A cousin recently asked for ideas for restaurant concepts in the Washington, DC area. As you probably are already aware, I am a foodie. Like most foodies worth their salt (pun intended), I occasionally dream of restaurants that I will open one day. However, since the only person who would be the chef (my mom :-)) is getting old, this is one idea that is destined for the “wishful thinking” folder.
All that said, I did promise an email with a few links to great restaurant concepts that I had come across. While writing the email came the realization that this would make for a good blog post as well since it had many restaurant ideas and suggestions. So, here goes…
Underground Dining: A fad that is picking up steam in the US. Wikipedia defines it so much better than I can: “An underground restaurant, sometimes known as a supper club or closed door restaurant, is an eating establishment operated out of someone’s home, generally (though not invariably) bypassing local zoning and health-code regulations. They are, in effect, paying dinner parties.” I haven’t been to one, so don’t have anything to add. But here is Washington Post’s Dinner is served, but we can’t tell you where and SaltShaker’s Underground Dining Scene tracker.
Food Truck: These have already become part of DC scenery, especially around Foggy Bottom and Farragut North areas. Despite my best efforts (I even created a DC Food Trucks list on Twitter to keep track of which truck is parked where), I have not tried even one. But Colby (a client/friend) and I have this as one of our New Year Resolutions for 2012, and hopefully we will try out a few soon. Check out Food Truck Fiesta’s DC Food Truck map with real-time updates to find out if anything is in your area.
Chef Rules: There is no online menu that you can peruse because the chef cooks whatever strikes their fancy that day. You don’t have too many choices, but you don’t really mind because the food is fantastic. There is one, Obelisk (Italian), that I would recommend. (Yeah, yeah…keep your comments to yourself. I did make it to an Italian restaurant. And, I happened to love it too. So there!) I would try it again, but it is pretty pricey, so not on the cards. There is also the more affordable and hugely popular Thai X-ing that I am planning to check out soon.
Healthy Eating: This is not a DC restaurant thing per se. But I loved the idea of Cholayil Sanjeevanam, an Ayurvedic food principles based restaurant in Bangalore. The food was quite tasty and included some rare dishes (banana flower curry for one). The only pale imitation of that I had seen in DC is the Thyme Square in Bethesda MD that served organic, vegetarian food. But, apparently, they are also closed now. Food was pretty lame, so that may have contributed to that result.
Restaurant + Music & Dance: There are lots of restaurants that combine food and a performance of some kind. Music is the most common. Blues Alley has great jazz performances to go with the food. Sometimes they feature really big names, so worth watching out if you are into jazz. Dance is also quite popular. Marrakesh, in New York Avenue, is a great experience, both in terms of food (Moroccan) and performance (belly dancing). However, it is on the slightly expensive side. Good choice for special events.
Food + Theater: Mystery Dinner Playhouse (Arlington) and Blair Mansion (Silver Spring) are two murder mystery dinner theaters that I know of. Starting the evening with a murder and solving it during dinner sounds kinda unappetizing, but it was not at all morbid and quite fun really. There is also Toby’s, a musical theater in Columbia MD, which is pure fun. It has quite a talented cast. Food is ok. Toby’s was the one I liked best among the three, but then the performance may have biased me. You are mostly there for an evening of enjoyment, which they all provide in great style.
Food + Experience: There are places that create extravagant entertainment spectacles and serve food as a sideline. Medieval Times, which advertises itself as dinner and tournament, is really more about the tournament than about food. One time when we visited, there was no option for vegetarians, so they served up some salad, trying to compensate the lack of calories with an artful arrangement. I was feeling quite bad for my friend, but of course that did not stop me from gorging on the chicken. (hey, we paid for it! :-)) I did not think it was even possible to serve good food in these types of places until I ate at Choki Dhani in Jaipur (well worth a trip if you are visiting Rajasthan).