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Great Eats in Washington, D.C.
Great Food in Washington, D.C.?
There is a lot of it. Washington is a great city for foodies. You can find pretty much any international cuisine you want and some of the best steak houses in the country.
This hub is not a comprehensive restaurant guide. It's a few personal recommendations - places I love and feel should get attention. Some of them are well known. A couple of them are less so. One will likely surprise most readers (I won't say which one). So, with no further ado, restaurants!
You simply can't talk about finding food in D.C. without talking about the phenomenon that is Jaleo's. There are three Jaleo's locations in Washington - one in Bethesda, one in Crystal City in Arlington and the third downtown. (A fourth location recently opened in Las Vegas).
Jaleo's is not a tapas restaurant. It is the tapas restaurant. The original. The leader. And, surprisingly, a trip there won't break the bank. True, it's not cheap, but with tapas ranging from about 6 bucks each to 20 bucks for gourmet items such as Iberico pork, it's not at insane levels either. (Generally, 2-3 tapas per person is considered reasonable, but you can adjust the amount by how hungry you are. And save room for dessert). The only problem is choosing from the menu. Some nights, your meal will be accompanied by live flamenco dancers. The house sangria is an excellent choice, but the wine list is also extensive, and covers all budgets.
If you are there on Sunday, then Jaleo offers Paella Sundays - gazpacho, all you can eat paella and flan for dessert for only $20 plus tax and tip...an amazing deal.
Ray's The Steaks
A good steak dinner in Washington, D.C. can cost you over $100 a head. Without the wine.
A great steak dinner in Washington, D.C. can be had for about $40 not including the wine. What's the secret?
The secret is Ray's...and it's a secret that has, by now, been out for a while. Avoid reservations - they tend to give the worst tables to people who book in advance in order to favor local walk-ins. At the location in Clarendon, expect fine dining food in a casual atmosphere with no dress code. At the second Ray's location in southwest, look for southern accents such as grits.
And the real secret. Get the hangar steak. It's the second cheapest item on the menu, but it is really, really good.
Less of a secret is Ray's Hell Burger - possibly the best burger joint in D.C. and famous for being the place the President has been teased about. Hint: These burgers are not your regular fast food burgers and should not be ordered medium well.
Hard Times Cafe
This is the first place I mention to college students considering studying in D.C. Why? Because it's cheap and because the portions are two meals for most people, three if you have a smaller appetite.
It's a chili house, and there's no sense ordering anything but the chili. If you don't eat meat order the vegetarian chili. If you do eat meat - consider ordering the vegetarian chili anyway. It's that good. Their recipes are so secret that the waitstaff are thrown out of the restaurant while the cooks prepare each day's batch of seasoning. Their chili dogs are a great lunch option.
And then there's the root beer. They have root beer even people who don't like root beer like.
Tucked away in Old Town in a space far too small for the demand is the gem that is Eamonn's. Little secret. I'm from the old country. We love our fish and chips.
Eamonn's is, as far as I am concerned, the only place in America where you can get proper fish and chips. True, it's not an English chippie. It's an Irish chippie. What the heck...the difference is pretty minor. Eamonn's knows that vinegar is, yes, a condiment. They know how to make a proper curry sauce. And they sell Strongbow and Guinness as well as soft drinks that can't normally be found on this side of the pond (if you want something truly unusual, try 'Vimto', which is a 'health soda'...a concept only the British could come up with. It doesn't actually taste that bad). And, yes, they have deep-fried candy bars (if that's too much Weird British Food for you, they'll also give you the candy bar without frying it).
The only downside to Eamonn's is that the place is tiny. They recently opened a second location out on Columbia Pike...but that's not very convenient for the downtown traveler.
You won't find this one on any map, but if you are on the Mall and need lunch, this is where you need to be. You'll find it, in fact, inside the National Museum of the American Indian (which is worth visiting anyway).
The full menu is only available for lunch (11am to 3pm) as the museum closes at 5. And it looks like your traditional tourist trap food court. Don't be fooled. The food here draws on tribal traditions and regional cuisines. Try the fry bread-based 'Indian tacos' (be warned, not for the timid). Or the wild rice soup. Yes, you can get a burger here for the kids - but that's not beef inside the bun. It's bison. Fast food, but with a real difference (and given most of the museum cafes are franchises these days it's hard to find good food on the mall). A secondary suggestion is the restaurant in the basement of the Capitol, but, sadly, it does not serve Senate Soup.
I'd like to open up the comments here for your recommendations. If you know of a great eatery in Washington or the immediate area I haven't mentioned, go to town. Or make your own list. Given how many there are, I think there's space for all of us to make suggestions.