Saturday, November 8, 2014

SfN 2014 restaurant guide and other things to do in DC

For the first time I am learning what it's like to be in the SfN host city and while everyone in the lab gets to go for cheap, the prep is not trivial. I have been suggesting restaurants, making reservations, organizing dinners, lunches, etc for the past couple of weeks, so now my readers get to reap the benefits of such activity and get a break from my new lab management rumblings.


The best source for restaurants in DC is usually the Washingtonian “Very Best Restaurant” list. I’ve never gone wrong trying one of these.  Several are already booked for the weekend of the conference from 5pm to 9pm, so make your reservations pronto. The list is across DC, Virginia and Maryland, so make sure you figure out where they are located.

This said these are my favorites in the Convention Center area (in no particular order). Click the names for more info.

Casa Luca (Italian) 1099 New York Ave NW (11th and NY Ave – 5 min walk) Great central Italian food from Fabio Trabocchi who is one of the most popular chefs in town. This is the cheapest of his restaurants which also include Fiola @ 601 Pennsylvania (6th and Indiana Ave – 12 min walk) and the hottest new restaurant (and Obama favorite apparently) FiolaMare @ 3100 K st NW in Georgetown (31st and K on the waterfront– Take the Circulator bus). So far I've been unsuccessful at getting into Fiola Mare, but I've heard it's great.

Zaytinya (Middle Eastern) 701 9th St NW (9th and G – 5 min walk) and Oyamel (Mexican) 401 7th St NW (7th and D – 12 min walk) are two iterations of the tapas empire of Jose Andres, who took over the DC food scene with Jaleo (Spanish) 480 7th St NW (7th and E – 10 min walk). Zaytinya and Oyamel are awesome. Small tapas to share of Turkish/Greek or Mexican inspiration. The tequila selection at Oyamel is extensive. Jaleo I find kind of blah so for tapas I go elsewhere…see below.

Estadio (Spanish tapas) 1520 14th St NW (14th and Church, after P – 18 min walk) has my favorite tapas in the area. Make sure to try the slushito…a slushi for adults.

Around Estadio on 14th street is the hottest new restaurant area with new places opening every month (some are too new to even get reviewed). Other options are:
Birch and Barley (American) 1337 14th St NW (14th and Rhode Island/O)
Pearl Dive Oyster Place (Seafood) 1612 14th St NW (14th and Q). Oysters, yum!
Le Diplomate (French Bistro) 1601 14th St NW (14th and Q). Hard to get into French spot from the people who brought you Buddakan and Morimoto in NYC. Good brunch. One of the 10 places to eat this Fall according to the Washington Post.
Ted’s Bulletin (American) 1818 14th St NW (14th and S). A DC staple with its original in Capitol Hill, it’s worth a visit even if just for their homemade pop tarts. Also good lunch.

Other good options around the convention center are
Brasserie Beck (Belgian bistro) 1101 K St NW (11th and K) Mussels, steak frites and hundreds of beers in menu.
Ping Pong Dim Sum (Chinese fusion) 900 7th St NW (7th and I – basically across the square) Fun twist on dim sum also…dim sum all day!
Mandu (Korean) 453 K St NW (5th and K) Great Korean + Soju martinis
Busboys and Poets (Breakfast/brunch) 1025 5th St NW (5th and K) another DC staple with multiple locations
El Rinconcito Café (Salvadorean/Mexican) 1129 11th St NW (11th and M) a hole in the wall with awesome tamales, papusas and burritos. Good for lunch.
Daniel Boulud just opened DBGB in the City Center  (9th and I) and it usually looks mobbed, but I have not tried it.
Rasika (Indian) 633 D St NW (6th and D) is very famous and Michelle Obama's favorite, but I've never been able to get in there.

If you want burgers the closest Shake Shack is on 9th and F, Bolt Burgers by the convention center (11th and L/Mass) is not very good, but fries and smoothies are okay.

Places with lots of restaurants to explore are also Georgetown and Capitol Hill. Georgetown is easily reached on the Circulator bus (1$ fare) which has a handy tracker website.

Also in DC you have to try food truck food for lunch. Closest trucks to the Convention Center will be in McPherson Square between 13-14th and I-K. A lot of good restaurants have trucks and all will take credit cards. Trucks can be tracked with Food Truck Fiesta and are usually only around Mon-Fri.

Other useful places
Closest supermarkets: Safeway (New York and 5th just walk on NY from the Convention Center) is open 24 hours and Whole Foods is on P between 14th and 15th

Closest CVS: tucked away on 10th and L

For a moment of peace the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum building is just a few blocks away at 8th and F and you can sit and use the free Wi-Fi in the Foster re-designed courtyard or walk around the exhibits. Both the American Art and the NPG have lovely things....unless of course you want to go for a real art trip to the National Gallery (Should I mention the only Da Vinci in the American continent?).

For the runners and #rundouchery fanatics
3mi #1: from the Convention Center area go straight south to the Mall, run west along the Mall, say "Hi" to the Obamas, run back up on 17th and loop east on J until you hit New York Ave all the way back. This is also a good evening route...Secret Service is every 300ft or so.
3mi #2: go straight south to the Mall, run EAST along the Mall up to 1st street and the Capitol, wave your fist at Congress demanding more science funding, loop back along the south side of the mall and come back up on 9th or 10th.
4mi: Combine #1 and #2
5mi #1: Combine #1 and #2, but also go say hi to Lincoln at the west end of the Mall.
5mi #2: go straight south to the Mall, at the Washington Monument keep left and go towards the Tidal Basin, run all the way around, say "Hi" to TJ in his marble temple, slow down at the FDR Memorial which is really awesome and under appreciated, dodge the ducks, avoid the mobs at the MLK you can run back, or since you've come this far, make 5.5/6mi, go say "Hi" to Lincoln via WWI and WWII...if it's early enough in the morning you can try and pull a Rocky on the steps.
Water fountains for your convenience at every Memorial :)


  1. This is fantastic. Thanks!

  2. Hey thanks for providing this useful information about DC restaurants!! I have been to DC restaurants several times and truly it’s really fantastic. Now I want to try yummy food at Boston restaurants and seeking some free time to visit Boston.