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Convention Center in DC: where to eat?


MelissaH
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Hello everyone,

I'm going to be attending the American Chemical Society's national meeting in DC at the end of August. Any day now, I'm expecting to get an e-mail from my committee's staff liaison asking for us to suggest places we might like to go for the committee dinner. We usually have on the order of two dozen people at dinner. Ethnic is generally OK, especially if it's not too weird. Vegetarian option a must. Our meeting will be at the convention center, so something within walking distance is a plus, although it's also fine if we can get there by public transit or taxi.

The tricky part: we don't have a whole lot of money to spend. In the past, our guests paid on the order of $40 for their dinner, so I assume that's about the price we're looking at for our total meal cost including tip and everything else. We typically get some kind of appetizer (at an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia we had giant antipasto platters; in San Diego at the Rock Bottom Brewery we got wings and something else vegetarian, and this was the best part of the meal by far), soup or salad, main course (in San Diego, choice of salmon, some steak that once said moo, and brown ale chicken; nothing got great reviews), dessert (inadequate cheesecake in San Diego), and drinks (soft drinks, some draft beer, and house wine by the glass are generally included but if we want something more we can order and pay for it; the offerings at Rock Bottom went over very well). There will be mass rebellion if the beer choice is only Bud or Bud Lite, and the wines are Wimpy White and Rotgut Red.

Any ideas for restaurants that I can suggest to my liaison?

I'll also eventually be looking for places to eat with smaller groups. I'll be particularly looking for things that I can't normally get at home. I'm hoping to talk a colleague or four into making a foray for Ethiopian food, if there's something easy to get to.

Do I have any chance at reaching a Trader Joe's on public transit?

Thanks,

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Hello everyone,

I'm going to be attending the American Chemical Society's national meeting in DC at the end of August. Any day now, I'm expecting to get an e-mail from my committee's staff liaison asking for us to suggest places we might like to go for the committee dinner. We usually have on the order of two dozen people at dinner. Ethnic is generally OK, especially if it's not too weird. Vegetarian option a must. Our meeting will be at the convention center, so something within walking distance is a plus, although it's also fine if we can get there by public transit or taxi.

The tricky part: we don't have a whole lot of money to spend. In the past, our guests paid on the order of $40 for their dinner, so I assume that's about the price we're looking at for our total meal cost including tip and everything else. We typically get some kind of appetizer (at an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia we had giant antipasto platters; in San Diego at the Rock Bottom Brewery we got wings and something else vegetarian, and this was the best part of the meal by far), soup or salad, main course (in San Diego, choice of salmon, some steak that once said moo, and brown ale chicken; nothing got great reviews), dessert (inadequate cheesecake in San Diego), and drinks (soft drinks, some draft beer, and house wine by the glass are generally included but if we want something more we can order and pay for it; the offerings at Rock Bottom went over very well). There will be mass rebellion if the beer choice is only Bud or Bud Lite, and the wines are Wimpy White and Rotgut Red.

Any ideas for restaurants that I can suggest to my liaison?

I'll also eventually be looking for places to eat with smaller groups. I'll be particularly looking for things that I can't normally get at home. I'm hoping to talk a colleague or four into making a foray for Ethiopian food, if there's something easy to get to.

Do I have any chance at reaching a Trader Joe's on public transit?

Thanks,

MelissaH

MelissaH, unless your group might think it's too weird, I would recommend the Lebanese Taverna. Here's their website.

http://www.lebanesetaverna.com/restaurants/dc/

This is the Washington, DC location. I had actually dined at the Arlington, VA location many times before trying this one. They are both truly excellent and well within your $40.00/person budget. They have more than enough dishes to accomodate both the vegetarian-minded as well as carnivores. Actually, I think the greatest problem is trying to decide what to get. I've never been with such a large group, so you may want to call in advance. What's great about the DC location is that it is right across the street from the Woodley Park Metro stop on the Red Line--very convenient.

I know that in recent years they have begun to carry a greater selection of wines. I don't know about their selection of beers though; you'll have to ask them.

As for Ethiopian restaurants, well DC is loaded with them. I've been told that the first Ethiopian restaurant in the U.S. was located in DC and run by a lady known as Mama Odesta. Anyway, I'm sure someone else reading your post can make a proper recommendation since, unfortunately, I understand that a couple of the more well known Ethiopian restaurants may have gone down hill a bit.

Enjoy.

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Any ideas for restaurants that I can suggest to my liaison?

I'll also eventually be looking for places to eat with smaller groups. I'll be particularly looking for things that I can't normally get at home. I'm hoping to talk a colleague or four into making a foray for Ethiopian food, if there's something easy to get to.

Do I have any chance at reaching a Trader Joe's on public transit?

Thanks,

MelissaH

One good choice, a fairly easy walk from the Convention Center (5-6 blocks), would be Zaytinya. Middle East themed small plates (mezze). Run by Jose Andres, one of the area's top chefs. Most everybody loves it, and you should be able to put together something in advance which would be well-received and fits your budget. Book well in advance. Fun for a group.

Another fun for an out of town group place, also Middle Eastern (North African to be more precise) and nearby, would be Marrakesh. Fixed menu, cazbah decor, belly dancing. Food's not bad, but don't go for the food, go for the fun. It would also fit your budget, and everybody would be talking about it for a long time.

Best Ethiopian IMO is Queen Makeda. Very small, homey, family run place. Definitely not fancy. Skip the menu; just ask Mama to bring out whatever the good stuff is that day. It would be a short taxi ride from the CC.

Edited by johnb (log)
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Here are couple of places...

Skip all the chinese places except Full Key.

Chop house is good for a crowd of people and is 4 blocks from the convention center. Legal Seafood is also on the same street but only 3 blocks. Both are good but not anything special.

The metro system in DC is clean and safe. I would utilize it to go somewhere more interesting like around du pont area. Cashion's Eats is my favorite place up that way. Never had a bad meal or bad service there.

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fyi - Lebanese Taverna is nowhere near the Convention Center. Neither is Cashion's.

Zaytinya is an excellent recommendation for ethnic, reasonably priced food in a location walking distance from the Convention Center.

Avoid La Tasca at all costs. I would also steer clear of Cap City Brewery (although if you recall Rock Bottom fondly, you might like it).

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Here's a link to a Spanish tapas bar within walking distance of the CC. I think it would be fun, budget friendly, and offer a ton of choices for different pallettes. I'd call to see if they take reservations for your size party though.

Jaleo:

http://jaleo.com/

Another great value at one of DC's better dining places is Cafe Atlantico's pre theater tasting. $25 I believe! for three courses. Same area Penn Quarter/MCI center.

http://cafeatlantico.com/

Enjoy your visit here!

Edited by monavano (log)
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Note, you're not bound to the convention center since traveling via metro is very easy.

Mark,

I'll try New Big Wong again (the first and only time I was there, I didn't have a good experience but you are now the second person to say good things about the new big wong). What dish do you recommend?

Soup

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I really like Kanlaya, a Thai restaurant on 6th St. between G and H. I have taken larger groups (although not more than 15 or so) and have had excellent meals at a very low cost (about $25/ person, although there was not much alcohol consumed). They have a large number of vegetarian dishes and I find them to be, overall, once of the best Thai restaurants in the city - good food and a relaxed setting. It is a short walk from the convention center.

I also like Zaytinha, but it can be loud. The downtown Jaleo would be harder to accomodate a group your size, I think.

I would still call ahead to reserve ay any of these, since it sometimes is way more crowded if there is an event at the MCI Center.

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25 is a lot of people for some of the neighborhood places, particularly if you're looking for decent food <$40 total/head. It doesn't get much press here, and I admit I've only been here for lunch, but over at 6th and NY (a couple blocks east of the convention center) is AV Ristorante, which could certainly fit your group. They've been there for something like 50 years and have their share of politicos going there. Their white pizza for a dinner appetizer would be very good.

I second Kanlaya, Jaleo, and Zaytinya - but don't know if they can accomodate your crowd. Zaytinya probably could, but is probably also on the upper end of your price range, after you factor in drinks.

Some other possibilities: Old Ebbitt Grill (15th and F), Chef Geoff's (13th and E), and McCormick & Schmick's (9th and F).

Up by the ACS building, you could also consider 15 Ria and maybe even Corduroy, though that may also be getting you on the upper end of your price range.

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I agree with the Zaytinya recommendation completely. It is excellent, hip, and close. And, it can accomodate large groups (with enough notice).

Kanlaya would also be an excellent choice, but I have had times when the food was not quite as fresh as I might like.

Jaleo does not accomodate groups of that size.

Cafe Atlantico could be a good choice, but might end up a little on the pricey side given your stated budget.

Marrekesh, although fun, has terrible food and is cash only; probably not a great idea for that group.

If you wanted more casual - and less expensive - you could go for teaism. They could accomodate such a group in the basement.

I would probably stay away from all of the Chinese establishments. Although there are one or two that have very good food, they are not the cleanest looking establishments, and some may not trust them. (For the record, I do, I just try to pick my audience for them).

I have not personally gone to La Tasca, and I have not heard great things, but my firm recently had an event there similar to that you are describing, and it went over pretty well.

Lebanese Taverna is nowhere near the convention center. If you are going to the trouble of taking the metro (which I would not bother to do with that large of a group if you are only talking about one night - there are lots of options within walking distance), go to someplace better than Lebanese Taverna. It is resting on its laurels. And, Zaytinya is so much better and closer.

Old Ebbitt is always a great choice, but it is a bit of a walk. Don't get me wrong - I think that it is completely walkable, but I am sometimes in the minority on this type of thing.

Good luck.

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25 is a lot of people for some of the neighborhood places, particularly if you're looking for decent food <$40 total/head.  It doesn't get much press here, and I admit I've only been here for lunch, but over at 6th and NY (a couple blocks east of the convention center) is AV Ristorante, which could certainly fit your group.  They've been there for something like 50 years and have their share of politicos going there.  Their white pizza for a dinner appetizer would be very good.

I second Kanlaya, Jaleo, and Zaytinya - but don't know if they can accomodate your crowd.  Zaytinya probably could, but is probably also on the upper end of your price range, after you factor in drinks.

Some other possibilities: Old Ebbitt Grill (15th and F), Chef Geoff's (13th and E), and McCormick & Schmick's (9th and F).

Up by the ACS building, you could also consider 15 Ria and maybe even Corduroy, though that may also be getting you on the upper end of your price range.

These are all good choices, with AV as an interesting dark horse selection, but I'd throw Chef Geoff's out of the list. I found it to be one of the foulest restaurant experiences in DC re:food AND service. I would add to the list of places to consider, Haad Thai on 11th between H St. and NY Ave.
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Marrekesh, although fun, has terrible food and is cash only; probably not a great idea for that group.

Marrekesh's food is certainly not up to the sophisticated level of some of the other places mentioned, nor does it appeal to typical egullet/chowhound types, but the food is certainly several steps above "terrible." It also has the advantage that the menu is fixed so they can do what they do fairly well. And after all, it is not trying to appeal to foodies who are looking for the greatest and latest. It is there for those looking for entertainment and a good fun time with their dinner, generally folks from all over and who's view of "good food" can even include places where foodies wouldn't be caught dead, i.e., groups which are probably not unlike the one the OP is planning to entertain. They have a very good product for that market.

Edited by johnb (log)
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Marrekesh, although fun, has terrible food and is cash only; probably not a great idea for that group.

Marrekesh's food is certainly not up to the sophisticated level of some of the other places mentioned, nor does it appeal to typical egullet/chowhound types, but the food is certainly several steps above "terrible." It also has the advantage that the menu is fixed so they can do what they do fairly well. And after all, it is not trying to appeal to foodies who are looking for the greatest and latest. It is there for those looking for entertainment and a good fun time with their dinner, generally folks from all over and who's view of "good food" can even include places where foodies wouldn't be caught dead, i.e., groups which are probably not unlike the one the OP is planning to entertain. They have a very good product for that market.

I would have agreed that it was not terrible if I were basing my statement on the food I had there a few years ago. Unfortunately, the last time I went, the food was terrible. I had arranged for a group of people from work to go there. It was my idea, as the food had before then been just fine. This time it was not.

Moreover, I was very concerned that they brought two different dishes out to one attendee and claimed that they did not contain nuts, when the nuts were (thankfully) clearly visible. We had called in advance to ask whether they could accomodate a nut allergy, and they said that they could. But, their only method for doing so was to lie about whether the dish had nuts.

After all that, however, I have to say that I will be back. It really is fun. I just don't know if it is a great bet for such a group.

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Marrekesh, although fun, has terrible food and is cash only; probably not a great idea for that group.

Cash only won't work for us. I forgot about that part.

Thanks for all the terrific ideas. So many places to eat so many things I don't get a home, and so little time!

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I've little to add except that dinner for $40 -- especially if that includes tax, tip and booze -- is going to be tough to find in DC; and that I'd go to AV Ristorante, but not for the food,.

For your more flexible moments, this thread has a lot of good information on it.

And, just for the hell of it, you might consider Bistro du Coin. Three subway stops from the convention center and they seem to open the upstairs section -- on a balcony, overlooking the main dining room -- to private parties. Sure, you could have an asshole waiter that tells the president of your firm to kiss off. But the odds of this happening have been greatly exagerated. Much more likely, you could have a loud, rowdy and very French meal with crispy frites, great mussels, a bit of onglet and a lot of wine for something within shouting distance of your price range.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Hey MelissaH it seems that the eGullet crew has come through again! Just some follow-up.

1. Re: lackadaisi's comments on the Lebanese Taverna. On my last visits to both the DC and Arlington locations the food was anything but terrible. I found the food to be delicious at both locations--freshly prepared, good service, reasonable prices. As I said earlier, it would definitely fit within your budget. Granted it's not El Bulli or the French Laundry, but you did say that your per person budget is $40.00 and not $400.00 :laugh:

Secondly, I see groups every day way larger than the 24 expected in your group utilizing the Metro to get around DC. Yes the Lebanese Taverna isn't close to the convention center, but I assume that any group coming to Washington, DC might want get around and see the sights and not just hang around where they'll be holding their meeting--at least I do when I business travel. Many visitors seem to have a lot fun using the Metro since they may not have this type of mass transit where they come from and it's sort of a mini-adventure for some out-of-towners. Anyway, it it's one stop on the Yellow/Green Line (Mt. Vernon is the stop nearest the convention center) to Metro Center, transfer to the Red Line, and a whopping 4 stops on the Red Line to Woodley Park. Not scary or that inconvenient at all, really.

2. As for Zaytinya, I've decided to boycott them. Cutting edge food and hipness aren't everything. Someone whose opinion I trust implicitly recently dined there as was treated in a pretty shabby manner by their staff over an issue that could have easily been handled better.

Well, that's all for now. Melissa wherever you decide to go, I hope you all have a wonderful time and enjoy Washington! :smile:

Edited to say: Your group can transfer one stop away at Gallery Place, not Metro center (that's two stops away).

Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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I've little to add except that dinner for $40 -- especially if that includes tax, tip and booze -- is going to be tough to find in DC; and that I'd go to AV Ristorante, but not for the food,.

For your more flexible moments, this thread has a lot of good information on it. 

And, just for the hell of it, you might consider Bistro du Coin.  Three subway stops from the convention center and they seem to open the upstairs section -- on a balcony, overlooking the main dining room -- to private parties.  Sure, you could have an asshole waiter that tells the president of your firm to kiss off.  But the odds of this happening have been greatly exagerated.  Much more likely, you could have a loud, rowdy and very French meal with crispy frites, great mussels, a bit of onglet and a lot of wine for something within shouting distance of your price range.

This thread seems to be about Canada.

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1.  Re: lackadaisi's comments on the Lebanese Taverna.  On my last visits to both the DC and Arlington locations the food was anything but terrible. 

I never said that Lebanese Taverna was terrible. I do not believe it is terrible. I said it was resting on its laurels, which I believe is the case. It used to be a place that I would travel far to get to. Now it isn't. I still enjoy it though. It is just not so exceptional as to travel across the city to go there anymore.

There are places that are worth the effort; I just wouldn't choose to go through it with that large of a group. Off the top of my head, I can think of Bistrot du Coin, the Islander, Two Amy's, El Chalan, and Heritage India. I am sure that I am missing many. And, of course, if the group had access to a bus, I would highly suggest Layalina, Thai Square and many others. If it were my group, however, I would skip all the hassle of being responsible for their travel and stick to the neighborhood that they are in.

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I've little to add except that dinner for $40 -- especially if that includes tax, tip and booze -- is going to be tough to find in DC; and that I'd go to AV Ristorante, but not for the food,.

For your more flexible moments, this thread has a lot of good information on it. 

And, just for the hell of it, you might consider Bistro du Coin.  Three subway stops from the convention center and they seem to open the upstairs section -- on a balcony, overlooking the main dining room -- to private parties.  Sure, you could have an asshole waiter that tells the president of your firm to kiss off.  But the odds of this happening have been greatly exagerated.  Much more likely, you could have a loud, rowdy and very French meal with crispy frites, great mussels, a bit of onglet and a lot of wine for something within shouting distance of your price range.

This thread seems to be about Canada.

Canada..it's just a few stops up the Yellow Line...

I think this is the right link.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 1 month later...
I would also steer clear of Cap City Brewery (although if you recall Rock Bottom fondly, you might like it).

Well, after all that they never asked for our opinion this time. I guess it's because the meeting's in DC and the society's headquartered there so all the staff live there and they know where to eat.

The group dinner's going to be at the Capital City Brewing Company. And I'm guessing we'll have a choice of three main courses: something meat, something fish or fowl, and something vegetarian.

But thanks for all your ideas, because there will be other meals to eat!

Any other eGullet chemists out there who plan to attend the ACS meeting?

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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all the staff live there and they know where to eat...

The group dinner's going to be at the Capital City Brewing Company.

Or maybe they don't know where to eat after all. :raz:

It's been my experience that the food at the CCBC near the convention center is better than at the one by Union Station, but I haven't been to either in a while.
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