We recently got to visit Washington DC for the first time and already can’t wait to go back! While it’s more known for being a political and historical metropolis, we were pleasantly surprised at how diverse and tasty the food options were at the nation’s capitol.
From traditional French pastries to fresh Peruvian ceviche to Middle Eastern, fire-roasted lamb shoulder, there were endless varieties of food we got to eagerly inhale in such a short a trip. And since we’re on the East Coast, we always answered “YES!” (very enthusiastically) for any question that combined “happy hour” and “seafood.” Here are some of our favorite restaurants and food stops we loved eating during our trip.
Albi is a Michelin-starred Mediterranean restaurant in the Navy Yard district of Washington, DC. Albi means “my heart” in Arabic and features coal-fired dishes from the Levant region. As soon as we walked in, we were impressed by the modern decor, large windows, and amazing natural light. They serve meals a la carte family style, so it’s best to come in with a few people so you can try out more of their menu.
Our favorite dishes we ordered were the coal-fired mushroom hummus, smoked carrot kibbeh naya, and bbq’d lamb kebobs. While we ordered a la carte, the chef also has a preset menu called a Sofra (Arabic for “a table set for you”) if you want to try different foods with your party.
Albi is perfect for a celebration because they also have tasty drinks, like the Our Lady of Lebanon cocktail. We also tried the Za’atar-tini, a za’atar-based vodka martini, and it was a little too spirit-forward for my tastes. We recommend making reservations ahead of time because it gets booked quickly, and request a seat by the window.
Type of food: Mediterranean
Price: $$$ ($100 pp)
What to order: coal-fired mushroom hummus, smoked carrot kibbeh naya, bbq’d lamb kebobs, our lady of Lebanon cocktail
Address: 1346 4th St SE Washington, DC 20003
Tatte Bakery & Cafe
We first had Tatte Bakery & Cafe in Boston, and it’s been one of our favorite cafes to visit, so we were super excited to find various locations in Washington, DC. We loved it so much we visited it three times in four days! Some of our favorite pastries to order are shortbread cookies, passionfruit krembo, and Linzer cookies. They also have a great brunch selection, like the mushroom, spinach, and potato bowl. If you’re a Stumptown fan, you’ll be pleased to find out they also use Stumptown beans.
There are eight different Tatte locations in DC, so you can find one in every neighborhood. They also have an online ordering system if you want to skip the line. We love bringing home packaged cookies and brownies as souvenirs; you can even order them online and ship them straight to your house.
Type of food: cafe, bakery
Price: $ ($15 pp)
What to order: smoked salmon & avocado tartine; mushroom, spinach, & potato bowl; any brownie; Linzer cookie; passionfruit krembo; shortbread cookies
Hank’s Oyster Bar
If you’re in the mood for $2 happy hour oysters, head over to Hank’s Oyster Bar at Dupont Circle. This seafood restaurant is in a multi-story building with various indoor and outdoor seating options. Happy hour time is Tuesday- Friday from 4-7 PM at the bar only–you can also sit on the back patio and order from the happy hour menu, too.
The happy hour oysters are on a rotating selection, so make sure to ask what their current varieties are available. Also, we recommend ordering seafood nachos because they are delicious and plentiful to share with friends. There are also other locations at the Wharf and Old Town too.
Type of food: seafood bar
Price: $$ ($50 pp)
What to order: oysters on the half shell, deviled eggs, seafood nachos, the freakin’ catalina wine mixer cocktail
Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar
We love a good ceviche, and Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar has a great selection! This Peruvian gastropub has a plentiful menu of fresh seafood, grilled meats, and more. One of our favorite things to order was the ceviche sampler because you can try three different varieties: fish, octopus, shrimp, and even sweet potatoes.
They have a full bar available, and we recommend ordering a pisco sour flight to try all three flavors. I also liked their cocktails, like the lychee chilcanos, because it’s super refreshing. Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar is located in downtown DC and is easy to get to using the Metro. We recommend making a reservation here because it’s very popular and gets packed quickly for dinner. There are indoor and outdoor seats available, but if you ask us, it’s a party inside with lively music and mood lighting. This is a great place for groups.
Type of food: Peruvian
Price: $$ ($45 pp)
What to order: ceviche sampler, carne antichuchos, pollo causas, lychee chilcanos, pisco sour flight
Address: 1823 L St NW Washington, DC 20036
Maydan is a Michelin-starred Middle Eastern restaurant that translates to “town square” with origins in Arabic. We were most excited to try out Maydan because of their Tawle (or “table”) experience ($75 per person), which is a pre-fixe family-style menu.
Our favorites from the Tawle experience are the grilled halloumi, koobideh, walnut casik, muhamarra, and of course, the handmade pita bread. We also splurged on the lamb shoulder and loved the crusted Arabic 7 spice they used. You truly get so much food, so we advise you to bring at least 4 or 6 friends. There were three of us, and we had plenty of leftovers.
Maydan is a very popular restaurant, and we recommend making reservations that open two weeks ahead of time. Currently, they only offer the Tawle experience for reservations. If you want to order a la carte, you will need to sit at the bar since it’s first come, first serve. Maydan offers indoor and outdoor seating; however, we recommend indoor seating to experience the wood oven hearth, decor, and nonstop action from the grill and cooks in the back happily dancing as they prepare food!
Type of food: Middle Eastern
Price: $$$$ ($150 pp)
What to order: Tawle experience
Address: 1346 Florida Ave NW Washington, DC 20009
We first tried Luke’s Lobster in Boston, and we were happy to try out two of their locations in DC, especially during happy hour. Luke’s might be a chain restaurant, but they always have fresh and reasonably priced lobster rolls for any meal. Luke’s serves their lobster rolls Maine style, which includes mayo, lemon butter, and Luke’s secret seasoning–yum.
Besides their lobster roll, one of our favorites is the lobster bisque on windy days because it’s creamy and steaming hot. There are only two locations in DC, Penn Station and Farragut. Luke’s Lobster also offers lobster roll kits on their website, so you can make rolls anywhere you live.
Type of food: seafood
Price: $ ($25 pp)
What to order: lobster roll, lobster bisque, New England clam chowder
Lapis Bistro is nestled in the Adams Morgan neighborhood and features recipes and foods from Chef Shamin’s childhood in Afghanistan. It was our first foray into Afghan cuisine, and we got to try new dishes that hit the spot for any meal.
We recommend trying Afghan-style dumplings, especially the aushak variety with beef, split peas, and leeks. I like bolani (or Afghan flatbread) with beef and yogurt and chutney. Don’t forget to order drinks! I was amazed by the lablaboo latte. It was creamy, and you could taste both taro and beets.
As always, we recommend making reservations, especially if you come in for brunch. Since we didn’t have a car, we easily took public transportation from Dupont Circle to Lapis. The bus stop is just across the street from the restaurant.
Type of food: Afghan, Halal
Price: $ ($25 pp)
What to order: bolani (beef with yogurt & chutney and onion-potatoes), karayee, aushak (Afghan dumplings), samarok, lablaboo latte
Address: 1847 Columbia Rd NW Washington, DC 20009
Mason’s Famous Lobster
No matter where I am on the East Coast, I need to get some seafood. Since we’ve tried Luke’s Lobster, we also ventured to Georgetown for Mason’s Famous Lobster. We tried their classic roll with mayo, lemons, and CT roll served in warm butter. In addition, their New England clam chowder was tasty and full of large chunks of clam.
Mason’s Famous Lobster also sells lobster roll kits that can be delivered straight to your house if you want to enjoy them at home or serve them for a big celebration. You can find Mason’s at other locations throughout Washington DC and across the country. While we prefer Luke’s Lobster a tad bit more than Mason’s because of their secret seasoning, we think this is a comparable alternative.
Type of food: seafood
Price: $ ($20 pp)
What to order: lobster roll (classic or CT roll), New England clam chowder
Having dinner at Thip Khao felt like going home in the best way. Thip Khao opened in 2014 by Chef Seng Luangrath and is now co-owned with her son Bobby. Since the opening, Thip Khao and Chef Seng have made a cultural impact on Lao food in the US.
Some of our favorite dishes are the chuenh peek gai (crispy tamarind-glazed chicken wings), naem khao (crispy coconut rice salad), and gaeng phet (red coconut curry). Service is relatively quick, and you get a lot of food per order. We recommend coming with a group of friends to try different dishes.
It’s located in Columbia Heights, and we had to take a ride-share since we didn’t have a car and the metro ride was a bit difficult at night. There are plenty of seats, but they also offer online reservations through Tock.
Type of food: Laotian
Price: $$ ($50 pp)
What to order: chuenh peek gai (crispy tamarind-glazed chicken wings), naem khao (crispy coconut rice salad), gaeng phet (red coconut curry), muu som (sour pork belly), green mango 2.0 cocktail
Address: 3462 14th St NW Washington, DC 20010
Un Je Ne Sais Quoi
Un Je Ne Sais Quoi will be your favorite stop in DC if you’re looking for a traditional French bakery. This quaint pastry shop is in Dupont Circle, and you’ll know you’re at the right place when you see a line out the door and patrons around you speak French!
We recommend going early in the day before pastries run out. Our favorite orders are the caneles, pistachio Paris brest (a circle-shaped choux with cream), and a mango panna cotta. While I haven’t been to Paris, this is the best canele I’ve ever had. It’s perfectly caramelized on the outside with a slightly chewy center, and it’s not too sweet! Trust me when I say you need to visit this bakery.
Type of food: cafe, bakery
Price: $ ($10 pp)
What to order: canele, pistachio Paris brest, mango panna cotta
Address: 1361 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC 20036