Washington, D.C. restaurants
The Washington, D.C., dining scene has come a long way since the days when lobbyists and lawmakers peddled their influence in wood-paneled steak houses and fussy French restaurants. Today, deals are still brokered over meals, but food no longer takes a backseat: A young professional workforce has demanded fresher, more innovative fare. Ferran Adrià protégé José Andrés jump-started the scene in 1993 with the opening of his tapas restaurant, Jaleo; his local empire now runs the gamut from a lively taco spot to a six-seat, 30-course molecular gastronomic experience. These, as well as other standouts, such as Rasika, Bibiana, and Proof, are mostly downtown and in the Penn Quarter. A more recent food renaissance has occurred along the 14th and U street corridors, yielding an explosion of lively restaurant-bar combos like Belgian soul-food spot Marvin and beer temple Birch & Barley.
However, D.C. is still the province of the power lunch, and at spots like the Oval Room and Central, it's often tougher to score a table in the afternoon than at night. Many folks grab their grub street-side at a crop of new food trucks that dish out everything from Korean tacos to poutine hot dogs. You can track the trucks' locations via the Web site Food Truck Fiesta.
Prime dinner hours run from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, a little later on weekends. You can reserve a table a few days in advance at all but the most popular restaurants (CityZen, Minibar). You can often get same-day reservations at spots along 14th and U and in Dupont Circle, but be prepared to linger over a cocktail or three before space opens up. Waits also prevail on weekends, when it seems like the whole city wakes up for Benedicts and Bloody Marys at the hopping brunch spots in and around Dupont Circle, U Street, and Capitol Hill.