The almost frenetic upscaling of downtown frequently threatens to eliminate the comfort zone -- you practically have to match your designer tie and beeper cover to the atmosphere -- but this nicely understated postmodern surf-and-turfer has class, comfort and indulgence aplenty.
Smaller and less showy than McCormick & Schmick's seafood restaurant, its nearby corporate sibling, the M & S Grill has slick wood styling, a nice bar with street view and a menu that explores almost the entire range of new-American super-saloon fare: lox cured with Macallan scotch, shrimp Caesar salad, grouper with hot Jamaican rum butter, grilled tuna with soy, deli sandwiches, homey braised short ribs and spit-roasted meats. And the budget has quite a range, too, from sandwiches under $10 to seafood and steaks in the teens and even twenties. Surprise tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the $1.95 appetizers that come when you order two drinks, available during happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
The crowd may change from conference-goers to Caps fans to folks wiling away a lazy afternoon, but it's always very relaxed -- the new Pennsylvania Avenue locals sport ponytails as often as pinstripes. If you want to separate the bizboys from the tourists, order the caviar (on the menu as sevruga, but one recent, lucky day, we got osetra instead) with silkily iced Stoli for $45 -- the one-ounce caviar tin, minced egg yolks and whites, red onion and sour cream are all set right into a huge block of ice. Only out-of-towners will stare.
-- Eve Zibart