The Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. is packed with restaurants, many mediocre, some tony and polished, and some in desperate need of a health department inspection.
Here are three mid-priced bistros -- each representing a different European style -- that are just off the radar. But they're worth seeking out for some good food, good times, and a touch of Georgetown style.
Sovereign Belgian Bistro
Dark rathskeller feel, with exotic Belgian beer, bistro fare with a distinctive Belgian edge, and most importantly: The Bicky Burger. Originally made with horsemeat, Sovereign sticks to beef and pork in a thick juicy patty, with pickles on the bottom, fried onions on the top, and a coating of Bicky sauce, a sort of Belgian Sriracha. Downside: Doesn't open until 5 p.m., except brunchtime on weekends. The lower room is dark and brooding but has a great bar. For a brighter feel, sit upstairs.
In contrast to Sovereign, this bright, airy space has a modern, upmarket vibe. It also serves basic bistro fare, but it all has an Austrian -- which is to say Germanic -- touch. The signature dish is Leopold's Schnitzel, wonderfully crisp and topped with a sprawling garnish of arugula. The potato salad on the side is a bonus. Kafe Leopold has its own French pastry chef and a pretty fancy coffee machine, so don't miss dessert. Downside: Service can be spotty. Be persistent.
Chez Billy Sud
This bright French-style bistro is quietly tucked in a townhouse between the buzzy Georgetown waterfront and the madness of M Street. It's got lovely casual French decor that somehow has a sense of humor: Witness the battered chair in the corner upstairs, the racy 19th century nudes in the restroom, and the bathtub tucked away in the lovely covered patio. The food is updated French bistro, with all the usuals served brightly and with an updated touch. Downside: Frites that went soggy too fast. Pricey in the evening, a bargain for Brunch.