Washington D.C. has earned a reputation as a city of government and diplomacy due in part to it being the capital of the United States. But within the past few years, D.C. has also been on the rise thanks to a food scene that takes the best of the city’s spirit and amplifies it to levels that attract the elite of the culinary world. Foodies that want to dive right in can't go wrong with these unique eateries.
At the new and wildly popular Bantam King, ramen rules the roost. Literally. Chicken ramen, which is a newer take on the Japanese staple, is the focus at the cozy restaurant just a block from the Capital One Center in Chinatown. The vibe is casual, with pop-art decorating the walls. As for the ramen, it's served up in enthralling ways from the traditional Shoyu Ramen to the Hiyashi Chuka, which is made with chicken chorizo. They also serve a great take on Nashville hot chicken served with steamed rice and a bold new dessert item – the fried chicken skin ice cream sandwich.
Born out of a desire to give people food directly from the land, Founding Farmers was opened in 2008 as a collaboration between the North Dakota Farmers Union and key area restauranteurs. Today it’s so in demand that they’ve opened three locations throughout D.C. and in Virginia, along with two sister restaurants. Every menu item is made with ingredients which are either locally sourced or created in-house daily, making for a farm-to-table experience that ranks among the best in the country.
Just blocks away from The White House sits Sax, a restaurant that makes you feel as if you’ve walked into an Yves Saint Laurent show at Paris Fashion Week with its elegant ambiance. Sax serves as a restaurant and club with a distinctly French-American feel from the plush booths to the glass enclosed cabaret stage above the main bar where acrobats and burlesque dancers perform. And as the night moves on, the place becomes one of D.C.’s most electric club spaces to let yourself go in.
The vibrant Penn Quarter district became even more so with the arrival of Oyamel, an ode to the scintillating culinary offerings of Mexico. Created by the globally renowned chef, Jose Andres, Oyamel is a buzzing hotspot, taking its name and décor from a famed tree that is the refuge of monarch butterflies that migrate from the U.S. to Mexico. The carefully curated menu offers everything from sea bass ceviche to savory pozole and even tacos made with the Oaxacan delicacy of chapulines – sautéed grasshoppers. After that, you’re primed for a drink or two and Oyamel has a hearty list which includes colorful cocktails like the Rosa de Ponche and some premium mezcal available in tasting flights curated by resident experts. They’ve also got a great late night menu perfect for night owls.
This restaurant and lounge is inspired by the passionate pride of Spain and is the place where Chef Jose Andres made his name in the early 1990’s. Located in the Penn Quarter area, Jaleo’s claim to fame lies in its selection of tapas with choice Iberico meats and gut-busting paellas. And you don’t want to leave here without having something from their wine and sangria menu that showcases some of the best that Northern Spain has to offer.
Pork lovers rejoice – this eatery located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood is all about the swine from nose to tail. Ensconced in a roadhouse-styled décor, diners can chow down on a Southern-influenced menu with starters like fried green tomatoes. One standout item that pulls crowds in is their “face bacon” - an appetizer that is essentially what it sounds like. There’s even garlic “pork wings” and bacon-wrapped peaches on hand, and a craft beer menu featuring some of the best from East Coast breweries.
This restaurant on the H Street Corridor was inspired both by Greek mythology and the Atlas neighborhood it sits in. Inside, it’s actually two different dining experiences in one. There’s the main restaurant that offers modern American fare along with a cocktail menu featuring specialties like “The Revenant”, and then there is an upstairs lounge that functions as a concept dining space with themes rotating on a monthly basis from the interior to the menu.
It’s fitting that right by Embassy Row in downtown D.C. lies Rural Society, a sleek bistro that showcases a modern take on the Argentinian steakhouse. The restaurant is part of the Loews Madison Hotel and has a great mix of patrons from all walks of life in the city. The food is simply mouth-watering, with flavorful tenderloin steaks fresh off of the wood-fired grill to go with a select assortment of sweetbreads and a full-fledged Fugazzeta (Argentine pizza) menu that complements their wine library.
Heading to Austin, Texas anytime soon? Make sure you get yourself a Freak Shake!