While many Americans view the upcoming presidential inauguration as a sign of regress instead of progress, there are reasons—at least for travelers—to be optimistic about what’s happening in Washington, D.C.
The city’s dining scene has become so polished—thanks largely to young professionals who have migrated to D.C. and created a demand for high-quality dining options—that the coveted Michelin Guide included it for the first time last year. In the past, lobbyists and politicians would wheel and deal over steaks and martinis; these days, the deals go down over smoked potato ravioli and stuffed quail with mascarpone cheese.
If you’re coming to town for inauguration weekend, don’t expect all of the city’s top dining spots to be celebrating or hosting special events. For the most part, Washington will be conducting business as usual. There are, however, a few special menus and options for travelers. No matter where you dine, you will want to snag a reservation as soon as possible. (More than one million people are expected to descend on the District this weekend, including those traveling for the Women’s March on Washington.)
What do you do if you find yourself in one of the following restaurants with a person of the opposite political persuasion? Use your mouth to savor the food, not to trash talk. There will plenty of time for that over the next four years.
Want to Be Near the Action?
Dirty Habit: The new restaurant and bar inside Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco in Penn Quarter (near the National Mall) has a lively atmosphere and clublike design. The space is homey enough that you can kick back with a whiskey, yet refined enough that you can bring your foodie friends; look for such small plates as smoked Chilean sea bass with shrimp rice cake and playfully named cocktails (the Dirty Decision is a mix of chanterelle-infused amontillado sherry, Noilly Prat orange bitters, and a black garlic tincture). Special dining packages that include champagne and menus personalized with guests’ names are available for groups on Inauguration Day. And, in honor of the Women’s March, spirits made by women will be featured on the cocktail menu.
Masseria: This Italian restaurant near the hubbub of Capitol Hill just got its first Michelin star and is a favorite of Michelle Obama—if that isn’t an indication of its class, we don’t know what it is. The menu is prix fixe (four courses for $78); we recommend the handmade chestnut agnolotti pasta and a Puglian wine. Once inside the restaurant’s gated courtyard, you’ll forget you’re in the middle of the Ivy City industrial warehouse district.
Need a Break from the Action?
Bad Saint: This Filipino hot spot nabbed the number two place on Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants list last year. To get in, you’ll have to line up before the doors open at 5:30 p.m. The food lives up to its hype: You’ll feast on whole fried dorado with lemongrass and tomatoes and pork and beef egg rolls with water chestnuts. Casual and located in the residential neighborhood of Columbia Heights, Bad Saint is a direct shot by train from the center of the Inauguration action—and good for crowd-averse travelers looking for a respite from political talk.
The Bird: Comforting, yet offbeat, dishes like ostrich tartare and gemelli pasta with confit goose are the name of the game at this new Logan Circle restaurant, just a 20-minute walk from the White House. Chilled by thoughts of the future? Go for brunch—the menu includes warming winter delights like Amish fried chicken, wild bird scrapple, and chicken soup.
Tail Up Goat: Run by three D.C. food veterans, Tail Up Goat serves such casual Caribbean-style dishes as grilled rabbit sausage with marinated radicchio and goat lasagna with kale, anchovy, and salsa verde. Expect the atmosphere here in the quirky Adams Morgan neighborhood to be tame during Inauguration weekend.