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Bartender with a mustache serves drinks to patrons at a busy bar, decorated with vibrant artwork in the background.

The Best Places to Eat in Columbia Heights

Where to grab a bite, beer and late-night snack from 11th Street to Mount Pleasant and everywhere in between.

DC's Columbia Heights neighborhood is characterized by its dense mixture of global cultures. Luckily for diners, that trait means colorful and rich dining experiences in every direction. Whether you venture to 11th Street, 14th Street or nearby Mount Pleasant, you'll be met with a tried-and-true slate of bustling bars, hidden gems and family-owned eateries.

 

11th Street Eats

Close-up of dumplings garnished with fresh herbs, served on a vibrant, floral-patterned plate.

Queen's English

If you’re partial to low-key neighborhood hangouts, you’ll fall for any number of 11th Street hot spots. On weekends, the brunch at El Chucho lures a local crowd of hip young professionals and stroller-pushing parents. In a two-level one-time auto body shop that’s been painted bright turquoise, dig into Mexican-fusion fare like huevos de Chesapeake (eggs and crab cakes) and masa pancakes. Its signature hibiscus margaritas go down easy, and the coffee is good and strong, too.

The Queen's English, another local favorite, reflects the two specialties of the couple that owns it: fresh and fun Cantonese food inspired by Henry Cheung's childhood in Hong Kong and natural wine offerings carefully curated by sommelier Sarah Thompson. Grab a spot at the Chef's Counter and sample crispy pig ear with lychee, truffle dumplings, octopus pancakes and salted duck yolk ice cream alongside some delectable "history in a glass."

Opt for a late-night casual vibe and dig into some wood-fired pizza at RedRocks settle into a booth or vintage sofa with a slaw-covered fried chicken sandwich at The Coupe.

 

On and Around 14th

Bartender with a mustache serves drinks to patrons at a busy bar, decorated with vibrant artwork in the background.

This Khao © Irina Simonova

As you’d expect from the main thoroughfare, you could eat every meal of the day along 14th Street. 

Can't-miss spot Thip Khao serves authentic Lao cuisine, hums in evenings with diners ordering up flavor-packed dishes like kua khao jaew bong (fried rice with fermented chilis, radishes and zucchini) and naem khao huu muu (crispy coconut rice salad with peanuts, sour pork and pig ears). Be sure to enjoy the restaurant’s namesake: a small wicker basket with sticky rice to be eaten with your hands. 

For more lauded fare on 14th, celebrate Malaysian cuisine at the Makan (or grab a a bite at downstairs sports bar Thirsty Crow). For fine dining, try Rooster & Owl for a four-course, mix-and-match menu of vegetable-forward fare with highlights like Carolina-style barbecue carrots with cornbread ice cream and meatless larb with lime-kissed shiitake mushrooms.

Not far from what was locally known as “Little Ethiopia” – whose heyday reigned over nearby U and 9th Streets NW – you’ll find Letena, where you order at the counter for quick delivery of tenderloin tibs, spongy injera bread and vegetarian-friendly wats (think curry). In true Ethiopian fashion, the coffee service is taken very seriously.

For a more casual meal, try Vietnamese comfort food at family-run operation Pho Viet. When you need to grab a late-night bite, fill up on a must-try Salvadoran delicacy: pork pupusas from Gloria’s. You can also rely on Lou's City Bar for pub bites, 20-plus beer taps and just as many TVs.

 

Mount Pleasant

Close-up of a beautifully plated cheesecake with pistachios and edible flowers on an ornate blue and white dish

Ellē

At the top of the avenue, the award-winning Elle preserves pristine, indie-coffeeshop vibes at all hours, pairing small-batch coffees with fresh-baked breads and pastries by day and serving seasonal, vegetable-forward (often fermented) fare and biodynamic wines by night. Their eye-popping sweets, notably the Thai iced tea tres leches, are a focal point. 

You don’t have to be a Bolshevik to have a good night at Marx Café Revolutionary Cuisine, a neighborhood hangout where bartenders are quick to mingle with locals and newbies alike. The restaurant-bar is known for airing international soccer matches, but you can catch most major sports on its flat-screen TVs by night too.

Dotting the avenue are Salvadoran stores like El Progreso Market and Best World Supermarket stock the neighborhood with imported sodas, fresh tortillas, plantains, jicama and other Latin American staples. For a sit-down meal, swing by Haydee’s. The neighborhood icon founded in 1990 by Salvadoran husband-wife duo, bartender Haydee and chef Mario, is famed for its signature sounds, from the deafening sizzling fajita platters to nightly live jazz, rock and karaoke.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, pop next door for a scoop (or two) from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. Flavors are adventurous and globally-minded, such as brigadeiro (a Brazilian dessert made with condensed milk and cocoa powder) and pistachio kulfi (South Asian spiced ice cream).

Find more spots to eat and explore in Mount Pleasant

 

Bonus: The Ultimate Dive Bar Crawl

Three friends enjoy a night out, seated at a cozy, dimly lit table with drinks, against a backdrop of vibrant city lights seen through large windows.

© Matthew Cavanaugh / The Raven Grill

When you want to see where the night will take you, the Wonderland Ballroom on 11th Street is your ticket. This no-frills spot has DJs upstairs on the weekends and a memorabilia-filled first-floor bar jammed with locals.

Get more dive-bar kicks on 14th Street at Red Derby, where all the beer is served from a can. If you get lucky, you'll land a spot on the righteous rooftop, where you can enjoy an order of famous late-night sweet potato fries.

Among the most historic of DC dive bars is the Raven Grill in Mount Pleasant. Drop by the ATM before you visit because cash is the only way you’re getting served at this spot, where “Natty Bo” tallboys go down smoothly and cheaply. If you want to fit in like a local, leave the suit at home and slip into a booth beside towering pictures of icons like Elvis, Marlene Dietrich and John Lennon. Oh, and don't try to order any food – the most sustenance you'll find at the Raven is a bag of Utz potato chips.

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