The capital of the United States is known for its attaché case toting lobbyists, White House interns, and also politicians who are seen frequently in the eateries surrounding the various government building. A lesser known fact about the city nestling on the banks of the Potomac River is its variety of soul food inspired restaurants!
Though commonly considered a Southern food or an African American specialty, it has now found a loyal following in all segments of the population. Ingredients such as chicken innards and chitterlings, but also stand alone favorites like pork rinds, cornbread, and rice pudding are now ubiquitous, and the District sports a plethora of eateries that feature them!
Upscale in look and feel, Vidalia (1990 M Street, NW) is not overly expensive but nonetheless it is an insider tip and ever since it made it onto the Washingtonian Magazine four-star list, reservations are recommended. Try the Shrimp and Grits – the former is served head on – and don’t forget to order a side of baked macaroni with farm cheddar! Open daily, the hours of operation are split. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, while dinner is the name of the game Monday through Thursday from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday from 5:30 PM until 10:30 PM, and on Sunday from 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM.
An interesting combination of soul food and traditional Creole dishes may be found at B. Smith’s (50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE). Open daily from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM for lunch (except on Saturday when it’s brunch and does not begin until noon) and from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM for dinner (except Friday and Saturday when the restaurant is open until 10:00 PM), you owe it to yourself to try the Sweet Potato Ale Soup, Catfish Fingers, and ribs. Check out the rest of her menu and do not hesitate to make a reservation by calling 202-289-6188!
If you are a soul food novice but would not mind trying two cuisines in one, then Negril might be the place for you! An inexpensive Jamaican quick eatery that specializes in jerk chicken, the menu also features stewed oxtail, which has long since been hailed as one of soul food’s staples, but is woefully hard to find. Stop by 2301-G Georgia Avenue, NW and see how you like it. Closed on Sundays but open the rest of the week from 10:30 AM to 8:00 PM, this is a local favorite that does not skimp on the portion sizes.
An inexpensive – but by no means cheap – food experience awaits you at the DC Coast (1401 K Street, NW) where you may enjoy you meal in a stunning two story dining room. Open Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM for lunch, and Monday through Thursday from 5:30 PM to 10:30 PM as well as Friday and Saturday from 5:30 PM to 11:00 PM for dinner, soul inspired dishes of choice include the Crawfish Hush Puppies, Sweet Potato Fries, Creamy Southern Succotash and of course the Pecan Crusted Idaho Trout with Sweet Corn Pudding, Collard Greens and Toasted Pecan Meuniere. Yum!
For an upscale experience, allow Butterfield 9 to make a favorable impression on you. The menu shows an eclectic mix of soul food, French influenced cooking, and overall American favorites. Whether you have a hankering for Beef Short Rib with Root Vegetables or for Oxtail Cannelloni paired with foie gras, mustard greens, and hazelnut, this venue is sure to exceed your expectations! Located at 600 14th Street, NW, the dress is business casual and the hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM for lunch, and Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM, and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 PM to 11:00 PM for dinner. Named “one of the 100 hottest restaurants in the world” by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine, a reservation (202-289-8810) is highly recommended.
An oddity among even D.C. restaurants is the Old Ebbitt Grill which sounds like a hole in the wall, but is actually a Washington landmark which has won numerous awards. Located at 675 15th Street, NW, it is the wise connoisseur who will make reservations by calling 202-347-4800. The menu varies daily, but it always includes a variety of dishes that might be found in either an upscale Italian eatery, a fine seafood restaurant, a backwater bayou shack, or a soul food restaurant that is the toast of the town. Try the House Smoked Baby Back Ribs with baked beans and kale, or the Cornmeal Crusted Maine Cod with mashed potatoes and sautéed kale (ask for the sweet potato gratin on the side). Finish up with a Rice Pudding.
Although catering to the more “foody” clientele, the dress code is defined as “anything goes” and you will not be surprised to find shorts and cocktail dresses at the bar. Monday through Friday, breakfast is served from 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM, lunch starts at 11:00 AM and is served until 5:00 PM when dinner starts (which ends at 12:00 AM). On Saturdays and Sundays the food experience starts with brunch from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, and dinner is served from 4:00 PM until 12:00 AM.
No list of the top seven soul food restaurants in Washington D.C. could be complete without mentioning Georgia Brown’s at 950 15th Street, NW. The menu reads like a who’s who of the soul food hall of favorites, and a local favorite are the Crispy Chicken Livers with an enchanting mustard-soy dipping sauce. The Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish Fingers served with corn tartar sauce and slaw are also rather well received. During Sunday brunch there will be live jazz but even though the atmosphere is relaxed, the dress remains business casual or dressier. Open on Sundays from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM for brunch and 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM for dinner, hours during the week are Monday through Thursday from 11:30 AM to 10:00 PM, Friday until 11:00 PM, and Saturday open for dinner only from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM.