Their take: Washington area personalities discuss their favorite restaurants


Tiffany MacIsaac, the pastry chef at Birch and Barley, picked the bar at Vermilion in Alexandria as one of the places where she’s a regular. (Sean McCormick/For The Washington Post)
October 12, 2011

As part of Tom Sietsema’s 2011 Fall Dining Guide , we asked a number of familiar locals what local restaurants they regularly patronize.

Michael F. Jacobson, 68, is executive director of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, which grades popular foods from fettuccine Alfredo (“heart attack on a plate”) to movie theater popcorn.

My family doesn’t generally go to the fancy, high-end restaurants but tends more to quiet, unpretentious neighborhood restaurants. Our favorite pizzeria offers whole-grain crusts and really covers the pizza with interesting vegetables and other toppings. It also has huge, wonderful salads.

My wife, Donna, said she would divorce me if I disclosed the name and the restaurant got crowded (I was once going to recommend it to Tom Sietsema, but Donna persuaded me not to), so I hope that none of your readers will go to the Italian Pizza Kitchen on Connecticut Avenue.


(Ted Leonsis illustration by Antony Hare for The Washington Post)

— Kris Coronado

Ted Leonsis, 54, was a senior executive at AOL and now owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics.

My family and I live in Potomac, and there’s this fantastic little Italian restaurant that all the locals go to, Renato . It’s in a little strip mall, tucked away. It’s very family-oriented. The food is very high-quality. Great breadsticks. They have great chicken with peppers and a little lemon, like a piccata.

Another place I enjoy is the Cava chain. I go there a lot. Not only is the food creative, very tasty and authentically Greek, it’s the most efficient place imaginable. I don’t know how they do it, but you order and the food starts coming. The lamb sliders are pretty good, and they have feta French fries.


(Santana Moss illustration by Antony Hare for The Washington Post)

— Kris Coronado

Tiffany MacIsaac, 30, is the pastry chef at Birch & Barley in Logan Circle.

I am completely hooked on Han Gang in Annandale. The sauteed rice cake appetizer is something I actively crave. Also, Four Sisters in Falls Church is about five minutes from my house, and Kyle [Bailey, her husband and fellow chef at Birch & Barley] and I love the rice crepes with lemon grass chicken. Lastly, I’d say the bar at Vermilion in Old Town Alexandria [part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns her restaurant]. I’d love to be a regular in the dining room, but I’m always at work. Chef Tony Chittum makes killer seasoned fries and Buffalo Chicken “Titans” that are the perfect salty treat after a day of sugar. His po-boys at lunch are also amazing!

— Tom Sietsema

Santana Moss, 32, is a wide receiver for the Washington Redskins.

I’m pretty basic. In the Ashburn area, I’m a local at the Cheesecake Factory , P.F. Chang’s . In D.C., from time to time, I show my face in Capital Grille and Fogo de Chao . I’m a steak guy. [At Fogo,] they have this sausage that reminds me of a sausage I eat back in Miami called Garcia. It has a mixture of beef and pork in it.

I’m a very picky eater. Every time I go to Capital Grille, I get the same meal. I start off with the crab cake, then I get the rib-eye. If I feel like going out and having a nice meal, I’ll go to Capital Grille probably before anywhere.

— Kris Coronado

Alexandra Nichols, 27, is a bartender at Estadio in Logan Circle and the Passenger in Mount Vernon Square.

I love going to Bar Pilar , because it’s a chill atmosphere, and the food is so underrated. Chef Justin Bittner makes some amazing seasonal dishes and isn’t afraid of using unusual cuts of meat, like pig’s ears. His anchovies on grilled bread is pretty killer, and I dream about the peanut fried chicken with whipped potatoes. It also helps that every time I go in, it’s like I’ve walked onto the set of “Cheers.” My favorite casual date-night spot is Room 11 . It’s a cozy space with delicious comfort food, like grilled cheese and risotto. Iris and Eddie are always happy to make me a handcrafted cocktail, and in the fall, nothing beats curling up next to the fire pit on their patio with a glass of red wine.

— Justin Rude

Eleanor Holmes Norton, 74, has been the District’s representative in Congress since 1991.

The bane of my existence is that I cannot find a restaurant in D.C. that serves escargots as the French make them: in butter and shells. I have found restaurants in Washington that serve escargots, but they don’t do it right. They put their own tilt on it.

I would have a favorite restaurant if there were more restaurants that did escargots the way the French do it. Every time I look and they don’t have escargots, I’m crestfallen.

— Kris Coronado

Kate Roberts, 44, is the founder of YouthAIDS, a Washington-based awareness and fundraising campaign that targets people ages 15-24.

I like Cafe Milano. I love the food, because I love Italian food. The terrace is lovely. You can sit there and feel like you’re in a slice of Italy. I always have the same thing: lobster pasta. I go once every two weeks.

The scene is always bustling. You get everybody from different walks of life: political figureheads, lawyers, philanthropists. All the movers and shakers. You’ll see the beautiful people of D.C. During the day, you’ll get the business crowd. In the evening, it’s more glamorous. There’s a dating scene that goes on there. It makes for great people-watching.

— Kris Coronado

Ari Shapiro, 33, is National Public Radio’s White House correspondent.

I want a place that I can walk in on a Thursday at 8 o’clock and say, “Do you have a table?” and they say, “Yes.” For me, that place is Al Crostino, a little Italian restaurant on U Street. The owner is this charming Italian woman with a voice that sounds like she’s smoked three packs of cigarettes a day from the time she was 12.

It’s spare. The focus is on the food. Whenever they have lobster pasta as a special, I get that. A simple arugula Parmesan salad to start. Have a martini or a glass of white wine and two courses, an espresso at the end.

— Kris Coronado

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