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Happy Birthday!: Our Favorite Places to Blow Out the Candles
Volt, one of our top picks, has a number of private-dining spaces, the largest of which can hold up to 45 people.
Comments () | Published July 8, 2009
Deciding where to celebrate your birthday can cause more stress than turning a year older. Readers often ask us which restaurants are best for big groups and which have a festive atmosphere. So we compiled a list of our favorite places to turn a year older, with options for everyone from penny-pinching twentysomethings to nostalgic pizza-party lovers. Consider it our gift to you.

Looking for an-all out splurge? Here are places that have earned their price tags:

Citronelle. One of the top restaurants in Washington, Citronelle is defined by chef Michel Richard’s whimsical take on classic French preparations. Large parties have the option of three private-dining spaces—for 10, 30, or 50 people. For each of these spaces, a three-course menu is $85 per person, four courses $105, and five courses $125. Any group with more than eight people is required to have a set menu, and menus with more than five courses will include only one choice per course. For more information, call Melanie Blonshine at 202-295-2004.

CityZen. At former French Laundry chef Eric Ziebold’s luxe restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, groups of up to 11 can sit in the main dining room. Any bigger and you’ll have to use the semiprivate area—which can hold up to 22—that opens up to the kitchen. A group with more than six must order from a set menu, which costs $200 per person—$150 for food and a $50 beverage credit for bottles of water, wine, or cocktails. The price is the same regardless of the number of courses, and portions are adjusted accordingly. For a custom-made birthday cake, add $20 per person. For more information, call Jared Slipp at 202-787-6670.

Kinkead’s. Bob Kinkead’s Foggy Bottom restaurant has long been considered the standard bearer for seafood in Washington. On the upper level, three private rooms (for up to 20 people, up to 34, and up to 55) are available for dinner Sunday through Thursday. If you’re thinking about a weekend-night celebration, your party can’t include more than ten. Larger groups require a three-course set menu ($65 per person): for 12 to 20 people, you can preselect three choices per course; 21 to 30 have two choices per course; and groups of more than 31 have one appetizer, two entrées, and one dessert choice. The banquet menu includes such dishes as New England seafood chowder; crabcakes; pepper-seared rare tuna; cornmeal-crusted flounder; almond cake; and vanilla crème brûlée. If your birthday money is burning a hole in your pocket, go for the $125-per-person six-course tasting menu. For more information, call Allison Haight at 202-747-8570.
Volt. It doesn’t get much prettier than this 19th-century mansion in historic Frederick, chef/owner Bryan Voltaggio’s hometown. The former Charlie Palmer Steak chef’s modern, seasonal cooking draws fans from DC and beyond. There are a number of private-dining spaces, the largest of which can hold up to 80 people. The most intimate is the “conservatory,” a glassed-in, rounded room that can accommodate 12. Guests can order from an la carte or do a six-course chef's tasting menu ($95 a person; $50 for wine pairings). You can even bring your own cake at no extra cost. Call Julie South at 301-696-8658 to book.


Want to celebrate like the (Maryland) locals? Go for a crab feast:

Cantler’s. There’s nothing fussy about this Annapolis institution, and that’s exactly why we love it. It’s a rare find: a restaurant right on the water with food that lives up to the view.  Parties of ten or more can make reservations Monday through Thursday and reserve one of three party packages. The smallest ($31.95 per person) includes steamed hard-shell crabs along with corn on the cob, coleslaw, French fries, and soft drinks, while the middle package ($35.95 per person) includes steamed shrimp and onion rings in addition. Extra-hungry parties can go for the largest package ($45.95 per person), which adds in beer, wine, and dessert. There’s a two-hour time limit for large parties. For more information, call 410-757-1311.

The Quarter Deck. Tucked away in a residential Arlington neighborhood, this no-frills restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat crab feast—with the smallest-size crabs—for $34.95 per person. Larger crabs are available by the dozen in four sizes: regular ($44 per dozen), medium ($54), large ($64), and jumbo ($76). And for anyone in your party who’s likely to grouse about the messy feast, there are crabcakes and soft-shells. On the sweet side, the kitchen serves six types of pie—including chocolate cream, Boston cream, and blueberry—all made in-house.
Sea Side Crab House. Louisiana meets Hanoi at this Eden Center seafood restaurant, where crabs get an Asian-style marinade—garlic, ginger, scallions, lime and tangerine juices, fish sauce—and a Gulf Coast boil, which includes cayenne pepper. Crabs come by the dozen—which can feed three or four people—and in two sizes, depending on availability: large ($40 per dozen) and jumbo ($70). There’s no private-dining space here, but with the crab shells flying, you’ll be happy there’s an outdoor patio.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 07/08/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles