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Eater's Guide to Pre-Theater Dining Around Town

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Photo: R. Lopez

'Tis the season for performances, concerts and theatrical acts.

Ford's Theater has the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" showing until New Year's, while the "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" is coming to the National Theatre for a four-day run, starting on Christmas Day, just to name a few.

But what to eat before the show in order to to make the curtain call? Thankfully, a host of D.C. restaurants and bars offer specific pre-theater menus that allow diners to savor a three-course meal for a discounted price early in the evening near show venues. Here are some of the best specials around, grouped by where they reside in the city.

Area: Downtown
Nearby Theaters: Ford's, Warner, National
Deals: Contemporary Latin American restaurant Ceiba features a "pre-event" menu from 5:30 to 6:30 every night except for Sunday. The $35, three-course meal lets patrons select from just about any entree on the regular dinner menu along with an appetizer and dessert.

Cedar, where First Lady Michelle Obama dined in the spring, is an ingredient-driven restaurant, so the options on its $35, three-course menu change and rotate. But right now pre-theater dinner includes cream of roasted pumpkin soup with black truffles, a smoked gunpowder farm bison carpaccio appetizer and roasted rainbow trout with a stew of New England clams.

From Michel Richard, Central, too, has a menu for theater-goers available 5 to 6:30 every day. The $35 meal includes three different appetizers, entrees and desserts from which to choose. House venison sausage, deviled eggs with roquerones and chocolate lava cake are a few of the selections.

Geographic Area: Chinatown/Penn Quarter
Nearby Theaters: Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth (although the downtown theaters listed above aren't terribly far either)
Deals: For a pre-show dinner that fuses Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese, Asia Nine offers either a three- or four-item meal. The $25 choice lets diners pick a trio from the soup, salad and app menus along with a complimentary wine and dessert. The $35 option tacks on an entree as well. Both selections are available 4 to 7 pm Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday.

Upscale eatery 701, near the Archives Metro station, has become known for its pre-theater offerings. The modern American-focused restaurant has a $32 three-course menu until 6:45 pm Monday through Saturday and all of Sunday. Managers encourage diners, via their website to "allow yourself time" for the offerings that include entrees like sake miso glazed salmon and flatiron steak.

Jose Andres' Penn Quarter Jaleo outpost also is on on the pre-theater game with a $30-per person menu. The Spanish small plates den lets diners choose three items from a selection of double that number of tapas.

Popular Indian eatery Rasika, also from restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, has its own pre-theater menu for $35. The three courses include classic dishes like tandoori salmon and a palaak chaat appetizer.

Geographic Area: 14th Street/Logan Circle
Nearby Theater: Studio Theatre, Source Theatre, Theater J
Deals: Masa 14's pre-theater special is a combination of alcohol and food that aligns with its Latin-Asian fusion theme. For $32, patrons get three dishes from the restaurant's dinner or dessert menus plus al alcoholic beverage -- house red or white wine, a traditional margarita, strawberry lemondate or a Yuengling draft. The deal is good Monday through Thursday 5 to 6:30 pm and Sunday from 5 pm until closing.

Next to the Studio Theater, Posto, has a three-course pre-theater menu for $29 a person with Italian fare that mixes classic and modern takes such as chicken milanese, house-made gelati and sorbetti and an egg and spinach fettucine with a local veal ragu. The dinner special applies nightly from opening until 6:30 pm.

Geographic Area: Foggy Bottom/West End
Nearby Theater: Kennedy Center
Deals: Longtime D.C. restaurant Marcel's by Robert Wiedmaier, featuring French Belgian cuisine, has a more lavish pre-theater special than most. The $65 price tag includes a three-course menu along with executive car service to and from the Kennedy Center. The rotating cuisine has fare like American red snapper with ratatouille and sweet pea soup with veal meatballs and creme fraiche along with executive car service to and from the Kennedy Center.

Geographic Area: SW Waterfront
Nearby Theater: Arena Stage
Deal: CityZen, located inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, has the option of a $50, three-course dinner at the bar so that diners can eat and run off to a show. The meal can be paired with a $25 wine pairing, Dishes among the courses are sunchoke agnolotti, sauteed pave of Maine merlu with confit cuttlefish and broccoli rabe leaves.
—Dena Levitz


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