The nation’s capital is not commonly known as one of the country’s great culinary destinations. But with a closer inspection, you’ll discover that Washington D.C. is not only filled with world-class cuisine and celebrity chefs, but also hundreds of other places to fit anyone’s budget or preference. Here’s a foodie’s guide to the best there is to see and enjoy in Washington, D.C.
14 Street And U Streets
One of the leading culinary destinations in D.C. can be found along the busy 14th Street corridor. Extending over 10 blocks from Thomas Circle to Florida Avenue, there are more than 70 phenomenal places to dine, with many located one after the other. Among the most notable restaurants for foodies to visit are B Too, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, Barcelona 14th Street, Masa 14, Birch and Barley and Le Diplomate. Reservations are strongly recommended for most any popular eatery on 14th, particularly the trendy new French brasserie Le Diplomate, favored by many D.C. celebrities.
Most any visitor to the nation’s capital considers Capitol Hill as the location for the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. But in reality, Capitol Hill also happens to be the largest historic residential neighborhood in DC, directly east of the Capitol. The neighborhood restaurant garnering much of the national publicity is Rose’s Luxury, but the top foodie destination isn’t even a restaurant. That distinction goes to Eastern Market, known as the “original and premier food and arts market” in D.C. Established in 1873, the historic market is open daily except for Mondays, with a farmer’s market held on Tuesdays and weekends. Still, Rose’s Luxury and the Eastern Market are both situated in the busiest section of Capitol Hill which is also home to the marine barracks on 8th Street, the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. Along with the fabulous New American dishes from Rose’s Luxury are other chic dining spots near the intersection of 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, including Cava Mezze, Ambar, Sushi Capitol and Barrel.>/p?
The location for many of D.C.’s most popular attractions is also home to many of its most celebrated restaurants and hotels. Extending north from P Street and south to H Street in a nearly rectangular border, the Downtown Historic District is a particularly attractive destination for food lovers. There is easy access to public transportation running through the heart of the historic neighborhood, which also includes Penn Quarter on East End and Chinatown. Among the leading establishments in downtown include the historic Old Ebbitt Grill, Georgia Brown’s, Fiola, The Oval Room, Rasika and Minbar. Each of these extraordinary restaurants has accumulated a large number of national awards, such as multiple Wine Spectator Awards for Old Ebbitt Grill and Fiola, and James Beard/Best Chef awards for Vikram Sunderam of Rasika and José Andres of Minibar. While Minibar is absolutely worthy of mention and arguably the hottest restaurant in D.C., it’s very difficult to get reservations and will require some advance planning. But other restaurants led by the man known as the foremost Spanish chef in the country are slightly easier to book, such as Jaleo and China Chilcano, both near the International Spy Museum.
Slightly north of the Historic Downtown District is another historic neighborhood known for outstanding cuisine. But there’s so much more Dupont Circle, also known as one of the premier shopping destinations in Washington D.C., making this neighborhood especially appealing spot for visiting foodies. As with the majority of popular boutiques, the best dining can be found along Connecticut Avenue, stretching from the 19th-century traffic circle to Florida Avenue. Exceptional restaurants to consider in this Old Washington neighborhood include The Riggsby, Iron Gate, Sushi Taro, Komi and Nora, America’s first certified organic restaurant. Reservations in the Dupont Circle are typically easy with the exception of the Mediterranean restaurant Komi which, like Minibar, is known as one of the toughest local places in to make reservations. For weekend travelers, one of the best local farmers markets is just footsteps from Dupont Circle every Sunday morning.
With a history that predates the District of Columbia itself, Georgetown is quite simply the oldest section within the boundaries of the U.S. capital. But today, this trendy neighborhood with sweeping views of the Potomac River is a mixture of historic landmarks such as the Old Stone House and a thriving shopping and entertainment scene. Much of the foodie scene can be found along M Street NW, particularly near Rock Creek, with places like Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, Unum and La Chaumière among the best known for amazing cuisine and superior service. Other celebrated restaurants nearby include 1789 Restaurant, Filomena Ristorante, Morton’s The Steakhouse and Fiola Mare in the must-see Washington Harbour entertainment complex.
Located two miles west of downtown D.C., Georgetown does not have a Metro station, which may surprise visitors, especially since one of the district’s leading universities (Georgetown University) is in the neighborhood. While the Foggy Bottom, the closest Metro station, requires a 15 minute walk, visitors can also reach Georgetown via public bus, by taxi or Uber.
A look at other great neighborhoods and places to dine in the District of Columbia. The asterisk indicates the best in each category.
Best Non-Touristy Foodie Neighborhoods
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com