When you think of moving to Washington DC, an exquisite culinary experience may not be among your initial expectations. However, the recent trend may prove you wrong. The best restaurants in Washington DC have something to offer to every taste and preference, from Italian and French cuisines to vegan and gluten-free options.
Besides, one of the things you could consider is the price range of the dining options at your disposal, and there is something for everyone’s pocket. From upscale, Michelin star establishments to the affordable yet hip places that are popping out on every corner, the US capital is an international melting pot, and the restaurants paint a colorful picture of all the cultures present in it.
While many other cities are known for their staple foods, the capital used to be a boring place for foodies. If you were moving to New York, you would have the world-famous New York pizza to look forward to. And if you were moving to Huston, mouth-watering barbeque is what would be in store for you. But here, there is no dish to represent the city.
Many famous chefs from the area used to look for a job elsewhere because they didn’t see an opportunity to build a career in DC. The recent development, however, paints a different story – the restaurant’s scene here is now blooming and booming. The area is rapidly turning into a foodie heaven. Many chefs are actually coming back to their hometown and opening-up unique, fusion, upscale, and hip establishments.
The Old Ebbitt Grill dates back to the saloon period. It was originally built as a boarding house but has since been rebranded as the most famous restaurant in the city. Old memorabilia from the Victorian era gives it its unique charm. Nowadays, it is a favorite place for a meet up of politicians, celebrities, and journalists. It is also situated in a very favorable location, just across the White House and the National Theatre. If, however, you wanted to stop by after the play in the theatre, tough luck. To eat in this upscale establishment, you would need a reservation.
Another place with more than a century-long tradition is Occidental Grill. It was opened in 1906 and renovated in 2007 for its 100-year anniversary. Henry Willard opened this place in a Willard Hotel at the time, and since then, it has been a favorite place of politicians, celebrities, and influential people in the area.
Ben’s Chilli Bowl has also been around for quite a while. It is a casual place with a home-cooked meal vibe and clientele that would make many famous places jealous. To name just a few of them: Miles Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, and even former President Obama. It is a casual must-visit spot in DC.
Although you didn’t have much of a choice besides grills and dives until recent years, the restaurant industry is much more colorful these days. Not only can you choose between the staple cuisines from around the world, but you are also in for a treat of the novelty items and many mash-ups and fusion cuisines.
Of course, there are standard Italian, French, and Southern cuisine spots, but there are also Eastern, Middle Eastern, and even more exotic Hawaiian, Filipino, and Moroccan venues. Now let’s dig a little deeper into all of those cuisines and the finest establishments that represent them.
Italian cuisine has long been one of the culinary bedrocks of the whole US, although it didn’t start like that. At the beginning of the 19th century, Italian immigrants brought their cuisine along, and it was scrutinized as “the food of the slums that makes people drink more alcohol.” The 1920s prohibition era couldn’t have that, and the Italian restaurants were only visited by natives for a long time. The first dish to take over the upscale establishments was the modest “mac and cheese,” but it was presented as macaroni au gratin, giving it that classy hint of French.
The 1940s was when it all started. The Work Progress Administration brought spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, Italian cheese, and olive oil to the center stage in New York. Over the years, classic northern Italian delicacies like risotto and osso buco made it possible for this cuisine to be considered more classy and refined. Nowadays, there aren’t that many things that are considered more American than New York Slice, Chicago deep dish, and Philly cheesesteak. And they all have Italian roots.
If you are craving some true Nonna Pasta, then this is the place to go. If you pass by, you can see through the window an elderly woman making pasta. And not only that, but the portions are huge. You will get your money’s worth here.
is an upscale Michelin star place that will blow your mind with hands down the finest dishes in the town. The courses are fresh, bold, and spicy – a true representative of this cuisine.
all the courses here are served family-style. This is a top spot for a family weekend meal. Don’t skip the branzino or gnocchi; they are to die for.
is the place to indulge all your senses. From the authentic ambiance to the carefully selected four, five, or six-meal courses, you are up for a journey through the hot Mediterranean summer.
is another Michelin star spot that mixes authentic cuisine with evolution dishes and brings your taste buds to a whole another place. It’s somewhere between the traditional and modern, known and unexplored.
The word French alone has some class to it. It’s no different when it comes to the cuisine hailing from this European country. Although back in the day, the main dishes served in the restaurants throughout the US were German wurst and schnitzel, French quickly came to the scene as a refined choice for the classy.
The superb French wines, cheese, pastry, coq au vin, and everything with the word gratin in it screams chic and expensive. Although Americans never really embraced this cuisine as their own, they always kept it in high regard. These are meals for special occasions, the cuisine of the upper class, and those of refined tastes.
An all-authentic Parisian bistro spot. It not only looks the part but also delivers the great, truly a la French courses. The decoration and the ingredients are imported directly from France. If you can’t visit Paris in the near future, you can get the taste of it here; it is as close to the real thing as it gets.
is a bistro that upholds all the traditions and standards of real French cuisine. It is a very proud representative of the culture, and you can enjoy their menu as well as the French serving and dining etiquette.
is located in Georgetown, one of the finest neighborhoods in DC. It is also a spot with a unique mash of French-Asian culture interior design. You should really try their beef medallions and don’t forget to pop by for a jazz night every Monday and Wednesday.
is a fusion of two not that different cuisines, French and Belgian. The menus here are different every day, but they are somewhere along the lines of the Scallop Gatou and Boudin Blanc.
Mexican is another staple cuisine of the US. Mexican immigrants brought their colorful and spicy fares, and the rest of the Americans accepted it with great joy. Although it was a long road, it is now all-present, and it made a big impact, bringing spices and influence into many other cuisines.
If you moved from Miami or any other place in the far south, you know very well what we are talking about. If you are in a spicy-fiesta mood, these are the greatest places to try some Mexican cuisine and its variations:
is a fine-dining Mexican establishment with a 12-course tasting menu that will get you through so many incredible culinary experiences. Victor Albu is the creator and true visionary behind this mod-Mex twist.
is a cozy off-the-counter taco place. They know their tacos, and they make them so well. These are not your ordinary tacos – these are al pastor pork with charred pineapple and carnitas tacos that have that special oomph that creeps up on you with every bite.
is yet another not-that-ordinary Mexican dining spot. The chef here elevated your ordinary enchiladas into something entirely different. Our recommendation is to try Queso fundido with chorizo made locally with shellfish ceviche or grilled steak marinated in achiote, citrus, and garlic.
is owned by two Mexico City natives, Alfredo and Jessica Solis, who are offering a truly authentic taste of Mexico right here in DC. Try basket tacos smothered in guajillo, or tilapia ceviche, chicken in mole rojo, or tacos con chicharron and chorizo.
Nothing screams comfort quite like good old American cuisine of the South. It is essentially a mix of a little bit of everything. The strongest influences in this cuisine are Mexican, German, Scottish, French, West African, the Spanish Caribbean, and Native American. You could say that there are a few different directions in this cuisine, but they all have one common denominator – home-cooked meal or soul food.
Famous for its fried chicken – the crispiest and the truest comfort chicken you will find in the DC area. Add some mac’ and cheese, coleslaw, and mashed potatoes to go with it.
What is better than soul food and food for the soul all in one place? You can get the southern flavor with some jazz music right here. They serve mean crab cakes, gumbo, and catfish with Carolina red rice.
A good spot to have some hearty breakfast. You can order some bacon, sausage, and hot cakes off the grill for a hefty portion of southern comfort.
A trending venue serving high-quality comfort meals like shrimp and grits with Cajun sauce, fried green tomatoes with mac and cheese, chicken and waffles, short ribs in tomato sauce and hushpuppies, just like your nan’ used to make.
Middle-Eastern cuisine is not for the faint of heart. It is spicy, it is exotic, it is pungent and rich. Consumers nowadays are ready for something new and exciting, hence the strong presence of this type of food. If you think you are ready for it and you are wondering what the best Indian or Turkish restaurants near me are, here is your answer.
When it is time to get even spicier and even more exotic, you can’t go wrong with Chinese, Japanese, or Korean cuisine. The influence and presence of these cultures are strong throughout the whole US. So if you are wondering what the best Asian restaurants near me are, here is a shortlist of top recommendations:
Society and modern medicine nowadays are much more accepting of special diet requirements and lifestyle choices. Gluten allergy or celiac disease is recognized as a real problem, for example, and it is much easier than ever before to find gluten-free ingredients and courses if you want to eat out.
Also, vegan, vegetarian, raw, or paleo diets are very popular lifestyle choices, and the food industry has recognized the need for more spots that serve the ingredients in accordance with it. You don’t have to turn the skies and the earth upside down anymore to find a perfect vegan restaurant.
The main difference between those two is that one option is a bit more strict than the other. Ever since some world-renowned chefs started embracing the movement, some exceptional dishes started popping out on the foodie scene. There are more and more establishments that serve vegan and vegetarian items exclusively, and it is a norm that all the establishments that hold high standards have at least a few vegetarian options on their menu.
On the list of the most vegetarian-friendly cities to live in, DC is right in the middle, which is not bad at all.
Many people have digestive problems stemming from some nutrition components, but nowadays, it is much easier for them to go out and eat than it was ten years ago. The industry opened up towards many of those problems, and you can find gluten-free, paleo, and raw options almost everywhere. Whether you are intolerant or you are sticking to a diet regiment, these are some great options for you:
The capital of the US will give you ample choices in all aspects of life – including great places to eat out. The time of only grill or chips places in DC is long gone. The capital has taken its rightful place in the restaurant industry. What is important is that you do have all the options you may ever wish for. Besides the various cuisines, life choices, and food intolerances, you can also adjust your search according to your budget or occasion. From low cost to upscale places, there is ample to choose from. The question isn’t what the best restaurants near me are – the question is what you are in the mood for today.
If you can’t wait to try some of the places from our list, consider picking up the phone and scheduling moving services from reliable DC long-distance movers – they will make your relocation a breeze.