15 must-try neighborhood restaurants in Washington, D.C.

Shareable plates at Meze, a restaurant that’s served Turkish cuisine in Adams Morgan since 2001. | Credit: Meze Restaurant

The District’s especially loved restaurants dish up consistently delicious meals, all while mirroring the cosmopolitan communities they call home.

In Palisades Northwest, a family-owned Afghan restaurant, renowned for its leek and scallion dumplings, also accommodates practically any dietary restriction. A meat-and-three spot in Arlington is both a cafe and a barbecue joint, stocked with plenty of local beer on tap. A Dupont Circle stalwart dishes up an all-American steakhouse menu in addition to being a welcoming space for DC’s queer community.

DMV locals turn to these adored, tried-and-tested joints for both comforting meals and celebratory feasts. Read on for a list of 15 must-try neighborhood restaurants to book now in the Washington, DC area.

Belga Café (Eastern Market)

The brainchild of award-winning Belgian chef Bart Vandaele, Belga serves some of the District’s best steak along with Western European hits such as croquettes, stews, and various roasts. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and known to veer off-menu to fulfill specific cocktail cravings. A trip to Belga also means venturing to one of the city’s most pleasant pockets. The neighborhood shines especially bright on weekends when an outdoor market sets up near the restaurant. Belga also proves it’s a good neighbor by partnering with Betsy, the gin bar upstairs, for rooftop access.

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La Tejana (Mount Pleasant)

La Tejana, which began in pop-up form, debuted its first brick-and-mortar edition in Mount Pleasant in August 2022. | Credit: Kate Wichlinski

La Tejana (“the woman from Texas,” in Spanish), began as a series of pop-ups in 2019, leading The Washington Post to dub it “D.C’s hottest breakfast taco post.” It unveiled its first brick-and-mortar edition in Mount Pleasant in August 2022, opening to rave reviews and out-the-door lines. Everything on the tidy Tex-Mex menu is made from scratch, including the pillowy flour tortillas that are hand-pressed daily and the house queso—Velveeta plus Monterey Jack cheese and a few secret seasonings make up the restaurant’s drizzle-worthy dip. Other menu favorites include the El Frijolito, made with refried pinto beans, tortilla strips, diced onions, and melted cheese, and the 512, a weekend breakfast taco special featuring wood-smoked brisket from award-winning Maryland smokehouse, 2Fifty Texas BBQ.

Bistrot Du Coin (Dupont Circle)

A Dupont Circle staple since 2000, this easygoing escape evokes Paris with its yellow walls and red-and-white tablecloths. Specializing in casual French plates, the sizable menu showcases classic dishes including boeuf bourguignon and steak au poivre, plus regional specialties such as Gruyère-stuffed ravioli in a cream sauce. What also keeps the regulars coming: one of the most impressive French wine lists in the area, featuring a semi-sweet Gewurztraminer and a citrusy Riesling from Alsace, along with a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, full of ripe, red fruit.

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Letena Ethiopian Restaurant (Columbia Heights)

Letena’s shareable entrees are accompanied by injera, a sour Ethiopian flatbread. | Credit: Letena Ethiopian Restaurant

In a city that teems with Ethiopian cuisine, Letena dishes up some of the finest. A farm-to-table, family-owned business that opened in 2016, this spot in the heart of Columbia Heights has a shareable selection to please a variety of palates. The lentil samosas are a crucial opener, and the flavorful vegetable samplers are filling for any group. In addition to the family-style menu, there’s a noteworthy drinks menu that spotlights Ethiopian lagers.

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Pearl Dive Oyster Palace (Logan Circle)

Since opening in 2009, this Logan Circle hotspot has drawn plenty of bivalve buffs. Inspired by chef and restaurateur Jeff Black’s Southern upbringing, Pearl Dive’s menu features smoky andouille sausage, piquant chile butter, and healthy sprinkles of Cajun seasoning. Take a seat at the lively bar or sidewalk patio during happy hour for half-priced specials on freshly shucked oysters from British Columbia, Maine, and Washington state. During weekend brunch, an oyster po’boy with house pickles and cayenne aioli pairs perfectly with bottomless mimosas.

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Meze Restaurant (Adams Morgan)

Roasted lamb shank with rosemary, garlic, and tomato at Meze Restaurant. | Credit: Meze Restaurant

Standing out on this ultra-competitive stretch of 18th Street is no easy feat. But Meze, which debuted in 2001, dazzles with its tasty, Turkish-inspired tapas, halal plates, abundant vegetarian options, and Turkish bread, made from scratch onsite. Don’t skip weekend brunch, where $43 scores you unlimited food that includes the best of Meze’s signature small plates, including baba ganoush, feta parsley spring rolls, and chicken skewers. Meze is also a coveted spot for celebrations, courtesy of its elegant upstairs “gold room,” bookable for private parties.

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Ruthie’s All-Day (Arlington)

Pickled vegetables at Ruthie’s All-Day, a versatile cafe and barbecue joint combo in Arlington. | Credit: Ruthie’s All-Day

As a relatively new addition to Northern Virginia’s food scene, Ruthie’s, which opened in 2020, draws rave reviews for its versatility. Co-owner and chef Matt Hill, a James Beard Award semifinalist, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and worked in several esteemed kitchens before opening RAD, as it’s known to neighbors. RAD pivots gracefully between its dual identities as a cafe and a barbecue joint. Drinks pay homage to the restaurant’s Northern Virginia surroundings with a number of local beers on tap. In addition to returning for the genre-defying barbecue, repeat diners are drawn to the restaurant’s heated all-weather patio.

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The Arsenal at Bluejacket (Navy Yard)

Adored by Navy Yard residents and baseball fans, Bluejacket exudes a perpetually festive vibe. The sprawling, industrial-chic place is a popular spot for a pre-game drink. The ballpark-esque menu features housemade beers and snacks including a jumbo pretzel with beer mustard and beer cheese. If you’re after something heartier, there’s shrimp and cheesy grits, pan-seared salmon, and a loaded cheeseburger. Pair it with a brew or a cocktail, and it’s easy to feel like you’re at a sporting event—no stadium seats required.

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Mala Tang (Arlington)

This Sichuan neighborhood gem is tailored for laid-back group hangs, thanks to customizable, build-your-own meals. That means cauldrons on portable burners loaded with (mild or spicy) broth, in which a diner can simmer meat, prepared with great care by Mala Tang’s kitchen staff. Hot pots here take cues from street food in Chengdu and can be individualized with a nearly endless selection of meats, seafoods, and vegetables.

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Bistro Aracosia (Palisades Northwest)

Bistro Aracosia keeps the regulars coming for its prolific Afghan menu, including dumplings, kebabs, and lamb chops. | Credit: Bistro Aracosia

With two locations in the area, this family-owned Afghan restaurant scores high marks for a prolific menu, including leek and scallion dumplings, kebabs, and lamb chops. Bistro Aracosia is one of the city’s most critically acclaimed restaurants, earning consistent love for the ability to stir up the right dish, no matter your diet. The crowd-pleasing menu includes a wide drink selection ranging from sangrias to pomegranate cosmos. Both the prices and service are uniformly praised by customers, confirming Aracosia’s status as a District darling.

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Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (Dupont Circle)

Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse offers diners much more than all-American comfort foods such as top-notch burgers, steaks, and salads. This Dupont Circle stalwart has served as a safe haven for DC’s queer community for over seven decades. It’s named for the sister of owner George Katinas, a World War II army vet, who was known for mixing especially tasty Manhattans. Annie’s has earned no shortage of praise from local critics, and it recently received a James Beard America’s Classics Award for timeless appeal and quality food, as well as its significant contributions to the capital’s LGBTQ history.

La Casita Pupuseria & Cocina C.A. (Gaithersburg)

Pupusas at La Casita include fillings such as cheese, beans, beef, and avocado. | Credit: La Casita Pupuseria & Cocina C.A.

The greater Washington area is home to Honduran and Salvadoran communities whose culinary repertoires include pupusas, a flatbread that can come loaded with various cheeses, meats, and seafoods. Easily accessible via any of the District’s Maryland suburbs (and a fun stop on a day trip from the city or Northern Virginia), La Casita specializes in this savory treat, with fillings that include cheese, beans, beef, and avocado. The restaurant was founded in Gaithersburg in 2002 and now has locations in Silver Spring and Germantown, too, plus a presence at Nationals Park and Union Market, underscoring its status as a local star.

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Green Pig Bistro (Arlington)

Pork lovers routinely flock to this inviting Arlington spot. Ingredients at the sustainable nose-to-tail restaurant are sourced from local producers and change with the seasons. Helmed by celebrated local chef Tracy O’Grady, Green Pig’s open kitchen and central communal table contribute to a warm, convivial vibe. Begin your meal with a plate of buffalo-style baby back pork ribs before digging into the smoked pork shoulder ravioli with a rich sherry mushroom broth. Return for brunch and you’ll find plates of—what else?—bacon-egg-and-cheese waffles topped with crispy bacon and sunny-side-up eggs, and a pork medallion benedict.

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Dolan Uyghur – Washington DC (Cleveland Park)

Central Asian dishes such as lagman, a hearty soup, dominate the menu at Dolan Uyghur. | Credit: Dolan Uyghur – Washington DC

Dolan Uyghur opened in 2016 and boasts an extensive menu of Uyghur cuisine (there are so many appetizers that picking even three or four can be a challenge!). Uyghur people are from the far western edges of China, along the historic Silk Road in Central Asia, which explains the range of East Asian and Middle Eastern spices, techniques, and flavors that draw people from around the DMV. Some entrees are served in flavorful soup bases, while others get plated with vibrant sauces and seasonings, so diners can choose their own paths. The restaurant is known for its hot chicken stew, various kinds of lagman (a combo of meat, veggies, and pulled noodles), and nan kordak — naan topped with lamb braised with onions, carrots, and potatoes.

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Filomena Ristorante (Georgetown)

Meet one of the District’s best-known and most-loved Italian hubs. Since opening in 1983, Filomena has established itself as a Georgetown institution and been profiled by Forbes, the Travel Channel, and the Food Network. The chicken parmesan is the MVP, as are the varied bolognese and lasagna options (gnocchi, fettuccine, and eggplant). Filomena also keeps the crowds coming for its over-the-top holiday decor—come December, it morphs into a winter wonderland, adorned with hundreds of twinkling lights and nutcrackers.

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Christabel Lobo is a food and travel writer based between Washington, D.C. and south India. Find her on Instagram @whereschristabel and Twitter @wheresbel.

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