am I remembering that right?)

So here's what I'm looking for:
1. Something appropriate for a birthday boy and the woman who brought him into this world (and who can still take him out of it), where they can have a nice, proper, memorable meal, and take their time doing it;
b) Easy access to the Metro preferred;
(iii) Established restaurants preferred, but that's not a huge point;
D. Somewhere in a loose price range of $75 per person, plus wine;
(5) I love table d'hôte and prix fixe menus, because I'm cheap and I make no apologies for that.

So what's out there? Are there any local institutions that would fit the bill? A hotel restaurant maybe? Mother Renault's tastes run fairly classic, but she's open to new things.

I have seen this previous question, but we're not vegetarians.

So, DCMeFites -- any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!
posted by Capt. Renault to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I adore Jose Andres's Zaytinya (for Turkish/Greek/Lebanese) and Jaleo (tapas). Zaytinya is really fantastic and classy. Jaleo is more like fun and young, but also delicious.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle is usually my parents' go-to for nicer, uncomplicated dinners out, and depending on what you order, I think they're within your price range. I really like Bistro d'Oc (less fancy than Central) but I don't think they have a prix fixe menu; it's by Metro Center and Gallery Place. My dad likes taking clients to the revamped Corduroy, which has a $70 per person tasting menu (which might push your budget too much.) There's Georgia Brown's if you feel like a taste of the south.

Honestly, there are a lot of restaurants in DC that would suit that kind of budget-- is there any kind of cuisine in particular that you're looking for? Steakhouses? Ambiance? Inside/outside?
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:16 AM on July 30, 2013

Best answer: There's soooo many great places, but I'll go for the hard sell here...

Plume, at the Jefferson hotel, is about as swanky as it gets.

You also can't go wrong at The Grill Room, but it's in Georgetown and not near metro. Short cab ride though.

Both of them are expensive, and both are worth the money. I'd recommend coat and tie for Plume, more business casual is ok at The Grill Room.
posted by matty at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2013

Founding Farmers is delicious and might be a good fit for "classic but open to new things".
posted by emkelley at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

La Taberna Del Alabadero is my go-to place for this kind of thing.
posted by deanc at 9:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ...is there any kind of cuisine in particular that you're looking for?

Mother Renault is a fan of luxury, but hardly gets to indulge. We're open to splurging, but not of spending-for-the-sake-of-spending. She has to get something for her money, in food or atmosphere, or she won't be happy. If there's a name she can drop afterwards, so much the better.

She tends towards French or Italian cuisine, but not exclusively so. And by 'classic but open to new things', I mean 'prefers classic, but will accept modern things within that larger classic context'. New things in place of classic won't be as attractive to her.

But please, everyone -- continue! Great suggestions so far! Keep 'em coming!
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:29 AM on July 30, 2013

I'm loving Acadiana right now, if a New Orleans/seafood thing works for you. There are also a lot of good places (especially in the Penn Quarter area) that do pre-theater fixed-price menus. I haven't actually been to 701, but have heard a lot of good things about it and it couldn't be closer to the (Archives) Metro.

Also, if you haven't been here in 20 years you will be amazed at the changes. Lots of good restaurants in formerly too-sketchy-to-venture-into areas.

Oh, and if she wants to drop a name, I'd suggest Jaleo or Central.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2013

How about a classic steak house? The Capital Grille has a location in D.C.
posted by emelenjr at 9:38 AM on July 30, 2013

For Italian....

On JoanArkham's list of pre-theater meals is Notti Bianche, which is a little farther from Foggy Bottom than some of the others, but it's really wonderful. My family's decades-long favorite for cozy, well-presented Italian has been Trattu in Dupont Circle.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2013

Best answer: Poste is another good Penn Quarter find.

The Palm is upscale without being particularly (at all) trendy.

Bistro Bis is quite nice and right by union station.

I mean, we could go on and on, but any list of "upscale DC restaurants" will have a few selections that qualify for what you're looking for. There are a ton of really trendy restaurant concepts that are opening up all over DC that are hard to keep track of, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're interested in.
posted by deanc at 9:40 AM on July 30, 2013

Seconding Founding Farmers.

Classy, but good value with contemporary ideas.
posted by Rash at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thought I'd throw in two more:

J&G Steakhouse in the W Hotel. Outstanding food and service, buy at times you get stuck with folks staying the hotel who aren't appropriately dressed for the occasion. Think 'high class' with a potential for tourists thrown in wearing shorts and sandals.

There's also BLT (which is NOT a sandwich shop). I guess I'm on a meat theme here, but it's really one of the best steaks in town IMHO. Their gruyere cheese popovers served gratis are HEAVEN.
posted by matty at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2013

Seconding BLT if you want steak. Mrs. K's Toll House in Silver Spring is fantastic and a lovely space. If you like Indian, Rasika is absolutely second to none.
posted by karbonokapi at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2013

Hmmm ... I would nix Founding Farmers -- too casual a vibe and the food is not all that. Love Zaytinya and Jaleo, but they might be a little too trendy for Mother Renault.

I'd go for one of the big names in DC that tends more to the classic side -- probably something more like West End Bistro.
posted by yarly at 9:46 AM on July 30, 2013

Yeah, I'm not sure Founding Farmers, Zaytinya, or Jaleo are quite the vibe that the OP is looking for (they are very good restaurants but I'm not sure I'd describe them as swanky).

I hear Restaurant Nora is excellent.

Also you may want to consider Minibar and Komi which exceeds your budget (and may be too avante garde) but are culinary experiences and are absolutely namedrop-worthy. Make reservations now - no joke, they block out months in advance.
posted by kitkatcathy at 9:48 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Zaytinya, Tabard Inn and Taberna Del Alabardero and adding in a suggestion for Dino in Cleveland Park.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2013

And on non-preview, the food at Restaurant Nora is excellent, but the ambiance is a bit...odd. Not bad, but I don't think it quite fits what you're looking for. But wow, is the food good.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:52 AM on July 30, 2013

I've heard good things about both this new restaurant Jardenea in Georgetown and Kapnos near U St.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:54 AM on July 30, 2013

I've recently really loved Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons on Pennsylvania. Also nthing Courdroy.
posted by downing street memo at 11:37 AM on July 30, 2013

If you want to have fun with research, the Washington Post's food reviewer is named Tom Sietsima. His reviews, lists, and weekly chats are fun.

Me, I love Palena.
posted by PussKillian at 11:54 AM on July 30, 2013

Best answer: Zatinya, Jaleo, Founding Farmers are not what I think you're looking for. Good in their own way, but not what I'd call occasion dining (and usually fairly loud at Jaleo and FF). Service at Nora can be hit or miss, if you'd like to go there (and it is good) you might call ahead to make sure they know it's a special occasion.

This guide might help you, I find their take to usually be pretty accurate. Sietsema reviews and chats usually have some good info as well.

Capital Grille is always a solid experience, if steakhouse fits your bill.

I might go with Komi, but it may be too far out of the price range - I think like 125-150/pp.

MeMail me if you narrow it down and want any input. (p.s. happy b'day!)
posted by KAS at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2013

Best answer: Le Diplomate is probably what you're looking for. Great food and great vibe. Pretty laid back and you can linger. BUT Blue Duck Tavern, which may be a little more expensive than you were thinking, it is absolutely 100% worth it if ou want a really special night. Certainly it wouldn't be splurging just for the sake of it. Not posy at all, justdelicious, healthy, food farm fresh to table.

We've been to Founding Farmers and Jaleo recently and both were jammed packed and so noisy you had to shout across the table. That's not what I personally would want from a luxury meal out.
posted by atlantica at 3:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll second Blue Duck Tavern... a lovely place with wonderful food!

(Sorry to keep commenting so much, but I'm a big fan of the DC food scene!)
posted by matty at 4:50 PM on July 30, 2013

Seconding Founding Farmers and Tabard Inn. The former has a modern aesthetic, the latter old-fashioned...both have excellent, locally-sourced, seasonal menus.
posted by amaire at 10:43 PM on July 30, 2013

Nthing Zaytinya. Rasika might also be a good fit.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 1:01 AM on July 31, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, you've been a big help!

Bistro Bis and Le Diplomate seem like the leading contenders at this point. Maybe we can do a birthday dinner at one place, and a NYE dinner somewhere else? Unfortunately, steakhouses and Mother Renault don't quite agree, so...

Regardless -- thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:03 AM on July 31, 2013

Reserve your table at LeDiplomate early! It's super popular right now.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:14 AM on July 31, 2013

N'thing Blue Duck Tavern (so lovely - it's my current DC favorite though it is pricey), Tabard Inn, and Bistro Bis. Atlas Room would also be nice and is a bit more affordable than the others. Corduroy is nice too.
posted by semacd at 10:56 AM on July 31, 2013

Oh, I would not pick Le Diplomate! I love its twin restaurant in Philly by the same owner. But Le Diplomate is just too popular in DC right now to provide a good atmosphere. I've heard it's really noisy. Whatever the new thing in DC is gets totally crammed in an obnoxious way I can't quite explain. I'd pick something as well regarded but that has been around for at least three or four years so you can avoid the DC factor.
posted by yarly at 5:43 PM on July 31, 2013

Tears come to my eyes, when I see this thread and think of the wonderful meal/experience at little serow

It will be a meal you will fondly remember for years.

Aaaargh! It does not meet all of your criteria: You must wait in line (no reservations), only ONE fixed menu at a time (if you are allergic to nuts, don't like seafood, or are a vegetarian, skip this place). Had a wonderful meal there. Later found out that it was one of the 2013 10 must places to eat in the US.

Holds only about 25 people. Nondescript location near Dupont Circle (17 street or ave, I think). No name or sign on the door, not even a number. When you get there, you will recognize it by the line. Spicy, northern Thai food. You sit on high chairs (like bar stools.)

tl;dr skip this recommendation for your needs, but if I go back to DC, I'm (we're) eating there again.

Also went to Founding Farmers, but we only recall Little Serow.
posted by mbarryf at 6:12 AM on August 1, 2013

« Older BSOD, Mac edition   |   Seeking cell phone advice for non-savvy pensioner Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.