Prevue asked Ronnie Burt, Vice President Convention Sales and Services, Destination DC, his thoughts on the concept of affordable luxury.
Q: What trends are you seeing in your destination related to group banquets?
A: Groups seeking exceptional value are increasingly adopting a family-style approach to meal times. Formal, multi-course menus are universally available in DC; yet sharable meals made up of small plates or lavish platters are inviting meeting-goers to enjoy excellent food in an atmosphere fosters informal networking. Among the options within a few, walkable blocks of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center are: Carmine’s (425 7th Street NW; 202-737-7770) a NYC-style Italian kitchen specializing in unholy portions served in a network of private rooms; Hill Country Barbecue specializes in Texas-style smoked beef brisket and ribs, with a side of country-fried live music (410 7th Street NW; 202-556-2050); Zaytinya, a pan-Mediterranean (701 9th Street NW; 202-638-0800); and Rasika Penn Quarter, a sophisticated modern Indian kitchen rich in options for carnivores and vegetarians (633 D Street NW; 202-637-1222). Sharable dining options are increasingly available at fine hotels, including the farm-to-table Blue Duck Tavern at Park Hyatt Washington (1201 24th St. NW; 202-419-6755). As distinctive as each of these restaurants is, all invite visitors to share plates with their dining companions.
Q: What are some unique dishes specific to your destination?
A: Washington, DC is enviably located between the mid-Atlantic farmlands and the bounteous Chesapeake Bay, and our signature dishes reflect these geographies. Perhaps no dish is more closely associated with the region than the crab cake. Studded with flecks of herbs or tiny cubes of red pepper, cakes of jumbo lump Blue crab meat are considered de rigueur “special occasion” food. Many restaurants with the ability (and talent) for serving groups vie for the title of “DC’s best crab cake” including Kinkead’s (2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-296-7700); DC Coast (1401 K Street NW; 202-216-5988); and Johnny’s Half Shell (400 N. Capitol St. NW; 202-737-0400). Crab cakes are so popular they pop up on power-breakfast menus, often as a regional version of an eggs Benedict or tucked inside omelets at the likes of Bistro Bis (15 E St. NW; 202-661-2700) and Seasons at the Four Seasons Washington, DC (2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW; 202-944-2000). Foodies willing to roll up their sleeves can take a wooden mallet steamed Blue crab, served with hushpuppies and spicy Old Bay Seasoning at local joints including Phillips (500 Water Street SW: 202-488-8515). Home to over 170 embassies and consulates, DC is also home to international culinary talents. World-class international options include Brazilian churrascaria, Fogo de Chao (1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-347-4668); contemporary sushi at Sei (444 7th St. NW; 202-783-7007) and Spanish tapas and wines at Taberna del Alabardero (1776 I St. NW; 202-429-2200).
Q: Does the destination offer any unique culinary tours?
A: Multiple food tours invite visitors hungry for adventure into DC’s distinctive neighborhoods. Perhaps the most pervasive service is DC Metro Food Tours (Dcmetrofoodtours.com) which offers nine walking tours including Dupont Circle, Eastern Market, and Little Ethiopia, as well as tailored tours and pub crawls. DC Metro Food Tours aims to share a taste of the capital and introduce restaurants popular with local diners to out-of-towners. They can accommodate groups as exclusive as four and as large as 200. Foodies in search of a taste of the highlife can enjoy luxury tours and a buffet of cooking classes courtesy of Epitourean (Epitourean.com). Visitors with a sweet tooth will want to sign up for the DC Metro Chocolate Tours (Dcmetrochocolatetours.com).
Q: What are some popular restaurants in your destination for groups, and why?
A: Among the most distinctive dining destinations for groups in Washington, DC are those affording guests an only-in-DC view: Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Avenue; 202-547-8100), a fine restaurant specializing in steak and wine boasts an unparalleled view of the U.S. Capitol. Groups are welcome to book a portion (or the whole) of the banquet space on the roof of the historic Hay-Adams Hotel. The Top of the Hay (800 16th St. NW; 800-853-6807) overlooks the White House. In Georgetown, Sequoia (3000 K St. NW; 202-944-4200) overlooks the Potomac River and Theodore Roosevelt Island. If looking at the river isn’t enough, cruise past the monuments on the Potomac as you dine on the Odyssey (Odysseycruises.com) at sunset.
Extra group dining information:
Destination DC’s dining focused website, DCeats.org, has a special group dining section for more information about group dining options throughout Washington, DC.
Group dining has even set a record in Washington, DC. In 2008, the Guinness World Records announced the record for hosting the largest-ever silver service sit-down dinner in the history of conventions worldwide happened at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center with 16,206 people. The event was for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Centennial Convention.