12 special occasion-worthy restaurants in Washington, DC

Celebration dinners at La Bise, a French restaurant in downtown DC, are all about playful riffs on classics. | Credit: La Bise
Sliced duck l’orange with potato mille-feuille at La Bise in Washington, DC

An epic night out in the country’s capital can mean dining where the Beltway bigwigs do—but it doesn’t have to. Washington, DC’s signature diversity trickles down to its special occasion spots, too.

These restaurants in and around the District have what it takes to uplevel any occasion—even if it’s just a midweek dinner. Read on for a guide to the 12 best special occasion spots in Washington, DC, right now.

Bourbon Steak – Four Seasons Washington DC (Georgetown)

Oval light fixtures deck the ceilings at Bourbon Steak in Washington, DC
The Obamas hosted their 20th wedding anniversary dinner at this stylish steakhouse. | Credit: Bourbon Steak

This stylish Four Seasons Hotel steakhouse is a special occasion spot fit for presidents. Case in point: the Obamas hosted their 20th wedding anniversary dinner here in 2012. You’ll find DC’s elite gathered to celebrate major moments over chef Michael Mina’s world-class filet mignon and Maine lobster pie—plus one of the most impressive bourbon collections in town. Even though the restaurant is part of a national chain, Mina knows how to make each location shine, and the swanky five-star hotel backdrop gives his DC edition a leg up. 

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Elizabeth’s Gone Raw (Logan Circle)

An artichoke cup with vegan caviar at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw in Washington, DC
Chef Francisco Hernandez’s artistic vegan masterpieces at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw include this intricate artichoke and vegan caviar amuse-bouche. | Credit: Elizabeth’s Gone Raw

If your occasion calls for a full-fledged vegan feast, head to this elegant Federalist townhouse. Elizabeth’s Gone Raw was singled out as one of the best vegan restaurants in the world by the Evening Standard, and it takes just one bite of chef Francisco Hernandez’s artistic creations—watermelon skin tartare with nori confetti for the win—to understand why (a fully raw feast is available upon request). Note that the restaurant is only open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays evenings, so plan your special night out accordingly.

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Das Ethiopian (Georgetown)

Das’s shareable and spice-forward Ethiopian dishes make it ideal for intimate special occasions. A milestone meal in this cushy townhouse isn’t complete without a bottomless basket of injera (spongy flatbread), made for dunking in tender chicken stew. But the MICHELIN Bib Gourmand recipient is also a go-to for its spectacular meat-free options. Sleek, elegant lines and lush fabrics dial up the luxe factor and explain why this Georgetown staple is a highly sought-after celebration spot.

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Equinox – DC (Downtown)

Wife-and-husband duo Ellen Kassoff and Todd Gray are behind this plant-forward fine-dining legend. When Gray debuted Equinox’s vegetarian tasting menu circa 2011, the move gave the restaurant an edge in DC’s competitive fine-dining scene. An always-changing selection means you’ll try something different every time you mark a special occasion here. The best part: Equinox’s nearly zero-waste kitchen composts and regrows ingredients used in day-to-day operations, so you can feel good about celebrating here.

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Mala Tang (Arlington)

Mala Tang is a cook-your-own Sichuan food star tailor made for large and lively gatherings. It’s named for the distinctive hot pots served across China, and you’ll find groups digging into plenty of excellent versions on its many round tables. Go with friends or family to do justice to the spectacular soups, which come with dippable ingredients like prawns, fish balls, and more. Multiple broth types—ranging from mild to tongue-numbing spicy (Sichuan peppercorns and chile oil)—let you and your crew order mains according to heat tolerances. Bonus points for the customizable dips, which you can mix and match at the dedicated sauce bar.

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La Bise (Downtown)

A round black dish with meringues, Chantilly cream, and kiwi and orange slices at La Bise in Washington, DC
La Bise’s world-class dessert selection makes it especially popular for birthday celebrations. | Credit: La Bise

Restaurant vet Ashok Bajaj (Bombay Club, Modena) is a pro at standing out in a city full of special-occasion hotspots. His latest took over the famed Oval Room in 2021, but it’s a far cry from the buttoned-up American restaurant it used to be. Instead, celebrations at La Bise are all about revamped French food made with surprising ingredients like pineapple and blood orange. Get the knockout pistachio mille-feuille for dessert and you’ll definitely score bonus points with the person you’re celebrating. 

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Nama Ko (U Street Corridor)

A plate of colorful ceviche at Nama Ko in Washington, DC
Chef Michael Schlow bends Japanese cooking rules on the Nama Ko menu. | Credit: Nama Ko

From anniversary-worthy omakase service to bottomless dim sum brunch for freewheeling group celebrations, this gold-curtained sushi bar can do it all. Nama Ko is James Beard Award winner Michael Schlow’s take on Japanese dining, District style. The nigiri and sashimi lean traditional—and there’s plenty of luxe wagyu—but the spicy tuna tacos show off Schlow’s experimental side. To toast, there’s a generous sake and Japanese whiskey selection, plus top-notch zero-proof cocktails like the Matcha Colada and the grapefruity Sumo Spritz.

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Filomena Ristorante (Georgetown)

Meet one of the District’s most-loved Italian hubs. Since opening in 1983, Filomena has established itself as a Georgetown celebration staple and been profiled by Forbes, the Travel Channel, and more. The chicken parmesan is the special-occasion MVP, as are the varied bolognese and lasagna options (gnocchi, fettuccine, and eggplant). Filomena also keeps the crowds flocking 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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China Chilcano (Penn Quarter)

China Chilcano is where you come for a pisco party with friends. The menu is just as festive, featuring a blend of Chinese, Japanese, and Criollo accents that pop up in dishes like king salmon tiradito in white ponzu or lomo saltado stir-fry with fried potato sticks. A boldly designed dining room—high ceilings, red glass lamps, and neon lights—provides a striking photo backdrop. But what truly sets China Chilcano apart is the staff’s attention to detail and willingness to accommodate special requests—even the biggest celebration is a stress-free affair here.

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Truluck’s – Ocean’s Finest Seafood & Crab – Washington, D.C. (Mount Vernon Square) 

Soft lights, wine-colored leather booths, and sparkling chandeliers set the tone for extra-elegant celebrations at this surf-and-turf haven. The Houston transplant stays true to its everything-is-bigger-in-Texas ethos—it’s got 400 seats spread out over two stories, for starters. The menu is equally massive, featuring global seafood, expertly broiled steaks with roasted garlic bulbs, and solid vegan options like plant-based bolognese pappardelle. Add flaming desserts and a deep wine list, and you’ve got one of the swankiest special-occasion spots in town. 

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Elcielo (Union Market)

When a meal starts with a chocolate hand wash, you know it’s going to be unforgettable. A ceremonial cacao rinse is just one of the many sensory immersions offered at chef Juan Manuel Barrientos’s Colombian stunner. His revolving tasting menu spotlights mid-Atlantic produce and might include turbot, coconut rice, and seawater gel or a stunning bonsai tree-shaped yuca bread. Barrientos’s theatrical presentations and unexpected textures scored the restaurant a MICHELIN star in 2021, confirming El Cielo is an awe-inspiring experience meant for the most special of occasions. 

Bronze (H Street Corridor) 

Dinner and a cool backstory define the special-occasion experience at Bronze. A meal here is anchored by the fictional tale of Alonzo Bronze, an intrepid chef-explorer who traveled around the globe. There are edgy interior accents like cornerless tables—Hughley wanted the 5,300-square-foot space to feel endless, like Alonzo’s journey. Toast your special night with a cocktail inspired by American jazz composer Sun Ra (featuring eclectic ingredients like Ethiopian-spiced honey and olive oil gin), then get internationally-accented African dishes like torched oysters and scotch bonnet peppers and heirloom carrots with collard green pesto.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

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

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