The Best Places to Eat

Washington, D.C. is known for its wide variety of diverse restaurants. From bowls of slurp-worthy ramen to Salvadoran pupusas, you should have no trouble finding unique, exciting and delicious food during your trip.

With so many places to choose from, we asked our Washington, D.C. Ambassadors to recommend their go-to favorite restaurants.

While we have several recommendations in the downtown area, we're also including some of our favorite neighborhood spots. They can offer quieter, more personal experiences with food that's every bit as tasty as you'll find downtown—and often at a lower cost.

Happy feasting!

Best Restaurants - D.C. Favorites

Old Ebbitt Grill is a D.C. legend and comes recommended from Racertrips Ambassadors Jackie, Darren and Robert. "It's the place to splurge, see and be seen," Jackie says.

The upscale pub opened in 1856 just steps away from the White House. Many politicians have dined here since the mid 1800s. To this day, you never know who you'll run into here. It's a favorite of DC politicians and elite locals alike. As you walk in, be sure to take note of the artwork—all unique and just beautiful. Walk down the stairs, and you'll feel the wear in the marble stairs carved in the 170 years plus of use. (Read more about the famous history.)

On the menu, you can expect to find upscale saloon food with an emphasis on fresh and seasonal ingredients. Robert recommends the lobster ravioli and crab cakes, as well as the cheese plate appetizer. Another great option is to try the oysters at the bar, which were ordered specifically for this restaurant. The average dish is around $25, which is a great deal for the level of quality.

Racertrips Tips:

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If you really want to eat well, you just have to try Ted's Bulletin. This place is FANTASTIC, according to Racertrips Ambassador Robert. If it weren't for the ambiance at Old Ebbitt, Robert would choose this as the No. 1 restaurant in D.C.

Ted's Bulletin has two locations, but Robert recommends the restaurant on 8th street. Wait times are less, reservations are easier to make, and you'll be right next door to the famous Marine Barracks, 8th and I!

What to eat? In order of importance, Robert says:

  1. Milkshakes: Why is this first? Because if you order it after dinner, you'll be too full. (Racertrips Tip: If you have two kids, they will bring a fancy mixing glass and a cup. You have to fill the glass twice because the milkshake is so large!)
  2. Ted's Burgh: This isn't your normal sandwich. These are really large and absolutely delicious.
  3. Meatloaf: Just like Mom used to make. Really!

They even have a great breakfast menu for those who happen to be nearby in the morning. The best part is that Ted's is temporarily stuck in time in the 1930s with silent films showing on the wall.

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Recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Jackie, Zaytinya is a great place to have a nice sit-down meal and a cocktail as you get your mind ready before the race. The menu offers Greek-influenced dishes. Jackie recommends trying the Mezza Ora and getting several small plates to share. You can also opt for the Chef's Experience and go on a tour of Mediterranean flavors guided by the chef himself.

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Farmers & Distillers is a terrific restaurant that truly caters to all pallets. Racertrips Ambassador Robert dines here often and describes it as "a relaxing but hip place in D.C." The restaurant specializes in just what the name implies: farm-to-table specialties. They also make their own alcohol.

Farmers isn't specifically vegetarian, but they make the freshest salads and pastas—all from scratch. Starters include fried green tomatoes, chips with fresh (really fresh!) guacamole, while spaghetti squash pomodoro and cauliflower steak offer original delicious options for any vegetarian diet.

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If you want the best seafood in town with the best view, Racertrips Ambassador Robyn recommends Fiola Mare. Robyn says Fiola Mare is always rated in the top 10 restaurants in D.C. and for good reason. The seafood is as fresh as you can get, and the view of the waterfront is unforgettable. Hop in a cab/Lyft/Uber and make your way to Fiola Mare for a memorable evening.

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Racertrips Ambassador Anthony recommends We, The Pizza as being the best pizza in the city, hands down. His favorite is the Sicilian. The restaurant may always busy, but it's never too long of a wait. If you want to carry out, Anthony recommends ordering online. After Anthony ran the 2018 Rock'N'Roll Marathon with his son, they walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and stopped here to grab some pizza before heading home to rest their weary legs.

(Note: As of March 2019, this restaurant was being renovated and was slated for a spring re-opening. Please check ahead before going there.)

If you want the best view of the city, then head to the POV roof top lounge. You will not be disappointed. You will see all the monuments, the White House, the Treasury and more. The view at night is spectacular, but the lunch view is good, too, as is the food. Racertrips Ambassador Robyn recommends the local specialty: crab cakes.

Best Places to Carbo Load

Running the Marine Corps Marathon? Racertrips Ambassador Phoebe recommends carbo-loading at the pre-race pasta party called Carbo Dining In. The event pays tribute to a traditional military 'dining in' and includes dinner and other events like speakers and entertainment. Tickets are $65 and need to be purchased in advance. It is hosted at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

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If you're coming to town with a group, Racertrips Ambassador Robyn says Carmine's is the place to go for great food and a festive atmosphere. You'll enjoy family-style southern Italian food in the heart of D.C. The food is authentic and plentiful.

Easy access to the metro for convenience, no need to worry about parking (although there are parking garages nearby). It's a fun and lively atmosphere and the perfect place to carbo-load before the race.

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A local favorite for Washington, D.C. runners—including Racertrips Ambassador Darren—is Hank's Pasta Bar. Darren says the restaurant features "out-of-this-world Italian dishes," plus everything is homemade. Located in Old Town Alexandria, Chef Thomas and the team create seasonal fare and cocktails that are always being updated. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but some favorites include the lasagna, mafalde, and linguine and clams.

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According to Racertrips Ambassador Kam, Maggiano's is a "happening place" in Washington, D.C. with its great ambiance and selection of pasta. Kam says it can be pricey and the wait for a table can be long, so he recommends reserving a table in advance. It's worth the trouble to get a reservation or the wait to get a table though!

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Great Restaurants for Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-Free Options

Farmers & Distillers is a terrific restaurant that truly caters to all pallets. Racertrips Ambassador Robert dines here often and describes it as "a relaxing but hip place in D.C." The restaurant specializes in just what the name implies: farm-to-table specialties. They also make their own alcohol.

Farmers isn't specifically vegetarian, but they make the freshest salads and pastas—all from scratch. Starters include fried green tomatoes, chips with fresh (really fresh!) guacamole, while spaghetti squash pomodoro and cauliflower steak offer original delicious options for any vegetarian diet.

Book a Table

Silver Diner is a local fave that's cozy and serves traditional and healthy food. The prices are very affordable and the portions are huge, which is why its recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Phoebe. Silver Diner partners with 15 farms to bring locally sourced items to your table. And with menu options that are Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian and Under 600 Calories, there is something on the menu for everyone.

Best Restaurants for Casual Meals

Ben's Chili Bowl is recommended by Racertrips Ambassadors Kam and Jackie. It is famous in Washington, D.C. and is a favorite of the locals. While Kam says the restaurant is best known for its chili dogs, half smokes and milkshakes, Jackie adds that all of the options, "are affordable and incredibly delicious." Snag one of the few coveted tables if you can, or grab a smokey and walk about.

This landmark restaurant in the Shaw neighborhood in Northwest D.C. was opened in August 1958 by newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali, and not much has changed in the 60+ years since, other than the expansion of the business and opening of other locations.

A D.C. staple for more than 20 years, Julia’s Empanadas is one of those places you can’t miss if you’re looking for an authentic local meal, according to Racertrips Ambassador Anthony.

Baked pastries filled with meat, vegetables or chicken, there is an empanada for everyone. Good for lunch, dinner or dessert (try the rice pudding), it’s the perfect post-race indulgence. The Connecticut Avenue location is centrally located, but the 18th Street location is not too far off the race course for Marine Corps and Rock'N'Roll runners. If you have a cheering section, they might want to find a spot near here to cheer you on!

Crisp & Juicy, recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Jackie, is a chain of quick service Peruvian chicken restaurants that has been bringing the flavors of Peru to Washington, D.C. since 1989. Jackie says it's "great for families who want real food that's real good." Head to Crisp & Juicy for a quick bite, casual lunch and family meals. It is fast, easy and delicious. It's also a great post-race meal if you want a meal that packs in a lot of protein!

Silver Diner is a local fave that's cozy and serves traditional and healthy food. The prices are very affordable and the portions are huge, which is why its recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Phoebe. Silver Diner partners with 15 farms to bring locally sourced items to your table. And with menu options that are Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian and Under 600 Calories, there is something on the menu for everyone.

Do you want to experience a lot of dishes at once or satisfy many food preferences in your group? Then you have to try the food trucks on National Mall near the U.S. Capitol building, says Racertrips Ambassador Robert. You can typically find them outside the National Museum of the American Indian around lunchtime (approximately from 11:30 am to 2 pm).

Racertrips Tip: Go to foodtruckfiesta.com to see what trucks are in the area.

The trucks serve up all kinds of food, but generally, it's the kind you can eat casually and take away. Think various kinds of sandwiches, wraps, deli, BBQ, tacos, pizza slices, gyros, salads, etc. You may even find the truck that serves up mac and cheese or the Thai truck.

For those looking for quick and easy meals or who have a large group of people all wanting something different, Ambassador Kam recommends the food court at Union Station, where there are more than 30 different eateries. Restaurant options include everything from fast food to poke bowls to breakfast and even dessert options. Examples include Shake Shack, Bojangles, Legal Sea Foods, Chipotle, Blue Bottle Coffee, Starbucks and more.

Best Neighborhood Restaurants

Racertrips Ambassador Anthony says Open City is one of the more popular places to eat in the city. The hours (7 am to midnight) and the wide variety of food make it an ideal place to grab food and hang out whenever the mood strikes you. It’s proximity to the Woodley Park Metro stop and two large hotels (Omni Shoreham and the Washington Marriott Wardman Park) can often lead to long waits on the weekends, but it's well worth it if you’re not in a rush.

This restaurant is also located right at the the top of the “Hill of Truth”—an incredibly steep hill on the race Rock'N'Roll Marathon course that takes you out of Rock Creek Park and back onto the city streets. It is a tough grind, Anthony says, but the sides of the path up are lined with service members cheering and photos of fallen soldiers. Easily one of the most memorable moments of the race.

Racertrips Ambassador Anthony believes Marvin is the best bang-for-your-buck, one-stop dinner and lounge experience. The restaurant and lounge pays homage to singer-song writer Marvin Gaye and was inspired by the artist's "period of self-imposed exile in Belgium."

On the first floor, you'll find fantastic food. (Anthony says: "Try the shrimp and grits—you’re welcome!") Upstairs, you'll find live music or a DJ upstairs. And you can take in some fresh air at the year-round rooftop deck. This is the place if you’re up for a celebratory night out, but would rather sit and relax while your cheering section dances the night away.

Located in Arlington, VA, but with locations all over, Uncle Julio's has some of the best Mexican food in the area, according to Racertrips Ambassador Darren. But go hungry because their portions are large. Thirsty? They even make margaritas right at the table and are known as some of the best in town!

Best Breakfast and Coffee Spots

If you are looking for diner food, Racertrips Ambassadors Robyn and Darren both recommend Bob & Edith's. They offer "fantastic food at an affordable price," Darren says. While you may have to wait in line, Robyn says it moves quickly and that there's a reason for it. "The breakfasts are hearty and tasty," she says. "The service is fast. It's a true diner experience." There are three locations in Arlington, VA, and they're open 24/7.

If you're a fan of breakfast or like to carbo-load all day leading up to the big race, consider starting at Bread & Chocolate. Racertrips Ambassador Jackie says the food is delicious, and their brunch menu has endless options—so much so that you may have trouble deciding what to get. Need a starting point? Choose a few items from their selection of pastries, which Jackie describes as heavenly.

Is it Tuesday through Sunday? Then Racertrips Ambassador Robert says you have to try the world-famous Eastern Market! While it's a farmers market, there are plenty of places to try out. Open year-round, the market offers indoor and outdoor vendors selling meats, poultry, seafood, produce, pasta, baked goods and cheeses. If you go inside the main building, Robert says, you'll find several stands making breakfast—and the blueberry pancakes are delicious.

Meet our Washington, D.C. Ambassadors

Robyn Gault
Robyn is a local expert in the Washington, D.C. running scene, having owned a running store in the area for more than 13 years. She and her husband recently...
Darren Eaton
Darren has been running for 36 years and has run every type of race from 5Ks to ultramarathons. He has run the Marine Corps Marathon a total of eight times.
Jackie Cular
Jackie has run many 5Ks, 10Ks, a couple 10-mile races and a total of five half marathons. She enjoys running in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond.
Anthony Ashe
Anthony Ashe is in his early 40s and has been running marathons for over a decade. He has called Washington, D.C. his home for more than 20 years, although he has run marathons all over the country.
Phoebe Mortensen
Phoebe has run multiple half marathons, a total of five marathons and even an ultramarathon. When she's not running, she is a technology and art teacher...
Kam Yee
Kam started running marathons in 2008, with the Marine Corps Marathon being his first one! After that, he was hooked, completing four more marathons...
Robert David Sholtis
Bob, a former Marine, ran the Marine Corps Marathon as his first marathon in 2010, and he's run it three more times since then. He's run a total of 10 marathons and at least 15 ultras...
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