Ask Tom

Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, July 11, 2007; 11:00 AM

In a city loaded with diverse restaurants, from New American chic and upscale Italian to sandwich shops and burritos on the run, finding the best places to eat can be a real puzzle. Where's the best restaurant for a first date or an anniversary? Father's Day? What's the best burger joint? Who has the best service?

Ask Tom. Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post's food critic, is on hand Wednesdays at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions, listen to your suggestions and even entertain your complaints about Washington dining. Sietsema, a veteran food writer, has sampled the wares and worked as a critic in Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Milwaukee, and can talk restaurants with the best of 'em. You can access his Postcards from Tom to read his recommendations for other cities, read his dining column, First Bite and the Dish or read transcripts of previous "Ask Tom" chats. Tom's Sunday magazine reviews, as well as his "Ask Tom" column, are available early on the Web.

The transcript follows.

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Tom Sietsema: IT'S (FINALLY) OFFICIAL: The owners of Cashion's Eat Place (1819 Columbia Road NW) -- chef Ann Cashion and business partner John Fulchino -- are planning to sell their popular restaurant in Adams Morgan in order to focus on Johnny's Half Shell, the seafood restaurant they relocated from Dupont Circle to Capitol Hill (400 N. Capitol St. NW) last year.

According to Fulchino, the "new" Johnny's was taking up a lot of the restaurateurs' time, and neither he nor Cashion desired to be absentee owners at Cashion's Eat Place. (Following the success of Taqueria Nacionale, adjacent to Johnny's, they are also looking to open a second such taco joint in the city.)

Regulars of the 12-year-old contemporary American restaurant should be relieved to know that the next owner (the parties go into settlement this afternoon) is John Manolatos - Cashion's sous chef for the entire life span of the restaurant bearing her name.

Good morning, chatters. It's good to be back in the driver's seat after a short hiatus. (Hope you all stayed dry July 4th.) Feel free to bring on your questions, comments, gripes and concerns on this lovely Wednesday.

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Heidelberg, Germany: Although I am not a local, I read your blog because I travel to DC occassionly and now that my son will be attending college in the area, will do so more often. I know tourists appreciate your lower priced suggestions, I certainly do. I have had many bad meals in DC so I check your column for suggestions before I fly. You may not be cheap eats but it does help to know were affordable restaurants are in various neighborhoods. Thanks

Tom Sietsema: Vielen Danke fur Ihre Briefe! Und wo haben Sie gegessen hier?

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Tom! Love the chats! Based on your recommendation, I celebrated my birthday last week at Central (delicious by the way!). About half way through our meal, in walks Mr. Michel Richard himself and was seated at the table next to us. Do chefs often dine at their own restaurants? We gave a little smile but kept quiet--do they like to be recognized? (In case you're wondering he ordered the 72 hour short ribs!). Thanks so much

Tom Sietsema: Most chefs don't have the time (or the inclination, I'd guess) to eat in their own dining rooms. They're probably cooking, after all! But I think its testament to his high standards that Mr. Richard, who has abundant support staff, checks in on his troops now and then.

(You did the right thing by smiling your hello, by the way, although I'm sure a little flattery on your exit would have been OK, had you in fact wanted to praise something.)

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Washington, D.C.: Had a horrible dinning experience at Restaurant Eve last Tues evening. We had a 7:00 reservation and two items on the menu were unavailable. The Maitre De did not come over to apologize for the inconvenience. If this is supposed to be the "IT" restaurant, not sure what all the fuss is about. Very snooty place!!!

Tom Sietsema: Were you in the tasting room or the bistro? And who was snooty? Not having a few items on a menu does not quite fit this diner's definition of "horrible."

I'm posting this as a plea more than anything else: Feel free to post criticism here, but please support it with details.

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If you were me...:...and you were able to book a babysitter for Saturday night and go out with a couple of friends for a casual but nice dinner, would you head to Tabaq, Indigo Landing, Straits of Malaya, or someplace else in VA or DC altogether? Non-smoking environment and slightly hip place preferred...outdoor seating a bonus. Not too picky on cuisine. I'd love any fresh ideas you might have!!!

Tom Sietsema: Places where I've dined well recently include Ardeo, which has a rooftop deck; Casa Oaxaca, which stirs a mean margarita; Matchbox, whose airy interior at least suggests you're dining outside; the spirited Vermilion in Old Town; and Cafe du Parc, which has tables and umbrellas parked along Pennsylvania Ave.

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Downtown D.C. - "Hideaway" Seating: Hi, Tom--

Thank you for being our city's food critic. As a writer myself, I appreciate your engaging style.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to Brasserie Beck. Overall, it was fantastic--perfectly cooked food, great service, great drink selection, and elegant decor and restrooms.

The only down side of the experience was the design of our seating area. We were seated near the front of the restaurant in a corner very, very close to another table--so close that it was difficult for me to leave my seat without my butt nearly touching the table next to us, and I'm a small person! On one side of the tables was a large window (where the other party was sitting), which prevented us from feeling claustrophobic. But on the other side, where we were seated, was a tall (5 ft?), dark, wooden partition/wall. We couldn't see the restaurant at all. I understand that some people like privacy while dining, but I felt like we were completely cut-off. We couldn't enjoy the decor or vibe of the restaurant. I was going to ask for another table, but the restaurant was packed so I decided not to.

I was wondering what you think about seating arrangements like this. I imagine there are people who prefer these types of seats. Maybe next time I should request more "open" seating when I make a reservation. Thanks so much!

Tom Sietsema: You're right: One diner's dud table can be another's dream. Did you ask if you could be reseated after you discovered your destination's deficencies? One way to solve such problems is to have the staff try out all the tables before a restaurant opens; the (seated) diner's perspective isn't always the same as the (standing) waiter's, not by a long shot.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom - Where's a great sushi place located in either downtown/dupont circle/cleveland park/chinatown(I love Sushi Ko but too out of the way for some people in our group)?

Tom Sietsema: You next best bet is Kaz Sushi Bistro at 1915 I St. NW.

washingtonpost.com: Review of Kaz Sushi Bistro.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom:

Your chats, reviews and postcards are a tremendous resource, and I need your help. I will be going to Moscow and St. Petersburg in a few weeks. Do you (or any chatters) have dining recommendations for those cities? Many thanks.

Tom Sietsema: I'm unfamiliar with the dining scene in the former Soviet Union. Can anyone help out a fellow chatter?

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Columbia, Md.: Why do you, and some chefs, think that I have to let them tell me how well done I want my meat? I guess chefs think I am messing up their cooking if I have my meat medium well. Well tough, I am the one paying and if I choose not to eat raw meat that is my decision. Chefs please get over yourself. I don't care how much better you think rare meat is, I'm not going to like to eat raw mean so all your so-called excellent decisions do nothing for me. Give me my meat the way I order it please.

Tom Sietsema: We've covered this turf (pun fully intended!) in a previous chat. If you want your meat done well, I have no problem with that, but I'm just saying -- and some chefs will support me on this -- you are missing out on a truly fine piece of meat when you overcook it.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom. Quick question. We're wondering here at our restaurant why you refer to us the "new" Johnny's Half Shell. What's the significance of the quotation marks?

Tom Sietsema:"New" was simply used to distinguish Johnny's on the Hill from the original on P St.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

What's the story with Simply Green? I think that's the name I saw on the M St. storefront window, next to Artefacto? Is it a salad place, perchance? We really need a salad place in Georgetown. Tell Chop't or Sizzling Express or Soho or someone to come down here!

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Your timing is impeccable. For the scoop on the soon-to-open Sweetgreen (not Simply Green), check out today's Dish column in the Food section.

washingtonpost.com: The Dish on Sweetgreen.

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Washington, D.C.: As a server in a restaurant, I can tell you that when items are not avaliable, it is usually a quality issue or a last minute emergency, which a restaurant cannot plan for. I think guests would rather have a item pulled for that night then to be horribly disappointed at the quality of the dish.

Tom Sietsema: I agree.

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Washington, D.C.: Is Sharon Banks still cooking in DC and if so, where?

Tom Sietsema: Sharon Banks - the chef of the late, great Fish, Wings & Tings in Adams Morgan and more recently, Ginger Reef and Ginger Cove in Penn Quarter -- is now catering in New York.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Hi Tom--

Posting early, so that I might get an answer in time. Could you please recommend a restaurant in Anapolis, MD where my husband and I can celebrate his 40th birthday? Although he's a well versed 'foodie', he shys away from steak and fish entrees.

Thanks so much!

Tom Sietsema: He shies away from steak and fish? There go my first recommendations: Lewnes' Steakhouse and O'Learys seafood restaurant. Tell me more about his preferences and perhaps I can assist you.

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Texan in Bethesda: With my last trip to Texas in January, I'm starting to get a real craving for authentic Tex-Mex. Where can I get the best enchiladas? I'm talking about the ones drenched in sauce (preferrably green) and cheese! Thank you!

Tom Sietsema: Good enchiladas, anyone? I can't say I've had any role models in the area in the past year.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom,

The poster from the last chat complaining about the insanely high price of some shots that were ordered made me realize that this actually happens frequently to me! Never to that extreme but I after ordering a drink I find that they charge mroe than what was on the menu. The response? 'Well, we gave you the better quality alcohol' But Tom, I never asked for it! What's the point of having the price on the menu if they are going to charge you extra? Most times they eventually charge me the original price.

Tom Sietsema: You mean bar tenders are upgrading your drink without your consent? That's just wrong. Yet another reason to go over your tab closely (which is not always easy after a couple of rounds ...)

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Falls Church, Va.: Id like to start off by saying that I faithfully read your column whenever I get a chance, and enjoyed them very much. I have used them as a guide in my exploration in this vast gastromomic wonderland. In your critique of all of the restaurants that you have reviewed, I am curious to know what factors you consider when rating a restaurant.

For example, if the food and service are both exemplary, but the environment has the charm of Doctors waiting room,do you give that establishment a less stellar review due to the decor or vibe of the restaurant. And when you review a upscale restaurant, do you rate that establishment the same way you would rate a burger or pizza joint?

Tom Sietsema: Good questions.

In general, I tend to give more weight to the food quality (50 percent) than to service and atmosphere (25 percent each) in arriving at star ratings. But there are always exceptions. Corduroy, for instance, is far from the most beautiful space in town, but chef Tom Power's cooking helps to forgive that fact.

I try, where possible, to compare apples with apples. So when I reviewed Comet Ping Pong, to use a recent example, I was factoring in the presence of places including Two Amys, Sette Osteria, Pizzeria Paradiso, etc.

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Washington, D.C.: But doesn't the word itself, new, accomplish that, without quotation marks? It's the punctuation we're wondering about.

Tom Sietsema: LOL. You must be a copy editor!

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Wooster, OH: Re: the steak doneness conundrun

It's funny how the price of an item dictates how it should be cooked. Compare eggs to steak. People like their eggs cooked all different ways and no one bats an eye. But when it comes to steak, people cringe, cry, or treat the request with disdain. Personally, I think an egg cooked over hard is gross, but lots of people like it that way. For the record, I like my steaks mooing and my eggs nearly chirping.

Tom Sietsema: You raise a most interesting point! And you just made me laugh out loud with your vivid descriptions of doneness.

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Capital Hill: Any chance Taqueria Nacionale will expand its hours for those of us who cant get that far from work during the week?Or maybe open on weekends?

Tom Sietsema: Whaddaya say, Ann and Johnny?

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NW Washington, D.C.: So we finally went to Comet Ping Pong in upper northwest -- what's the fuss about? Yeah the decor is neat and ping pong tables are great. But the pizza is terrible. My wife said it tastes like matza pizza, which is something Jews have over Passover (no leavened bread). People actually like this cracker pizza? Give me 2 Amys, or give me death. Or Sette or even Pizzeria Paradiso.

Tom Sietsema: Reaction to my review of Comet was quite passionate. Diners either love, love, love or hate, hate, hate the place. An anonymous voice mail sent over the weekend even accused me of sleeping with "James or Carole or maybe even both of them." I have to say, in all my visits to the pizzeria, I never once experienced a pie that resembled matzoh.

washingtonpost.com: Review of Comet Ping Pong.

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Greetings from Alexandria, Va.: Tom - I know it's way down the list of important considerations/activities for restaurant folks - but I'd just like to say that I really love to see an up-to-date menu on a restaurant website. The folks at Tempo in Alexandria do a great job updating their weekly specials online - which has been a particular help to me in getting carryout from them for my Mom, who has been confined to bed for about six weeks. The food is also pretty darn good - and they do a careful job packing it for carryout.

I also like to check out restaurant websites in advance of going there, when possible, to get some ideas in mind on what I'd like to order (of course, I also check out your reviews, when applicable).

Anyways - I know it's not nearly as important as most other factors in the restaurant experience, but I'd just like to tell any restaurant folks out there that there are definitely some people who appreciate a solid, helpful restaurant website! Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Actually, yours is not a minor consideration. Lots of readers tell me they appreciate finding up-to-date menus on restaurant web sites.

My feeling is, every restaurant with an online presence should have an employee or two whose job it is to make sure ALL the information -- hours, dishes, prices, specials -- is fresh and correct.

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Washington, D.C.: Enchiladas? La Lomita Dos is what you're looking for- wonderfully drenched, great flavor all around.

Tom Sietsema: Where is it, please?

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St. Petersburg and Moscow:: In St. Petersburg, you must check out Restaurant 1913 for very solid Russian cuisine and live music. Make sure to do a couple shots of the local Russian Standard vodka. For outstanding Georgian food served in a mom and pop hole in the wall, go to Chat, its on a side street behind the Sheraton Hotel (turn right as you exit the rear).

Moscow is a moving target. Again, Pushkin Cafe if you want solid Russian food served in a posh 18th Century setting. Scandinavia (off or Tverskaya) servers very good Scandinavian food in a very hip setting, plus they'll have their beer garden open this time of year - nothing better for people watching.

Tom Sietsema: The tips sounds promising. Thank you.

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Maryland: Posting this after my lunch shift on Saturday while the incident is still fresh. I just wondered how your readers would react to this scenario - a party of 6, two order burgers Medium, the server explains that medium is going to be pink and wonders if that will be okay with the child who ordered one (the other was the Dad). Everyone is fine, but when they are served, Dad sends his back as too rare. The cook takes the burger from the bun, zaps it briefly to cook it more to medium well (it came out perfectly medium, pink as promised) and sends it right back out so the family can eat together. The manager goes to the table to make sure the burger is done right this time and the Dad is sitting there with his arms crossed and the burger untouched in front of him. He is totally P-Od that the kitchen Microwaved his burger, and while the manager doesn't know that this is true, she is apologetic and takes it away and off the check. But why is the man so upset that the burger had been zapped? He remained angry for the rest of the meal and they left the server a 10% tip, as though it were her fault. Was it so wrong to use the Micro to cook his beef a little more? It was as though he would rather have had the chance to complain that it was taking to long to cook it more and we robbed him of this opportunity... Anyway, thanks for letting me vent!

Tom Sietsema: My question is: Why didn't the kitchen simply throw the burger back on the grill, which wouldn't have taken much more time to cook than in a micowave? (Meanwhile, "Dad" sounds like a real pill, to use my mother's expression.)

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom, I reserved at Black Salt two weeks ahead and asked for my favorite table. Although they couldn't guarantee it, the request was noted and that was confirmed by the restaurant the day before our dinner date. When I arrived at 6:15, a party of four, which had not requested the table, was seated there. The "host" noted my unhappiness, said he was sorry, and I didn't see him again until I was leaving the restaurant. I was surprised that he wasn't more attentive to us after we sat down.

Miffed

Tom Sietsema: If you reserved two weeks in advance, at which time you put in a special request, and you reconfirmed the wish a day ahead of your visit, I see no reason why the restaurant couldn't accommodate you. I'd be miffed as well.

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Clifton, Va.: First most restaurants reserve their not so great strip steaks, filets and ribeyes for folks who want their steak cooked well done since they will never know the difference.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, yes. I forgot to raise that oh so important point!

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Crofton, Md.: When you have a reservation, how long should you be expected to wait? We had a reservation at Kali's Court in the Fells Point section of Baltimore. It was for 7 p.m. on the night of our anniversary. We arrived 5 minutes ahead of that time. They told us to wait at the bar. We checked in again at 7:15 and 7:30. Finally, We left at 7:45 after being told by the Euro Maitre'd that "People are Dining". The bizarre part is that while we were there people kept arriving, but no one was seated, and there were two empty tables.

Tom Sietsema: The standard grace period for restaurants and diners is 15-20 minutes. After that, the restaurant needs to make amends and the diner loses his right to a seat, unless he has called ahead and offers a good excuse. There are always exceptions, of course, but I think the 15-20 minute rule for both host and guest is fair.

"People are dining" is a lame excuse. And just who was the restaurant saving those two tables for? Late arrivals? VIPS? Regardless, you were owed a proper explanation. I hope you found a suitable place to celebrate your special date.

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Washington, D.C.: Just a question. Why would you order (or expect it to be good) Sushi at the Mayflower Lobby Court?

Tom Sietsema: I ordered sushi because 1) the food menu is small, 2) it is, after all, a dish being offered, 3) a lot of people like sushi and 4) the menu roams the world for ideas.

washingtonpost.com: First Bite of the Lobby Court bar.

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Shots: Not that I don't agree that those shots discussed in the previous chat were ridiculously overpriced, but I did want to just remind people that shots are expensive. If you get a rail shot, you will still be charged the base price for alcohol. For instance, a vodka tonic will cost 5 dollars -- a vodka shot will cost 5 dollars. You usually only buy one vodka tonic at a time, but people like to buy rounds of shots. Ergo, it'll cost you. Don't be surprised when you get the bill after buying six of your best friends shots and it costs 33.00 (adding tax). Also, shots with more than one type of alcohol, cost even more. Just something to remember the next time you get crazy at a bar. Oh, last thing -- it takes more time to make shots -- tip well on those, please.

Tom Sietsema: You sound like someone speaking from the trenches. Thanks for chiming in.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, what's your guilty pleasure? the one sort of junk food thing you secretly love? I cook and eat gourmet all the time but chili cheese dogs (especially from Ben's) make me smile.

Tom Sietsema: Fritos! (They were Julia Child's snack of choice, too.)

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Washington, D.C. and Michel Richard: With regards to Michel Richard dining at Central, I see him several nights a week dining on the patio at Citronelle. I generally walk or drive by around 9:00 pm, and he may be seen sharing a bottle of wine with several friends.

Tom Sietsema: Hey, I want that job!

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For Columbia, Md.: I totally agree with you! I happen to like my cakes really dry. I get so mad when pastry chefs don't prepare my cakes so that they're crumbly and burned on the bottom. Who are they to tell me a cake should be moist? And when I order pasta, why isn't it done extra soft? I like it when my pasta loses its shape and becomes mush, because it reminds me of comfort food. I don't get why they insist on cooking pasta so it still holds its form. And don't even get me started on why my vegetables aren't boiled like I like...

Tom Sietsema: Now I'm REALLY laughing ...

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Richmond, Va.: the point about doneness isn't who is right or wrong, but how wrong it is when a chef or waiter treats a diner very badly when they ask for more doneness than is the fad. I had a chef come out and try to shame me cuz I wanted my tuna cooked through, I never went back. Accept my reasonable requests and hard-earned money gracefully or find someone else who'll agree to be treated like doo-doo at $100 a pop. AT those prices, treat me respectfully or not at all.

Tom Sietsema: Fair point. It's probably best for a chef not to dress down a diner at the table.

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La Lomita Dos: La Lomita Dos is on Pennsylvania Avenue, easily walkable from Union Station.

308 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington DC, DC 20003

Tel: 202.544.0616

Tom Sietsema: Gracias.

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"New":"New" with quotation marks implies that it's not actually a "new" restaurant, but the old restaurant in a new spot. I would have done the same Tom!

Tom Sietsema: Whew. Let's put this issue to rest now.

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Re: Good enchiladas, anyone?: I suffer the same need for a decent enchilada or at least Mexican food in the area. I'm a huge New Mexican food fan, and the closest I've found to good green chilie is Anita's in Vienna. Not the best, but still the best I've found.

Now if anybody can tell me where I can find a good STACKED enchilada, I'm talking Santa Fe Shed style, please let me know. My birthday is next week and I would love to trade one of my dinners at Maestro's or Citronelle for a killer enchilada.

Tom Sietsema: Anita's. I still need to get there ...

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Arlington, Va.: In your review of Casa Oaxaca, you seemed to like the place but only gave it 2 stars. Upfront, I like the place and Guajillo. But I'm just askin'

Tom Sietsema: Two stars is "good," and what's wrong with being good? If you look back at my review, I did include a few criticisms.

washingtonpost.com: Review of Casa Oaxaca.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you ever reviewed Good Guys in Georgetown? Their 1/2 pound char grilled prime ground sirloin beef burgers put Five Guys to shame. I swear that Good Guys is a better place for regular guys than Five Guys.

Tom Sietsema: I have yet to formally review the strip club in Georgetown, but appreciate your tip!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hello,

This isn't exactly a dining question, but your readers are knowledgeable about all things food related. Does anyone have a local source for frozen -sour- cherries? I cannot find fresh sour cherries at my farmer's market, and I'm craving a cherry pie. Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: Chatters?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

I just wanted to let you and your readers know of a tough exprience myself and a couple of friends had at Poste one evening recently for happy hour. The hostesses at the door were pleasant enough, assuring us we would have pleasant service for drinks and light food at the tables and chairs scattered in Poste's delightful courtyard. Unfortunately, that is where the positive experience ended. The service was terrible. First of all, several servers we had couldn't decide when happy hour actually started and whether we could actually get any service at all or whether we had to go up to the markshift outdoor bar with the long lines to get our drinks. It took us almost one and a half hours to get our orders of truffle fries, and often water didn't appear when we asked for it as a break from our alcoholic drinks. To top it off, a friend of mine got a whoppingly large (and incorrect) credit card bill after the fact that appeared on her credit card statement, which she is still trying to sort out with the restaurant manager and her credit card company. All of this is really too bad, since the location itself is really beautiful.

Tom Sietsema: The patio IS a lovely spot for drinks (if you can get 'em).

Your complaint sounds like fodder for a staff meeting at Poste. At a minimum, servers should know when happy hour starts (and ends); who is responsible for which tables; and how to dispatch fries and water in a timely fashion.

Thanks for giving me yet another opportunity to remind chatters to examine their bills before paying; I find one to three errors a week, on average.

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Washington, D.C.: I went to Belga Cafe a couple of weeks ago and when they asked us what kind of water we wanted the waitress offered sparkling or still. I quickly said still thinking that was tap water. Of course it isnt as we found out when we paid $6 for a bottle of still. Needless to say we stayed until we finished that water. I know we should have talked to the manager but we were late for something. My question is do a lot of restaurants operate like this where they don't even offer tap water? To be honest the fact that she didnt offer tap affected her tip.

Tom Sietsema: Diners really need to be offered all three choices of water. In Toronto, Canada, last week, I was pleased to be asked, at different restaurants, "Still, sparking or ice water?"

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Re: sushi joints: One of our favorite sushi places is Sushi Taro -- I actually like it better than Kaz. Why doesn't Sushi Taro get more respect from reviewers? It's always packed at lunch with guys from the Japanese embassy, so they must be doing something right!

Tom Sietsema: Who says the place doesn't get any respect from reviewers? I think it's one of too few examples of fine food on its stretch of 17th St. NW

washingtonpost.com: Review of Sushi Taro.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm planning on catching up with a friend on Sunday for brunch, a meal I don't typically eat out. Any suggestions for a place that isn't too noisy?

Tom Sietsema: Cashion's Eat Place, the garden at Tabard Inn and the Bombay Club all qualify for a muted brunch.

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Washington, D.C.: Quick Tom, help! What's the deal with the Iron Gate? I'd never noticed it before until recently. Is the food any good. It seems quite romantic, would this be a good place to take my husband for his birthday?

Tom Sietsema: Iron Gate has been around FOREVER. Like a lot of people, I'd rather sit there than eat there. It's a romantic space with merely adequate food. A shame.

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Smarty Pants:"I have to say, in all my visits to the pizzeria, I never once experienced a pie that resembled matzoh."

You just wanted to show off that you know how to spell matzoh and your poor posted didn't.

Tom Sietsema: Not true!

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Columbus, OH: Im writing one last thing and REALLY hoping you post it. When I worked in DC I had so many managers SCREAM at me and the rest of the staff that the world of restaurants are moving toward paychecks (rather than giving all your tips at the end of the night). Well mean managers in DC, its simply not true. Not in Florida, not in Ohio and not anywhere that Ive asked my fellow restaurant employees in other states. So STOP screaming at us just because you want to rip us off!

Tom Sietsema: Uh, care to expand on your post there?

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doneness of food: oh come on. lighten up. WHAT is the big deal is someone wants a steak well done? for all the chef knows, the person has an immunity disorder and isn't taking any chances (pesonal experience on that one). And guess what, no EVERYONE has that refined palette the chef might have. Sometimes they just want a steak the way they want it. I go the other way - I get well annoyed in states where I'm not legally ALLOWED to have a rare hamburger. But I don't blame the chef for following the law. I do blame the chef if he or she simply think he/she knows my tastes better than I do. This is a service industry after all.

Tom Sietsema: Okay, let's leave the issue at that.

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Washington, D.C.: Can we add Carole Greenwood to the list of people you're obviously in the tank for, for better or for worse? I've always noted that you make special mention of your friendship with Mark Furstenburg of Breadline when reviewing anything of his. Shouldn't this same principle be extended to cover personal biases such as what you clearly have with Greenwood?

Tom Sietsema: Hard as you might find this to believe, I barely know Carole Greenwood. And if you go back and read my past reviews of her restaurants, I've certainly doled out criticism.

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ohio: RE: Sweetgreen.

Even though I only get to DC a few times per year, I enjoy your column & comments.

Here is wishing Sweetgreen great success. It sounds as if it is the right thing at the right time. It is very encouraging to read of such young restauranteers. What a great example for young adults starting out in their lifes endeavors.

Tom Sietsema: Their concept is part of a mini-trend here, what with Chop't opening about the same time in Penn Quarter.

washingtonpost.com: The Dish on Chop't Creative Salad Co.

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What happened to Zest?: Tom,

I happened to be driving in downtown Frederick the other day, and noticed that Zest has closed. Do you know if they have (I hope) relocated? I know the spot in Frederick that they picked just wasn't workable for a number of reasons.

Tom Sietsema: I left a message on the restaurant's (active) voice mail a few weeks ago, but have yet to get a response. And when I called Zest again this morning, the outgoing response was "we're on vacation until June 18."

That doesn't bode well, does it?

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Herndon, Va.: For you tex-mexer's - Taqueria Poblano is the place to go. Arlington and Alexandria locations. Only downfall is they charge different types of salsa!

Tom Sietsema: I'll second that.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Tom! Wondering if you've been by Hanks's Oyster Bar lately. It has been one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants since it opened, but last week, for the first time, we were disappointed. When we got our menus, we immediately noticed that prices has gone up slightly. I used to always get the $19 lobster roll, which is now listed for $22 or $23, I can't remember which. Other prices had gone up as well. We didn't mind the increase, because we still thought it was fair for the food we got, but when the food arrived, the portions were notably smaller on both my lobster roll and my sister's short ribs. At first I wondered if I was just remebering the dishes incorrectly, but then my sister commented on the change before I said a word. I'm not usually one to complain about smaller portions, but coming at the same time as a price hike? Even the food itself seemed a little different. We've always loved the mac and cheesy for it's crunchy top layer of cheese, but this time, both of our two orders of it came out mushy throughout. I honestly dislike posting negative comments about a place I've loved for so long, and even with the changes, it's still much better than most of what you can get in that area, but maybe if you post this, the owners will see that people are noticing the changes, and we don't like them!

Tom Sietsema: I've heard similar rumblings from other customers, alas.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

I would like to get my friend and her fiance a gift certificate to a great restaurant in the area. I would love to send them to Citronelle, but having been there myself I know it's closer to $300 for two people. Ideally, it wouldn't be more than $200 including tax and tip. They're both adventurous eaters, so there's nowhere off limits. Any suggestions you have would be great!

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: How about some other prize winners? As in Palena or Vidalia, which shared the Best Chef/Mid-Atlantic honors at the James Beard awards in New York this spring, or Komi, whose young kitchen talent was selected by Food & Wine as one of America's best new chefs this month?

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sour cherries: They're not frozen, but I'm pretty sure I saw sour cherries at the Takoma Park farmers' market this weekend. You could try there. (Sunday, 10 to...2? I don't know, I go early!)

Tom Sietsema: It's lunch time, folks. Time for me to get to work.

Thanks for another entertaining hour. See you back here for more next Wednesday.

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Tap Water: Our waiter at Brasserie Beck, called tap water the Mayor's water. Which my mother found hilarious.

Tom Sietsema: Cute!

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