Tips on Visiting DC

This is an open letter to John — who commented on my blog (thanks for reading) — wondering what is the restaurant he shouldn’t miss when he’s in DC next week.

John, I have been contemplating and working on drafting such an entry, so thanks for the prompt.

To sum it up, I don’t think there is just “one” restaurant that is DC.  But I do think, depending on your mood and how often you’ve visited, there are some outstanding options.  I am keeping the suggestions only to within DC-proper and metro accessible. 

With that in mind, here’s the quick personal list (with many more additions to come).  But readers, please chime in!  Before you chastise me for forgetting a “duh” restaurant, remember I typed this bad boy up in 15 minutes.  So it’s seriously a list off the top of my head!

  • Cheap but real DC — Ben’s Chili Bowl.  Everyone goes here.  Anthony Bourdain to Bill Cosby to Bill Clinton.  If you go and you’ve never been, must get the half smoke and fries. 
  • Organic and sustainable — if the environment is your #1 priority or you’re looking for a light but absolutely phenomenal meal, go to Hook.  Although Barton Seaver has left so not sure if it’s still as amazing. 
  • Indian with a twist — RasikaI haven’t reviewed it because it’s been more than a year since I’ve gone.  I’ve been and here’s the review — still love it!  They offer this popcorn at the bar which is sweet and spicy and amazing.  I loved loved loved that popcorn. 
  • Authentic Mexican — Mixtec.  Simple yet good. 
  • Cart food — For lunch, I would honestly recommend the Bulgogi cart.  Unless you’re from NY, you don’t see a lot of carts with options other than hot dogs. 
  • Mussels and frites (and beer) — My new favorite place is Brasserie Beck.  Seriously.  Drool.
  • Thick crispy fries, delicious crab cakes, and beautiful atmosphere — Blue Duck Tavern.  Between Brasserie Beck and Blue Duck, I’m not sure who has the better fries.  It’s definitely a toss-up!
  • Pizza — Hands down it’s 2Amys.  Not metro accessible (really) but so worth the cab fare. 
  • Wine bars — I haven’t been to Cork so I don’t know if it’s cool, but I love Veritas
  • Vodka bar — There’s only one (I think) – Russia House
  • Real Greek food — Mourayo, then you can go to Russia House and Veritas after dinner!
  • Bagels — I really like So’s Your Mom bagels.  Plus their Reuben is delicious.
  • Breakfast — If you want to sit down for breakfast, I think The Diner is quintessential DC.  You’ll see everything from families to cops to hung over people eating here. 
  • Sushi — Sushi Taro if you don’t mind the wait, Tono Sushi especially if you want it delivered or want to hit up a sushi happy hour, or Kaz Sushi
  • Caribbean/Trinidadian — Islander Restaurant.
  • Grocery store listing — Sometimes, you just want to buy a big gallon of water.  To find the closest grocery store to you, visit here.

Now that the summer is over and most tourists are gone, my friends and I joke a lot about tourists and their bad behavior.  It dawned on me that maybe they don’t know any better.  So I figured I’d start writing a little bit of a cheat sheet on how to blend in a little bit better when you’re a tourist in DC. 

This isn’t all of it, but it’s a good start!  And if you’re looking for good eats while you’re here, check out this guide.

  • Before you come to DC, try to plan what you want to see.  Use this map to try to help figure out where you can walk and where you need to take a cab (or metro).   It’s great because you can plot out your destinations and then plan your trip accordingly.
  • In general, numbered streets run north south while streets named after letters in the alphabet run east west.  There is no J Street. There are also no X, Y, or Z Streets.  States run diagonal. 
  • Metro has a great map that allows you to figure out cost, which metro bus or train you should take, what time you need to get on to make it to your destination, etc.  The great thing about DC is you can (and should) use the DC Metro — it’s convenient and cheap.  Plus, it’s easy for anyone to figure out!  Oh, and don’t stand on the left of the metro escalators — it’s an unwritten rule that people who want to walk, take the left.  People who want to stand, stay on the right.
  • If you do take a cab and until we get the metered cab system, use the DC Taxi Zone Calculator to figure out the cost of your cab.  Trips in DC are zoned.  If you go to VA or MD, your fare is done by mileage, not zone. 
  • If you go to the Smithsonian Museums, make sure you go to National Museum of the American Indian Cafeteria.  They’re known for their food (esp fry bread) — you won’t be disappointed and there is something for everyone (even for picky kids!). 
  • Get to know your DC neighborhood that you’re staying in — it’ll help make sure you get to see the tourist and non-tourist activities while you’re here. 
  • DC really is “that” political.  For example:
    • Our baseball team is called the Washington Nationals.  Some of the hats have a huge “W” on them (for Washington) yet some refuse to wear them because there’s also George W. Bush. 
    • Our airport’s official title is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.  Democrats call it National Airport.  Republicans call it Reagan.  Independents go to Dulles (ha ha, just kidding).
    • The Washington Hilton is located at 1919 Connecticut Ave NW.  Democrats call it Hinckley Hilton.
  • Finally, please be smart and remember that you are in a city.  We’re definitely working on being a safer city, but that takes time. 
    • Buy the FBI hats, “You don’t know me” t-shirts, etc while you’re here if you want, but don’t wear them while you’re here.  Here, they just scream “Please mug me.”  And here’s another secret.  Real FBI/CIA agents don’t wear those hats or t-shirts.