5 Lunch Restaurants in DC
Hip neighbourhood delis, quick gourmet sit-downs and elegant city standards draw Washington’s power players for midday meals.
America’s capital takes its midday meal, much like its work, very seriously. Before you comb the streets for the best lunch spots, check out these delicious options, starting with Michael Mina’s BOURBON STEAK at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC. Contemporary meets traditional at the city’s most popular steakhouse, where Executive Chef John Critchley has crafted daytime menu items to suit DC’s fast-paced rhythm. Critchley’s culinary skills and affinity for fresh, regional ingredients are showcased in the succulent grilled hanger steak rubbed in ancho chilli with grilled escarole and salsa verde. Beyond the Hotel, here are five more places worth lunching at right now.
GBD, 1323 Connecticut Avenue NW
Why go: Chef Kyle Bailey and Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac of Birch & Barley branch out with this casual joint, specializing in golden brown and delicious (hence the name) gourmet doughnuts and fried chicken.
The vibe: Like the menu, the restaurant design is classic with fun touches: The space resembles a traditional pub until you notice quirky design elements, like fryer baskets repurposed as light fixtures and church pews used as seats.
Eat this: The Tendie Lunchbox includes four cornmeal-crusted tenderloins, a biscuit and a side. The meat—sourced from 100 percent humanely raised, free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free birds—is fried to crispy, finger-licking perfection. But it’s the restaurant’s nine made-from-scratch dipping sauces that really steal the show. They range from GBD originals like Frankenbutter (butter blended with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce) to local favourites like Mumbo, a bright red sweet-and-sour sauce.
Mari Vanna, 1141 Connecticut Avenue NW
Why go: The newest outpost of this Russian-themed restaurant injects an energetic shot of Eastern European style and cuisine into the neighbourhood of Dupont Circle.
The vibe: The interior of this three-storey town house is best described as “eclectic vintage chic”—it drips with mismatched chandeliers, tchotchkes and chairs. The overall effect is wildly charming, welcoming and fun.
Eat this: Not surprisingly, quintessential Russian fare rules the roost here. Ruby-hued and deeply flavoured, the house borscht is refreshing and makes for an easy starter. The hearty chicken stroganoff, with white meat smothered in sautéed mushrooms, will fortify you until dinner. Forgo the potatoes and order a side of buckwheat kasha instead: The earthy, nutty notes complement the rich chicken dish.
Daikaya, 705 6th Street NW
Why go: A smart crop of ramen shops has been popping up all over the city, but this newcomer stands out from the rest. Chef Katsuya Fukushima went as far as to train under ramen master Sakae Ishida at the Nishiyama Seimen Co., a noodle factory in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
The vibe: Tight, packed and noisy. You’ll have to wait. You’ll be dining elbow to elbow. You won’t be able to hear your own voice. But once you receive your bowl of piping hot ramen, you won’t care.
Eat this: Sure, a pork-based broth may be the most authentic way to go, but it’s the vegan shio broth that has even the most stringent ramen nuts humming with high praise. Made with assorted seaweeds and vegetables, the flavour-packed broth gets fired in the wok for extra depth. It’s finished with springy wheat noodles imported from Sapporo and a clutch of scallions, carrots, mushrooms and bean sprouts. Order a few add-ons to customize your bowl: The soft-boiled egg and a dollop of butter lend even more richness.
Fiola, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Why go: It may not be the newest kid on the block, but Fiola flaunts a gorgeous atmosphere, reliable service and refined Italian cuisine. Consider this your go-to when you’re ready to splurge.
The vibe: Capitol class. The open dining room—with touches of stone, glass and marble—brims with all types of District power players, from politicians to socialites.
Eat this: Chef and owner Fabio Trabocchi has the Midas touch when it comes to pasta, and his seafood bucatini is a knockout. A generous swirl of al dente noodles is tossed with plump prawns and mussels and sweet roasted tomatoes, and flecked with smoky Controne chilli flakes. But what binds this beauty together is Trabocchi’s sea urchin sauce. Impossibly silky and seductive, it will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished the meal.
Red Apron Butchery, 1309 5th Street NE
Why go: As the city’s hippest butcher and chef, Nathan Anda advocates using the whole animal, preferring not to let anything go to waste. His handcrafted charcuterie and other meat selections will leave you with a happy belly and a clear mind.
The vibe: Friendly, small-town butcher meets bustling city market. Order at the counter and pull up a stool for a quick, wallet-friendly bite (all sandwiches are USD 8 or less).
Eat this: A deli classic gets a makeover in the popular Porkstrami. After being seasoned, brined and smoked, pork slices are dunked in pork jus, topped with bacon-braised sauerkraut and mustard aioli, and stuffed into a toasted baguette. It’s unapologetically rich, indulgent and messy. The restaurant’s signature burger, the Red Apron Original, abides by a tried-and-true formula that will please burger purists. It is made with fresh ground beef and topped with Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and a smear of “island sauce” (made from ketchup, mayo and pickles).