Are you searching for the most unique restaurants in Washington DC? Here are 12 of the coolest places to eat in DC that you can’t miss.
Seeking a dining experience that stands out in the nation’s capital? This Washington DC restaurant guide is your ticket to the city’s most memorable eateries. Despite what you might think, Washington, DC, is more than the epicenter of politics and power. It’s a vibrant city where diverse cultures converge, bringing with them a myriad of dining experiences. From the iconic streets of Georgetown to the lively avenues of Capitol Hill, there are unique restaurants in DC that are as varied as its residents.
This guide is not about the usual. It’s about the extraordinary. It’s about the places that surprise you, delight you, and offer something you won’t find anywhere else. From restaurants that have transformed historic townhouses to those that offer global dishes with a unique DC twist, this list promises to intrigue and satisfy your taste buds.
If you’re eager to discover the best places to eat in DC that go beyond the ordinary, you’re in the right place. Dive in and explore Washington, DC’s dining scene like never before, one exceptional restaurant at a time. Here’s everything you need to know about the most unique restaurants in Washington DC.
Are you ready to discover the most unique restaurants in Washington DC? As mentioned earlier, there’s no shortage of incredible places to eat in DC that all travelers will love. Keep reading to find out where to eat in Washington DC.
Are you looking for a taste of authentic Mediterranean flavors? Or would you prefer to indulge in a modern twist on classic American dishes? Whatever you’d like to eat, there are unique places to eat in Washington DC that can accommodate your needs. If you’re looking for a top east coast vacation spot, keep reading. Here’s your tried-and-tested guide to the most unique restaurants in DC.
Stepping into The Dabney is like entering a realm where the past and present coalesce. Located in a historic Blagden Alley row house, this Michelin-starred restaurant in DC is a nod to the Mid-Atlantic’s culinary heritage.
What makes The Dabney unique is its commitment to local farmers and producers. The open kitchen, centered around a wood-burning hearth, showcases the art of ancient cooking techniques. This gives diners a front-row seat to the magic.
The menu is a dynamic reflection of the region’s seasonal produce. While the dishes change, the essence remains: to offer a fresh, modern take on traditional recipes. Think wood-grilled oysters, ember-roasted beets, and hearth-baked bread that evokes the warmth of home.
This spot is perfect for those who appreciate the nuances of farm-to-table dining. While walk-ins are welcome, reservations are recommended due to its popularity. Price-wise, it leans towards the high-end. It’s ideal for special occasions or when you’re looking to splurge a bit.
In a city brimming with dining options, The Dabney stands out as one of the most unique places in Washington DC to eat, offering an experience that’s both nostalgic and novel.
Venture into the heart of the city, and you’ll stumble upon Maydān, an emblem of the vibrant tapestry of Middle Eastern and North African cultures. Unlike any other in the capital, this establishment invites you to embark on a culinary voyage without ever leaving DC.
As you step inside, the allure isn’t just the aroma wafting from the wood-fired oven but the intricate decor that mirrors the heritage of the regions it represents. It’s a restaurant where every corner has a tale, every artifact a history.
What truly sets Maydān apart is their dedication to authenticity. While many places boast of genuine experiences, here, it’s a promise delivered. The spices are sourced directly from the old-world market, and the recipes have been passed down through generations. As such, when you take a bite, you’re savoring centuries of tradition.
Located in a bustling part of DC, it’s a sanctuary for those seeking an escape from the usual. If you’re wondering about the crowd favorites, the tender lamb shoulder and curated cocktails top the list.
A pro tip for first-timers: secure a spot near the oven. It’s the best seat in this unique Washington DC restaurant, offering a glimpse into the culinary dance of chefs as they craft each dish to perfection.
Imagine a place where every dish is a vibrant mosaic of colors, textures, and flavors. Welcome to Bad Saint, a hidden gem in DC that’s redefining Filipino cuisine in the heart of the city. Situated in the lively Columbia Heights neighborhood, this eatery showcases the Philippines’ rich cultural tapestry, offering a fresh perspective on traditional dishes.
From the moment you step in, there’s an undeniable charm. The intimate setting, adorned with eclectic decor, sets the stage for a dining experience that’s both personal and profound. Here, the menu is a journey through the archipelago, from the bustling streets of Manila to the serene beaches of Palawan.
Dishes like the Adobong Dilaw, with its tangy turmeric and succulent chicken, or the Ukoy, a crispy shrimp fritter, are not just meals but memories brought to life. And while the food is the star, the curated list of beverages, inspired by tropical Filipino flavors, complements each dish beautifully.
Given its popularity and limited seating, it’s wise to arrive early or be prepared for a short wait. But rest assured, the experience is well worth it.
For those seeking a taste of the Philippines or simply a unique place in Washington DC to eat, Bad Saint promises an unforgettable evening.
In the bustling streets of Dupont Circle, there’s a spot that’s become the talk of the town: Komi. This fine dining restaurant in DC is where Mediterranean dreams come to life, offering a dining experience that’s both sophisticated and soulful.
What makes Komi stand out in the DC dining scene? It’s the element of surprise. Guests are treated to a multi-course tasting menu, but here’s the catch: the dishes are a delightful mystery until they arrive at your table. Each course is a revelation, showcasing the chef’s creativity and passion for the Mediterranean’s diverse culinary landscape.
The ambiance is equally captivating. With its minimalist decor and soft lighting, Komi provides a serene backdrop, allowing the food to take center stage. It’s a place where conversations flow effortlessly, punctuated by moments of awe as each dish is unveiled.
For those with dietary preferences, the team at Komi is accommodating, ensuring everyone gets to enjoy their culinary magic. Given its exclusivity, reservations are a must.
If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion or impress a date, Komi is one of the coolest places to eat in Washington DC, promising an evening that’s as memorable as the dishes themselves.
Amidst the grandeur of Washington, DC’s historic landmarks and upscale eateries, there’s a place that resonates with both locals and tourists alike: Ben’s Chili Bowl. This iconic spot on U Street isn’t about opulence or gourmet dining. It’s about heart, history, and a chili dog that’s become legendary.
Established in 1958, Ben’s has witnessed the city’s highs and lows, from the civil rights movement to the inauguration of presidents. Walls adorned with photographs tell tales of celebrities and activists who’ve graced its booths, which makes it a living museum of DC’s vibrant past.
But let’s talk about the real star: the food. The half-smoke, a half-pork, half-beef smoked sausage, smothered in spicy homemade chili, onions, and mustard, is a rite of passage for anyone visiting the capital. And for those on a budget, it’s one of the best options for cheap eats in DC that doesn’t compromise on flavor or authenticity.
While the U Street corridor has evolved over the decades, Ben’s remains a constant, a beacon of tradition in a rapidly changing cityscape.
Looking for a taste of some of the best food in DC? Ben’s Chili Bowl is your spot.
When it comes to Indian dining in Washington, DC, few places command the respect and admiration that Rasika does. Situated in the Penn Quarter, this establishment challenges the conventional, offering a modern twist to age-old recipes.
The genius behind Rasika’s success is Chef Vikram Sunderam, whose innovative techniques have earned the restaurant numerous accolades, including a coveted Michelin star.
One of the standout dishes that diners rave about is the Palak Chaat – crispy baby spinach with sweet yogurt and tamarind. It’s a symphony of textures and flavors that encapsulates Rasika’s ethos: familiar yet unexpected.
The ambiance, too, is a departure from the traditional. Elegant interiors, punctuated by intricate latticework and warm lighting, create an atmosphere that’s both chic and inviting. And for those keen on exploring the diverse world of Indian wines, Rasika’s extensive list is a delightful surprise.
Given its stellar reputation, it’s no wonder that Rasika often finds itself on lists of Washington DC’s coolest restaurants. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply in the mood for exceptional Indian fare, Rasika promises an evening that’s as enchanting as the dishes it serves.
Amidst the urban hustle of Dupont Circle, there’s a sanctuary that offers a respite like no other: Iron Gate. With its enchanting vine-laden patio and historic carriage house setting, this unique restaurant in DC feels like a secret garden waiting to be discovered.
When it comes to food, the menu is a delightful exploration of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, each crafted with precision and passion. From succulent grilled meats to fresh seafood delicacies, every plate is a testament to the chef’s dedication to quality and flavor.
One of the highlights of dining here is the opportunity to enjoy alfresco meals. The outdoor space, illuminated by twinkling lights and warmed by fire pits, sets the mood for romantic dinners and leisurely brunches. Moreover, the wine list, featuring selections from Greece and Italy, is a dream come true for those who appreciate the finer things in life.
Located in a building that dates back to the early 1900s, Iron Gate seamlessly blends history with contemporary dining. For travelers and locals seeking unique restaurants in Washington DC, Iron Gate stands out as a destination that charms both the heart and the palate.
Discover a twist on Italian-American dishes in the heart of Bloomingdale at Red Hen. While countless places serve Italian favorites, Red Hen takes a step further, championing locally sourced ingredients and inventive techniques that surprise and delight.
Chef Michael Friedman crafts a menu that’s a canvas of creativity. Imagine diving into Ricotta Cavatelli paired with wild mushrooms or savoring the Wood Grilled Chicken “Al Mattone.” Every bite is a revelation, a celebration of tradition with a modern edge.
Additionally, there’s more to admire about Red Hen than its dishes. Sustainability is at its core. By partnering with local farmers and emphasizing minimal waste, the restaurant showcases what responsible dining looks like in the modern age. And for wine enthusiasts, their list of organic and biodynamic selections promises an adventure for the palate.
In the vast landscape of DC’s best restaurants, Red Hen emerges as a leader, redefining what Italian-inspired dining can be. If you’re seeking an experience that’s both familiar and unexpected, Red Hen is your next stop when searching for unique restaurants in Washington DC.
Craving authentic Mexican flavors in the heart of the capital? Look no further than El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria. This vibrant spot in Logan Circle is where tradition meets modernity, offering dishes that are both comforting and exhilarating.
Forget the typical Tex-Mex fare you might find elsewhere. At El Sol, every dish is a tribute to the rich culinary heritage of Mexico. From the handcrafted tacos filled with succulent meats to the tamales that melt in your mouth, it’s clear that passion and authenticity are the driving forces here.
The tequila and mezcal selection at El Sol is second to none. As such, it’s one of the best places to eat in DC for those who appreciate a well-crafted drink. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a curious newbie, the knowledgeable staff will guide you through the extensive menu, ensuring you find the perfect pairing for your meal.
For an evening that promises laughter, memories, and a taste adventure, El Sol is a must-visit. It’s an experience that captures the essence of Mexico in every bite and sip. Dive into this unique place in Washington DC to eat and discover a world of flavors waiting to be explored.
In the heart of the West End, you’ll discover Blue Duck Tavern, a place where culinary transparency takes center stage. The open kitchen concept invites diners into a world where every ingredient has a tale, and every preparation is an art form.
At the center of Blue Duck Tavern’s philosophy is a deep respect for the land and its bounty. This reverence translates into a menu that champions farm-fresh, locally sourced produce. Imagine savoring wood-oven roasted bone marrow or indulging in a freshly baked apple pie, each bite echoing the essence of American craftsmanship.
The ambiance of Blue Duck Tavern speaks volumes about its dedication to the artisanal. Handcrafted wooden tables, a curated wine selection, and meticulous attention to detail reflect a commitment to excellence. Earning a Michelin star wasn’t by chance; it’s a testament to a dining philosophy that values authenticity and craft.
With its unwavering commitment to authenticity and innovation, this spot has secured its reputation among Washington DC’s best restaurants. Every visit offers a fresh perspective, and a chance to savor dishes crafted with care and creativity.
Situated by the Georgetown waterfront, Farmers Fishers Bakers is an embodiment of sustainable dining in Washington, DC. In the heart of one of DC’s iconic neighborhoods, this restaurant stands as a tribute to farm-to-table principles.
Every plate at Farmers Fishers Bakers echoes the dedication of the American farmer. Handcrafted sushi, freshly baked bread, and a myriad of dishes showcase the emphasis on fresh, ethically sourced ingredients. Direct ties with family farms guarantee that guests indulge in the pinnacle of what the land offers.
What distinguishes Farmers Fishers Bakers is its unwavering focus on sustainable practices. With a triple bottom line approach, the welfare of staff, environmental responsibility, and community enrichment are paramount.
Relaxing by the Potomac River, savoring dishes crafted with care and intent, offers a unique dining experience. This commitment to excellence and ethical practices solidifies Farmers Fishers Bakers as a standout destination. It’s one of the best restaurants in DC that I recommend all travelers to visit.
Looking for unique restaurants in DC that offer more than just a meal? Step into the vibrant world of Oyamel Cocina Mexicana in Penn Quarter. This establishment redefines Mexican dining, presenting an innovative take on traditional dishes that whisk diners away to the heart of Mexico.
Under the guidance of the renowned Chef José Andrés, Oyamel presents a menu that’s both daring and delightful. Picture this: savoring guacamole prepared tableside with green tomatillo, serrano chile, and crumbled queso fresco or diving into a taco filled with zucchini flowers and dotted with a tangy salsa verde. It’s this fusion of authenticity with a modern flair that has earned Oyamel rave reviews and a loyal following.
Located in a prime spot, Oyamel is a convenient stop after a day of city exploration. The lively atmosphere, punctuated by colorful butterfly decor, mirrors the energy of the bustling streets of Mexico City.
If you’re on a quest for unique places to eat in Washington DC that offer a blend of tradition and innovation, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana is a destination that promises an unforgettable culinary adventure.
Searching for more information to help you decide where to eat in Washington DC? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Washington DC’s best restaurants.
The most famous food in DC is the Half-Smoke sausage. Often served with chili, it’s a local delicacy that has become synonymous with DC’s food scene. This spicy sausage, typically grilled and served in a bun, can be found in various eateries across the city. It’s a must-try for anyone looking for the best food in DC!
Celebrities, when in Washington DC, often frequent upscale and discreet dining spots. Restaurants like Fiola Mare in Georgetown, The Dabney in Shaw, and Blue Duck Tavern in West End have seen their fair share of A-listers. These establishments not only offer exquisite dishes but also provide an ambiance that’s both elegant and private. This makes them some of Washington DC’s best restaurants for star sightings.
There’s no shortage of incredible places to eat in Washington DC. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best food neighborhoods:
- Shaw: Known for its eclectic mix of restaurants, from modern eateries to classic diners.
- Georgetown: Offers a blend of upscale restaurants and quaint cafes, perfect for a leisurely meal by the waterfront.
- U Street Corridor: A haven for foodies, with a range of options from African cuisine to modern American dishes.
- Capitol Hill: Home to both classic establishments and innovative new ventures, offering a taste of DC’s evolving food scene.
Absolutely! Washington DC has rapidly evolved into a culinary hotspot, offering a diverse range of dining options. From upscale Michelin-starred restaurants to quaint food trucks, the city caters to all palates and preferences. With a myriad of cultural influences, DC’s food scene is a reflection of its diverse population.
Old Ebbitt Grill, established in 1856, holds the title of the oldest restaurant in Washington DC. Located just steps from The White House, it has been a favorite among numerous presidents, politicians, and celebrities over the years. With its rich history and classic American dishes, it’s a unique restaurant in Washington DC that offers a blend of culinary and historical experiences.
Washington DC is home to a growing number of vegan-friendly establishments. Here are some top picks for those seeking plant-based delights:
- Fancy Radish: A modern eatery offering inventive vegan dishes that are both flavorful and visually stunning.
- NuVegan Café: Serving comfort food classics, this cafe is a favorite among both vegans and non-vegans.
- Elizabeth’s Gone Raw: An upscale dining experience, offering a vegan tasting menu that changes weekly.
- HipCityVeg: A fast-casual spot, perfect for grabbing a quick vegan burger or smoothie on the go.
Where to eat when visiting Washington, DC?
Washington, DC, offers a diverse culinary scene that reflects its status as an international city and the seat of the U.S. government. Here are some recommended places to eat across various cuisines and price points:
- Ben’s Chili Bowl: An iconic U Street eatery known for its chili dogs and half-smokes.
- Le Diplomate: A bustling French bistro in the Logan Circle area, offering classics like steak frites and escargot.
- Rasika: A modern Indian restaurant that’s frequently touted as one of the best in the country. Try their signature palak chaat.
- Rose’s Luxury: Located on Capitol Hill, this spot offers inventive American dishes and is known for its warm hospitality.
- Old Ebbitt Grill: Established in 1856, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in DC, known for its oyster bar and classic American dishes.
- The Dabney: Located in a Blagden Alley, it offers Mid-Atlantic cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.
- Zaytinya: A Mediterranean restaurant by Chef José Andrés, offering dishes inspired by Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese cuisines.
- Maketto: A unique combination of a cafe, retail store, and restaurant, serving Cambodian and Taiwanese food.
- Little Serow: A small, intimate spot offering a set menu of Northern Thai dishes. Be prepared for some spice!
- Georgetown Cupcake: For those with a sweet tooth, this bakery gained fame from the TV show “DC Cupcakes” and offers a range of delightful cupcakes.
- Busboys and Poets: A combination of a restaurant, bookstore, and event space, offering a diverse menu and hosting various cultural events.
- Tail Up Goat: Located in Adams Morgan, this Michelin-starred restaurant offers a Caribbean-inspired menu.
What cuisine is best in DC?
Washington, DC, is a melting pot of cultures, and its culinary scene reflects this diversity. While it’s hard to pinpoint a single “best” cuisine in DC, several stand out due to their prominence and quality in the city:
- Ethiopian Cuisine: DC has one of the largest Ethiopian communities outside of Ethiopia, and as a result, the city boasts numerous top-notch Ethiopian restaurants. Dishes like doro wat (spicy chicken stew), injera (spongy sourdough flatbread), and kitfo (minced raw meat) are must-tries. Popular Ethiopian restaurants include Zenebech, Dukem, and Etete.
- American/New American Cuisine: Given its status as the nation’s capital, DC offers a range of upscale American restaurants that focus on locally-sourced ingredients and modern interpretations of classic dishes. Restaurants like Rose’s Luxury, The Dabney, and Blue Duck Tavern are notable examples.
- Seafood: Being close to the Chesapeake Bay, DC has a tradition of offering fresh seafood, especially blue crabs and oysters. Old Ebbitt Grill, for instance, is famous for its oyster bar.
- International Diplomatic Cuisine: Due to the presence of numerous embassies and a large international community, you can find authentic dishes from almost every corner of the world in DC. This includes Salvadoran pupusas, Korean bulgogi, and more.
- Southern Cuisine: With its location bordering the South, DC has a rich history of Southern cooking. Restaurants like Georgia Brown’s and Founding Farmers offer classic Southern dishes with a modern twist.
- Fast-Casual Chains: DC is the birthplace of several successful fast-casual chains that have now spread nationwide. Cava (Mediterranean) and &pizza (pizza) are two examples.
Where do senators eat in DC?
In Washington, DC, senators, representatives, and other political figures often have a wide variety of dining options, from exclusive clubs to popular local restaurants. Here are some places where senators and other political figures have been known to dine:
- The Senate Dining Room: Located within the U.S. Capitol, this is a private dining area reserved for senators, their guests, and occasionally members of the House of Representatives. It’s a place for political discussions and meetings over meals.
- The Monocle: Situated on Capitol Hill, The Monocle is the first restaurant to open on the Senate side of The Hill. It’s a popular spot for senators, representatives, and their staff.
- Charlie Palmer Steak: This upscale steakhouse is just steps from the Capitol and has been a favorite for many politicians over the years.
- Cafe Milano: Located in Georgetown, this Italian restaurant is known for its high-profile clientele, including senators, diplomats, and even international celebrities.
- The Capital Grille: Another upscale option, The Capital Grille is often frequented by politicians and lobbyists alike.
- Occidental Grill & Seafood: Located near the White House, this historic restaurant has seen numerous politicians and international dignitaries over its long history.
- BLT Steak: This modern American steakhouse in downtown DC is another favorite among the political elite.
- Le Diplomate: A bustling French bistro in the Logan Circle neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to spot politicians and journalists here.
- The Metropolitan Club: One of the oldest private clubs in DC, it’s a place for the city’s elite, including senators and other high-ranking officials.
- Old Ebbitt Grill: As one of the oldest restaurants in DC, it’s a favorite for its history and classic American dishes. It’s not uncommon to see politicians dining here, given its proximity to the White House.
Fly to Washington DC and you’ll be amazed by what you see. This is a city bursting with gastronomic gems waiting to be explored. From the rustic charm of The Dabney to the innovative dishes at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, the capital offers a dining experience like no other.
Each unique restaurant in DC that we’ve highlighted brings its own unique flair to the table. Farmers Fishers Bakers champions sustainability, while Zaytinya transports diners to the Mediterranean with every bite. And let’s not forget Blue Duck Tavern and El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria, each presenting dishes that are both familiar and refreshingly new.
The best part? There’s something for everyone. Whether you’re on a tight budget or looking to splurge, DC’s dining scene caters to all. From upscale establishments to cozy cafes, the choices are as diverse as the city itself.
In the end, Washington DC is a haven for food enthusiasts. With its rich tapestry of flavors, cultures, and experiences, the city promises a culinary adventure that’s both memorable and utterly delicious.