Dining in the District
A guide to great restaurants to try at Annual
Posted Tue, 06/01/2010 - 10:20
Proof winebar, www.proofdc.com
The last several years have seen a boom in Washington restaurants. D.C. is attracting both top talent and celebrity chefs. Couple that with some legendary institutions and you can get yourself some good eats.
A word about getting around: The city is broken up into four quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. Most of the restaurants noted below are within the Northwest quadrant. You will often find that numbered streets (like 9th Street) and lettered streets (like H Street) will have similar addresses, but they may lead you to a different part of the city if you have the quadrant wrong.
Prices represent the average cost for a full meal, typically including drink, dinner entree, and appetizer or dessert.
$: $20 or under
$$: around $30
$$$: around $40
$$$$: $50 and above
The area immediately surrounding the convention center offers some great lunch options, and just a few blocks south you’ll find Gallery Place/Chinatown.
Acadiana. An upscale Cajun restaurant that serves Louisiana classics such as crab cakes, muffaletta, and shrimp and grits. Acadiana also has a large bar area with comfortable seating, where customers can order from the full menu. Reservations recommended. $$$. L Sun.–Fri., D daily. 901 New York Ave. NW. 202-408-8848. www.acadianarestaurant.com.
Chinatown Express. This diamond in the rough has some of the best noodles and dumplings in town. You’ll be able to tell it from the other Chinese restaurants by the chef preparing noodles in the window. The service is brusque, but the dirt-cheap prices cannot be beat. $. L, D daily. 746 6th St. NW. 202-638-0424.
Clyde’s. This D.C. staple has two locations within city limits, serving traditional American fare in addition to more creative offerings. Reservations recommended. $$. B Sat.–Sun., L, D, daily. Clyde’s of Gallery Place: 707 7th St. NW. 202-349-3700. Clyde’s of Georgetown: 3236 M St. NW. 202-333-9180. www.clydes.com.
Corduroy. Definitely a top choice for a fresh, gourmet meal. If the soft-shell crab is on the seasonal menu, don’t miss the opportunity to try one of the mid-Atlantic’s best-loved dishes. Reservations recommended. $$$$. D daily. 1122 9th St. NW. 202-589-0699. www.corduroydc.com.
Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza. A casual crowd-pleaser with thin-crust pizza and several entrée-sized salads. This restaurant may seem busy, but tables turn over quickly. A personal favorite is the margherita pizza with buffalo mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce. Yum! $. L, D daily. 901 F St. NW. 202-638-3434. www.ellaspizza.com.
José Andrés restaurants: Jaleo, Zaytinya, Café Atlántico, and Oyamel. José Andrés, the chef behind the PBS series Made in Spain, located all of his restaurants within walking distance of the convention center. The Spanish tapas restaurant, Jaleo, has great happy hour specials from Sunday to Friday. Zaytinya features Mediterranean-style small plates—think lamb kebabs, hummus, and stuffed grape leaves. Café Atlantico serves Latin American fare, and is the home of the six-seat, reservation-only restaurant Minibar. Oyamel focuses on traditional Mexican food, and you can try such unique delicacies as grasshopper tacos. Jaleo: $$$. L, D daily. 480 7th St. NW. 202-628-7949. www.jaleo.com. Zaytinya: $$$. L, D daily. 701 9th St. NW. 202-638-0800. www.zaytinya.com. Café Atlántico: Reservations recommended. $$$$. L, D Tue.–Sun. 405 8th St. NW. 202-393-0812. www.cafeatlantico.com. Oyamel: $$$. L, D daily. 401 7th St. NW. 202-628-1005. www.oyamel.com.
Matchbox. Beware of extremely long waits on the weekend at this date-night hot spot. Their pizza is baked in an authentic wood-fired oven, and the sliders with crispy onion rings are great for sharing. If you want something a bit fancier, try the prime New York strip or Creole pork tenderloin. $$. L, D daily. 713 H St. NW. 202-289-4441. www.matchboxdc.com.
Nando’s Peri-Peri. This Portuguese-African fusion restaurant’s specialty is chicken marinated in a peri-peri pepper sauce and flame-grilled. Another highlight is the chicken breast wrap with sweet chili jam and tangy yogurt sauce. $. L, D daily. 819 7th St. NW. 202-898-1225. www.nandosperiperi.com.
Poste Moderne Brasserie. Located in the Hotel Monaco, Poste is a sophisticated option. Try the house-made charcuterie and a lavender margarita in the secluded courtyard, but don’t expect too much from the service, which can be hit-or-miss. No reservations needed at lunch. $$$. B, L, D daily. 555 8th St. NW. 202-783-6060. www.postebrasserie.com.
Proof. If you’re an oenophile in the mood to splurge, Proof is a wine-centric restaurant featuring a $12 “Lunch Crush” special in the bar area. Reservations recommended. $$$$. L Mon.–Fri., D daily. 775 G St. NW. 202-737-7663. www.proofdc.com.
Restaurants are also plentiful near the White House in the Penn Quarter, bounded roughly by 7th and 15th Streets NW, Pennsylvania Avenue to the south, and H Street to the north.
Cedar. The pricey comfort food here is worth every penny. Their high-end version of a BLT, made with fatty pork, tomato compote, and basil aioli, is decadent, especially with a side of duck-fat fries. If you go for Sunday brunch, make sure to order the homemade Bloody Mary with habanero- and jalapeño-infused vodka! $$$. L daily. D Mon.–Sat. 822 E St. NW. 202-637-0012. www.cedardc.com.
Central Michel Richard. This Penn Quarter hot spot serves modern American cuisine with a French flair. Chef Michel Richard takes classics to another level with his grilled mushroom-and-cheese sandwich, mussel chowder, and lobster burger. $$$$. L Mon.–Fri., D daily. 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-626-0015. www.centralmichelrichard.com.
Co Co. Sala. This upscale lounge is Wonka’s chocolate factory for adults, but you can still get a real meal if you’d prefer. Sunday brunch serves up the Hotcake Obsession—citrus ricotta pancakes with white chocolate lemon cream, berry compote, and caramel passion fruit sauce—or French Toast S’mores. $$$. B Sun., L Mon.–Fri., D Mon.–Sat. 929 F St. NW. 202-347-4265. www.cocosala.com.
Mitsitam Native Foods Café. Located within the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, this is hands-down the place to go for lunch on the National Mall. The prices may seem high, but it’s worth it. $. L daily. 4th St. & Independence Ave. SW. 202-633-7038. www.nmai.si.edu.
Rasika. A great place for upscale Indian food and tasty cocktails and mocktails. Their gin and tonic is the best I’ve ever had. $$. L Mon.–Fri., D Mon.–Sat. 633 D St. NW. 202-637-1222. www.rasikarestaurant.com.
The Source. Located in the Newseum, The Source is Wolfgang Puck’s addition to the Washington dining scene. If you are on a budget, skip the main dining room and eat in the more-affordable lounge. Reservations recommended. $$$$. L Mon.–Fri. D Mon.–Sat. 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-637-6100. www.wolfgangpuck.com.
Georgetown is a great dining and shopping destination. It cannot be reached via Metro, but it is readily accessible via the Circulator Bus. Easier-to-reach areas in the district are Dupont Circle, Cleveland Park, Columbia Heights, U Street Corridor, Logan Circle, and Capitol Hill. To the east of Union Station, on H Street NE, lies the up-and-coming Atlas District, which you will need a cab to reach.
Ben’s Chili Bowl. Even President Obama has eaten at this D.C. landmark. It’s open early—6 a.m.—most days, and through a good bit of the night. But after 11 a.m., table service is reserved for parties of six or more. $. No credit cards. B Mon.–Sat., L, D daily. 1213 U St. NW. 202-667-0909. www.benschilibowl.com.
Brickskellar and RFD. If you like beer, Brickskellar and Regional Food and Drink are the places to go. Owned by the same “Beer Guy,” Dave Alexander, each restaurant has over 300 beers and a great menu too. RFD has a covered back patio. Brickskellar: $. L Wed.–Fri., D daily. 1523 22nd St. NW. 202-293-1885. RFD: $. L, D daily. 810 7th St. NW. 202-289-2030. www.lovethebeer.com.
Busboys and Poets. A restaurant, bar, coffee shop, bookstore, and fair trade market—perfect for the progressive librarian. $. B, L, D daily. Two locations: 1025 5th St. NW. 202-789-2227; and 2021 14th St. NW. 202-387-7638. www.busboysandpoets.com.
Ching Ching Cha. Like herbal or oolong or green? With over 70 kinds of tea everyone will be pleased. Ching Ching Cha also has a menu with tea snacks, homemade steamed dumplings, prix fixe tea meals, and delicious desserts. $. L, D daily. 1063 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-333-8288. www.chingchingcha.com.
Commissary. The casual Commissary has excellent, reasonably priced food and drink. I have a weakness for the chicken salad BLT. When it gets busy, you may have to wait for a table. $. B, L, D daily. 1443 P St. NW. 202-299-0018. www.commissarydc.com.
CommonWealth. This new pub offers up traditional British classics like pork pies and bangers and mash. The hefty beer list includes American microbrews and premium United Kingdom beers. Enjoy one while playing board games, watching football (European or American), or relaxing with friends on the outdoor patio. $$. L, D daily. 1400 Irving St. NW. 202-265-1400. www.commonwealthgastropub.com.
Dino. Rustic Italian food and friendly service can be found at this cozy restaurant. While the restaurant takes reservations, walk-ins are welcome and encouraged. Be sure to check out “What’s up at Dino!” and “Dino Deals” at its website for special events and day of the week specials. $$$. D daily. 3435 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-686-2966. www.dino-dc.com.
Good Stuff Eatery. Between Capitol South and the Eastern Market station is Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn’s first restaurant. Inside, you can find burgers, hand-cut fries, salads, and creatively flavored shakes such as toasted marshmallow. They even make handspun ice cream! $. L, D Mon.–Sat. 303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-543-8222. www.goodstuffeatery.com.
Granville Moore’s. Granville Moore’s chef, Teddy Folkman, won a mussel Throwdown against Bobby Flay. If you go, get a Moules Moroccan in a curry cream sauce with beer-poached fennel, spicy lamb sausage, and addictive frites with curry mayo. $$. D daily. 1238 H St. NE. 202-399-2546. www.granvillemoores.com.
Hook and Tackle Box. Hook’s seafood menu changes daily to reflect whatever sustainable fish are in season and available. The food is excellent, but reservations are strongly recommended. Want something a bit more casual? The owner has opened Tackle Box, a casual New England–style fish shack serving up delights such as the Maine lobster roll, fish tacos, and crispy oysters. Hook: $$$$. L Tue.–Sun., D daily. 3241 M St. NW. 202-625-4488. www.hookdc.com. Tackle Box: $. B, L, D daily. 3245 M St. NW. 202-337-8269. www.tackleboxrestaurant.com.
Liberty Tree. The small plates, such as the stuffed peppers, are a good value and delicious. Also try the fried onion straws and a generous serving of olives. Wine and beer are good and reasonably priced. The ambiance is small, homey, and welcoming. $$. L, D daily. 1016 H St. NE. 202-396-8733. www.libertytreedc.com.
Palena. Palena offers both a café and dining room with slightly different menus. The burger and hot dogs here are arguably some of the best in the city, albeit pricey at $10 apiece with no sides. Order the fry plate as well if your budget allows. $$. D Mon.–Sat. 3529 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-537-9250. www.palenarestaurant.com.
Pizzeria Paradiso. Great thin-crust pizza with unusual seasonal toppings—even pumpkin. It gets busy, so go early. On the lower level of the Georgetown location is Birreria Paradiso, offering more than 100 beers from around the world, many from small, craft-style breweries. The happy hour deals—$5 appetizers and half-priced drafts—shouldn’t be missed. $. L, D daily. Dupont Circle: 2003 P St. NW. 202-223-1245. Georgetown: 3282 M St. NW. 202-337-1245. www.eatyourpizza.com.
Souk. This teetotalling Moroccan restaurant is one of the best deals in the city. The bastilla, a phyllo pie stuffed with shredded white meat chicken and ground almonds and topped with cinnamon, sugar, and pomegranate seeds, is to die for. $. D daily. 1208 H St. NE. 202-658-4224. www.souk-dc.com.
Sticky Fingers Bakery. From black Russian cupcakes to tofu lasagna, everything in this bakery is purely vegan. This is the place to go for big portions of yummy, cruelty-free snacks. $. B, L daily; D, Fri.–Sat. 1370 Park Rd. NW. 202-299-9700. www.stickyfingersbakery.com.
Ulah Bistro. While it’s great for happy hour, the late-night bites and the fact it is open until at least 2 a.m. make Ulah a marvelous choice after a night of partying. $$. B Sat.–Sun.; L, D daily. 1214 U St. NW. 202-234-0123. www.ulahbistro.com.
Tracy Sumler is branch manager of D.C. Public Library’s Georgetown and Tenley Interim Libraries.