Dining, inside and out

Dinner at Mei Wah
4457 Willard Ave.
Chevy Chase 20815

Mei Wah has two locations in the D.C. area, one downtown and another tucked into a quiet corner of Chevy Chase next to a Panera and Chipotle. Mei Wah is great if you’re up for a great meal involving quality Chinese food. The food is a little pricier than takeout Chinese if that’s all you’re up for, but it’s worth the extra cash.

My favorite dish at Mei Wah is the sesame chicken and the sweet and sour chicken. They also have Atkins-friendly options where they sauté dishes instead of deep-frying them.  Their spring rolls are also delicious.

I’ve gotten mostly takeout from the restaurant and they are always quick and correct with orders. Dining in at Mei Wah is quite the treat though, as the restaurant is bigger than what it looks like from the outside. For those interested in sushi options, Mei Wah has a full sushi bar with six-roll, eight-roll, and big-roll choices.

Happy Hour at Lia’s
4435 Willard Ave.
Chevy Chase 20815

Lia’s, the sister restaurant of the D.C. staple Chef Geoff’s, is a quieter, sophisticated alternative to its more boisterous sister. Come visit Lia’s for their happy hour, which is all day on Mondays and Tuesdays, and from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Lia’s offers $5.95 burgers during happy hour. The CG burger is tomato, Gorgonzola and mushrooms and the Lia’s burger is topped with crispy pancetta, onion and provolone. The CG burger was tasty and the Gorgonzola was a different touch to your typical burger. The Lia’s burger was a clever take on the typical burger, with provolone that added a unique yet not overpowering flavor.

For those not interested in burgers, Lia’s offers seven different types of pizzas for all tastes, including garlic shrimp, feta and olive, and hand-cut pepperoni, all for $8.95 each. If you’re not that hungry, try the bar snacks Lia’s offers, including spinach and ricotta risotto balls, buttermilk fried zucchini and mushrooms, and crab and spinach dip, all for $5.95 each.

Drink specials include $7.95 super-mug beers and tall beers for $5.95. Various wines are $5.95 and there is also a featured cocktail that varies by season for $5.95. Half-price wine night is every Monday.

Appetizers at Chadwick’s
5247 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington 20015

Once you’re inside, Chadwick’s kind of plays itself off as Cheers. Honestly, it does a good job at doing so, because as soon as you’re seated, you automatically feel like you’re at home. Neon signs abound at the bar, and the jukebox plays your favorite light rock hits. The scene is a mix of 20-somethings enjoying themselves at the bar and neighborhood parents out for a quick bite with their little ones.

Dinner food includes classic burgers and chicken sandwiches, in addition to home-cooked meals like meatloaf, steak and pork chops.

The appetizers are great if you’re in the mood for classic American food. The spinach and artichoke dip is a great way to warm up on a cool early fall evening after work, and the nachos are a great substitute for dinner if you’re not in the mood to eat a well-balanced meal.

The chicken tenders and potato skins also make for a great, cheap meal. Other appetizers include mozzarella cheese sticks and fried zucchini, among others.

My favorite thing to do at Chadwick’s is go with a group of friends and each order an appetizer, which makes for plenty of sampling. Even with one other friend, our checks typically never go above $20.

Tapas at Jaleo
7121 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda 20814

Jaleo is a traditional “tapas,” or small-plates restaurant. Go with a big group and each order one item and share them to make for an interesting and fun meal. Noteworthy selections include the croquetas de pollo, or traditional chicken fritters and the gambas al ajillo, or shrimp sautéed with garlic and guindilla pepper.

Jaleo now offers jamon Iberico. Jose Andres, who oversees the restaurant, calls it “quite simply the finest ham in the world.” The ham and pork come from Iberico pigs, a special breed unique to Spain. Andres said the best ones are free-range and feed on acorns. The free-range pigs are known as the de bellota, or acorns, which in turn give the pigs a sweeter, nutty flavor.

Andres said the pork has been quite popular at Jaleo, as it is offered as a whole loin baked in salt that is served tableside. “People often order it as the culmination of the meal following a few tapas,” he said. This December, Andres said to look for clementines incorporated in the menu — “Those sweet juicy little citruses that to me always say Christmas.”

Andres lives in Bethesda and finds it a great mix of urban and suburban. “It’s a convenient location inside the Beltway. People from all over the world live there, making it very cosmopolitan but also very small-town America in some ways,” he said.

Dinner at Persimmon
7003 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda 20815

Persimmon, a small American bistro on Wisconsin Avenue, is a great place to go if you’re looking to get away from the noisy chaos of many trendy D.C. restaurants.  As its seats only about 50 patrons at most, come to Persimmon to catch up with a best friend or have an intimate date with a significant other.

Many items on the restaurant’s menu change daily. The lobster special I ordered was absolutely delicious. The lobster was served out of the shell on a plate of potatoes with just a hint of bacon. Spinach was also served underneath the empty lobster shell, making for a great display when the dish arrived. The rack of lamb is viewed by many as the restaurant’s signature dish, served with a pecan-crusted barbecue sauce. Side dishes with the lamb include mustard potato gratin, haricot verts, spinach and a horseradish demi glace.

Definitely save room for desserts at Persimmon. The crème brulee is delicious but what was truly a treat was the lime-curd cheesecake, served with coconut accents. It reminded me of vacationing in Florida or perhaps those hot, humid days we left back in June.

Outdoor dining at Redwood
7121 Bethesda Lane
Bethesda 20814

If you’re looking to spend a quiet evening outdoors this fall, Redwood in Bethesda is the place to be. When I attended for dinner, I was seated outdoors at the restaurant and the atmosphere is quite magical. Bethesda Lane is an enclosed, traffic-free street in Bethesda with various boutiques and restaurants.

Over the summer, Bethesda Row does “Movies Under the Stars,” so I had the opportunity to watch “Chicago” while dining at Redwood. The restaurant is located below loft apartments, Upstairs at Bethesda Row. A few residents were blowing bubbles off of their balcony while children ran about, creating a picturesque scene.

Redwood’s food can be described in one word: fresh. Everything just tasted like it was fresh from the chef’s garden or straight from the ocean. My dining partner and I took advantage of Redwood’s Restaurant Week extension and ordered heirloom tomato salad with fresh basil, summer melon and feta cheese. It was light and summery and perfect for an evening with a hint of fall in the air. I chose the cheese tortellini with fresh herb broth and summer vegetables and he decided on the market fish, which that day was trout. The fish was served with succotash and crab and corn butter, which added just enough taste without being overpowering. Portions were generous, so we barely had room for dessert.

My dessert choice was butterscotch pudding with crunchy chocolate pearl candies and ginger snap cookies on the side. The other dessert we chose was a Redwood ice cream sundae with fresh fruit on top.

Even if you choose to eat indoors, you’ll like the restaurant’s huge windows that open up to the outside, creating the feeling of being in an actual redwood tree.