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Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, August 8, 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: Good news for fans of mini-burgers and pizza offered under one roof: Matchbox, the Chinatown hotspot, has just signed a lease for a second location, at 521 8th St. SE.

Co-owner Ty Neal says he and his business partners have been "looking for awhile" for another place to feed fans; the "under-served" Capitol Hill neighborhood had always been their goal. (Self-interest? Neal and one other Matchbox partner reside there.)

The new place will have the same menu and hand-built oven as the original. But the owners are asking for your patience: The launch date -- "in a perfect world," jokes Neal -- is at least 9 or 10 months away.

On with the show!

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Gazpacho: Good Morning, Tom.

Where do you think I can find the best Gazpacho right now? It's so hot!

Tom Sietsema: Chilled soup is on my mind, too.

In past heat waves, I've had delicious bowls at the Oval Room, where it was made with diced melon and shiso; Poste, where the soup was garnished with Dijon mustard-flavored ice cream; and Cafe du Parc, where the tomato puree is poured over basil oil and pine nuts pre-set in the bowl. I also like the creamy-but-light white gazpacho served at Jaleo.

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Bethesda, Md.: Dear Tom

My friends and I need your help.

Here is the story: In early May, we had an incredible and memorable five hour lunch at Galatoire's in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It combined great food, with great champagne and an even better atmosphere at a relaxed pace. We had multiple courses and appetizers and even a mid meal dessert course. During that event, we mingled with others in the restaurant and came across a table that was there almost as long as us and in talking they told us their story. They were a bunch of high school friends who were now doctors, lawyers, and brokers who met each month at Galatoire's for a lunch to catch up and break away from the monotony and stress of life.

Later during that trip to New Orleans, my friends and I dined on heavenly fried chicken and banana pudding at Fiorella's, close to the French market. After that meal, we decided to start the Fiorella's lunch club here in Washington.

Our inaugural event was 1:30P.M. July 31, 2007 at Michel Richard's, Central. We had a three hour experience with great food, good champagne, and a respectable atmosphere. However, we realized that this may not be the place for these rendezvous' as we were told at 2:30 that we needed to order our entrees NOW and the vacuum cleaner at around 4 o'clock was a hint that maybe dessert was not a great thing to order after all. We spent time speaking with the GM, Brian, who although musically competent, expressed the body language that his restaurant was not the place for our desire of a leisurely dining experience nor offered any advice as to where we might take this show.

So given what I have described, the big question is .Where do you recommend my friends and I take our lunch club to have great food, great champagne, and an even better atmosphere?? Is there a restaurant that would embrace a four to five hour lunch experience? Does this place exist in our Washington world??

Thanks for considering our question.

Tom Sietsema: I bet Taberna del Alabardero, Le Paradou or Vidalia would welcome your business -- and wouldn't mind your lingering.

My question to you: What do you have for dinner after these epic lunches?

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Toronto restaurant scene -- urgent!: Hi Tom,

After posting unsuccessfully a couple of weeks ago I desperately hope you pick my question today -- my Toronto trip is this weekend and I have nowhere to eat! Can you please shed light into the restaurant scene there? Low-to-mid budget preferred. ...

Thanks a million!

Tom Sietsema: You're in luck: I was in Toronto recently. While I don't want to give away too much of my forthcoming Postcard column based on my visit there (Sept. 2/Travel section), I'm happy to steer you to Lai Wah Heen for dim sum; Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar for small plates and the obvious; and Chiado for honest Portiguese cooking.

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Washington, D.C.: Bottom line, where can I find the best steak in the area? Forgetting about service, ambience, wine lists, etc. Put simply who serves the best slab of meat?

Tom Sietsema: It's a toss between Carole Greenwood's prime steak at Buck's Fishing & Camping in the District and Michael Landrum's less traditional cuts at Ray's the Steaks in Arlington.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Tom,

Gotta ask. Was it your dad quoted in the Lake Superior article in the Post? It says Ted Siestema and he is a retiree and smokes a pipe. The name Sietsema is unusual here but maybe more commom in the upper midwest?

Tom Sietsema: My dad's name was Elwin, not Ted, but he did smoke a pipe at one time.

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Washington, D.C.: Any word yet on the impending opening of Gillian Clark's new place in Forest Glen? I keep submitting this question hoping you've heard something, but your lack of response tells me you probably haven't. I drive by there on my way home everyday, and it doesn't look like there's much activity ... thanks for any info you can give!

Tom Sietsema: I have no news to share with you (which is why I didn't take your question). But I'm curious, too!

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking my question. I was thinking of trying i Ricci during Restaurant Week. Is it worth trying?

Tom Sietsema: Not based on what I've heard from trusted friends who have eaten there recently ...

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Houston, Tex.: Tom, can you use your influence to put a moratorium on the phrase "To die for?" I just have trouble imagining that a slice of cheesecake is worth dying for.

Tom Sietsema: Me too. I hate the phrase. You won't ever see it in anything I write -- unless I'm doing a column on phrases that need to, well, die.

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Recommendation, please: Hi Tom, I know you hit each restaurant several times as you prepare to write the review, and thus you eat at a lot of restaurants. If you left the business (and I'm NOT suggesting you do) and could eat wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted, do you think you would change your pattern? Where would you go most frequently, or do you think you would eat at home more? Do you have a desire to be a "regular" somewhere? I guess I'm wondering whether you can take the boy out of the reviewing life but you can't take the reviewing life out of the boy!

Also, what metro area restaurant has the best fried chicken?

Tom Sietsema: Funny, I had a similar conversation earlier this week about my desire to push away from the table (a bit) and cook more. I was a food editor in another life and I really miss spending time in the markets and in my own kitchen.

If I were a civilian, I wouldn't feel compelled to travel all over Virginia, Maryland and the city to eat. And I certainly wouldn't bother returning to restaurants that didn't please me right off the bat, because there are too many good places competing for my time and attention. I'd probably pick six or so restaurants that I liked and then cultivate a relationship with the staff -- that's the best way to achieve Regular Diner Status and get the best from a given place.

As for fried chicken, the Hitching Post on Upshur St. NW does a very nice job. Any chatters care to weigh in with their favorite sources?

washingtonpost.com: Hitching Post

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Fairfax, Va.: A couple months ago, I asked for some advice for where to go for my wife's and my anniversary (you suggested Vermillion over 2 Amys).

I've been meaning to write in for a few weeks since we celebrated about a month ago, but haven't had the time. Anyhow, we took your advice, went to Vermillion, and had a wonderful evening.

I made the reservation through Open Table and mentioned that we would be celebrating and asked for a table near a window. They followed our request and put us upstairs at a window looking out onto the street. They also did some research and found out that the traditional gift for the 13th anniversary is lace (nice touch!).

The meal was delicious and a great deal. We got the four course tasting menu with wine pairings with each course for $75/person. Also, it appears that since your review they have decided to forbid smoking anywhere in the restaurant before 10 p.m.

All in all, thanks for the great advice!

Tom Sietsema: Glad to hear the restaurant is still performing so well. About that lace: was it presented to you or ?

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No Time for a Trip to California: And yet I'm craving fish tacos. Can you or the chatters recommend a local place with good to great fish tacos? Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: The last best fish taco I encountered was a $4 model at the new Oyamel in Penn Quarter. Am I missing something greater, I wonder?

washingtonpost.com: Oyamel

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom, I had lunch yesterday at DC Coast. At the beginning of the meal the server dumped an ice tea all over my blazer and slacks. She said she was sorry and offered me several napkins to dry off. That was it. Do restaurants no longer offer any type of compensation for such things...ie a free dessert or something?

Thank you

Tom Sietsema: Did you ask for anything, or bring the problem up again? Most restaurants compensate diners for dry-cleaning bills. I'm guessing that in the crush of Restaurant Week, your server simply forgot to check back with you.

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Washington, D.C.: Any help with Buenos Aires? Looking for both casual and fine dining; breakfast, lunch and dinner.

washingtonpost.com: Postcard From Tom: Buenos Aires

Tom Sietsema: Ask and you shall receive. I was in BA earlier this year, so the reviews here are still fresh.

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Tales from the trenches: What, no Restaurant Week war stories? What's happening -- it's too hot to type in D.C.?

Tom Sietsema: Bring 'em on readers!

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Toronto, Canada: Toronto, you're in luck. There's a lot of good food in the city. La Forchette in Little Italy is tasty. Sample things at St. Lawrence Market. Have some chocolate at Soma Chocolate in the Distillery District. Movenpick, while not haute cuisine, is fun. And Tom is definitely right, you'll find some good Portuguese food there. Enjoy!

Tom Sietsema: Ah, thanks for reminding me to list the St. Lawrence market, which is mouth-watering good fun.

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Best Fried Chicken: Popeye's. Without a doubt. I get it for parties all the time, and everyone thinks I am a genius.

Tom Sietsema: You take it out of the cartons and plate it, right?

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Washington, D.C.: Where would be a good place to celebrate a guy's 30th birthday?

Tom Sietsema: What kind of food does the guy like, and how much does the guy want to spend? (Chatter tip: The more detail I get, the easier it is to answer some of your questions.)

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Washington, D.C. : Where is a good restaurant to get excellent Prosciutto and in general is there a restaurant that specializes in cured meats? I went to one in NY and was wondering if we have something similar in D.C. Thank you, Ellen

Tom Sietsema: Gosh, where can you NOT find good cured meats these days? Just about every new restaurant to open around here serves a charcuterie plate. My most recent encounter: the wine-themed Proof in Penn Quarter

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom, I'm planning to eat at Il Mulino for restaurant week this Saturday. I've heard good things from friend in NYC, but am curious if you've eaten at the one in Washingt yet. Any thoughts?

Tom Sietsema: Here are my thoughts on the subject:

washingtonpost.com: Il Mulino: Style Over Substance ( Post, June 10)

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Rockville, Md.: Fish tacos: Taqueria Poblano, by far. $3.95.

Tom Sietsema: Of course!

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I hate Restaurant Week: Reluctantly went to RW week last night as a favor to my husband, whose friends had organized a night out. I normally avoid RW as my first experience left much to be desired. Last night was my 2nd RW experience and let's just say I'm never doing it again. Service was HORRIBLE. Empty plates were left on the table for too long; too much time between courses; small portions; no 2nd drink order. Just not worth it -- would much rather spend the extra money to not have to deal with RW.

Tom Sietsema: And you ate where last night?

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Washington, D.C.: Have you tried some of the new restaurants in Columbia Heights yet? I looked at the menu at The Heights, but the best stuff on there looked like Ruby Tuesday fare at twice the price. The other stuff ... well, I didn't love meatloaf before it became "seared wasabi meatloaf."

Tom Sietsema: The Heights has some work to do, I concur.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

I had a lovely dinner at D'Acqua last night and ordered the panna cotta for dessert. This might be a strange question, but how unhealthy of a dessert did I select? It was definitely delicious but I felt that the lightness was masking something else... Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: There are all sorts of recipes for panna cotta, a light custard thickened with gelatin. Some use skim milk, some use heavy cream, others use combinations of cream and sour cream. But panna cotta is probably a healthier bet than, say, creme brulee which uses whipping cream, sugar and egg yolks.

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Washington, D.C.: Tom,

I have to thank you for your recommendation for Benoit in Paris, France on your Postcards from Tom last year. My wife and I went there for our honeymoon and really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. Next time we go to Paris we will definitely return there.

We are currently planning a weekend getaway to celebrate our first anniversary in Gettysburg. We plan on staying at a B and B in the country and want to enjoy some of the local fare. Do you or any of your chatters have any recommendations for a romantic place for dinner and some more casual places to enjoy the local atmosphere?

Tom Sietsema: Ah, Benoit is a jewel, isn't it? I'm so glad you enjoyed the restaurant as much as I did.

Gettysburg suggestions, anyone? I've never been there.

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Gazpacho: A goodly portion of nice, bright gazpacho can be had at a decent price at Busboys & Poets.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the addition to our list. Another chatter suggested the gazpacho with crab at Olives.

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Milwaukee, Wisc.: Hi Tom,

I was wondering if your profession ever put you in contact with the late Dennis Getto, and if you'd be willing to share any stories.

Thanks.

Tom Sietsema: Dennis was a (great) colleague of mine at the Milwaukee Journal way back when. I was the food section editor and he was the restaurant reviewer.

I loved his passion for his job (I recall he built his own pizza oven, which he put in his back yard) and admired the connection he had with his readers. He died way too young.

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To tip a sommelier?: Tom, what do you consider extra service deserving of a tip?

For example, the other night the restaurant was out of the wine we wanted (an all-too-frequent an annoying occurrence), so he suggested a different wine. We said we would take it at the price of the first choice, and he agreed. We made a point of thanking him on the way out, but should we also have tipped?

And who is responsible for keeping the list up to date?

Tom Sietsema: I run into the problem of "sorry, we're out of that" with some frequency -- two or three times a month. I don't have an issue with it unless I experience the same thing on a repeat visit, which suggests that the restaurant isn't updating its list much (if at all).

In your case, you were under no obligation to tip the sommelier *extra* for his service. A verbal thank you was sufficient.

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washingtonpost.com: Postcard From Buenos Aires

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Washington, D.C.: Went with some coworkers to Ceiba for lunch yesterday. The food was great, but the service was slow. I'm talking two hours for lunch slow. I mean it is August so we weren't in any rush to get back to work, but that seems a little slow even for Restaurant Week, right?

Tom Sietsema: Lots of people are reporting sloooooow service at participating restaurants. I'm not sure what the problem is. Too few servers? Too few cooks? Too many diners all at once? You'd think restaurants could plan for such.

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Children in Restaurants: Hi Tom! I read last week's chat after the fact and wanted to comment on the issue of children in restaurants. I have an eight-year-old who we have been taking to restaurants since she was quite young. She has always been well-behaved and we have been very clear in our expectations of her and her behavior. Our problem is that now we also have a nearly two-year-old, who we are raising in the same manner -- however she has a very different temperament. She is much squirmier and rambunctious than our eldest. We pretty much don't take her out if we can help it -- but we can't always help it!

We are planning a trip to London in the Fall for two weeks and will of necessity need to take her to restaurants. Do you or any other chatters have suggestions for minimizing the impact of our wild-child on those around us? (Toys, crayons, books are all in my bag.) All my superiority on parenting has flown out the window and I'm looking for restaurant advice!

Tom Sietsema: Okay, parental units. Here's your chance to keep peace and quiet in some London restaurants this fall. Feel free to share your best tips for keeping the squirmy little ones happy (or at least subdued, sans medication).

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Adams Morgan, D.C.: Hi Tom,

Thanks for taking my question. I have a question for you about dining solo. I would like to bring a book and read while I enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant when I'm traveling on my own for business, but am not sure if this is appropriate. What say you?

Tom Sietsema: Of all the things people take to restaurants, books are the least problematic. They don't make noise, the way cell phones do. Nor do they emit light or glare, as laptops do. I can't think of a single reason a solo diner shouldn't bring a good read to the table. (It certainly isn't rude to do so.)

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Tom -

About two years ago, based on your reviews, I had a wonderful celebratory dinner and Tosca for eight people. The food was delicious and the service excellent. This winter, I went for another meal, which I would classify as uneven -- some courses were excellent while others were sorely lacking.

Last night, I was invited to visit Tosca yet again for restaurant week. The food was mediocre at best. The fried squash blossoms reminded me of unseasoned jalapeno poppers. The Osso bucco was better than your average Italian restaurant, but was not great and served with under seasoned and disgustingly green basil mashed potatoes. The chocolate cake was utterly unremarkable.

What accounts for this restaurants fast decline?

Tom Sietsema: I was a great fan of the place when it opened, but it hasn't tasted the same since its lead chef, Cesare Lanfranconi, stopped day-to-day cooking. (As I reported earlier this month, Lanfranconi will be cooking at Spezie, downtown, when that restaurant reopens next month.)

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Restaurant Week Feedback: I've only been to one of my four planned Restaurant Week dinners this week, but it was a good one. Colvin Run Tavern at Tysons. I like how they still include an "amuse bouche" as well as the three-course meal, and the service is wonderful. Some complain about the small portions, but who wants a huge feast in this heat?

And to prove the worth of Restaurant Week, I and my friend have frequently gone to Colvin Run for full-price dinners, once we sampled how good it was at a RW several years ago.

Tom Sietsema: Good to know! Thanks.

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Re: Gazpacho: Teaism's Asian gazpacho

Tom Sietsema: Mmmmmm. Sounds refreshing.

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Falls Church, Va.: Tom -

I went to Komi last night and had their wonderful (and endless) wine paring/tasting menu. It was all so fresh and new and was really nice contrast to a place like the Inn at Little Washington which seems kind of old and stodgy in comparison.

The staff was really great too. Very knowledgeable without the slightest hint of snobbery or pretension. It was a toss up between Komi and Citronelle and we picked Komi based on a number of less than favorable comments in this chat about some of Citronelle's wait staff. When I'm dropping a small fortune on a meal, I feel that a condescending attitude should not be part of the experience.

Anyhow, I can see why there are all the raves about Komi. Have you done a "long" review of it? I can only seem to find the one paragraph version on line.

Tom Sietsema: My last full review of Johnny Monis's restaurant ran in 2004, but I've included the restaurant in more recent fall restaurant guides. The concept has changed since then, however, so I guess I'm due for another look-see-taste.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom, have you ever been to Singapore Bistro on 19th btwn L and M? If not, you have to try it. I was lucky enough to stumble across it only because of a work dinner there last night. The owner Grace is delightful and the sushi they served was amazing - some of the best I've had in D.C. They offer a low carb sushi wrapped in cucumber that was also delicious. The entrees were excellent as well. One of the items we tried was one of the house specialties Balinese Shrimp which was wonderful. I would also encourage folks who work downtown to stop by there for lunch.

Tom Sietsema: I've eaten there several times and have always enjoyed my lunches there. Plus, it's a cute setting. Funny, how some restaurant slip from the radar sometimes.

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Books in restaurants ...: I'm the mom of the wild-child, and I used to always have a book (for me!) in my bag. When I went on business trips (solo) I always read at the table, sigh, I'm really missing those quiet meals about now, and whenever I see someone reading in a restaurant I'm not offended -- I'm jealous!

Tom Sietsema: I rarely dine solo, but when I do, I love to catch up on my reading (this from a guy who gets five newspapers a day and finds himself hopelessly behind).

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Traveling with Books: I travel on business all the time and always bring a book or newspaper. I usually try to find good restaurants with bars so that I can also watch TV. Anything to stop me from staring straight ahead into space.

Tom Sietsema: Ah, a multi-tasker!

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Washington DC: My mom used to play tic-tac-toe with us in restaurants, using knives to make the board, and sugar and sweetener packets for game pieces.

Tom Sietsema: Hmmm. I can see how that might be kind of annoying, though, especially when the food shows up.

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Out of Wine: This used to happen to me repeatedly at a restaurant I used to frequent every week or two. I got sick of hearing the same excuse that they'd "run out" every time. And every week they acted like it only happened that one time and was a surprise to them. And it wouldn't be just one wine. I'd order the this cabernet -- oh, we're out of that. So I said, that cabernet - oh, we're out of that. After a few tries I'd say, just tell me what you DO have. There would be 2 choices every time -- a pinot, and a shiraz. I stopped going so frequently, tried them again a year later. Guess what? Out of all red wine except one pinot and one shiraz!

Seems like they must have run into some trouble other than being bad at predicting how much they needed.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the good laugh.

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Re: Gettysburg, Pa.: Gettysburg has a couple of good places. The Blue Parrot Bistro for good American cooking, La Bella Italia on North Queen Street for casual italian and good N.Y.-style pizza, and Gina's Place in Bonneauville for the most amazing Italian food in a small town. For a truly great diner try the Lincoln Diner. My dad and I have been going there for 34 years.

Tom Sietsema: I knew someone would pull through for us. Thanks.

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(not) your eve harrington: Hi Tom. Still waiting for your advice.

Tom Sietsema: I'm so sorry! But I had to leave town unexpectedly and I've fallen behind on my email. Please resend your query, ok? (I believe you're the budding food writer?)

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Children in restaurants: I have two children who have been to many restaurants, and I think the top issue to consider is timing. When you hear complaints about fussy children in restaurants, it's often because parents have brought them at prime time. This means they have to wait for a table, getting hungrier, and they're tired, and they're eating at the same time as diners looking for a "grown-up" meal. I always go for an earlier dinner, around 5:30 or 6:00. That's when the other families are dining, and children are more expected.

Also, with a squirmy two-year-old, I would recommend one parent taking the child for a walk as soon as the food is ordered, either around the restaurant if that can be done politely, or outside. Return when the food arrives. When the child gets squirmy again, the other parent does a walk while the first parent eats. Take turns. Repeat as needed.

Tom Sietsema: Sounds like a good recipe to me.

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Alexandria, Va.:

Have you heard of a phantom reservation-taker?

Yesterday, we called and made a reservation at Matchbox. A gentleman answered the phone number from the Web site (202-289-4441) and took the reservation. When we arrived at ten before seven, we were told by the hostess that they did not take same day reservations. We explained that we had in fact made a reservation and got some story that there is a man who is taking reservations without permission. They refered to him as a phantom who does this ofen.

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

We called the main number, so the person must have access to be inside the restaurant in the morning! I was rather put off by the behavior of the multiple hosts we talked to. We waited close to an hour for a table and were only seated when a member of our party said it's time to leave and not come back to this place. They did not offer to get the manager, even after I asked for his/her name.

What can we do about the phantom reservation taker?

Tom Sietsema: Mr. Neal, can you help me out here? This sounds ... strange.

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Washington, D.C.: I found recently while on work travel, chefs and waiters alike have been likely to strike up conversation with me. In Nashville I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in lengthy discussions about BBQ and eating with your hands...

Moral: when I bring a book I enjoy myself, when I don't I learn a lot about the local culture.

Tom Sietsema: You sound like my kind of diner.

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Dress for Central?: Tom, sorry for the late question -- jeans and a nice shirt okay for Central on Friday night, or do I need to wear slacks?

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: Jeans are fine. But more people will be dressed up than not.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: While visiting Toronto our concierge sent us to lunch at the Federal court building. The chef is a French caterer who works the "lunch room" when catering business is slow (most weekdays). The dining room is in the middle of the law library, which is populated with attorneys and judges in their powdered wigs. The food was wonderful and the atmosphere was very unique. It was a highlight of our visit. And the cost was about $12.

Tom Sietsema: Sounds like fun. Do you remember the name?

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Tom, when does your dining guide come out this year?

Tom Sietsema: October 14 (and boy, do I have a lot of eating and writing ahead of me!)

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One more etiquette Q: Can I pick up chicken with my fingers in a nice restaurant? Or just a BBQ joint?

Tom Sietsema: Sure, if you're discrete about it. What I hate is when people lick all their fingers afterwards. Yuck.

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Alexandria, Va.: Re: Fried Chicken

Bon Chon Chicken in Annandale serves an incredible fried chicken.

Tom Sietsema: Never heard of it. But thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Why haven't you done an updated review of Tosca since the first chef hasn't been cooking there in so long?

Tom Sietsema: Because I'm trying to keep up with all the new (and newsworthy) places that have opened!

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Re: Tipping on Service: Just a bit of insider info from the industry perspective:

When a restaurant/bar runs out of an item, it isn't the server's fault. It's the owner/management's mistake, as they place the orders for the restaurant. I don't think it should affect the tip in a negative way if the server or bartender did what they could to remedy something being 86ed. If the guest received attitude or bad service, it's different completely. As a bartender and server myself, it's frustrating when we don't have what's listed on the menu, but part of our jobs are to make our guests happy in spite of any problems that can occur during their stay. Just a heads up. Don't always take bad news out on your server!

Tom Sietsema: You make a good point there.

(When a waiter says something is "86'd," by the way, it means the restaurant or kitchen is out of that ingredient, drink or dish.)

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Washington, D.C.: Went to the Oval Room for lunch yesterday. They were playing music, with that horrible thumping, throughout the meal. I couldn't wait to leave the restaurant. The food was okay.

Tom Sietsema: Music in restaurants. A topic for another week.

Thanks for showing up, everyone. Let's do it again next Wednesday. Ciao for now.

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