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Washington DC Travel and Tourist Information

All About Washington, DC Restaurants

By Ryan Bifulco

Welcome to the Nation’s capitol! Yes, folks talk politics in this town like the rest of us talk about our sport’s teams. But they aren’t really that bad - the D.C. folk really do know how to loosen up those ties. D.C. is a town that loves its Happy Hour – a time when you can catch up with friends or meet new ones.

We saw you smuggle your after-work change of clothes into your cubicle so that you’re ready for the 5 o’clock bell. Go ahead, leave your car in the office garage – you can always cab it home or Metro it back to work the next morning.

Like most cities, Washington, D.C. is a collection of smaller neighborhoods (there are 14 of them), each having its own flavor and charm. Architecture and attitude changes from one block to the other, creating a cultural patchwork that can be fascinating for locals and tourists alike. The city has plenty of energy from all the politics, government, and colleges in town. From the Vietnamese places in Arlington, V.A. to the charming brownstones of Georgetown; from the urban feel of the Connecticut Corridor near Woodley Park and Cleveland Park to the alternative minded Dupont Circle, each area in this city offers up something unique.

One of our favorite things to do in D.C. is to just waste the day or night away on the Mall. But remember, this is not the shopping type. It’s the Quad or grassy park in between all the cool national monuments and museums in the heart of the city. The Smithsonian museums are free and allow you to explore art, history, space, and much more. You also feel the National pride as you stroll thru the Mall. So, even if you hated science class, you’ll still have fun whispering inside the Capitol rotunda. While in the area, you must stop by the Spy Museum - with all its interesting tidbits about the real James Bonds. Just try to remember your alias as you navigate thru the interactive maze of espionage. And, make a reservation since the lines are known to get a bit out of hand.

Worked up an appetite seeing all those landmarks in our nation's capitol? When you’ve had your fill of historical lessons and facts that you’ve forgotten since the 6th grade, it’s time to get your groove on. Here then are our journeyPod Picks for wining and dining your own party (political or not), while in D.C.:


CityZen (Downtown) - Located at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (1330 Maryland Avenue SW, at 12th St.), CityZen’s chef extraordinaire, Eric Ziebold was voted as one of ‘America’s Best New Chef’s’ – and the restaurant one of the ‘Hottest Restaurants in the World.” This American-French restaurant (with Asian roots) boasts soaring ceilings and an exhibition kitchen – where you can watch your scrumptious dishes like foie gras risotto, chicken and dumplings or proscuitto with melon get prepared. Three and five-course tasting menus are also available and will not disappoint. With an 800-bottle wine cellar, a sophisticated lounge, dining area, and a signature martini or champagne cocktail – CityZen will allow you to indulge in a fine culinary journey.

Mate (Georgetown) – An upscale Latin-sushi lounge, this place is simply… hip. Another jewel in the crown of bar guru Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld (creator of Chi-Cha Lounge and Gua-Rapo), this fusion retreat takes over prime corner real estate in one of the last remaining retail spaces at the Ritz-Carlton complex. Known for its verba-mate teas, the restaurant also features imported blends from Argentina mixed with rum and fresh fruit, mojitos and even verba-mate-infused soup. Don’t miss out on the maki-like rolls with zesty Latin ingredients, along with the traditional dishes like platonas. While there’s no dance floor here, Mate turns into a sexy night spot when DJ’s spin. Mate can be found at 3101 K St NW (at 31st St. NW).

Zola (Downtown) – An elegant contemporary place serving American fare, Zola is set amongst restored classic architecture (located in the historic Le Droit Building) and offers an interestingly eclectic wine list. With a little pinch of espionage, patrons can peer through a small spy hole into an adjacent booth and glimpse others feasting on smoked beer and cheddar fondue, roasted lamb tabouleh or potato gnocchi (that’s pronounced enyaw-kees). Though desserts range from simple to sweet, make room for the peanut butter trifle and the chocolate bomb. Zola can be found below the radar at the International Spy museum building at 800 F Street NW (at 8th).

IndeBleu (Downtown) – The motto for this place is: “Mingle below, sup above, seduce throughout.” Combining the intrigue of the Near East, the sophistication and class of Europe, and the style and energy of the capitol of the world, IndeBleu temps you with an experience like no other. Offering a contemporary fusion of French/Indian fare in the main dining room, street foods and world rhythms in the sensual lounge, and playful assortments of cocktail options in the bar –what else do you need? The pillows, sunken nooks and floor-to-ceiling couches do indeed help. This place is especially busy Wednesdays thru Saturdays when DJ’s spin international tunes. IndeBleu can be found at 707 G. St., NW (at 7th St.).

Filomena Ristorante (Georgetown) – One of Washington’s most celebrated authentic Italian restaurants, Filomena is a landmark that has endured the test of time for nearly 25 years. Located in the heart of historic Georgetown (1063 Wisconsin Ave NW, at M St.), “pasta mamas” are known for whipping up enticing homemade pastas in the restaurant’s storefront window. Inside, you’ll be blown away by the lavish portions and the bargain basement (no pun intended – the restaurants is located below street level) $10 lunch buffets. Filomena’s menu takes you on a tour of Italy with its culinary delights, like the pasta mama’s tender ravioli stuffed with Italian cheeses and spinach and gnocchi della. As for a sweet ending of your tour, you won’t miss out by choosing any of the awesome cakes baked daily in Filomena’s own bakery.

Mie N Yu (Georgetown) – This place is so exotic, you’ll be fooled into thinking you’re in a completely different country. Formerly the space of Georgetown Station, everything about this place is a feast for the senses. Nearly every inch of the 7,000-square foot restaurant/bar is adorned with red and fuchsia silks, brocade and velvet, antiques, relics and other colorful trinkets reminiscent of a Moroccan bazaar. A Silk Road theme throughout, Mie N Yu gives anyone and everyone license to recline in the Dragon Lounge, sip cocktails in the Red Baroque dining room and order food and specialty drinks in the Turkish Tent or Tibetan harem room (keep on the lookout for the wrought-iron bird cage). An English-inspired bar, complete with DJs spinning eclectic grooves from across the globe, rounds out this unique dining destination. At 3125 M St. NW (at Wisconsin Ave.).

Local 16 (U Street Corridor) – This place may sound like a place for union workers, but the name really just refers to its location. A dinner-only destination for grown-ups, Local 16 is notches above its neighbors and wonderfully below the radar screen of the “bridge and tunnel crowd.” Eating here means eating with the locals. A split between a hip bar/lounge and a cozy dining room, Local 16 serves amazing dishes like the fried oyster po’ boy and coleslaw and the salmon with haricot verts. After 11 p.m., you’ll notice most of the diners piling out and the locals piling in. Checkout two indoor bars, an outdoor terrace bar, DJ’s and a mixed crowd of folk who just want a pint. Local 16 is located at 1602 U St. NW (at New Hampshire Ave. NW).

LIMA (Downtown) – This resto-lounge on K Street offers strong Latin influences on its menu – with a few international-fusion curveballs to keep things interesting. With a dining room above and a lounge in the basement, LIMA is dark, sultry and sexy. Just be careful of indulging to the point of losing your footing on the “invisible staircase”! Representing a winning combination of cuisine, design and ambiance, LIMA will have your palette tantalized with sensual and savory dishes that include ceviche, salad, steaks and seafood. At 1401 K Street NW (at 14th and K Sts.).

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar (Capitol Hill) – A new wine bar and restaurant in - of all places - Capital Hill. Though it sounds an odd place to open such a trendy, hip restaurant/bar, success speaks for itself. Their menu bears a southern European influence, and it offers the best cheeses and meats of the Italian, French, & Spanish variety - all served in various combinations with olives and other treats on a wood cutting board. Sonoma also has, arguably, the largest collection of wines by the glass or by the flight. Sonoma is located at 223 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE (2nd Street S.E.).

Galileo’s (Foggy Bottom) – Renowned for its Italian and innovative cuisine, Galileo himself would have been proud of this place. It has been recognized by food critics as one of the best Italian restaurants in the country and Roberto Donna as one of the nation’s best chefs. The restaurant’s daily-changing menu offers numerous dining options: a casual meal at the bar, an elegant meal in the main dining room; and a culinary crème-de-la crème experience in a private dining area and kitchen, where Donna prepares the 12-14-course tasting menu and entertains you. FYI: Donna makes his own ham for salami and proscuitto, and his sausages, pastas, mozzarella, marmalades and breads are all made in-house. Galileo’s is located at 1110 21st St. NW (between L & M Streets).

Zengo (Downtown) – A Latin-Asian hotspot, Zengo (which translates to “give n’ take) merges Chef Richard Sandoval’s heritage with his love of Asian fare. Located in the restaurant hot zone near the MCI Center, Zengo is part serious and sophisticated restaurant, part sleek and sexy lounge. With intriguing shareable dishes like tacos filled with pickled ginger and empanadas laden with Thai chicken – this place is definitely worth checking out! The cocktail menu is one place at Zengo where its Latin and Asian interest don’t mix – so stick with the classic caipirinha’s, martinis or sake. Zengo is located at 781 7th St. NW (bet. 7th & H Sts.).

Tapaq Bistro (U Street Corridor) – One of the hottest new places in DC, this five-story Bistro boasts a restaurant, lounge space with multiple bars and a killer roof-top terrace (for all-season use and a 360 degree panoramic view of the city). Embracing the flavors of the Mediterranean from Turkey to Morocco, Tapaq’s tapas-style fare offers an exquisite and elegant blend of taste and presentation. Be forewarned: You may experience a bit of an “attitude” at the door, because Tapaq really does enforce a strict no-jeans, no-sneakers dress code that has been known to ruffle a few feathers. Found at 1336 U St NW (Bet. 14 & U).

Cabanas (Georgetown) – Offering upscale authentic Latin-American fare, coupled with the option to dine indoors or out, Cabanas is another choice in the heart of Georgetown. A place to see-and-be-seen spot, the outdoor patio seating is flanked by palm trees and overlooks the harbor fountains. The menu offers delicious options that range from chili-dusted calamari and shrimp/scallop ceviche to fish tacos and corn/crab fritters. Don’t miss the frozen Mango Margaritas! When weather permits, try to catch an outside table. Found at 3050 K Street NW (at Thomas Jefferson).

Café La Ruche (Georgetown) - This French-inspired old favorite (open since 1979), features contemporary artwork, flags and old photos scattered across the walls in this 19th century building. Known for having some of the best quiche you’ve ever tasted, the menu also showcases traditional French favorites such as potato and leek soup and croquet monsiers. Café La Ruche also offers good wine and superb desserts - all of which can be consumed in the adorable garden-like outdoor seating area that overlooks cobbled streets of Georgetown. Café La Ruche is located at 1039 31st Street NW (at M St. NW).

Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place (Georgetown) – An establishment as old as the waterfront itself, it’s hard to imagine a better view in all of D.C. Resting on the Banks of the Potomac River, this Harbor spot (with views of the Kennedy Center, the Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island) is usually packed with everyone who goes to the waterfront in G-town by boat or otherwise. And, it seems as if every young Washingtonian finds their way here for after-work drinks and seafood. Try the hot crab dip, which always makes for a good start. Tony and Joe’s can be found at 3000 K St NW (at 30th).

Ceiba (Downtown) – Latin inspiration guides the menu and décor at Ceiba. The cuisine bounces through Brazil, the Yucatan, the Caribbean and Cuba – while the décor boasts Mexican tiled floors and tropical murals. Located in the historic Colorado Building (at 701 14th St. NW, at G St.), Ceiba features a multi-leveled dimly-lit dining area filled with patrons chowing down on traditional Latin American dishes of ceviche. Appetizers like the Jamaican crab fritters and foie gras served with corn cake are not to be missed! Adding authentic caipirinhas & mojitos – how can you go wrong?

The Palm (Dupont Circle) - Some institutions never change. If you can't find your Senator on Capitol Hill, you better check The Palm. This is where the city’s most powerful have long been its most loyal patrons. A spot for negotiating and deal-making over a juicy (huge) steak is as infamous as the restaurant’s signature martini! But you don’t need to be a politician to enjoy the great food, white-jacketed waiters, dark suits and high heels here. Keep an eye out for Larry King and Tim Russert as both have been known to pop in. The Palm is located at 1225 19th Street NW (Bet. N & M Sts. NW).

Taste of Carolina (Shaw District) – Feel like Dixie-style dishes, but can’t make your way down to the South? Experience southern food and hospitality at its best at a Taste of Carolina. This restaurant serves up the South in high-style in a two-story townhouse turned restaurant and bar. Representing some good ol’ food, the menu offers a variety of choices, from fried fish sandwiches and BBQ chicken, to Homemade Pound Cake. The bar at Taste of Carolina definitely buzzes at happy hour, but the best seats in the house are at the bay window nook. Keep in mind: you can also find karaoke, poetry reading and live jazz on weekends. A Taste of Carolina is located at 1930 9th Street SW (near T St. NW).

Sequoia Restaurant (Georgetown) – Walk through the doors at Sequoia, and you walk into the land of beauty – beautiful décor (high ceilings, warm lighting and cherry wood), beautiful people (the city’s well-healed elite can be found here) and beautiful views (located right on the Potomac’s Waterfront). Offering indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurants boasts three dining levels and a gorgeous patio area – where the sexy singles swarm to sip their cocktails under the white lights. The restaurant serves everything from fancy burgers to pan-seared Chilean sea bass. You must must try the duck dumplings and crab cakes. Jacket and tie are required. Sequoia is located at 3000 K St. NW (at 30th St. NW).

Old Ebbitt Grille (Downtown) - Established in 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill is the oldest dining saloon in the city. Located across from the White House (and steps away from the museums in downtown Washington), Old Ebbitt serves American Traditional Cuisine, offering the largest selection of oysters in the area. A favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Roosevelt, Old Ebbitt offers casual dining with service to locals and visitors alike – always a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. Old Ebbitt Grille is at 675 15th Street, NW (between F and G).

journeyPod.com is the only place you need to visit for information on the trendiest bars and restaurants, the most luxurious hotels, and the most exclusive parties and shops for discriminating travelers. Visit journeyPod.com for the lowdown on where to go in Atlanta, New York, Miami, LA and other major cities around the world, and listing to our monthly travel podcast for the best in upscale travel and entertainment. If you like the finer things in life, journey to journeyPod.com!

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