The Washington D.C. metro area is an emerging hotspot for world-class dining. From vegan bakeries like Sticky Fingers  in Columbia Heights to Dirty Habit DC in Penn Quarter, D.C. has something to tempt all varieties of tastes and budgets. In addition, D.C. offers a variety of specialty food stores and several farmers’ markets . Many premier dining establishments are often clustered around Metro stops, making a culinary tour of the area easy to accomplish.


Bethesda easily has the highest concentration of restaurants in the D.C. metro area. In spite of the fact that it is an affluent area, restaurants in the region run the gamut from inexpensive to pricey and offer everything from burgers to Afghan cuisine, so there are dining options available for the most particular of palates. Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch on a budget or taking that special someone out on the town, you can find what you need right next to NIH. Many of the local restaurants are clustered around two areas – Bethesda Row and Woodmont Triangle, making it easy to find a new favorite eatery.

Bethesda Row

Located a few blocks southwest from the Bethesda Metro stop, Bethesda Row is home to a number of Maryland branches of DC landmark restaurants, including Jaleo , Lebanese Taverna , and Georgetown Cupcake . The area also boasts the Bethesda chapters of popular cheap eats like Five Guys  and SweetGreen . That’s not to say that all the restaurants on Bethesda Row are chains – one need only look at Mussel Bar  and Tako Grill  to find fine dining options that are unique to Bethesda Row. In addition to sit down establishments, there are several delicious options for a sweet treat after your meal, such as gelato at Dolcezza .

Woodmont Triangle

The Woodmont triangle region, directly south from the NIH campus, features many restaurants that are unique to Bethesda in addition to local chains. Some restaurants – Tastee Diner , for example - have been in their current locations for decades. With the NIH so close, many of these eateries are perfect for a quick lunch. Whether you’re looking for burgers (BGR ), Chinese (Foong Lin), or an Indian buffet (Haandi ), there are plenty of choices for the whole office to enjoy. Diners looking for a more formal dinner would certainly embrace a visit to Positano Ristorante or Woodmont Grill .

Wherever you do decide to go for a meal, you’ll never run out of new places to try in Bethesda. With hundreds of restaurants within the city’s 12 square miles, employees at the NIH have ample options without having to leave city limits.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is known for high-class and high-priced dining, such as the French Bistro Bis , Charlie Palmer Steak , and CityZen . Capitol Hill is also a destination for cheaper options catering to young professionals, such as the Good Stuff Eatery , Tortilla Coast , and Market Lunch  in Eastern Market. Eastern Market  is a year-round farmers’ market that has been operating since 1873 and can be easily accessed via the Eastern Market stop on Metro’s orange and blue lines.

Dupont Circle

Home to numerous embassies and galleries such as The Phillips Collection , Dupont Circle is a great place to enjoy ethnic meals at spots like Agora . There are plenty of other casual cafés, diners, and bars, along with upscale restaurants like Komi , the top restaurant in D.C. in 2010 according to Washingtonian Magazine . Another popular destination in the area is Kramers , an independent bookstore with an attached café.


Clustered along the commercial routes of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, the restaurants here cater to Georgetown students (such as the famous The Tombs ) and upscale shoppers with cafés, ethnic restaurants, and high-class dining options such as Filomina and 1789. Also due to the large student populace, Georgetown has a lively nightlife with a number of popular bars in the area.

Penn Quarter/Chinatown

In spite of the fact that D.C.’s Chinatown is relatively small, it is a popular destination with a number of Chinese restaurants, as well as a growing number of other Asian cuisine options, including Thai, Asian fusion, and Japanese. You can also treat yourself to American standbys such as artisan cheese and sandwiches from Cowgirl Creamery  loaded potatoes from Hot Potato Cafe, or Texas-style barbecue at. Penn Quarter has a burgeoning fine-dining scene as well, including Rasika’s  modern Indian, and a slew of restaurants from celebrity chef Jose Andres, including Zaytinya , Jaleo , and Minibar , one of the hardest-to-book restaurants in the nation. Chinatown is frequently buzzing with people due to its proximity to the Capital One Arena , which hosts a variety of sporting and cultural events.

U Street/Shaw

The U Street Corridor was the center of D.C.’s African-American arts and music community in the first half of the 20th century, and is still home to Ben’s Chili Bowl , a D.C. institution. The neighborhood offers a great mix of bars, jazz clubs, ethnic restaurants, cafés, and fashionable dining locations. Busboys and Poets – which offers a performance space, bookstore, and dining lounge – is particularly popular and draws patrons from across D.C. U Street is served by its own Metro station on the Yellow/Green line.

More Resources

Washingtonian Magazine  features an online restaurant finder with reviews. They also publish a list of the area’s "100 Best Restaurants" every January, and a guide to the area’s best "Cheap Eats" and "Dirt Cheap Eats" in June. The Washington Post’s resident food critic Tom Sietsema reviews restaurants across the area and also answers dining-related questions during a weekly online chat . In addition, the paper’s website features the Going Out Guide, which provides regular updates on the area’s best bars, restaurants, and events.