Friday, January 16, 2009

Inauguration Eats

With inauguration madness upon us, we’ve had a number of inquiries from friends and friends-of-friends about dining recommendations for the District and Old Town. After emailing the same answers a few times, we thought we might post our thoughts for general consumption.

Be advised, this is not necessarily a “foodie” list, but more of an easily-accessible-but-really-good list. Detailed contact info follows the descriptions.

The District (city center): If you’re gonna go to these places, I think it would be in your interest to use OpenTable to make reservations (and provide a confirmation!) in order to avoid making 100 phone calls.

Central Michel Richard: The urban bistro of the guy behind Citronelle. We’ve had REALLY good experiences there. Get the cheese puffs and the lobster burger. We’ve been vastly less impressed with its chief competitor in the Michelin-Stared-Chef-opens-bistro space (Eric Ripert’s “West End Bistro”).

Vidalia: Fine dinning with a Southern influence. Wonderful. Although up-market, its southern influence reduces the snootiness factor

Hook: Lovely contemporary seafood in Georgetown. Great quality.

Café Atlantico: Although quite nice in general, José Andrés’ place offers up one of the most interesting experiences in the city in the shape of their “Nuevo Latino” dim sum brunch on Sundays from 11:30am to 2:30pm

Rasika: Fusion Indian but done REALLY well. Wonderful setting and food.

The District (a little farther out): A few places that are more casual, a bit further from the center of town, and don’t take reservations anyway. During the inaugural madness, checking out some of the less-than-fine-dining options listed below might be particularly rewarding.

Makoto: SERIOUS Japanese. This ain’t your neighborhood sushi joint. It’s small, reserved, and delicious. Get whatever they tell you is good.

Two Amys: Good pizza and better casual Italian noshing. Great feel, very neighborhood-joint vibe, often a wait but a fast moving one.

Buck's Fishing & Camping: We haven’t been, but people really like their take on well-done comfort food.

Cashion's Eat Place: Similarly, this joint up in Adam’s Morgan has a rep for a good take on classic American in a very welcoming environment.

The Ethiopian corridor: 9th Street around U Street/Florida Ave. has become the new center of Ethiopian in DC over the last 5 years or so. The good stuff ain’t in Adams Morgan anymore; it’s over here by Howard University. The places are changing over so frequently that it’s hard to track which is “best”. I’d just go over there and walk the block and try whichever looks good. We’ve had good meals at Etete (1942 9th Street NW, Washington, DC, 202-232-7600) and Abiti (1909 9th Street NW, Washington, DC, 202-328-2223)

Great Wall Szechuan House: Decor-less Szechuan joint just north of Logan Circle offering up actual ma-la cuisine on styrofoam plates. Outstanding. Make sure they give you the ma-la menu. [Note: Pleen thinks this place is BLAH]

Thai X-ing: People rave about this one-man hole-in-the-wall run by a crazy Thai chef. The food is supposedly amazing and the guy is apparently a delight. He does dinner only and the recommendation is to call in advance to avoid long waits. The salmon in red curry and whatever the guy recommends.

Zenebech Injera: Right next door to Thai X-ing, people say good things about this Ethiopian place.

Teddy’s Roti Shop: Have yet to go, but hear good things. The goat rotis with spicy sauce, the buss-up-shut, and the pumpkin are all recommended.

Amsterdam Falafel Shop: This is a cheap eats destination for late-night party-goers in Adam’s Morgan and we love the place. Their quite good falafel sandwiches come with access to their spectacular toppings bar. The fries kick butt as well.

Old Town: Until recently there was NOTHING to eat in Old Town Alexandria. That's changed a bit and the crap-quality over-priced fish places are being slowly replaced by stuff worth eating

Restaurant Eve: Wonderful and carefully prepared new American. They're not too serious about themselves and their food and attitude maintains some much-needed whimsy. While the dinning room is neither boring nor cheap, you can step up a notch to their tasting room or down a level to their very comfy bar (feels like a good neighborhood pub) where they actually serve the entire menu if you wish. This is a great restaurant.

Farah Olivia: This place may be a bit more serious that Eve, but it's welcoming and their food is outstanding. It's one of the more expensive meals in town, but the experience is well worth it.

Fontaine Caffe & Crêperie: This place is a lovely surprise if the word "crepe" makes you think of greasy faux-French joints. They offer a beautifully prepared assortment of savory & sweet crepes along with an interesting beer list. It's run by a pair of sisters who take their craft seriously.

Lavender Moon Cupcakery: Across the street from Fontaine Caffee is an oddball cupcake joint. They're quite dedicated to interesting ingredients and careful preparation. Still, the place has a bit of a hair-on-fire feel that I find endearing. Their passion fruit cupcake rocks. The chocolate w/peanut butter frosting is also pretty good.

Majestic Cafe: This old stand-by was recently taken over by the crew from Restaurant Eve. It's a darn good stop-in for well-executed classic American with a number of twists. If you're into mixology, acclaimed bar-keep Todd Thrasher is usually behind some funky cocktails at their bar.

Eamonn's: Another element of the growing Restaurant Eve empire, this is a no-kidding fish and chip shop. These guys do a seriously good job. Thomas Keller made a point of coming here where he was in town. ‘Nuff said.

Vaso's Kitchen: This is the neighborhood Greek joint that everyone wishes was on their corner. Vaso herself runs the place, and she's a terror to all who stand before her (all 5 foot nothing of her). Everything here is good if unsurprising. Pleen and I end up here a lot looking for one of their perfectly done Greek pizzas.

Momo Sushi & Cafe: Good sushi in an adorably tinny space. The people are lovely & the prices are reasonable.

Hank's Oyster Bar: Traditional American raw bar seafood joint with a full bar. I honestly think it’s “good” food at “great” prices. However, it’s right on the main drag and full of life.

A La Lucia: This is a somewhat-discovered neighborhood spot opened a few years back by a guy who ran the District’s top high-end Italian place for 20 years. The food is fresh, classic, and well prepared. The prices and location make this a steal of an option. This is the Italian joint we all wish we had at the end of our block.

Vermilion: Pleen likes this place for brunch. Contemporary American in the midst of the main part of King Street.

Le Pain Quotidien: We make an exception to the “no chain food” rule for this place because they have the best baguettes in town. More than just a bakery, they offer a reasonably large menu of real food as well as savory and sweet baked items. They’re right in the heart of Old Town and offer a lot of quality and convenience for the price.

Quattro Formaggio: This looks like exactly the kind of place you should avoid. And if it wasn’t for our buddy BR, we would have. The decor is airport-terminal-blah, and the menu is so crammed that decisions can be difficult. However, appearances are deceiving in this case. These guys offer up one of the best pizzas in the DC area. It’s thin crust and asking for it extra crispy can yield even better results. And they’re right on top of the King St metro to boot.

Misha's: This independently owned joint is one of the two places in NoVA to get a really good cuppa. It’s right on King Street so it’s as convenient as lots of other less interesting and less good alternatives. This is the kinda place you really want to support. Oh, and they’re nice!

District Details
Central Michel Richard
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC

1990 M St. NW
Washington, DC

3241 M St. NW
Washington, DC 20007

Café Atlantico
405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004

633 D St NW
Washington, DC 20004

4822 MacArthur Blvd NW
Washington, DC

2 Amys
3715 Macomb St NW
Washington, DC 20016

Buck's Fishing & Camping
5031 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008

Cashion's Eat Place
1819 Columbia Road, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Great Wall Szechuan House
1527 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20005

Thai X-ing
515 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Zenebech Injera
608 T Street NW
Washington, DC

Teddy’s Roti Shop
7304 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Amsterdam Falafel Shop
2425 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Old Town Details
Restaurant Eve
110 South Pitt Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Farah Olivia
600 Franklin St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 778-2234

Fontaine Caffe & Crêperie
119 South Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Lavender Moon Cupcakery
116 South Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Majestic Cafe
911 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 837-9117

728 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Vaso's Kitchen
1225 Powhatan St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Momo Sushi & Cafe
212 Queen St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 299-9092

Hank's Oyster Bar
1026 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 739-4265

A La Lucia
315 Madison St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 836-5123

Vermilion Restaurant
1120 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 684-9669

Le Pain Quotidien
701 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 683-2273

Quattro Formaggio
1725 Duke St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-8111

102 S Patrick St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-4089