- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The weather outside is frightful, but the fireplaces inside are so delightful at several Washington-area restaurants.

That’s right. Take a break from holiday and post-holiday shopping, warm your frozen fingers and sip Earl Grey or cabernet while enjoying the warm, dancing flames at places such as Georgetown’s 1789 Restaurant.

This venerable establishment, with its six dining rooms furnished and decorated with antiques, also treats guests to holiday decorations en masse (greenery, lights, wreaths and holiday balls) and a $40 prix-fixe Christmas menu through Jan. 6 created by 24-year-old executive chef Daniel Giusti.

Mr. Giusti may be young, but with almost a decade in the restaurant business, he knows his rack of lamb - a best-seller - very well. He serves the succulence with pierogi and sauteed vegetables, including the often underused and delicious fennel.

Another not-to-be-missed dish is the endive-and-Gala-apple salad. It arrived with leaves of endive stacked like Lincoln Logs, with sprinkles of peppered walnuts, caramelized sweet onion, blue cheese and cider vinaigrette.

Desserts, by Travis Olson, include a moist and spicy gingerbread chocolate cake.

For a seat close to the fireplace, ask for the John Carroll Room, which is adorned with prints depicting George Washington’s presidency and early maps of the District.

The place virtually drips Christmas.

But 1789 is far from alone in offering holiday decorations and fireside dining. For downtown shoppers and dwellers, the Tabard Inn at Dupont Circle is a great standby for an after-dinner drink and live jazz (Sunday nights). Sink deep into one of the many low sofas (on purpose to make it difficult to leave?) and just let the stress roll off.

The Tabard Inn also has a four-course prix-fixe menu for tonight only. The price ranges from $50 to $65 depending on early or late seating.

In Southeast - in case you’re spending the afternoon ice-skating at the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden or watching the festive model train displays at the U.S. Botanic Garden or Union Station - Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar is a nice choice.

The second floor has a large fireplace and lounge seating. Sonoma - with its exposed brick, warm lighting and angular leather furniture - is not offering a Christmas menu but has a nice assortment of wood-grilled meats and pizzas as well as various small plates. The focus is on using sustainable practices and local ingredients.

There also are various fireplace offerings in the suburbs. Take Clyde’s Tysons Corner, located close to one of the area’s major shopping meccas. The restaurant offers a solid menu and a nice setting that includes palm trees and bronze and marble statues.

In Silver Spring, Mrs. K’s Restaurant - located in a historic toll house - offers two fireplaces and all the Christmas decorations one could ever want: nutcrackers, greenery and colorful ornaments hanging from the ceiling.

If you truly want to get away from it all, the Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac might be your best bet. The restaurant has a fireplace and offers holiday decorations and menu choices, but that’s not the best part. The best part is outside.

The Old Angler’s Inn is located right next to Great Falls Park with its 800 acres of trails, jagged rocks and great views.

What could be better for the holiday than a walk in the park - far removed from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping - followed by a fireside meal?

More info:

• 1789 Restaurant, 1226 36th St. NW; 202/965-1789; www.1789restaurant.com.

• Tabard Inn, 1739 N St. NW; 202/833-2668; www.tabardinn.com.

• Sonoma, 223 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202/544-8088; www.sonomadc.com.

• Mrs. K’s Restaurant, 9201 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; 301/589-3500; www.mrsks.com.

• Old Angler’s Inn, 10801 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac; 301/299-9097; www.oldanglersinn.com.

• Clyde’s of Tysons Corner, 8332 Leesburg Pike, Vienna; 703/734-1901; www.clydes.com. Several restaurants in the Clyde’s Restaurant Group - such as Clyde’s of Georgetown and Willow Creek Farm - have fireplaces; for a list of locations, see the Web site.)

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