HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


5 Days in DC. Where MUST I go eat?

I am a total foodie looking for the best DC has to offer. Nothing is out of bounds for this vacation because eating DC is my primary reason for traveling to the area. I need the must eat places if you had only 5 days to spend eating and drinking. Money is of no object. I love fine dinning and eating amazing food and am a big fan of eating course after course. I want to be truely amazed by what I am tasting. Im no snob when it comes to restaurants either, casual and inexpensive is okay as well as long as the food is outstanding. I Maybe someone can help me out with some places off the "beaten path" if you will? I am interested in lunch and dinner options, and I am definetly looking for a sunday brunch spot as well. Extensive wine lists are always a plus but not necessary. I also want places that I am going to be able to get into without reservations being made months in advance, since I am going to be traveling in one week. I am taking a special person out for a special evening as well, so maybe a romantic setting for one night would be great. If anyone can help me I would be forever in your debt. If you need help for dinning options in Charleston, SC let me know! Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Old Ebbitt Grill is a must choice for either lunch or late night when all of their raw bar items are 50% off. The place is always busy, always consistent and a real place to be seen and people watch. The service is quite good and while not formal by any means, a very nice restaurant with reasonable prices.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bas5838

      Old Ebbitt Grill is a combination zoo and feeding trough. Every clueless tourist in town has already found this place. Do not veer from the raw bar, or you'll be in the land of corporate casual eating that the OP is desperately trying to avoid.

    2. Here's an enthusiastic vote for Founding Farmers in DC. It has a bustling brunch crowd (GWU is nearby and you'll probably see students out with visiting parents). We enjoy it for lunch and dinner as well.

      For a fun, urban vibe we love Eatonville (Southern food) which is a relative of Busboys & Poets (also good, more casual). For a beer-filled evening (I know you mentioned a wine list is a plus, but a beer detour could be fun) The Brickskeller will not disappoint. It is a bit of a hovel, down in a basement, but once you're down there you are together with a family of others touring their very extensive beer list (booklet).

      1. Nothing mentioned so far, in my opinion, amounts to "fine dining," especially not in a "money is no object" sense.

        Eatonville (mentioned above) is fun, though I would call it pretending-to-be-rural-Southern rather than "urban vibe."

        The problem you may find is that you are trying to put together two incompatible things - "best/money is no object" and "I'm coming in a week and don't have reservations." I would suggest going through the Washingtonian magazine 100-best list (http://www.washingtonian.com/sections...) and seeing which places (a) sound good to you and (b) you can get into on this little notice (through opentable.com or by calling).

        I think that most "best DC has to offer"/"money is no object" people would probably steer you towards Komi, Cityzen, and a few others if you can get in.

        1. In my opinion any one of José Andrés's restaurants is a good choice. My favorite is Zaytinya in Chinatown which serves Mediterranean mezze style dishes (small dishes like spanish tapas). Their braised then grilled octopus is out of this world. Also if you are craving a good steak go to Morton's In Georgetown.

          1. For the Sunday Brunch, you are definitely going to want the Latina Dim Sum Brunch at Cafe Atlantico. You can order a prix fixe meal for 14 courses for $35 or order a la carte. You probably don't need reservations in advance, but you should call to at least make sure you arrive on time. The hours for the prix fixe are more limited. Sounds to me like you are a good candidate for the full treatment. This is an astonishing meal for those willing to spend the time on a Sunday morning/early afternoon.

            1. If you want to go off the beaten path and are willing to travel, I'd highly recommend Patowmack Farm. They have an excellent tasting menu, food all locally sourced, much of it grown on their farm, plus brunch (though I haven't had the brunch there). It's set in the mountain just over an hour drive. The dining area is a glass conservatory overlooking the trees and mountain. Go early, if you're going for dinner, to check out the view. Even in the dark, there's something magical out it, like eating outdoors. Dress is business casual. It's not inexpensive but less than you'd spend for a tasting menu right inside the beltway. This is one of the most romantic locations with the view. They also have wine pairings with their tasting menu.

              3 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                I agree w/ Ellekasey. I also LOVE Founding Farmers!!!!!!!! I highly recommend the carrot cake and grilled cheese sandwich. Other recommendations are the following:
                Granville Moore (THE BEST mussels & frites- beat Bobby Flay in a food network showdown- this would be your off the beaten path place)
                Proof (gourmet food, great wine list)
                Coco Sala (Americanized tapas, FABULOUS dessert list, chocolate tastings.)
                Brasserie Beck, Central (Brasserie type food.)
                Komi (high end, excellent food, VERY highly regarded)

                1. re: chicken kabob

                  Just remembered:
                  for seafood, Black Salt
                  for Italian, Dino
                  Matchbox,-awesome mini burgers- maybe a lunch?
                  Tabard Inn, Creme, Teasim (for brunch)
                  *(Teasim being counter service)

                  1. re: chicken kabob

                    Founding Farmers is average comfort food in a hip environment. Not a bad choice if you want to eat downtown and not pay downtown prices. But I don't think they have anything the the OP needs to travel for.

                    Busboys and Poets is a performance venue featuring poetry reading, music, etc. Oh, and they serve food too. Again, it is average stuff. Doubt if they ever serve anything which can't be had in Charleston.

                    Brickskeller is widely known for its beer inventory. Again, a place where food is of secondary importance. I would rather eat at Applebee's.

                    None of these address the OP's interest in eating course after course of amazing food.

                2. I would put this as a pretty good 5 -

                  1789 - for traditional American food, love this place....

                  Ben' s Chili bowl - There is nothing else like it that I have been to. Simply one of the best half smoke diners anywhere.

                  Cafe Atlantico - Jose Andres Best place in my opinion. If you can get a late min, place at the mini bar there....DO IT!

                  Becks - Fantastic food and the beer list is good too.

                  Central - Get the lobster burger.....You will regret it if you don't!

                  Where ever you go, I am sure you will have a great time, but these are my top 5, not all $$$$$

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: themeatguy

                    Hi DC Chowhounds,
                    I am a St. Paul Chowhounder and I am preparing for a visit to your wonderful city. I will be back with more questions later. But a quick question right now: When you refer to "Central" (as in "Central - Get the lobster burger.....You will regret it if you don't!"), are you referring to Central Michal Richard? (Sorry if I misspelled that---no time now to check spelling.
                    Thanks very much.

                    p.s. Is there still snow on the ground there as of today (2-24-10)?

                    1. re: soccermom13

                      Yes, that's the one (but I believe it's Michel Richard, not sure). If you can't manage to get reservations at Central, I'd highly recommend the lunch buffet at the National Gallery (in the West Wing). It's $19.75 pp, AYCE, incredible deal for Michel Richard food! I've just gone two weekends in a row, this last weekend with my in-laws, and it really is a great experience. If you can get in to Central, definitely do that, but if it doesn't work with your schedule or you're looking for a relative cheap lunch option in the mall area, it's something to consider.

                      There's still mountains of snow pushed up along the roads, but for the most part the snow on the sidewalks and walkways has all melted. It's definitely getting better.

                      1. re: mjhals

                        Thanks, Mjhals, for your quick response.

                        Do you mean the food at the National Gallery lunch buffet is prepared by Michel Richard and/or Michel Richard's "people?"

                        p.s. Bummer about the snow...... I was in DC once when it snowed and I know how difficult it is there. We have snowplowing down to an art form here, and a gazillion snow plows, but that's not the case in areas that rarely get snow.

                        1. re: soccermom13

                          Well, I'm pretty sure he's not there everyday whipping things up (just as he's not at Central every night), but it's definitely "his buffet". He probably just oversaw the menu and provided the recipes, but he's not cooking any of it on a day-to-day basis. That being said, the food is really top-quality and not just for a buffet, but for any food. It doesn't look like a typical buffet, all the food fits on a relatively small serving table, but every single dish is amazing, no "fillers". Most of it is served out of the big le creuset dutch ovens and the servers regularly come out with steaming replacements.

                          I think the snow is much, much better now, and if you're going to be walking and/or taking the metro, you'll be fine. Parking is a little harder as there are still mounds of snowing blocking a lot of the parking. When are you coming? It might melt before then, a lot melted this weekend so I hope it continues.

                          1. re: mjhals

                            I arrive Friday 3/5 and will have two blissful days in your wonderful city before my conference starts.

                            I am very excited about this buffet. I love buffets which have GOOD food--such a nice way to sample a number of things without having to order a boatload of items from the menu.

                            Will I need a reservation?

                            And yes, I'll be walking and using the metro. I am in love with your metro system.

                            1. re: soccermom13

                              then you'll be fine, there's really no problem walking anymore, and with any luck even more will melt by your visit.

                              no reservation needed, just show up and they'll seat you accordingly. The two times I've been there it has been busy, but no one seemed to be waiting long for a seat, and the food is always replenished very quickly. It opens at 1200 on Sundays, every other day is 1130, I think. Have fun!

                  2. Since it is off season you may be able to get into some of the best of the best with last minute reservations:
                    Komi (greek rated the best in DC), Citronelle (French-they have a lounge if you can't get into the restaurant- I think this is romantic), CityZen, Tearto Goldini's Chef's Tasting (Italina), Restaurant Eve's Tasting Room (New American/Irish- again I think it is romantic) or Minibar (molecular gastronomy). Komi and Minibar are the hardest to get into, but they do have last minute cancellations. Then there is The Source and Marcel's which both have multi-course menus definitely worth checking out (The Source is romantic in a sexy way, and Marcel's is more like a tiny French jewelbox. The Boudin Blanc at Marcel's is wonderful. Sushi Taro and Sushi Ko.

                    The next tier:
                    I really like the bone marrow and roast meats at Blue Duck Tavern, as well as, the grits. Proof is also really good, the sablefish is one of the best dishes. The back room at Palena which you should definitely get the gnocchi or another homemade pasta as one of your courses, and to me is also very romantic. Corduroy is also really good. Tosca for wonderful Italian (you can get half portions of the pastas. Rasika has a very good modern Indian tasting menu.

                    Off the beaten path (for tourists): Ray's Hell Burger (sort of), Nam Viet or Minh's, Blacksalt (sort of well known, but not in the touristy part of town), Hank's Oyster Bar (I like their brunch), Regent for Thai food, Taqueria Nacionale. Ravi Kabob (might need to cab from the metro). And you have some other good off the beaten path recommendations.

                    For brunch I also really like Poste, Bistro Bis and the regular brunch at Cafe Atlantico.

                    1. twlogan -- I just thought I'd echo a couple other posters that many of the recommendations here don't seem to respond to your actual request at all (I don't see sending someone from Charleston to Eatonville, for example, even if it did meet the other criteria). I think the "money is no object" and "off the beaten path" and "casual" parts all together may have thrown things off a little. So, just to clarify -- saying you chose to come to DC primarily for eating, what's drawing you here -- some kind of food or chef or something? (Even if we can eat really well here, I don't think of it as a usual place for a food-inspired vacation, like NYC or New Orleans or ... Charleston? Might be part of the confusion.)

                      I think Steve's suggestion of Cafe Atlantico's dim sum brunch is probably the best one for most closely fitting what you're asking for.

                      On your concern about reservations, many of the top tier places, you can often walk in and sit at the bar (or a nice table in the bar area). You can eat in the bar area at Restaurant Eve, I'm pretty sure at CityZen. At a less-upscale level, I've had good luck eating at the bar at Central and Rasika, without having to wait. This is following up on kt's good suggestions.

                      On the less-expensive and more casual front, DC proper's real "ethnic" strength is Ethiopian food. There is also good middle-eastern and asian (especially Vietnamese also Korean) in the suburbs, if you can get to them. Lots of discussion, if you search around.

                      I hope this is helpful -- have a great trip!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mselectra

                        Probably too late for the OP, but for anyone like that who is visiting DC from a place like Charleston, I think Ethiopean and Korean are great ideas. Vietnamese (Eden Center, etc) would also be a good choice, if only for the novelty of a place like Eden Center, but I think good Vietnamese can be found more easily in more cities than good Korean or especially Ethiopean.

                      2. High End, Obelisk, Easy, Two Amy's!