Washington, D.C. is a cultural melting pot and a great destination for exploring international cuisine. With 175 foreign embassies located here, some of the world’s best chefs call the city home and serve up their favorite dishes, sharing their unique cultural heritage, foods and traditions. The capital city has hundreds of great ethnic restaurants featuring specialties from every continent. Here are a few unique and tasty dishes you can try at some of the best restaurants in Washington, D.C.
The restaurant features dishes of the Balkan Peninsula prepared with a modern twist, divided into categories of small plate fare: Mezze, Kajmak (cheese), Spreads, Soup & Salad, Flatbreads, Seafood and Meat & Poultry. There are many vegetarian options. The wine list includes dozens of wines from the Balkan region. There's also a Rakia Bar, with an impressive selection. Rakia is an alcoholic beverage produced by distillation of fermented fruit and it is the national drink of Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey.
Try: Lamb Prosciutto, Kajmak with Smoked Salmon, Beets Tzatziki, and Tartare Steak.
Locations: Barracks Row, Capitol Hill. 523 8th Street, SE Washington DC. (202) 813-3039. Clarendon, 2901 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA (703) 875-9663.
Dishes at Cuba Libre feature authentic flavors that are derived from Cuba's culinary traditions, which include Spanish, African, Creole and Asian influences. Menus are full of color, aroma and style combining beef, poultry, pork and seafood with exotic fruits and vegetables, herbs and seasonings. The house specialty, the mojito, is available in 12 varieties and made from a Cuban recipe. Cuba Libre has additional locations in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Orlando.
Try: Mama Amelia's Empanadas (pulled pork, ground beef, or chicken), Ceviche Mixto (lobster, squid and shrimp), or Pez Cobia with pan roasted Black King fish, shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and mussels in coconut milk and green mango escabeche.
Location: Penn Quarter, 801 9th Street NW Washington DC (202) 408.1600.
Drawing from rich flavors of Ethiopian cuisine, the menu at Letena features distinctly spiced vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as a variety of meat dishes including lamb, goat and fish tibs. Dishes are made in the form of stew or stir-fry, served with injera, a flat bread made from fermented teff and barley flour.
Try: Vegi sampler including three vegi dishes and salad. Options include mushroom or carrot wot (chopped vegetables in berbere sauce); gomen (collard green cooked with seasoned oil and jalapeno pepper); kik (yellow split peas, simmered in mild onions, garlic and ginger sauce); yemisir wot (red lentils stewed in a berbere sauce); tofu wot (cubed tofu in berbere and coconut sauce); mushroom tibs (mushrooms stir fried with peppers and onions); and cabbage sauteed with carrots, potatoes, and onions.
Location: Columbia Heights, 3100 14th Street NW, Washington DC. (202) 870-1514.
This elegant French-Belgian restaurant offers a fixed-price menu by award-winning chef Robert Wiedmaier. Menu items change daily. The renowned chef hails from Brussels and his cuisine embodies the best culinary choices of European culture. He owns multiple restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area: Wildwood Kitchen, the Mussel Bar & Grille; and Siren.
Try: Boudin blanc, a speciality from the town of Rethel in the Champagne Ardenne region. This traditional dish is a fine–textured white sausage, originally eaten for Christmas in the Champagne region of France.
Location: West End, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. (202) 296-1166.
The award-winning Indian restaurant has an open kitchen showcasing cooking of Tawa (griddle), Sigri (open barbecue), tandoori and regional curries. Ashok Bajaj, born in New Delhi, India, has owned and operated restaurants in London and the United States for over 25 years. The innovative menu includes chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian options.
Try: Cauliflower Bezule, a savory vegetarian dish with mustard seeds, curry leaf, green chilies, and lemon juice.
Locations: Penn Quarter, 633 D Street, NW Washington DC (202) 637-1222. West End, 1190 New Hampshire Ave, NW Washington, DC (202) 466-2500.
Under the direction of Chef José Andrés, Jaleo offers an award-winning assortment of tapas, the traditional small dishes of Spain, as well as savory paellas, superb sangrias and a fine selection of Spanish wines and sherries. Jaleo has additional locations in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Try: Jaleo’s seasonal vegetable paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish made from fresh ingredients. The restaurant rotates paella specials throughout the year.
Locations: Penn Quarter, 480 7th Street, NW, Washington DC. (202) 628-7949. Bethesda Row, 7271 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD (301) 913-0003. Crystal City Shops, Arlington, VA (703) 413-8181.
China Chilcano celebrates Peru’s deeply rooted and diverse culinary heritage, including its native Criollo, Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei cuisines, exploring the crossover of indigenous ingredients between these three distinct culinary cultures.
Try: The Aeropuerto is one of China Chilcano’s signature main dishes (fried rice, egg noodle, crisp sweet potato, seasonal vegetables, soy bean sprout, “airplanes” – guests can also choose to add shrimp or chicken).
Location: Penn Quarter, 418 7th St, NW; Washington DC. (202) 783-0941.
Espita Mezcaleria offers rustic flavors that combine traditional Mexican and modern technique while staying true to the spirit of Southern Mexican fare. Dishes include tostadas, moles, tlayuda, tamal, and tacos. All of the tortillas are hand-pressed.
Try: Mole Verde with romanesco, bulb onion, and salsa tomatillo ahumado.
Location: Mount Vernon Square, 1250 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC. (202) 621-9695.
Cava features modern, authentic, and vibrant Mediterranean food in both fine dining and fast casual restaurants.
Try: Cava Grill's own supergreens (a house mix of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and chicory), with up to three dips including tzaziki, hummus, eggplant and red pepper dip, or harissa and a protein such as falafel, braised beef, or lamb meatballs, make for a hearty and nutritious bowl.
Cava Grill has 25 locations in the D.C. area: Bethesda, Tenleytown, Columbia Heights, Tysons, Merrifield, Chinatown, Westfield Montgomery Mall, Kentlands, Fairfax, Reagan DCA, and Ashburn, VA and more. Cava Mezze (full service restaurants) are located in Rockville, MD, Capitol Hill, D.C., Clarendon, VA, Harbor East, Baltimore, MD and Olney, MD.
Lupo Verde serves authentic, rustic, Italian fare including a variety of small plates, house-made charcuteries, cheeses, breads and antipasti. Wood-fired pizzas will also be available along with a selection of panini and salads at lunch, and house-made pastas, whole roasted fish and a premiere s election of meats during dinner.
Try: Fried artichokes, homemade agnolotti with short ribs, or a salad of sliced fennel, oranges, pine nuts, raisins, frisella, and ricotta with a charred orange vinaigrette.
Location: U Street Corridor, 1401 T Street, NW Washington DC (202) 827-4726.