There’s no shortage of tasty meals to be had in our nation’s capital. A decidedly international city with international cuisines to show for it, Washington, D.C. has a diverse food scene as it is delicious. As a neighborhood-driven city, a range of communities across the District have long been vying for the title of “Best Eating.” It’s a competition that residents and visitors alike are only too happy to judge and results in a whole lot of winning (and chowing down).
Foodies across D.C. (and the country, for that matter), flock to Shaw in the northwest corner of the city. A historically Black neighborhood, home to famed venues like the 9:30 Club and the Howard Theatre, being hip is just part of this community’s DNA. And that certainly extends beyond the arts and culture scene, and into the food world. Here are just a few of our favorites in the area.
Whether you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy wall, an Instagram-worthy piece of churro french toast, or an Instagram-worthy taco, you’ll find it all at Rebel Taco. Once a food truck, popular demand allowed the husband and wife team behind this joint to open up their first brick-and-mortar location in D.C. in the midst of the pandemic. And thanks to both delivery and takeout options (there’s a dedicated takeout window in the space), locals have been flocking to Rebel Taco for its delicious Mexican fare. Don’t miss out on the Peking duck taco, which fuses the owner’s Chinese and Jamaican heritage into a single delicious bite.
If you’re looking to cross an ocean instead of a land border when it comes to your international flavors, head to Supra, one of the few Georgian restaurants, not only in D.C., but in the country. While you may not know much about the cuisine from this Eastern European nation, Supra does an excellent job of turning novices into evangelists. From their signature khachapuri – a bread boat filled with cheese, egg yolk, and butter – to soup dumplings that bear a striking resemblance to those of Chinese origin to beautiful skin contact wines, Supra is one of D.C.’s most widely lauded destinations to expand your palette.
Chef David Deshaies knows the staying power of a hearty bowl of grits, a crisp caesar salad, and the comfort of chicken soup. He also knows how to elevate these classic dishes with some French flair. At Unconventional Diner, Deshaies and his team are pouring love and technique into familiar favorites with divine results. The menu is approachable yet refined, with price points that are more than reasonable. It’s no wonder that Unconventional Diner has quickly become a favorite among D.C. residents.
No list of restaurants in D.C. would be complete without Convivial, a modern French restaurant that is lauded by critics and hungry diners alike. Whereas sometimes French fine dining can be pretentious, Convivial manages to avoid this potential pitfall by staying surprisingly down-home with its menu offerings. Sure, during brunch, you could get a croque madame or monsieur, but you could also get a fried chicken sandwich (all are fantastic, by the way). And while French comfort food staples like cassoulet are featured on the dinner menu, so too is an elegant twist on shrimp and grits. Really, you can’t go wrong regardless of which side of the menu – European or American – you choose.
With a Michelin star and a dedicated following, Jeremiah Langhorne and the team at Dabney have long called the Shaw neighborhood home. With an open hearth and wood-fired grill, this restaurant is distinctively homey, and yet effortlessly elegant. There’s no hiding the fact that this is a D.C. restaurant with D.C.-area foods – you’ll find favorites like fried sugar toads, cornbread, and chocolate chess pie, alongside a constantly rotating menu that varies by the season and available ingredients. Check out the Dabney Cellar for a drink if you don’t have time for a full meal.
A relative newcomer to the Shaw food scene is Nina May, a restaurant inspired by the names of the co-owners’ daughters. During the day, it’s a casual cafe, and in the evening, it’s a romantic spot to bring your date (or bring food home from). The family-style restaurant sources ingredients that all come within 150 miles of D.C., which means that the menu is constantly changing (and often offers unique specialties, like a Feast of the Seven Fishes). Meant to evoke feelings of a large family dinner, Nina May’s food is just as good enjoyed at home as it is at one of the restaurant’s communal tables.
In a city known for its Ethiopian food, it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. Not so at Chercher, which has also been recognized by the Michelin guide. Succulent lamb is paired with tangy, signature injera, but herbivores will delight over the many and varied vegetable combinations that are served in heaping portions on large platters. In fact, popular demand resulted in additional seating being added in 2018, and today, Chercher is more than capable of fielding multiple delivery and to-go orders all across the District.
With a location in both Shaw and by the water in Navy Yard, this German beer garden is one the best places to grab a brew and a bite when it’s warm out, and still an excellent place to get a pint delivered during the pandemic. Not only will you find local brews on tap, but you’ll also be able to source beers from further west (like Belgium and Germany). The food is none too shabby either — unsurprisingly, the burger is one of the best around.
If you’re looking for a wine bar with knowledgeable sommeliers, look no further than Maxwell Park, which like Dacha, has a home in both Shaw and in Navy Yard. What we love best about Maxwell Park is its cleverly organized menu that groups bites and wines together to create the perfect sip and taste — and of course, the range of vino on the menu is nothing to sneeze at either. And of course, you can buy your favorite wines by the bottle.
Mezcal and mole lovers will delight in the offerings at Espita, a Shaw mainstay known for its delectable tacos, unique salsas, and captivating decor. This is Mexican cooking at its finest, without any pretense of being fused with another cuisine. But as the team is quick to note, while it’s authentic, that odesn’t make it “traditional” in the boring sense. Don’t miss out on the Chamorro, a crispy pork shank cooked confit carnitas style, and served with mole manchamanteles, pickled red cabbage, and tortillas.