Washington, DC is a melting pot of world culture, and with that comes a lot of really good food. While the following list is by no means comprehensive, below are some of my favorite spots, for one reason or another, to get a good bite to eat in and around the city. My selections are pretty limited to the District and Virginia, with the exception of one fabulous place on the DC/Maryland line, only because I haven’t spent a lot of time in Maryland. Sorry, Maryland! I am sure you have some wonderful spots as well!
* Please note: Some of these recommendations are not easily accessible by metro. Walking distance from the metro to most places is under a mile, unless otherwise noted.
Old Ebbitt Grill cover photo credit: Megan Thompson
District of Columbia
Chef Geoff’s. 3201 New Mexico Ave, Washington, DC 20016. Tel.: 202-237-7800
Chef Geoff’s came recommended to us by my sister as a great spot for Sunday brunch. She was spot on with it. With brunch favorites such as eggs Benedict and French toast, there is something for everyone on the menu. Start with the cinnamon donuts which come with a dollop each of lemon, raspberry, and chocolate sauce. Chef Geoff’s is also open for lunch and dinner. There are several other locations in the greater Washington area. Visit the website for details. Nearest Metro station: Tenleytown.
Cusbah. 1128 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel.: 202-506-1504
Billed on its website as a South Asian Spice Bar, Cusbah offers an excellent variety of Pakistani and North Indian dishes. Enjoy classics 80s tunes over vegetable or meat-filled samosas and garlic naan. Situated on the constantly evolving H-Street corridor, Cusbah is a small, cozy place with limited seating. I recommend reservations, as well as the palak paneer. Nearest Metro station: NOMA/Gallaudet University (transfer to bus).
Dangerously Delicious Pies. 1339 H St. NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel.: 202-398-7437
Voted DC’s best pie shop for six years in a row, Dangerously Delicious Pies has an extensive menu of both savory and sweet pies, as well as quiches. Ranging from $6.50 to $7.50 per slice, the cost might seem high, but the servings are large (think twice as large as a normal serving of pie) and the taste is rich. If you really want to send your blood sugar soaring, go for the Mobtown Brown, a pecan pie made with Swiss chocolate and loads of caramel. If you’re in Chinatown, you can get your sugar fix at the 6th and I St. location. Nearest Metro station: NOMA/Gallaudet University (transfer to bus).
Founding Farmers. 1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006. Tel.: 202-822-8783
Founding Farmers’ rustic interior covers two floors in part of the IMF building in DC’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The menu features a wide variety of sandwiches, entrees, and pastas made with locally sourced organic ingredients. Enjoy your meal at a long farmhouse table over American favorites like chicken and waffles, meatloaf, or one of the many burgers offered on the menu. There are several vegetarian options as well. Just be sure to make reservations well in advance, as Founding Farmers fills up quickly and even a spot at the bar can be hard to find. Don’t leave without trying the skillet cornbread! Outside the District, Founding Farmers has locations in Rockville, MD and Tysons Corner, VA as well. Visit the website for details. Nearest Metro station: Foggy Bottom or Farragut West.
Matchbox. 713 H street NW, Washington, DC 20001. Tel.: 202-289-4441
Most famous for its brick oven pizzas, Matchbox offers a cozy setting for lunch, happy hour, and dinner in the heart of Chinatown. If pizza isn’t your thing, rest assured that there is something for everyone on Matchbox’s extensive menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. The mini-burgers are a favorite of mine. They come in an order of 3, 6, or 9 with a heaping pile of French-fried onions on top. I recommend reservations, although be aware that your entire party should be present in order to be seated. Matchbox has two additional locations in the District, with several more in Northern Virginia coming soon. Visit the website for details. Nearest Metro station: Gallery Place/Chinatown.
Old Ebbitt Grill. 675 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005. Tel.: 202-347-4800
A visit to the nation’s capital would not be complete without a stop at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Since 1856, the O.E.G. has been DC’s watering hole for politicians and civilians alike. Across the street from the White House, it is easily accessible from both downtown and the National Mall. Famous for its crab cakes, the O.E.G. offers American cuisine at reasonable prices in a charming setting. It is a great spot for lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch, or even just for drinks. I recommend making reservations, as it is a popular place and fills up quickly. Nearest Metro station: McPherson Square.
Mark’s Kitchen. 7006 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912. Tel.: 301-270-1884
Mark’s Kitchen is a neighborhood favorite of those living in Takoma Park. The menu is huge and features just about everything, from spaghetti and meatballs to burgers to the Korean-American owner’s Asian-inspired dishes like chicken teriyaki and Korean short ribs. The dining room is informal and can fill ip in the evenings and on weekends, although reservations are usually not needed. The prize of Mark’s Kitchen, in my opinion, is the ginger sundae: ginger ice cream, with ginger sauce, and gingerbread on the side. It is divine (assuming you like ginger)! Nearest Metro station: Takoma.
Carlyle. 4000 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA 22206. Tel.: 703-931-0777
Carlyle is a Washington, DC area favorite. Situated in the charming downtown Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, it is a large, family-friendly bistro serving tasty American cuisine at reasonable prices. It is also a popular spot for lunch. Reservations are recommended for busy times such as weekend brunch and dinner. The restaurant also offers a service that allows patrons to call ahead of their visit and add their name to a waiting list before they arrive. If you like entree-sized salads, try the roasted chicken salad. If you really want a treat, have the key lime martini. There are several other DC area restaurants in the Carlyle family. Visit the website for details. Nearest Metro station: Pentagon City (transfer to bus); It’s better to drive to Carlyle.
Gadsby’s Tavern. 138 N. Royal St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Tel.: 703-548-1288
Dating back to 1785, Gadsby’s Tavern, located in historic Old Town Alexandria, is one of the DC area’s oldest restaurants. Former patrons of this cozy spot include George Washington and John Adams. At the turn of the 19th century, Gadsby’s Tavern was a center point of social and political life in Alexandria, the place to see and be seen. Experience the history within the tavern walls as you dine over “casual elegant” American cuisine such as fried oysters, ham and biscuits, and Chesapeake Bay crab cakes. Order one of the old fashioned beers with the label Yards – Ale of the Presidents. Nearest Metro station: King Street.
Guajillo. 1727 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201. Tel.: 703-807-0840
After living in Mexico and being spoiled by the food there, finding high quality, authentic Mexican food stateside has been difficult. But Guajillo has been a favorite of mine of years and remains so today, offering some of the best Mexican food in the DC area. Located in a small shopping center, it is unassuming, but offers a cozy yet festive atmosphere and dishes like Mole Poblano and Chile Colorado. The margaritas are great and the guacamole simple, yet delicious. For an appetizer, I recommend the Maduros, and if you like steak, the Carne Asada is really tasty. Recommendations are a good idea on Friday and Saturday evenings. Nearest Metro station: Rosslyn or Court House.
The Italian Store. 3123 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22201. Tel.: 703-528-6266.
I can’t say enough great things about the Italian Store. An family-owned Arlington staple for more than 30 years, it is part deli, part pizzeria, part grocery store. Order one of the several pizzas from the menu, either by the slice or as a whole pie, or have your own custom-made. Or, enjoy one of the delicious deli sandwiches. Pick up some freshly sliced salami or prosciutto or a prepared deli salad and peruse the large wine and cheese selection. Many items are imported directly from Italy. Although the Italian Store offers many ready-to-eat dishes, it is more of a take-out place, as there is nowhere to dine in, with the exception of a couple of outdoor sidewalk tables on a warm day. Be sure to take a number when you arrive if you plan to order anything from behind the deli counter, as the wait can be long on a Saturday afternoon/early evening. Nearest Metro station: Virginia Square.
Mediterranean Bakery and Deli. 352 S Pickett St., Alexandria, VA 22304. Tel.: 703-751-0030
Being of Egyptian heritage, I am probably biased, but I love this place. My mom shopped at the Mediterranean Bakery and Deli throughout the years we lived in Virginia while I was in high school, and I continued the tradition as an adult, especially after I came back from the Peace Corps and found that Bulgarian feta cheese can be found here. Patrons can shop for hard-to-find ingredients from all over the Mediterranean region, such as molokhia, basterma, authentic halawa. There are spices galore, as well as a variety of prepared items such as dolmades and hummus, ready to be taken home and devoured. The cheese, olive, and pastry selection is also quite large. Baklavas of multiple varieties can be found here. And let’s not forget the homemade pita bread, baked fresh daily. If you’d like to eat in, you can order a shawarma or a falafel sandwich and sit at one of the tables near the window. Nearest Metro station: Van Dorn (transfer to bus); It’s better to drive if you are able.
Mount Vernon Inn. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA. Tel.: 703-780-0011
Call it touristy, but a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon should include a meal at Mount Vernon Inn, at least once. The restaurant itself, adjacent to the very large gift shop, is quaint and the food and service are both very good. M. and I had a lovely dinner here after a tour of Mount Vernon by candlelight at Christmas time. The menu includes southern favorites like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and pork chops. There is also a separate steak menu. For something really unique, try the peanut soup, made with real Virginia peanuts, just like George Washington enjoyed it! Nearest Metro station: None, unfortunately. Arriving by car is best.
Pupatella. 5104 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22205. Tel.: 571-312-7230
Known as one of the best pizzerias in North Arlington, Pupatella offers an extensive menu of salads, pizzas, calzones, and paninis. If something on the menu does not suit your fancy, you can also build your own pizza, to be baked fresh. The Diavola pizza is a good choice if you eat meat and like simple ingredients; for vegetarians, the Eggplant and Red Pepper pizza has a lot of flavor. If you plan to visit on a Friday or Saturday evening, arrive early or be prepared to wait. Pupatella does not accept reservations, and it does fill up on weekends. Nearest Metro station: Ballston.
Rus Uz. 1000 N. Randolph St., Arlington, VA 22202. Tel.: 571-312-4086
For something really unique, try the Russian and Uzbek cuisine offered at Rus Uz. The food is of high quality and authentic, including dishes like Shashlik, Borsch, and Plov (a national dish of Uzbekistan). Unfortunately, there are not many vegetarian options at Ruz Uz. If you like beer, there is a long list of imported selections, including many from Russia, Czech Republic, and Ukraine. The service at Ruz Uz is good and most of the staff are Russian and Uzbek, giving patrons a chance to practice their language skills if they so choose. Nearest Metro station: Ballston.
Water & Wall. 3811 N. Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA 22203. Tel.: 703-294-4949.
Situated on the ground level of an unassuming office building, Water & Wall offered a pleasant surprise when M. and I visited for brunch on a bitterly cold Sunday morning. The menu offers a unique flair to traditional dishes, like Eggs and Kimchi, Chicken and Pancakes, and Lemon Risotto. I thoroughly enjoyed the Wild Mushroom Omelette I had here, almost as much as the roasted potatoes I ordered alongside it. Nearest Metro station: Virginia Square.