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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.

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CityZen, Southwest

Chef Eric Ziebold previously worked at D.C.'s Vidalia (1990 M St. N.W.; 202-659-1990;, but it was the eight years under Thomas Keller at the...more

Editors' Pick
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Central, Penn Quarter

Michel Richard made his name serving serious French at serious prices at the iconic Citronelle. But $190 prix fixe menus don't quite square with the Obama era....more

Editors' Pick
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Blue Duck Tavern, West End

Completely revamped by restaurant design guru Tony Chi in summer 2006 this restaurant at the Park Hyatt, once a prix fixe, white-linen affair, now sports a...more

Editors' Pick
Birch & Barley, Dupont Circle

Birch & Barley offers one of the best-curated collections of artisanal beers in the States: 50 beers on tap, 500 in bottles, and 5 in casks. Oh, and there's...more

Editors' Pick
Bibiana, Downtown

Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have all been spotted in Bibiana's buzzy dining room (another offering from...more

Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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