22 Historic Restaurants in the Washington DC Area

Dining Landmarks in Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia

Many of the best places to dine in the Washington DC area are historic restaurants, taverns, and inns that have such a distinctive ambiance that they have lasted more than a generation. Each of these restaurants is a historic landmark that offers something special and keeps customers coming back again and again.

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    Bar in Old Ebbitt Grill.
    Jason Colston/Getty Images

    675 15th St., NW Washington, DC. (202) 347-4800

    The historic restaurant was founded in 1856, originally as a boarding house, and later became known as Washington's first saloon. Over the years, it has moved to a few different locations in the downtown area. In 1970, the Old Ebbitt Grill was struggling financially and was bought by the owners of Clyde's of Georgetown. The current location, near the White House, has been its home since 1983. The restaurant's Victorian style and its collection of antiques and memorabilia make it a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities, and theater-goers.

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    1226 36th St. NW, Washington, DC. (202) 965-1789

    Situated in a Federal period house in residential Georgetown, the historic restaurant has six dining rooms that are beautifully decorated with American antiques, period equestrian and historical prints and China. The building dates back to 1789, however, the restaurant was established in 1960. In 1985, it was purchased by the Clyde's Restaurant Group.

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    9030 Lucia Lane Alexandria VA; 703-780-3665

    The original farmhouse that is Cedar Knoll today was constructed in the late 1800’s. Prior to that, the land was a part of the Mount Vernon plantation which was owned by George Washington. The restaurant, opened in 1975, offers French/American cuisine in a historic atmosphere, with fireplaces and views of the Potomac River. Outdoor seating is available weather permitting.

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    1475 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC. (202) 783-1475

    The restaurant was built by Henry Willard (who also built the famous Willard Hotel) in 1906. The Occidental is known for its photos of presidents, cabinet members, senators, sports heroes, literary greats, and celebrities. It was renovated in 2007 in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

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    Ben's Chili Bowl
    U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Hailey Haux

    1213 U St. NW Washington, DC. (202) 667-0909

    The Washington landmark that dates back to 1958 is located in the U Street corridor, which was once known as "Black Broadway." Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby and even President Barack Obama have been seen eating and just "hanging out" at Ben’s. The casual dining establishment has won many awards and is recognized as a “must go” place to eat when visiting Washington.

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    1739 N St. NW, Washington, DC. (202) 833-2668

    The Tabard Inn opened in 1922 as a guesthouse and restaurant in a Classical-Revival style rowhouse in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. The hotel is renowned for its fine dining.

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    Gadsby's Tavern In Alexandria, Virginia
    traveler1116 / Getty Images

    138 N. Royal St., Alexandria, VA

    (703) 548-1288. The historic landmark dates back to the 18th century and was frequented by George Washington Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe. Servers are dressed in colonial period costumes. The Gadsby's Tavern Museum displays 18th-century artifacts and hosts special programs for all ages.​

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    107 D Street NE Washington, DC. (202) 546-4488

    Established in 1960 and located just steps from the Capitol Building, the iconic restaurant is popular among members of Congress. The menu features steaks and seafood. This is a power dining spot with an elegant atmosphere and expensive prices.

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  • 09 of 22
    Martin's Tavern
    ( CC BY 2.0) by MikeSpeaks

    1264 Wisconsin Avenue NW Washington, DC. (202) 333-7370

    Established in 1933, the tavern has been a Georgetown landmark since the Great Depression. The menu features classic American food, local specialties, and tavern favorites.

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    Three locations in Maryland: Bethesda, Silver Spring, & Laurel

    These classic diners date back to the 1930s and 40s. They are open 24 hours and serve breakfast, burgers, sandwiches and blue plate specials day and night.

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    10710 Falls Road, Potomac, MD. (301) 983-8838

    Nestled in the heart of Potomac, Maryland, the restaurant has been serving ​French-influenced cuisine since 1931. With five dining rooms, the restaurant can accommodate up to 350 people. The rustic decor, fireplaces and country setting make this a local favorite. Banquet rooms are available as well as the lawn gardens for large parties or weddings.

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    10801 MacArthur Blvd. Potomac, MD. (301)365-2425

    The Old Angler’s Inn, opened in 1860 and located just steps from the C & O Canal, housed military officers during the Civil War. In 1957, the Reges family purchased the inn and transformed into a charming restaurant that has become a capital landmark. With unique indoor and outdoor dining areas, the restaurant consistently ranks as one of the most romantic in the Washington DC area.

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    6119 Tulane Avenue Glen Echo, MD. (301) 229-6600

    The Irish Inn serves upscale Irish fare in a casual and cozy setting. The restaurant has changed ownership and names several times over the years, with its most recent renovation in 2003. The property was built in 1931 after a fire had destroyed the home on the property and killed the family who lived there. The restaurant is said to be haunted by their ghosts.

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    332 Springvale Rd. Great Falls, VA. (703) 759-3800

    François Haeringer, the founder of L'Auberge Chez François, was a pioneer when he opened the original Chez François in the heart of Washington DC in 1954. In 1975, the building was sold to make room for an office building and Haeringer opened the L'Auberge Chez François in Great Falls, Virginia, on six acres of rolling hills that were reminiscent of his native Alsatian countryside. The dining rooms are filled with family heirlooms and murals depicting scenes of Haeringer's place of birth, Obernai, France. The Haeringer family continues to run the restaurant which has become a culinary icon in the Washington DC area.

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    9201 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD. (301) 589-3500

    The historic building functioned as a toll house in the early 1900s. In 1930 it was converted to a restaurant. Mrs. K's is a charming inn with several dining areas, including a wine cellar and an outdoor terrace. The elegant gardens provide an ideal setting for weddings and other special gatherings. Sunday brunch is especially popular.

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    Olney Ale House
    Diarrhea [ CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    2000 Olney Sandy Spring Road. Olney, MD. (301) 774-6708

    The restaurant dates back to 1924 when this part of Montgomery County was sparsely populated. It began as "The Corner Cupboard" serving ice cream, baked goods, and ham sandwiches. Over the years, the structure has been expanded and the ownership has changed several times. Today, it is a traditional Irish pub serving American classics.

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    734 N St. Asaph St. Alexandria, VA. (703) 548-1616

    For more than 100 years, the Royal has been an Old Town favorite, a casual family-style restaurant. The Royal Café was originally located at 109 North Royal Street. The building was torn down in 1964 as part of the city’s urban renewal and was moved to its current location in 1965. Today, the menu features home-style cooking, including authentic Greek & Italian fare.

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    3236 M Street, NW, Washington, DC. (202) 333-9180

    The first of Clyde's restaurants opened in Georgetown in 1963, attracting a loyal clientele including many political, media, entertainment, and sports celebrities. The restaurant became a local institution and has expanded over the years. The Clyde's Restaurant Group now includes twelve restaurants in the Washington DC area that serve contemporary American fare.

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    214 King Street, Alexandria, VA. (703) 683-6868

    The steak-and-seafood restaurant is a local favorite in Old Town Alexandria. Circa 1868, the building originally served as a storage facility for tobacco and as a torpedo warehouse during the World Wars. The Warehouse Restaurant opened here in 1969. There was a fire in the building in 1980. The current owners adapted the name to the Warehouse Bar & Grill which they have been operating since 1987. The restaurant is known for its caricatures of Old Town personalities including ordinary customers, local business owners and TV news anchor Katie Couric.

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    2 East Diamond Avenue Gaithersburg, MD. (301) 947-5548

    The casual restaurant has been a Gaithersburg institution since 1971, known for its unique menu of more than 200 overstuffed sandwiches. The building was modeled after the Point of Rock's railroad station. Roy Passin, the restaurant's namesake and longtime owner, died in 2009 at age 87.

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    121 King Street Alexandria, VA. (703) 836-2637

    Il Porto has been serving fine Northern Italian food since 1973. Built in the 18th century by a retired sea captain, the building has served as a warehouse for exotic imports, a home, a wine press and distillery, a butcher shop, a speakeasy and a Nazi radio station.

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    ( CC BY 2.0) by Elvert Barnes

    5121 Baltimore Avenue, Hyattsville, MD. (301) 927-2740

    Franklins is located in a historic landmark building built in the 1880's as a blacksmith and carriage shop. Starting in 1910, the building housed the Hyattsville Hardware Co. which stayed in continuous operation until 1992. Franklins opened in 1992 using many of the hardware store's fixtures and offers a unique blend of food and beer combined with upscale, practical, and offbeat shopping. The nail bins now hold penny candy and toys, The shelves, once full of hardware and cans of paint, are now stocked with the modern "essentials:" rubber chickens, Legos, chocolate body paint and hot sauces.