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Best Places to Eat in Washington DC

Updated: February 11, 2023

Washington D.C. often gets overlooked when folks talk about great American food cities. That’s a mistake. D.C. has a fantastic and varied food scene, ranging from old classics to up-and-coming options.

In this article, we're going to talk about the best places to eat in Washington DC for:

Family Friendly Places to Eat in DC:

If you’ve brought your family to the city, it can be a challenge to find the right place to get food. Sure, you can always hit up food trucks or one of the countless fast-casual spots but maybe you want somewhere to sit down and relax.

Make sure you look into Things To Do in DC with Kids, too.

1. Ted’s Bulletin

Multiple Locations

With several locations in and around the city, Ted’s Bulletin is always a crowd pleaser. There’s something for everyone - try the homemade pop-tarts!

2. Matchbox

Multiple Locations

PIzza and more to please palates of all ages. Plenty of options for the whole family with a fun, vibrant atmosphere.

3. Pizzeria Paradiso

Multiple Locations

Pizza is one of the great family foods. For 30 years, Pizzeria Paradiso has been feeding D.C. and its many visitors. It also has a great selection of salads and craft beers for the adult diners in your group.

4. Clyde’s

Multiple Locations

With plenty of space and a menu of American classics, Clyde’s is a great place to feed a family.

5. Filomena

1063 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

The previous entries on this list are all great, but Filomena is both great and unique. For almost 40 years, Filomena has been an institution in Georgetown.

This is the kind of family-style Italian food you dream about, down to the homemade pasta being shaped by hand at the front door.

Date Night Dinners in DC:

Perhaps you’re looking for a spot to enjoy a nice romantic evening or to experience a Michelin-starred culinary adventure. There are so many lovely spots, but we have a few special recommendations that won’t break the bank...too much.

1. Le Diplomate

1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

A little taste of France right here in Washington D.C. - the incredible menu is only surpassed by the exceptional service. You can’t go wrong with the steak frites.

2. Rose’s Luxury

717 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Something a little fancy but not stuffy? Rose’s Luxury features some unique food in an intimate setting. Expect seasonal dishes meant to be shared, fun and fast service, and gorgeous interior design.

3. Rasika

Multiple Locations

Finding good Indian food in the greater D.C. region is not difficult. Finding especially unique Indian food in the region is another matter. Rasika’s “Modern Indian cuisine” lets you enjoy a marvelous blending of the old and the new.

4. Oyamel Cocina

401 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Here you can find Mexican street food made upscale without being pretentious. One of the things that José Andrés seems to excel at is creating restaurants that serve high end, high concept foods that anyone can enjoy.

5. Maydan

1346 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

Georgian and North African food are the centerpiece of this hip yet grounded spot. Maydan is a reminder that food is meant to be shared - for a great view, ask to be seated near the hearth.

6. Rooster & Owl

2436 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

This Michelin Star awarded restaurant offers upscale modern American food. Be ready for a culinary adventure just blocks away from the Capitol Building.

7. Cafe Berlin

322 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

A little taste of Germany right here in Washington D.C. Even though a lot of German dishes have become staples of American food, few seem to think of Germany as a foodie country. Visit Cafe Berlin to taste why it should.

8. Mercy Me

1143 New Hampshire Ave NW Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20037

South American inspired food in a relaxed atmosphere sounds like a great option for a date night. There’s lounge, restaurant, and patio seating depending on your mood. A wide variety of coffees and cocktails doesn’t hurt its popularity.

9. 1789

1226 36th St NW, Washington, DC 20007

There’s traditional and then there’s 1789. Don’t think that means boring. The food here is fresh, with contemporary takes on classic, local, American food. All this in a renovated Federal house. What’s more D.C. than mixing the old and the new to make something special?

10. Barcelona Wine Bar

Multiple Locations

Spanish small plates are great to share with a date over a glass of wine. You have plenty of wonderful options and the location puts you near several popular bars and nightclubs.

Places to Eat Near the National Mall:

If you’re visiting museums and seeing the monuments around the National Mall, you’re going to want to grab a bite to eat. You have a lot of options, though they might not be obvious from the Mall itself.

1. Elephant & Castle

1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004

At the corner of 12th Street NW & Pennsylvania Avenue NW (one block north of the National Mall) is Elephant & Castle, a low-key and tasty spot to take a break from museum hopping. A mix of British pub food and American classics, it’s a nice, but low-key spot to grab some food.

2. Teasim

Multiple Locations

Near the National Archives and National Gallery of Art, is woman-owned cafe Teasim. Tea, bento boxes, sandwiches & cookies. A great spot for a light lunch to keep you going around the sites.

3. The Hamilton

600 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Two blocks from the Mall and one block from the White House, you’ll find The Hamilton. Good food and a good atmosphere, Hamilton’s large dining room typically means you won’t wait long even on a busy day.

4. Pavilion Café in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

The Sculpture Garden, 7th Street &, Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565

If you’re on the National Mall and need a bite to eat, you can stop in at the Pavilion Café. Sandwiches, salads and drinks are served in a peaceful underground setting nestled between the buildings of the museum.

5. Food Trucks

On 14th Street, near the Washington Memorial and 7th Street near the museums, you’ll often find food trucks selling a wide variety of food. From tacos to falafel, from barbecue to ramen, you never know what you might find.

6. L’Enfant Plaza Food Court

429 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024

Just behind the International Spy Museum, you’ll find the underground food court of L’Enfant Plaza. There are plenty of different options depending on your particular tastes. Numerous fast food restaurants dot the halls. Some are well known chains while others are unique.
7. Museum Cafes - Many of the Smithsonian museums have cafés on site. These range in quality, but all offer at least a bite to give you the energy to keep going.

8. The Wharf

Just a few minutes walk from the National Mall is the Wharf, a new neighborhood with plenty of interesting places to eat. You can get excellent donuts at District Donuts, get a cocktail at Tiki TNT, or check out Hank’s Oyster Bar for...well, oysters.

We have a whole list of places to eat at The Wharf on our neighborhood guide.

This is a short walk from the end of our National Mall & Tidal Basin tours.

9. China Chilcano

418 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

If it’s getting late and you just want to sit down, have a cocktail and a bite to eat, this José Andrés restaurant is a wonderful getaway. A few blocks from the Mall on 7th St., it features a wonderful fusion of Peruvian and Asian flavors. You’ve got to try the Dancing Yucca.

10. Western Market Food Hall

2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW #3500, Washington, DC 20006

The benefit of a city center college campus is the number of quick and easy eateries. Western Market has a number of food options in their foodhall.

Essential D.C. Places to Eat:

There are some restaurants that are distinctly D.C. These are the places you want to check out if you want something especially important to the local community.

1. Ben’s Chili Bowl

1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Located in the heart of U Street, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been feeding D.C. since 1958. Chili, half-smokes, fries, all served by the same family for over sixty years. This is great stuff. Ben's is a stop on our U St NW tours!

2. Martin’s Tavern

1264 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

Not just the spot where JFK proposed to Jackie, it’s been a well-loved spot for celebrities, tourists, and locals since 1933. The history of Martin's is so essential to Georgetown, we talk about it on our Historic Georgetown tours.

3. Busboys & Poets

Multiple Locations

With eight locations in the greater D.C. and Baltimore area, this combination restaurant, bar and bookstore is as much a gathering place as a business. It may be a newer addition to a list of “Essential D.C.” but since 2005, it’s earned the spot.

4. Old Ebbitt Grill

675 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Though not in its original location, the history of Old Ebbitt Grill goes back to 1856, and it has been at its current location since the early 20th Century. With seafood and classic pub food, there’s plenty to keep people coming back. This is a popular spot to eat before our Lincoln Assassination tour - it's just a 2 minute walk to the tour start!

5. Tune Inn

331 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003

With the second oldest post-prohibition liquor license in D.C., you know Tune Inn has some history. In the same family for 70 years, it’s one to visit, especially if you want something with a bit of a dive vibe.

6. Dukem

1114-1118 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

With the Ethiopian community being such an important part of Washington D.C., it’s no surprise that there are excellent options for dining. Dukem is one of the most popular places to eat and hear live music. Even if you’re new to Ethiopian food, the staff is welcoming to all. Located on U St NW, you'll also get a chance to experience some of the historic Black Broadway, just like Ben's Chili Bowl.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | Canden is a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. She is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city since 2011. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. She homeschools her 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC.
Updated: February 11th, 2023
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