Washington, D.C.'s perch near the Chesapeake Bay and beautiful Potomac River views mean that there are plenty of seafood restaurants to choose from in the nation's capital. One particular local specialty? Oysters, and this city is all in when it comes to oyster bars. Here are 10 restaurant ideas for when you're craving oysters on the half shell, crab cakes, smoked salmon, grilled fish, lobster rolls, and more tastes of the sea.
The fanciest place to dine on the Georgetown Waterfront has to be Fiola Mare, a restaurant that focuses on seafood with dishes inspired by Italy and the Mediterranean. The picturesque $75 seafood tower includes oysters, clams, mussels, tuna tartare, and more. For dinner, classics like Dover sole are carved table side, and fresh grilled fish is served with salsa verde, sea salt, and olive oil. This power-player restaurant is also known for its three-course bottomless champagne brunch, which is perfect for special occasions.
Washingtonians love going to Hank's Oyster Bar for a meal that feels like a trip to the shore, and that's why this local restaurant established outposts all over the city. Find Hank's Oyster Bar restaurants in Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, The Wharf, and in Old Town Alexandria. The meal begins with a little bowl of Goldfish crackers, and ends with complementary chocolate chunks with the bill. In between, try everything from fried oysters, lobster rolls and crab cakes to bouillabaisse or a seafood Cobb salad, but make sure to try the oysters here. There are choices for non-seafood eaters too, from a delicious burger to a "meat and two" plate that changes every day.
Located in up-and-coming dining destination Ivy City, The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse smokes all its own seafood and the result is all sorts of smoked salmon and smoked trout fillet. Pick some up to take home at the Ivy City Smokehouse market or sit down at the neighborhood restaurant with the smokehouse fish board. The Tavern also offers entrees like fried shrimp, crispy fish sandwiches, and crab cakes.
Miami Beach hotspot Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab boasts a Washington outpost, and it's just as luxe as the original — but with way more politicos of course. Florida Stone Crab Claws with mustard sauce are a big draw, and steaks are another. But other seafood mainstays include ahi tuna filet mignon, pan-seared branzino, fish and chips, and seafood pasta with lobster, shrimp, and Alaskan king crab.
The historic Old Ebbitt Grill is one of the most popular restaurants in Washington (and in the U.S.), welcoming more than 1 million customers in 2016. The crowds arrive for crab cakes, fried calamari, and oysters among other crowd-pleasing selections at D.C.'s oldest saloon, founded in 1856. Each year, this wood-paneled restaurant throws an epic party for bivalve fans called Oyster Riot.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace's indoor-outdoor space spills out onto 14th street, and it's always a party with vodka martinis at happy hour and garlic and shallot-soaked mussels. Begin a meal with raw oysters or cooked varieties like grilled bacon-wrapped oysters, while the Southern-inspired entrees include seafood gumbo, po’boy sandwiches and blackened swordfish.
Richmond-based Rappahannock Oyster Bar is on a mission to help revive the oyster industry in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay, farming the state's native oyster Crassostrea virginica. Order a round of oysters at either of Rappahannock Oyster Bar's D.C. locations: there's a restaurant within artisanal food market Union Market in Northeast and a new outpost within The Wharf's historic oyster shed. Rappahannock Oyster Bar also serves seafood dishes like crab dip, crab cakes, and crispy whole fish.
There's so much history behind D.C.'s fish market, credited as the U.S.'s oldest continuously operating open-air fish market. A tourist destination for years, the Municipal Fish Market underwent a big makeover when the area around it transitioned into splashy new development The Wharf.
Today, The Fish Market at the Wharf has shiny new digs, serving up crab legs and spiced shrimp at Jessie's Taylor Seafood or clams at Captain White’s Seafood. There's seafood here to take home, but also ready-to-eat food for an impromptu meal.
The toughest decision at The Salt Line might be choosing whether you want your lobster roll drenched in butter or dressed up with mayo. This casual but still refined restaurant near the water and Nationals Park specializes in New England-style seafood dishes incorporating local Chesapeake ingredients — whether that's clam chowder, surf and turf, or fried clams. Brunch here involves crab mac and cheese and lobster omelets.
Seafood restaurant Whaley is located in quite a scenic spot: it's in a historic building in Navy Yard, with a patio with riverfront views and the very modern Yards Park. Splurge with an elaborate seafood tower, or sample some oysters from the raw bar. Seared scallops, hamachi crudo, and wild Gulf shrimp tacos are a few of the season items.
Whaley's has a bit of a double life as well: in the summer, the restaurant hosts a very popular Rosé Garden with pink striped umbrellas, frozen drinks, snacks, and plenty of pink wine. In the winter, Whaley's has transformed into a Japanese hot pot pop-up called Fuyu.