Only three-ish hours away from Miami by plane, Washington, D.C. is one of our favorite weekend getaways. There are two reasons we usually find ourselves there every year:
1. Some of our best friends live there.
2. Flights are cheap.
Back in April, we made our way back to the nation’s capital for a different reason: to eat. Beyond the free museums, parks and other historic attractions, there’s a ton of great food and libations just waiting to be consumed. We discovered that firsthand as we devoured thousands upon thousands of calories for the sake of research.
While we could have easily just eaten ourselves to death on the trip, we tried to balance things out with a few non-food activities. Below, you’ll find the fruits of our labor.
D.C. is big. Rule No.1: Wear comfortable shoes — you will be doing a lot of walking. Thankfully, you’ll have some help in the form of public transportation. No matter where you stay, you’re never too far away from a convenient bus stop or train stop (the same cannot be said about Miami).
Because there’s so much to do here, you also don’t want to stay too far from the attractions and nightlife that D.C. offers nor do you want to spend an arm and a leg (which is what many Downtown hotels charge). Enter Kimpton Topaz.
Located in Dupont Circle, Topaz is one of the beloved hotel brand’s boutique properties. What does that mean for you? Affordable rates and the quality experience you’ve come to expect from the company. And because of its central location, most of the major sights are a short trip away. Feel like barhopping in Adams Morgan? Want to look at the monuments at night? Take the short walk over to the Dupont Circle station or Farragut North station, and you’re set.
Your comfort is the hotel’s top priority, and it shows. From the helpful staff and complimentary wine hour (5 to 6 p.m. every day) to the cool color palette — blue, purple and green are everywhere — and chill Moroccan vibe, this place is the definition of relaxation. In addition to the standard queen and king guest rooms, there are also Energy and Yoga rooms that include daybed nooks, exercise machines and other fun amenities. Did we mention they’re pet-friendly?
The one thing Topaz doesn’t have is an on-site restaurant. However, its nearby sister property Mason & Rook does — and it’s now one of our favorite spots in the city. Chef Jonathan Dearden and the Radiator team fuse global influences to create a mouthwatering menu full of unique flavors. In our experience, restaurants with such varied menus are hit or miss — some items fall flat while others shine.
Here at Radiator, that’s not the case at all: Everything shines. We’re suckers for anything that sounds “out there” or super creative, and the Lamb Belly Tacos (curried chickpeas, tzatziki and mint) immediately caught our eye — they’re essentially Mediterranean tacos. That may sound like a strange mix on paper, but the tacos are the talk of the town for a reason: They work … and deliciously so.
The same holds true for the rest of the menu, which had us drooling after reading each description. The hamachi crudo (smoked trout caviar, thai chilies and purple shiso) was another highlight as were the Scallops with their sunchoke tostones. The one dish we couldn’t stop raving about: the Wagyu Bavette Steak. Don’t leave without trying it, especially with one of the specialty cocktails from the restaurant’s stellar bar program (which deserves as much of your attention as the cuisine here).
José Andrés practically runs D.C. While he’s certainly made his mark in the 305 with two stellar restaurants, his Miami footprint doesn’t even begin to compare to his empire here. Oyamel, Jaleo, Beefsteak, minibar … the list goes on. Our favorite of the bunch, though, is Zaytinya. We’ve been several times, and the Mediterranean cuisine has never disappointed. By the looks of the round-the-clock crowds, we aren’t the only ones who feel the same way.
Small plates (mezze) comprise the menu here, thus we recommend you get a little bit of everything. At $55 per person, the Chef’s Tasting is a steal and takes the guesswork out of the menu so you can just sit back and relax. If you do prefer to order a la carte, some of our favorite items were the Fattoush, Seared Halloumi Cheese, Octopus Santorini and Skuna Bay Salmon.
When we asked our peers for restaurant recommendations, one name kept popping up: Founding Farmers. It’s practically impossible to have a discussion about the D.C. food scene without mention of this American-inspired eatery dedicated to sustainability.
The farmer-owned restaurant’s exceptional reputation is well deserved: This is hands down some of the best comfort food we’ve ever had. Start with the Skillet Corn Bread (sea salted honey butter ftw), then dive into the Chicken Pot Pie or Yankee Pot Roast. You can’t help but smile the entire time.
As you can tell from our food choices thus far, we weren’t counting calories. The Federalist Pig is another joint where you want to leave your diet at the door. This BBQ spot has all the smoked meats you could want: brisket, pork shoulder, chicken, turkey breast … name your protein, and it’s probably here.
The platters are best kept for larger parties unless you’re starving. Instead, solo diners should opt for the sandwiches including the local favorite Carolina on My Mind: chopped pork shoulder, crispy skin, spicy vinegar sauce, cole slaw and sesame bun. Get a side of the Smoked Cheddar Mac or Brussels Sprouts, and you’re golden.
Two words: Pop Tarts. Whatever you get at this breakfast-all-day, supper-all night restaurant, make sure you order some pop tarts to finish your meal. These house-made rectangles of joy come in a variety of flavors, and you should order them all if stomach space permits. With that said, don’t skimp on the savory selections. If you want to indulge and induce a nap, the giant Corned Beef Hash will get the job done.
Not in the mood for something as heavy? Mark On an Off Day keeps things simple with two eggs, your choice of meat, hash browns and toast. Regardless of what you choose, you’ll probably end up taking half of it home for later — everything is huge. There are two convenient D.C. locations, so there’s no excuse NOT to visit.
We discovered this place through Instagram: After seeing so many rainbow bagels and monster sandwiches pop in our feed, we decided to make a quick pit stop before our flight back to Miami. Your best bet is to get here right when they open — we only had three or four people ahead of us. By the time we got our order, the line was 20 people deep and growing.
We opted for their breakfast bagel sandwiches, which can include everything from egg and cheese to nova and an assortment of flavored cream cheeses. We ate half our sandwich and kept the other half for lunch — that’s how big these things are. You definitely get more than your money’s worth.
Although we spent most of our time eating, we did go off the beaten path a few times. One of those times took us to The Mansion on O Street, a hotel that doubles as a residence, triples as a museum and quadruples as a restaurant. We’re going to focus on the museum part.
Once you pay the admission fee, you can explore most of the venue to your heart’s desire. There are random tchotchkes everywhere, and each one of them is available for purchase. There’s really no rhyme or reason to their placement or their existence, which adds to the charm of the place. What we were more interested in, though, were the secret doors: There are dozens of them throughout the mansion. What looks like a bookshelf or mirror might actually be an entrance (or exit) to an entirely different section.
Our advice: Press and pull at everything unless there’s a sign that says otherwise. Also, don’t miss out on the log cabin room — you’ll know when you see it.
D.C. Monuments at Night
Seeing the monuments after sunset should be on everyone’s bucket list. The lighting makes the giant structures look even larger and more awe inspiring. Crowds are also smaller, especially at the monuments further away from the National Mall.
If possible, we recommend you do one of the group tours. While it’s fun checking out everything on foot on your own, you will regret it the next morning; we walked the entire mall at night and hated life. Doing a trolley tour or bike tour will save your feet from a lot of pain.