Hi, friends! I am back with another installment of my quarterly series where I round up the restaurants I’ve enjoyed in the DC area. Recently, I’ve been able to help several people who are planning trips to DC plan their culinary itineraries and nothing makes me happier—if you’re looking for a DC restaurant recommendation, don’t hesitate to email me or DM me on Instagram!
Unlike in the spring where I was constantly in and out of DC, I was home for most of the summer, which meant I was able to work on my DC restaurant list and visit some of my tried and true favorite places. I keep a running list of restaurants I want to try on my phone, and whenever a friend reaches out and we’re looking for a place to go, that’s the first place I look for inspiration. I recently was reading an old journal of mine from about five years ago, and I wrote in one entry that I wanted to be better at exploring DC’s restaurant scene—I’m so glad I’ve made that a priority in my life over the last few years!
L’ARDENTE | JUDICIARY SQUARE
I first went to L’ardente with my dinner club in May, but I was lucky enough to get back in July to celebrate my friend Jackie’s birthday. I think they have amazing Italian food, so I was excited to go back. To start, we split the buratta, arancini, and the focaccia. For my main dish, I did an amazing summer ravioli that was lemony and herby and so fresh.
If you’re looking for a great celebratory or date night spot, I can’t recommend L’ardente enough.
ROUND ROBIN BAR | DOWNTOWN
After Jackie and I enjoyed dinner at L’ardente, we walked over to The Willard Hotel for a nightcap at their famous Round Robin Bar. I had only been once before, and it was before the pandemic, so I was excited to get back as it’s a DC classic. They’re known for their Mint Juleps, which Jackie tried out, while I went for a glass of brut rosé.
Whether you’re in town visiting or playing tourist like we were, I highly recommend grabbing drinks at the Round Robin Bar!
BAR IVY | CLARENDON
Bar Ivy opened in Clarendon this summer and is a California-inspired spot, offering a great indoor/outdoor concept that feels slightly elevated compared to other Clarendon offerings. My friend Emma was in town in July and we stopped in for a pre-dinner drink at their bar. They also have a great patio that would make for a great first date spot. I’d love to go back again soon for a proper meal.
RUTHIE’S ALL DAY | ARLINGTON
Ruthie’s All Day is one of my favorite spots in Arlington—they have amazing, southern-inspired food. When Emma was in town, she requested we go for dinner after seeing a write up on the restaurant in Southern Living. I more than happily obliged! To start, we split the hushpuppies and a summer mozzarella x tomato salad. For our main course, I went with their burger and Emma did the Fried Chicken Salad with a side of mac and cheese. For dessert, we did the peach cobbler a la mode.
I’ve never had a bad meal at Ruthie’s All Day. It’s got a low key, laid back, family friendly vibe.
DEL MAR | THE WHARF
Del Mar was my dinner club’s July restaurant. The Friday we dined here, it was unseasonably cool and rainy, and Del Mar felt like the perfect place to eat that night as it was so cozy and warm. (I think it’s the beautiful green paint they have on the walls!)
We split an array of their tapas—pan con tomate, patatas bravas, beef tenderloin, cauliflower, and paella. Everything was great, but for some reason, Del Mar doesn’t stand out in hindsight. It’s tapas are pretty on par with other Spanish style restaurants in the city, and I always find getting to The Wharf a little bit painful. So all that to say, I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here again, but I also wouldn’t be disappointed if I dined here again.
BARCA | OLD TOWN ALEXANDRIA
My sister Lindsey and I went to Barca for a Saturday brunch and had the best time. I had been once before, last summer with my sister Jennifer, but the night we went it poured rain which put a damper on the experience. When Lindsey and I went, the weather was absolutely perfect. We drank several rounds of mimosas while splitting a wide variety of tapas—garlic shrimp, Brussels sprouts, whipped goat cheese, beef tenderloin, and the breakfast patatas bravas.
If you’re looking for a great brunch spot or place to enjoy a happy hour on the water, definitely check out Barca.
JANE JANE | 14TH STREET
Jane Jane is a cocktail bar on 14th Street that I have been wanting to try since it opened. They don’t take reservations and it is tiny, so it’s always hard to get a seat. My old coworker Gia and I committed to doing drinks there, and luckily only had to wait about 30 minutes for two barstools. They have an extensive list of great cocktails and we each tried a few—I especially liked the Paloma and the Cosmo.
We also split some snacks—we did the pimento cheese + crackers and pigs in a blanket. If you’re looking for a full meal, you’ll need to go elsewhere, though. As such, this is a great happy hour or pre- or post-dinner drink spot.
GADSBY’S TAVERN | OLD TOWN ALEXANDRIA
Last fall, two friends from high school and I went on a ghost tour of Old Town Alexandria, and Gadsby’s Tavern was one of the spots on the tour. Ever since then, it’s been on my list to try—namely because of its history. George Washington hosted his birthday there for several years, and other Founding Fathers dined at Gadsby’s Tavern as well.
When the same group of friends wanted to get together for a catch up dinner this summer, we decided to head to Gadsby’s Tavern. In hindsight, I might have preferred to dine here in the winter as I think it would have been really cozy by all the candlelight they had throughout the restaurant. I did the steak, which came with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The food was good, but this is more the type of place you go for the experience.
VERMILLION | OLD TOWN ALEXANDRIA
Vermillion was my dinner club’s August restaurant. It recently reopened after being closed during the pandemic, and we actually dined there on one of their first nights back. I loved it—the food was great and the atmosphere felt really romantic and warm. As is custom with dinner club, we shared everything family style and did the beef carpaccio, crab croquette, scallop crudo, milk bread, ravioli, risotto, and chicken ballotine.
LYLE’S | DUPONT CIRCLE
My sister, Jennifer, and my friend, Jackie, and I all recently went to see one of our favorite comedians, Jared Freid, at the DC Improv. Before the show, we wanted to do dinner and settled on Lyle’s at The Lyle Hotel in Dupont Circle. Jackie and I had grabbed drinks here earlier this year and knew we wanted to come back for dinner. I am so glad we did—I loved this spot! The seating was really cool, and Jennifer and I actually sat on the comfiest couch while we ate. I did the burger* that came with the most delectable curly fries and the broccolini.
* I am realizing as I write this post just how many burgers I ate over the summer! What can I say, they are my favorite food and not something I make at home. Maybe one day I’ll do my round up of best burgers in DC!
THE HAMILTON | DOWNTOWN
Before my sisters and I saw Six at The National Theater, we ate dinner at The Hamilton. I hadn’t been to The Hamilton since before the pandemic, but I forgot what a great spot it is—perfect for dinner, drinks, or a night cap and snacks. They have an extensive menu, perfect for just about whatever you’re in the mood for. I did the BLT and a side salad, and also stole bites of Lindsey’s pasta and Jennifer’s French fries.
OLD EBBITT GRILL | DOWNTOWN
Kristyn and I went to see Six a few days after my sisters and I saw the show, and we ate dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill before. It’s a classic DC spot I hadn’t been to in years, and I would love to get back again soon—they have a great menu and it feels very Americana in the best way. We split the buratta and tomato salad to start and then I did a grilled chicken salad for my main.
I highly recommend a reservation for dinner here—it’s a super popular spot, with both tourists and locals alike. They also have a very popular, and usually crowded, bar.
RASIKA | WEST END
Rasika was my dinner club’s September spot—and it was my pick! Rasika is a very popular Indian restaurant with two locations in DC, one in West End, where we dined, and their original location in Penn Quarter. It’s one of those classic DC spots that every Washingtonian has to get to at some point, and I figured going with my dinner club would be a great way to try it out. We share everything family style, so it’s a great way to try a lot of dishes without having to commit to any one thing.
I didn’t grow up eating Indian food and am candidly, not super familiar with it—so it’s always a little intimidating to go to an Indian restaurant because I don’t always know what to order. Luckily, Taylor, one of my fellow dinner club gals, is a huge Indian food fan and didn’t steer us wrong—everything we ate was so good.
We did the cauliflower bezule (my favorite dish), palak chaat, sweet potato samosa, truffle dosa, garlic naan, chicken tikka masala (another favorite!), dal dhungaree, and lamb biryani.