Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Inauguration Eats

by Brandon Johnson

On January 20, 2009, 4 million appetites will be in D.C. to join in the inauguration festivities. And after eating in Washington for 20+ years, I’ve found restaurants that will satisfy any spoon from the melting pot. Here is a guide to inauguration through eclectic food havens native to the Capital:

Bus Boys and Poets (American)
If you’re hungry for artichoke pizza or mushroom and blue cheese burgers with a side of substance, travel to Bus Boys and Poets. As a neighbor to D.C.’s popular restaurant and lounge filled U St, Bus Boys and Poets is a conscience rarity. They balance politics, poetry, and succulent food (and they have a bookstore)! The environment is much like an vibrant living room; filled with art and a variety of sofas. You will see people on laptops, first dates, poetry being recited and groups of friends watching political debates on the flat screens. Bus Boys and Poets is an artistic meeting place that literally provides food for thought.

La Tomate (Light Italian)
This quaint neighborhood Italian treasure seats about 25 tables and is a great place for drinks, and pasta. La Tomate perfects their Caesar salad and, interestingly enough, their Long Island Iced Tea (clearly not Italian). It is smooth and not too hard with a refreshing taste – the way it ought to be. The drinks are to be followed by the two best items on the menu, the seafood pastas. The Trenette Nere “La Tomate” has squid ink pasta, which complements the plump shrimp, shitake mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes it comes with to make it taste even more vibrant. The Fettuccine all’Adriatico is no contest, with a smoky tomato and white wine sauce that blankets the fettuccini, mussels, clams, and shrimp. La Tomate gives you a lighter side of Italy in Washington’s sophisticated and romantic Dupont circle.

Napoleon (French)
Napoleon Bistro and Lounge is hidden on the corner of Adams Morgan, but it remains popular because of its savior faire. They know just how to combine exceptional cuisine with a party. Don’t get me wrong, the two sections are not together, actually the "foodies" (upstairs) would not notice the "clubbies" (downstairs) and vice versa (though they should). The perfectly seasoned escargot, tender lamb chops, and fresh mussels are exquisite, and the club with its eclectic music, baroque décor, and fashionable socialites, is sophisticated yet unpretentious. Napoleon Bistro and Lounge is where D.C.’s chic come to eat well and have fun. They also specialize in champagne cocktails. Talk about a celebration!

Mendocino Grill (Californian)
Look it’s California on M St., in D.C.! Alice Waters would be proud to see this fresh seasonal menu. With fitting cuisine for inauguration’s winter weather, you can choose from the Snake River Farms' wagyu bistro steak, swiss chard, rissolée potatoes, carrots with beef jus, or South Carolina quail, cornbread, pancetta and pecan stuffing, with sweet potato puree and salmis sauce, you can't go wrong. Just make sure you don’t get so full that you cant enjoy the rest of the entertainment that neighbors this California gem in the heart of Georgetown.

Mei Wah (Chinese)
This is the best Chinese food in the area and the Washington Post agrees. Mei Wah is a causal bi-level restaurant, located on the way in to the fashion-filled Georgetown. With healthy portions and decent prices, Mei Wah serves everything from Sliced Pork in Plum Sauce, to General Tso’s Chicken, to Mongolian Lamb, to my favorite Hunan Shrimp with delicate vegetables and a light sauce. If you’re looking to get away from all the madness, you can find refuge and remarkable cuisine here, located on a peaceful corner of M St. And if you were lucky enough to score a hotel during inauguration, they deliver!

Mei n Yu (Eclectic)
Lit by Moroccan lanterns and filled with Turkish tints, Mei N Yu continues to be recognized for its wondrous atmosphere. Inspired by Moroccan and Asian design, Mei N Yu is a restaurant and lounge for D.C.'s stylish and sociable crowd. Located in the middle of Georgetown, this restaurant is appreciated for its eclectic environment and melodies. The bar is especially popular not only for it's extravagant wine, list but for its tunes as well. The DJ booth is located in front of a huge Buddha sculpture and people relax on plush pillows to enjoy music and martinis. The menu at Mei N Yu includes Dim Sum, juicy steak kabobs, and a multitude cultural tapas. Mei N Yu is an artistic fusion of food, design and socializing, perfect to unwind after inauguration activities for a true feel of the city.

Filomena (Hearty Italian)
Perfect for a cold night, Filomena is known for their hearty Italian cuisine, famous patrons, and fresh pasta (which you can see being made by little old Italian ladies in the restaurant). They also specialize in over-the-top charming decorations. Valentines Day transforms the space into a romantic scene where hearts and life-size cupids float above your Chicken Parmesan. I can imagine election day will inspire extra enormous décor to accompany your Gnocchi della Mamma. If that’s not enough, Filomena just won the 2008 City’s Best Italian award, for the third consecutive year. Filomena is the perfect restaurant to brighten your celebratory spirit, and appetite for traditional Italian cooking; and who knows, you may even see Bill and Hillary sitting next to you.

Etete (Ethiopian)
Love to eat with your hands? Etete is an extension of the energetic and smart lounges, restaurants and clubs that pack U St. for blocks. The injera, a soft dough pancake used in place of utensils, is covered with an abundance of flavors. The vegetarian Misir Wot - pureed split red lentil are simmered in berbere sauce, and the Tibs - prime beef sauteed with onion, tomato, garlic and jalapeno, is a filling feast for two. You can sit upstairs for a more intimate vibe or people-watch from the window seats downstairs. Most importantly, when you dine at Etete, the experience is not only in the fragrant food but also the way in which you eat it.

Lauriol Plaza (Mexican)
Ahhh, the smell of fajitas, margaritas and affordable prices… Lauriol is an ideal place to bring a big group of friends, pre or post inauguration. Lauriol is the Washingtonian gathering place for delicioso food and big portions. With a no reservation policy, patrons wait at the bar with sangrias, mojitos and warm chips with homemade salsa for their name to be called. You’ve never seen faces light up like when their name is called to sit down because you know your steak, shrimp or chicken fajitas (all under $14) will be cooked perfectly and your seafood soup with scallops, shrimp and mussels will the spot on. This three level restaurant is a place to get away from tourists and mingle with the D.C. crowd over succulent Mexican-inspired cuisine.

Sam and Harry’s (American Steak and Seafood House)
When only a big, fat, juicy steak will do, go to Sam and Harry’s, located adjacent to a popular strip of bars and fancy clubs just off M Street. S&H is made up of everything a steakhouse should be, with rich dark wooden booths, an elegant wine list, old horn and piano dominated jazz music, and six varieties of steaks with illustrious seafood compliments. The prime-aged Delmonico is a 22 oz. bone-in rib steak and can be enhanced with their entrée accompaniments. Or simply try the Surf and Turf; a 2 oz jumbo lump crab cake and a 4 oz filet medallion with sauce béarnaise and lemon herb tartar.So if you want to get all dolled up in the celebratory spirit of a new President and hang out in an atmosphere with the soul of a 70’s steakhouse, Sam and Harry’s is your place.


Avmart said...

Your commentary and range of great eateries is very informative. If and when I go to D.C. I will make it an appoint to visit some of them.


Andrea said...

Can't wait to go try one of these when I'm in D.C. next month B!