A seasonal on-line special brought us to the Hotel Washington, an interesting historic structure located next door to the fabulous (and fabulously expensive) Willard InterContenental. The spacious lobby at the Hotel Washington features a lovely inlay floor, but our room itself was small, dark, and in need of updating. In addition, the piles of laundry that remained in the hallway until Monday was a bit disconcerting. On the other hand, the room seemed clean, the free wireless internet worked, and, for the low price we paid, we couldn’t really expect a view.
Apparently the Hotel Washington will soon be undergoing much-needed renovations. I suspect that when they are finished I will not be able to afford to stay again and I’ll be returning to my usual DC hotel, the Harrington. (The Harrington has a fabulous location at a reasonable cost, but that’s about it.)
For a town that serves an international power cliental, I’ve always found the dining options pretty pedestrian. I don’t know if that is still true or not since we mostly ended up at old favorites – all of which are (surprisingly in a business that changes so fast) still thriving.
On our first night out we met a colleague (Brian) who happened to be in town at the same time and had dinner at Jaleo. We began with a mix of tapas and then split the lovely seafood paella. The restaurant was loud and energetic, as always, but I love this place. Just skip the oddly flat sangria.
Many of the Smithsonian museums have cafeterias, but the one at the National Museum of the American Indian has multiple stations featuring traditional-style foods from a variety of native cultures. While you can get fry bread, you can also get golden beet soup with crab. Just remember that this is still a cafeteria, so the quality varies considerably as to both ingredients and how the dish “holds” under heat lamps. For example, although lovely in concept, the blueberry and corn fritters were both light on blueberries and corn and didn’t hold very well. The beet soup, on the other hand, was lovely.
Lane is not a big breakfast fan, so we usually end up starting the day at the somehow always convenient Corner Bakery. I think this used to be called the News Café (it is located in the National Press Club building ) and serve wonderful flaky croissants. As the Corner Bakery (a regional chain), the menu seems similar, with bakery items, full breakfasts, soup, salads, and sandwiches, but the quality has diminished some. The pictures of various media stars (mostly of the past) are still on the walls and media types do still stop in, as evidenced by the number of heavy duty cameras and sound equipment being dragged about. It’s not a bad place to grab a quick bite, it just isn’t as good as I remember.
We had intended to spend our second evening treating a young friend to a fine dinner in the district, but instead met her in Alexandria, Virginia. Unsure of where to eat (and without a decent map of Old Town), we ended up at Geranio. We were pleased with both the meal and the experience – eating delicious Italian food in a comfortable room with a cheery and warm fireplace. It was perfect for a cold night!
Teaism has a lot more than just tea (although they do have a lot of amazing teas) and makes the perfect spot for a quick breakfast or lunch. (The inevitable line moves quickly.) Despite how busy it always seems to be, the quiet Japanese-inspired interior is an oasis of calm. Lane isn’t as fond of this place as I am – the seaweed in his turkey sandwich was just too weird, but the food is fresh, light, and wholesome. I love it. (Lane loves the shop next door where they sell their tea, along with lovely imported ceramics.)
Our dinner plans the next night took a bit of a turn as well, and we ended up heading out to Silver Spring, Maryland, to meet friends at their house (Thanks, Ron and Andi!) for Moroccan take-out. Awesome Moroccan take-out from Taste of Morocco. Everything was great, but the pastillas (seasoned meat layered with crispy phyllo dough, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar) were a revelation. Wow. I wish they would open one of these here.
Perhaps my favorite restaurant in the DC area is the fabulous Café Atlantico. Since the night before Thanksgiving was pretty quiet, we actually had a quiet dinner in this usually hopping spot. We also had the opportunity to chat with the waiter, so we knew how everything was prepared – and at Café Atlantico, a lot of thought goes into the preparation! The cotton candy mojitos are not only fun, but also perfectly balanced. The crispy rice is both crisp and chewy. . . everything was both interesting and delicious. While everything we had was great, the highlight was the tuna and coconut ceviche with avocado. We split a generous serving as an appetizer, but next time I might just order two of them and call it dinner. . .
The online Washingtonian restaurant guide seems to be THE place to check for restaurant news and reviews. In addition, I like DC Foodies (although it is not comprehensive). Of course, TripAdvisor is always an option, but I found it less useful here, probably because it doesn’t cater specifically to foodies and DC is a common family destination (with the posted reviews reflecting that reality). With the exception of the Corner Bakery and the American Indian museum’s cafeteria, none of the places reviewed above are family dining spots.
There is no need for a car in DC, just hop on the subway. It couldn’t be easier or cheaper. If you are traveling any distance and plan to ride more than three times in a day, a day pass (valid after 9:30 a.m.) can save money and hassle.
Cabs to National Airport (for those not wanting to drag their luggage on the subway) may cost more than quoted because there is an extra fee for each additional passenger, for using the trunk, for letting the cabbie put your luggage in the trunk, and so on. It wasn’t exorbitant, but it was unexpected.
Often it costs more to fly into National (which is badly in need of updating), but the convenience and ability to get into the city cheaply can make it more cost effective than flying into the less accessible and more distant Dulles airport.