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Best bets for dining in Washington, D.C.

Best bets for dining in Washington, D.C.:  Frommer's top picks for the finest bites in the city
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Best for Romance: The 1789 Restaurant, 1226 36th St. NW(tel. 202/965-1789), is one that locals, including journalist and D.C. socialite Sally Quinn, consider romantic. The five dining rooms are cozy dens -- complete with historical prints on the walls, silk-shaded brass oil lamps on tables, and, come winter, fires crackling in the fireplaces. You'll want to dress up, but don't worry, the 1789 isn't at all stuffy. And if the oyster and champagne stew with Smithfield ham and walnuts doesn't put your date in the mood for love, nothing will.

Best for Business: La Colline, 400 N. Capitol St. NW (tel. 202/737-0400), conveniently located near Capitol Hill, has a great bar, four private rooms, high-backed leather booths that allow for discreet conversations, and, last but not least, consistently good food, making it a perfect spot for the Washington breakfast meeting or fundraiser. And then there's The Caucus Room, 401 9th St. NW (tel. 202/393-1300), where there's always a whole lot of handshaking going on.

Best for Regional Cuisine: Johnny's Half Shell, 2002 P St. NW (tel. 202/296-2021), prepares superb Eastern Shore delicacies: crab cakes, crab imperial, softshell crab. While Washington doesn't have its own cuisine, per se, its central location within the Mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay region gives it license to lay claim to these local favorite foods. And nobody does 'em better than Johnny's.

Best Decor: The Willard Room, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (tel. 202/637-7440), in the historic Willard Hotel, stands out for its elegance. Its expansive dining room has a two-story-high ceiling, oak-paneled walls, enormous windows hung with shimmery drapes, green marble columns, beautifully upholstered chairs, and tables placed well apart from each other. The service and the food match the décor.

Best Haute Cuisine: Two restaurants vie for this title: CityZen, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 1330 Maryland Ave. SW (tel. 202/787-6868), and Michel Richard Citronelle, in the Latham Hotel, 3000 M St. NW (tel. 202/625-2150). Chef Eric Ziebold came to CityZen from the renowned The French Laundry, in Napa Valley; his culinary skills can take a simple mushroom and transform it (fry it, add truffles) into a spiritual experience. Likewise, Michel Richard is an artist in the kitchen, creating heavenly foods using cuttlefish, pig's feet, foie gras -- or really, any ingredient he so chooses.

Best Little Sandwich Place: The tiny Le Bon Café, 210 2nd St. SE, (tel. 202/547-7200), is not a fast food branch or a chain, which means everything is homemade and fresh -- and tastes like it. The smoked turkey club sandwich on farm bread is a treat, as are any of the delicious desserts; I especially like the pumpkin gingerbread.

Best French Cuisine: Top of the line and expensive is Gerard's Place, 915 15th St. NW (tel. 202/737-4445), where Gerard Pangaud produces exquisite taste sensations, like confit of osso bucco with a gratin of potatoes, or curried eggplant soup, or cod with sautéed endives. For French classics, with a hint of southwestern France influence, dine at Bistro D'Oc, 518 10th St. NW (tel. 202/393-5444), where dishes like cassoulet and filet mignon pepper steak are on the menu.

Best Italian Cuisine: Roberto Donna's Galileo, 1110 21st St. NW (tel. 202/293-7191), does fine Italian cuisine best, preparing exquisite pastas, fish, and meat dishes, representing various regions of Italy. Tosca, 1112 F St. NW (tel. 202/367-1990), is another winner, serving fine and unusual dishes derived from the chef's northern Italian upbringing. At Obelisk, 2029 P St. NW (tel. 202/872-1180), chef-owner Peter Pastan crafts elegantly simple and delicious food in a pleasantly spare room.

Best Pizza: At Pizzeria Paradiso, 2029 P St. NW (tel. 202/223-1245), peerless chewy-crusted pies are baked in an oak-burning oven and crowned with delicious toppings; you'll find great salads and sandwiches on fresh-baked focaccia here, too.

Best for "Taste of Washington" Experience: Eat lunch at The Monocle, 107 D St. NE (tel. 202/546-4488), and you're bound to see a Supreme Court justice, congressman, or senator dining here, too. For some down-home and delicious Washington fun, sit at the counter at Ben's Chili Bowl, 1213 U St. NW (tel. 202/667-0909), and chat with the owners and your neighbor over a chili dog or plate of blueberry pancakes; the place is an institution, and you can stop by anytime -- it's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Most Unforgettable Dining Experiences
Michel Richard Citronelle, in the Latham Hotel in Georgetown, 3000 M St. NW (tel. 202/625-2150): Richard ebulliently works in his open kitchen creating sumptuous, constantly changing dishes, from fricassee of escargots to squab leg confit with macaroni gratin and black truffles. Each presentation is a work of art, with swirls of colorful sauce surrounding the main event.

Komi, 1509 17th St. NW, Dupont Circle (tel. 202/332-9200): A dinner at Komi restores one, thanks to creative -- but not too creative -- dishes (grilled asparagus with watercress and feta, squab stuffed with foie gras and figs), polished service, and a remarkably relaxed atmosphere. And then there's the chef, the unassuming Johnny Monis, who somehow has figured this all out at the tender age of 20-something.

CityZen, 1330 Maryland Ave. SW, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, near National Mall (tel. 202/787-6868): Eric Zeibold is the chef here, having served most recently at the renowned The French Laundry, in Napa Valley. Washingtonians don't quite know what they've done to deserve the culinary gifts he bestows upon us: North Carolina rainbow trout served with petite red Russian kale and smoked salmon roe emulsion, for example. Bring a full wallet.

Restaurant 1789, 1226 36th St. NW, Georgetown (tel. 202/965-1789): Isn't it romantic? Washingtonians think so, and you will too -- especially if you're seated near one of the warming fireplaces on a wintry night, slurping up chef Riz Lacoste's oyster and champagne stew with Smithfield ham and walnuts. So put on your best duds and be prepared for a relaxing meal with only your food and your dinner companion to distract you.

Restaurant Eve, 110 Pitt St., Old Town Alexandria (tel. 703/706-0450): It's as hard to book a table here as at CityZen in the District. Exotic drinks, entrees such as bouillebaisse and butter-poached halibut with lobster, and service that includes ironing tablecloths between seatings, have drawn people here from all over the area. Birthday or not, order the "birthday cake" for dessert: delicious white cake layered and iced with pink frosting and sprinkles. Yum.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.

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