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Washington, DC: Where to Eat Before the Show

As someone who works in the theatre, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than a night out for dinner and a show. Washington D.C. is bustling with theatres, both big and small, that are ready to entertain for you almost any night of the week. Luckily, D.C. is also bustling with restaurants, ready for you to join them for a date night or an evening out with friends. Here are some restaurants to taste before the show goes on...

Arena Stage

-Around Southwest & Wharf District-

Easy & Casual: Kirwan’s On The Wharf

The perfect Irish pub stop. This is a great place to spot if you want to grab a few beers and some fish & chips before the show. P.S. They have great live music Thursday-Saturday night!

What should I try? Crispy Fish & Chips

Grab Your Friends: Mi Vida Restaurante

Although I will always go for a good street taco, Mi Vida serves great, filling Mexican food in a pretty aesthetic, perfect for a group of friends. Expect it to be loud and bumpin’, but excellent for sipping some sangrias before the show.

What should I try? Guacamole & Sangria or “Sabores de Mexico”

A Little Romance: Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi

Highly rated and thoroughly reviewed, you’ve probably heard of Del Mar before. This beautiful and delicious restaurant is the perfect spot if you want to splurge on a little romance without white-clothed tables. The Spanish flair and fusion food is a memorable and romantic sit down.

What should I try? As many tapas as possible

Just Drinks: Whiskey Charlie

Folger Theatre

-Around Capitol Hill-

Easy & Casual: Good Stuff Eatery

Expect a full heart and stomach. On my first visit to Good Stuff Eatery with a close friends, I was encouraged to try as many sauces as possible. I suggest you do the same! With a variety of specialty burgers and fries, there’s something here for everyone. The most popular item on the menu is the Prez Obama Burger, smothered with onions and horseradish (maybe not the best date spot) which definitely has a unique kick to it. If you want something more simple, a regular burger deal is also available and always delicious. The Spike’s Village Fries (fries with rosemary, thyme, and sea salt) is the best thing on the menu!

What should I try? Specialty burger, Spike’s Village Fries, ALL the sauces

Grab Your Friends: Ambar

The small plate and appetizer selection is perfect for a shared dinner with friends. This Balkan inspired menu is eclectic and fun, great for trying different dishes and exploring new tastes before heading to the theatre.

What should I try? Lamb Medallions, Brussel Sprouts, Grilled Calamari

A Little Romance: Acqua Al 2

Acqua Al 2 will always be one of my top suggestions in DC. Full of Italian charm and fresh pasta, grab a corner seat and enjoy an array of breads, pastas, and desserts together under warm mood lighting

What should I try? “Assaggio di Primi,” a delicious 5 dish pasta tasting menu

Just Drinks: Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar

Ford’s Theatre, Warner Theatre, National Theatre

-Around Penn Quarter-

Easy & Casual: Pi Pizzeria

What’s my favorite food? Chicago style pizza. I don’t care how many Michelin restaurants I have the pleasure of visiting, my love is deep and lasting. So, I am also super skeptical of any restaurant that claims to serve it. Although it’s not as good as the real thing, Pi Pizza is a great DC spot to grab a cheesy pizza pie. It’s my go-to when I need a taste of home.

What should I try? Deep dish pepperoni and spinach, always!

Grab Your Friends: The Smith

The Smith is casual enough that you can settle around a big table with friends and enjoy an affordable meal, while still being nice enough that you’ll want to show the aesthetic off to your friends. If the weather permits, they’ll slide the floor to ceiling windows away and open the restaurant into the streets.

What should I try? Pot of Mussels, Steak Frites, the photo booth by the bathroom

A Little Romance: Central, DBGB

DBGB is definitely a must-try spot in DC, run by notable executive Nicholas Tang. I recently visited DBGB for DC’s Restaurant Week and can honestly say all three courses were completely on point. The staff is attentive and the restaurant has tall windows giving an open vibe that still seems intimate.

What should I try? Hand-Cut Steak Tartare

Just Drinks: Succotash

The Kennedy Center

-Around Foggy Bottom & Georgetown-

Easy & Casual: Circa

Circa is an easy but upscale-feeling bistro chain that now has four locations scattered around the District. What I enjoy about Circa is that it continually has quality and creative choices, without ever feeling like you’re breaking the bank. Last time I visited, I casually split a couple of dishes with friends while enjoying some drinks and conversation.

What should I try? Barbeque Chicken Flatbread, Petite Filet Sliders

Grab Your Friends: Farmers, Fishers, Bakers

One of a few locations in the city under the “Farmer” name, this restaurant carries out the same mission to serve locally sourced and fresh food. All of the locations are a great spot for a group, with creative drinks and an overwhelmingly diverse menu to match everyones tastes.

What should I try? IMPOSSIBLE Burger, fresh bread for the table, Cacio e Pepe

A Little Romance: Filomena Ristorante

Filomena is one of the most charming restaurants in Washington, which is why it can be a little difficult to get into. What I love about Filomena is that it doesn’t subscribe to the chic or high-end style Washingtonians gravitate towards. Its interior is decorated like your Italian grandmother’s house, fake plants and all. With rows of desserts and plates of fresh pastas displayed upon entry, your mouth will be watering before you even sit down.

What should I try? Ravioli Di Chiacchieri and a slice of their cake

Just Drinks: Hotel Hive rooftop

Shakespeare Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre

-Around Chinatown-

Easy & Casual: Royal Thai

This is my favorite Thai place in DC. It’s authentic, nicely priced, and always delicious. Located right on the edge of Chinatown, it’s intimate, but the staff is so accommodating it won’t take long to settle in. Enjoy their specialty drinks and appetizers!

What should I try? Chicken Pad Thai

Grab Your Friends: Jaleo

Jaleo is an old classic stop, tried and true in the DC area. This Jose Andres restaurant is great for a group that wants to gather around some Spanish tapas. Its full menu and assortment of dishes allow something for everyone’s tastes, while still bringing some creative new creations to the table. They have a “pre-theatre” menu, but don’t be afraid to explore all this restaurant has to offer.

What should I try? One of the four different delicious tasting menus

A Little Romance: Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

Also owned by Jose Andres, Oyamel is fun and full of life. Its mood lighting and eclectic decor create a wonderful environment for a lively date night and Mexican dish. Make sure you order the guacamole- they make it in front of you at your table and it’s the perfect appetizer to share before your meal of tacos and sangria!

What should I try? Guacamole, Cabrito Pastor Norteño Taco, Pancita de Puerco al Pastor Taco, Sangria

Just Drinks: Dirty Habit back bar

Studio Theatre, Constellation Theatre, Keegan Theatre

-Around 14th Street-

Easy & Casual: Busboys & Poets

Busboys & Poets is another restaurant that I will always suggest. I consider myself a regular at this restaurant, because it’s always affordable while providing a delicious, hearty portion. Their quick service and variety in menu make it a great casual spot to eat if you still want a good sit-down vibe and casual DC feel.

What should I try? Grilled Cheese & Tomato Panini, Grilled Chicken Panini, Spinach & Wheatberry Salad

Grab Your Friends: Barcelona Wine Bar

Barcelona Wine Bar is still one of the busiest and bouncing spots on 14th street. You can grab a table or stay at the bar- either way expect delicious shareable dishes for the table and good wine. Barcelona Wine Bar is loud and full, so I don’t suggest it if you want an evening of quiet conversation to yourself. If it is warm, try to snag a spot outside on the front patio. And try as many tapas as possible!

What should I try? Spicy Squid, Patatas Bravas, Jamón & Manchego Croquettes, Bacon-Wrapped Dates

A Little Romance: Le Diplomate

With a famous wine list and an always instagram-worthy aesthetic, Le Diplomate is a restaurant you will hear Washingtonians recommend again and again. I heard about this restaurant the first week I moved here and haven’t stopped hearing about it since. It is a classic date spot because of its romantic atmosphere, and the menu is full of can’t-miss dishes.

What should I try? Steak Frites, Macaroni au Gratin, all the wine

Just Drinks: El Centro

Enjoy the show!

Any more suggestions? Let me know!

Written by Emi Lungmus

Edited by Anna McCarthy

Photos by Emi Lungmus


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