When it comes to business lunch, Tom Sietsema says one size does not fit all

August 14, 2011

Business dining in Washington almost always comes with a side of subtext. While the clever host wants to make sure his guest is happy with what lands on the table, he knows food and drink are only part of what make a successful transaction.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to picking a place to break bread and do business. The setting required to woo a 20-something client from Manhattan is probably not the same place you’d take a veteran chief executive from Minneapolis. Delicate negotiations shouldn’t be drowned out by a rock concert in the dining room. On the other hand, if you’re toasting a merger or acquisition, you might not want to clink glasses in a mortuary. And where to reserve when she likes steak, but he won’t touch the stuff?

To the rescue: A world of dining choices in the nation’s capital, and I mean that literally.

Expense accounts are helpful, but not required. The silver lining in a sour economy is the abundance of deals on business meals. Name a part of town where you want to talk shop, and you’re likely to find a menu to satisfy the bean counter back at the office.

In Penn Quarter, the lounge of the suave 701 Restaurant serves a $15 lunch that factors in a glass of wine. Agora in Dupont Circle serves a three-course spread for $14.99 that includes warm-from-the oven pita bread to start and baklava to close. The “Power Hour” at Ris in the West End lets bar patrons choose from, say, shrimp tempura or meatloaf for just $15, beverage included. Closer to the Hill, one of the most expensive restaurants in the city, The Source, lets you play Daddy Warbucks with a three-course, pan-Asian $30 list. (I’ll take the Hong Kong-style steamed halibut, thanks).

Whether you’re looking for something small or grand, meaty or non, muted or festive, here are some restaurants to get you started. For full reviews of the restaurants, click here.

The Power lunch

Bombay Club

J&G Steakhouse

Kellari Taverna

The Oval Room

Ristorante Tosca

See and be seen

Bourbon Steak

The Source by Wolfgang Puck

The Oval Room

Ristorante Tosca

Celebrate a deal

CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental

J&G Steakhouse

Michel Richard Citronelle

Rogue 24

Sushi Taro

A quiet meeting

1789

Corduroy

Plume at the Jefferson Hotel

The (smallish) office party..birthdays, retirements, promotions

Estadio

Kushi Izakaya & Sushi

Lincoln

The (big) office party...holidays, corporate milestones

Carmine’s

Hill Country BBQ & Market

Seasons 52

Woo a potential client

CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental

Marcel’s

Obelisk

For a business breakfast

Blue Duck Tavern

Post Modern Brasserie

Sou’Wester at the Mandarin Oriental

Tabard Inn

For a business dinner

Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca

Blue Duck Tavern

Charlie Palmer Steak

Marcel’s

Rasika

Ris

701

For the LivingSocial generation

Bayou on Penn

Birch & Barley/Churchkey

Estadio

The Source by Wolfgang Puck

Medium Rare

Mandu

Ripple

Traditional tables

1789

Le Chaumiere

Monocle

Prime Rib

Away from downtown

Ashby Inn and Restaurant

Bezu

Bistro L’Hermitage

Food Wine & Co.

Michel

Restaurant Eve’s Tasting Room

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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