Washington, D.C. Restaurants

Washington has long benefited from a constant infusion of different cultures, making it a stellar culinary host for visitors and transplants from around the world, but recent years have made the fifth or sixth banana of American haute cuisine into a foodie town in its own right. You can find almost any cuisine here, from Salvadoran to Ethiopian, despite D.C.'s lack of true ethnic neighborhoods. But now you can also sample cooking from some of the country’s hottest new chefs and sip craft cocktails that could be mistaken for Manhattan’s. Just follow your nose.

Although most neighborhoods lack a unified culinary flavor, make no mistake: D.C. is a city of distinctive areas, each with its own style. Chinatown, for example, is known for chic small plates of various origins. You'll find Japanese noodle shops next to Mexican taquerias and Indian bistros. These spots wax and wane on the popularity scale with each passing season; it's worth taking a stroll down the street to see what's new. Downtown, you'll find many of the city's blue-chip law firms and deluxe, expense-account restaurants, as well as stylish lounges, brewpubs, and upscale eateries that have sprung up to serve the crowds that attend games at the Verizon Center.

Wherever you venture forth in the city, there are a few trends worth noting: artisanal cocktails, charcuterie-and-cheese plates, and back-to-basics New American cuisine are in vogue. You'll find tapas-style portions pervasive, whether you're at a Greek, Asian, or American restaurant. High-end restaurants in town also have begun to add bar menus with smaller plates that are much less expensive than their entrées, but created with the same finesse.

Though Italian, French, and fusion spots continue to open at a ferocious pace, Washingtonians are always hungry to try something new, whether it's Chinese smoked lobster, fiery Indian curry, or crunchy and addictive Vietnamese spring rolls.

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  • 1. Blue Duck Tavern

    $$$$ | Foggy Bottom | American

    Many chefs are fond of artisanal and local ingredients. Chef Ryan LaRoche is so committed to the cause that fixings are often strewn across...Read More

  • 2. Cork

    $$ | U Street | Wine Bar

    This rustic, dimly lighted slip of a wine bar brings chic cuisine to the still-gentrifying streets of the city's hippest neighborhood. The wine...Read More

  • 3. Hank's Oyster Bar

    $$ | Dupont Circle | Seafood

    The watchword is simplicity at this chic take on the shellfish shacks of New England. A half-dozen oyster varieties are available daily on the...Read More

  • 4. Zaytinya

    $$ | Chinatown | Middle Eastern

    This sophisticated urban dining room with soaring ceilings is a local favorite for meeting friends or dining with a group. Zaytinya, which means...Read More

  • 5. Art and Soul

    $$$ | Capitol Hill | American

    Best known as Oprah's longtime personal chef, Art Smith is now serving the Washingtonian crowd at this funky Southern-fried spot, located in...Read More

  • 6. Bayou

    $$ | Georgetown | American

    New Orleans and Washington, D.C., might seem to have little in common, but both cities share a common love of carousing after hours and belt...Read More

  • 7. Beau Thai

    $ | Shaw | Thai

    This dream of a local haunt was founded by an experienced Thai chef and two American entrepreneurs inspired by her flair for spice. The drunken...Read More

  • 8. Belga Café

    $$$ | Capitol Hill | European

    You can go traditional with mussels and the crispiest of french fries or dabble in what the chef calls Euro-fusion at this sleek café done up...Read More

  • 9. Bistro Bis

    $$$ | Capitol Hill | French

    A zinc bar, spacious brown-leather booths, and a glass-front display kitchen create great expectations at Bistro Bis, the second restaurant...Read More

  • 10. Bistrot du Coin

    $$ | Dupont Circle | French

    An instant hit in its Dupont Circle neighborhood, this moderately priced French bistro with a monumental zinc bar is noisy, crowded, and fun...Read More

  • 11. Bistrot Lepic

    $$$ | Glover Park | French

    Relaxed and upbeat, with bright yellow walls and colorful paintings, this small, crowded neighborhood bistro is French in every regard—starting...Read More

  • 12. Black Salt

    $$$ | Upper Northwest | Seafood

    Just beyond Georgetown in the residential neighborhood of Palisades, Black Salt is part fish market, part gossipy neighborhood hangout, part...Read More

  • 13. Brasserie Beck

    $$$ | Downtown | Belgian

    Give in to sensory overload at this homage to the railway dining rooms that catered to the prewar European elite. Every detail of Beck's interior...Read More

  • 14. Busboys and Poets

    $ | U Street

    For a more intellectual snack, step into this bookstore–cum–restaurant–cum performance space that serves up sandwiches, pizzas, and poems. Named...Read More

  • 15. Chez Billy Sud

    $$ | French

    Another cozy gem in Georgetown is this French restaurant, which serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. If it's a nice day, request a table...Read More

  • 16. Daikaya

    $$ | Chinatown | Japanese

    This quirky, gorgeously decorated split-level party for gourmands is "Lost in Translation" in restaurant form, a sexy-quirky tour of modern...Read More

  • 17. DGS Delicatessen

    $$ | Dupont Circle | Deli

    DGS pickles, cures, and smokes all its food in-house. ...Read More

  • 18. DGS Delicatessen

    $$ | Dupont Circle | Deli

    Your favorite Jewish grandma might be thrown for a loop by this precocious reboot of her staple dishes—what, regular Reubens were too boring...Read More

  • 19. El Camino

    $ | Mexican

    The up-and-coming Bloomingdale neighborhood is still long on pubs and short on reliable, quality food, but this California-style taco temple...Read More

  • 20. Estadio

    $$$ | Logan Circle | Spanish

    The name of this polished palace means "stadium," and its gorgeously baroque interior, which surrounds a high-wire open kitchen, makes a perfect...Read More

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