Sometimes bank accounts, vacation policies or The Man keep us from taking that end of summer vacation we’ve been dying for all season. For those of you sticking around hot and sticky DC this weekend, here are a couple of our favorite restaurants that make us feel miles away from every day life in the capitol.
All aboard the Marrakesh express! Until recently, there wasn’t even a sign outside the discreet adobe building indicating that this giant door was the gateway to a Moroccan dining experience for all the senses. Like meeting the Wizard in his Oz, entrance is granted only after you clang the door with the giant knocker.* Marrakesh, located in a gentrification grey zone between Shaw and the Mount Vernon Triangle, envelops diners the minute they walk in. Moving from the mosaic lobby to the soaring, plush dining room, guests are seated on colorful cushions on the floor, centralized around low tables. The loose, comfortable seating makes Marrakesh an oustanding location for group and event dining, if not for those with bad knees and old hips. Food is served family-style and diners eat with their hands. Napkins are provided in the form of warm towels to clean off between courses and you will need them. Marrakesh typically offers a prix-fixe menu of eight courses, including vegetable platters and a stewed chicken. True to Moroccan cooking, the use of cinnamon in savory dishes is both liberal and a fun surprise to the Western palate. Alcohol is available and the meal is finished with a sweet Moroccan mint tea which, if you time it just right, will arrive at the same time as the impressive belly dancing performance. Be sure to have cash on hand – credit and debit are not accepted here.
Two more staycation restaurants after the jump!
Bistro du Coin
Warm, golden butter walls. Constant commotion. Reasonably priced but delicious food. Cramped wooden tables. If you can’t afford the overnight flight to Paris this weekend, Dupont Circle’s Bistrot du Coin may tide you over for the evening. The restaurant’s theme – French, friendly, fun – is certainly upheld in the atmosphere and service but be warned, this restaurant is not for everyone. Like guests at a legendary house party, diners at Bistrot du Coin may have to give up some creature comforts (like, oh, getting a beer at the bar within 10 minutes) for the sake of being part of the action. Regardless, I’ve been visiting Bistro du Coin since moving to DC in 2001 and the table service and food quality are consistently good. The mussels are a classic standby, as is anything featuring the duck. And I have yet to meet a dish that can strip away a cold, frustrating day faster than their gratinee des Halles. Ohhh, salty, beefy, cheesy soup. I wish you could hold my hand all day. Plan ahead though. Bistro du Coin is closed only one day a year. That day? It’s Labor Day.
Mie N Yu
For my money, there are few more whimsical, transporting restaurant designs going in DC than Mie N Yu. The feel of this Silk Road-themed restaurant and lounge is made even more amazing if you’ve been around long enough to remember the address’ previous occupant, Georgetown Station – a relentless meat market of almost and recent college grads, grinding into the night in a haze of cheap beer. Those days are long gone. Imagine if Alice ditched her Wonderland to build a home with the set director of Moulin Rouge. That’s kind of what Mie n Yu feels like. This two-story, double-townhouse wide restaurant is a discovery after a discovery. The Hong Kong themed bar, complete with mah jong tiles built into the wood, is the first element to greet you, balanced with a fun cocktail list and finger foods you can share with friends. Do yourself a favor and wander around. Each area features a distinct Silk Road theme, from the the creepy but regal Baroque Room to the Turkish Tent lounge filled with cushy poufs t0 – my personal favorite – the hyacinth pink Tibetan lounge. Of course, the ever-famous bird cage commands attenttion on its own level, allowing a group of diners surpreme people-watching with their meal. Mei N Yu feels like an adventure before you’ve event seen the menu. Food options span Asia and the Middle East with notable American influences. The menu can be touch and go here; your best bet is to check with the waiter for favorites before ordering. But arrive with a taste for adventure, the strange may surprise you. The pesto-hummus with banana? Surprisingly good.
*Heyyy, nice knocker.**
**Sorry. Had to be said.