The Bottom Line: There are better restaurants in Washington, DC.
My husband and I love going to new restaurants. More importantly, we adore steakhouses. Whenever we go out for dinner in a town where we don't usually dine, we will usually make a reservation at a steakhouse first.
Such was the case on our latest trip to Washington, DC. Since finding and registering on the website OpenTable.com, where I earn points for eating at restaurants listed with them, I have tried all sorts of new places to eat. Smith & Wollensky was listed on there and, since my sister had a great steak dinner at the one in Chicago, we decided to give it a try.
The Smith & Wollensky located in Washington, DC is on 19th Street, between L&M, in the Northwest quadrant of the city. It's right near my alma mater, The George Washington University. As a matter of fact, it is next door to the best Italian place in DC (called Luigi's), where I used to go all throughout college.
As you enter the building, there is outdoor seating -- even in early March. I don't know if the area is heated or what, but people were being served their dinner on the very cold night that we went. We went right to the maitre'd and gave our name for our 8:30 reservation. We were told that it was going to be a 20 minute wait or so. Of course, this did NOT make me happy. If you turn up for a reservation 20 minutes later than the time you reserved, chances are your table is given to someone else. But, we were right on time, and we still had to wait. Not cool.
I checked my coat, and we waited in the lobby rather than sitting at one of the two bars. When I made the reservation, I specifies that we didn't want to sit directly next to another party. We hate sitting in restaurants where you can look to your side and have an intimate conversation with the person next to you. When the hostess walked us to our table, it was exactly the kind of table that we hate sitting at. I told her so, and we were brought back to the lobby to wait another 10 minutes.
At 9:00, we were seated on an upper level near another bar, a very noisy area indeed. It was definitely not the kind of setting we had hoped foor. With our recent experiences at Ruth's Chris and Morton's, we were looking for a similar experience. No such luck.
The service was truly horrible. Maybe it's because we're from New York and expect things to be served quickly. The waitress didn't come to our table to take our drink order for at least 10 minutes, then took another 10 minutes to bring it out. After sitting at the table for nearly 40 minutes, the Caesar Salad we ordered finally arrived.
There isn't a very wide selection of appetizers. I would have gone for the calamari, but it's not Craig's thing. Instead, we opted to split a mammoth Caesar Salad. It was pretty good, and cost $9.50. Fresh bread was brought with it, which was delicious.
After an hour of sitting in the restaurant, our steaks were brought out with the sides that we ordered: sauteed spinach for me and steak fries for Craig. I ordered the 10 oz. filet mignon au poivre and he ordered the 10 oz. cajun filet mignon. I must say, the steaks were excellent. Mine was a little too rare as I cut into the widest part, but I was full by that time anyway. The seasoning and sauce was perfect. Craig said that his steak was the second best he'd ever had, next to the steak from the first time we went to Broadway Joe Steakhouse. The spinach was awesome, though very garlicky. The steak fries weren't cut like the thick steak fries that we usually get in steakhouses. Instead, they were thin french fries. However, they were the absolute best french fries that I have EVER had. Make sure you order them if you dine here.
During our entire meal, our server checked on us just once. We ran out of beverages, and there was no one there to refill them for quite a while. Since I was eating a steak coated in pepper and Craig's steak was cajun, this was not a good thing. The food was good, but the service was terrible. Since the service was so lousy, we didn't bother getting dessert.
I peeked at the bill when it came to the table, and saw that the total was $126 and change. For two soft drinks, one salad, two steaks and two sides, that seems like an awful lot of money to me. Maybe the price seems so high because the service was so bad. We have spent plenty more at restuarants such as Ruth's Chris, Morton's and Broadway Joe Steakhouse without batting an eye-- but the service was impeccable.
Something that really bothered me about this place was that they let just anyone in. In a supposedly upper class establishment like this, people should be required to dress nicely-- not like the guy in the Metallica T-shirt that was slouched in his chair as we left. I mean, come on. Show some respect. And Smith & Wollensky should require that their customers display respect for their establishment as well as other patrons.
Overall, I don't think that we would ever go back to this Smith & Wollensky. Sure, we are willing to try it in a different city, but never again in DC. As for a recommendation, the food is good if you can look past the service. However, I feel that service can make or break a dining experience, and the service here "broke" the dinner for me. There are plenty of better restaurants in DC, including Luigi's right next door. And, if you want a great steak, Morton's is a few blocks away.
Kid Friendliness: No Vegetarian Friendly: No Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations Caesar Salad Filet Mignon Au Poivre Best Suited For: Friends