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Neighborhood restaurants – do they make the “Great” grade?

Do you know the category “Great Neighborhood Restaurant”? These are the places that rarely act as destinations for people from far away, but they’re faultlessly comfortable and welcoming. The food is always good enough that dinner there sounds like a plan if you live down the block. Maybe they sponsor an adult kickball team or something like that. When you go to yours, you’re likely to see someone you know almost any time. The whole menu looks tempting, but there’s this one dish you’re probably going to get every time. These are, in their own way, great places; and they add a lot to the texture of a neighborhood.

So far, we’ve mostly steered clear of this when pulling together plans for Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. They just struck us as a little mundane for the kind of elevated date night we’re hoping to send you on.

But a few weeks ago, we tried to take ourselves to dinner before a show in Bethesda and learned that Food, Wine, and Co, which had been our preferred dinner place in that area, and we found out that it had closed its doors for good. As we cast around for a replacement (which was critical not just to feed ourselves but because we had recommended Food, Wine, and Co for great evening #9 in the just released edition) friends directed us to Persimmon (7003 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20815 301-654-9860 persimmonrestaurant.com) which turned out to be very much a Great Neighborhood Restaurant, with super-tasty seafood and friendly service, and definitely a good locals vibe.

We had a very nice meal, and decided we could use it for the evening in the July – September edition, particularly since it was right around the corner from the play. (Sara has updated the Kindle and PDF versions of that edition, so please update yours if you’ve already pulled it down.)

Our question still is, as a matter of general policy, should Neighborhood Restaurants like this be part of a great evening out? They don’t offer the kind of stand-out qualities we’re usually looking for (and which we’ve written about before). Persimmon, for example, has acoustic tile ceilings and absolutely generic booths and tables.   But the service was great, the food was better than fine, and the atmosphere was so much that of a gathering of friends, it was special in its own way.

So we’re putting this out as a question that I hope you’ll help us answer in the comments to this post below. Why should we or shouldn’t we include comfortable neighborhood restaurants in the book? How do they fit or fail to fit into your concept of a great evening out? If you’d like to send a private answer, you can also send it to peteandsara@greateveningsout.com. Thanks!

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