Washington DC isn’t just a popular destination for history buffs. Thanks to its diverse neighborhoods and international communities, it’s also home to a wide range of culinary offerings. From Ethiopian platters to hearty Italian fare, from beloved chili dogs to indulgent cupcakes, here’s what you should be sure to sample while visiting the capital.
One of DC’s most beloved eateries, located on U Street (an area once referred to as “the Black Broadway”), Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a local staple since the 1950s. President Obama made waves when he visited the restaurant in 2009, and you can follow in his footsteps when you drop by and order a chili half-smoke (chili dog).
Ethiopian Combination Platter
DC’s delicious U Street area is also home to a thriving Ethiopian community. If you’re new to the cuisine, order a combination platter, which typically consists of numerous spice-laden stews, all served atop a round of injera (spongy flatbread that tastes like sourdough and takes the place of silverware).
If you have a sweet tooth, look out for Georgetown Cupcake, one of the city’s most popular and successful dessert chains. Locations are now found all over DC, though pretty Georgetown is, as the name suggests, where the company got its start. Enjoy classics such as red velvet or inventive flavors including strawberry lemonade and butterscotch waffle cone.
DC is home to plenty of movers and shakers, and while their politics may differ, there’s one thing most of them can agree on: steak. Consequently, the capital is home to a surfeit of traditional steakhouses. For a lavish dinner out, order a porterhouse or chateaubriand with truffle fries on the side.
Italian is among the most popular cuisines in Washington DC, and if you head to vibrant neighborhoods such as Dupont Circle, you can look forward to a decadent introduction to the city’s trattorias and other traditional eateries. Enjoy seasonal pasta dishes, or go off-piste with risotto.
Salvadoran cuisine is a mainstay in DC—often served alongside Mexican food in restaurants—and its signature dish has become a favorite in the capital. Think of pupusas as thick, pancakey tortillas, frequently stuffed with cheese, refried beans, and chicharrónes (pork rinds).