The Location: The Capital Grille, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, (202) 737-6200
The Price: $24
The Skinny: If there’s a type of man who frequents downtown steakhouses, I’m not it. I don’t wear dark suits. I don’t own a single painting featuring Native Americans, hunting dogs, or large boats. I actually enjoy the company of women. So when I walk into Capital Grille one afternoon, wearing a black ribbed thermal shirt and pants, my longish locks unkempt, I half expect the hostess to find some guy with hairy arms to throw me out. Instead she offers me the option of sitting in the bar or the formal dining room, where I imagine Important Events are being planned by Important Men (drinking Manhattans). I take a corner seat in the bar area, where a tallish waiter towers over me in his camel-colored jacket and black tie, the Lurch of Capital Grille. I ask the server how long they dry-age their steaks, and he says “between 14 and 21 days.” I’d prefer something closer to the three-week mark, but I seem to have no choice. I request the 10-ounce portion of sirloin, medium-rare, and watch as the waiter acknowledges my order and walks away. I must look too poor for sides. My thick, lonely strip of sirloin arrives with excellent charring and grill marks. I cut into the meat and notice that the center is warm and red, just as the waiter told me it would be. But once I transfer the bite from plate to mouth, the meat loses all its charm. It’s mushy and underseasoned. It just makes me pine for Ray’s the Classics‘ 12-ounce portion of New York strip, which costs only a dollar more—on the dinner menu. (As a nominal point of comparison, Capital Grille’s 14-ounce strip at dinner runs $38.) And Ray’s steak comes with two sides, which you don’t even have to ask for.