Washington, D.C., has seen an explosion of dining and local craft breweries in recent years, making it a destination for much more than its monuments, free museums, and history (though there’s definitely that, too). Here’s our plan for how to make the most of what’s hot in our nation’s capital right now.
Where to Stay
If you’re hoping to explore as much of DC as possible, the area around Chinatown and the convention center makes for a good home base, with access to the red, green, and yellow Metro lines nearby, as well as plenty of bus routes. In the neighborhood, the brand new Marriott Marquis is especially convenient to all of the new restaurants and high-end shopping popping up in the nearby CityCenterDC development—which has several popular dining options (inside the Marriott, there’s also a solid bourbon bar called The Dignitary). Nearby, in Penn Quarter, a favorite standby is Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco, which is located in a National Historic Landmark building, and features a killer restaurant patio for drinks or dinner in any season.
What to Eat
With the city’s ongoing dining boom, there are too many great restaurants to manage in just a weekend. Among the newer restaurants, though, there’s nothing quite like Maketto, a hybrid restaurant/bakery/coffee shop/retail store on H Street NE serving dishes like Taiwanese fried chicken, Cambodian pork noodle soup, and steamed bao. Over in Bloomingdale, meanwhile, Red Hen is an Italian neighborhood restaurant well worth the trek, thanks to perfect dishes like the mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu.
Local favorite Panda Gourmet may be located inside a Days Inn, but it has a great selection of local brews, and authentic, spicy, and delicious Sichuan food to soak it all up. For a quicker meal or on your way out of town, D.C. dining king José Andrés recently ventured into fast-casual territory with Beefsteak, a build-your-own-vegetable-bowl concept that is affordable and tasty.
And then, there’s the most important thing: breakfast. If you’re up early, grab a tigelle egg sandwich from the Red Apron butchery location in Penn Quarter, where toppings include tasso ham and pimento cheese or chorizo, cheddar, pickled onion, and sour cream. Late risers can also seek out Sundevich, whose breakfast sandwiches are globally themed, meaning the Oslo has smoked salmon, cream cheese, and capers, while the Mexico City has ham, avocado, and chipotle butter. For a more leisurely Sunday breakfast, check out the jazz brunch at Boss Shepherd’s downtown, where you can try their famous fried chicken paired with waffles. (Though the brunch is on hold until late September, so do check to make sure it’s open when you visit.)
What to Do
You can’t come to the city without a trip to the National Mall & Memorial Parks to see everything from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial to the Tidal Basin and all the Smithsonian museums. But the best way to see the Mall—especially during a muggy summer—is by bike in the early morning or evening. Rent one from the Capital Bikeshare stands all across the city and explore American history, perhaps even with a longer jaunt to the East Potomac Park, where you can watch planes land across the Potomac River at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. For your museum fix, explore the exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery right near Chinatown.
One of the greatest ways to pass an afternoon in D.C. wasn’t possible a few years ago. The exploding craft beer scene means there are now enough local breweries for a beer crawl. Start off at Bluejacket in the Navy Yard, where the first tour of each Saturday begins at 11 a.m. Then at 1 p.m., the tasting rooms open both at Atlas Brew Works and DC Brau. Not only are both conveniently located near Panda Gourmet, they’re also within reach of the beautiful National Arboretum and all the food stalls at Union Market. Before dinner at Red Hen, stop in for a beer at Right Proper Brewing Company in Shaw—or just find a great selection of local beers right around the corner from the restaurant at Bloomingdale’s best bar, Boundary Stone.