Food & Drink

From icons to instant classics: DC's 15 signature dishes

Published On 07/30/2014 Published On 07/30/2014
Signature Dishes DC
Laura Hayes
Central Michel Richard
Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes
Flickr/saikofish
Michael J. Colella
Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes
Thai X-ing
Laura Hayes
Blue Duck Tavern
Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes
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1. Central Michel Richard 1001 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Downtown)

Central Michel Richard is the place to go for quality eats in an unpretentious fashion -- classed-up comfort foods like lobster burgers and baked cheese breads adorn the menu.

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2. Ben's Chili Bowl 1213 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (U Street)

Ben's Chili Bowl has been an iconic part of the DC food landscape since first opening its doors in 1958. Its hot dogs, burgers, and subs are time-tested, Obama-approved classics. Of course, you're really there for the signature smoky chili, which tastes great in a bowl but even better atop a cheesy, onion-y hot dog. Ben's might be cramped, but the sizzling smell is too enticing to pass up.

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3. Jumbo Slice 2341 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Adams Morgan)

Jumbo Slice is open late in Adams Morgan and serves up slices so big they could be used as a blanket, leaving it up to you whether your sleep or eat through the aftermath of your boozier evenings.

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4. Graffiato 707 6th St, Washington, DC 20001 (Chinatown)

Opened by former "Top Chef" Mike Isabella, Graffiato is an innovative Italian eatery in Chinatown (yes, confusing). What's not confusing is the tastes or the fact that there is a ham bar where locally-cured meats are carved to perfection right in front of you. The open wooden bar-style kitchen allows you to converse with the chef as he kneads the dough for your personal wood-fired pie.

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5. Senate Dining Room Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20002 (Capitol Hill)

The Senate Dining Room requires a reservation, and Congress must be in session, but if you can get a spot, you're just one step closer to getting your hands on some famous Senate Bean Soup.

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6. Rasika 633 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Penn Quarter)

Make a reservation well in advance for this Indian fine-dining experience in Penn Quarter, where, after more than a decade on the culinary scene (it more than fills DC's "upscale Indian" gap), the contemporary restaurant still gets packed with professionals both young and old, and plenty of client-wooing dinners. That said, you'll want to eschew jeans on your special night out at Rasika, and perhaps anything white as well, considering you'll be indulging in saucy plates of expertly made classics like chicken tikka masala, tandoori lamb chops, and duck vindaloo. You'd be remiss not to order a side of the fan-favorite palak chaat, too: crisp, lightly fried spinach leaves drizzled with sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney. The white tablecloth? It's a goner.

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7. Rasika West End 1177 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 (West End)

Rasika is an elegantly designed contemporary Indian restaurant with a boundary-pushing menu that still keeps its roots in traditional Indian cuisine. Its wine list also spans across the globe and is hand-selected to complement the menu.

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8. Stoney's 1433 P St NW, Washington, DC 20005 (Logan Circle)

This handsome yet understated Logan Circle sports bar serves up wing platters, nachos, pizzas, and cheap domestic brews -- all the comforting grease and suds you'll need while you watch the latest NFL game. Stoney's has a laid-back neighborhood feel that locals love, but things do tend to get rowdy during game day, particularly when the Denver Broncos, the bar's team of choice, are playing. As you're glued to one of the many TVs, you'll want to indulge in the legendary Super Grilled Cheese, an after-school snack turned bar food with an addictive buttery crunch and obviously-fake-but-obviously-tasty American cheese. Order the original Super (with tomato, bacon, and onion), or ask for it “Freddy Style" and, well, see what happens.

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9. Stoney's On L 2101 L St NW, Ste. 103, Washington, DC 20037 (K Street)

This place has been feeding DC some of the city's best burgers, brews, grilled cheese, and mac and cheese since '68. They've got this pleasing people with awesome food thing down pat.

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10. Thai X-ing 515 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Shaw)

Situated in an old rowhouse on Florida Ave, this quirky Thai spot is BYOB (!), so be sure to bring along your favorite beers, wines, and spirits. Boasting one of the best and cheapest all-vegetarian tasting menus in DC, Thai X-ing serves market-fresh, vegan, and gluten-free dishes, plus a Sunday night vegetarian menu that -- lucky for you -- always includes chef/owner Taw Vigsittaboot‘s signature pumpkin curry, featuring a special kind of squash called kabocha that makes for a creamy concoction with just the right amount of heat.

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11. The Red Hen 1822 1st St NW , Washington, DC 20001

The open kitchen, bare brick walls, and simple, maple furnishing make you feel like you're in your own home when you eat at The Red Hen, as does the comfort of their classic Italian and American dishes. Just upscale of what you'd find in a chain, roasted chicken with black truffle polenta, house made cavatelli with spicy lamb, and grilled swordfish show impressive culinary chops but don't break the bank. They stick to simplicity here, even with its global wine list, and it works.

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12. Blue Duck Tavern 1201 24th St NW, Washington, MD 20037

A popular brunch, lunch, and dinner spot inside the West End's Park Hyatt, the Blue Duck Tavern offers up hearty fare with the likes of pork belly, short rib hash, and apple pie on the menu. Herald the arrival of spring by brunching al fresco on their outdoor patio, where you might sneak a peek at some seasonal flora and fauna (including a small family of those eponymous ducks!).

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13. Rose's Luxury 717 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003 (Capitol Hill)

Situated in a converted townhouse on Capitol Hill, Rose's Luxury is a twinkle-lit, farmhouse-chic restaurant that draws crowds for its bold small plates. Unfortunately for those crowds, it doesn't accept reservations. Get here early for dinner and you can nab a front-row seat at the chef's counter overlooking the open kitchen, where shareable dishes like Thai-marinated pork blade steak and boudin-stuffed jalapeño are prepared with precision.

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14. Cork Wine Bar 1720 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Logan Circle)

Imagine you're at a swanky bar, where there is wine by the hundreds and above you a woman is explaining its origin and content, get this, unpretentiously. And then you decide you want to indulge your sweet tooth with a warm apple crostada topped with bourbon vanilla ice cream, you would be, my friend, at Cork Wine Bar.

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15. Greek Deli 1120 19th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Greek Deli has been going strong since 1990, serving hearty and loving portions of delicious Greek fare -- ranging from gyros and specialty veggie platters to a tasty avgolemono soup that comes with homemade bread.

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16. Old Ebbitt Grill 675 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 (Downtown)

Depending on your tastes, it will either be extremely appealing or off-putting that the Old Ebbitt Grill is the oldest saloon in Washington, once frequented by Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Roosevelt, and McKinley. Just steps away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Old Ebbitt’s Beaux-Arts façade begs you to enter for a cocktail, while its mahogany and velvet booths and bars set in marble, brass, and beveled glass implore you to stay for a few more as you imagine what kind of political secrets and scandals were shared here. As you’re doing your best Woodward and Bernstein impressions, munch on breakfast, lunch, brunch (if you’re there on a weekend), or dinner. The menus certainly have a Southern slant (chicken and waffles, crab cakes, shrimp and grits), though you can also opt for house-made cannelloni, pappardelle, and ravioli or flash-fried swordfish tacos.