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Hungry, Obamas? Tempting Menus Abound

By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Although the president and first lady have the option of around-the-clock room service, they, like many busy couples, enjoy getting out of the house now and then for a meal. Taking their well-documented tastes into consideration, here are some area restaurants they should consider:

Any restaurant that has been around 28 years practically qualifies as a monument in this town. C.F. Folks (1225 19th St. NW; 202-293-0162), the crumb-size lunch spot next to Power Central (a.k.a. the Palm), has the advantage of being tasty as well as timeless. Conservative eaters might opt for a well-made chicken salad or crab cake sandwich, but regulars know to head for the daily specials, maybe peppers stuffed with lamb or red beans and rice, a Monday staple. Carryout is an option, but a green stool at the counter guarantees face time with one of the last of the great restaurant hosts, owner and wisecracker Art Carlson.

For their next date night, the first couple should consider the cozy Et Voila! (5120 MacArthur Blvd.; NW 202-237-2300) in the Palisades. Yes, the tables are packed close together, but if the secretary of state and Bill Clinton can manage to have a relaxed dinner there, why can't the current POTUS and FLOTUS? The food is Belgian -- and luscious. Chef Claudio Pirollo's mussels and frites, beer-infused beef stew and elegant waterzooi (picture a delicate, creamy chicken stew) are the equal to any I've tasted on their home turf. Psst: The sleeper on the menu is one of the best burgers for miles.

The communal teak-and-stone table next to the garden of Poste restaurant (555 Eighth St. NW; 202-783-6060) in the Hotel Monaco is the scene for "Poste Roasts," family-style spreads in which the kitchen crew cooks suckling pig, baby goat or beef brisket (take your pick) on an outdoor grill for up to a dozen guests. The price is recession-friendly: $27 per person, side dishes (but not dessert or drinks) included. By taking dinner here, the first couple could not only show their support for what's local and seasonal but also enjoy the bargain beneath the stars in one of the city's more alluring outdoor restaurant spaces.

The president likes his food on the zippier side; remember his request for Dijon mustard at Ray's Hell-Burger in Arlington? There are spices aplenty -- decorating the rear wall, punching up the dishes -- at the elegant Rasika (633 D St. NW; 202-637-1222), one of the best examples of modern Indian cooking in the country. Among the hits packing heat: minced chicken kabobs framed in a fiery sauce of green chilies, cilantro and mint, and specials including bison slathered with a paste of onion, fennel and curry leaves.

The first lady has made a point of telling people that she wants to get out of her gilded cage now and then and get to know her neighbors. She could start by booking a table for two in the quietly romantic Tasting Room at Restaurant Eve in Old Town (110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450). Chef Cathal Armstrong is one of the mid-Atlantic's best assets, focusing as the Irish native does on local products (say, corn) that he turns into first-class dishes (as in, a silken corn custard capped with avocado and ignited with a swipe of habanero-hazelnut sauce). The breads are baked in-house, the herbs come from Eve's own garden and the cocktails are intoxicating in terms of their creativity.

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