So, it’s your first time in Washington, D.C. You crossed everything on your to-do list from touring the Smithsonian museums and the Mall to shopping around Georgetown. By now, you probably worked up a serious appetite. As it goes, no trip is complete without stopping to try exquisite food while surrounded by history and characteristic ambiance. If you are a food-obsessed traveler, this list of must-try iconic restaurants is for you.
Old Ebbitt Grill
How would you enjoy eating at the oldest saloon in the nation’s capital? In 1856, William Ebbitt opened the bar and restaurant at his boarding house. While changing many locations throughout the years, the historic bar and restaurant is said to have hosted presidents like Ulysses Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt. With its antique gas chandeliers, marble staircase, Victorian bentwood chairs, and wall paintings displaying patriotic scenes, the Old Ebbitt Grill has a traditional but charming ambiance that still preserves its luster. It is advisable to try their famous breakfast menu, the signature Oyster Bar, and of course, Walter’s Favorite. Make sure to make a reservation ahead as it’s always crowded.
675 15th Street, NW / 202-347-4800 / ebbitt.com
Ben’s Chili Bowl
You can’t simply visit D.C. without trying its local specialty, half-smoke. Located on the once infamous U Street that transcended to an eclectic corridor, the Washington landmark has survived through race riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King and tough times during the ’70s and ’80s. For over 50 years, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a melting pot for all walks of life, from the famous to the locals. Former President Barack Obama, Bill Cosby, and Hillary Clinton also grabbed a bite at this bustling establishment. The D.C. signature half-smoke, is a half-pork and half-beef sausage that is smoked and served with chili sauce – perfect for late night cravings! P.S. It’s alright to go for seconds.
1213 U Street, NW / 202-667-0058 / http://benschilibowl.com/
Since its establishment in 1933, this pub has served every president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. The Georgetown eatery is best known for its romantic side as it is where John F. Kennedy popped the question to Jackie Bouvier on the night of June 24, 1953. Ever since, couples make arrangements to be seated at the “proposal booth” (with a brass engraved plaques and all) to commemorate the special occasion. The “dugout” room, where President Lyndon B. Johnson frequently visited to sip his favorite cocktail, is another preferable corner to get a feel for history inside the dimly lit and cozy wooden setting, diners can enjoy classic American food, such as Oyster Stew, Shepherd’s Pie, and Meatloaf (Richard Nixon’s favorite).
1264 Wisconsin Ave., NW / 202-333-7370 / martinstavern.com
Ready for an elegant dining experience with some of Georgetown’s literati? Reserve your seat from one of the six traditional dining rooms at the 1789 Restaurant, each with a distinct atmosphere and decorated with antique relics, paintings, and china. While the restaurant opened in 1960, its Federal period building located in Georgetown dates back to mid-1800s. The name comes from an important date in Washington’s history where the U.S. Constitution was ratified and Georgetown was founded. The upscale restaurant offers outstanding service and contemporary American cuisines that will indulge your tastebuds – and your wallet, too! Some favorites are Beef Tenderloin, Butter-Poached Lobster (you won’t regret it), and Colorado Rack of Lamb.
1226 36th Street NW / 202-965-1789 / 1789restaurant.com
Occidental Grill & Seafood
Situated near the White House at the entry level of renowned Willard Hotel, the Occidental has been serving fresh seafood and chops for over a century. The restaurant yells traditional with walls covered in portraits of every president. Its roots and historic timeline is what makes this place extraordinary. The Occidental is a watering hole for most important figures such as presidents, senators, and literary scholars. Fun fact: ABC News correspondent John Scali met with Soviet Embassy Counselor Alexander Fomin at the Occidental to bring closure to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Martin Luther King also dined here. With a wide array of brunch, lunch, and dinner menus, the Daily Oysters on the Half Shell and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake are a must-try.
1475 Pennsylvania Avenue NW / 202-783-1475 / occidentaldc.com
This classical hotel located in Dupont Circle has passed the test years after years with its remarkable hospitality and fine dining. Founded in 1922, the guesthouse and its restaurant have hosted numerous people around the world, including soldiers and politicians. The restaurant is most famous for its weekend brunches with Ispni Trio, Steak & Eggs, and warm donuts. If it fits your schedule, stop by for live jazz entertainment at the fireplace lounge taking place every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings.
1739 N Street NW / 202-785-1277 / tabardinn.com