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A Capital Night Out

Dining and Drinking in D.C.
  • The Dupont Circle Hotel

    Bar Dupont’s front and center position overlooking Dupont Circle

  • Brasserie Beck

    The bar and fresh seafood at Brasserie Beck; Photo courtesy of Stacy Z. Goldberg

  • Donovan House

    The rooftop pool at the Donovan House

  • Brasserie Beck

    Tasty burgers from Burger, Tap and Shake at District Commons; Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman

  • The Liaison Capitol Hill

    The alfresco dining at Art and Soul Restaurant in the Liaison Capitol Hill

  • Ceiba

    Margaritas at Ceiba; Photos courtesy of Chris Granger

  • Donovan House

    The sleek Zentan restaurant at Donovan House

  • Founding Fathers

    Founding Farmer’s rustic chic decor and hopping scene; Photos courtesy of Mike Moran (left) and Greg Powers (right)

  • Hotel Palomar Washington D.C.

    Cozy seating for brunch at Hotel Palomar Washington D.C.

  • Brasserie Beck

    Brasserie Beck’s rabbit pie; Photos courtesy of Stacy Z. Goldberg

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

The capital of the United States, the District of Columbia sits wedged between the Mid-Atlantic states of Maryland and Virginia, alongside the Potomac River.

WHY GO

In a country that’s not often long on history, Washington stands out, with the densest collection of museums and monuments in the United States.

HOW

As the nation’s capital, the District isn’t short on transport options: it’s got no fewer than three airports, if you count BWI, and it’s at one end of what passes in these parts for a high-speed rail network.

TABLET TIP

With its marble sidewalks, Parisian-style plan and giant-scaled National Mall, D.C. is made for walking. Choose your footwear wisely.

Washington, D.C., February, 2013

Washington D.C. is the epitome of a company town, the sort of place where business hours tend to extend indefinitely into the evening. But the social nature of the work means that much of it happens in public establishments — so despite its slightly square image, D.C. is blessed with an impressive diversity of bars and restaurants. The dining landscape spans from the traditional steak-house spots where lobbyists entertain to tucked-away ethnic boutiques serving some of this country’s tastiest overseas adaptations — take the runaway success of Thai bolthole Little Serow, in Dupont Circle, as proof of the latter. And the nightlife options come in a similar variety, with a bar for every taste (and every political persuasion).

For happy hour, a highly appreciated local custom, the city’s boutique hotels are established fixtures. Drinks at the Kimpton group’s Donovan House attract a sophisticated crowd enjoying the sweeping views down to the National Shrine, tempted by specials on St. Germain cocktails and glasses of bubbly. Over at The Dupont Circle Hotel’s Bar Dupont, the ever-growing cocktail list challenges taste buds with market-fresh ingredients, while floor-to-ceiling windows and a generous terrace overlooking the namesake grassy circle make it an ideal spot for spying the local scene.

For lunch, check out Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom, where the bar can look like a composite picture of the D.C. dining population: a table of businessmen, a foodie tourist on a barstool, and a media type lecturing a fellow scribe on the minutiae of Bloody Mary–making. This glassy, light-filled space with its eco-friendly, rustic-chic décor has been packed more or less since it opened, thanks to some deeply satisfying classic American dishes, like fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and green goddess dip. When it’s time for dinner, we suggest heading downtown for some bold flavor at chef Art Smith’s recently revamped Southern eatery, Art & Soul Restaurant, located right next to the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel. His Chesapeake fry, a combination of deep-fried seafood and okra, is the dish to order. Just ask Oprah, for whom Smith once worked as a private chef.

It’s an article of faith in America that capitalist competition breeds excellence — and this is one area where the conventional wisdom holds true. As long as D.C.’s frenzied dining-and-nightlife arms race keeps on bearing such tasty fruit — be it Hotel Palomar’s Bottomless Bellini brunch, or District Commons’s evening family meal (which goes for $12 at 10pm), or Ceiba’s daunting litany of tequila varietals, or chef Robert Wiedmaier’s massive stock of Belgian beers and farm-grown mussels at Brasserie Beck — we can only hope that the peace talks remain forever broken down.

Meg Nolan van Reesema

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

The capital of the United States, the District of Columbia sits wedged between the Mid-Atlantic states of Maryland and Virginia, alongside the Potomac River.

WHY GO

In a country that’s not often long on history, Washington stands out, with the densest collection of museums and monuments in the United States.

HOW

As the nation’s capital, the District isn’t short on transport options: it’s got no fewer than three airports, if you count BWI, and it’s at one end of what passes in these parts for a high-speed rail network.

TABLET TIP

With its marble sidewalks, Parisian-style plan and giant-scaled National Mall, D.C. is made for walking. Choose your footwear wisely.

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