More and more people are giving the gift of fellowship during the holidays. Selecting a gift is such a challenge, so this year, make a deal to spend your money on a meal and celebrate each other. It’s good for the economy, and you don’t have to stand in line. Many Bethesda restaurants are festive places where you can relax, and leave the cooking to someone else.
Here are three restaurants that are especially effective at catering to groups. They include a place to dine elegantly with staff or loved ones; a bar to gather with friends visiting from afar; and a place where family can watch a show and enjoy a multi-course meal.
Elegant Holiday Dining
Few restaurants are better at making guests feel their time is valued and their presence appreciated than Black’s Bar and Kitchen. Featuring modern American cuisine, the service at Black’s excels, the decor is sleek, and conversations are easy--thanks to premium acoustics.
At a recent lunch at Black’s, located on Woodmont Avenue, I noted large and small groups of business people. Black’s boasts ample space between each table, along with rugs and wall coverings that protect your ability to converse quietly. You’ll notice patrons are often here to do business, confident that they will impress a client with Black's aura of refinement and quality food.
Black's is an optimal place to gather staff to show appreciation for a year of hard work. The service is warm, yet dignified; they respond to every request with a smile. For example, the chocolate chip biscotti that comes with your tea or coffee order is a charming touch, and your server readily delivers more upon request. If you mention bread, in moments, a long tray of freshly baked soda, French and focaccia breads with creamy butter arrives at the table. If you order hot tea, you receive a personal piping hot tea pot with ample refills. Now, that is what I call service.
The menu is small but gratifying. Say, you prefer a burger with fries; you won’t be disappointed with the flavor and preparation of either. If you adore seafood, there are interesting ways in which Black’s chef serves it up. Don’t miss the risottos, one of the hardest dishes to master and yet, his is sublime. They prepare a hearty gumbo and requisite salmon. The salads are lighter and include fancy flourishes like crisp, fried anchovies on the Caesar salad.
Black's attracts an upscale, mature happy-hour crowd by offering classic drink and appetizer specials--shrimp cocktail on ice for $9, boutique oysters and a selection of fresh clams for $1.45 each. Monday through Friday, from 4 – 7 p.m., draft beers including Stella Artois are $3.75, many wines by the glass are $5 each, and their signature martinis are $6.
Black’s recommends a reservation for large groups. 7750 Woodmont Avenue, (301) 652-6278.
For as long as I can remember, a night at “The Dog” meant fun was at hand. Whether you’re still on the prowl, or happily paired up, you and your friends will enjoy the high-energy hi-jinks found at The Barking Dog on Elm Street. Live bands, pool tables, sixteen draft beers, spicy hot wings….the list goes on. Your compadres will enjoy bellying up to the bar to wink at the bartender or catch up on the latest football scores.
When fun-loving friends visit, take them out on the town, and chances are good that The Barking Dog is running a special that night. But check before you go. The Barking Dog loves its employees so much they give them Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off; up until then and afterward, there will be plenty of gatherings, music and festivities. 4723 Elm Street, (301) 654-0022.
- Tuesday night is salsa night—8 p.m. to closing -- with dancing and cheap margaritas, mojitos and sangria.
- Wednesday nights, trivia games take on new meaning while quaffing discounted Yeungling pints and pitchers, and eating The Dog’s multitude of wings and piles of crunchy nachos.
- Happy hour is every day between 4 – 8 p.m. The Dog sells $3 domestic beers, $4 - $5 microbrews, $5 glasses of wine or rail drinks. Small plates are $5.
Some of us enjoy gathering around the hearth, sharing stories and watching football. Others want a good meal, and prefer to have their day off be a day off. No standing in the kitchen.
So, for those Christmas and Hanukkah gatherings with family, consider Benihana, a Japanese hibachi restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue.
At Benihana, the performance and food are crowd-pleasers for all ages. They are open on Christmas Eve and day during regular hours (see web site for information), but Benihana of Bethesda’s manager Lisa McEwen recommends reservations for large groups anytime.
Benihana is accessible Japanese food served communal style at tables for ten. Your cousin from Peoria will like it. Their multi-course dinner consists of miso soup, salad with ginger dressing, fried or white rice, mixed vegetables including cabbage, onion, zucchini and peppers, followed by a choice of protein, including chicken, shrimp or steak.
The show involves food acrobatics—chefs at each of the steaming, hibachi tables pitching morsels in the air, lighting onions on fire, and doing a lot of fancy knife work. It’s truly fun. Kids love it, but people of all ages find it entertaining and tasty too.
It’s clearly not “healthy” in comparison to most Japanese cuisine, but it’s a well-rounded meal, and for some reason, kids will eat a vegetable that’s flown through the air and landed on their plate. Go figure.
The children’s menu ranges from $9 - $13. The adult dinner prices begin at $17 for hibachi chicken and are up to $48 for lobster and filet mignon, but this month, Bethesda’s Benihana is hosting a Benihana teppanyaki special throughout the month of December. In this deal, two guests can order a six course meal for $50 (tax and gratuity excluded) that includes two filet mignon and chicken entrees grilled with mushrooms and sesame seeds, Benihana onion soup, Benihana salad, hibachi shrimp appetizer, mushrooms, hibachi vegetables, homemade dipping sauces, steamed rice, Japanese hot green tea, and cinnamon gelato dessert.
If someone in your crowd wants something lighter than a multi-course meal, Benihana serves sushi and has an a la carte menu. On Monday through Thursday, they offer an “Endless Sushi Bar” for $29 per person that includes soup, salad and edamame with your choice of sushi. Free parking behind the restaurant is a bonus. 7935 Wisconsin Avenue, (301) 652-5391
Remember--this year, forget re-gifting, gift cards and giving a gift no one needs: dine out instead! Bethesda's Best Bites wishes you a holiday season filled with good food and low stress parking.