Part 3 in my Washington, D.C. Travel Guide Series – Follow the links to see Part 1: Ten Tips to Plan a Great D.C. Trip and Part 2: Smithsonian Favorites and Part 4: Ten Free Things to Do in D.C. for more.
Whether you’re in D.C. for a day of museum-hopping and taking selfies with monuments, or you’re in town for a work conference, you’ll undoubtedly need some sustenance. I realize the options can be overwhelming, so I’ve compiled a catalog of my very best restaurant recommendations. Have a delicious trip!
If you are looking for something quick
Well you are in luck, because D.C. is saturated with “fast-casual” restaurants. These are my favorites, and in most cases there are multiple locations, so check Yelp or Google Maps to see what’s near you:
- Shake Shack – Hamburgers, crinkle cut fries, and milkshakes. Usually there’s a line, but it’s worth it. There’s a great stuffed portabella mushroom burger for any vegetarians out there.
- &Pizza – Personal pizzas made to order. Big enough to share with another. Each location is called <insert name of street> & Pizza, in case that ampersand looked like a typo. The Maverick is my favorite.
- ShopHouse – Think Southeast Asian Chipotle
- Cava Grill – Think Mediterranean Chipotle
- Good Stuff Eatery – Hamburgers and Milkshakes. And the best, fast thing I can recommend within a quick walk from Capital Hill.
- Taylor Gourmet – Hoagies and really good sides. I recommend the risotto balls.
You want your dinner on a table cloth, thank you very much.
The following all have great menus, are generally a little pricier than the fast casual options, and almost always require a reservation so make sure to call ahead:
- Old Ebbit Grill – Prides itself on being a favorite of Presidents from Grant to Roosevelt. It’s got the look of that time. Pastas, steaks, and seafood. And they have an oyster bar. Pricey but the atmosphere can make for a memorable and cozy evening out. (675 15TH St, NW)
- Le Diplomat – French cafe that will make you feel like you just flew to Paris — from the decor to the perfectly cooked eggs to the basket of all kinds of bread they bring to your table when you are seated. My birthday lunch pick and such a treat. (1601 14th St. NW)
- Tabard Inn – Victorian vibe with a cozy dining room. They serve things like leg of lamb and pan seared salmon if that gives you any idea. I get the feeling George Washington ate at places that look like this. (1739 N St. NW)
- Granville Moore’s – Okay, you won’t get a table cloth with this one but definitely make a reservation. They call themselves a Belgian gastropub. Our favorite place to get mussels — and their fries with all the sauces. Call to see when they’re serving half price mussels and pounce on that deal. (1238 H St, NE)
- Founding Farmers – Again, no table clothes here, but reservations strongly recommended, so I’m putting it in this category, too. It’s always hopping. The restaurants are family-farmer owned (some 40,000 of them) and the food is always fresh and filling. Order anything. It’s all good. In addition to the D.C. location there is also one in Tysons, VA and another in Potomac, MD right off of I-270. (District location: 1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
Haven’t made a reservation yet but want something with a little personality.
- Comet – Thin crust pizza served on tables made out of ping-pong tables. There are also actual ping pong tables you can play on. They don’t take reservations but it can get pretty crowded on weekend nights. If you find yourself waiting, check out the Politics and Prose bookstore a few doors down! A favorite of Presidents and everyone else that loves books in the region. (5037 Connecticut Ave. NW)
- Busboys & Poets – Restaurants and socially conscious bookstores in one. Their menu includes a number of vegetarian and vegan options. (6 locations – find one near you)
- Donburi – Japanese rice bowls prepared before your eyes from your seat at the counter. (2438 18th St. NW)
- Amsterdam Falafel – Falafel and fries with an admirable selection of toppings (3 D.C. locations: Adams Morgan, 14th St. Corridor, and L’Enfant)
- The Potter’s House – A quick walk around the corner from Donburi and Amsterdam Falafel, you’ll find this historic D.C. coffee house, cafe and bookstore. It first opened its doors in 1960 as a D.C. hub for the Civil Rights movement. They just did a major remodel and reopening in 2015. It’s a great place to grab a cup of coffee and catch your breath. (1658 Columbia Road NW)
- Two Amy’s – Neapolitan pizza, Salads, and appetizers are all good. (3715 Macomb St. NW)
Staying near Silver Spring, MD – Wheaton, MD?
- Sardi’s Pollo a la Brasa – Charbroiled Peruvian chicken. I love it so much I had it “just one more time” three times the week we left. Super affordable meal and good for families. Get the Yuca fries and all the sauces. (In an unassuming plaza at 1159 University Blvd E, Langley Park MD….there are also several other locations in the region)
- The Big Greek – Gyros, Spanakopita, and Big Greek fries sprinkled with feta and I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t confuse it with the imposter restaurant (The Greek Place) down the street. It will be a sad mix up for you. (8223 Georgia Ave S., Silver Spring. They also have a Rockville location)
- Adis Ababa – 20% of Ethiopians in the U.S. live in the D.C. region, so as you can imagine there are many wonderful restaurant options, and in Silver Spring in particular. This one is our favorite. Great food and great service. Generally meals are on the more leisurely paced side, so plan accordingly. I usually order beef tibs, and I also recommend a glass of honey wine if you are so inclined. (8233 Fenton St., Silver Spring)
- Ethio Express – Think Ethiopian Chipotle. Quick, affordable and delicious (952 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring)
- La Casita – Salvadoran cuisine is popular in D.C. and handmade papusas in particular. You can find great papusas and more here. Affordable and a nice atmosphere too. They’ve expanded to Germantown and are soon opening in Gaithersburg as well. (8214 Piney Branch, Silver Spring, MD 20910)
- Thai Taste by Kobb – A hidden “gem in the wall” kind of place. Delicious Thai food, with great specials. (11315 Fern Street, Wheaton, MD 20902)
- Ruan Thai – Also delicious Thai food – my favorite Pad Si Ew in the D.C. region. A little bit pricier than Thai Taste with a glowy, cozy atmosphere. (11407 Amherst Ave, Wheaton, MD 20902)
Near Bethesda or Rockville?
- Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar – Central & South American, Cuban and Caribbean food. This restaurant got it’s start in Cleveland, actually! But, we found out about it in D.C. If you can go at happy hour, they have a good one. Blackened fish tacos and yuca fries are my recommendation. (11333 Woodglen Dr., Rockville, MD. Also locations in Gaithersburg and Tysons, VA)
- Clyde’s – A D.C. chain where each restaurant has a different theme/look. 1/2 price raw bar at different times throughout the day and evening. A little pricier than some other options, but a very nice atmosphere. (2 Preserve Parkway, Rockville, MD is great!)
- Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe – The only purely dessert place on this list and the only location you will find it. I recommend ordering a Gelati in the flavors of your choice – it’s a layer of frozen custard, topped with a layer of Italian ice, and then another layer of custard. And I had this “just one more time” three times, as well the last week we lived within driving distance. (1115 Nelson Street, Rockville, MD 20850 next to HardTimes Cafe)
In Northern Virginia?
Admittedly, I am weaker on the northern Virginia food scene, but here are some places we really enjoy (P.S. Any NOVA friends that want to chime in with favorites are more than welcome!):
- Pupatella – Neapolitan Pizza. My husband’s birthday choice. Everything is good, but we always wish we’d gotten more Margherita pizzas and risotto balls! (5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)
- Southside 815 – A large menu of salads, sandwiches, and seafood in a wonderful atmosphere. (815 S Washington St, Alexandria, VA)
- Quarter Deck – If you can’t drive to the shore for Maryland Blue Crab, this is a good alternative. Call ahead to reserve your crabs. (1200 Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, VA)
- Bayou Bakery – New Orleans fare. We stop in for the beignets. (1515 N. Courthouse Rd., Arlington, VA 22201)
Hope you find a few appetizing options here, and as always let me know what you discover. As you may now know, I love new recommendations!