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 the lack of true ethnic neighborhoods in the city. You can now also sample cooking from some of the country’s hottest new chefs, find already established celebrity chefs who have just made their D.C debuts, and sip craft cocktails on par with some of the world's best.

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. Cafe Riggs

    $$ | Penn Quarter | French

    This spacious restaurant is on the ground floor of the 130 year old Riggs Bank Building, which was recently converted to a luxury hotel. The...Read More

  • 2. Rasika

    $$ | Penn Quarter | Indian

    Adventurous wine lists, stellar service, inventive presentations that don't scrimp on the spice—this Indian kitchen is a local legend. A sceney...Read More

  • 3. Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

    $$ | Penn Quarter | Mexican

    The specialty at chef José Andrés Mexican stunner is antojitos, literally translated as "little dishes from the streets." But the high ceilings...Read More

  • 4. Proper 21

    $$ | Downtown | American

    Proper 21 bills itself as an upscale sports bar (think: low light, sleek black tables, and big screens mounted behind the bar). Indeed, amid...Read More

  • 5. Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar

    $$ | Capitol Hill | Wine Bar

    This chic, multilevel wine bar has pours aplenty (in both tasting portions and full glasses) along with well-thought-out charcuterie boards...Read More

  • 6. Sticky Rice

    $ | Capitol Hill | Asian

    The capital's hip young things usually begin their nights out with cocktails, not high-concept food, but this kitschy den of sushi and karaoke...Read More

  • 7. The Hamilton

    $$ | Downtown | Eclectic

    Formerly a Borders bookstore, the Hamilton (no relation to the hit musical) is now an enormous multiroom restaurant (38,000 sq feet) that includes...Read More

  • 8. The Imperial

    $$ | Adams Morgan | American

    This design-forward restaurant has a stunning, two-tier, see-and-be-seen rooftop, as well as plenty of other Instagrammable spots. It also offers...Read More

  • 9. Tico

    $$ | U Street | Latin American

    One of Boston's celebrity chefs, Michael Schlow, scored prime real estate when it came to finding a spot in which to serve his fast-paced parade...Read More

  • 10. Westend Bistro

    $$$ | Modern American

    The culinary team focuses on Americanized versions of bistro classics created from regional ingredients in this modern-style West End restaurant...Read More

  • 11. Bayou

    $$ | Georgetown | Cajun

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

  • 12. Graffiato

    $$ | Penn Quarter | Italian

    Manhattan-trained Mike Isabella brought a rock-star cool to his stints on Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars, and his venture down I–95 gave...Read More

  • 13. Honeysuckle

    $$$ | Dupont Circle | American

    After climbing down an unpromising flight of stairs, you will find an attractive dining room where a decorous chandelier shares a ceiling with...Read More

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