First timers guide to the best places to eat in Washington DC

As you explore the busy capital city, on your short break away, visiting the home of politics, monuments and museums, take the weight off your feet, sit back and enjoy some of Washington DC’s best loved food. 

And to help you choose the best places to eat in Washington DC for you first timers to the capital, we have asked a number of experienced travelers, to tell you, where you should make that pit stop.  

Whether you’re looking to indulge that sweet tooth, enjoy a hot Mexican dish, or whatever the cuisine, we have it covered.  

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Best places to eat in Washington DC 

Make a stop at some of these places to eat in Washington DC. 

Sweet treats in Washington DC 

Indulge in a sweet treat or a few at these best places in DC to eat:

District Doughnuts 

If you’re in need of a sweet treat while visiting Washington, D.C., look no further than the aptly-named District Doughnut.

While there are many wonderful doughnut places in D.C., District Doughnut should be at the top of the list to visit. With 4 locations throughout D.C. and 1 in northern Virginia, it’s extremely convenient to grab a doughnut or 5.

The best part of this doughnut shop is the combination of signature fan favorites. Like brown butter and funfetti, as well as rotating seasonal flavors.

The most popular seasonal flavors include a cherry blossom flavor during spring, key lime pie in the summer, and pumpkin cheesecake in the fall. They also offer doughnut holes, cinnamon rolls, and even bake-at-home packs of cinnamon rolls to enjoy later. 

Prices range from $2.75 for a signature doughnut to $4.50 for a cinnamon roll.  

Delicious Doughnuts from District Doughnuts are just one of the best places to eat in Washington DC
District Doughnuts, Washington DC

Along with the teal-colored stores and logo, which make for great photo opportunities, each store has a colorful and upbeat vibe.

Another fun aspect of visiting a District Doughnut location is ordering a crème Brulee doughnut. These flavors rotate as well, from vanilla bean to pumpkin spice latte to chocolate, but the one constant is that they will brulee the doughnut to order right in front of you.

This is always a crowd-pleaser, especially for kids. With so many different flavors and fun touches that make it unique, District Doughnut is definitely worth a stop for a sugar rush while in Washington, D.C. 

District Doughnut delicious doughnut
Delicious doughnuts from District Doughnuts in Washington DC

Contributed by The Solo Life

Mexican style food in Washington DC 

Try these awesome Mexican dishes at:

District Taco 

One of my go-to restaurants in DC, particularly after returning from a long trip abroad, is District Taco.

At the center of the touristic orbit of the District and a budget-friendly standout amongst a neighbourhood that caters largely to businessmen and politicians, the first bite of District Taco is one of the things that helps me feel I’m really back in the city. 

Though ‘Mexican’ cuisine is offered on menus around the world, it’s often quite difficult to find anything that stands up to the fresh flavors and authentic combinations of the original – particularly the further one gets away from Mexico and especially when far from North America.

Even across the US, ‘Mexican’ menus often features exclusively ‘Tex-Mex’ dishes, an Americanized version of the original. District Taco, though, is pure Yucatan and one of the best places to eat in Washington DC on a budget.

The menu runs the range of Mexican staples, from tacos and quesadillas to burritos and salads, with a wide range of meats (the best of which are slow-cooked in a complex sauce) and a handful of vegetarian options (vegans will be hard-pressed to find a filling option though).

Prices run from $4 for a single item to $14 for a meal plus drink. 

There are four locations across DC (with more in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland), but the Metro Center location at 1309 F St NW is a perfect stop before or after a White House Tour,, just 440m from the White House Visitor Center en route to the National Portrait Gallery, Ford’s Theater, and other major tourist landmarks.  

Best places to eat in Washington DC on a budget

You budget friendly traveler must stop at these places in DC to eat:

Ben’s Chili Bowl 

This DC Institution first opened in August 1958 by Virginia Ali, and her husband Ben. Frequented by celebrities, as well as former President Barack Obama, Ben’s Chili Bowl has stood the test of time, preserving after the 1968 race riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, as they stood on the forefront to serve customers past curfew.

Today, Ali is still feeding the masses, with vowing to feed those who are marching with the Black Lives Matter Movement protests.  

Just one of the dish available at Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington DC
Ben’s Chili Bowl, in Washington DC

The signature dish of this acclaimed establishment is the half-smoke. Often a bit spicier and made of meat that’s more grounded than a hot dog, the half-smoke is generally smoked before it’s grilled. Served on a soft, white bun and topped with cheese, chili, and onions, the half-smoke is what you need to order the next time you visit the nation’s capital!

You can order this delicious meal all for about $8, and for my non-meat-eating friends out there, order the Ben’s Famous Chili Bowl made with the freshest natural ingredients all for $7!

Other favorites include Ben’s Chili Cheese Fries, Chili Dogs, Chili Cheese Burgers, Veggie Dogs, Rice Bowls, Salad Bowls, and thick milkshakes. The original establishment is located U Street, just up the street from Logan Circle. 

Ben's Chili Bowl are just one of the best places to eat in Washington DC
Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC

With the recent events surrounding Black Lives Matter, we should be reaching out and supporting diversity. You can do this by visiting Tasty Black-Owned Restaurants in the US.  

Contributed by Road Goat.

Restaurants in Washington DC 

Looking for iconic places to eat in DC, then these restaurants should provide you with a foodie experience:

Sax Restaurant and Lounge

When was the last time that you used the word ‘sexy’ to describe a dining experience? 

Sax Restaurant and Lounge offers an elegant dining experience amidst a gilded aesthetic and awe inspiring scantily clad entertainers.

Walk through the heavy golden doors of the establishment, and you will find yourself immersed in a cirque meets Moulin Rouge elegant underworld. Vibrant red and shimmering gold colors adorn the entire inside of the lounge where chandeliers are plentiful and soft velvet is the favored fabric of choice.

Be sure to snag a seat with a view of the stage in order to get the full experience. 

Sax offers a French meets American style dining experience.

If you plan on attending for dinner, the options do not disappoint in the slightest. Dishes include high end options such as brie cheese fondue, charcuterie boards, foie gras, lamb, and scallops.

Definitely spring for the provencal pan roasted duck breast. It comes with a sharp yet sweet black currant reduction which is a good contrast to the richness of the meat. 

A cirque style brunch is also available where one can expect nutella crepes, croque madames, and pecan crusted French toast to name a few options.

Two hours of mimosas and bloody Marys can also be made available for those looking to go buck wild first thing in the morning. 

The cuisine is not the only delicious part of the experience. As you sip tasteful cocktails enjoy the artistic wonders which take place on stage, on the bar, and in the aisles.

Burlesque dancers, half naked aerial silk performers, contortionists, pole huggers, and dancers who generally like strutting around with a minimal amount of clothes on gather to make sure that your dining experience is one that you will not soon forget. 

Sax is the ideal spot for an invigorating date night, to celebrate a special occasion, or for a women’s or men’s night out. Expect to pay top dollar for the experience as in the “four dollar sign” price bracket.

Contributed by Wandering Why Traveler,

Washington DC food and drinks tours 

Food tours are an excellent way to learn more about the local cuisine and to try different foods. They’re also great to find some of the most unique, famous and best places to eat in Washington DC. 

Take a food tour at the beginning of your Washington DC itinerary, is a great way to gain a navigational bearing of the city and to discover some further places to eat in DC. 

Book one of these best selling food tours in Washington DC: 

Conclusion on best places to eat in Washington DC 

Don’t these places sound delicious, we know our mouths are watering just reading about them. If you are in Washington DC, why not stop at some, if not all of these recommendations, your stomach will thank you for it. 

If you are looking for places to visit while in Washington DC, then you shouldn’t miss Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. 

When is the best time to visit DC? What about the spring! Spring is the best time to see the Cherry Blossom in Washington DC, with the bright pinks dancing across the city. 

Do you have any recommendations on places to eat in Washington DC? We would love to hear from you, just by leaving a comment below. 

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