Culinary delights in the Capital District – dining out in D.C

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DC - fine dining a cuisines of every variety are widely available

DC – fine dining a cuisines of every variety are widely available

One of the things I love the most about Washington D.C. is that you can eat out every day of the week and never try the same restaurant, or even the same cuisine, twice – the US capital has one of the most diverse food scenes anywhere in the world. You want Ethiopian? We’ve got it! Fancy Mexican, Cuban, Spanish, Turkish or Irish? Not a problem! All-American fare is of course also on the menu, but above all D.C. is the place to get in touch with your adventurous, international foodie side. With new restaurants opening up on a weekly, if not daily, basis, you’re likely to remain spoiled for choice even if you, like myself, visit regularly.

This year has seen a number of interesting places open up; among others B Too, a contemporary Belgian restaurant in Logan Circle, not far from extra hip and happening Dupont Circle, a few metro stops from the centre; Del Campo modelled on a South American estancia with excellent carnivorous tasting menus; and Nopa kitchen & bar, an American brasserie in the Penn Quarter, right next door to the Spy Museum, one of the city’s main attractions away from the monuments and memorials. I opted for lunch at the latter, named after its location, north of Pennsylvania Avenue, and was pleasantly surprised by the imaginative menu. A starter of beetroot and orange salad was followed by their gnocchi main and a side of flash-fried brussels sprouts with pear and white sesame – tasty and reasonably-sized, avoiding the infamous “Stateside plate overload”.

index2Although the restaurant scene might appear to be in constant flux across the capital, there are certainly some long-runners to be found, such as humble empanada joint Julia’s Empanadas, (in several locations) that have been going for 40-odd years. Best areas for dining out within the city limits remain Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and to a lesser extent Georgetown and nearby Washington Harbour. To my annual delight, each time I visit, I find that my favourites have stayed put, while new and interesting culinary havens have been added. This time, as though eating my way around the capital wasn’t enough, I also ventured forth into nearby Maryland and Virginia, to widen my grazing area, as it were.

District of Columbia, although it crams in a lot of nosh, is by no means a large area and the handy metro reaches both Maryland, to the north, south and east and Virginia to the south and west. Less than half an hour from the centre lies leafy Maryland suburb Bethesda, well-known for its artist community, a fun place to dine out in the evenings. Woodmont Avenue is the street to head for. It’s only a short walk from Bethesda metro stop and home to a wide variety of restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment venues. For classy dining, you can’t beat Mon Ami Gabi, a classic French bistro that also happens to have a wonderfully well-stocked bar. It’s always busy, bustling and generally friendly, with great service. For a more casual dining experience, there’s the American Tap Room, down the road, an easy-going bar and grill with local Maryland crab omelette, plenty of beers on tap and excellent bourbon. index

Virginia can hardly bear to be outdone by Maryland in the foodie stakes, especially not seafood, and old town Alexandria, on the Potomac River is one of the best places to eat near the capital. It’s also a lovely day-trip option for the avid sight-seer in search of history, as well as food. Alexandria, usually known quite simply as Old Town, dates back to the late 17th century and has a number of well-preserved, historical buildings. Although reached by metro, another good way to arrive is by boat from Washington Harbour. Once here, take a stroll around the quaint streets, shops and art galleries, before the ultimate blow-out seafood lunch at Fish Market, in King Street, the main drag – expect plenty of crabs, oysters and clam chowder.

index3If Washington D.C. has one food tradition above all others, it’s drink. Cocktails are de rigeur in this city and I don’t just mean during the post-work cocktail hour – here any hour is cocktail hour and when in Rome… At the weekend many establishments do brunch cocktails or champagne brunch, with everything from “bottomless mimosas” (the US version of bucks fizz) and bellinis to bloody caesar, a version of bloody mary that includes clam juice, very popular in these parts. My most hardcore breakfast to date started with a “breakfast martini” that, rather than setting me up for the day, almost put me to sleep.

Breakfast cocktails in all honour, but the more potent mixes are perhaps best enjoyed slightly later in the day, when bartenders really get into their stride. The northern area of Adams Morgan is one of the best for a night out, whether for dinner or cocktails or both. By far the most diverse dining scene, this is the place to sample cuisines from near and far. 18th street and Columbia street pack in French, Southern US, Japanese, Ethiopian, Turkish, plenty of Latin American and much more. To booze it up with the locals, Madams Organ and Bourbon DC are good options with unusual brews on offer, such as Outlaw Whiskey from Alaska and Redemption Rye from Indiana. By then I quite fancied myself a bit of an outlaw in need of redemption and so settled for both for a my last night in D.C. Needless to say I’ll be back.

For more information about Washington DC, click here.

For information about Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia – known as the Capital Region – click here.

By Anna Maria Espsäter

First UK Rights


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