You don’t need a red carpet or a gaggle of paparazzi to feel like a VIP. Many restaurants offer special services even to nonfamous patrons. “We’ll bend over backwards for guests,” says Kristopher Diemar, general manager at Carmine’s in Penn Quarter, who has run out to buy toys for crying children and arranged to have flowers waiting for couples. “We like to help make special occasions even more special.” Here are our favorite perks and how to access them — no secret handshakes required.
Lending a Hand
When you sit down at this backroom speakeasy for an evening of craft cocktails, you’re given a complimentary hand towel. Delivered steaming hot during the cold months or refreshingly chilly amid the heat, the towels are scented with seasonal essences. Right now, they come with a heady, herbal blend of lemon, lavender and fennel.
Columbia Room, 1021 7th St. NW; 202-393-0220. (Mt. Vernon Square)
Business never stops. So, if you’re amid a meal and get a call that requires you to act quickly, just ask to use the restaurant’s business center (available from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.). Equipped with Wi-Fi, a printer and mailing supplies, you can consider it your second office — one where you can order bacon lollipops and tater tots.
Founding Farmers Potomac, 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, Md.; 301-340-8783.
Bringing the kids out to eat can be exhausting for you and boring for them. Instead of crayons, here parents can order little ones complimentary cookie-dough men and a colorful array of toppings. Tikes have a fun project to work on, while adults get to enjoy cocktails and appetizers. The treats are baked and served for dessert.
Firefly, 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-861-1310. (Dupont Circle)
Drinkable Doggy Bag
Enjoy a fine vintage while eating here, and afterward you can pick up a bottle (or a case) to go at retail price — sparing you from describing the bottle later at your local shop. Branching out? Sommelier Vincent Feraud is happy to suggest vinos from his carefully curated wine cellar.
Entyse Wine Bar & Lounge, 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, Va.; 703-506-4300.
Sparkle and Shine
Scuffed your loafers in a hurry to appease your growling stomach? A quick stop at the shoeshine stand at McCormick & Schmick’s K Street location – open Monday through Friday from approximately 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. – ensures you can get them buffed back to perfection before you head back to the office. ($10 per pair)
McCormick & Schmick’s, 1652 K St. NW; 202-861-2233. (Farragut North)
Keeping Their Cool
No one likes cheering for the Caps with leftovers in tow. (A container full of meatballs in one hand and half a lasagna in the other spells trouble.) That’s why this family-style Italian joint known for its oversized portions has a special fridge where diners can store their leftovers at no cost. That way, diners can attend events at the nearby Verizon Center or browse the National Portrait Gallery without worrying about spilling ragu on themselves.
Carmine’s, 425 7th St. NW; 202-737-7770. (Archives)
Riding in Style
Whether you have tickets to an opera, a ballet or a symphony at the Kennedy Center, this Foggy Bottom fine-dining mainstay makes sure you get there on time with its luxury car service, included complimentary with the three-course pre-theater menu ($65). Simply request the free ride when making your reservation or before ordering dinner. After the performance, you’ll be whisked back to the restaurant to pick up your car or catch a taxi home.
Marcel’s, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-296-1166. (Foggy Bottom)
Next Stop, Luxury
Want to experience this AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant, but not interested in driving an hour and a half to get there? Now you can book a seat on the Inn’s luxury bus for $75 per person (available on April 26, though future dates may be added; call to make a reservation). On the way out from the downtown D.C. pickup point, you’re pampered with champagne and savory snacks. Coming back, you can snuggle under a blanket with your sweetheart on a couch or recline solo in one of the easy chairs.
The Inn at Little Washington, Middle and Main Street, Washington, Va.; 540-675-3800.