Heard on the Hill: Get Your Subsidized Dining On

Posted January 8, 2012 at 9:31am

It’s winter Restaurant Week in Washington, D.C., again. And while everyone by now undoubtedly knows the drill — cut-rate, three-course meals offered at lunch and dinner — allow us to offer up a few neighborhood must-trys.

If you’ve never RW’ed, here’s the deal: Restaurants across D.C., Virginia and Maryland give away the store twice per year (winter and summer) in an effort to attract new business.

Participating eateries this time around — the winter term runs from Jan. 9 to at least Jan. 15 — will be serving up three-course feasts at lunch and dinner for $20.12 and $35.12, respectively. As per usual, your best bets are those restaurants that:

a. offer up their entire menu to exploration;

b. don’t customarily field prix-fixe menus;

c. are usually way out of your price range;

d. any combination thereof.

There are also a few RW first-timers looking to make friends:

Elisir

Enzo Fargione, the last culinary dream weaver to pass through Teatro Goldoni, has struck out on his own with the newly minted Elisir.

We’ve not tried anything on the RW-specific menu but would suggest you splurge on a house-made soda (the pear-rosemary cooler is our current obsession).

Fiola

As opposed to that other struggling ball slinger in town (Meatballs in Penn Quarter), chef Fabio Trabocchi’s house-made meatballs would be totally seductive on their own — slow-simmered, herb-laced orbs of deliciousness — only to be further exalted by lightly fried eggs that cascade their silky yolk into the surrounding pool of intoxicating sheep’s milk cheese sauce when pierced. Don’t believe me? Esquire magazine crowned Fiola as one of their best restaurants of 2011, less than six months after it opened.

Graffiato

“Top Chef” alumnus Mike Isabella parlayed his reality TV stardom, plus the goodwill he garnered during his time behind the burners at the critically acclaimed Zaytinya, into this Jersey-style Italian eatery that specializes in gourmet pizzas. Give the Countryman (fontinariffic) or Papa Smurf (speck-and gorgonzola-palooza) a nibble. 

Watershed

Yes, they gave it a go last summer. But restaurateur Todd Gray wasn’t thrilled with what was coming out of the kitchen early on and handed over the reins to his longtime second-in-command, chef Godofredo Vaquerano, in October. Now might be a good time to pop back for a revisit (at a discount, no less).

Other participating Capitol Hill properties include (with any corresponding RW extensions appropriately cited):

Art and Soul — L, D (1/9-1/22); B. Smith’s — L, D; Belga Café — L, D; Bistro Bis — L, D; Bistro Cacao — L, D; Cafe Berlin — L, D; Charlie Palmer Steak — L, D; Capital Grille — L, D; Johnny’s Half Shell — L, D; Lavagna — D; the Monocle — L, D; Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar — L, D; Smith Commons — L, D (1/9-1/20); and Zest Bistro — L, D.

Mangia!