Washington D.C. has long been a destination for high school class trips. Only in recent years has it been a destination for great eating. In 2014, Bon Appetit named Rose’s Luxury the best restaurant in America, and that's just the beginning. In fact, there are stunning new restaurants (and old stalwarts) to visit, and plenty to do between meals, too.
It happened that Food52 asked for D.C. suggestions the very same day Jenny and I planned an epic afternoon baking 33 dozen cookies for her daughter’s bat mitzvah. Over cookie scoops and parchment paper, butter, sugar, chocolate, and eggs—and a beer—we put together this list of must do’s.
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Here are our picks, the city over. First, where to eat:
- Right off the bat, we have to say: Rose’s Luxury is terrific, and if you get in line at 5 PM—and are flexible about bar or table seating—order a cocktail, dive into the lychee salad, tender pasta, and generous platter of brisket or fried chicken.
- Make reservations weeks ahead for glorious hearth cooking at The Dabney, inventive Caribbean/Mediterranean at Tail Up Goat, and sensational Italian at Masseria (we love the outdoor patio).
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- Have an expense account? Don't miss two newcomers Pineapple & Pearls (from Rose’s Luxury Aaron Silverman) and Kinship. (Wine and service included). Currently, we're patiently waiting for Shaw Bijou from 2016 Top Chef contender Kwame Onwuachi.
- For some star-gazing Washington style—Hey, there's the congressman from Illinois’ 2nd district!—go to Charlie Palmer’s, and if you see Secret Service at BLT Steak, Michelle Obama is probably at her favorite corner table surrounded by her best friends. Dive into the dumplings and look for denizens from the Hill at The Source.
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- Eat at reasonable prices in pleasant surroundings at three of our favorite neighborhood haunts: Etto (pizza), Compass Rose (get the kachypura), and Osteria Morini ($10 pasta Mondays from November through March and OMG desserts year round).
- Fast casual dining is a big category in DC. Expect local, fresh ingredients, great prices, and delicious options. Check out homegrown favorites: Cava, Veloce, and Beefsteak.
Hit happy hour:
- Yes, we DCists are savvy when it comes to finding free events (ask your favorite lobbyist or cozy up to a diplomat for embassy fêtes), but when we're paying, we happy hour. Oysters at Pearl Dive, Churchkey for flatbreads and so many beers, delicious and reasonably priced cocktails at Petworth Citizen, Izakaya Seki for something funky, and Ghibellina is a classic. For a good dive bar, there's nothing like the Tune Inn.
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- Union Market is chock full of food options. We love the oysters and bubbly at Rappahannock, the most beautiful cheeses at Righteous Cheese, and everything meaty at Red Apron. Pick up gifts galore, from cocktail stirrers to table linens, at Salt and Sundry. Nearby, the Ivy City Smokehouse is putting out first rate barbecue, even if it's a little challenging to get there.
Getting around—and what to get to:
- Navigating the city is easily accomplished on a bike (Capitol Bike Share), and less easily on the much maligned Metro system. When all else fails, there are readily available Uber cars.
- Walk anywhere in Rock Creek Park. If you're a runner, lace up and do the stairs at the Lincoln Memorial for sunrise views that can't be beat. Sunsets (with beverages) are sensational at the W Hotel.
- Washingtonians love our monuments and a walk around the National Mall means a stop at the iconic Vietnam Veterans memorial, the stunning Korean War memorial—and a chance to pet Fala, FDR’s dog](https://www.nps.gov/frde/index.htm), remembered in stone next to his master, our 32nd president. But the little known, quiet and exquisitely beautiful Congressional Cemetery is a lovely oasis. Look for headstones remembering President John Quincy Adams, composer John Phillips Sousa, Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover.
- The Smithsonian Institution is a national treasure, or so said James Smithson, who funded the museums. Thank Smithson for free access, something he advocated so diligently that none of the 19 museums and galleries will ever charge admission. Of course, visit Julia Child’s kitchen, but take kids to the Air and Space Museum to see rockets up close.
- The just reopened Renwick Gallery mounts a new exhibit in July with artworks from their permanent collection—see that, then check out the new outdoor gardens at the National Gallery of Art. Look up and wave to the 15 foot blue chicken overseeing it all.
- Museum lunching is superb at the National Museum of the American Indian. Insiders (and now you) know to shop the museum gift shops for one-of-a-kind finds (each shop has a unique inventory, so shop all of them). Jenny and I agree that the best shops are at the National Building Museum, the Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Newseum, where visitors can stand in front of a green screen to test their news reading skills.
- Free music is everywhere, ranging from Friday happy hour jazz concerts at the National Gallery of Art to free events nightly at the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage to Sunday afternoon concerts at the Phillips Collection.
- And if all you want is a good cup of coffee, hit the Wyedown or Slipstream, or check out local roaster Compass coffee, being served at the brand new and sugariffic Buttercream Bakeshop.
D.C. is waiting to greet visitors. We can't wait til you get here.
What are your favorite spots in D.C.? Tell us in the comments!