Any news on when the anticipated opening of the Iron Gate restaurant will be? My husband and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary and would wait to see this new place if it will open by Thanksgiving. Thank you!
Good morning, gang. It's a busy day for those of us who have toiled away for the past several months on the 2012 fall dining guide, which was released earlier today.
In addition to 40 mini-reviews of some of my favorite places to eat, the collection includes 10 of my favorite dishes, a list of coming attractions and a video that takes viewers inside Toki Underground on H St. NE.
Tell us what you think and feel free to share favorites of your own.
Ready? Set? Go!
Hi Tom, My boyfriend is one of the many here in DC whose life has been taken over by work/the election (thankfully that hasn't been the case for myself). He has often had to postpone or cancel or miss out on things because he's in the office too late. I'd like to surprise him with low-key dinner and drinks on November 7 so he can start winding down. I would like to a) stay in DC proper and b) pay about $60 total, before drinks. We're open to all kinds of food, particularly Japanese and Indian (and yes, we have been to Rasika). The only cuisine that's probably out is Italian because he says that nothing can beat his own Italian grandma's cooking (that's probably true!). Thanks!
I have the feeling yours is the first of many questions I'm going to get from election-year widows and widowers!
For Japanese, try the trim new Izakaya Seki on V St. NW, where the small plates run from $7 to $18. For Indian, the posh Bombay Club downtown offers a beautiful thali (a sampler of vegetarian dishes) for $20. The idea of a stool at the bar -- and maybe oysters and a salad -- at the cozy Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle might also appeal to your weary mate.
Hi Tom, Thanks for your chats--I look forward to them every week, and you've never steered me wrong! I need to take a dozen professional colleagues to dinner in Bethesda next week, so I'm looking for somewhere not too loud (some of us don't read lips too well) and fairly mainstream in terms of cuisine that can accommodate that large a group comfortably. I've looked back through your reviews for options--are Cesco Osteria and/or Redwood good options these days? Anywhere else I'm not thinking of?
I haven't visited either restaurant recently enough to weigh in, but my first choice for you and your group is the convivial Food Wine & Co., where Eddie Moran, late of Sou'wester recently joined the kitchen team. The restaurant has style, moderate prices, solid food going for it.
Dear Tom, We have enough issues with restaurant web sites - annoying graphics, missing or out of date information, music...but now that restaurants are using Facebook instead of web pages, the situation has gotten worse. It's really hard to find the information you want on Facebook, and I don't care about all the "likes" and comments if I can't find a menu or whether or not you serve lunch. I had a very disappointing experience at El Chucho. The Facebook page says, "lunch, brunch, dinner" but shows no menus or service hours for each meal. When we arrived just past noon, we were told only brunch was available, and we wanted tacos. Had this information been posted on the Facebook page, we could have planned differently. So, to all restaurants out there, if you're defaulting to Facebook instead of a web page, please make sure you provide the information diners want and need.
In today's Dish you say that Terasol is "near Chevy Chase Circle." Actually it's a mile from Chevy Chase Circle, which doesn't exactly seem "near." It's closer to Van Ness, which is about 2/3 of a mile way.
Tom- I have less a question than a positive review of the Hotel Monaco/Poste meal that we had at our wedding in August. The folks at Monaco are incredibly professional and the food was great. I never though I'd eat chicken (how boring?) at my wedding, but the honey glaze chicken we had was one of the best pieces of chicken I've ever had. The dessert -- the mango new tiffany was divine. The hors d'ourves for the cocktail hour were equally creative and well made. The caprese salad with basil dressing and fresh in-season tomatoes was simple yet satisfying. I really cannot say enough about what a great job they do and our guests all felt the same. I know this is a food chat, but their planner Buddee is a true gem and was very helpful to us in putting a menu together (among everything else he does). As an aside, we had our rehearsal dinner at Ruth's Chris in Chinatown, which was ironically one of the more economical options for a nice restaurant in the neighborhood (less expensive than Matchbox's minimum)! They also did a great job with our group and obviously know how to cook a steak. Both places made our event memorable for only good reasons. Thank you!
I'm happy to pass along some feedback for those of you who might be planning a Washington wedding. Thanks.
There is a Chinese restaurant near my home that I visit from time to time. They seem to have an issue with keeping the soy sauce containers full. I have been there a few times for a late dinner when there are only one or two other customers. I can only assume the staff is getting the place ready for the next day and swap out the partly filled soy sauce bottles for ones that are filled to the rim, including the one at my table. If I decide to use some of the soy sauce on my meal, they will come back and again swap out that bottle with a filled bottle. I understand if they want to keep my glass of water full, but doing the same with the soy sauce seems a little too much. This wasn't just one time as it has happened on several visits. I don't mind them doing it once, but can't they wait until I leave before replacing the bottle for the 2nd or 3rd time?
Exactly how much soy sauce are you using to merit a fill-up by the staff? One option is to politely wave the server away when he/she tries to help out: "Please, just leave the sauce put until I'm gone. I'd rather focus on this good food."
I'm very excited to be visiting New Orleans for the first time in a few weeks - I'm going to a conference there. However, I'm a vegetarian, and since so much of classic New Orleans cuisine focuses on seafood and meat, I'm a bit apprehensive. I know that I can always find vegetarian options in restaurants focusing on other cuisines (Indian, Italian, etc), but I'd love to dig into New Orleans' own culinary traditions. Do you have any suggestions for where I might go? Thanks!
I've been scanning the menus of some of my favorite New Orleans restaurants on your behalf. Unfortunately, from what I'm seeing, you'll have to settle for boiled peanuts and charred okra with pink-eyed pea vinaigrette at Cochon and french fries at Herbsaint.
You'll have better luck at the French-themed Lilette, which offers a number of intriging salads (escarole salad with boiled sunchokes, grilled sweet onions, celery leaf and pistachio pesto) and a main course of grilled eggplant with roasted tomato, mushrooms and burrata over crispy polenta.
Does anyone in the crowd know of reliable vegetarian restaurants and/or dishes in one of the country's meatiest dining markets?
I've got a very quick trip to Portland Maine later this week - my first! I've heard fantastic things about the restaurants, so am trying to choose wisely since I'll have just two breakfasts and two dinners (my one lunch, alas, will be a work-related one). I checked out your Postcard but it's four years old - any additional recommendations?
A food friend who knows that area well recommends the modern Greek Emilitsa; the hip and insidery Boda for Thai; Miyake for the "best Japanese in the state"; Bresca for regional Italian; Standard Baking; Petite Jacqueline for a real-deal French bistro experience and Zapoteca for "accomplished" Mexican.
Sounds as if you ought to stay in Portland a few days longer, huh?
Hi Tom! I've been craving gyros lately -- I think I can blame a recent episode of Man vs. Food. Aside from Zorba's (where I've been a few times), are there any other notable gyro spots I might check out? p.s. looking forward to the Fall dining guide!
Would you settle for a shwarma instead? It's still meat and vegetables bundled in pita, after all. I found a reliable place on H St. NE called Shawafel, which I'm writing about in my First Bite column next Wednesday, Oct. 24. It's owned a first-time restaurateur from Lebanon (rather than Greece), so expect more Middle Eastern accents than you'd typically find in a gyro.
Tom: Help! I am drawing a blank. My aunt will be in town and we only have one night to see her. Would like to take her someplace she will "feel like she is in DC", where we can also hear each other, $15ish a person, somewhere that takes reservations preferred. Thanks as always for your solid advice.
Just wondering if you have any rccomendations for a birthday dinner tonight? Looking for roughly 50 a person all told, no limits on cuisine, preferably on the east side of DC into Maryland. Thank you in advance Tom, Eric from the noise article.
Tom, I've taken my fiance to J&G, Bourbon Steak, and Bobby Van's in years past for his birthday, this year I'm looking for something a little easier on the wallet since between now and his b'day he'll become my husband and the wallet is a bit less flush this year due to the upcoming nupitals. He loves his steak, but also enjoys Mexican, Spanish and Asian cuisines. What can you recommend that is still really delish but not as expensive? The DC/B'more/Annapolis triangle preferred. Thank you!
It's been awhile since I've dined there, but Lewnes' Steakhouse in Annapolis has always been a treat, and the Prime Rib in Baltimore is supposedly better than the one here. For Spanish, I'd go to the remodelled Jaleo in DC; for "Asian," what about standing in line for the zesty Thai cooking at Little Serow in Dupont Circle, or, if you're feeling less adventurous, the funky Thai Xing, where you're able to save $ by bringing in your own vino or beer.
I eat fried chicken once a year. Please tell me the very best place to do this in close by areas. I live in Northern Virginia. Thanks... Priscilla
My mother has decided she wants to go out someplace "special" for Chirstmas Eve dinner this year, she enjoys fine dining, and well I have 2.5 year old. HELP!!! I know its early but do you have any suggestions where I would not be embarrassed to bring my fairly well behaved toddler. We would probably do an early dinner 5, 5:30 we are looking for somwhere in DC but not to far Northwest since we are in the VA suburbs. Thanks!!!!!
Hi Tom. I was recently in Canada and found that many restaurants very clearly marked items as vegetarian/vegan/gluten free. I've found that some restaurants here do that but many do not. For example, I was at a well-known, local Middle Eastern restaurant chain this week and the server was a bit put out when I asked if a particular menu item was vegetarian (Stuffed vegetables...stuffed with what?). Why don't restaurants do this? I know you can't cover every allergy but you would think vegetarian wouldn't be so hard.
I'm in favor of descriptions that give a diner a basic sense of what to expect and include ingredients that certain customers can't abide. Cilantro should always be flagged, for instance. So should nuts. And probably pork products. A menu that highlights meatless dishes is a thoughtful one.
There is a limit to the verbiage, though, and ultimately, it's up to diners to be vigilant about asking what's in their food.
Dear Tom - a few evenings ago I attended a birthday celebration for one of a group of four long time friends of which I am one of the four. Our birthday girl chose Ceiba for the celebration. The evening turned out to be a bigger disaster than any of us would have imagined. Beginning with an uninvited encounter with a foul-mouthed, intoxicated guest at the bar; to the disapointment of one appetizer and two entree choices not available, to notifying one of our party at the time entrees were served, our night was a disaster. We have dined at Ceiba on several occassions, and never expected such a disapointing experience. What would have been the appropriate protocol for Ceiba to right our experience? email@example.com
Of all the restaurants in the Passion Food Hospitality collection right now, Ceiba, where I lunched recently, seems to be the least impressive. (Rushed service and off temperatures were just two of multiple flaws at my meal.)
Some thoughts/questions about your situation:
1) Did the bar guy approach your table? One of your party could have hailed a manager to assist in his removal.
2) Restaurants sometimes run out of things. It happens. But three dishes on a relatively concise menu?
3) Sounds like one of the unavaiable dishes wasn't mentioned until a course was delivered. If so, that's sloppy. Plus, it puts the other guests in an awkward situation: Do we eat or wait while our food is hot/cold/the right temperature?
Was any of this outlined for a supervisor? Because if you didn't complain at the time of the trouble, it makes it more difficult for the restaurant to make amends.
What's the deal with Mie N Yu?
Tom, This is why I read your column and chat. I live in the Tysons Corner area and my family and I love Mexcian food. I had never heard of Alegria until your review. In the past, we have had to lean on chain restaurants for our Mexican fix, but we now go to Alegria. Since your column, we have already been twice. Thanks!
What's your favorite steakhouse in the District these days?
I second the recommendation. Ate there last Tuesday and had great fried artichokes, tuna tartar and pumpkin soup. Very pleasant atmosphere as well.
So it's not just me in like with the place.
I'm encouraged to hear that Terasol is taking its food more seriously. I live nearby and had lunch there about a year ago. The food took a really long time to arrive (like 45 minutes). And what came was about the blandest sandwich I've ever been served. I'd written it off, but I might be willing to give it another chance.
I like the fact they play live music weekend nights. Classical guitar on Friday and a jazz duo on Saturday.
Try happycow.net, for the person looking for veg food in New Orleans (or anywhere else).
Promising resource. Thanks.
Looking for someplace fresher than Blue Duck, Ris Marcel's and LaChaumiere before a late show at the KenCen on Friday. No openings at Rasika. How is West End Bistro these days? Other options?
I know West End Bistro well, having eaten there recently three times ahead of my Nov. 11 review. I don't want to scoop myself, but if you're looking for an alternative to where you've been, check out the new menu from chef Devin Bozkaya. And be sure to try the restaurant's divine pistachio cake!
Don't miss Fore Street Restaurant - I had an amazingly good dinner there in August.
I am not as big a fan of some food writers, but it is certainly a pleasant place to graze the night away.
While it is helpful, I think it is unreasonable to expect restaurants to look out for people's allergies, and even more so, their dislikes (labelling for cilantro??? why not green peppers, which I happen to hate?). I am a vegetarian, and while I appreciate seeing "V" designations, I know enough to ask -- it's my obligation, not the restaurant's. And if you are going to have an adverse physical reaction to a food, then I can't imagine why you would count on a restaurant to look out for you.
I guess my point is, there are some ingredients -- pork, cilantro -- that are deal-breakers for a large number of diners. I totally understand the position of the menu writer (there's only so much space to describe the food, etc) but flagging a some well-known deal-breakers is helpful in my opinion.
If it's not too far for the chatter, Plaka Grill in Vienna does an excellent gyro.
Thanks for the suggestion.
Some restaurants use small symbols next to the listing, rather than adding to the word count of the menu. Not fancy maybe, but helpful...
Yep, "v" for vegetarian/vegan or "s" for hot/spicy.
I'm a vegetarian who visited New Orleans about 2 years ago. I would recommend the vegetable tasting menu at Restaurant August. It was much harder to find good vegetarian meals at the lower price-point restaurants.
Thanks for chiming in.
Hi, Tom â A question more for the other chatters than you I suppose. A couple weeks (months?) back, there was a lot of discussion about 20-somethings receiving sub-par treatment compared to older diners. I was wondering if people feel similarly when presenting Groupons/Living Social deals/etcâ¦ I buy them often as an excuse to get out and try new places. While many âhigh endâ places do not participate, many middle-of-the-road places do, and lately Iâve been feeling like the waiters snub their nose at them. I always present the Groupon when weâre seated (as is recommended) and have every intention of tipping on the pre-Groupon amount. However, I feel like Iâm often treated as a second-class citizen when dining with a Groupon, and then donât want to give a 20% tip, unfortunately thus fulfilling the waiterâs pre-conceived notions. Anyway, I was just wondering if other chatters have experienced similar situations. Thank you!
I have not used Groupon or other discounts. Chatters? What's been your experience with the coupons?
Glad to hear you remember me too Tom. Unfortunately The Pallisades is a bit too far west for me this time. We currently have a reservation at The Source. Do you think that would hit in the 50 dollar range, or should we consider something else in that area? I'm trying to go somewhere I haven't been before.
Hi Tom, I grew up in Maryland and just moved to DC after college and realized that I've never had a crab cake, which seems so wrong. Can you recommend a restaurant in DC that would give me an unforgettable first taste? If such a thing can be had for less than $20, that would be great as well. Thanks!
Generally I've received fair to good treatment when I've shown my Groupon or LivingSocial voucher before ordering. The one stark exception was Fujimar, where the waitress gave me some serious stinkeye. In my experience, I've gotten much worse service paying full price but not ordering alcohol (especially at upscale Italian/French restaurants), than I ever have when dining on a Groupon.
Yeah, not ordering alcohol is a turn-off to some servers, I've observed.
As a DC visitor, I'm curious to know - are there some locations that are known to draw lots of clientele from one party, rather than the other?
Tom -- the bagels at the 158 Pickett Street Cafe in South Portland (very close to downtown) are outstanding. Also not to be missed are the Sicilian pizza slabs at Micucci Grocery (right near Duckfat) and the lobster rolls at Fisherman's Grill out on Forest Ave -- their fried seafood also rocks.
Mmmmmm. My stomach is rumbling.
Why do restaurateurs insist on spraying glass cleaners on tables while nearby diners are eating? Iâm finding that this practice is more and more common. I really donât want to inhale ammonia or other toxins while I am eating!!!
Neither do I. But those sprays are pretty ubiquitous. Have you ever complained to a manager about the practice?
My employer blocks Facebook - and I'm sure it's not the only one. So just because you're on Facebook doesn't mean you're reaching everyone whose online searching for a place to eat tonight.
USEFUL to know!
It's a scientific fact that to a number of people, cilantro tastes like soap. It's a physiological thing, not just a dislike. I'd want to be informed.
Which is why I flagged the pungent herb.
Pack a flask. Tip: Offer the server a nip on the sly!
Um, from the same bottle?
I've been enjoying grabbing a beer or two at O'Connells in Old Town since it opened, but have never been impressed with the food. However, my trip there this past Friday was very likely my last. We were seated at a table of 8 and it took over 10 minutes for the waiter to greet us. While the food was served promptly, the waiter probably only returned one or two times to the point people from the table went to the bar (which was five feet from us) to order drinks. One of the times the waiter came by, he leaned down and whispered into a friend's ear that we had to stop ordering drinks from the bar and stormed off - even though a few of us needed water/a refreshed beer, etc. When the check came, we saw that 20% had been added for what was some of the worse service I've encountered. We all looked and did not see it on the menu. One of us flagged down the manager to say that we would be happy to leave as 10-15% tip, but that the service was horrible and we could not see giving 20%. ( We have often left almost 50% tip on occasion as we have all worked in resturants and understand that a large table can be difficult). The manager proceeded to yell at us, say we were in the wrong, that he can't do anything about the service one it is over (valid) and that one should never ever go to the bar to get a drink. (There are four bars in that establishment). He then said that it was pretty stupid to not know there would be charge. We were dumbfounded as some of the groups are regulars and know the bartenders by name if passed on the streets. The result is that O'Connells has lost a pretty steady stream of customers. While I am not sure we handled it in the best manner, is there ever a time for a manager to get into a fight with customers?
Pretty much only if customers are harassing staff or damaging property or causing harm to other customers. Arguing with patrons is kind of a losing battle. I mean, look where these stories end up! Often in public forums such as this one.
Hi Tom! We have a babysitter lined up for Saturday night and are excited to go out to dinner for the first time since our baby was born last spring. Where should we go? We're open to anywhere in Alexandria, South Arlington or downtown DC. I have no idea what's new and good now. It's tempting to go to an old favorite (Rasika? The Majestic?) but it would be fun to try something new in that general price range. Thoughts?
I've learned that if you see a restaurant always running specials, especially if they're doing multiple sites at around the same time (Groupon, Living Social, Daily Deals) - run. These tend to be bad places that can only draw customers with these deals. And they can't sustain that since they only get about 25% of the value they offer. (Groupon often requires folks to offer deals for 50% off and then Groupon gets half of that.)
Thanks for the feedback.
Frankly, "Terrasol" sounds like a cleaning solution, not somewhere I'd want to eat. ("Earth" + "sun," I get it--but it still reminds me of Lysol.)
I'll let the owners know.
I am not on Facebook (and won't ever be) so restaurants will not be getting me as a customer/patron. Why go to a specialist website (ie Facebook) when the whole Web already exists?
Catch that, restaurants and chefs? I'm getting a lot of similar feedback from chatters today.
Hi Tom, My wife and I are having dinner and going to an event afterwards in the U street/Logan Circle area. Any recommendations for a nice, fun dinner in that area?
Wow, so many of those places fall in the loud category. I wish restauranteurs would learn that SOME of us want quieter places.
I can always tell when I've been made in new restaurants these days. Either a manager comes over and asks if my wine is chilled sufficiently or he lets my party know how much money/effort was poured into sound-proofing the dining room.
Last Saturday I went to Natta Thai in Vienna at 5 PM. Packed, no tables available. always a good sign. So I went to Turmeric. Good food, but very acoustically active. I wouldn't want to be there with a crowd. In McLean, Bistro Vivant is pretty good. Went with my Aunt, we both had seafood. Worth what we spent. Jalapeno Grill, across from McLean Pizza was dire. The worst "Mexican" I've ever had that didn't involve actual projectile vomiting.
Ahem. Thanks for (most of) the mini-reviews.
I think bell peppers are a deal breaker for more people than you think. When I say I don't like them, someone else almost always pipes with "Me too." Like cilantro, for some of us the flavor completely overwhelms the dish, but chefs seem to think they just add color and crunch. Thankfully, they're not as ubiquitous as they used to be.
Okay, okay, let's add "bell peppers" to the list of words that restaurants absolutely, positively have to spell out on their menus.
why would anyone send a complaint to you instead of addressing directly with the restaurant? Or taking it up on Yelp etc? I don't think you are running a new customer review service. While I appreciate the general feedback, I don't want this forum for people to complain about their experiences and get the restaurants to call them back. Every restaurant has bad cases, and most know how to deal with them. I say first take it up with the business.
Oh, I'm absolutely in your court! The BEST way to complain is 1) when the problem is occurring and 2) in a civil, just-the-facts fashion with someone who can turns things around.
409 formula? Order by number. Get numb by cocktails. ER-that's never good. Grandpap got food poisoning. 2 A.M. at the ER. He thought it was the fish. He was 80, it might of been the Scotch.
Don't order anything with bones. Don't change your order or send food back to the kitchen. Be polite to waiters even if they spill soup in your lap. Don't order salad!
You sound like someone who knows what she's talking about ...
How about whipped cream? I hate it and virtually every dessert piles it on. It is generally never listed as an ingredient but If I don't specifically ask to leave it off it always appears.
Be a pro-active diner, then, and ask ahead of ordering dessert. Right?
I haven't spoken to a manager. I guess I should but I hate to complain. I was hoping they might read this chat and be more considerate.
Managers can't read minds!
Comparing notes with three congenial, restaurant-happy friends and each had had same grim experience at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. Hostess was curt about whether our parties were complete; bartenders were less than welcoming while we waited for our table. Servers marched around like we were in their way to a more important customer. Huge bummer, felt by three diners who charge the joint w/ "unnecessary roughness." Never going back.
That's a wrap for today, fellow diners. Let's meet here again next Wednesday, same time. Ciao for now, and I hope you find something delicious in the latest guide.