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Washington is one of America's great restaurant cities. With its population of representatives from around the nation and the world, standards are high and tastes are varied. So you can find every kind of restaurant and many of them are among the finest anywhere. However, many of them are also beyond the budget of the typical visitor. And Washington is a difficult city to get around. So we have narrowed our restaurant recommendations to those within walking distance of the Harrington, and those within the budget of the typical visitor. This still provides a wonderful cross section of great restaurants. We recommend you eat early in the evening to avoid the crowds that develop, even on midweek evenings. The concierge at the Harrington front desk can give you a map and directions to any of these. Always check out the other customers. You are, after all, only a few blocks from the White House and a mile from Congress. Our leaders like to sample nearby restaurants, too. Most of the Harrington area restaurants offer patio seating right along the sidewalk, as shown at here at the Elephant & Castle.

Our favorite restaurant along Pennsylvania Avenue is The Elephant & Castle. Just a block from the hotel and two from the White House, it is a British eatery modelled after the original Elephant & Castle Pub in South Central London. They have outstanding Fish & Chips. You can't get their Pub Soup anywhere else in America : sweet onions and herbs simmered in English Ale and beef broth and topped with swiss and parmesan cheese. The dinners are quintissential British : Steak & Ale Pie, Lamb Curry, British Seafood Pie, Guinness Meatloaf and Bangers & Mash (broiled sausages, red skin garlic mashed potatoes, beans and rich gravy). Others in our group love the Yorkshire Pudding (roast beef, onions, mashed potatoes and vegetables stuffed in a deep dish). But our favorite is Shephard's Pie, a hearty and filling concoction of ground beef and root vegetables, red skin garlic potatoes, and various vegetables and greens, baked in gravy in a deep dish crust. We've fixed this at home and camping and had it at numerous other restaurants over the years, but this is the best version of it we've ever tasted, and we look forward all year to eating it here on the annual Washington trip. Our beer conneisseurs like the ales and stouts and British pub decor.

If you've had a long day and don't feel like walking anywhere, you can eat right in the hotel at Harriet's. This family restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner just off the lobby. It caters to the busloads of tourist groups who stay at the Harrington, serving most dinners buffet style to keep prices down. Entrees are very standard : spaghetti, lasagna, chicken breast, ribs, pork chops, salmon and shishkabob. They have four kinds of salads, chile, and a soup of the day. There is a children's menu which includes mac & cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich and chicken tenders. Harriet's compares very closely to Denny's, Shoney's, or EatnPark back home except those restaurants have much more extensive menus. The facility was completely renovated in 2006. Now they need to upgrade the menu, quality and service. This is basically the same bar food Harry's offers right across the lobby. Other restaurants in the area match their prices but offer 21st century menus and much higher quality. We like the Harrington and would like to recommend Harriet's, but it's a stretch.
Ollie's Trolley is in the Harrington building around the block from the main entrance. Ollie's was a national franchise founded by John Y. Brown headquartered in Louisville, Ky. At one point it was wildly popular but Brown folded the corporation when he ran for governor. However, the managers of this one plus one in Louisville bought their rights and are still in business. There's no question Ollie's is a cholesterol feast and mainly a lunch stop. But if you like a good burger, GO. The original format involved old trolley cars painted red and yellow, no indoor seating, and high end burgers with oversized patties and gourmet condiments. Louisville's is still in a trolley, but Washington's offers inside seating and has added other burgers and a side menu of Middle Eastern items. But you go for the Ollieburger. It's a great one : very large, thick, beefy, juicy, loaded with cheese, dill pickle, fresh tomato, crisp lettuce, sliced onion, melted mozzarella cheese, and slathered with the famous Ollie Sauce, a blend of 23 herbs and spices. The fries are also excellent : thin, golden, crisp, spiced with yet another lively Ollie dressing.
If you want to eat at one upscale restaurant in Washington, and you like Italian, we recommend Tosca's, one block up and left from the Harrington. It's a white table cloth establishment and you'll pay about $30 a meal, but it will be a memorable experience. Chef Massimo Fabbri focuses on Northern Italian cuisine. You must try the Yellow Pepper Soup, and one of his signature salads, which include pears, greens, raddichio, cheeses, walnuts, figs, almonds, ham, grapes, squash, balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressings. The entrees are a fireworks display. The Ravioli is filled with roast veal, prosciutto and pistachio mortadella with a red wine reduction in sage and Parmesan cheese. The Tortelli is filled with Robiola cheese and black truffles and served in a Porcini mushroom sauce and leeks. There is Steak, Pork and Veal, but we think Fabbri is at his best with fish. His pan roasted east coast cod and roast Mediterranean sea bass rival those served in the nation's best seafood restaurants. Desserts are outstanding. They include apple cake, citrus spice cake, goat cheese fritters, tiramisu, and Fabbri's homemade Italian ice cream. Or Tuscan purists can order a selection of fine Italian cheeses. The wine list is exquisite. Many glasses are $9 and $10 varieties, but wine lovers can splurge on the $17 Barbaresco Produttori.
Right across the street from the Harrington is ESPN Zone, a circus like establishment where the food is secondary to video games, wide screen tvs, noise and crowds. To be fair, the food is not bad. The menu offers the usual steak, ribs, chicken, shrimp and salmon. The quality is comparable to Applebee's. There's usually an hour wait for evening seating but you can solve this problem by sending someone over to put your name on the list while the others shower and relax back at the hotel. They say they don't take reservations but that apparently means over the phone. Kids, especially teenagers, love the place, mainly for what must be the most high octane video arcade anywhere and for the sports memoribilia store. Adults, however, tend to be put off. Service is slow. Burgers, usually a signature item at a sports bar, are mediocre. The menu is overpriced. The noise level, with tv volumes turned up way too high, video games beeping and general crowd noise echoing, makes it impossible to have a conversation or sometimes even communicate with your waitress. The most outrageous feature is a $10 per hour charge if you actually watch a game, which is what the entire facility is designed for. If you have teenagers along, or if you're a huge ESPN fan, and you just want to experience the place, we recommend you stop in for lunch. There's no wait, service is better and the noise level is much more tolerable.
Austin Grille is a good Tex Mex restaurant three blocks from the Harrington on E Street. They feature 15 different homemade salsas and dressings. The Mexican Corn Soup and both kinds of Chile are outstanding. There are seven salads. They offer the usual steaks, wings, shrimp, salmon and chicken, but Mesquite Grilled Red Snapper and Slow Smoked BBQ Ribs are the best of the bunch. The four burritos and three enchiladas are all excellent. Their most unique item is the Carnitos Taco, braised pork marinated in oranges and garlic with onions, cilantro, black beans, cilantro rice and bbq sauce. The Loaded Austin Grille Potato is a meal in itself. No matter what you order, consider Grilled Corn on the Cob or Chile Mashed Potatoes as sides. Leave room for dessert so you can taste their Austin Style Bread Pudding. Service is prompt, prices reasonable and the facility bright and airy. If you're in town on a weekend they offer a great brunch buffet.
Chef Geoff's is one of Washington's most highly rated restaurants, only two blocks from the Harrington, just upslope from Pennsylvania Avenue, across the street from the Warner Theatre. It's got a classy ambience and a great menu featuring Contemporary American. Among appetizers, we really like the Crispy Plantains with Guacamole, Grilled Lamb Skewers With Cucumber Feta Relish, and Smoked Duck Tamales With Red Mole and Queso Oaxaca. Their Autumn Vegetable Bisque and Roast Garlic Wild Mushroom Soup are two of the best soups in DC. Geoff's offers eight salads of which the largest are meals in themselves. The Salmon, Trout and Tuna are all winners. Their steaks are from cornfed and feedlot raised cattle but prepared and brandished well. Specials come and go with the seasons. If you're there when they offer the Autumn Squash Risotto with Scallops, Pomegranate and Pumpkin Oil for $24, take it. Another of their finest creations is the Jumbo Crabcakes, Frenchcut Beans, Roast Shallots in Pumpkin Butter Sauce at $29. If you drop by for lunch they offer four gourmet burgers, a crabcake sandwich and six kinds of pizza. Our teenage delegation likes the Spicy Chicken Poblano Pepper Corn Relish Tomatillo Pizza at $13.
Service, at lunch or dinner, is a bit slow, ("The Best Always Takes Longer") so Geoff's offers a special menu of Light Snacks to tide you over. Of these we like the Fried Pickles With Old Bay Remoulade and the Wisconsin Cheese Plate With Fig Cakes and Truffle Honey. They offer four outstanding pasta dishes : Mushroom Ravioli, Chicken Trofle, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Fettucine With Apple, Duck Sausage and Creme Fraiche. At $18 each, these might be their best bargains. Pay special attention to their Sides. Normally an afterthought, Geoff's may be the best in DC. They include Sweet Potato Fries, Whipped Yukons, Garlic Spinach, Mushroom Saute, Baby Carrots and House Frites. The dessert menu here should be outlawed. It is highlighted by Peach Crisp, Mocha Cheescake and Chocolate Truffle Cake. As far as beverages, you have several gourmet loose leaf teas including Russian Black, Moroccan Mint, Sencha and, of course, Earl Grey. There's Quartermaine Roasted Coffee, Cappuccino and Latte. There's a cellar of Ports, Cognacs, Bourbons, Scotches and Wines. Or you might try a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cocktail. Geoff Tracy, graduate of the American Culinary Institute, has done a great job here and at his other restaurants, but inattention to the wait staff is a real problem.
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