For those in the city, Restaurant Week from Aug. 11 to 17 is a chance to (cheaply) test the D.C. area’s numerous gastronomic options. With $20.14, you can buy a three-course lunch, while for $35.14, you can enjoy a three-course dinner (plus drinks, tip and tax).
Keep in mind when choosing a place to eat it’s better to avoid restaurants that serve tapas and small plates. While some of the best and most creative restaurants in the city feature smaller portions – think Zaytinya, El Centro, Oyamel and Graffiato – you’ll likely pay about $35 for three tapas year-round anyway.
Reservations across the city tend to fill up quickly, but below is a list of highly rated restaurants with offerings that range from Russian to Japanese to French and still have reservations available. If you are already here for the summer or came back to the District early, here’s your chance to dine away. Book reservations to a restaurant by clicking on its name, which links to its OpenTable page.
Gazpacho is just one option available at 2941. Photo by Flickr user cyclonebill / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Falls Church, Va. ★★★★½✰
It’s hard not to appreciate 2941′s undeniably stunning setting: small waterfalls, koi fish, lush trees and – oh, yes – a lake. All contribute to the restaurant’s charming and romantic ambiance. It serves contemporary American food influenced by flavors of the Mediterranean.
Expect hors d’oeuvres like tomato gazpacho and salmon tartare, while grilled pork loin and rockfish remain options for the main course. And dessert? 2941 takes a twist on the classics, serving black forest cake (cherry ganache, vanilla bavarois, Kirsch syrup and roasted cherries) and peach melba (brown sugar cookie, toasted oat ice cream, peach marmalade, raspberry granite and almond streusel), among others.
Take a break from the crowds (and typical fare) of the city at La Chaumiere, the Georgetown restaurant that looks more like a tiny French inn than the Friday night date spot it’s known to be. Other than its consistently high-quality food (La Chaumiere has won the Washingtonian’s “100 Best Restaurants” award 29 times since 1978), the restaurant’s stone fireplaces and wood beams make it feel cozy and intimate.
SEI Restaurant & Lounge
Penn Quarter ★★★★½✰
SEI is the glamorous Saturday night hangout spot you’ve always searched for but have never found. The space’s minimal white leather sofas and luxurious dripping crystal light fixtures are reason enough to book a table, but the food and drinks are also top notch.
Aside from the handcrafted sushi rolls and tofu bibimbap bowls, SEI offers a bevy of creative cocktails that range from Asian pear sangria to lavender margaritas and “liquid wasabi” sake bombs. For restaurant week, SEI has both a lunch and dinner special, so there’s no reason not to taste test the typically expensive lounge.
Pulled pork and fried green tomatoes at Acre 121. Photo by Flickr user justgrimes / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Columbia Heights ★★★★✰
This swingin’ country bar and restaurant also moonlights as a bluegrass and folk rock music hall on weeknights, taking a new approach to “dinner and a show.” In addition to entertainment value, Acre 121 offers some of the best barbecue in the D.C. area as well as more craft beers on tap than you can keep track of, making it a true Southern establishment. Fresh grits, chipotle BBQ and jalapeño cornbread are just a handful of the dishes that set Acre 121 apart from its more traditional neighbors in Columbia Heights.
Dupont Circle ★★★★✰
Why dine like a college student when you can dine like a tsar? Russia House’s diverse menu serves traditional Eastern European fare: stuffed short ribs, sausage with black caviar, zapechionaya baranina (lamb chops with lamb confit and red dandelion greens), shaslik (marinated pork with rice, tomatoes, cucumbers and dill), chicken kiev (with classic Hollandaise sauce and tarragon foam) and Russian salads.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Russian dinner without vodka, of which Russia House has many kinds – more than 200 from across Europe. Order a single two-ounce shot for about $10, or drink your way across Russia with the Vodka Flight sampler, one of the restaurant’s more popular drinking options.