Delicious dishes: Where to eat in D.C.

Commencement weekend involves a whirlwind of activities that inevitably include at least one big family dinner and a few other lighter meals out on the town. Unfortunately, the most famous and expensive restaurants have all been booked up for Friday and Saturday night since December, but that won’t preclude a reservation-less family from enjoying a nice meal. There are plenty of other places around our nation’s capitol to satisfy almost any palate.

Lauriol Plaza, located at 1835 18th St., NW in Adams Morgan, is a popular destination for GW students who want something better than Au Bon Pain but cheaper than Kinkead’s for a nice dinner out. It’s a hot spot for first dates, birthdays and the last day of exams. The fajitas are served sizzling and scrumptious and all the other meals aren’t too shabby either – you’ll find yourself sticking your fork across the table onto Aunt Betty’s plate. But what Lauriol is best known for are the frozen margaritas. Regular, strawberry or swirled, they are refreshing, vibrant and will calm any pre-graduation jitters. Lauriol doesn’t take reservations, so you know they won’t be booked for the weekend. But be prepared to wait on the front patio with your salt-rimmed drink for a while because on Saturday night, the place is packed as tight as their chimichanga.

If it’s Asian food that you’re looking for, Caf? Asia (1720 I St., NW near Farragut West) is the place to be. If the graduate wants pad Thai, the little sister wants yaki soba and Mom and Dad want sushi, the menu will be a perfect fit. The selection is also vegetarian friendly- almost all of the main entrees are designed with a choice of vegetables, chicken, beef or shrimp. The eclectic menu is unique but what really separates this restaurant from other D.C. dining centers is the decor. Along the entrance wall are square, neon light panels that constantly shift colors. The chairs are modern and sleek and the lighting is dim against the white walls and metal surfaces. Caf? Asia also has an exotic drink menu including a ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ drink. Unfortunately, the exotic drinks all costs around $10 so you might want to stick with a creamy Thai iced tea.

If you’re a little more adventurous, it’s worth checking out Penang at 1837 M St., NW. It’s a trendy yet elegant Malaysian restaurant boasting a large and exotic menu. The Buah Mango, chicken or shrimp tossed with peppers and mango slices in a spicy mango sauce, is a sweet and sour mouth-watering treat. It will pair quite nicely with one of their fruity drinks- like a crisp melontini straight from their full bar. The seating is cozy and comfortable and the room is dimly lit and decorated with far eastern furnishings. If weather permits, there is outside seating that looks onto the hopping M Street bar area.

The city is a great place to sample world cuisine, but sometimes straight up American grub hits the spot. Old Glory (3139 M St., N.W.) in Georgetown offers good ole American BBQ from across the nation. Their logo includes a bald eagle and two American flags, just so you don’t forget where you are as you chomp into another piece of skillet cornbread. The beef brisket is tender, the atmosphere is obviously relaxed, the wait staff are friendly and they’ve got enough varieties of hot sauce to keep your mouth burning for a few days.

Locals and out-of-towners alike are often seduced by another all-American establishment, Georgia Brown’s (950 15th St., N.W.). If you want to indulge in mindless quantities of food double-fried and tossed in butter sauce, this is the place for you. And while the food is certainly artery-clogging, it’s somewhat underwhelming. The Louisiana “deviled” shrimp is an enticing combo of Gulf shrimp and crab cakes, although the shrimp is flavorless and the crab cakes are filled with less crab than stuffing. However, the side dishes can be quite yummy – the bacon-wrapped, blue cheese- stuffed dates present a unique sweet and tangy flavor that lasts through a few sips of water. The fried green tomatoes are also quite memorable, as the oil refuses to overshadow the tomato’s bright acidity. If you have any health-conscious bone in your body, Georgia Brown’s is going to hurt.

Mie n Yu (3125 M St., N.W.) is one of Georgetown’s finest. Both the menu and the dining rooms were crafted to emulate the Silk Road. The main dinner area is decorated like a Moroccan bazaar, complete with flowing fabrics and rich color schemes. There are various private tables designed to comfortably seat six amidst the vibrant atmosphere. Moreover, the servers are extremely well versed in food knowledge. One particularly friendly woman explained the process by which Humboldt Fog cheese is made (the second layer is added a day after the first, which is protected overnight by a layer of ash.) The cheese happens to be the centerpiece for one of the best appetizers you’ll sample in your lifetime, roasted beets, which is a misleading title for this utterly complex plate of candied and yellow beets surrounding a hefty chunk of Humboldt Fog, drizzled with white truffle oil and complemented by petite beet tops. When combined, the favors demonstrate a chemical reaction in your mouth that creates a sensational flavor, entirely new to your palate. There is also an unforgettable blueberry-crusted lamb loin and a fascinating miso-roasted Long Island duck. The food can be jaw-dropping, the interior is gorgeous and the location is perfect. If you can’t get in for dinner, lunch and brunch are just as tasty and a little less pricey.

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