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Destination Guide

Perhaps the best way to gauge Washingtons ethnic diversity is to examine the menus of its fine international restaurants. Many have observed that as more and more countries suffer political unrest, the dining scene in Washington expands. With the abundance of Vietnamese, Afghan, Salvadoran and other ethnic restaurants, its difficult to dispute that theory.

From Embassy Row to Capitol Hill, Washington is a city of people with tastes as varied as the opinions of Congress. At Washingtons restaurants, diners will find everything from regional American specialties to varied ethnic food.

American cuisine ranges from California Asian-fusion to specialty dishes such as New England Clam Chowder and blackened catfish from New Orleans. If you're looking for barbecue, you might sample variations from North Carolina, Memphis or Kansas City; or perhaps the original American fusion-cuisine from New Mexico.

Washingtons suburbs have their unique contributions to the dining scene. Maryland crab cakes are legendary, but if you don't mind working a bit, roll up your sleeves and order steamed crabs. You crack the shells open with a mallet and pull out the succulent meat yourself. In Virginia, you can sample colonial fare including peanut soup, oyster stew, and famous Virginia ham.

Much as the United States is a "melting pot" of nationalities, Washington is a melting pot of international cuisine. And what delights this pot holds. From upscale to casual, continental, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, restaurants are abundant. Additionally, among the nations best Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Ethiopian restaurants are found here. If you want to stretch your taste buds a bit further, try Burmese, Jamaican or Egyptian. Whether you're looking for a great meal to make you feel at home, or far away from home, Washington is the place to find it.

An area that has gone through a number of changes over the years, Adams-Morgan is now one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city. This is reflected in its eateries, which include the wonderful Thai restaurant, Star of Siam, where you can eat on the rooftop. If you want to try Ethiopian, Meskerem and Red Sea are good bets, and Mixtec is a great Mexican place. The Grill from Ipanema is as good as its clever name suggests for fun cocktails and Brazilian food. Numerous bars and coffeehouses are open late for after-dinner conversation and people watching.

Chinatown/Seventh Street
Adjacent to the recently opened MCI Center, Chinatown is a great area to have a bite to eat before or after a sporting event or concert. You won't go wrong with most restaurants here, but especially notable are Hunan Chinatown and Tony Chengs Mongolian Barbecue.

Seventh Street, once a fashionable shopping district, is emerging as an arts and culture center. For tapas and sangria, head to Jaleo. Or if you're in the mood for Irish stew and a Guinness, visit Fado.

Downtown/Foggy Bottom
There are lots of wonderful restaurants in the downtown area that cater to office workers. Whether you're going for a power lunch, a business dinner or just want to have a great meal, Old Ebbitt Grill and Les Halles are Washington favorites. Looking for seafood? Kinkeads boats the best ocean fare in town. For something more casual, try the southwestern Red Sage.

Dupont Circle
With its many restaurants, shops and bars, Dupont Circle is a fun area to be on weekend evenings. Most of the bars above Massachusetts Ave and P St are gay bars. If you're in the mood for upscale Southern food, try Vidalia. At The Palm you might catch a glimpse of a Sunday morning TV political pundit as you enjoy your steak and martinis. For a more calming environment, Teaism is an Asian teahouse with small meals and, of course, a wide selection of exotic teas. Sesto Sento is an Italian restaurant that transforms into a disco in the later hours. If you'd rather browse books and have a coffee after dinner, try Kramerbooks.

Georgetown/Washington Harbour
Cosmopolitan and hip Georgetown is full of student-oriented clubs and a few for the older crowd, including Blues Alley for jazz. Start down at the harbor area at Sequoia for a drink as the sun sets over the Potomac. Stay for dinner, or head up to Georgetown for a fabulous Indian meal at Aditi or the best Ethiopian fare around at Zeds. Citronelle features Californian-French cuisine, and for historical ambiance, 1789 has great atmosphere and food.

Old Town Alexandria
The town of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, Alexandria is steeped in history. Experience its past as you sample some of Washingtons favorite dishes at Gadsbys Tavern, where the general often dined. For decadent Southern food and outrageous desserts, Southside 815 is a must. Cajun Bangkok offers a unique combination of Thai and Cajun food and delights the senses. For a more relaxed atmosphere, Ecco is where the locals enjoy pizzas, pasta and salads.

Bethesda, Maryland
Just over the District of Columbia line in Maryland, Bethesda is a mecca for food lovers. Tara Thai is a local chain that focuses on fresh seafood but offers a variety of other delicious dishes. Its a favorite throughout the area. Delray Vietnamese Garden is a hidden treasure with low prices and some of the best Vietnamese food around. Bacchus is popular for its Lebanese mezze and kebabs, and Bethesda Crab House is the place to go for some of those famous Maryland crabs.

Louise Baxter