The dish on District dining

March 15, 2005

With more than 7,000 eateries in the greater Washington, DC, area, it's a pretty good bet that, given the time, even the most finicky gourmand will find something to please his or her palate. However, choosing the right restaurant can be tricky, especially if you're pressed for time.

With more than 7,000 eateries in the greater Washington, DC, area, it's a pretty good bet that, given the time, even the most finicky gourmand will find something to please his or her palate. However, choosing the right restaurant can be tricky, especially if you're pressed for time.

As an employee of a hotel, a concierge will invariably direct you to a dining establishment within your hotel, and the majority of the concierges we contacted did just that. But they also understand that sometimes people want to get away from their hotels to experience the local restaurant and entertainment scene. Hotels realize this and encourage the concierge to direct their guests wishing to leave the hotel to local dining establishments and entertainment venues. Remember, while they may want your dining dollar, they are even more interested in ensuring that your stay is pleasant. Your return business is that important.

While Washington is the nation's capital, it's also an international metropolis, and many visitors to the city like to sample the myriad ethnic offerings. Indeed, you could go to a restaurant offering authentic cuisine from a different country every night for a month, and probably not eat the same country's food twice-that's how diverse the restaurant scene is in this town.

"It is quite diverse in this area from Connecticut Avenue all the way over to Adams," Monroe said. "In fact, it stretches all the way down to Dupont Circle. You have Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants-and when you're done eating, you'll find plenty of blues clubs, jazz clubs, and salsa clubs."

One of Monroe's recommendations was Pizzeria Paradiso, a crowded pizza parlor that is said to serve some of the best (and most authentic) pizza this side of Naples. There's the classic margherita, a robust quattro formaggi or for the more adventurous, the bottarga, a pizza topped with egg, fresh parsley, and freshly grated salted fish roe.

For those who want a more traditional meal, Paradiso also serves a wonderful selection of homemade pastas, fresh breads, and desserts that will break the will of the most avid Atkins dieter. And of course, the meal wouldn't be complete without a little cappuccino.

Hopping down to Dupont Circle, we stopped by another luxury hotel whose concierge wished to remain anonymous. However, he was more than willing to direct us to a local restaurant.

"There are many good restaurants in this area, all along P Street and Connecticut," he said. "We have a lot of Italian, American, and seafood places in this neighborhood. If you're looking for seafood, I'd go to Johnny's Half Shell. I've heard our guests rave over it time and time again."

Johnny's serves local seafood specialties in a casual bistro atmosphere, so if you'd like to dress down but eat well, this is a good choice. It has a retro 1920s ambiance and a beautiful marble bar. Closed on Sunday.

While Dupont Circle certainly has a number of dining choices, you may want to get out of the neighborhood for excitement after your meal.

"Most people will go to Adams-Morgan for night life," our concierge advised. "That's especially true on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday."

Just outside of Georgetown, in the Foggy Bottom area, we stopped by a third luxury hotel to find out what's cooking. Once again, the anonymous concierge was very helpful.