One of the great things about such a diverse city as DC is the availability of a wide variety of food. Asian, Indian, Latin, American, and the ever-popular pizza all find a place in a city with such a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. In fact, try to get a group of people together to go out to dinner, and you'll find that everyone has a different favorite. This list tries to hit the main highlights and focuses on sit-down restaurants that are generally affordable, vegetarian- and carnivore-friendly, and easily accessible by public transportation.
Like the Old Ebbitt Grill, The Tombs is one of 13 restaurants in the Clyde's Restaurants chain. Each is different, and The Tombs caters to local Georgetown University students and faculty, as well as the large numbers of visitors who stroll through the nearby shops. Where Old Ebbitt features a slightly more upscale menu, The Tombs is a perfect spot for a more casual meal. Burgers and sandwiches make up a large chunk of the menu, but they are complemented by fresh seafood and pasta dishes. Brunch is really the main event at this Georgetown fixture; the menu includes delicious light options and full meals for vegetarians and carnivores alike. If you're in the area on a Sunday, try to get there early because after Mass lets out at nearby Holy Trinity Church, the restaurant is packed.
- Location: 1226 36th Street Northwest, Washington DC
- Phone: 202-337-6668
- Website: www.tombs.com
The ceiba is an umbrella-shaped tree found throughout tropical regions of Central and South America. It makes a perfect name for this restaurant, which serves a variety of dishes all inspired by that region. One of the most elegant (yet still affordable) restaurants in the District, Ceiba is a must-visit for seafood lovers in particular. While the appetizers are designed to be shared with a friend or two and the sides are served family-style, diners will be glad that the main dishes are all theirs. Whether you prefer red snapper, free range chicken, or the vegetarian corn tamales, each dish is designed by the owner and chef to make use of traditional Central and South American flavors. If you're in the area only for happy hour, check out the $5 cocktails, featuring a different Latin region every day, and the half price bar food.
Whether you're looking for 'green' dining or just something new, Founding Farmers provides a memorable experience. This restaurant offers an organic, sustainable agriculture approach to eating out. Everything served is produced by family-owned and operated endeavors. Founding Farmers is owned by a collective of American family farmers, and named so in memory of the founding members of this country, many of whom owned farms in the Maryland and Virginia area. Every aspect of the restaurant is green, from its interior design (certified LEED Gold) to its food menu, to its microbrewed beers and biodynamic/organic wines. Stepping inside transports a guest to a traditional American farmhouse, and the dishes offered are reminiscent of the atmosphere. Cornbread and the popcorn of the day make great appetizers, while freshly caught fish and organically raised beef and chicken offer delicious main courses. For such carefully selected and grown items, pricing is very affordable. One of the main ideas behind this revolutionary, and yet traditional, dining experience, is that it should be available to a wide range of visitors.
Pizza is usually a dish more commonly praised in New York and Chicago, but restaurants like Pizzeria Paradiso are quickly putting DC on the map. Pizzeria Paradiso focuses on quality ingredients, catering to the gourmet crowd more than cheesy deep-dish lovers. Offering ingredients like fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, pancetta, and mussels, there are a small number of recommended pizzas, but patrons are encouraged to create their own. The restaurant offers a wide variety of salads and panini as well as an extensive wine and beer list, but it is really known for its excellent, speedily prepared pies. And of course, there is no better way to top off a pizza dinner than with a delicious dessert, easily selected at Pizzeria Paradiso.
- Location: Dupont Circle: 2003 P Street NW, Washington, DC
- Phone: 202-223-1245
- Metro Stop: Redline to Dupoint Circle
- Website: www.eatyourpizza.com
The area surrounding the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro station is quickly becoming a popular dining destination, with a wide variety of options and prices. One of the most exciting new restaurants in this neighborhood is Asian Spice, a fusion restaurant serving a variety of fresh, interesting plates informed by cooking traditions from all over Asia, including Thai stir fry and a well-stocked sushi bar. Drink options run the gamut from Japanese beer and sake and Asian-inspired mixed drinks to a comprehensive wine list. Appetizers, drinks, and sushi bar offerings are very attractively priced, although main dishes tend to run a little higher than average. The quality and variety of fresh food in each dish makes it worth a little extra, and the ambiance can't be beat. Like many other restaurants in this neighborhood, the architecture of the building has led to a creatively arranged seating area. Spiral stairs lead to an indoor balcony perfect for a large group. Wide windows provide great lighting, although you might want to bring sunglasses if you plan on facing the window at sunset.
- Location: 717 H Street Northwest, Washington, DC
- Phone: 202-589-0900
- Metro Stop: Yellowline, Greenline or Redline to Gallery Place / Chinatown
- Website: www.asianspice.us
Neither Dupont Circle nor Georgetown lacks a good selection of diverse restaurants, but Heritage India stands out as a fun and delicious twist on traditional Indian restaurants. Where most Indian cuisine, in the U.S. at least, is served as entree-sized portions, Heritage India offers small plates designed to be shared. A tradition in some parts of India, the tapas-style menu also allows each diner to sample a variety of dishes. This particular restaurant also offers many seafood and vegetarian options, so nearly everyone will find something appealing. A word to the wise, however: when the menu says spicy, it means spicy! Err on the side of mild, unless you're very daring.
- Location: 2400 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest, Washington DC
- Phone: 202-333-3120
- Website: www.heritageindiausa.com
Located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC, Red Rocks is a bit of an outlier from the traditional dining hot spots. Even so, this neighborhood bar and pizzeria offers quick, friendly service, original menu items, and a great jumping off point for a night out on U Street or in Adams Morgan. While the restaurant serves a variety of sandwiches, salads, and other dishes, they are best loved for their pizza. Some of their best selections are vegetarian, though the Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and pancetta is not to be missed. The selection of wine and beer makes this a good happy hour destination, and because Red Rocks is a smaller venue off the beaten path, its customers tend to be a more relaxed crowd. Jeans are the norm, and with Rita's Italian ice about two blocks up, this corner pizzeria is good for a family outing or a casual meal. Red Rocks' corner location provides some great people-watching in diverse, up-and-coming Columbia Heights. In spring, summer, and fall, the shaded outside seating is a lovely spot to share a drink or a pizza with friends.
- Location: 1036 Park Road, NW, Washington DC
- Phone: 202-506-1402
- Metro Stop: Greenline to Columbia Heights
- Website: www.firebrickpizza.com
Old Ebbitt Grill
Whether or not your trip to DC includes a White House tour, it should include a visit to one of the White House's favorite restaurants. For over a century, Old Ebbitt Grill has been a popular lunch, dinner, and drinks destination for celebrities, White House visitors, staffers, and even the occasional president. Yet Old Ebbitt's unique historical décor is almost eclipsed by its creative and continually changing menu. While the restaurant is part of the Clyde's Restaurants chain, its menu is completely original. It features everything from burgers and salads to shrimp cocktail and crab cakes. The restaurant is also known for one of the best raw bars in the city, so whether you're a crab leg lover or an oyster newbie, Old Ebbitt's is a great place to try a variety. The menu, from drinks to dessert, is very reasonably priced - and you never know who might be eating at the next table.
Like many other big cities, DC is crazy for tapas. There are a number of restaurants serving these Spanish-inspired small plates, but Mezzaluna stands out for its atmosphere, friendly and prompt service, and outstanding selection. Tapas is meant to be shared with a group, each guest ordering two to four small portions. These portions are passed around the table, so it's important to pick something that other people will enjoy as well. With Mezzaluna's extensive menu, which includes plenty of seafood and vegetarian options, the problem is not in the selection but rather in the array of options.
Although it's a bit of a hike from Dupont Circle, the food, the drinks, and the view from Lauriol Plaza make the walk worth it. Start your meal with a Dos Equis or a margarita (the frozen traditional/strawberry swirl is a house specialty), share some guacamole for an entrée, and dig into fajitas or chile rellenos for a main course. The menu, reasonably priced especially considering its location and impressive interior, runs the gamut of Mexican and Tex/Mex dishes for a very impressive variety. Lauriol Plaza is a great location for a date, although the main floors can get very loud on the weekends (request open-air seating), a happy hour, or a girls' margarita night. Rooftop seating is available nearly year-round, though in colder weather the staff brings out plastic tenting and space heaters. The view, especially at night, is worthy of a full meal or even just some great drinks and shared appetizers.
- Location: 1835 18th St NW, Washington DC
- Phone: 202-387-0035
- Metro Stop: Redline to Dupoint Circle
- Website: www.lauriolplaza.com