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Once In A Lifetime To Host My Elderly Aunt From Korea


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My mother and her sister from Korea will be visiting me in No. Va. this Sunday for 3 nights. They're both in their 70's. This is my aunt's first and probably last visit (bad heart) to the DC area and I really want to make it extra special. I would appreciate recommendations for 2 dinners.

Some info to steer us in the right direction -- We are all non-drinkers so a place's wine list is obviously not important to us. My aunt does not eat too much red meat given her heart condition but she does enjoy chicken, seafood, pasta. My aunt loves to be in a restaurant that has a nice ambiance or feel. Ideally, the ambiance would have a connection to the DC area, but that's not necessary if the place is a home run in all other areas. No Korean restaurant recommendations please, as my aunt can have that anytime when she goes back home. Budget -- unfortunately this is a factor, but $50-60/person range (before tax, tip) for each occasion seems doable.

I am not knowledgeable about the DC dining scene, so based on my limited experience, I was thinking about the Chart House in Alexandria for its view. I've been there about five times, and am not so excited about the food but I think my aunt would like being on the Potomac. Also, I liked what I read about Don's experience at Passion Fish but I have never been there -- though my aunt likes jambalaya -- I wonder if it's too crowded and noisy for her to enjoy the ambiance. I've read that the Sequoia has a good view but I've seen wide-ranging comments about the quality of its food and service so I hesitate there.

Even in a great restaurant, the worst table there could leave one feeling less than good about the experience, so if you have any recommendation, please also advise us as to the general area of the restaurant that would be good for seating or avoiding. Apologies in advance for being so detailed but I feel this need to get it right as much as I can for this one opportunity to show my aunt a good time.

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The Old Ebbitt Grill might be an option. It's been around a long time (since 1856), and has a nice, lively ambiance. A table in the side room (to the left as you enter the restaurant) would be a little less noisy than in some other spots.

In Georgetown, an outdoor table along the canal at Sea Catch would give you a (sort of) waterfront spot with some decent seafood options. Lunch might be slightly more affordable, but it looks like you could also do dinner on your budget. Weather permitting, definitely ask for an outdoor table. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

Chart House and Sequoia both have great views, but you're right with your assessment of the food. My experience with both is that food is passable and the menus are lengthy enough that there should be something to suit your needs. The view and people watching will definitely be the highlight at either place, but you also have the benefit of being in nice places (Old Town Alexandria or Georgetown) to explore afterwards, if your aunt is up for that.

It's a shame there aren't better waterfront dining options in the area. And it's also a shame that the Hotel Washington is still undergoing the transformation since the rooftop bar there was always a nice place to take out of town visitors for a drink and the view.

1789 might also be worth considering. I've not been in a couple of years, but it's definitely got a nice ambiance and is a sort of DC institution.

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Thank you for the replies so far. This is a neat experience, to receive help like this. I will be checking out each recommendation. goldenticket, your comment has me convinced to cross off Sequoia. 1789 was not on my radar but I will now have to look at it more closely to see if I can swing it on my budget. Demetrius, the room at Kinkead seems nice and cozy. Was initially afraid it was related to the rather pedestrian Kincaid's in Minnesota (chain?), but turns out not to be the case.

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For pasta, if I recall correctly, I thought Tosca has a nice ambiance in downtown DC. I am very glad Sequoia is off your list, as I didn't think it was worth the view or the cost.

I wonder if Eventide with the new rooftop opening or even its dining area would fit the bill. I enjoy the lounge menu, so I expect good things of the dining area has well, and the picture from the WaPo review looks richly royal blue.

I've not dined in the dining room at Mendocino Grille, but I've always thought it romantically cozy in there in Georgetown.

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A La Lucia in N. Old Town is a lovely Italian restaurant that has a very nice selection including pastas and seafood. What I love about the place it that it's white linen, yet affordable. Ask to sit in the main front room, at the window booth. They have a dinner special-3 courses (very generous) for $29.95. Hopefully, you can take a stroll along the Potomac, or a boat ride after dinner!

eta: I hear you about foresaking food for views-for me, sometimes it's worth adjusting the tastebuds down a few notches to sit back and enjoy with your eyes more than your palate. In that regard, The Chart House fits the bill, but you may wish to consider a dinner cruise on The Dandy.

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Why not take them to Vidalia for lunch--three course tasting menu for $19.90. And it is one of the best restaurants in DC! After lunch, take an easy walk down M Street to 17th to the National Geographic HQ and see two fascinating free exhibits: in the main museum space, brilliant close-up photos of African wild cats, and in the lobby of the building across the courtyard, 100 years of North American bird paintings from the National Geo archives. (Full disclosure: the contemporary paintings are by my husband).

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I don't know if you're willing to go further afield, but perhaps a crab house might be nice? Esp. one with a waterfront view. Others have recommended Waterman's and Cantler's. It is admittedly a lot less fancy than the other choices, but it is something that I think is pretty unique to the area. If you do try to go, call ahead as it is the mere beginning of the season.

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Reporting back after going over your very helpful replies. I would love to try 1789 (looks perfect), but the price tag is a little out of reach. For a party of 5 I can't swing it at this time, esp. since I have other expenses related to this hosting privilege.

On the other hand, what a pleasant surprise to check out the photos of the Old Ebbitt Grill -- I had no idea it looked like that inside. Wow. My aunt would love it, esp. when I tell her the history associated with the place.

Eventide website says they do not take reservations for the rooftop and, reading between the lines, the wait could be long, so that nixed it right there. Can't imagine waiting too long for a table with two ladies in their seventies after a day of sightseeing.

Vidalia, photos of the dining room looks nice. The anniversary tasting lunch special for 19.90 looks good enough to try a lunch instead of dinner. Any idea whether the portions are adequate?

I will save the recommendations for Tosca, La Lucia, Mendocino Grille, Sea Catch and the crab houses for those occasions when just my wife, daughter and I are planning to dine out. They look excellent, and they may even merit a further look as I make my final choices for this occasion. Very glad to have such choices available for those times when we grumble about not knownig where to go.

In sum, I think The Old Ebbitt Grill is choice #1 for dinner for sure. Vidalia is a backup choice for lunch if we don't do another dinner out. Would love to find one more dinner place. Current backup for dinner #2 is the Chart House for its view (thanks to monavano for the "enjoy with your eyes more than your palate" wisdom).

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At that price point you can sneak in the 2 courses + dessert ($58) at Palena...or splurge a little and go with the three course + dessert ($67). Chef Frank Ruta is a former White House chef.

http://www.palenarestaurant.com/MENU.htm

Take her out for something she probably would never eat in Korea...Ethiopian along U street.

Another meal option if you are touring around DC is Saturday or Sunday brunch at the Tabard Inn. Beautiful outdoor patio.

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Dear wife has thrown a monkey wrench regarding dinner #1 at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Her input is that it's on par with Sweetwater or its sister restaurants in terms of atmosphere and food, so given our geographical logistics (after sightseeing DC, have to go back to Fairfax to pick up daughter and come back to DC during dinner time) OEG is not so superior as to make it worth it. I do see her point so I'm rethinking dinner #1 while still needing two restaurants for two dinners.

Thank you for all the suggestions. If not used for my aunt's visit, my wife and I are looking forward to trying them out throughout the year(s). Now that I've thought through our driving logistics, I may focus more on recommendations of restaurants located in No. Va. unless something really stands out.

Tweaked's Ethiopian comment jogged a memory ... my aunt loves American cuisine but also likes Thai food, and good Thai food is rare back home for her. Is there an opinion as to the best Thai place in the DC area? Ambiance/decor is most important, then food quality. For example, I really like Po Siam but I feel like the room is too small and does not that have that special feel that I'm looking for. Thank you again for all the replies and I'll report back again when I've made some choices.

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Dear wife has thrown a monkey wrench regarding dinner #1 at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Her input is that it's on par with Sweetwater or its sister restaurants in terms of atmosphere and food, so given our geographical logistics (after sightseeing DC, have to go back to Fairfax to pick up daughter and come back to DC during dinner time) OEG is not so superior as to make it worth it. I do see her point so I'm rethinking dinner #1 while still needing two restaurants for two dinners.

Thank you for all the suggestions. If not used for my aunt's visit, my wife and I are looking forward to trying them out throughout the year(s). Now that I've thought through our driving logistics, I may focus more on recommendations of restaurants located in No. Va. unless something really stands out.

Tweaked's Ethiopian comment jogged a memory ... my aunt loves American cuisine but also likes Thai food, and good Thai food is rare back home for her. Is there an opinion as to the best Thai place in the DC area? Ambiance/decor is most important, then food quality. For example, I really like Po Siam but I feel like the room is too small and does not that have that special feel that I'm looking for. Thank you again for all the replies and I'll report back again when I've made some choices.

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Hm, I just ran across the Gatsby Tavern thread and didn't know if this would be of interest. Haven't been there though, but it's "patriotic" sounding.

Gadsby's Tavern is a great suggestion. Again, the food..ok enough, but it's a Colonial atmosphere similar to Williamsburg. Along the same lines, you may wish to think about the restaurant at Mount Vernon: The Mount Vernon Inn. The view on the lawn, over the Potomac, is something to see, and the new museum is very interesting and I might add, kinda impressive.

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Dear wife has thrown a monkey wrench regarding dinner #1 at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Her input is that it's on par with Sweetwater or its sister restaurants in terms of atmosphere and food, so given our geographical logistics (after sightseeing DC, have to go back to Fairfax to pick up daughter and come back to DC during dinner time) OEG is not so superior as to make it worth it. I do see her point so I'm rethinking dinner #1 while still needing two restaurants for two dinners.

Thank you for all the suggestions. If not used for my aunt's visit, my wife and I are looking forward to trying them out throughout the year(s). Now that I've thought through our driving logistics, I may focus more on recommendations of restaurants located in No. Va. unless something really stands out.

Tweaked's Ethiopian comment jogged a memory ... my aunt loves American cuisine but also likes Thai food, and good Thai food is rare back home for her. Is there an opinion as to the best Thai place in the DC area? Ambiance/decor is most important, then food quality. For example, I really like Po Siam but I feel like the room is too small and does not that have that special feel that I'm looking for. Thank you again for all the replies and I'll report back again when I've made some choices.

Mai Thai Old Town-just about on the river--outdoor seating and I think you can get river views if you ask for a table upstairs by the window. You can walk across the street and relax on a bench at the river after dinner, and just watch the scenery-planes, people, performers.

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Vidalia, photos of the dining room looks nice. The anniversary tasting lunch special for 19.90 looks good enough to try a lunch instead of dinner. Any idea whether the portions are adequate?

The portions are slightly smaller than dinner-sized, but three courses plus the fabulous bread/biscuit/cornbread basket will be more than adequate for adults. The seventy+ year-old ladies will be complaining that there was too much food.

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Food-wise, there are some seriously raunchy restaurants being mentioned on this thread!

DonRocks, would you care to let me know which of the restaurants fall under such description? Would help me in weighing all the choices. For context, many of the recommendations were in keeping with my comment that ambiance/decor was the primary consideration, although obviously we do not want to sit in a pretty setting and have a "raunchy" meal. Thanks for your help, as I value each input.

An update -- it looks like Vidalia tasting lunch special will make the cut. The ladies want to visit the Phillips Collection, which makes it an easy lunch at Vidalia before/after that. Can't wait!

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In-Progress report.

From the many recommendations thus far, I chose Vidalia for lunch today for meal #1. Probably the best $20 lunch (tasting menu) I ever had. Food -- delicious, superb. The salad dressing on my salad was heavenly. How does one put that much smoke flavor on a cream sauce? My mom and aunt raved about the soft shell crabs. The pecan pie was absolutely spot on.

Comment on ordering/what I got. This could be a mistake on my part, but I'm 99% sure it's not -- I asked the server's opinion between the shrimp w/grits and the tenderloin. Could swear he said the latter was better so I went with his recommendation. Out comes the shrimp w/grits, though. I questioned the server and he held firm but offered to change the dish, but I dropped the matter because the mood of the meal would have been disrupted. Driving home, it annoyed me a little (enough to write this). Oh well, I'll write it off to mutual misunderstanding and chalk up the meal as an A no matter what. I'll be back for sure.

Thank you very much for the Vidalia recommendation. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Will do meal #2 soon.

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From the many recommendations thus far, I chose Vidalia for lunch today for meal #1.

<snip>

Thank you very much for the Vidalia recommendation. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Will do meal #2 soon.

That's pretty funny, cause I was the one who first recommended Vidalia to you, and I was there for lunch today, too. A friend of mine was visiting from out of town and we had a great meal, as well. I had the chilled cucumber soup which was absolutely brilliant, and the veal paillard. And I love the lemon chess pie too much to consider any other dessert.
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That's pretty funny, cause I was the one who first recommended Vidalia to you, and I was there for lunch today, too. A friend of mine was visiting from out of town and we had a great meal, as well. I had the chilled cucumber soup which was absolutely brilliant, and the veal paillard. And I love the lemon chess pie too much to consider any other dessert.

That would have been pretty neat to run into you there, as it was your recommendation and subsequent further research that got us there. We arrived about 1:45 pm and sat near the wine room, against the frosted glass divider at the lower level of the restaurant. Now I wish I tried the chilled cucumber soup too, though my salad was superb. I did have the lemon chess pie! I shared my aunt's pecan pie, which really impressed me because pecan pie is something that I have some context from which to compare its quality (also superb, actually better than superb). Lastly, I do recall the mention of your husband's work on display at the the National Geographic ... we could not make it there this time but I hope to do so before too long. Thanks again.

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Gadsby's Tavern is a great suggestion. Again, the food..ok enough, but it's a Colonial atmosphere similar to Williamsburg. Along the same lines, you may wish to think about the restaurant at Mount Vernon: The Mount Vernon Inn. The view on the lawn, over the Potomac, is something to see, and the new museum is very interesting and I might add, kinda impressive.

Final Report -- Meal #2 was today, lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn. Some background info to explain the odd choice. Yes, I would have preferred to choose from many of the fine restaurants that were recommended, but my two 70+ year old ladies had some peculiar requirements. Neither of them eat dinner, which I did not know before this visit and which severely limited meal options. We were doing Mount Vernon today and it was either leave the place or stay, eat at the Inn, and enjoy the area more afterwards. So we ate at the Inn.

Dining experience grade -- C. My chicken salad sandwich was OK, but the bread was stale, very stale. My mom's soup came out barely warm and we had to send it back. The ladies' ham sandwiches were too salty. I though the view would somehow make up for the food but I was WRONG. There is no view to speak of from the Mount Vernon Inn restaurant. The Mount Vernon Inn restaurant is located near the circular driveway where cars drop people off to enter the estate. From the restaurant, you get absolutely none of the spectacular view for which Mount Vernon Mansion is known for. Lesson learned.

Overall, this was a lot of fun, to experience the help and to learn about the great restaurants in this area. Thank you all.

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