8 popular dining spots

You have to eat, so why not dine and do business, too? Folks in the information technology community often multitask during their meals. Many IT officials can be found conducting business at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here's a list of some of the hot spots they frequent. Most of the restaurants are in Northern Virginia, near the IT corridors of power, and a few are near government office buildings in Washington, D.C. We're not sure why steakhouses are so popular, unless, of course, everyone is on the South Beach Diet.

Here are eight places to dine, in no particular order, based on an informal survey of IT executives in government and the private sector. Did we miss your favorite hangout? Let us know at [email protected].

1. Capital Grille
1861 International Drive
McLean, Va.
(703) 448-3900

You can get a 24-ounce steak, and for $150, a shot of Remy Martin Louis 13th Brandy. It's not ordered often, manager Todd Tombal said, but occasionally, someone goes all out.

For Washington, D.C.-bound meat-eaters, the Capital Grille has a location on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol.

2. The Tower Club
8000 Towers Crescent Drive
Suite 1700
Vienna, Va.
(703) 761-4250

Come to the Tower Club, where the IT powerhouses meet, greet and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. You must be a member, but once you are, it's a hot place to hang, hold a meeting or conduct business. Club officials boast that it is "the center [of] gravity in Northern Virginia."

Jackets are preferred but not required, the club's Web site states. "Jeans, sneakers, shorts and collarless shirts are unacceptable."

"You're really not in the market unless you've been to the Tower Club," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. "Relationships get formed here, and business done. Its location and great atmosphere make this place essential to go to. The food by most accounts is OK to above average. Even though it's in the office building of my divorce attorney, I still go."

Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International LLC, said, "If you want to see and be seen by everyone you know, the Tower Club is the spot. Best oatmeal in town. And I've eaten a lot of oatmeal!"

3. The Palm Restaurant
1750 Tysons Blvd.
McLean, Va.
(703) 917-0200

The walls are decorated with caricatures of celebrities and politicians, the bar is always crowded, and the portions are enormous. No wonder this is a good standby at Tysons II for the IT crowd. And you can get a 36-ounce steak for two, not to mention Maine lobsters that weigh at least 3 pounds each.

John Reece, former chief information officer at the Internal Revenue Service, likes the Palm at Tysons II but gives higher marks to its downtown version because "the atmosphere is warmer, the food and service are better, and frankly, the denizens are more interesting and powerful."

Nevertheless, all of the Tysons Corner hot spots, Reece said, are "where the IT vendors, both big and small, the ...contractors of all shapes and sizes and their kin meet and greet, conspire and make deals. Sometimes you see the government customers in these spots, but most typically not, because these places are too fancy/expensive for them to afford on their own or for their nongovernment hosts to be able to entertain them under the federal entertainment/ gift guidelines."

4. Morton's — The Steakhouse
8075 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, Va.
(703) 883-0800

If it's steak you want, this is the place for you. Or if it's jumbo shrimp, crab or anything else you crave, come here. As the chain's motto says, "Savor the good life." The average price of dinner for two is $145, according to the restaurant's Web site.

Olga Grkavac, an executive vice president at the Information Technology Association of America, said the Palm and Morton's — along with Sam and Harry's, another popular steakhouse — are the "red meat meeting places for IT." Each has its particular fans, and if the number of people dining here is any indication, the "federal IT business is alive and well."

5. Hilton McLean Tysons Corner
7920 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, Va.
(703) 847-5000

The best virtue of the Hilton McLean is that it's good for large groups and many IT organizations hold meetings here. But if you're hungry, it may not be at the top of your list.

6. 2941 Restaurant
2941 Fairview Park Drive
Falls Church, Va.
(703) 270-1500

With plenty of natural light and an herb garden outside, presentation rivals taste for the meals prepared by chef Jonathan Krinn. This is a loving endeavor for Krinn, who mixes and matches tastes and seasons. The menu is more likely to offer New Zealand ostrich than steak or duck breast and fois de gras instead of roasted chicken. An added bonus: Dinner patrons get to take home a loaf of fresh bread baked by Krinn's father, who supplies the restaurant's bread.

"2941 is such a gem that I'd just as soon no one else knew about it," said Bill Piatt, a partner in Unisys Corp.'s Federal Government Group.

7. The Exchange Saloon
1719 G St., NW
Washington, D.C.
(202) 393-4690

Between the fish and chips and turkey with gravy and mashed potatoes, this place serves food that sticks to your ribs. Its location is great — only a block from the White House and within shouting distance of several federal buildings. That's why it's a favored hangout for feds from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the old and new Executive Office Buildings and others who work nearby. Another attraction is the sidewalk café, a fine place to sit and people watch.

8. Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse
1001 16th St., NW
Washington, D.C.
(202) 783-2599

Steaks, chops and seafood are the staples of this pub, which has been on the lower level of the Capital Hilton on K Street for years. Every Friday, the restaurant sponsors dinner for returning soldiers who have been severely wounded in Iraq. Dinner is on the house for those men and women recuperating at Walter Reed Medical Center. And it's pretty good dining for the IT community, too.

"The best steak in town and the best atmosphere," said Edward Meagher, the VA's deputy CIO, who helps organize the Friday events. "It's so welcoming."


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