Welcome to Ask Eater DC, a dining advice column in which the editor and regular contributors answer questions from readers. Have a question? Send questions in on the tipline, and Eater will try to feature the answer to one question each month.
“Can you help me find someplace fun, funky, with atmosphere to take a work group for dinner? Eclectic eaters, one vegetarian in the group.”
Hey there, SM! Happy to help. Three after-work options in the heart of D.C. come to mind. Enjoy!
Karma Modern Indian in Penn Quarter
This Bib Gourmand-designated showpiece, nestled off the hustle and bustle of 7th Street NW, has a roomy lounge area up front with lots of comfy couches off to the side. A lengthy marbled bar ensures there’s no one left standing. Clock out right on time to cash in on its short new happy hour (5 p.m. to 6 p.m.), when all kinds of sharable naan — minced chicken, goat cheese, and garlic — are just $5 and friendly bartenders have fun making their own cocktail of the day. For your vegetarian co-worker, consider new fall dishes from New Delhi-born chef Ajay Kumar like wok-tossed paneer with heirloom tomatoes and peppers or stuffed paneer with peaches and spicy gravy.
RPM Italian in Mt. Vernon Triangle
The dimly-lit bar at this stylish standby from celebrity couple Guiliana and Bill Rancic is arguably the closest thing D.C. has to a Vegas vibe (which makes sense why there’s now one at Caesars Palace). Billowing curtains join modern touches like sound-proof matte black ceilings, which encourage clear and audible conversation between groups. Its aperitivo hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. offers crazy discounts on cocktails (a $7 vodka-and-prosecco Spritz & Giggles is normally $14). The move: blanket the table with a parade of $6 Italian starters like tuna bruschetta or mushroom and truffle crostini, or enjoy happy hour alfresco on its patio. If you want to put the expense account to work, book a big booth in the scene-y dining room where its black tie-wearing waiters run one of the tightest ships in town.
Brasserie Beck on K Street NW
Downtown’s tried-and-true Belgian staple from acclaimed restaurateur Robert Wiedmaier is still going strong, 15 years in. Impress beer aficionados in the group with a thick, hard-to-find list of European selections by the bottle and on tap. A big bar area framed with vintage clocks and art is a good place to camp out and order freshly-shipped oysters, presented on ice in circular tins. Its opulent seafood tower is a pescatarian’s dream, stacked with a dozen oysters, clams, prawns, a whole Maine lobster, Alaskan crab legs, and sashimi ($175). Mussels come in half or whole portions, and the latter arrives with crowd-pleasing frites. Along with a normal happy hour time, there’s also a late-nite deal starting at 9:30 p.m. for those leaving the office late. I just found out they hired Eugene Perret, a rising young chef who’s cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants like Komi and Kinship and most recently Secreto de Rosita, so he’s sure to add his own spin to the menu soon.