I like knowing that the chef has carefully prepared his menu to reflect the ambiance and originality of his one and only unique restaurant. That I am experiencing something original, rather than sharing the same culinary experience as someone across town or across the country.
But, there are exceptions to every rule, and I've been proven wrong by the two quasi-chain restaurants in the D.C. area listed below.
Cava has three locations-- Clarendon, 8th Street SE, and Rockville-- and offers a large variety of Greek tapas. And by Greek tapas I mean delicious, mouthwatering dishes that you can share. The dim lighting, dark wood, and rustic design are sexy yet welcoming at the same time. It is the perfect atmosphere for a first date, a third date, or a date with your best friend.
One of my favorite dishes is the flaming cheese that the server lights on fire table side. I also recommend the dip tasting--- which includes small portions of hummus, tzatziki, roasted eggplant, feta, and grape leaves. The meat dishes are delicious and packed with flavor. The lamb meatballs and the chicken pitas are two of my favorites.
As for drinks, the wine menu is packed full of variety and options. A good friend of mine prefers the mojitos, which she says only takes two to get you to fall on your face when you walk out of the restaurant (and, yes, this actually happened to her-- and she has the scar on her face to prove it).
Fact: I would eat a medium rare steak every single night for dinner if I could. But, alas, my waist line, cholesterol and wallet would not be happy. That said, when I do want a delicious piece of red meat, my favorite spot is Capital Grille on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The steaks are flavorful and always served to perfection. And the sides. Oh, the sides. Creamed spinach? Yum. Lobster mac and cheese? Yes, please. The other thing I love about Capital Grille (and all you judgers, get ready to start judging) is the clientele and overall feel. It's kind of cool to sit at a table next to a Congressman, or run into the Under-Secretary of some important department. Call me pretentious, but sometimes it's fun to be surrounded by all the wheelers and dealers in D.C. And you definitely get that experience at Capital Grille.
There you go-- two chain restaurants worth checking out, because no matter the location you will get a unique culinary experience.
* The only two chains that break this mold are: Ruby Tuesday's (salad bar) and Olive Garden (because, c'mon, it's Olive Garden).