Over-the-top cocktails, ooey gooey ice cream treats and vegetables – yup, you read that right, vegetables – highlight the summer’s hottest food and drink crazes across the city.
Oat Milk (Dairy-Free Alternatives)
The oat-milk craze is here to stay. More and more coffee shops are offering dairy-free alternatives to cashew milk, almond milk and soy milk. Ellē, a BIPOC woman-owned coffee shop in Mt. Pleasant, is known for its oat-milk lattes with a baked good on the side. If you want some Northwest vibes, visit Little Red Fox in the Van Ness neighborhood, where you'll find nods to the classic TV series set in Washington state, Twin Peaks, throughout the shop (only take-out orders are available right now). Make sure to grab the honey cinnamon latte with oat-milk, which will inevitably lead to cozy feelings. Pluma by Bluebird is known for its pastries and bread, but you can also grab an amazing cup of coffee with a splash of your favorite dairy-free alternative.
Matcha and its signature, bright green color has only risen in popularity over the last few years. Its recognizable, colorful features mean the treat is Instagram-worthy. Bon Matcha offers three different soft serves to satisfy your savory appetite: true matcha soft serve, misugaru and the matcha/misugaru swirl. In addition to its beloved Matcha Green Tea flavor, Ice Cream Jubilee showcases an array of innovative and classic flavors through their local, all-natural cream. Keep an eye out for their seasonal flavors!
Gone are the days of eating in the shopping mall cafeteria. Food halls have emerged as one-stop shops for consumers, where visitors can check out local vendors and pop-ups that reflect the area's trendiest flavors. Union Market is DC's pioneer in this realm, equipped with numerous food options (barbeque, arepas, seafood and more) and small retail shops. You can see outdoor movies there in the summer. Nearby, La Cosecha celebrates Latin American culture, cuisine and conversation. Tastemakers in northeast DC offers an array of sweet treats, Bullfrog Bagels and a wonderful community feel.
Who said drinking had to be boring? Tiki vibes, adult slushies and punchbowls can liven up your libation life, and the trend is having a moment in the nation’s capital through rum-forward hot spots like Potomac Distilling Company’s Tiki TNT and Coconut Club, both of which are brightly lit and excite with vibrant drinkware and mugs. Archipelago on U Street serves up mai tais, daquiris and other rum-centric drinks, along with an Asian-inspired food menu (note that for now, the restaurant is only offering outdoor seating and to-go options). Cuban café/bar Colada Shop offers up understated tiki classics and Farmers Fishers Bakers hosts an outdoor tiki patio menu. If you’re looking for tropical flavors but want to hold off on the booze, sip on one of the agua frescas from the Cascade Café at the National Gallery of Art.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many DC restaurants and chefs have partnered up to create fun pop-up experiences while restaurants are closed. On weekends, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' grand expansion, The REACH, hosts Victura Park, an outdoor pop-up wine garden and cafe. The Hilton Brothers and Chef Erik Bruner-Yang collaborated on this winery-inspired setting that offers charcuterie boards and light snacks, as well as beer, wine, adult seltzers and other beverages. Looking for a soul food take on tacos? Chef Damian Brown and The Uncaged Chefs offer Trap Tacos, which is open every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 6027 Marlborough Pike in District Heights, Md. Chef Alex McCoy has launched a burger pop-up, Lucky Buns, which takes creative inspiration from Southeast Asia, Australia and the UK in its burger creations. If you're a morning person, check out the Room 11 pop-up Aardvark Cafe, which offers breakfast sandwiches and coffee.
Lunch at Farmers' Markets
Sure, we all know a trip to the local farmers’ market means loads of fresh produce. But what if you’re craving a little something more? Luckily, DC farmers’ markets have got you covered. Tuck into a personal pizza from the award-winning Timber Pizza at the FRESHFARM CityCenterDC market on Tuesdays, or a bagel breakfast sandwich from its sister restaurant Call Your Mother at Sunday’s Dupont FRESHFARM Market (get there early - these sell out fast). With 10 different markets running Tuesday through Sunday, you can explore flavors from all over the globe, including falafel sandwiches from Hilana Cuisine, locally sourced fish burgers from Fishscale and gourmet Chinese dumplings from Pinch.
Vegan and plant-based diets have taken off – whether for weight loss, skincare or to reduce inflammation, it seems like everyone is going green with what they eat. Luckily, some homegrown DC restaurants are dishing out awesome plant-based options to satisfy your appetite. Chaia Tacos is an unconventional tacquería serving vegetable-based versions of the beloved meal in Georgetown and Penn Quarter/Chinatown; think creamy kale and potato and braised mushroom. A side of green rice with feta, herb pesto and pepitas is to die for, and you can top it off with a glass of fresh green tea. You can also get your veggie on at Urbana in Dupont Circle, where Chef Ethan McKee has created a vegetarian antipasti board complete with fresh dips like a Tuscan hummus that stars white beans, lemon, garlic and tahini.