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The Best Places to Eat on Capitol Hill
Your guide to dining like a Hill staffer or Barracks Row local in this historic neighborhood
Capitol Hill is home to the U.S. Capitol Building and the Supreme Court. By day, the neighborhood is buzzing with everyone from senators and Supreme Court justices to law clerks and Capitol Hill staffers as they go about the business of making and interpreting the laws. By night, the architecturally iconic neighborhood has made a name for itself as a focal point for culinary genius, with a number of nationally famous restaurants calling it home. On Capitol Hill, foodies will find one of DC’s most celebrated chefs, along with a stretch of must-try restaurants along Barracks Row.
Aaron Silverman’s Empire
Bon Appétit recently bestowed the ultimate honor on the nation’s capital, calling it the “Restaurant City of the Year.” And that’s thanks in no small part to the culinary creativeness of celebrated chef Aaron Silverman. The young chef burst onto the DC dining scene in 2013 with the opening of Rose’s Luxury, a modest looking neighborhood restaurant in a Capitol Hill rowhouse. Buzz built early with diners lining up for the sometimes hours-long wait at the no reservations restaurant. Meanwhile, the savvy set quickly called on TaskRabbit for surrogates to stand in line for them.
Silverman’s combo of innovative comfort foods (must try: the smoked brisket with white bread, horseradish and slaw) with a laid-back, dinner party vibe has earned him accolades, including Best New Restaurant in America in 2014 by Bon Appétit, Food & Wine’s 2016 Chef of the Year, a James Beard Award for Best Mid-Atlantic Chef and multiple Michelin stars.
He followed up his first act with Pineapple & Pearls, next door, which features an over-the-top 13-course tasting menu (reservations required here!). Experience it three ways: Splurge for a $250-per-person dining extravaganza at either of the two seatings; belly up to the bar for a $100 discount (comes without drink pairings); or reserve the covered patio for a la carte snacks and cocktail service.
And now there's Little Pearl, a cafe-by-day and wine-bar-by-night that has taken over as the casual spot in Silverman’s dining empire. Choose from gourmet java, potato donuts and a delightfully crispy fried chicken sandwich (served fried or Japanese-style) during a daytime visit. You can also wash down one of the inventive snacks with a glass of vino from an extensive by-the-glass list.
Other Eighth Street Options
Capitol Hill’s close proximity to the Marine Barracks long ago kick started a commercial district nicknamed Barracks Row that runs along Eighth Street. While Barracks Row is the District’s oldest commercial district, it’s only in recent years that it’s become a dining hot spot for those who live and work on the Hill. Ambar has bragging rights as the only Balkan restaurant in Washington, DC. The authentic small plates hub (it has a sister restaurant in Belgrade, Serbia) serves up Serbia-inspired dishes like a selection of kajmak (cheeses) and a sampling of rakias (fruit-infused brandies).
The brunch bunch favor Belga Cafe, from Belgian chef Bart Vandaele, for a full-on array of omelets, mussel pots and crave-worthy waffles. Meanwhile, chef Rob Weland’s new restaurant, Garrison, boasts an all-American menu skewing heavy on the veggies. EatBar attracts a hipster crowd with its sophisticated small plates complemented by a wall covered in #TBT cassette tapes. And go-to faves Ted’s Bulletin (of homemade pop tart fame) and Matchbox (a Neapolitan pizza paradise) both have Capitol Hill outposts on Barracks Row.
Barracks Row is also home to CHIKO, a new breed of fast casual Chinese-Korean fusion and the brainchild of three seasoned vets of the District’s food scene. CHIKO, short for Chinese Korean, is where traditional eastern flavors meld with contemporary techniques at an accessible price point – diners rave about the orange-ish chicken and chopped brisket sourced from local market Wagshal’s.
Date Night Dinners
A handful of Capitol Hill haunts aims to give Hill inhabitants a nearby place for a cozy date night. Southern spot Art and Soul offers a great view of the Capitol dome and a roaring fire in the dining room on winter nights. Classic steakhouse Charlie Palmer Steak also sits in the shadow of the Capitol dome and is a popular place for politicos who want to wine and dine a date. Chef Jamie Leeds has built a local name for herself with her Hank’s brand of restaurants, named for her father. Her Capitol Hill space, Hank’s Oyster Bar, serves up “urban beach food” and attracts a crowd.
Beuchert’s Saloon offers true farm-to-table dining with a menu sourced from nearby farms and co-ops, and a laid back atmosphere for casual drinks and dinner. Italian restaurant Acqua Al 2 shares a menu with its sister restaurant in Florence and attracts an international crowd interested in authentic Florentine fare, while Bistro Bis inside The Hotel George brings in senators, representatives and other politicos who are fans of French food. And Cafe Berlin completes the around-the-world trifecta with a menu of filling German dishes and a romantic atmosphere inside a three-story rowhouse.
Quick Bites from Spike
DC’s very own chef Spike Mendelsohn rose to prominence on Top Chef and has made a home on the Hill with family-run operation whose M.O. is delivering delicious yet budget-friendly eateries on Pennsylvania Avenue. Stop by Spike’s pizza palace, We, The Pizza, for 14 pies by the slice, homemade Italian sodas and crispy wings. There are multiple farm-fresh salads as well – but we’d be remiss to not suggest the mouthwatering cast iron pies. Right next door is Santa Rosa Taqueria, a colorful Mexican restaurant serving up authentic street food, and Good Stuff Eatery, a burger-focused joint that uses only fresh and seasonal components, as well as farm-raised beef. The delicious burgers and shakes will have you coming back for the Good Stuff.Dig into DC’s dining scene today. Read up on even more culinary content.
Capitol Hill Dining Map
Where to eat like a senator or dine like a Barracks Row native