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. Sweetgreen

    $ | Dupont Circle | Eclectic

    When three Georgetown University graduates carved out a closet-size niche to sell freshly made salads and tart frozen yogurt almost a decade...Read More

  • 2. Taylor Gourmet

    $ | U Street | Café

    Sandwiches crafted with attention to detail and fine ingredients are the hallmark of this Philadelphia-inspired classic. Taylor's substitution...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Ben's Chili Bowl

    $ | U Street | American

    Long before U Street became hip, Ben's was serving chili. Chili on hot dogs, chili on Polish-style sausages, chili on burgers, and just plain...Read More

  • 5. Ben's Chili Bowl

    $ | U Street

    This U Street institution still serves cheap and filling chili any which way imaginable. ...Read More

  • 6. Burger Tap & Shake and District Commons

    $ | Foggy Bottom

    This GWU campus favorite serves burgers with house-made toppings, hand-cut fries, shakes, and craft beers on tap. For full-service dining, try...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Busboys and Poets

    $$ | American

    The name pays tribute to American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel during the 1920s. Today, this popular...Read More

  • 9. DGS Delicatessen

    $$ | Dupont Circle | Deli

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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. Full Kee

    $ | Chinese

    This popular Chinese restaurant is known for its excellent shrimp dumplings in noodle soup, but the rest of the menu is equally good. A $7 lunch...Read More

  • 13. Full Kee

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    Many locals swear by this standout from the slew of mediocre Chinese joints in the area. The style-free interior can be off-putting to some...Read More

  • 14. Good Stuff Eatery

    $ | Capitol Hill | American

    Fans of Bravo's Top Chef will first visit this brightly colored burgers-and-shakes shack hoping to spy charismatic TV chef Spike Mendelsohn...Read More

  • 15. Jimmy T's Place

    $ | Capitol Hill | American

    This D.C. institution is tucked in the first floor of an old row house only five blocks from the Capitol. Sassy waiters, talkative regulars...Read More

  • 16. Julia's Empanadas

    $ | Adams Morgan

    Empanadas here are served in paper bags to go, so you can eat standing up....Read More

  • 17. Kramerbooks & Afterwords

    $$ | Dupont Circle

    Relax at this bookstore-café over a light meal or a drink after browsing. Wednesday through Saturday, live music ensues. ...Read More

  • 18. Kramerbooks & Afterwords

    $$ | Dupont Circle | Café

    This popular bookstore-cum-café is a favorite neighborhood breakfast spot. It's also a late-night haunt on Friday and Saturday, when it's open...Read More

  • 19. Library of Congress's Madison Building Cafeteria

    $ | Capitol Hill

    Steps from the Capitol, this eatery gets raves for its varied breakfast and lunch, and panoramic views of Washington. ...Read More

  • 20. Luke's Lobster

    $ | Seafood

    Follow the restaurant's sandwich board on M Street and you'll find what the owners call their "Georgetown shack," serving fresh lobster, crab...Read More

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