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Even with a foodie landscape as fertile as Washington’s, it can be easy to fall into a rut: Craving some Dijon baked salmon? You tend to head over to that same Northern Italian place in nearby Logan Circle. How about some pra ram chicken? If you’re in Wheaton, you have your favorite Thai eatery (there are certainly a number to choose from). Maybe you just want a burger? Of course, you have your go-to grill on Capitol Hill.
Twice a year, Restaurant Week gives you a chance to taste new adventures—and at appetizing prices ($22 for lunch and brunch; $35 for dinner, at participating venues).
“Our chefs and restaurant owners are very creative about Restaurant Week—whether that’s anything and everything on their menu for $35 or whether it's a menu curated specifically for the promotion,” says Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association, Metropolitan Washington. And, to put the cherry on the parfait, “Our restaurants are very homegrown—many different flavors and many different concepts, whether it's full service or fast casual.” All the more reason to stretch your palate at a participating eatery outside your usual feeding zone.
Ready to broaden your horizons? This Restaurant Week, consider these five dynamic metropolitan Washington neighborhoods—and the dining establishments within that we showcase below.
“Frederick has grown into a culinary destination for the surrounding area since we first arrived in 2011,” says Jason Miller, owner of the chophouse, the Wine Kitchen on the Creek. “We have seen growth in every aspect of dining out. Restaurants of all shapes and sizes have landed here.” Miller notes the arrival of many fine American restaurants specializing in beer or cocktails, along with outstanding Thai, Cuban, and Pho places—accompanied by growth in vegetarian options everywhere.
As for his own restaurant, Miller says, “The Wine Kitchen on the Creek stands out because we bring a new and modern approach to the steakhouse. All our beef is locally raised, grass-fed, and finished on grain. Not only do we have an impressive selection of beef, we have vegetarian and pescatarian and even a vegan dessert. We have created a vegetable dish using butternut squash that mimics the flavors and texture of a fillet. Plus, we have a focused wine list while our cocktail program has grown into an impressive selection of drinks that reflect whatever the current season is.”
For Restaurant Week, the Wine Kitchen on the Creek will offer a special dinner menu with a number of options for each course—many being brand new, Miller says.
Silver Spring, MD
“Since we opened five years ago in downtown Silver Spring, the area has been continuously evolving and developing,” says Molly Horn, general manager of the All Set Restaurant & Bar, an American restaurant with a coastal New England influence. “There have been exciting additions to the neighborhood. Silver Spring has always been a great spot for Ethiopian, but in recent years we have also gotten a great Mexican concept as well as an exciting, well-reviewed, upscale-casual Cuban spot. We have also seen the openings of a few local chains, such as Lebanese Taverna and Matchbox.”
In terms of what makes her restaurant special, Horn credits “our overall vibe—our service, our ambiance, our décor,” she says. “We also have a Certified Sommelier—our owner, Jennifer—as well as four Level One Sommeliers, and an excellent, easy-to-navigate wine list. I think that makes us super-unique in Silver Spring. And obviously our food is delicious, so that doesn’t hurt either.”
“The Shaw neighborhood was once considered a food desert, where the most prevalent food options were fast food, carryouts, and convenience stores,” recalls Kristal Williams, director of operations for the FishScale fish-burger restaurant in Washington. “Now, Shaw offers more cultural and health-conscious restaurants to satisfy several taste palates.”
Williams’ restaurant “FishScale typifies the new Shaw cuisine, reimagining the classic burger. The eatery’s chef, Brandon Wiliams, crafts burgers using fresh, quality ingredients from the ocean and local organic food scene. FishScale’s cast consist of a seasonal rotation of various types of wild-caught sustainable fish such as rockfish, speckled sea trout, black sea bass, sheepshead, and true-blue Maryland crab. FishScale burgers, incidentally, aren’t served with traditional condiments like ketchup and mustard. Instead the burgers are paired with house-made condiments. The goal is to never overpower the taste of the seafood.
In celebration of Restaurant Week, FishScale will offer lunch and dinner specials featuring signature fish burgers, crab burgers, and accompaniments “with some twists.”
As in other metro Washington neighborhoods, the Alexandria food scene continues to evolve. “New restaurants are popping up all the time, including new breweries and cideries” says Iain Roberts, general manager of Brabo Brasserie, which serves traditional French cuisine in Old Town. “We’re welcoming a diversity of cuisines and serving styles.” In other trends, “A lot of the newer restaurants weren’t accepting reservations the first couple of years,” Roberts notes. “Now they’re loosening up their reservation policies. I’m also seeing an increase in tableside presentations.”
Brabo, too, includes guests in that regard. “We try to do as much as we can at the table,” Roberts says. “An example of that is when we bring out our baked Alaska, a signature dessert. We really give that sense of theater to our guests.”
Brabo tries to shine in other ways. For instance, executive chef Sebastien Rondier highlights a new flavor every season. Right now, it’s eggnog: The aforementioned baked Alaska takes on a new life as an eggnog soufflé, consisting of spiked eggnog, cinnamon cake, and orange meringue, served flambé. Indeed, the restaurant, is often thought of as the place to go for special occasions (though it serves as a place for regulars too). Another example: signature dishes such as its Le Grand Duck Flambé—enough to feed a table (and which is available with 24-hours notice).
Brabo’s Restaurant Week menu “will be a representation of who we are and our values,” Roberts says. “And that's what we've done with this particular menu.”
Mount Vernon Triangle, D.C.
“If you were to drive through Mount Vernon Triangle a few years ago, there were just a few restaurants,” recalls Alex Levin, director, of strategic business & pastry programs for Schlow Restaurant Group (SRG). “There was a lot of construction and a lot of people in the city just didn't know what the neighborhood was. That’s totally changed. The neighborhood’s nearly finished and there’s 12 to 15 restaurants to choose from.”
The neighborhood, Levin says, has attracted lots of families and young adults. As such, the eateries here avoid high price points. “That kind of dictates the kind and size of restaurants that come to the neighborhood,” Levin says. In fact, one of SRG’s restaurants there, the Nama sushi bar, factored this in when creating its menu. “If you walk around and see the different sushi options in D.C. good quality sushi is really, really, expensive,” Levin says. “Nama offers exquisitely, high-quality sushi. But we also, have figured out ways to make the menu approachable for the neighborhood. Everything’s within reach.” For instance, Nama hosts a sushi happy hour every day from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, offering the entire sushi menu at discounted prices.
In celebration of Restaurant Week, Nama will offer a $35 three-course menu, starting with small plates, continuing with sushi, and finishing with dessert.
To see restaurants participating in this month's Restaurant Week—running Monday, January 13 through Sunday, January 19—and to get a look at some of the three-course menus, visit the Restaurant Week site.