• Best for a Splurge: Barracks Row’s Pineapple and Pearls is a stylish dining room where the ambience is so warm and comfortable, and the servers so amiable, that you feel like you’re dining at a friend’s house. An extraordinarily gifted friend. From the kitchen come 12 courses of a creative American menu, each wondrously delicious, from roasted potato ice cream to squash-blossom tacos to abalone panna cotta. 

  • Best for Romance: Romance is everywhere at Iron Gate, in the cozy wood-beamed main dining room with its crackling fire and red banquettes, in the twinkly lit, wisteria-canopied, brick-paved courtyard, even in the high-walled and narrow bar/lounge. The menu of inventive Mediterranean fare, such as oak-roasted manicotti or grilled oysters with goat butter, seals the deal. For those who believe romance requires French ambience and tastes, Georgetown’s pretty little Chez Billy Sud fits the bill, with its Ladurée-green walls and menu of onion soup, trout grenobloise, and other French classics. FYI: Across the courtyard is Chez Billy’s wine bar, where you can begin or end your evening near the wood-burning fireplace.

  • Best for Families: Beyond the usual burger (Five Guys) and pizza (Pizzeria Paradiso) places, why not introduce your kids to international cuisine? From Japanese ramen noodles at Daikaya to Cuban croquetas at the Colada Shop to Indian curries and samosas at Indique, you’ve got a world of tastes at your fingertips. Or you could just head to lively, easy, breezy, delicious and convenient Hill Country Barbecue in the Penn Quarter for good ol’ American ribs, chili, mac and cheese, and banana pudding. 

  • Best for Regional Cuisine: Hank’s Oyster Bar is the place to go for superb Eastern Shore delicacies such as crab cakes and soft-shell crabs. (Hank’s also serves up seafood specialties from New England and New Orleans.) While Washington doesn’t have its own cuisine per se, its central location within the Mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay region gives it license to lay claim to these local favorite foods. And locals say nobody does 'em better than Hank’s.

  • Best All-Around for Fun and Food: Oh, gosh, all sorts of D.C. restaurants satisfy this category, but day or night, at any of Jose Andres’ Penn Quarter restaurants, you’ll find diners happily enjoying their meals and the party atmosphere: Jaleo (Spanish tapas); Zaytinya (Mediterranean tastes); China Chilcano (Peruvian/Chinese small plates); and Oyamel (Mexican). Down on Pennsylvania Avenue, Central Michel Richard is another favorite option, for those who prefer twists on French bistro and American classics, from mussels in white wine to fried chicken.

  • Best for a “Taste of Washington” Experience: Eat lunch at the Monocle and you’re bound to see a Supreme Court justice, congressman, or senator dining here. For some down-home fare, sit at the counter at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and chat with the owners and your neighbor over a chili dog or a plate of blueberry pancakes. The place is an institution, and you can stop by anytime—it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  • Best for Vegetarians: Amsterdam Falafelshop draws lovers of its mashed chickpea falafels and 21 possible toppings, plus the twice-cooked Dutch-style fried potatoes; Beefsteak is chef Jose Andres’ healthy and delicious salute to made-to-order vegetarian fast food. Bombay Club and Rasika are excellent choices for vegetarian-friendly Indian cuisine served in sophisticated surroundings. Zaytinya offers a most diverse selection of sweet and savory veggie tapas.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.