WASHINGTON - It's all about the fried cinnamon sugar doughnuts.

And the best brunch in town.

Away from the tourist sites and the politics, Washington boasts fiercely unique neighborhoods. Perched on the south end of one such area, Dupont Circle, the Hotel Tabard Inn and its restaurant offer a taste of a friendlier and less official Washington.

After hitting the D.C. tourist highlights, treat yourself to a Tabard brunch on the weekend. With all the walking you've done, you've earned it.

The Tabard Inn consists of three townhouses built in the later part of the 19th century, now connected by creaky staircases and windy passageways.

A wood-paneled lounge features eclectic furniture ranging from big, comfy sofas with vintage designs to leopard-skin love seats, all huddled around a fireplace.

Diners enjoy a cozy atmosphere in colorful dining rooms with individual themes ranging from classy Victorian to quirky modern.

While the atmosphere is certainly distinctive, the food is the real attraction, especially the doughnuts.

The Tabard works closely with area farmers, and the menu very much reflects what's in season. That means the fare changes every week.

Come hungry.

I opted for the gingerbread pancakes. For something more East Coasty, try the crab cakes. Closing your eyes and pointing to something on the menu is also a fine strategy - you can't go wrong here.

The only must is that you order doughnuts. The homemade, sugary treats come with a side of vanilla whipped cream and are dangerously delectable. We ordered them for an appetizer. And again as dessert.

Be sure to call well in advance to secure a coveted reservation for brunch. It's not uncommon for walk-ins to be turned away.

Also, allow yourself enough time to savor the food and ambience. Washington comes here to relax on Sunday before going back to running the nation on Monday.

So, sip a mimosa and get lost in conversation. And order another doughnut.

Power Brunch

Hotel Tabard Inn

1739 N St. NW

202-331-8528 (restaurant)

202-785-1277 (hotel)

Metro station: Dupont Circle

The hotel has 40 rooms, each with a unique design, from about $113 per night.

Hours: Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant is also open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Call a week or more ahead for brunch reservations.

Prices: Be prepared to spend $11 to $17 for an entree and $1.50 for a doughnut.

- Clayton M. McCleskeyEndText