Washington, DC is a marvelous place to visit for anyone who loves food, particularly if you have an adventurous palate. As you travel your way around the diverse neighborhoods of the District, seek out the exceptional flavors offered by restaurants with roots from many different countries and take the time to learn a little bit about the culture itself. In a city that plays host to many international organizations, tasting Washington DC cuisines from around the world couldn’t be any easier. Here is a list of more worthwhile and worldly eats to sample while staying in Washington, D.C.
Washington DC Cuisines from around the World
The Royal (Colombia)
Do you have a craving for Latin American comfort food? Head over to the Royal, located in the emerging neighborhood of Shaw where you can get a big man’s breakfast and superb coffee during the day or their signature beef arepa and an order of grilled avocado. For those looking for Washington DC cuisines from around the world, the menu offers an eclectic mix of Latin American-inspired small plates that even vegetarians will approve of. Make sure you try an aguardiente punch though, one of the restaurant’s featured cocktails. Aguardiente is Colombia’s national drink and the punch mix is made the same day with ingredients that match the season.
Sit at the bar for the best people watching. Not only will you get to watch the bartenders make dozens of colorful cocktails but you’ll also get a line sight of the open kitchen. The place is also relatively small so the noise level is tolerable, though as the night continues on, and the bar gets packed with locals, the decibel level can rise up significantly.
Zenebech Injera (Ethiopia)
Another one of the Washington DC cuisines from around the world that’s worth sampling resides in the neighborhood of Shaw. The Ethiopian hole in the wall Zenebech Injera is primarily a bakery but also serves a full menu with appetizers, main courses and a selection of Ethiopian and domestic beers. Their speciality is injera, a spongy flatbread used to dip in saucy dishes. It is also the national dish of Ethiopia.
If you’ve never had Ethiopian food before, definitely come with an appetite or better yet, bring a few friends with you because just as it is with some Asian cuisines, Ethiopian food is best enjoyed “family style.” The servings at Zenebech are hefty too. The vegetarian combo itself comes with five different veggies that’s good enough to feed three people.
A restaurant like Rasika that has been a staple in the list of the best Washington DC cuisines from around the world is hard to miss. Almost everything that’s good has been said about this Indian restaurant started by restaurateur Ashok Bajaj and chef Vikram Sunderam. Their innovative approach certainly elevated Indian cuisine into another level that’s beloved by everyone who has stepped foot here in Washington.
Their signature dish, palak chaat, is something I can literally eat every day of the week, while their curries present flavors that are so complex, it’ll take a minute or two for your taste buds to savor the tastes. The original location at Penn Quarter has welcomed presidents, dignitaries and celebrities but despite their shot to national fame, you can expect the same consistency in food and service just as it was in the beginning.
If you can’t get a reservation at the Penn Quarter location, try their sister spot at the West End. The menu is more or less the same and better yet, the latter serves a limited brunch menu that includes coconut pancakes and the equivalent of Indian sloppy joe’s.
Fiola Mare (Italy)
The fact that Fiola Mare garnered the honor of being the best restaurant in Washington, D.C. this year makes it a worthy stop in your list of must-try Washington DC cuisines from around the world. This lauded Italian restaurant sits right on the Georgetown waterfront and is the crowning jewel amongst all of chef Fabio Trabocchi’s restaurants in DC (he has two others: Fiola and Casa Luca).
The menu is seafood centric and very expensive, but the price you pay is worth every penny because Trabocchi’s menu creations are deliciously balanced. It’s almost impossible to be disappointed with anything you order because the high quality ingredients are also eminent from the first bite. So my suggestion is have a look at the menu, see what you like and go for it.
Food critics around the country put Fiola Mare in the same league as Le Bernadin and Eleven Madison, both of which are three-Michelin star restaurants located in New York City. If that isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps the tidbit that President Obama chose the restaurant to celebrate his 55th birthday might.