Restaurants in Washington, D.C.
Washington's reputation as a culinary wasteland has long since run its course. The city now is home to a remarkable number of fine places to eat. This article will focus on restaurants within a walk or short Metro or cab ride from the meeting hotels in the Woodley Park, Adams Morgan, Cleveland Park, and Dupont Circle neighborhoods.
Coffee and Breakfast
Where do you go to get that morning coffee and breakfast? You are likely to find a long queue of anxious interviewees and exhausted interviewers at the Starbucks in the lobby of the Marriott Wardman Park. There are plenty of other Starbucks outlets in the area, but Open City (2331 Calvert St. NW, 202-332-2331), an all-day café, restaurant, and bar, is a much better option.
If you have a bit more time on your hands, a 10- or 15- minute stroll will get you to the Adams Morgan neighborhood, where you will find Tryst (2459 18th St. NW, 202-232-5500). Its motto is “no corporate coffee, no matching silverware.” Next door, The Diner (2453 18th St. NW, 202-232-8800) offers 24-hour, slightly upscale diner fare in a casual atmosphere. A stroll down 18th Street will reveal other options, including French bistros serving decent crepes and omelets, including La Fourchette (2429 18th St. NW, 202-332-3077), L'Enfant (2000 18th St. NW, 202-319-1800), and Rosemary's Thyme Bistro (1801 18th St. NW, 202-332-3200, rosemarysthyme.com), which is a solid bet for breakfast or lunch.
Teaism (2009 R St. NW, 202-667-3827), off Dupont Circle, is a unique breakfast, lunch, and bento joint with a number of good teas on hand. Also in Dupont Circle, the Firehook Bakery and Coffee House (1909 Q St. NW, 202-588-9296) is part of a local chain with fairly good bread, pastries, and coffee; there is another branch in Cleveland Park, north of the Marriott (3411 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-362-2253).
Lunch is always the hardest meal at a conference, since it is often difficult to find something that is both good and convenient. Many of the places mentioned above, like Open City and The Diner, are good choices for lunch. There are obvious options in Woodley Park, but for a quick and inexpensive bite nothing beats the Amsterdam Falafelshop (2425 18th St. NW, 202-234-1969) in Adams Morgan. The proprietors' recent expansion into hot dogs, across the street at M'Dawg: Haute Dogs (2418 18th St. NW, 202-328-8284), is less successful, but it hits the spot if you're in the right mood. (They also serve a meatless dog.) Some of the best pizza in town can be found in Cleveland Park, at Vace (3315 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-363-1999), a small, unassuming Italian deli (there is no seating). A few doors down you will also find Nam Viet Pho-79 (3419 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-237-1015), a local favorite offering an impressive range of noodle soups and a full Vietnamese menu that can really hit the spot on a chilly January day.
For quick carryout with eat-in options, these neighborhoods also abound in quite decent Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare, which also has the added benefit of being vegetarian friendly. One of the newer places on this list, Fresh Med in Cleveland Park (3313 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-244-3995) is unlikely to disappoint. The same can be said for Moby Dick House of Kabob (1300 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-833-9788) in Dupont Circle. Astor (1829 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-745-7495) is closer and fairly good as well.
The neighborhoods bordering the meeting hotels are destinations for evening dining, so you will find many fine dining opportunities within a short walk or Metro ride. Indique (3512 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-244-6600), in Cleveland Park, is a nouveaux-indienne restaurant with south Indian influences. For a more lavish experience, you could take a short cab ride to the Bombay Club (815 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-659-3727), just off Lafayette Park by the White House, a more traditional north Indian restaurant. The restaurant was reportedly a favorite of the Clintons. Still further downtown, you would not go wrong with the relatively new and buzzing Rasika (633 D St. NW, 202-637-1222). It is brought to you by the owners of the Bombay Club, as are the modern American restaurants Ardeo and Bardeo (3309 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-244-6750) in Cleveland Park.
No restaurant review of the area would be complete without mentioning Meskerem (2434 18th St. NW, 202-462-4100), one of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in D.C., and still pretty decent, though much of the good East and West African food has gravitated to neighborhoods a bit further east and south. Should you find yourself in the mood for Mexican or Latin American fare, my emphatic recommendation would be Mixtec in Adams Morgan (1792 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-332-1011), a small neighborhood joint where I dine once or twice a week. Further into Adams Morgan is Casa Oaxaca (2106 18th St. NW, 202-387-2272), a new restaurant receiving excellent reviews. A few more minutes' walk will bring you to the Tex-Mex Lauriol Plaza (1835 18th St. NW, 202-387-0035). The food may not be as good as the other two, but the frozen margaritas are sufficiently strong that you won't notice. Moving away from Mexico, the very good (but poorly named) Grill from Ipanema (1858 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-986-0757) offers nice Brazilian fare and an excellent bar. For a much more casual and inexpensive meal, La Granja de Oro (1832 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-232-8888) serves up no-frills Peruvian rotisserie chicken that may have you coming back for more.
One of my two recommendations among the restaurants closest to the hotels is the Lebanese Taverna (2641 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-265-8681). Other nearby Middle Eastern restaurants include The Afghan Grill (2309 Calvert St. NW, 202-234-5095) and Mama Ayesha's (1967 Calvert St. NW, 202-232-5431), a neighborhood institution where you can spend some time gawking at the pictures of famous Washingtonians who frequented the restaurant. Further downtown near the Verizon Center, Zaytinya (701 9th St. NW, 202-638-0800) is of the best mezze restaurants in D.C.
My other recommendation in Woodley Park is the somewhat overpriced but good sushi restaurant, the Sake Club (2635 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-332-2711), which, true to its name, offers an impressive sake menu. Sushi Taro (1502 17th St. NW, 202-462-8999) in Dupont Circle is generally regarded as one of the best sushi restaurants in D.C. Closer by, Spices (3333-A Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-686-3833) mixes sushi and pan-Asian cuisine in a casual environment. For Chinese, try City Lights of China (1731 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-265-6688). Washington and the surrounding area also abound in pretty good Thai cuisine; Thaiphoon (2011 S St. NW, 202-667-3505) and the slightly more up-market Regent Thai Cuisine (1910 18th St. NW, 202-232-1781) would be your best bets locally. However, if you are truly in the mood for Southeast Asian cuisine and a more unique experience, one of my favorites is Straits of Malaya (1836 18th St. NW, 202-483-1483).
Of course, if you have just signed that book deal or you simply want to eat in style, D.C. abounds with fine dining options, though most have been pitched to the budgets of K Street expense accounts. Among the best is the nearby Nora (2132 Florida Ave. NW, 202-462-5143) and its even more exciting sister restaurant Asia Nora (2213 M St. NW, 202-797-4890). Palena (3529 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-537-9250), owned and operated by two former White House chefs, is nice for a special occasion. Dining off the full bar menu is an excellent and more affordable alternative. A neighborhood favorite in Adams Morgan, Cashion's Eat Place (1819 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-797-1819), would be a great choice for a night out or a Sunday brunch, as would the restaurant at the Tabard Inn (1739 N St. NW, 202-785-1277). For an even more extravagant experience, Komi (1509 17th St. NW, 202-332-9200) has been consistently rated amongst the best restaurants in the city, though the more casual nearby Pesce (2016 P St. NW, 202-466-3474), a bistro-style restaurant offering up impressive seafood, is another of my particular favorites. Further afield, Georgetown has some fine restaurants, with 1789 (1226 36th St. NW, 202-965-1789) and Citronelle (3000 M St. NW, 202-625-2150) two of the best known. Other than Pesce and the Palena bar, which do not take bookings, I recommend reservations at the upscale restaurants.
For Further (Virtual) Reading
For more information on Washington's restaurants, see food critic Tom Sietsema's dining guide from the Washington Post, the Washingtonian restaurant finder, the Washington City Paper restaurant finder, and George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen's extremely opinionated ethnic dining guide.
—Philip J. Stern is an assistant professor of history at American University.
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