Whether you’re in Washington DC marching for your rights or just looking for a good time, here’s where we like to dine in the District.
In a city where cherry blossoms burst suddenly around town like giant kernels of popcorn, the cute guy chatting with you at the bar happens to be the aide to a U.S. congressperson embroiled in scandal, and ogling the Hope Diamond is something you can do on your lunch hour, it comes as a welcome surprise that our nation’s capital is also a foodie mecca. After all, strolling the 2-mile National Mall or jogging around the Tidal Basin at dusk are easy ways to work up an appetite. Whether you’re in DC to march for your rights or just looking for a good time, here’s where to dine in the District. For recipes replicating some of the city’s top noshes, head over to passportmagazine.com.
Simply put, The Dabney checks all the right boxes. Built within a brick row house and tucked away down an alley within the Shaw area (if you hit the Pride mural at the Sunoco gas station at N and 9th you’ve gone too far), this is fine dining done right. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s $95 prix fixe menu offers four courses based around regional Mid-Atlantic fare. A “snack” might include a green garlic hush puppy with a dollop of citrus mayo, while a hearty main course like the Autumn Olive Farm pork over collard greens with mustard and Sarsaparilla is divine. Unpretentious, unfussy, and with excellent service, The Dabney is a true eatery for grownups. 122 Blagden Alley NW. Tel: 202-450-1015. TheDabney.com
On any given night, you’re likely to see a queer couple spooling spaghetti in a corner or a gaggle of gays popping open a prosecco. But to be clear, a restaurant this good attracts just about everyone. Tucked away off Rhode Island Ave. in the Bloomingdale ‘hood, the main ingredient at this Italian-American eatery is simplicity. The dining room is delightfully rustic (think exposed brick and wood banquettes). Like most East Coast eateries, it’s slightly cramped, and always buzzing. The menu, meanwhile, has both familiar staples (like an excellent rigatoni) that fussy eaters will adore, plus more foodie-focused options like a duck liver and foie gras mousse. 1822 1st St NW. Tel: 202-525-3021. TheRedHenDC.com
Sweet Home Café
With so many tempting food trucks lining the Mall, who would bother with museum food? The answer is anyone visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture. A time capsule of civil rights and an amazing display of Black achievement in politics, sports, and the arts; do not leave this stellar institution without some comfort food at Sweet Home Café. A 2017 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, Sweet Home has four serving stations, but beeline it to the one offering the buttermilk fried chicken and pair it with stellar mac ‘n’ cheese and collard greens. Dining is communal so prepare to make new friends. 1400 Constitution Ave NW. Tel: 844-750-3012. nmaahc.si.edu/visit/sweet-home-cafe
Good Stuff Eatery
If your favorite congressperson is looking a little rounder on CSPAN these days, it’s not the camera that’s adding 10 pounds, it’s the Capitol Hill location of local burger chain Good Stuff Eatery. Though they use the term “farmhouse,” we prefer the term delicious to describe these grass-fed patties nestled between a freshly baked Pennsylvania Dutch bun and served with both the usual fixings and more exotic offerings like the Applewood bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese, and horseradish mayo sitting atop the Prez Burger. Fries here are likewise awesome and as for the handmade shakes, the toasted marshmallow is a house favorite. 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE. Tel: 202-791-0168. goodstuffeatery.com
When a Whole Foods, S’bucks and Core Power Yoga move into your ‘hood, you know it’s “arrived.” But the real star power fueling the migration toward trendy H Street Corridor and NoMa is the revival of sprawling food hall Union Market. Home to more than 40 local vendors, it’s tempting to rise and shine for a morning cup o’Joe from Peregrine Espresso chased with yeasty goodness from District Doughnut. Lunch and dinner options include Banana Blossom Bistro (Vietnamese), DC Dosa (Indian), Sospeso (Mediterranean), and more. Don’t stuff yourself so silly that you don’t have room for brown butter bourbon bread pudding from Puddin’. 1309 5th St. NE. unionmarketdc.com
Your neck might strain itself from all the craning, but this large and bustling Mediterranean eatery just steps away from the National Portrait Gallery has all the ingredients of a power lunch spot, so be on the lookout for DC politicos, journos, and power players. Helmed by super chef José Andrés, stay focused on the food which is served meze style (basically a Mediterranean version of Spanish tapas) and includes all kinds of tantalizing spreads (hummus, tzatziki, aba ghanoush, labneh), treats from the sea like octopus Santorini and a seared branzino, plus flatbreads, kababs, and familiar desserts like a Turkish coffee chocolate cake. 701 9th St. NW. Tel: 202-638-0800. zaytinya.com