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These days, Washington D.C. is in the news daily — though never for its dynamic food scene. Our nation’s capital has always been a melting pot of delicious and diverse cuisine, but it’s been attracting even more attention in recent years, as restaurants like Rose’s Luxury rack up the accolades and celebrity chefs such as José Andrés and Mike Isabella continue to open award-winning concepts.
Now boasting over 2,000 restaurants and counting, D.C. is filled with pockets that are transforming into culinary destinations. Here are five neighborhoods that any self-respecting foodie should know about— plus the most delicious places to stay after you put the fork down.
Where to eat: David Chang made massive waves in D.C. this fall when he opened Momofuku CCDC and Momofuku Milk Bar, drawing crowds to the CityCenterDC development for his signature noodles. If you’re not into waiting in lines, there are plenty of other options for high-end cuisine in Penn Quarter. Recently opened Centrolina offers seasonal Italian fare with a focus on fresh produce and seafood. Chef Victor Albisu’s Del Campo pays homage to South America with sizable grilled steaks served with chimichurri, Peruvian rotisserie chicken and more. Zaytinya represents Andrés’ love affair with the Eastern Mediterranean, from Turkish pide to Greek dolmas and Lebanese kibbeh.
Where to stay: For a truly luxurious stay, check in at The Hay-Adams or Willard InterContinental, both Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotels with excellent dining options. The Hay-Adams houses The Lafayette, which serves classic American cuisine and offers a lavish Sunday brunch spread, while the French bistro-inspired Café du Parc and Occidental Grill & Seafood ensure Willard guests always have fresh, locally sourced dining options.
Where to eat: The neighborhood once known as the counterculture epicenter of the city has become quite a culinary hotbed in recent years. Chef Johnny Monis has been drawing long lines for the family-style Thai he’s serving at tiny Little Serow, where seven incredible courses total less than $60. Housed in a former carriage house, Iron Gate offers well-executed Mediterranean cuisine in a beautiful setting, complete with velvet curtains, a crackling fireplace and —you guessed it — the eponymous iron gate. The elegant Five-Star Plume pulls out all the stops, drawing inspiration from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello garden in each dish. And The Riggsby also recently opened, serving modern American comfort in a retro supper club setting.
Where to stay: Set yourself up for a weekend of fun at The Embassy Row Hotel, A Destination Hotel, which features sleek, colorful design in each room and lounge area, a rooftop lounge and pool and an “adult playground” (with ping pong and foosball) leading to the gym. In addition to a 24-hour chef’s pantry, Station Kitchen and Cocktails serves internationally inspired shareable plates and creative drinks, which can be bottled to bring back to your room.
Where to eat: Though Shaw is already a foodie hot spot, plenty more openings are expected in the new year. Mixologist and restaurateur Derek Brown is responsible for a trifecta of stylized bars with great food offerings: Eat the Rich focuses on East Coast oysters and cocktails by the pitcher; next door, Mockingbird Hill carries over 100 types of sherry plus hand-picked cheeses and hams; and Southern Efficiency specializes in bourbon and shareable comfort food. Newly opened Convivial (by Cedric Maupillier) offers fun spins on French fare, such as escargot in a blanket and fried chicken “coq au vin,” while The Dabney (a Jeremiah Langhorne project) features farm-to-table Southern cuisine in a rustic setting, with a focus on well-crafted cocktails plus local cider and beer.
Where to stay: While it’s located a few blocks southwest of Shaw, Four-Star The St. Regis Washington D.C. is the ideal setting for a gastro getaway not only because a stay here comes with a daily 6 p.m. champagne sabering ceremony and toast, but also because Decanter at St. Regis, led by chef de cuisine Gyo Santa, serves modern haute cuisine every day.
H Street NE
Where to eat: Chef Erik Bruner-Yang established H Street NE as a culinary destination when he opened Toki Underground, which went on to earn a cult following for its comforting ramen and hip hop-skate culture vibe. He’s doing it all over again with Maketto, which consists of a dining room in the kitchen, Cambodian and Taiwanese dishes, and a hip retail shop carrying sneakers, sunglasses, clothing and more. Similarly, Sally’s Middle Name pairs a lifestyle boutique upstairs with an ingredient-driven bistro downstairs. Nearby, Smith Commons, housed in a converted warehouse, features refined Southern comfort for dinner and a jazz brunch on Sundays.
Where to stay: Located just off H Street NE is The George, a boutique hotel that pays homage to its namesake George Washington in both its handsome guest rooms and modern-art-laden shared spaces. Dine at Bistro Bis, where James Beard Award-winning chef Jeffrey Buben creates nuanced French cuisine.
Where to eat: Union Market, a year-round indoor market featuring 40 vendors, is undoubtedly the culinary epicenter of NoMa. In it, you’ll find Rappahannock Oyster Bar for all your raw seafood indulgences, Neopol Savory Smokery specializing in wood-smoked salmon, retro diner counter Buffalo & Bergen peddling bagel and knish creations and many more. The market’s first full-service restaurant, Bidwell, grows most of its produce in an aeroponic rooftop garden and sources other ingredients as responsibly as possible for a rotating menu of dishes like crispy deviled eggs and “gin and tonic” Verlasso salmon. At the recently opened Masseria, chef Nicholas Stefanelli uses offerings from Italy’s coast to create delicate dishes in a chic setting.
Where to stay: Conveniently located near NoMa, The Donovan is a boutique hotel featuring sleek, dynamic design, incredible city view suites and a rooftop pool and lounge. Zentan serves modern Japanese-inspired cuisine in the form of sushi, sashimi, robata grilled tableside over hot rocks and more. There’s even an option called kuidaore, which literally translates to “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food.” Sounds like our kind of fun.