I looked at the calendar and realized I have been living in DC for 10 years now and wonder if Texas has revoked my statehood card. Regardless, DC has really changed in that time span, including its taste palette. No longer do you have to go to New York or San Francisco for good food, DC eats are up there with the best of them. If you are planning a visit to our nation’s capital, here are a few of my favorites to check out.
- Toki Underground (H St., NE DC) – Hands down, ramen noodles are one the most delicious and comprehensive dishes I have encountered (although my Taiwanese background makes me a little biased). Toki Underground’s version of ramen noodles offers rich/complex flavors in their broth and little extras like their homemade Toki endorphin sauce (sriracha on steroids). They also have a great variety of appetizers and side plates like pan fried dumplings (seafood is my favorite) and seasonal vegetables. It’s a small place and they don’t take reservations so wait times can be as long as three hours for dinner (especially in the winter) so get their early.
- Daikaya (Chinatown/Gallery Place, NW DC) – The other popular ramen place is Daikaya (which also has a great Izakaya restaurant in the upper level). Their ramen is also delicious but different flavors from Toki. Their vegetarian ramen probably has more variety but the broth has a milder flavor. Also very delicious. Daikaya can also command long wait times but in my experience the longest wait was 45 minutes to an hour.
- Ethiopic (H St., NE DC) – DC is one of the most diverse cities in the country and is not lacking in Ethiopian food, you can find one almost in any neighborhood. My absolute favorite Ethiopian place is one near my home in the NE called Ethiopic. Order one of their samplers, we like their Vegetarian Sampler with an add-on of beef or fish. Lots of spice and flavor, very satisfying.
- Thai X-ing (U St./Shaw, NW DC) – Thai X-ing is a quirky place. It is situated between row houses near the U St. Corridor and you feel like you are literally eating in someone’s home. The surrounding is kitsch and you may get seated on the second floor and pass by boxes of coconut milk or other Thai staples as you climb those stairs, but you won’t notice because the food is that good. Reservations are required and you are served whatever they decide to make the evening. You start out with a soup and appetizer, a few entrees, and then dessert. It’s BYOB and they will ask and accommodate if you are a vegetarian.
- Red Hen (Bloomingdale, NE DC) – Red Hen is probably our favorite place to dine right now. They specialize in American/rustic cuisine and everything they serve they grow or make themselves (right down to the sausage). I am in love with their pasta dishes and chicken pate starter. The waiters are very knowledgeable about the menu, flavor profiles, and pairings with wine or beer and if you are really into amaros (Italian liquer), they have a good selection. It really appeals to a broad audience (i.e., kid-friendly) which is a bonus. They do take reservations; however, it limited batches. The rest is first come, first serve and could command a long wait time (anywhere from 1-3 hours).
- Founding Farmers (West End, NW DC) – A relative oldie but still goodie is Founding Farmer’s. This is a farm-to-table concept restaurant that serves sizable portions (so you will never leave hungry). They offer great cocktails and a mean chicken and waffles. They take reservations and, again, a great place for families.
Fast Food Eats
- Shake Shack (Various Locations – DuPont, Union Station, Chinatown/Gallery Place) – The New York joint now has three locations in DC! I love a good burger and Shake Shack (dare I say it) is the best burger hands down. The burgers are fresh and I don’t feel particularly guilty afterwards since it is small in size (objects appear larger in photographs than in real life!). I like the DuPont location, especially on the weekends, because it’s less crowded than the other two locations where the majority of tourists and travelers frequent.
- Ben’s Chili Bowl (U St./Shaw, NW DC) – A Washington landmark, Ben’s is where it’s at for chili cheese fries and tasting one of their famous half-smokes. It’s extra delicious as a late-night treat, the day-after guilt comes free with the meal.