The Washington D.C. Guide

Locals say the vibe in DC, from popularity of neighborhoods to the real estate market, changes depending on the administration. While we can’t tell for sure, we do notice a palpable shift in fashionable areas of town as this term comes to a close. A previously hot Georgetown seems to now have more cupcake shops than restaurants, while an edgier U Street and the urban Chinatown/Penn Quarter area boom. Check out the best of DC’s most happening neighborhoods plus our new and classic favorites from all around the nation’s capital.

Activities & Culture | Bars & Restaurants | Hotels | Shop

Dupont Circle Afternoon

Dupont Circle Afternoon


Dupont Circle offers a myriad of places to eat, drink, shop, and hang out. Catch up on reading at Kramerbooks, grab dinner at Nora or Little Serrow, stop in for a vodka at The Russia House or simply relax by the fountain in the circle and enjoy the aspiring musicians and prime people-watching.

Georgetown & the Canal

Georgetown & the Canal


Don’t let the crowds on shop-laden M Street deter you from this picturesque area. Hop off the beaten path and head north towards Prospect Street for a stroll along the beautiful townhouse-lined, cobblestone streets, stopping for a sandwich at the charming university deli Booeymonger. Or head south for a walk along the canal, taking a break in Cady’s Alley, for a peek into DC’s design district.

National Mall

National Mall


Aside from being a great place to stroll, the National Mall is lined with the amazing (and free) Smithsonian museums. We particularly love the National Gallery, chock full of contemporary and Modern art, and the National Air and Space Museum, a fun and interactive place for kids and families.

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park


This large urban natural area bisects the city and features public park facilities, including a golf course, a tennis stadium, an outdoor concert venue, a planetarium, playgrounds and more.

Jaleo

Jaleo

480 Seventh St. NW, Downtown | 202.628.7949


José Andrés laid the foundation for the Chinatown/Penn Quarter dining scene, with a number of unique restaurants within just a few blocks. (Mediterranean Zaytinya and Mexican-inspired Oyamel have also become neighborhood favorites.) Jaleo introduced authentic Spanish tapas to the city when it originally opened in 1993. The impressive menu remains, with a slight revamp including additions like black-footed Spanish pig’s feet and six new types of gin and tonics (one of Andrés’ favorite drinks). Barcelona-based designer and architect Juli Capella’s goal was to express the meaning of Jaleo (translation: merrymaking and revelry) and she succeeds. From the bright pops of color to copious beaded curtains, all that’s missing is Almodóvar.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl

1213 U St. NW, Cardozo | 202.667.0909


D.C. natives will tell you that Ben’s Chili Bowl is the most D.C. place in D.C. They have multiple locations (including one in the Ronald Reagan airport, at Nationals Park, and FedEx Field) but the original one is on U Street. It’s the kind of beloved dive spot where you order at the counter (although table service is available for parties of five ore more), and you don’t come for the salad bowl. As the name suggests, it’s all about the chili dogs, chili burgers, and chili fries. That said, there are a lot of veg-friendly options, from vegetarian chili to veggie burgers.

Marvin

Marvin

2007 14th St. NW, Cardozo | 202.797.7171


With a soundtrack of funk, ska, and jazz created by a member of Thievery Corporation, a menu that blends Belgian classics with the flavors of the neighborhood (think fried chicken with Belgian waffles), and a very happening year-round rooftop beer garden, Marvin is one of the coolest places on the block. Go upstairs on the weekend to party or downstairs for a relaxed meal during the week.

Taylor Gourmet

Taylor Gourmet

1200 19th St. NW, Dupont Circle | 202.775.2005


Taylor Gourmet is the blood, sweat, and tears of two Philadelphia transplants who opened the chain’s first deli after determining there wasn’t a single good Philly-style hoagie spot in all of D.C. Today the chain is many locations strong, making it a lunchtime staple for everyone from college students to President Obama. The salads are perfectly suitable if you’re trying to keep lunchtime healthy, but the real order here is anything on their freshly baked bread (which gets delivered daily). The Italian sandwich and the Philly cheesesteak are obviously excellent, though anything involving their fried chicken cutlets is also worth a try. They’re expanding fast, with locations in Mount Vernon Triangle, H Street Corridor, and Cardozo.

Makoto

Makoto

4822 Macarthur Blvd. NW, Foxhall Crescent | 202.298.6866


Makoto is some of the best and most authentic Japanese in D.C., and perhaps the country. The multi-course tasting menu is a relative bargain for the gastronomy that arrives before you, course after course, in this shoebox of a space. The no-shoe rule means you can get a good look what socks the senator next to you is wearing. This is a true experience.

Little Serow

Little Serow

1511 17th St. NW, Dupont Circle


This is the little sister to Dupont Circle’s acclaimed Komi, which is also very much worth the visit if you have the budget. It’s just as ambitious, though more affordable, and teeny tiny, where they offer a set $49 Isaan-style dinner, which is less of a tasting menu than it is a family-style meal. The menu changes weekly, and they only accept walk-ins.

Central Michel Richard

Central Michel Richard

1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Downtown | 202.626.0015


This French-American bistro comes from one of DC’s most celebrated chefs. Here, you’ll find a more casual experience than MIchel Richard’s formal flagship without compromising craft or quality. Central serves everything from French classics like frog’s legs, to playful takes on American comfort foods, to whimsical creations like the “faux gras,” made of chicken livers. The upscale bistro features lots of wood, pale leather, and exposed wine racks, and is almost always bustling. It’s perfect for a fun lunch or celebratory dinner.

Minibar

Minibar

405 8th St. NW, Downtown | 202.393.0812


As a study in avant-garde cooking and molecular gastronomy, Minibar highlights Andrés’ time with Ferran Adrià of famed (and now former) El Bulli in Spain. Meals here are a delightful combination of imagination, science, and technique (and perhaps a bit of magic). Over the 27 courses you may try anything from cotton candy eel to popcorn blasted with liquid nitrogen. As weird as the dishes may sound, the inventiveness does not compromise taste. It’s not easy reservation to get and is pricey, but it’s more than a meal here—it’s one of the most exciting dining experiences around.

Bourbon Steak

Bourbon Steak

2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, West End | 202.944.2026


Bourbon, located in the Four Seasons, serves some of the best steak in the city, from a 50-day dry-aged ribeye to a wagyu flat iron and more. But what makes this Michael Mina restaurant a standout is also the incredible seafood, from local oysters to his signature lobster pot pie, and impressive new American dishes. The trio of duck fat fries and black truffle rolls, compliments of the chef, foreshadow the decadence to follow. Cocktails are particularly well-made using small batch cordials and homemade bitters, making the bar and lounge great for an evening drink and small bites if you don’t have the expense account for a full meal.

Restaurant Nora

Restaurant Nora

2132 Florida Ave. NW, Dupont Circle | 202.462.5143


Organic dining pioneer Nora Pouillon opened Restaurant Nora in 1999 as America’s first certified organic restaurant. The fantastic seasonal menu, which remains unflinchingly devoted to organic and biodynamic practices, attracts politicians and environmentalists alike. Get the four-course tasting menu (vegetarian option also available) and let chef decide for you. You won’t be disappointed.

Kaz Sushi Bistro

Kaz Sushi Bistro

1915 I St. NW, Downtown | 202.530.5500


It’s all about the incredible sushi here, a fact that the business-heavy lunch crowd appreciates. The best seat in the house is the sushi bar, where you can watch the chefs preparing the excellent and inventive nigiri like the outrageously good seared salmon belly with sweet soy lemon or tuna with foie gras miso, and many more. They even blend their own low-sodium soy sauce, mixing in mirin and dashi. For what you get, the prices are great, and it manages keep a pretty low profile.

Montmartre

Montmartre

327 7th St. SE, Capitol Hill | 202.544.1244


Though the eponymous neighborhood is in Paris, the hearty French comfort food at this cozy bistro tucked away in Capitol Hill is decidedly from the South: succulent braised rabbit leg to classic cassoulet and more. The atmosphere is true bistro—intimate, inviting, and casual, which also describes the prices. The excellent brunch features mussels done four ways and a killer Eggs Benedict. For a perfect D.C. outing, pair with a pre-or-post stroll through nearby Eastern Market, which is full of farmer’s market stalls and local artisans on weekends.

Rasika

Rasika

1177 22nd St. NW, West End | 202.466.2500


This is the second location of the popular Penn Quarter original, and it’s stunning, from the teal booth pods to the giant glass walls and 3-D wooden ceilings, while remaining elegant and understated, quite like the excellent modern Indian menu. Don’t miss the super tasty Palak Chaat, crispy baby spinach, or the Dal Dhungaree, smoked lentils, which you’ll need a lot of buttery naan to soak up.

The Tabard Inn

The Tabard Inn

1739 N St. NW, Dupont Circle | 202.331.8528


The brick-walled garden patio in this historic hotel is perhaps the most romantic dinner setting in town. The New American menu features local and seasonal ingredients, with a focus on fresh seafood and meats. Brunch in the garden on a sunny day is particularly pleasant, including the waffles and homemade donuts, and crab cakes and oysters.

The Gibson

The Gibson

2009 14th St. NW, Cardozo | 202.232.2156


Behind a nondescript entrance on the 14th Street stretch is the bar that began the mixology craze in DC: The Gibson. Serving expertly-made cocktails in a sexy, low-lit seating-room only, this place is great for a date. Make a reservation to avoid the lines and enjoy one of the many house concoctions in the calming, elegant space. For a rowdier time, the outdoor patio opens in nice weather.

Columbia Room

Columbia Room

124 Blagden Alley NW, Logan Circle | 202.316.9396


Though à la carte drinking is an option at this reservation-only cocktail den, the meticulously-crafted cocktail tasting menu is the real reason to come. Each party gets their own personal mixologist—they’re all extremely knowledgeable and take their craft very seriously (they chop their own ice, for example). Expect to spend two hours in this artful drinking experience, with a small plate in between.

Jack Rose

Jack Rose

2007 18th St. NW, Adams Morgan | 202.588.7388


Located in nightlife-heavy Adams Morgan, the three-story saloon Jack Rose is usually as stocked as the shelves, which boast over 1,500 bottles, including over 100 rare Kentucky whiskey varieties and some pretty great Scotch (Bruichladdich and Glen Grant). There’s no shortage of well-crafted cocktails, like the eponymous blend of applejack and grenadine, which are best enjoyed on the fantastic and spacious rooftop in warmer months.

Off the Record

Off the Record

800 16th St. NW, Downtown | 202.638.6600


Tucked away in the basement of The Hay Adams hotel, this grown-up lounge offers a taste of old Washington. Everything seems like a little secret down here amidst the alcove seating and sinful red velvet hues. We’re sure the staff, who make some pretty killer cocktails, have overheard an important story or two.

DC_City_Guide-27-728x546.jpg

Dupont Circle Hotel

1500 New Hampshire Ave. NW | 202.483.6000


No word of a lie, their beds are magic. And the comfort theme extends to the oversize rooms and the heated bathroom floors. On top of that, the location, on its namesake roundabout, quite honestly can’t be beat: it’s 10 minutes on foot to 14th Street, where you’ll find every bar and restaurant worth mentioning, and 30-minute walks in each direction to Georgetown and the Mall (not an actual mall, the Mall is a beautiful tree-lined park). On the other hand, if you’d rather not leave, there’s plenty of cocktails to be had downstairs at Bar Dupont, the best and most lively watering hole in the neighborhood.
The Hays Adam

The Hays Adam

800 16th St. NW, Downtown | 202.638.6600


The Hay Adams is as classic a hotel as you’ll find in D.C. It’s named after John Hay (who served as personal secretary to Lincoln, U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., and Secretary of State) and Henry Adams (historian, Harvard professor, grandson of President John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of President John Adams)—who both lived in homes where the hotel now stands. Many historic details (like original wood paneling) have been preserved, but the building also underwent major renovation in the early 2000s to make a stay there feel all the more luxurious. And kids tend to be impressed by the location—you’re literally steps from the White House, blocks from the National Mall, the Smithsonians are nearby, and the panoramic views of it all are pretty awesome.

Hotel Monaco

Hotel Monaco

700 F St. NW, Downtown | 800.649.1202


Located across from The National Portrait Gallery, this luxury boutique hotel is set in an old post office that’s now a national landmark. The eclectic décor is inviting and vibrant. Though the rooms can run a bit small due to the historic nature of the building, they are not lacking in comfort or amenities, and each is distinct from the next.

The Four Seasons Washington D.C.

The Four Seasons Washington D.C.

2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, West End | 202.342.0444


Located in charming Georgetown (cobblestone streets, beautiful row houses, C&O Canal waterways), this Four Seasons is a great option, particularly if the hustle of downtown doesn’t appeal. If you’re traveling with teens on the verge of college years, you can easily stop by the campuses of Georgetown University and George Washington University, which are both about a mile from the hotel, in either direction. The rooms here are contemporary, smartly designed, and very comfortable for traveling families (the hotel recently got a $13 million facelift). It has all the amenities you’d need for a family trip, plus babysitting services.

The Palomar

The Palomar

2121 P St. NW, Dupont Circle | 202.448.1800


This chic Kimpton hotel offers modern, unique design with spacious, meticulous guest rooms. The location right off Dupont Circle offers prime access to the best of the city’s dining, shopping and nightlife, within walking distance.

W Washington D.C.

W Washington D.C.

515 15th St. NW, Downtown | 202.661.2400


Converted from the historic Hotel Washington, this now modern meets Renaissance hotel has one of the best views in the city, so even if you can’t stay, go for a drink on the P.O.V. rooftop bar. Known for their flash factor, this particular W includes a Jean Georges steakhouse, J & G, and DC’s very first Bliss Spa.

citycenterdc_post_events.jpg

City Center DC & Others


Shopping in DC is admittedly limited beyond the chains and department stores you’ll find in every city, but there are two places worth hitting up. Relish (3312 Cady’s Alley NW) in Georgetown sells the Simone Rocha, Marni, Sacai and Dries Van Noten pieces that will help you stand out from the conservative politico types. Redeem (1810 14th St. NW), on the other hand, goes by an all-neutral, Rick Owens–reminiscent dress code and keeps clothes by Assembly and Won Hundred, among others, in stock.