- Best of Washington DC
- DC Art and Food Tour
- DC’s Top 10 for Kids
- DC Food Trucks
- Dining Alfresco in DC
- DC’s Best Outdoor Watering Holes
- DC’s Unsung Memorials and Monuments
- DC’s Outdoor Concerts and Events
- Green Dining in DC
- DC’s Best Family-Friendly Hotels
- DC Wine Bars
- DC Cupcake Wars
- DC Hotels with the Best Views
Washington’s dining scene has mushroomed in the past 20 years, thanks partly to an influx of celebrity chefs attracted to the city’s vibrancy and economic stability, and primarily to a new crop of ambitious restaurateurs eager to make a name for themselves among the city’s neighborhoods.
DC boasts a plethora of upscale eateries led by chefs with last names like Ducasse, Puck, Richard, and Andrés that afford diners the chance to vie competitively for reservations and shell out significant coin for a memorable meal.
Expensive steak houses also dominate DC dining; business deals continue to be made over a dinner of aged beef, creamed spinach, and sautéed mushrooms.
Fortunately, the restaurant boom has also given rise to a number of low- to mid-priced restaurants, mainly neighborhood bistros that cook contemporary American or ethnic cuisine that reflects the city’s diversity. From Spanish tapas to Ethiopian, Middle Eastern and Vietnamese to New American, there’s something for every taste and budget throughout the city.
Washington is a crossroads of visitors, business travelers, conventioneers, marchers, politicians, and residents, and as such it boasts a lively dining scene nearly every night of the week.
Until I moved to DC, I never knew anyone who said “I don’t cook” and meant it. There are people in this city who eat out every single night. And given their number of dining options, they can do this for a year without repeating a restaurant; they’d never have to step into a fast food joint either.
But they do have to plan ahead: They usually must dine between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. or find a late-night gastropub or bar for a meal. For all its cosmopolitan airs, DC still closes up shop in many neighborhoods by 10 p.m.
George Washington hoped his city would someday become an economic powerhouse, but it was founded on transiency, and the very design of the federal government ensures that the population turns over with every election cycle. The ebb and flow is also influenced by foreign elections and the influx of emissaries and their entourages, creating a city that is one giant melting pot.
Since fewer than 40 percent of its residents were actually born here, the city has no real regional cuisine to call its own. Many menus around the city draw heavily on Southern ingredients—items like blue crab, Virginia ham, grits, or polenta and greens—but little can be considered uniquely Washingtonian (with the exception, perhaps, of the half-smoke—a spicy sausage served on a bun like a hot dog).
The silver lining in this transiency is the variety of cuisine that’s available within five miles of the U.S. Capitol; Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Salvadoran, Lebanese, Spanish, Tex-Mex, Mediterranean, Italian, Korean, Malaysian, French, American, Irish, Moroccan, and more, it’s all here.
Adventurous eaters can find food to suit their tastes throughout the city, but they shouldn’t restrict themselves to sit-down restaurants. A great meal can be had in a museum or theater café, at walk-up counters and food trucks, in bars and at diners across the map. It can even be found in the suburbs—especially the suburbs—where prices are slightly lower but the quality is anything but.
- Best Seafood: Kinkead’s and Oceanaire
- Best Restaurant to Spot Celebs: Blue Duck Tavern
- Best Burgers: Five Guys
- Best Place to Spot Politicians: The Monocle
- Best Place to Seal the Deal: Charlie Palmer Steak
- Best Sausages: Ben’s Chili Bowl
- Most Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Old Glory Bar-B-Que
- Best Views: Sequoia
- Most Romantic Restaurant: 1789
- Best Pizza: Pizzeria Paradiso
© Patricia Nevins Kime from Moon Washington DC, 1st Edition