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The Best Places to Eat in Penn Quarter & Chinatown

Your guide to the best restaurants in DC’s buzzing entertainment and business district

Your guide to the best restaurants in DC’s buzzing entertainment and business district

A cool collection of museums, theaters, restaurants, retail and the Capital One Arena—which is home to the Washington Capitals and Wizards when it’s not hosting an all-star lineup of concerts—make Penn Quarter and Chinatown one of the city’s most engaging entertainment districts. Celebrity chefs mingle with homegrown hot spots in this neighborhood’s active dining scene.

José’s Home

The District’s now nationally recognized food scene can arguably be credited to the city’s original tastemaker, José Andrés. The Spanish chef was one of the first to build an epicurean empire in Washington, DC with restaurants like Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Jaleo, China Chilcano and Zaytinya – all  located within a few blocks of each other in Penn Quarter and Chinatown.

Jaleo wows diners with a diverse menu of Spanish tapas, while Zaytinya remains an in-demand reservation serving up Mediterranean small plates. Mexican restaurant Oyamel features tableside guacamole and a whimsical dining room. China Chilcano, the most recent restaurant in Andrés’ empire to open in the District, wows with a mash-up of Peruvian, Japanese and Spanish influences (the dumplings section of the menu can’t be beat).

Andrés’ culinary expertise paid off with his innovative minibar. The restaurant truly takes dining to an art form with a creative multi-course meal that takes chances with diners’ palates (yes, the chef did just use liquid nitrogen in your meal).

Concerts and Capitals Dining

Penn Quarter and Chinatown’s popularity grew out of its proximity to the Capital One Arena. On most nights, you’ll find scores of people heading to see a high-profile performer or catch a hockey or basketball game inside the impressive venue. Pre- or post-performance, there are a number of nearby restaurants that can up the cool factor on your evening. 

One of the neighborhood’s more unique options is Dirty Habit, which sits across the street from the Capital One Arena in the Kimpton Hotel Monaco and offers a sleek vibe with craft cocktails and “globally-inspired social plates.”

Well-known local restaurateur Ashok Bajaj is behind one of the neighborhood’s (and the city’s) most lauded restaurants, the Indian fusion hot spot Rasika.

Using market-fresh ingredients, Boqueria recreates an authentic Barcelona market experience through its distinctive tapas and takes on classic Spanish dishes. Choose from meat, seafood and vegetarian options to divvy up at the table, or get adventurous and order from the Chef’s Menu at this night-on-the-town destination.

Looking for a quick bite before the event? Chaia’s plant-based tacos pay homage to local producers with delightful combinations like roasted butternut squash with goat cheese, chipotle yogurt and mint pressed between a corn tortilla. The tacos pair nicely with an array of fresh sides, including the fan-favorite green rice with feta, herb pesto and pepitas.

Date Night Hits

The cosmopolitan vibe of Penn Quarter and Chinatown also make it a popular place for a sophisticated date night. Love birds will no doubt be booking tables at Fiola, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s award-winning Italian restaurant.

Situated in an historic bank from the early 1900s, Succotash Prime is a stunning, multilevel restaurant featuring an array of design accents that maintain a sophisticated look and feel. And we haven’t event talked about the food yet, which blends Southern cooking and Asian flavors. Classics like fried catfish are enhanced with mint-jalapeño aioli, while the dirty fried chicken is topped off with a honey gochujang sauce nori flakes.

If you’re looking for something a bit more pop culture friendly, reality stars (and restaurateurs) check out Giuiliana and Bill Rancic's DC outpost of their restaurant RPM Italian.