My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week at CityZen. We had a fabulous experience. The meal was great and the staff and wine pairings were even better. As a vegetarian, I truly appreciate being able to experience an amazing high end meal without feeling like a leper. Plus, the restaurant went out of their way to acknowledge the occasion (a card signed by the staff, champagne toast, AND an extra dessert). All that said, we were seated next to a solo diner. He spent almost half of his meal on the phone. As my partner and I were engaged in a happy and celebratory conversation, it didn't really hamper our experience, but I found the whole thing quite odd. Is this common? Wait staff even offered (and he accepted) a variety of newspapers. When traveling, I find myself dining alone quite often. But I tend to stick to checking email/texting if I absolutely need to use my phone while at a restaurant. I am curious to hear any thoughts on the matter. If you are sans dining companion, is it now ok to call one on the phone?
As someone who is using his cell phone a lot more in restaurants these days, mostly for reading, I'm sensitive to the topic. While I think conversations on cell phones are best conducted away from the table (outside the restaurant, in the foyer, near the restroom) a quick call is harmless. And by quick, I mean no more than a few minutes and in a soft voice. Prolonged conversations, on the other hand, should be conducted outside the dining.
Thoughts from the assembly?
MOVING ON: Jakob Esko, the Swedish chef of The Grill Room at Capella Washington DC, is leaving the boutique Georgetown hotel after only 1 ½ years.“It’s a personal decision,” says Alex Obertop, the general manager of the hotel. “He’s going back to Barcelona.”
Obertop says a search is on for a replacement to oversee the Grill Room’s staff of 11 cooks. The ideal candidate is a chef “who is already active in the local culinary community” and can put a personal stamp on the cooking. The general manager says Esko’s successor will be able to recreate about half the menu in his or her own style. Bottom line: “We don’t want to be thought of as a typical hotel restaurant.”
A former chef at Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz Carlton property, Esko, plans to leave by the end of the month.
Good morning, everyone. Sad news for the local food community this week. Former Food section writer Walter Nicholls died on Sunday of liver cancer. He was 64.
Hello. I recently had really good (thick but not starchy, creamy, crab in every bite, some spice but nit overwhelming) cream of crab soup at the Royal Tea room in southern Maryland. I live in northern VA and am looking for something closer to home. Do you know if any restaurants west of the beltway have a really good cream of crab soup on their menu? Thank you.
Tom, We had such a disappointing dinner on Saturday at Iron Gate and I wonder if I am out of line in expecting they should have done more to make up for it. My guests and I all ordered the 6-course meal, and the pacing was terrible. We would get our wine pairings and then wait anywhere from 10-20 minutes for our next course to arrive. Never did they offer to pour us more wine, so we had to just sit there and not drink if we wanted to enjoy the wine with the food. No one addressed the delays with us until we hunted down the general manager, and although she apologized there was no explanation of what was going on. I don't think we were being unreasonable- at the point that we went looking for her, we had been there almost three hours and had yet to be served our fourth course. After that things were rushed out with little explanation of what were being served, as if they just wanted to be rid of us. The last straw was when our desserts were brought out, not only did they not acknowledge the birthday we were celebrating (despite the fact that I had confirmed the event three separate times with them, including that evening with the general manager), but they brought the guest of honor the wrong dessert. In the end they took 10% off of our bill. Is that sufficient? Should we expect to spend 4 hours on a 6-course meal?We enjoyed our meal for the most part, but for the amount we paid I felt kind of cheated, although I don't really know what would have made me happy at that point. I think it was the lack of communication that bothered me the most.
Gosh, that sounds so unlike the Iron Gate I experienced ...
You had a right to expect better timing and better communication. I'm curious 1) why the GM didn't give you more of an explanation and 2) why the wine wasn't flowing more freely in light of the situation and 3) how the restaurant arrived at a 10 percent discount for the snags.
Out of curiosity, how much of a discount do you think would have been more fair?
HI Tom, William Washington from Le Diplomate responding to last week’s chatters regarding both the to go items and the party of 6 and hoping you could be of assistance. We are very aware that with all the options diners in the metro area diners have to select from, that we are indeed fortunate to be chosen as often as we are and we never want to take any guest for granted. We are always concerned and sorrowful when a guest leaves us not having experienced what they came for, and while we can’t turn back time we do make every effort to right any wrongs as soon as possible. With that goal in mind I was hoping to invite them to contact me directly here at the restaurant so we might address their individual concerns. If you would be kind enough to share this note and my contact information with your readers – hopefully the persons who wrote in last week will be reading and reach out. I greatly appreciate your assistance. Thank You and Best Regards, William Washington | General Manager STARR RESTAURANTS 1601 14th Street NW, Washington D.C. 20009 starr-restaurant.com p. 202.332.3333 email@example.com
What is a "top" exactly? I've seen you answer questions about two tops, four tops, etc - is that how many a table holds or how many are actually seated at a table? Why does it matter? I tried looking this up but just got lots of top restaurant lists...
"Top" refers to the number of seats at a table. So two diners would likely be seated at a "two top." And so on.
Hi Tom - Seven of us are planning dinner together after an all day retreat next Monday. We're looking for something fun but not loud, and definitely not stuffy. Any suggestions? We'll be near Union Station but flexible on location. Thanks!
Hi Tom, I felt that I needed to write a follow up to my post about a bad experience at Farmers Fishers Bakers from a few weeks ago. Once the manager reached out to me through your chat, she arranged for us to have a new reservation and offered to comp a round of drinks and an appetizer. We had excellent service, and the manager on staff that evening ended up comping our entire meal. They definitely made up for our bad experience!
I love happy endings. Thanks for the update.
Tom, A good friend is coming to town, she is a vegan (I'm about as far to the other side as you can get). Is there a good vegan restaurant in DC? I don't mean some where she can "find" enough on the menu to get a meal, but somewhere she will have real choices? Seems to me having a few veg/vegan items on the menu is like having a couple of French dishes on the menu at a Chinese restaurant.
Elizabeth's Gone Raw offers a Friday night, plant-based, five-course tasting menu in a handsome townhouse setting, but $75 a person might be more than what you're looking for. If I were you, I'd pick out an Indian or Ethiopian restaurant that will give you both what you want. Start with Bombay Club downtown and Ethiopic on H St. NE.
Recommendations on a few nice spots for an anniversary dinner? Something in the mold of L'Auberge, but closer to the heart of the city.
With its Alsatian menu and Old World decor, L'Auberge Chez Francois is in a class of its own. In Potomac, you might try Old Angler's Inn (and hope it's a nice evening and you can dine al fresco). In Georgetown, 1789 exudes an old-fashioned civility while offering modern American cooking.
I'm a devoted reader, although I live in Boston. I wanted to contribute to the discussion of two-tops, four-tops and the plight of the single woman. Mostly I want to give a shout-out to a local restaurant which welcomes me to sit outside, despite the fact that their tables are all four-tops and I'm a single girl. I show my appreciation by returning often. I don't think they are losing money on me.
Unless you're ordering the 5-course tasting menu or pitchers of beer for yourself, the restaurants probably are losing money on you. But good for * them* for treating you like a star and good for *you* for returning the favor with your repeat business
Hi Tom! Besides Bistro L'Hermitage in Occoquan, are there any places you recommend more in the Woodbridge area? It all seems to be bland chains (Firebirds is a good steakhouse chain though), but surely there are some gems I just haven't found yet....right? Maybe?
I'll throw this one out to your fellow chatters and hope for an answer or two.
Hi Tom, I value your opinion a great deal, on last weeks Wednesday issue someone asked you to recommend a quiet restaurant in Sterling and Ashburn, Virginia for a special occasion, you forgot to mention " Captain Mas Seafood and Crab House" in Sterling, Virginia where is the most private dinning in the area and serves quality fresh seafood in the area.
I've not been. Thanks for the suggestion.
Hi Tom - I understand that restaurants need to make money and want to turn tables. I've noticed in many popular restaurants nowadays that restaurants pack the tables in very tightly. It's difficult to have a private conversation (especially when the restaurants are also very loud), which makes for an uncomfortable dining experience. Do you agree? If so, do restaurants notice and/or care? Thank you!
Some restaurants have become like some airlines, packing in customers like sardines. If I've said it once, I've said it a zillion times: Restaurateurs need to test-drive every detail -- lighting, sound, seating -- before they open for business, so they can experience the dining room as a paying patron would.
I had dinner before the ballet with a woman friend on Friday at District Commons. The maître d' led me (I arrived first) to a table in the back next to a door and the restrooms. No kidding. I refused the table and was seated in a better location, but it took some insistence. How does this still happen?
Well, it *didn't* happen. You piped up and you got relocated.
Someone will eventually be seated there, and the optimist in me hopes it's not a woman just because of her sex but anyone who happens to come at a busy time and that's the only table available.
I know it is the start of soft shell crab season and have been searching online for restaurants in northern Va. and DC but to no avail. Can you help us out? Thanks, hungry for soft shell crabs !
Some friends and I are planning a bachelorette weekend for foodie friend. Her ideal is an amazing dinner and brunch the next day with good cocktails (we are not looking to relive our college days). There are about 12 to 15 women who will be coming so we need something that can accommodate our large numbers. Any ideas for a good but not too expensive dinner option and maybe an inexpensive yummy brunch?
I go to restaurants to get away from work, have a personal time, and be entertained by food and conversation. I generally dine alone at the bar and I am amazed at the number of people who talk on the phone at the bar for longer and longer periods and restaurants doing nothing about it. If I need to take a call, I always step out and I'd like to see restaurants encourage this. Also I am particularly insulted by the profanity used on cell phone conversations at restaurants, planes and other public places and restaurants. I go out to have a good time and am not interested in how people talk to their significant other, assistant, broker etc. in a condescending manner, nor I am interested in hearing their business problems when I am trying to get away from them. When it happens in a restaurant and the management/bartender does nothing about it I rarely go back… Hope restaurants reading this will do something about it.
I'd love to see signs that read: "Please refrain from cell phone conversations while seated at the bar. It's common courtesy. Plus, you never know who might be eavesdropping!"
I would like to see restaurants use available technology to block both incoming and outgoing calls from cell phones etc. What would folks do if they had to talk to each other? Bonus points if they allow well behaved dogs.
Blocking calls is one thing. But what about incoming and outgoing texts? Diners would surely rebel.
You've opened up a can of worms with your suggestion to allow pets in restaurants -- a subject I'm open to, I should point out.
Totally unacceptable. There is a different sound, rhythm, everything to hearing one side of a phone conversation that is far more distracting than sitting next to people who are talking to each other. I lack the writing skills to properly put it into words but I'm sure many readers understand what I'm saying.
I get your point exactly.
I would love to have my ~100-person wedding at a good but casual restaurant in the DC area. Any suggestions?
Hi Tom- I know this question has been asked in the past, but I was wondering if you could recommend a quiet restaurant (one of my dining companions is very hard of hearing) with good food (but for not terribly adventurous eaters). Price is not a concern. Thanks.
I loved the notice at Dino's. Something along the lines of "cell phones will be placed on the rotisserie."
HA! "I'd like mine medium-rare, please."
Hi Tom - I wanted to post a note about Mintwood Place and Charlie Palmer's. My family was in town two weeks ago, and our group included a 5 month old baby. I took them to dinner at both Mintwood one night and CPs the next. I was nervous about bringing a baby to a nice restaurant and let both know ahead of time that we'd have a baby in tow. At both Mintwood and Charlie Palmers, the staff could not have been nicer or more gracious. They were accommodating and made both meals great for all of us. They also didn't look at us like we were crazy bringing a small child to their restaurants. Although I'm not certain either restaurant is shooting to be overrun by groups with small children, I was so impressed with the how nice everyone was, I wanted to give them a shout out.
Rave away. I love the reception you encountered and I applaud your decision to call both restaurants ahead of visiting them and let them know about the wee one in your group.
Hey Tom, Submitting my question early as I won't be able to during the chat. My future husband and I will be passing through Paris on our honeymoon in August. Do you have any recommendations for a nice restaurant that can accommodate my vegetarian diet (no meat/fish)? Husband eats everything but beef. Thanks!
One of the top restaurants in Paris is the vegetarian-friendly Arpege run by chef Alain Passard. I've eaten there once (and grandly) since his decision to go more or less meatless in 2011, a move Passard says he made because he wanted a fresh challenge, not for ethical or environmental reasons.
I love your chats and your columns but lately I have noticed that you are making remarks about “over 50 crowd” or “senior citizens” in somewhat disparaging ways. I am over 50 but definitely not ready for the nursing home or 4:30 early bird specials. We may be older but we’re not feeble .
Let's see. A quick Google check shows I flagged senior citizens in a story I wrote about restaurants that don't take reservations, but that wasn't meant to be ageist. Indeed, I was saying the policy was unfair for older diners who might not be able to stand long in lines. And when I wrote about my dinner cruise on Nina's Dandy, I noted that the dance floor cleared of folks who appeared to be over 50 when the music switched to Daft Punk. The was simply an observation, not a dig.
Tom, My company specializes in corporate security and we do go to local restaurants bars and even Mcds as part of security assessment. Man its priceless to see the companies corporate execs faces when we blow them away with what my staff learns from eavesdropping and then from targeted info gathering. Us men are the worst at revealing corporate secret to a good looking interested person they are trying to impress. Then we get instances were these fools disclose classified and sensitive info which happens more frequently than management realizes and we are obligated to report it to the DOD and the FBI. You can pick up lots of good stock and investment tips. Borderline insider trading!
I'm not going to say a WORD to my table mate at lunch today.
P.S. Can you share your contact with me? (Seriously.) I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org
Discouraging its use at the table makes sense to me, but the bar? They tend to be noisier affairs anyway, so ones voice doesn't carry over the din. I don't see the big deal if I want to check in with my better half while I'm enjoying a beer on the way home.
Can you imagine, though, if *everyone* at the bar was having a cell phone conversation?
Hi Tom, Is America Eats Tavern taking reservations for lunch? I just tried to call and their line goes to voicemail with a message that the restaurant will be opening "this spring."
I called the restaurant this morning and was told it was open for both breakfast and lunch. Call again, or book online.
I'm confused about why you said that a restaurant was probably losing money on the single diner. Unless the restaurant is fully booked so that one is actually displacing a couple, I don't understand how the difference is that significant.
A table with four people is going to make more money than a table with a solo diner. (I was assuming the place was busy.)
Nevermind speaking on the phone while dining... I didn't know anyone actually spoke on the phone at all these days!
Right? I find myself texting with just about everyone but my mom these days ....
Now that my kids are older, I applaud you for going out to a nice meal with your 5 month old. The child is immobile at that point and usually some milk can calm her down. Just beware that it may not be simple for you (or other dinners) to go to a longer meal once she gets to about 1 year+. That is the tough time to be out with kids until they are about 3 when crayons and actually eating the food fills the time.
Thanks for writing.
I understand the need for being connected and checking on home, kids etc. That's exactly what text e-mail is for which can be done on the phone without talking. Being in a public place requires respect for others by definition. Period.
Yes, Miss Manners.
Someone asked about restaurants in Belgium on Monday's chat, and I'd to offer a suggestion for a restaurant in Ghent (I hope they're listening). It's called Bord'eau Brasserie, and it is across the street from the Gravenstein. We were there three years ago, and the friend who took us told us that they were waiting for an occasion to eat there, so they took us. Food was great -- view of the canal was awesome!
Merci. And let's hope the Travel chatter logs on here as well.
I'm curious how you would have handled this situation Tom. We recently went to a respectable upscale restaurant in Silver Spring with our well-behaved 6 year old. We had early reservations and the restaurant was about 1/3 full. The hostess brought us to a table that was literally next to the wait station. I asked that we be moved to another table, to which she replied "all the other tables are reserved". I suggested that she seat one of the other reservations at this table and move us to a different table. After conferring with the other hostess, she proceeded to walk us to the table immediately next to the one we just rejected. I didn't want to make a scene and reluctantly accepted the table. Everything after was fantastic. Am I incorrect in thinking that the hostess should have tried a bit harder to find a table that was in a different location than the one that I rejected for specific reasons?
Frustrating, huh? Was the alternate at least farther away from the wait station?
I feel like I need more information. I wonder, for instance, if the tables the hostess was saving were specifically earmarked by guests with reservations. Also, were the other tables the same size as yours? It might have been better for you to specify which of the other tables you wanted from the start.
Not sure if it's casual enough, but we had our wedding reception at the Oval Room, and it was absolutely lovely. Our out-of-town relatives still rave about the food, and the service was great. Plus, you can't beat an already-decorated restaurant where you don't have to deal with centerpieces or any of that unpleasant wedding stuff!
We also were curious why the GM gave us no explanation for the delay, all she did was apologize. With the wine, it was just awkward because we'd get our assigned pairing poured, and we'd assume the food was coming so we wouldn't really drink it, but then it would take longer and longer. I would have thought that they would have made it clear that they would refill our glass by offering it, but then never did (and in fairness we never asked). I have no idea why they gave us the 10% discount, they never actually told us they were doing that, they just presented us with the check. I'm not sure what I think would have been fair. We appreciated the discount, I guess I just imagined there would have been more of an explanation and apology. And at the very least they could have made a bigger deal about the birthday boy (starting with bringing him the correct dessert!) Maybe a glass of prosseco for the table to toast his birthday, after messing up the rest of the dinner?
Hi Tom. It's no question that you've eaten at more restaurants than the average person. How many times have you gotten food poisoning over the years? And has it always been from dicey restaurants, or have you ever gotten sick from a place you didn't expect?
I've gotten food poisoning twice, both times on raw oysters. Once was in the 1980s in Old Town; the other was in Seoul last year. No fun. At first, you think you're going to die. Then, you *want* to die.
Our firm doesn't need the press Tom. We are very discrete etc. In the DC area Congressional staff are some the worst offenders especially the current party in the WH. Many should be charged with insider trading and disclosing classified info. Staff and house member from Cali who wears pantsuits are some of the worst offenders. Yeah we have reported the leaks to the FBI for years. That hottie in bar may not be an independent business person but rather one of my employees.
Catch that, power diners?
My dad is in town and I have run out of ideas of where to take him for dinner. Past favorites include: Komi, 1789, Little Serow, Rose's Luxury, Jaleo, and Casa Luca/Fiola/Fiola Mare. Help please!
I'm arriving in China this weekend - do you or your readers have suggestions for not to miss restaurants in Shanghai and Hong Kong?
Next time post online that you're going so us patrons don't have to deal with your special unique snowflake that's bound to erupt into a bag of screams and gas. Thanks!
Now, now. Every baby is different.
Tom, Your review of Partisan is right in that its a great modern steakhouse. The steak we had was one of the best I have had in it. My only request is that it is possible to get a vegetarian version of the tigelle that is not brushed with lard (or at least used beef fat) and that they have sous vide steak for 1-2, because the ribeye they serve can easily feed 4.
Hi Tom! My birthday's coming up on Monday and my mom wants to take me somewhere nice for dinner in the Bethesda area. Something around the $100 range total would be awesome. We've gone to Jaleo, Mon Ami Gabi, and Bistro Provence before, and if possible, would like to try something new. Thanks so much! Love your chat and read it religiously.
Hi Tom, Hubby and I have a $100 to use at ThinkFoodGroup (Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Minibar) for a rare Monday date night away from our 4 kids. Minibar is out of the question. We have both been to Jaleo, which I know you love. So between Oyamel and Zaytinya do you have a restaurant favorite? I have been to Zaytinya for lunch many years ago, but would not be opposed to going again. Hubby has been to neither. Thanks!
So women (pantsuits) and Democrats are the worst? Are we sure that wasn't Dick Cheney?
I once did a story on what people leave behind in restaurants. The GM at Kinkead's told me one of then-Vice President Cheney's Secret Service agents left the veep's itinerary in the seafood restaurant.
Put your stupid phone away when on the metro, in a restaurant, whatever. Unless you are a doctor and your tending to an emergency we don't want to see you manage your obsession with your device. Repeated playing with gadgets is for losers and is rude.
I would love to work for that guy. While I'm by no means the youngest or hottest girl at the bar, I am amazed what people will spill to a friendly ear at the bar. I think my favorite is, "so I use to work for this program..."
Remember that old WW II slogan? "Loose lips sink ships?"
Spending two nights in LA and two nights in Palm Springs later this week. Where should I eat? I'll be flying solo, so places where that won't be an issue are a plus!
We walked past STK on a Friday night. Lots of tourist families waiting for tables. Guess they're marketing to the hotels, etc. Guessing the teenage boys we saw were at least excited about it!
I don't care if you tweet. I don't care if you take pictures of your food. I don't care if you're reading websites or anything else. Most people are simply incapable of properly moderating their volume while speaking on cellphones and end up being way too loud. Need to use a phone while you're dining out? Step into the lobby or, better yet, outside. (And when your child is throwing a tantrum, take the child outside too!) And yes, I practice what I preach.
That'd be the table of thirty-something "dudes" I had the pleasure of sitting next to last Saturday in Arlington. They come in all sizes, colors, and ages. Relax.
I definitely agree and enjoy bar banter with other regulars at my local pub. It also depends on the environment. A crowded pub with lots of conversation, background noise, and some TVs tuned to sports? No biggie. A quiet atmosphere at a nice restaurant? Perhaps a quick mention, but no extended conversations.
I am in need of a lovely restaurant to take my father to in the West End when he comes to visit. They need to be open on a Monday. Dad has high standards but not too adventurous. He has been to Rasika so we want something besides that.
We have noticed this too. My husband hates to sit packed in next to other tables and has been known to leave if we are too close. It is embarrassing, but I don't like hearing every word of the table next to us.
Or, worse, knocking over someone's $15 cocktail or glass of wine as you scooch in and out of your seat.
Has anyone ever submitted a question that included "we went out to dinner at XYZ with our horribly behaved 6-year old"?
Um, come to think of it, no.
I have gone to Cashion's Eat Place twice. The first time neither my friend nor I could find anything pleasant to say about our meals. The food was dull and uninspiring. But given the high ratings it always seems to get from critics I decided to go again, thinking maybe we just hit a bad night. The second time the food was just as sad. I had to send my chicken back because it wasn't cooked through (a very gross discovery as I sliced into it). My friends' didn't have much to say about their dishes other than "it was ok." One had salmon that apparently had enough salt in it to qualify for still being in the ocean. So, considering I have yet to have a decent meal at this place, how on earth do they keep getting high ratings?
I fall in and out of like with Cashion's Eat Place, but mostly because the menu doesn't seem to change much from visit to visit and the restaurant scene has gotten more competitive in recent years.
Have you tried Cashion's for weekend brunch? The restaurant is a relaxing, and delicious, place to find yourself. I'm a big fan of the handsome bar overlooking the dining room. Go for the chicken hash spiked with jalapenos or the shrimp and grits.
And that's a wrap for today. Thanks, everyone. See you here again next Wednesday.