Thanks, hounds, for all the suggestions for our "grub crawl". Here's what we did.
Left the car in Rockville and metro'd to the Tabard Inn(our lodging for the night)--as charming as it was on our wedding night 5 years ago.
We briefly considered chucking the whole crawl plan for dinner at Obelisk, which we enjoyed greatly several anniversaries ago. The hostess was so sweet and could have squeezed us in at 9, but we opted to forge ahead with our grazing plan.
Pesce:Shared an appetizer of shad roe with truffled scrambled eggs and toast points, and each had a drink. Shad roe cooked perfectly, eggs didn't taste much of truffle but yummy all the same and at 11 dollars (the most expensive appon their menu) a very generous portion. Pesce was bright and cheerful--very bright, but it was nice to see families out enjoying good food.
Johny's Half-Shell: Really fun and unpretentious, a bit noisy but the decor was attractively simple . I love the old-fashioned white waiter coats! We sat at the bar, close to the kithcen and watched the guys sweat. Had 6 oysters on the half-shell--very cold and fresh, with a ramekin of mignonette that had a nice apple cider vinegar taste.
Also wood-grilled squid--really simple but a knockout. Sweet and tender, with crispy shallots and baby arugula. I worked up the nerve to ask Johnny, who was expediting next to us, about the grill and he was eager to chat even though they were packed. Really warm guy. The bartenders were super-freindly, too.
The we metro'd to Palena, which was a bit out of the way but I'd heard such raves that I really wanted to get there.
We sat at the bar (great cushy seats)and debated between the fries plate--deep-fried shoestring potatoes, dauphinoise potatoes (piped into little rings),lemon slices, and onion rings--and a swordfish with fennel puree and a tomato concasse with raisins and pinenuts. Hubby won out on the swordfish, but just then the bartender offered us a fries plate that had been made by mistake. Way to my heart! The lemon slices were completely addictive and the dauphinoise pure sin.
The swordfish, however, was divine. The fennel was perfectly smooth and luxurious, the swordfish fresh and moist, and the tomato sauce tasted of summer. A really great, simple dish. The wine list had lost of good, unusual choices. Lovely, simple decor and a warm feeling between staff and customers.
Finally, back to the Tabard lounge for champagne and homemade praline ice cream. The people watching was fabulous, very smoky and European, and it's a lovely place for a drink. The ice cream was okay. One of those places where the atmosphere makes everything seem great, though.
Lots more we could have done! I think we spent about $125, with drinks and tips, which seems reasonable for so many great bites.
I was really impressed with how friendly the service was everywhere. All in all, a great way to spend an anniversary!