When you visit the nation’s capital, you’ll experience a dining scene as colorful and eclectic as America itself.
From crave-worthy dishes served by celebrity chefs to Michelin-approved restaurants to chili-smothered half-smokes to rooftop abodes, DC’s local flavor has one thing in common: it’s all delicious. Get a taste of what’s to come with our itinerary below.
DC is filled with outstanding options for everyone’s favorite weekend meal. Boqueria uses market-fresh ingredients in its authentic Barcelonian take on brunch. For patio pleasures, Open City in Adams Morgan is a local favorite, while Sequoia (located in Georgetown’s Washington Harbour) adds Potomac River views to your experience. If you’re here during the week, check out Unconventional Diner’s Everyday Brunch menu or try a breakfast sandwich from Butter Me Up in Shaw.
Bib Gourmand Brilliance
The Red Hen, @theplaceiwastellingyouabout
In order to receive the “Bib Gourmand” designation in a Michelin Guide, a restaurant must offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for around $40. DC has literally dozens of can’t-miss spots that meet the criteria, including Lapis, which showcases the vibrant flavors of Afghanistan, as well as The Red Hen, a cozy Italian eatery. Multiple restaurants from chef and humanitarian José Andrés make the cut: try to hit the China Chilcano-Jaleo-Oyamel trifecta in downtown DC. Among the new entries for 2022: the Laotian cuisine at Thip Khao, fried fanciness from Honeymoon Chicken and dynamic Indian dishes at Daru.
Support Black-Owned Restaurants
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC institution that first opened its doors on U Street in 1958. No food-themed voyage across the city is complete without trying the restaurant’s signature take on a hot dog known as the half-smoke. Founded by Jeanine Prime and featured as a Bib Gourmand in DC’s Michelin Guide, Cane brings the cuisine of Trinidad to the heart of the District. The city is sometimes referred to as “Little Ethiopia” thanks to authentic spots like Dukem Ethiopian, which offers specialties like kitfo (minced raw beef marinated in chili powder-based spice blend and clarified butter).
Union Market, @livingvisually
There are numerous public markets to check out across DC, including the culinary haven that is Union Market. NoMa’s hippest feasting ground is a revived mid-century produce- and meat-selling bazaar that holds food stalls, informal restaurants and kitchenware boutiques. Just two blocks away, visit La Cosecha, a contemporary Latin American marketplace with fine dining, vegan food, pupusas, coffee and more. If visiting on a weekend, you’ll have to stop by Eastern Market for a variety of merchants and the legendary blueberry buckwheat pancakes from Market Lunch.
Sip & Savor
Craft beer and cocktail enthusiasts can have a field day in the nation’s capital. DC Brau has been brewing and canning in Northeast DC since 2011, with a robust line of flavors now in production. The brewery offers tours every weekend. There’s also Bluejacket, a 5,600-square-foot hub in Capitol Riverfront that features 20-plus delicious beers and a food menu crafted with the suds in mind. If you’re more in the mood for spirits, stop by Farmers & Distillers for one of its small-batch vodkas or whiskeys and dine on an internationally flavored menu. One Eight Distilling has DC woven into its fabric, from its namesake (Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution established the city as the nation’s capital) to the name of its drinks, which pay homage to District locales.
In total, 24 DC restaurants have earned at least one Michelin star, making the city a mecca for fine dining foodies. Chef Matt Baker has turned a former tomato cannery in Ivy City into Gravitas, a farm-to-table restaurant highlighting the delicious bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. Masseria, located near Union Market, sees Chef Nicholas Stefanelli acknowledge his rustic Italian roots through coastal cuisine. At Chef Ryan Ratino’s Bresca, an inventive menu melds tantalizing flavors and the chef’s one-of-a-kind vision: think pastrami beets served with whipped feta and dill on rye.
Ice Cream Jubilee, @abdullah_3414
Whether in search of a savory meal or satisfaction for your sweet tooth, women-owned businesses in the District have you covered. Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina is a dual-concept Italian osteria and mercato from the James Beard-nominated chef. Chef Dina Daniel is the mastermind behind the homespun Egyptian cuisine of Fava Pot, located in Dupont Circle. Buttercream Bakeshop reflects founder Tiffany MacIsaac’s limitless imagination, offering treats like cinnascones and sprinkle-studded Unicorn Bars. Victoria Lai brings the same adventurous attitude to frozen confections at Ice Cream Jubilee, which features flavors like banana bourbon caramel and Thai iced tea across multiple DC locations.
Gardens (or Patios) of Delight
Right Proper Brewing Company, @piper.bee
If you like dining outdoors, you won’t be disappointed in the District. Discover French flair at Opaline at Sofitel Washington, DC Lafayette Square, which offers a patio adorned with plant life, umbrellas and fire pits. Right Proper Brewing Company’s Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen features a rotating selection of house-made brews and a Southern-tinged menu along with its outdoor digs. Osteria Morini provides riverfront views with pastas and affordable wine. For a beer garden bash, head to Wunder Garten for German and Austrian varieties or Hook Hall, a 13,000-square-foot wonderland with lots of games, private cabanas and 30-plus brews on draft.
A Raucous Rooftop Time
Rooftop living is good in DC, especially when you head to the sophisticated Top of the Gate and take in 360-degree views of the nation’s capital while sipping specialty cocktails and noshing on artisanal pizzas. The city’s rivers do their best French Riviera impression at La Vie, a stunning and sleek restaurant at The Wharf featuring views of the Washington Channel from a rooftop terrace. Summit the Rooftop at Conrad gives superlative vistas of CityCenterDC and downtown with a food menu sourced from the Mid-Atlantic region.