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I have lived in Woodley Park three years now and the dining scene depresses me. New and exciting restaurants seem to cycle through neighboring Cleveland Park all the time though Woodley is stuck with the same, uninspired characters which seem to subsist on unaware conference attendees and zoo traffic.

Was excited to see a new restaurant going in over the summer only to discover it was another Indian place (Naan Wise) of which Woodley already has one (Rajaji-okay) and Cleveland Park two (Indique, Bindass-very good ).

Why is Woodley dining so stagnant and bad? Any thoughts? Or hopefully contradictions...  

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2 hours ago, RBeats said:

I have lived in Woodley Park three years now and the dining scene depresses me. New and exciting restaurants seem to cycle through neighboring Cleveland Park all the time though Woodley is stuck with the same, uninspired characters which seem to subsist on unaware conference attendees and zoo traffic.

Was excited to see a new restaurant going in over the summer only to discover it was another Indian place (Naan Wise) of which Woodley already has one (Rajaji-okay) and Cleveland Park two (Indique, Bindass-very good ).

Why is Woodley dining so stagnant and bad? Any thoughts? Or hopefully contradictions...  

Probably because it has the same demographics as Bethesda (which you should visit before you complain about your choices) and even closer proximity to the great new places opening up farther east.  

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We lived in Woodley Park for a while and I think you answered your own question: "conference attendees and zoo traffic." That's a lot of foot traffic and you've got to appeal to the masses.

We never went to any of the places in Woodey Park itself, wasn't worth it. Our only two exceptions were the breakfast buffet at the Omni (but don't tell all the tourists waiting at Open City) and the Gin Joint back in it's heyday.

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1 hour ago, horacebailey14 said:

We lived in Woodley Park for a while and I think you answered your own question: "conference attendees and zoo traffic." That's a lot of foot traffic and you've got to appeal to the masses.

We never went to any of the places in Woodey Park itself, wasn't worth it. Our only two exceptions ....and the Gin Joint back in it's heyday.

What about the Gin Joint now??

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I'm certain we've discussed this before, but Woodley Park is a neighborhood whose commerce is entirely built around two tourist hotels: The Omni Shoreham, and The Marriott Wardman. Not only that, but reputable restaurateurs have told me that those hotels take, well, let me get my facts more current before I go down that path (in the meantime, look at their concierges' "recommended restaurant" lists which they hand out to clients. Suffice it to say that this pocket of restaurants is probably the worst in the DC area, probably even worse then 23rd Street South in Crystal City. RBeats, thanks for posting, and welcome to the community - do you by any chance rent rather than own?

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7 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I'm certain we've discussed this before, but Woodley Park is a neighborhood whose commerce is entirely built around two tourist hotels: The Omni Shoreham, and The Marriott Wardman. Not only that, but reputable restaurateurs have told me that those hotels take, well, let me get my facts more current before I go down that path (in the meantime, look at their concierges' "recommended restaurant" lists which they hand out to clients. Suffice it to say that this pocket of restaurants is probably the worst in the DC area, probably even worse then 23rd Street South in Crystal City. RBeats, thanks for posting, and welcome to the community - do you by any chance rent rather than own?

Years ago, I worked in a restaurant at the former Sheraton Washington, now the Wardman Park. The restaurants in the hotel would go from empty at 6PM to completely full with lines at the door by 7PM. Daily. This is what the surrounding restaurants have to deal with, as well. In convention hotels, people drift around in very large groups and it is not unusual for "table for 20" to show up unannounced at the height of the dinner rush. It is both a blessing and a curse in that neighborhood. 

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I feel your pain, RBeats.  But alas, it will probably always be thus.  My strategy for coping has been to have a go-to in mind when we need to find a place to eat, temper my expectations, and be prepared to be flexible.  District Kitchen has had stretches where we really enjoyed it, but can be unexpectedly slammed with conventioneers as noted above.  Lately we like Umi for decent Japanese/Sushi.  It's not at street level so the tourists overlook it I think.  Better dining can be found a short trip to the north, south, or east

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Sherry's Wine & Spirits has a nice wine selection and a wide ranging beer selection.  Plus they have an arrangement with the hotels for store staff accommodation during snow storms so they can stay open.

Is Afghan Grill still doing well?  We have had nice meals there in the past, they do an excellent Afghan pumpkin dish.   

And unfortunately "New and exciting restaurants seem to cycle through neighboring Cleveland Park all the time" is sadly not true (at least along the Connecticut Avenue commercial strip).

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1 hour ago, Sluggo said:

I feel your pain, RBeats.  But alas, it will probably always be thus.  My strategy for coping has been to have a go-to in mind when we need to find a place to eat, temper my expectations, and be prepared to be flexible.  District Kitchen has had stretches where we really enjoyed it, but can be unexpectedly slammed with conventioneers as noted above.  Lately we like Umi for decent Japanese/Sushi.  It's not at street level so the tourists overlook it I think.  Better dining can be found a short trip to the north, south, or east

GrubHub to the rescue. 

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10 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I'm certain we've discussed this before, but Woodley Park is a neighborhood whose commerce is entirely built around two tourist hotels: The Omni Shoreham, and The Marriott Wardman. Not only that, but reputable restaurateurs have told me that those hotels take, well, let me get my facts more current before I go down that path (in the meantime, look at their concierges' "recommended restaurant" lists which they hand out to clients. Suffice it to say that this pocket of restaurants is probably the worst in the DC area, probably even worse then 23rd Street South in Crystal City. RBeats, thanks for posting, and welcome to the community - do you by any chance rent rather than own?

Don:  I believe I've seen your comments that were somewhat critical of restaurants in the area and the process of tipping/compensating hotel staff/particularly concierges for suggesting/recommending certain restaurants in the area.

Having looked at this a bit were I to operate a restaurant in the area I'd absolutely try and advertise/market it to hotel guests.  It would be a major marketing thrust.   No qualms about doing so.  If I operated the hotel I'd look to gain advertising dollars from local restaurants, and if I were a concierge in one of the hotels I'd look to make money from restaurateurs. 

The two major hotels in the area provide 2000 rooms.  Overwhelmingly the (guess work on this number) the 1500-1800 hotel guests per night are going to dine out in a restaurant, most often immediately accessible to the hotels->Woodley Park.  As a restaurateur it would be incumbent upon me to advertise/market to that audience.  In fact I'd guess the 1500-1800 guests per night are more likely diners on a nightly basis than the 20 -30,00 or so who live in Woodley Park in a residence.

There are an enormous number of restaurants who do a large amount of revenues from hotel visitors.  There are savvy restaurateurs who make this an every day element of their marketing efforts.   And lastly if you read through reviews on yelp, google, and trip advisor, you will note how many reviews are written by visitors to the region

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1 hour ago, DaveO said:

Don:  I believe I've seen your comments that were somewhat critical of restaurants in the area and the process of tipping/compensating hotel staff/particularly concierges for suggesting/recommending certain restaurants in the area.

Having looked at this a bit were I to operate a restaurant in the area I'd absolutely try and advertise/market it to hotel guests.  It would be a major marketing thrust.   No qualms about doing so.  If I operated the hotel I'd look to gain advertising dollars from local restaurants, and if I were a concierge in one of the hotels I'd look to make money from restaurateurs. 

The two major hotels in the area provide 2000 rooms.  Overwhelmingly the (guess work on this number) the 1500-1800 hotel guests per night are going to dine out in a restaurant, most often immediately accessible to the hotels->Woodley Park.  As a restaurateur it would be incumbent upon me to advertise/market to that audience.  In fact I'd guess the 1500-1800 guests per night are more likely diners on a nightly basis than the 20 -30,00 or so who live in Woodley Park in a residence.

There are an enormous number of restaurants who do a large amount of revenues from hotel visitors.  There are savvy restaurateurs who make this an every day element of their marketing efforts.   And lastly if you read through reviews on yelp, google, and trip advisor, you will note how many reviews are written by visitors to the region

Better have a good POS system. 100 separate checks a night could torpedo your service. 

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9 hours ago, DaRiv18 said:

Hot N Juicy is a guilty pleasure, I must say.  Dare I say, destination restaurant?

I have been curious about that place, but haven’t tried it.  It seemed to have a surge of popularity this summer.  More than once, I saw they had a guy out front just to manage the long line to get in

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Having lived up the hill in CP for many years, we have regularly ventured down to Woodley Park to eat when we wanted something different. I agree with the general sentiment that Woodley is not a foodie destination, but it does have some good eats.  Duke's Counter next to the zoo can be very good (especially the burger and drinks), Baked by Yael is a good grab and go dessert place, Lebanese Taverna has good food and since it was renovated a few years ago, very nice atmosphere inside (excellent baba ghanoush, ouzi lamb that comes with lamb-stuffed grape leaves, spinach fatayer, etc.), Tono Sushi while only ok sushi has rather good non-sushi Japanese items such as zaru soba (perfect on a hot day), tempura, etc., and Open City is what it is - I'm not a big fan but my wife and kids like going there - she likes the housemade veggie burger. I've been to Umi also a few times for a quick lunch and thought it was also a decent option - note it is a small restaurant. Afghan Grill was really good but I haven't been in a number of years since I had a lackluster meal - maybe time to try again. Also, it does have a real ice cream shop, not froyo, aka Baskin Robins, which while it is not artisanal gelato - it does have one of my all-time original, favorite flavors World Class Chocolate (a very creamy, not super rich chocolate blend available at every BR for last 30 years or so). So I get the complaint, but don't right it off completely.  Also nando's isn't half bad for fast casual food. 

Also regarding the grass is greener comment about CP, I won't quibble that overall we have better restaurants but some of our "new" restaurants in the last few years include the not great Mr. Chen's Chinese that moved from Woodley to CP. So it is not all great. 

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Mama Ayesha's on Calvert is a solid taste of Middle Eastern food in an establishment that oozes history, right down to the mural of the presidents on the outside wall. I would go there before I would go to the Lebanese Taverna around the corner, but having said that, I would go to Lebanese Taverna in Arlington and Tysons Galleria before I would go to Mama Ayesha's.

But any discussion of serious eating in this area has to include Mama Ayesha's.

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55 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Mama Ayesha's on Calvert is a solid taste of Middle Eastern food in an establishment that oozes history, right down to the mural of the presidents on the outside wall. I would go there before I would go to the Lebanese Taverna around the corner, but having said that, I would go to Lebanese Taverna in Arlington and Tysons Galleria before I would go to Mama Ayesha's.

But any discussion of serious eating in this area has to include Mama Ayesha's.

Coincidentally I was eating and drinking at The Gin Joint in Woodley Park and spoke with a long term local also at the bar.  He described the Lebanese Taverna at Woodley Park as their "flagship".  He also referenced Mama Ayesha's and referenced that the late Helen Thomas, evidently a former resident of Woodley Park,  was married there.    (Well to each his or her own)

Now as to the Gin Joint, I was referenced to it via.....

1.  A grad of the bar school landed a bartending job there two months ago.

2.  With a name like Gin Joint, it attracted my attention.

3.  I dwelt on it a bit due to the influence of the Gin and Tonic Project, referenced in this forum

4.  And noticed a recent 5 star review on Yelp wherein our grad Kate was highlighted.

So I meandered over.  I enjoyed it, both having two gins along with some bar food and a thoroughly delightful branzino presented above snap peas and a pesto risotto. from the restaurant

In any case if I wanted to expand my knowledge of gins, and enjoy the company of a delightful bartender along with a nice menu I'd give The Gin Joint a try.  Photos below show how the G&T's would be presented, along with the Gin menu.  That is quite formidable.  Kate the bartender referenced an aged in a wine barrel gin where in the customer mentioned he tasted the wines.

G & T's  Gin Joint.jpg

Gin inventory Gin Joint.jpg

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2 minutes ago, DaveO said:

Coincidentally I was eating and drinking at The Gin Joint in Woodley Park and spoke with a long term local also at the bar.  He described the Lebanese Taverna at Woodley Park as their "flagship".  He also referenced Mama Ayesha's and referenced that the late Helen Thomas, evidently a former resident of Woodley Park,  was married there.    (Well to each his or her own)

I'm too lazy to look it up on another thread, but Helen Thomas was dean of the White House press corps, and she had a private table reserved for her at Mama Ayesha's. Helen Thomas was of Lebanese descent, and Mama Ayesha's was her place. When she died in 2013, Mama Ayesha's held a memorial for her at the restaurant, which was well attended by dignitaries.

Lebanese Taverna's flagship is the original location in Westover in Arlington. I was going there regularly when I moved to the area in 1980, before it expanded to include the place next door. It is and always will be the original.

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11 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I'm too lazy to look it up on another thread, but Helen Thomas was dean of the White House press corps, and she had a private table reserved for her at Mama Ayesha's. Helen Thomas was of Lebanese descent, and Mama Ayesha's was her place. When she died in 2013, Mama Ayesha's held a memorial for her at the restaurant, which was well attended by dignitaries.

Lebanese Taverna's flagship is the original location in Westover in Arlington. I was going there regularly when I moved to the area in 1980, before it expanded to include the place next door. It is and always will be the original.

Actually I'd take your advice over that of the "local".   Meanwhile I realized I hadn't dined in Woodley Park in probably over a decade, so walked around a bit to reacquaint with the commercial neighborhood.  In the latter 70's early 80's I had a close friend who with his close friend had purchased a townhouse and fixed it up on Calvert Street, just down a bit from Mama Ayesha's.  Dined at Mama Ayesha's a fair amount, plus that house created an easy starting point for us to explore the wonders of Adams Morgan.

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