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An Inside Look
Washington, D.C., definitely puts its politics before its penne con zucca. But we locals who prefer it the other way around still know where to find an interesting meal … or, in this case, seven.
By Joe Guinto



Early-Bird Special
JIMMY T'S PLACE
The midcentury tables are too small, the waitstaff tends to be surly (I was once invited to fetch my own water refills), and the food is pretty basic. In other words: It's the perfect diner. The location, though, may be the best part - Jimmy T's is just five blocks from the Capitol yet is hidden away in an old, shabby-chic row house on a residential street. 501 East Capitol Street SE, (202) 546-3646, www.jimmytsplace.com


Lunch of the Day
TABARD INN

Here's one of many reasons to go to Tabard: They import their own Roero Arneis, an obscure white wine from Piedmont. Yes, wine. At lunch. It's the right thing to do while sampling the top-notch local organic dishes and sitting in a secluded brick-walled garden that, for my money, is D.C.'s best outdoor spot.

1739 N Street NW
(202) 331-8528
 
www.tabardinn.com/rest.htm



Dinner Is Served
FLORIANA MERCURY GRILL
I like to take guests to Floriana because the experience is like eating at home - a home that's nicer than mine. Located a block from Dupont Circle, the eatery is in an old three-story row house complete with fireplaces, creaky hardwood floors, and oversize windows. The food? Italian and inexpensive.

1602 17th Street NW
(202) 667-5937


TABAQ BISTRO
You can see the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the largest church on this side of the Atlantic from Tabaq's top-floor, glass-ceiling dining room. You cannot, however, see the menu. It's very, very dark in there. Luckily, all the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean small plates are good. So just point and order. If your finger lands on the manti (Turkish-style beef ravioli in a yogurt sauce), you will be very, very lucky.

1336 U Street
(202) 265-0965 
www.tabaqdc.com



Drinks All Around
URBANA RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR
In many of the city's hotel swilleries, I've found myself bending elbows in the company of congressmen. But they don't hang out at Urbana, a chic lounge in the Hotel Palomar with drinks that are strong and a French/Italian bar menu that hits the spot. I did see Reese Witherspoon here once, though.

2121 P Street NW
(202) 956-6650 
www.urbanadc.com



RUMBA CAFÉ
Late at night, bands jam out in the corner, but this cozy Latin bar/eatery is best early in the evening, when it's quiet and less crowded. That way, I can better hear myself mispronounce cocktails like caipirinha, as well as inexpensive (but fulfilling) tapas like arepa de aguacate and especially patacon maduro con pernil.

2443 18th Street NW
(202) 588-5501
www.rumbacafe.com



Bonus: D.C.'s Best Dish
RASIKA

Most of the modernist Indian dishes in this lush restaurant are pretty good, but the palak haat - fried spinach that is crunchy and light as air - is inexplicably excellent.

633 D Street NW
(202) 637-1222
 
www.rasikarestaurant.com