Your guide to the best restaurants in the heart of the nation’s capital
Downtown DC buzzes with activity all day long and well into the evening with its mix of sophisticated shopping, dining and cultural offerings. The neighborhood’s proximity to the White House has also made it a prime destination for politicos and tourists alike. For foodies, you’ll find everything from power dining restaurants to see-and-be-seen hot spots to places for a perfect pre-theater meal.
Center of Attention
Top Chef alumni Bryan and Michael Voltaggio made their return to the District with Estuary, a stunning space inside the luxurious Conrad Washington, DC that will make you rethink seafood. The CityCenterDC locale houses an open kitchen towards the middle of the dining room that beckons foodies to watch culinary masters at work.
There are also plenty of delicious dining experiences just around the corner from CityCenterDC. Looking for a place to watch the big game? City Tap House combines a neighborhood sports bar with a gourmet gastropub where everyone from sports fans to foodies are welcome.
A New Type of Hotel
While Eaton Washington DC is technically a 200-plus room hotel, it defies the standard definition. It's also home to a cinema, a progressive-minded coworking space and four unique food and drink establishments. Chef Matt Baker (whose cooking at Gravitas earned him a Michelin star) oversees Michele's, an homage to Baker's roots in Houston and New Orleans. Baker uses his classical French training as a conduit to bring together the multicultural flavors of both cities. If it’s rooftop vibes you’re looking for, head to Wild Days for Asian-inspired tacos (short rib tacos with kimchi and puffed rice, anyone?) best paired with live music. There’s also the beloved neighborhood coffee shop and market, Baker's Daughter, as well as Allegory, a sleek, dimly-lit cocktail bar with an extensive drink list.
Pre-Theater Drinks and Dining
Washington, DC has a robust theater scene with dozens of performing arts venues around the region. Downtown alone is home to three marquee playhouses: historic Ford’s Theatre, Warner Theatre and National Theatre. With those three powerhouse players right downtown, a popular night out for Washingtonians is dinner and a show. If you’ve got tickets, there are a number of great pre- or post-theater-friendly restaurants within walking distance.
Old Ebbitt Grill
Old Ebbitt Grill is a tourist attraction on its own with its presidential roots and century-old history. The restaurant was founded as a saloon in 1856 and since then has moved and expanded, serving drinks to many presidents along the way. Today, it’s a popular spot for both DC’s movers and shakers and out-of-towners. Pop in for a pre-theater meal to check off two must-dos in DC.
The country’s most famous address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, sits just outside DC’s downtown border, making the neighborhood a big draw for chefs catering to the city’s power players. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama made the one-block trip from the White House to Equinox, where chef Todd Gray rose to fame for sourcing only local ingredients. The former first lady has also dined nearby with friends at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and Ottoman Taverna.
Inside The Jefferson Hotel, you can dine under its historic skylight at The Greenhouse, which showcases a sophisticated menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch. And if you can get up early enough for a breakfast reservation at The Lafayette inside The Hay-Adams Hotel, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a senator or representative talking shop inside The White House-adjacent power restaurant.
With a first-floor tavern that dishes out bar fare and local oysters and an upscale steakhouse that features an extensive a la carte menu on the second level, Wisconsin-based RARE Steakhouse & Tavern pairs Midwestern charm with a first-rate dining experience. Mouthwatering cuts range from local grass-fed rib eyes to Wagyu strips and even a 50 oz. bone-in chop steak for two. You’ll also find the perfect pairing on the restaurant’s carefully curated wine list.
If your power lunch requires some wine or bubbly, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s Sfoglina offers an extensive list of vino, an ideal complement to its daily house-made pastas.