DC Eater has put together a diverse list of 15 spots to seek out for everything from a three-course supper to a quick bite. Here’s where to head for a bite before or after a performance.
The Kennedy Center is a world-class venue for the arts, drawing crowds nightly to its many theaters inside. That leaves a lot of hungry patrons wandering the nearby streets for a satisfying meal before or after a show.
Diners looking for an upscale experience don’t have to look far, thanks to the building’s on-site Roof Terrace Restaurant. Across the street, Kingbird at the Watergate Hotel makes for another special occasion dinner spot, as does the nearby Marcel’s with one of the most robust Champagne selections in town. Come next month, the neighborhood will get a new wine-centric restaurant with the arrival of Notti 824 inside Arc the Hotel.
Anyone with a budget or time constraints can eat well, too. Grab a slice of New York-style pizza at Wiseguy, graze on a cheeseburger and fries at Burger, Tap and Shake, or swing by Bindaas for a spread of street-inspired Indian tapas.
Note: The featured restaurants are not ranked. The map is arranged geographically from north to south.
1. Blue Duck Tavern
Washington, DC 20037
True to its name, the Michelin-starred menu here centers around elevated and approachable American tavern cooking. Seasonal vegetables and local meats drive the kitchen’s direction, which means vegetarians and omnivores alike can find options. Be sure to check the most current menu for what’s being offered. Don’t discount the bar program, either. The wine list is particularly expansive and includes a good amount of Virginia bottles.
2. Westend Bistro
Washington, DC 20037
Chef Alvin Dela Cruz recently revamped the menu at this relaxed dining room inside the Ritz-Carlton. Start off with a plate of charcuterie or chicken wings with a spicy citrus plum sauce. Main courses for fall vary from short ribs with celery root puree to salmon dressed with farro and fennel. Brunch, lunch and happy hour appeases those looking to dine before an afternoon show. For an extra special night out, opt for its customized chef’s table experience.
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3. Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier
Created in 1999 by award-winning restaurateur Robert Wiedmaier, this French-Belgian establishment offers gourmet tasting experiences from four to seven courses. A $68 three-course pre-theater menu is served daily from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The standard seven-course tasting runs $170, followed by a three-course a la carte menu for $115 and a four-course vegetarian menu for $70. There’s also caviar service (starts at $155), and a world of wine pairings.
Washington, DC 20037
Located inside the Melrose Hotel, Jardenea’s menu follows the farm-to-table model of sourcing and seasonal cooking. Expect a series of meats, seafood, and vegetable dishes, from shareable appetizers to center-plate entrees. That’s all in addition to a lengthy wine list and carefully crafted cocktails, including a stiff barrel-aged Manhattan. A pre-theater menu is offered from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the lounge area features its own snack and drink specials.
5. District Commons
Squash any post-show hunger with the nightly “farm bell” special at this American tavern. The $12 special is offered in the bar and lounge beginning at 10 p.m. (8 p.m. on Sundays) with choices ranging from barbecue brisket on Thursdays to Hawaiian-style loco moco on Saturdays. Those looking to dine a la carte earlier in the day can choose from hearty selections such as a turkey and bacon flatbread known as The Kentucky Colonel; “The Pig Board,” a special selection of ham, biscuits and salami; and vegetable-filled hand pies that include cheese and ranch dressing.
6. Burger, Tap & Shake
This is a restaurant with a menu as straightforward as its name. Grab a seat, choose from four different types of meat (or the aptly-named Haight Asbury veggie burger), top it with anything and everything (including jalapenos or chili con carne), order a side of fries or onion rings, and wash it all down with a cold ale, cocktail, or boozy milkshake like the Kahlua-filled Oreo Speedwagon, the Firefly vodka-infused Talladega Nights, or the Jim Beam-fueled shake known as Stag Party.
7. Kaz Sushi Bistro
Kaz Sushi Bistro has nearly two decades under its belt in Foggy Bottom, sustained by its range of creative sushi preparations alongside other hot and cold Japanese dishes. Experiences range from a curated la carte omakase tasting to individual nigiri and rolls featuring everything from bluefin tuna to sea urchin or japanese eggplant. The range of bento boxes are a good option for diners who prefer a variety of proteins and flavors.
Washington, DC 20006
At Bindaas, restaurateur Ashok Bajaj trades the upscale vibe of his Rasika concept for approachable Indian street food. Guests can order a parade of small plates, such as spinach-paneer naan or buns with spiced lamb or seasonal vegetable stew. Kabobs and kathi roll “wraps” can easily act as individual servings for diners who prefer not to share.
9. Founding Farmers DC
Washington, DC 20006
The perpetually busy Founding Farmers has a menu suited for just about every food craving. The options can be truly overwhelming. Start with a shareable flatbread topped with brie and onion jam or prosciutto and fig before moving into comfort food entrees like chicken pot pie, fish and chips and meatloaf. There are burgers and pastas, too, and a separate section of meatless options.
10. Wiseguy Pizza
Washington, DC 20052
Fans of New York-style pizza in D.C. swear by the pies at Wiseguy. The thin crust, foldable slices are cut from 18-inch pies and come with a variety of toppings. Try the Chicken Parmesan or the Whitestone, a cheesy combination with a roasted garlic base. Traditionalists will always find cheese and pepperoni ready to go, too. Whole pizzas can be made to order – just be prepared to wait a while if it’s during peak hours.
Kennedy Center show patrons and Watergate hotel guests are sure to appreciate this sophisticated dining spot, which is open every night until 11 p.m. The dinner menu is a la carte and focuses on upscale American cuisines like Maine lobster risotto or fried chicken breast. A few high-end steaks are available, too. Lunch and weekend brunch are both options, as is grabbing a snack and a seasonal cocktail at the adjacent bar. Eater’s learned a hunt is still on for a new head chef.
12. Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy
Tonic, nestled in the heart of GW’s campus, sits in a building that operated for more than a century as a pharmacy before evolving into a neighborhood watering hole with modern takes on pub favorites. Tame hunger (or a hangover) with a build-your-own Tonic Burger, curried veggie bowl, or The Bernie — a meaty medley of chorizo, Italian sausage, and pepperoni. Tonic also stocks a solid inventory of draft and canned beers along with cocktails and wine by the glass and bottle.
Campono bulges with Kennedy Center patrons looking for a quick and casual bite before a performance. The casual counter service Italian joint has indoor and outdoor seating and specializes in hot and cold panini, salads, and wood-fired pizza. Beer, wine and coffee are available, too. It’s open for breakfast during the week, serving Compass Coffee and made-to-order bagel sandwiches. The restaurant is not afraid to maximize space, so be prepared to get cozy during peak hours.
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14. Roof Terrace Restaurant
Washington, DC 20566
Kennedy Center patrons can dine on-site at this top-floor restaurant overlooking the Potomac and the National Mall. The upscale dining destination under executive chef Matt Shourds is fit to kick off a night of theater or music. Share a cheese and charcuterie board or an appetizer portion of fried lobster tails. For the main course, dig in to classics like Colorado lamb or beef tenderloin paired with roasted new potatoes and garlic green beans. Those who don’t want to sit down for a full meal can grab a small bite, such as oysters or truffle fries, from the bar.