Looking for a restaurant in DC
August 7, 2014 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a restaurant for a large group in the Chinatown-Penn Quarter neighborhood of DC.

I'm having trouble finding the right place, because I have a bunch of different needs:

- Be able to get a reservation for ~10 people
- Have good vegan and vegetarian options beyond salad
- Be within a 5-10 minute walk of our office in Chinatown
- Have entrees under $20
- Casual but nice atmosphere

I'm open to any cuisine but we'd prefer it not be a national chain (local is fine). Casual is fine, but I'd like it to be a nice place for our group of 10 people to chat and have a relaxing dinner after a day of meetings.

I realize this is a tall order, hence the question! I've looked at the previous DC dining AskMes but none were quite what I needed.
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd say the Hamilton looks like a good bet. Carmine's maybe.
posted by General Malaise at 8:16 AM on August 7, 2014

Dim Sum Ping Pong may not quite suit since it's dim sum/small dishes (it depends on how well you know everyone/how you're splitting the bill/etc.), but the food is good and plenty of tasty vegetarian/vegan options. (It's hard to say quite how it lines up with entrees under $20, but it would probably work out to around that per person.)

They also take reservations for large groups.

It's a chain, but it's an international one -- the two DC locations are the only ones in U.S.
posted by darksong at 8:20 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

My friends do a periodic group dinner, and we include vegetarians and someone with celiac disease, so finding food places to work for everyone has not been easy. Penn Quarter is one of our stomping grounds and we have been happy with Jaleo and Zaytinya and Rasika (some, but not all, menu items are more expensive than your target price at Rasika, but so so tasty). Carmine's was also ok.
posted by gudrun at 8:21 AM on August 7, 2014

Jaleo is what you want here. For 10 probably you'll want a reservation if they'll take it.
posted by silby at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2014

Jaleo or Ella's Pizza? Jaleo is less casual but probably closer to the $20 limit.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2014

Teaism (8th and D Streets NW) checks all of your boxes except maybe reservations. I have seen large groups eating there, but I don't know if they called ahead to reserve a space or just grabbed enough tables on their own.
posted by Sock Ray Blue at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2014

Not sure how you'd get out of Jaleo without paying way more than $20 - they serve tapas and the plates are very small: you're expected to get 3 per person. That adds up way over $20.

I've spent a lot of time at Ella's, and I'm not sure they have space to sit 10 comfortably. Good pizza, though, and I definitely recommend it otherwise.
posted by General Malaise at 10:11 AM on August 7, 2014

It's not my favorite place, but Matchbox might fit the bill.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:18 AM on August 7, 2014

Tony Cheng's was built for this.
posted by joedanger at 10:28 AM on August 7, 2014

Maybe Carmine's. It's great but they only serve family style (menu items easily serve 3-4 people). I hesitate to suggest it given that you seem to have people that need individual dishes , but it would work if a few folks can agree on a veggie dish.
posted by susanvance at 11:01 AM on August 7, 2014

What about the Busboys & Poets at 5th and K? It should be about a ten minute walk, there are vegetarian and vegan options, it's not bonkers expensive, and they're generally at least okay for groups (although reservations are a little iffier).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:33 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Busboys would be great if you time if right because they don't take reservations.

La Tasca on 7th could work. They have an all you can eat tapas option.
posted by inevitability at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2014

Best answer: Of the places I have been in that area, Matchbox is the best fit that is actually in your price range. They have very good food, with some entrees over $20, but pizza, salads, and sandwiches well under. Great atmosphere and usually good service. Vegetarians will be happy; vegans will probably end up with a (tasty) salad. You can get pizzas with different toppings on different halves or even quarters, so you can really mix and match. It is a small, local chain.

I agree that Jaleo is an amazing choice, especially for large groups, but also that a hungry crowd is likely to spend more like $25-$30 a person on small plates. $20 a person is doable but a bit tight unless you are not too hungry, or you know the menu pretty well and are making a point to keep the cost down (sharing paellas is a good deal). The food and service are top-notch, and there is something for everyone on the menu. They are very accommodating of food allergies. Oyamel (Mexican) and Zaytinya (Mediterranean) are nearby similar concepts, of similar quality and by the same chef.

I have (oddly) not been to Busboys and Poets. It should be a very good option if they can handle your group.

Teaism is not a good fit. Food ranges from decent to quite good, but it is counter service only, no reservations, and the space is not that large. Depending on when you go, it can be very crowded.

If you are tempted to go to La Tasca, go to Jaleo or Oyamel instead.

I’ve heard good things about Rasika, but even the cheapest entrees are close to $20, and reservations are in chronic short supply. A group of ten would need to book weeks or months ahead of time.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:26 PM on August 7, 2014

Response by poster: Forgot to update and say that we wound up at Matchbox. We were under budget and everyone enjoyed themselves. Thanks all!
posted by lunasol at 2:49 PM on November 20, 2014

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