Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Where to Eat: Ulah Bistro

Alternate title for this post: Where to Take Your Parents

My folks are retired (read: usually bored) and wait anxiously for one of their two children to invite them for a visit. When said invitation is extended, they immediately start packing, pay the teenagers next door to get the mail and mow the lawn, and hit the road. That's right -- they DRIVE from Florida to D.C. or Maine. They've got nothing but time on their hands!

Their visits are slightly more work for me, though. I try to plan out activities (other than taking me shopping, which is a given) and, most importantly, meals before they arrive so that there's little chance for boredom and indecision (and because I'm just the type of person that plans). In a city such as D.C., you'd think that would be an easy task -- there's so much to do and see (for free!) and many, many options for quality dining.

Because my parents used to live here, it's not all that difficult to name fun (and even new-to-them) outings that they'll enjoy, but because my parents are somewhat cautious and claustrophobic, restaurants can be a bit more challenging. The food can't be too adventurous, complicated, or petite; the restaurant can't be too cramped, loud, or "hip" -- they don't like to stick out. 

Occasionally, my brother and I can talk these old dogs into learning new tricks ... as long as we order for them and don't go overboard. Please don't tell them about the "old dogs" metaphor!

For the last couple of years, I've been taking my parents to Ulah Bistro on U Street each and every time they visit ... and, let me tell you, they love it!  

Sit here.
They like that they recognize all of the food items on the menu but still feel like they're getting something special. They like that it's quaint but not cramped and that the restaurant has always been ready for us when we arrive for our reservations (I'm a planner, remember?).

Don't get me wrong, I love this place too -- but, most of all, I like that they like it.

Eat this.
Here are my recommendations: ask for a table upstairs by the window, order a bottle of wine (to share, obviously), split the smoked Gouda mac n' cheese or tuna tartar as an appetizer, and get some after-dinner drinks for dessert. You won't be sorry.

The last time my mother visited alone, we enjoyed some wine at the downstairs bar before our friends arrived and we were seated upstairs in my favorite corner. My suburban mom felt very fancy with our progressive dinner remix. It's the little things.

If you're headed to a concert or a show nearby, you should know that they have TWO bars (upstairs and down) for your pre- or post-show drinks and snacks.

Given that we all seem to be on-the-hunt for the best brunch in D.C., I should also mention that they're one of my favorite spots for eggs as well. They have FOUR Benedicts on the menu, and I can eat 3 of them -- salmon, crab, or spinach. That's a big deal for me!  Call ahead or use OpenTable, because they are always busy during brunching hours.

Photo Credit: Prince of Petworth
A parent-friendly restaurant that offers non-pork breakfast dishes? Yeah, I think you can see why we keep returning. 

BUT... if you're not sold yet, check out the photo to the left. Al fresco dining is precious this time of year, and Ulah has a pretty spacious patio. 
Sometimes being right on U Street and above the Metro isn't all that appetizing though, so keep that in mind when you opt for the outdoors. 

Tell your folks I said "you're welcome!"

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