Summer Restaurant Week came and went this year without much fanfare. Some of my friends said they hadn’t even heard about it. I’m usually uber-competitive about it, but this year I barely blinked. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was the extra five dollars tacked on to the normal price, but mostly, I feel like it was the fact that in the middle of this recession you can get better deals all year round for the same or less than the $35 price tag that comes with Restaurant Week. To prove my point, I checked out a selection of Restaurant Week favorites, and came up with a hefty list of regular all-the-time prixe fixe menus at some of the area’s best eateries. You can eat at some of a DC’s foodies favorites if you’re willing to do a little leg work, or eat a bit on the early side.
Most of my favorite places in Chinatown and Penn Quarter, especially, do pre-theater menus. You usually have to arrive before 7 p.m., but that’s perfect for an after-work dinner date. Or, alternately, head to some of these places for lunch, where you can grab otherwise super pricey food for cheap. The other option is to saunter up to the bar at some of the city’s best, where you snag some of the same dining room meals for less.
When compiling this post, I wanted to stick with full meals here (for happy hours, refer to my fried happy hour food and healthy happy hour food posts) and so I only feature full meals offered at the bar for less than $35. So, foodie, there are ways to eat your way through the city for less all year long, you just have to be smart about it!
Dinner Prix Fixe
The first way to hit it up is doing a pre-theater menu, an early bird special or even just the restaurant’s tasting menu. Now, I’m usually OpenTable’s #1 advocate, but in this case I’d actually make the effort to pick up the phone and call a place. Call, say, Cafe Atlantico, make the reservation and confirm that they still do the pre-theater menu. When they say that they do, indeed, still do the pre-theater menu ask them to make a note next to your reservation that you’ll be taking part in that. Also be sure to ask about any funny requirements – for example, most places require that you place your entire order by 7 p.m. to get the deal – and then reconfirm with your waiter when you get there. It doesn’t have to be awkward, “we want to eat cheap tonight, no we don’t want wine, and we’re terrible tippers!!” Instead, a simple, “we’re here for the pre-theater menu tonight, what do you recommend?” will suffice, and let your waiter know what you’re there for without embarrassing you in front of your date, or getting an unexpected bill at the end of the meal.
Zola – $30 per person
Daily, 5 – 7 p.m.
Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello of Zola actually offers a three-course prix fixe menu during the early evening from 5 to 7 PM daily, and costs $30 per person. The three course menu changes seasonally but includes a choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert which highlights including Porcini Mushroom Ravioli served with marsala sabayon, arugula and parmesan; Mandarin Orange Barbeque Shrimp served with seared bacon polenta, arugula and chive gremolata as well as Local Virginia Veal Loin served with bleu cheese-infused pasta pearls in a smoky butternut squash sauce. Zola is located next to the International Spy Museum at 800 F Street, NW
Neyla – $24 per person
Daily, 5-7 p.m.
Neyla offers a $24 prixe fixe menu daily from 5-7pm, with its 3 Course Afternoon Seduction Menu. Start the evening with an array of Mezzas (small plates), followed by Pan Roasted Sesame Crusted Salmon with Herbed Cous Cous Salad and Mango Beet Vinaigrette or Chicken Confit with Sumac Onion, Green Beans and crispy Harissa Potatoes. Savor the seduction with Fresh Seasonal Sorbet or Ashta with Banana and Wild Flower Honey for dessert. Neyla is located in Georgetown at 3206 N Street, NW.
701 – $28.95
Daily, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
For $28.95 per person, you can snag three courses at 701. The pre-theatre menu is offered from 5:30 -6:30 p.m. and features delicious options from newly appointed Chef Adam Longworth including appetizers such salad of Baby Greens with fresh figs, hazelnuts, shaved goat cheese and entrée choices such as Roasted Cod with fingerling potatoes, haricot verts, black olive puree, warm tomato vinaigrette and Marinated Culotte Steak with creamy polenta, portobello mushroom, red wine sauce. For dessert pastry chef Roger Potter will delight with the Milk Chocolate Pot de Crème. After dinner, guests can walk to the National, Shakespeare, Ford, Arena Stage and Woolly Mammoth Theatres. 701 Restaurant is located at 701 Pennsylvania Ave, NW.
CommonWealth Gastropub – $24-$32
Sundays at 1 p.m.
Jamie Leeds and CommonWealth Gastropub host a Sunday Roast. Each Sunday at 1p.m., CommonWealth honors the British tradition of the “Sunday Roast”. The Roast is the British Sunday afternoon supper, featuring a selection of roasted meat with accompanying sides. Roasted meats, purchased locally whenever possible, such as leg of lamb, rabbit, pork, turkey, and chicken will be served family style with potatoes and farm vegetables. The prices range from $24-$32 per person. CommonWealth is located at 1400 Irving St NW.
Cafe Atlantico – $35 per person
Daily from 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Specially crafted by Chef Terri Cutrino, Cafe Atlantico hosts a three-course prix fixe menu daily from 5-6:30 p.m. Priced at just $35 per person, the meal includes appetizers such as mixed green salad of fresh herbs, crispy wild rice, Cabrales cheese and walnut vinaigrette, a choice of entrées such as Salmon Veracruz served with tomatoes, olives, onions, capers, avocado and fresh lime or Portobello mushroom served with huitlacoche, Chihuahua cheese, roasted beets and beet oil, and lastly a tasty desert of warm chocolate cake: Venezuelan chocolate flan, banana-lime salad and ‘espuma’ of banana. Cafe Atlantico is located at 405 8th Street NW.
Ristorante Tosca – $35 per person
Daily from 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Following the trend in Chinatown and Penn Quarter, Ristorante Tosca also hosts a $35 3-course Pre-Theater Special. Available daily from 5:30pm to 7:00pm (excluding New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and other holidays when Tosca has a specialized dinner menu), and available for parties of 8 or fewer, dining guests are able to choose their own favorite appetizer, main course and dessert from Tosca’s full menu. Such a great deal! Ristorante Tosca is located at 1112 F St NW.
Jaleo – $25 per person
Tuesday – Saturday from 5-7 p.m.
Jaleo hosts a small plate pre-theater menu with Spanish fare such as gazpacho al estilo de Algeciras: classic gazpacho with croutons and olive oil; gambas al ajillo: the very, very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic and guindilla pepper and chorizo casera tradicional: homemade traditional chorizo on a puree of garlic potatoes. Satisfy a sweet tooth with the traditional flan al estilo de mama Marisa con espuma de crema Catalana: classic Spanish custard dessert with ‘espuma’ of Catalan cream and oranges. The pre-theatre menu is available Tuesday-Saturday from 5-7 p.m at $25 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). Jaleo is located at 480 7th Street, NW.
The Oval Room – $35 per person
Daily from 5:30 – 6 p.m.
Located just steps away from the White House, is one of the Washingtonian’s Top 10 Best Restaurants of 2009, The Oval Room. Selections from Executive Chef Tony Conte’s menu can be found on the attractively priced three-course, prix fixe menu available for $35 per person from 5:30-6 p.m. daily. Show stopping dishes include White Asparagus Soup with petite herb salad, mint oil and pickled shallots; Slow Baked Salmon, baby bok choy, fried Chinese eggplant, soy & kaffir and for dessert a Claufoutis with red wine strawberry sorbet. The Oval Room is located at 800 Connecticut Ave, NW.
Rasika – $30 per person
Monday – Friday from 5;30 – 6:30 p.m.
Head over to Rasika for a twist on Indian fare at the restaurant whose name is Sanskrit for “flavors.” The three-course prix fixe menu includes appetizers such as Tikka Kaliya, Seekh Kebab, Clam Caldine and Sev Puri; entrées such as Chicken Makhani, Lamb Roganjosh and Tandoori Salmon; and traditional desserts such as Gulab Jamun. The pre-theatre menu is available for $30 per personMonday-Friday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 5-6:30 p.m. Rasika is located at 633 D Street, NW.
Others of note: Corduroy does a “neighbors” prixe fixe for $30, Oya does a standing prixe fixe ($29 per person) daily, The Grille at Morrison House has a pre-theater, ($33 per person), Firefly does an early bird special ($23 per person), Bastille, located in Old Town Alexandria, has a 3-course $35 prix-fixe menu for dinner on Tuesday through Saturday.New Heights does a four-course $35 dinner deal, and finally, Jackson 20’s plenty for $20 deal which is an appetizer, drink and dessert for $20 per person. For even MORE check out Zagat’s pre-theater menu listings.
Next let’s check out the bar. These are both fantastic deals, 2941 for $30 is a TOTAL steal, and the bar is gorgeous. But again, call the restaurant to confirm they’re doing the prix fixe menu. I wouldn’t lie to you (knowingly) but it’s better to be confident going in. Also, make sure when you sit down at the bar to confirm with the bartender that you’re there for the bar tasting menu, or the Lunch Crush deal – it’s good to start the meal on the same page with your wait staff, always!
2941 Restaurant – $30 per person
Monday-Friday from 5-9 p.m.
2941 Restaurant is offering guests a three-course, prix fixe bar tasting menu that perfectly showcases Executive Chef Bertrand Chemel’s exceptional modern French American cuisine. Priced at $30 per person, the bar menu changes daily and is served Monday through Friday from 5-9 pm. From starters such as Yellow Fin Tuna Tartar with pinenuts, black truffle vinaigrette and celery to main courses that include John Dory with baby zucchini and truffle sauce and Beef Ribeye with rustic potatoes, bordelaise sauce and watercress, 2941 patrons can enjoy some of Chef Chemel’s innovative cuisine at affordable prices. Pastry Chef Anthony Chavez continually changes the dessert offerings, which include such treats as Pistachio Pain de Gênes with ruby grapefruit, rose water crème and campari sorbet and Coffee Moelleux with crème anglais and vanilla chip ice cream.
Proof – $12 per person
Lunch Service Daily
Proof is introducing a mid-day meal deal fit for busy professionals in search of a quick and delicious lunch option in the Penn Quarter. Offered in the bar and lounge only, the Lunch Crush features a choice of six entrées paired with a glass of house red or white wine, soft drink or iced tea for $12. Chef Haidar Karoum’s menu will rotate regularly, but always include at least three sandwich options, such as the Crispy Shrimp Burger, served with cucumber, jalapeño, pickled daikon and Sriracha aioli, and the Wagyu Steak & Cheese, served with wild mushrooms, jalapeño mayonnaise, provolone and mixed greens; a pasta option, such as the Orecchiette and Housemade Italian Sausage with rapini, wild mushrooms and Parmesan; and a hearty salad option, such as the Grilled Hanger Steak Salad with romaine, avocado, bacon lardons, Roquefort cheese and croutons. Wine Director Sebastian Zutant will also rotate the house wine pours regularly.
Lunch is also another great time to save money. The same food you’d get at dinner, but cheaper. So if you’ve got plenty of time to spare, and you’re feeling hungry, lunch deals are perfect for you. Again, I can’t say it enough, confirm the deal when you call to make the reservation, and once again when you arrive with your wait staff when you get there. I just don’t want you to have any surprises, I’m looking out for you here!
Morton’s Steakhouse – $25 per person
Morton’s Prime Lunch Selections is a three course deal for cheap. Choice of Soup or Salad: Lobster Bisque, Baked Five Onion Soup, Morton’s Salad, Caesar Salad or Mixed Field Greens Salad. And then for your entree, you may choose from the Grilled Prime Ribeye with Garlic butter and Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Colossal Shrimp & Sea Scallops with Grilled Vegetables, Served with Buerre Blanc Sauce over Sautéed Spinach, Grilled Northwest King Salmon with Sautéed Garlic Green Beans. For dessert diners can choose between a choice of Mini Cheesecake or Double Chocolate Mousse. This deal is available at the Morton’s downtown and in Reston.
Inox – $28 per person
Monday to Friday from 11:30 am- 2:30 pm
Inox Restaurant offers guests a three-course prix fixe lunch menu at just $28 per person. The trendy new arrival at Tysons Corner serves a menu of creative and approachable American cuisine. The special menu, which includes dishes like Maine lobster risotto, duck confit cavatelli and seared yellowfin tuna with spring garlic puree, asparagus, saffron potatoes, puy lentils and foie gras emulsion, allows guests to try Inox’ inventive cuisine at affordable prices.
Vermillion – $11, $15 or $19 + $5 optional glass of wine
Lunch Service Weekdays
Vermilion’s Executive Chef Anthony Chittum has debuted the “power lunch box” for the on-the-move mid-day diner, giving guests the choice of lingering over lunch or dining and dashing according to their schedules. The three new power lunch box options are meant to be enjoyed in under an hour, and include: “The Intern,” priced at $11, which includes a half Davon Crest salad, a cup of butternut squash soup and half of the roast beef sandwich; “The Junior VP,” a two-course meal, priced at $15, that includes a choice of Davon Crest greens or butternut squash soup and any sandwich; and “The CEO,” a two-course meal, priced at $19, which includes a choice of soup or salad and any main course. Diners may add any dessert or a glass of wine to any power lunch meal for an extra $5. Guests opting to try “The Junior VP” may choose from sandwiches such as the Shaved Roast Beef with red onion marmalade, horseradish mayonnaise and sweet onion roll and the Blackened Catfish with 2 cabbage slaw, pickled spicy peppers and crispy russet potatoes. “The CEOs” can select from a variety of main courses, such as the Hanger Steak with porcini dusted fries, baby greens and housemade steak sauce, and the Grilled Chicken Paillard with Path Valley arugula, sweet and sour red onion and Pecorino Romano. The power lunch box options and other lunch offerings are served during Vermilion’s lunch hours Monday – Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m
Georgia Brown’s – $24 per person
Lunch Service Daily
Georgia Brown’s is oh so southern and satisfying with its 3 Course Prix Fixe Lunch Menu. Chef Jim Foss is buzz’n with savory southern favorites, said to be better than those from your grandma’s kitchen! Lunch begins with a Fried Green Tomato, stuffed with creamy herb goat cheese, or a Country Caesar Salad to start, followed by your choice of some of Georgia Brown’s signature dishes: Southern Fried Chicken, Carolina Gumbo, Black Eyed Pea Cake or Charleston Perlau. Lunch is not complete without a southern Sweet Duo of desserts. Simply Southern…Simply Buzz’n with Sweetness!
Poste – $20.09 per person
Lunch Service Daily
Poste Moderne Brassiere does a power lunch deal for $20.09. Appetizer is a choice of soup or salad, the Garden Arugula Salad or the French Onion Soup with an entree of Grilled Chicken Cobb or Anson Mills Polenta Ravioli, and a choice of any dessert excluding the cheese plate.
Art and Soul – $24
Weekdays Lunch Service
Art and Soul’s Filibuster Buster lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Monday – Friday for all the Washingtonians who are on-the-go, but still want to enjoy a top-quality, sophisticated lunch. The Filibuster Buster lunch features a three-course menu for $24 and diners will receive their bill and dessert within 45 minutes of being seated. The new seasonal menu includes a first course choice of Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Arugula Salad, Caesar Salad or the Capitol Hill Salad; entrée choices include Maryland Style Fried Chicken with country potato salad, Blackened Catfish with crawfish etouffe and picked yellow beans, or Ravioli with spring vegetables and fresh herb; as always, the meal will finish with a care package of babycakes to be enjoyed at the diner’s leisure.
So there are some of DC’s finest, ready for you to eat cheap, if you’re just resourceful about it! You’ll get the Restaurant Week prices, but without the crowds, sometimes sloppy service, and possibly the lower-grade ingredients. And on top of that, you’ll be able to sample some of the city’s best restaurants from opening to close, and what more can you ask for? So where will you be visiting for a prix fixe meal? Any deals I missed that you love? Dish in the comments.