Spring is here, finally! Cheers to warm weather, great company, romance, sunny days and gorgeous nights. Now is the time to enjoy the evening breeze or observe passersby while enjoying an excellent meal. This quick dining guide is dedicated to three eateries that offer, in addition to excellent food, a casual ambiance both in the dining room and outside. Just a general note of caution: Restaurants that advertise an outdoor dining area tend to be a bit on the pricey side.
Sequoia – 3000 K St. NW
This restaurant is the closest of the three to campus. Located along the waterfront, Sequoia serves up a wide array of American cuisine. If you have walked along the waterfront, you may have noticed the restaurant’s great location, making it a favorite pick when parents are visiting. The outdoor seating overlooking the Potomac is a major plus for this restaurant, but is the food worth the price? With appetizers such as lobster macaroni and cheese, an extensive raw bar and entrées like skate wing and lobster pot pie, the grill offers a creative and high-end assortment. The menu caters to a wide range of palettes, but you may find that food is not worth the high price tag. Entrées range from $18 to $45, so the location is what really makes the experience.
Café du Parc – 1401 Pennsylvania Ave.
While this bistro is located on Pennsylvania Ave., you would swear you were on the Champs-Élysées. This café holds true to the traditional menu and experience of typical French sidewalk cafés. It is a bit farther away than Sequioa, but if you are craving a typical Parisian dining experience and don’t mind spending a bit more, this place is for you. Café du Parc is an upscale eatery with a menu focused on French classics. Recommendations include the moules frites (mussels and fries), croque monsieur (a grilled, ham and cheese sandwich) and the chocolate sorbet. But with the French menu comes the expected snobbery — and the price tag. As a college student, I’ll admit that an average of $17 for an appetizer and $27 per entrée is pricey. So save this al fresco café for a summer night with a special someone. Bon appetit!
Zaytinya – 701 9th St. NW
One of this restaurant’s claims to fame is its former executive chef Mike Isabella, a popular contestant on “Top Chef.” Located in Penn Quarter, it is a bit of a hike from campus but worth the experience and price. This trendy eatery serves up Greek and Turkish cuisine tapas style, providing a unique and tasty experience. Outdoor seating contributes to the social atmosphere found in tapas-style dining. The prices of these dishes can add up, but the quality justified the expense. Spreads like baba ghannouge average around $7, and mezze ranges from $8 to $14. A big hit is the selection of spreads, which are served with never-ending, fresh pita bread. Other standouts are the hunkar begendi (lamb shank), crispy brussel afella, roasted cauliflower and octopus santorini. Overall, Zaytinya offers a great dining experience that is meant to be shared.
Art and Soul – 415 New Jersey Ave. NW
This award-winning Capitol Hill restaurant boasts a large outdoor patio with spectacular views of the U.S. Capitol Building as well as good food and reasonable prices. Contemporary and casual decor coupled with a large and comfortable lounge contribute to the warm, welcoming atmosphere on which the restaurant prides itself. Art and Soul offers a wide selection of southern-inspired entrées. Dishes include Oyster Po’ HoeCakes and “Put Up’s” Salad (don’t ask about the name, but it’s made with pickles and homemade black pepper buttermilk dressing). Pork belly confit and seared duck breast round out the menu, adding some heartiness and elegance. As the temperature gets higher, get some down-home cooking on the outdoor patio.