Should you have any doubts about the quality—or even existence—of a worthy dining scene in the nation’s capital, consider the fact that more than 130 restaurants in D.C. are on the coveted Michelin star list—23 restaurants earned stars in 2021 alone. Bon Appétit magazine named Washington, D.C., its “Restaurant City of the Year” in 2016. Plus, the city’s restaurants, chefs, sommeliers, and other top pros in the trade regularly show up on the vaunted James Beard Foundation Awards lists (the Oscars for excellence in championing American cuisine).
So that’s settled. Now comes the two-fold tricky part: how to choose where you want to eat from a world’s choice of options, and then score a table. Washingtonians dine out a lot. A lot. Wheeler-dealers and socializing urbanistas fill restaurants throughout the city, from the newly bustling waterfront communities to hot-hot-hot Shaw to Barracks Row on Capitol Hill and old reliable chestnuts near the White House. Be sure to make a reservation, and soon.
Of course, the past 2 years haven’t been easy for Washington restaurants; many closed for at least some time during Covid shutdowns—some temporarily, and sadly some for good. For those that have persevered, the pandemic has changed D.C.’s restaurant scene in two major ways: outdoor dining and take-out are now both permanent fixtures. The latter is good news for visitors; if you can’t snag a table at Rasika or Anju, you can pick up your dinner and create a picnic or hotel feast.
What hasn’t changed? Good, and sometimes great, restaurants are open in every neighborhood, and this chapter leads you to a range of possibilities, spanning diverse cuisines, budget considerations, even trendiness (some of the best restaurants have been around for a while).
Capitol Hill & Barracks Row
Along with the recommendations in our listings, we recommend, for solid diner fare and lively local color, Pete’s Diner and Carryout at 212 2nd St. SE (btw. Independence and Pennsylvania aves. in Capitol Hill), and for an insider’s experience, Market Lunch inside Eastern Market.
Capitol Riverfront (“Navy Yard”)
This neighborhood bustles with Washington Nationals fervor in baseball season (the ballpark is here), waterfront fun when weather permits, and restaurant and bar crowds year-round.
The Wharf complex’s waterfront location is its main attraction, but one that poses logistical challenges for anyone driving here. Traffic jams up on Maine Avenue, the primary route leading to the Wharf and its parking garages. If you can, use one of the many alternative transportation options, which include the Metro, the DC Circulator bus, water taxis, and a shuttle that loops continuously between the Wharf and the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. If you must drive, take care to read the section “Getting Here” posted on the Wharf’s website as well as specific instructions provided by the restaurant to which you’re headed.
This diverse and largely residential neighborhood north of the 14th and U Street hub has a large immigrant population, which makes it one of the best places in the city to try international cuisines. In addition to the restaurants below, taste Filipino fare at Bad Saint, Cuban cuisine at Mi Cuba Café, and Laotian dishes at Thip Khao.
14th and U Street Corridors
Some of the city’s trendiest restaurants and bars are right here, along 14th Street and its side streets in particular. Many don’t take reservations, so you’ll need to be in the right mood to go with the flow (and maybe wait a bit for dinner).
Foggy Bottom/West End
In addition to the restaurants in our listings, consider Tatte (1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW), a Boston-based pastry shop known for its Israeli favorites like halloumi breakfast sandwiches and lamb hash.
The closest Metro stop to Georgetown is the Foggy Bottom station on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines; from there you can walk or catch the DC Circulator bus on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Keep in mind that the price categories refer to dinner prices, and that some very expensive restaurants offer affordable lunches, early-bird dinners, tapas, or bar meals. The prices within each review refer to the average cost of individual entrees, not the entire meal.
Inexpensive $14 and under
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.