This is just a tiny sampling of the plethora of restaurants and bars found throughout D.C., which has become one of the top foodie destinations in the country and is home to almost ethnic cuisine found on the planet. To make suggestions to add to my list, just shoot me a note at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org!
*The coronavirus pandemic has hit our area’s restaurants and bars especially hard. For many workers, this is a terrifyingly uncertain time. Here’s a good article in Washingtonian magazine on the different ways you can help restaurant workers. Two simple ways are to order carry-out from your favorite establishment (some bars are even offering carry-out drinks!) or buy gift cards to use in the future.
Filomena Ristorante: I’m old school. There’s no shortage of swanky, uber-modern Italian restaurants in a city whose dining scene has been transformed and elevated over the last decade. But one of my favorites is still Filomena, a haven of authentic Italian food quietly tucked into the heart of Georgetown. It’s been around for 37 years and no longer boasts the name recognition it once did, but the food is solid and the decor is beyond unique, especially during the holidays.
Fiola DC: Italian restaurants tend to come and go in D.C., but I doubt Fiola will be going anywhere any time soon. Its mix of contemporary and traditional Italian cuisine justifies the glowing reviews it consistently gets. And its sister restaurant Fiola Mare along the Georgetown Waterfront serves up some of the best seafood dishes and water views in town.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab: Speaking of seafood, Joe’s has been known for it since opening its first location in Miami in 1913. The D.C. version has become a power lunch spot for lobbyists and the like, so be prepared for hefty price tags, although the portions are equally hefty and flavorful.
Le Diplomate: Another D.C. staple for powerbrokers is Le Diplomate on 14th Street, which pays homage to French cafe culture. The fact that even now — years after it opened to much hype — it’s still tough to nab a seat at this popular brasserie is a testament to the enduring quality of its food and ambience.
Lauriol Plaza: It’s casual and often crowded, but for my money, Lauriol Plaza has some of the best Tex-Mex and Latin American dishes in the area. If I could, I’d probably drink their salsa straight from a glass. Yes, it’s that good. If the Logan Circle location is too packed, Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurants, which owns Lauriol Plaza, also offers up Cactus Cantina on Wisconsin Avenue and several locations in Maryland.
Colada Shop: This colorful, jam-packed eatery offers strong coffee, stronger drinks and light fare with distinctive, delicious Cuban flair.
Pineapple and Pearls: For the ultimate connoisseur dining experience, it’s tough to beat Pineapple and Pearls, which consistently ranks among the best restaurants in the city (with two Michelin starts to boot). From the cocktails to the service to the 12-course course menu, Washingtonian magazine called it “the total package.” The company that owns Pineapple also has another top-notch name under its belt — Rose’s Luxury. The Capitol Hill hotspot was once famous (or infamous) for the daily lines of diners waiting hours to get inside the no-reservations restaurant. Nowadays, it’s easier to get in, although its menu is as strong as ever.
2 Amy’s Neapolitan Pizzeria: Sometimes you just need a good pizza, and 2 Amy’s has been serving up its wood-fired Naples-style version to legions of fans for over 17 years.
Marcel’s: My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary at Robert Wiedmaier’s elegant French-Belgian eatery. Fifteen years later, the quality of its dishes and attention to detail remain as impressive as they were years ago.
Agora DC: This low-lit, brick-walled space hits the spot for anyone craving a taste of Turkey and Mediterranean mezze bites.
Rasika: This award-winning modern Indian restaurant owned by Ashok Bajaj now has two locations: Penn Quarter and West End. Both are worth a visit.
Sushi Keiko: East meets West in this simple but popular sushi mainstay in Georgetown.
Bistrot du Coin: Admittedly, there may be better French bistros in D.C., but Bistrot du Coin hasn’t lost its luster after 20 years (a lifetime in the restaurant industry) and it’s still a great, fun lunch destination to people-watch from its perch in the heart of bustling Dupont Circle.
The Salt Line: Located in the city’s revitalized southwest waterfront, The Salt Line has quickly earned a reputation for serving up a sophisticated blend of New England and Chesapeake seafood delicacies.
Buck’s Fishing and Camping: This small, rustic-themed eatery exudes that camping coziness, but the upscale American fare is a far cry from the canned food you’d be heating up in the woods.
Minibar: Minibar is an experience and the embodiment of D.C.’s original celebrity chef, José Andrés, who began the ubiquitous Jaleo tapas chain. Unlike Jaleo, though, Minibar is avant-garde at its most extravagant, showcasing the larger-than-life Spanish-American chef’s wild side by blending art and science to create bites that are almost too pretty to eat. While Minibar is unequivocally high-brow, Andrés is a down-to-earth innovator who helped to popularize small plates in the U.S. while also earning widespread praise for his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which provides meals in the wake of natural disasters. Closer to home, Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup team recently shuttered all their restaurants and converted them into community kitchens for the hungry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon: You like whiskey? You go to Jack Rose. It’s as simple as that. There are over 2,600 bottles on the wall at last count. The main bar has an elegant clubhouse feel and offers solid dinner fare. But this three-story, upscale watering hole in Adams Morgan also offers a tiki bar on the roof in warm weather and an intimate cellar for private parties.
Dupont Circle Hotel: This popular happy-hour lounge overlooking Dupont Circle was part of a recent major overhaul of the hotel, giving it a fresh, sleek look. Comfy couches abut a fireplace that’s perfect for cooler weather, while an expansive patio opens up in the summer.
ChurchKey: For craft beer, head over to ChurchKey, where you’ll find over 550 handpicked labels to choose from. The Washington Post declared that ChurchKey “deserves its status as a national trailblazer and the best beer bar in the city.”
Irish Inn at Glenn Echo: I absolutely love Irish pubs and the Irish Inn at Glenn Echo in Maryland has all the necessary ingredients of a great one: authentic dishes like bangers and mash, traditional Irish music and, of course, free-flowing pints of Guinness. For a taste of the Emerald Isle inside D.C., try Kelly’s Irish Times at Union Station. With over 100+ years of history, you’ll find quirky details like 1930s Dublin Police Patches, one-of-a-kind unopened beer bottles from the 1800s and antique galvanized ice buckets from Glasgow.
Willard Round Robin Bar: Sip your way through history at this iconic landmark nicknamed the “Oval Office of bars,” which has been welcoming politicians and Washington’s elite since its inception in 1847. A must: order a classic mint julep as you soak up the exclusive, clubby ambience surrounding the signature round bar.
Off the Record: Another historic staple is the Off the Record bar located in the basement of the Hay-Adams hotel, a stone’s throw from the White House. It’s the quintessential Washington watering hole punctuated by deep red decor and caricatures of the city’s political elite both past and present that give it a classified feel.
City Winery: If you like wine, you might as well go big-time with City Winery, a unique 40,000-square-foot space that is home to a restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine, wine bar, functioning winery and even a music venue.
Silver Lyan: This newly opened bar is located at the bottom level of what was once the Riggs Bank in D.C. As such, bar-goers will pass by the original massive bank vault on their way to sample inventive cocktails by award-winning London-based bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana (a.k.a. Mr. Lyan).
Left Door: Drinking at a bar is fun. Drinking at a secret bar is even more fun. Speakeasies have cropped up as a popular, almost cliché trend in recent years, but my favorite is Left Door, hidden next to an unassuming dry cleaning store. Inside, you’ll find crazy delicious concoctions and friendly mixologists to help you find the right drink among what can be a daunting list of cocktail ingredients.
Chicken + Whiskey: Another hidden gem is the speakeasy located in the back of this South American-style chicken joint — behind, literally, the rear refrigerator door, where you’ll discover an oasis of whiskey.
POV Rooftop Bar and Restaurant at the W: Some call the W hotel’s rooftop bar swanky, while others see it as a tad too pretentious. Regardless, its sweeping vistas of the White House and D.C. landscape are hard to beat. It also recently underwent a major renovation that added flair and much-needed space to the rooftop, which now features floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy those prized views year-round.
Tabard Inn Bar: Located inside the oldest continuing running hotel in D.C. you’ll find a bar retreat that attracts locals and tourists alike.
Del Mar: This upscale restaurant at The Wharf along the Southwest waterfront is known for chef Fabio Trabocchi’s (of Fiola and Fiola Mare) Spanish-flavored seafood dishes. But the bar is an elegant spot to observe the bustling dining room and outside views, especially during its “Flamenco happy hour” on Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday.
Biergarten Haus: With its large patio, rooftop deck overlooking the gardens, authentic Bavarian bites and German-imported beer, Biergarten Haus on H Street allows drinkers to imbibe on Oktoberfest revelry year-round.
Jug & Table: Not your typical wine bar, Jug & Table in Adams Morgan serves up wine not only by the glass, but by the jug, accompanied by a laidback vibe.
Wunder Garten: This beer garden escape offers year-round picnic tables, couches, fire pits, lawn games and, of course, beer and bites.
Trump International Hotel: Whatever your political leanings, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Trump’s namesake in the nation’s capital. Luxury is paramount at this hotel, which was once the city’s Old Post Office Pavilion, although many of the original historic touches remain. If you want to see members of the administration or Trump tourists visiting the city, the dramatic Benjamin Bar & Lounge is the place to be. But like many of D.C.’s top bars and lounges, the experience isn’t cheap: Signature cocktails here will run you anywhere from $18 to $35.