Think Washington D.C. is all stuffy politics and zero fun? Well, think again! The DMV — the super cool code name for the District, Maryland, Virginia area — does have its share of wheelin’ and dealin’ politicians, but it’s also a great cultural destination with some surprisingly good foodie options.
That’s right, even politicians have to eat, and D.C. is really all about the chow. The city’s food scene has slowly simmered for years as chefs and owners worked to build a sizzling hot zone of modern and classic restaurants. In fact, ask the locals, and they’ll tell you D.C. is the nation’s real food capital. Check out these restaurants adding some serious spice to the mix.
Old Ebbitt Grill
This is where you want to go for a good meal, people watching — the crowds are no joke — some of the city’s best oysters, and history you can almost feel. The Old Ebbitt Grill’s roots go back to the 1850s when it opened as a boarding house. It has housed some of the country’s most famous historic figures, including Presidents William McKinley, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. Impressive, right?
Also D.C.’s first saloon, the business moved several times over the years before landing in the current location in the 1920s. In addition to a fab oyster selection, must-try dishes include the seared scallops, veal rib chop, short rib fettucine, and vegetarian-friendly cauliflower steak.
There are lots of spots to grab a slice of pizza, but All-Purpose is the only one where the dough is fit for a king, thanks to a three-day fermentation process. It’s located in the Shaw neighborhood, which is home to famous theaters like the Howard and the Lincoln along with plenty of hip shops near U Street.
But back to the pizza — you’re sure to love the flavorful, crisp crust with interesting toppers. The North End pie has clams, bacon, spinach, lemon, mozzarella, and parmigiana, while the Sedgewick has whipped ricotta, parmigiana, mozzarella, taleggio, chives, and truffle honey. Fancy for pizza? Yes — but delicious! If you’re not in the mood for pizza, the menu also has cold and hot antipasti choices, like fried Brussels sprouts, Jersey-style eggplant parm, and a surprising tuna mousse.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Some call Ben’s Chili Bowl a national landmark; others call it a historic gem. Everyone calls it delicious! This chili joint has served up the goods since it opened in 1958. Named one of America’s best food destinations by Smithsonian Magazine, it has ladled up bowls of chili for famous figures like President Barack Obama, “Godfather of Funk” George Clinton, Bruno Mars, President George W. Bush, Bono, Chris Rock, and many others. But the clientele isn’t the only reason to stop in. Chili dogs, chili burgers, and steaming bowls of Ben’s famous chili are delicious and reasonably priced.
Eater calls it one of the city’s hottest restaurants, and the sparks that fly from the grill are proof positive. You get to see all the action while waiting for your food. Watch as the crew chars whole chickens and grills citrusy sardines. Everything is grilled, and the locals love it. Start with one of the hummus options before trying the fire-roasted baby eggplant, grilled squid, or the lamb shoulder.
Casual but hip and full of flavor, this Cuban restaurant has two locations — one on U Street and another in Sterling — and both locations dish up mouthwatering empanadas. Let the kids try the sweet pastelitos stuffed with guava and sweet cream cheese or the plantain chips while you knock back a cup of strong, eye-opening coffee.
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