A DC landmark since 1958, Ben's is one of the few U Street businesses that survived 1968 riots spurred by Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. The original counter is open almost 24-hours on weekends (except from 4 to 6 a.m. and for breakfast on Sundays). Homemade chili, made with the same, secret recipe as when it opened, hits the spot as a slightly spicy, messy topping. Try the original Chili Half Smoke (¼ half pork and beef smoked sausage on a bun with mustard, onions and chili). Then grab a seat at the counter, where you will likely meet dedicated regulars. Upstairs, score a Redskins-colored Ben's T-shirt and other souvenirs to prove you made it to one of DC's most famous restaurants. If time, have a beer at Ben's Next Door, which features a 53-foot bar and nine TVs for a more lounging experience.
Dukem is one of the larger restaurants in Little Ethiopia. If new to the cuisine, opt for a combo platter that could include classics like the Misto (freshly made lamb stew) and Abesh, (finely chopped lean ground beef braised in milled ginger and garlic sauce). Whatever you order, it will probably come with authentic injera, yeast-risen flat bread with a sour flavor used to sop up curries and sauce heavy stews. Come weekend nights for authentic Ethiopian entertainment in a casual, kid-friendly atmosphere. If you’re inspired, take advantage of Dukem's market and take home like injera, traditional breads, spices, magazines, CDs and incense.
When all you want is down-home southern cooking in the city, come here. Eatonville is named after Zora Neale Hurston's Florida hometown and the focal point for her most famous novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The large restaurant, which features a spacious private events space, is located across from Busboys & Poets, which honors Hurston's literary rival, Langston Hughes. Try the homemade sweet tea or lavender lemonade with a shrimp and oyster po' boy or pulled beef sandwich. Or opt for the southern fried chicken dinner, which comes with two pieces of fried chicken, mac and cheese, buttermilk collard greens and a biscuit.
Marvin's mix of Belgian (waffles) and Southern soul food (fried chicken) honors Marvin Gaye's DC roots. Having grown up in the city, Gaye moved to Belgium to escape troubles and record an album and was heavily inspired by the peaceful culture of his adopted country. Marvin seeks to recreate that sentiment with a relaxed, artsy dining room and partially covered roof deck, which serves more than 30 Belgian ales and blondes, and organic and biodynamic wines.
Soak in the sunset view of the bustling street below over a cocktail on the enclosed roof of Tabaq. While a steep climb upstairs, there's a lovely vista of the Capitol in the distance. Tabaq's basement becomes a sultry lounge in the evenings. Try one of the dozen signature cocktails like the Bulldog (Plymouth Gin, St. Germain, lemon juice and egg cream) or Lavender Martini paired with Mediterranean small plates like tahini eggplant puree, thin crust Sicilian pizza and stuffed grape leaves.