Instead of wasting a meal on a chain restaurant, take your family out to eat at one of these restaurants that have been integral to the city’s history.
Whether they bear D.C. themed decor, sport D.C.-inspired menu items or underlie the city’s history, they are sure to add to your family’s experience in the District. Visit these must-try dining landmarks around the D.C. area for a taste of culture and history during your family’s stay in the nation’s capital.
Few restaurants are as central to D.C. history as Martin’s Tavern. Located in Georgetown, Martin’s Tavern boasts two sides of outdoor seating and plenty of seating at booths and tables indoors. Martin’s is most famous for its booths, which are known to have drawn presidents ranging from Harry Truman and George W. Bush. John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953 at Booth #3, now named The Proposal Booth, where anyone can sit in their honor. Franklin D. Roosevelt even met with his team to draft New Deal programs in the back room dubbed “The Dugout.” Enjoy some of the same food the presidents ate with a menu that offers a variety of brunch foods and dinner options, including challah French toast ($12.95), Grandma Martin’s Meatloaf ($24.95) and classic apple pie ($8) for dessert. This expansive menu is sure to satisfy every member of your family, so head over to Martin’s to grab a bite to eat and observe a part of D.C. ‘s history.
Martin’s Tavern. 1264 Wisconsin Ave NW. Open Monday through Thursday from 11 to 1:30 a.m., Friday 11 to 2:30 a.m., Saturday through Sunday 8 to 1:30 a.m.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Take your family to the 63-year-old Ben’s Chili Bowl to indulge in classic American cuisine and celebrate D.C.’s African American history. Former presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama have visited famous joint along with celebrities like Kevin Hart, Jesse Jackson and Serena Williams. The red, yellow and white colored storefront proudly advertises the restaurant’s signature chili hot dog – the half smoke – in big green lettering. The location was once a silent movie house called the Minnehaha Theater, before one of D.C.’s first Black police detectives turned it into a pool hall. The restaurant has a booth, table and counter seating, and all the furnishings have been there since day one. The recipes are also original, so be sure to check out the popular Ben’s Famous chili Bowl ($8.79), Virginia’s Favorite Banana Pudding ($8.80) and the Original Chili Half Smoke ($7.69). Head on over to Ben’s Chili Bowl for some historic D.C. food on the iconic U Street.
Ben’s Chili Bowl. 1213 U St NW. Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday 11 to 2 a.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant:
Enjoy a meal on George Washington’s former estate at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, which offers a grab and go food court and a sit-down dining experience. The location first opened to the public before the Civil War, when it served refreshments on a table outside of the kitchen. Now the business features a food court with quick bites including breakfast, pizza, sandwiches and ice cream and a restaurant that resembles 18th century decor through its wallpaper and drapery. The restaurant serves dinner and lunch on a daily basis and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Make sure to try the fried green tomato benedict ($14), pay homage to your alma mater with the GW Burger ($14) or peanut soup ($5). Satisfy your sweet tooth and indulge in the Colonial Cornbread topped with vanilla bean butter ($4). Make your way over to Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant to treat your family to a meal surrounded by the core of local and U.S. history at the Washington’s estate.
Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121. Open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant:
Head over to Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant for a colonial experience like no other with service from workers dressed as if they just stepped out of the 18th century in colonial garb at a dining spot once frequented by a number of past U.S. presidents. The site features two buildings – a historical museum that once housed the restaurant where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe once dined, and a former hotel that is now home to the restaurant and a ballroom. The multiple rooms are all decorated head to toe in colonial decor with historic chandeliers and paintings. The restaurant has several menus for lunch, Sunday brunch, dinner and groups with options like Sally Lunn-Rum laced French toast, with brie, bananas and bacon($12), Martha’s Remedy ($9), made of coffee, cocoa and brandy and Washington’s Favorite ($26) – a spread of duck, corn pudding, cabbage and an orange cherry glace. Bring your family to Gadsby’s for a colonial experience they are sure to not forget anytime soon.
Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant. 138 N. Royal St. Alexandria. Open Wednesday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Old Ebbitt Grill
No list of historic places to eat in D.C. is complete without Old Ebbitt Grill, the city’s oldest restaurant. The restaurant was founded in 1856 and visited by the likes of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding and William McKinely. Old Ebbitt Grill was D.C.’s first saloon, though the restaurant has relocated multiple times since then. Inside, customers can find priceless collections of antiques and memorabilia, like clocks and marble staircase paintings. Treat yourself to a house made pasta like the Cannelloni Di Casa ($20.99), trout parmesan ($24.99) or a bacon pimento cheeseburger ($18.99). Whatever your ordering, this classic D.C. restaurant is a must visit for out of town family members.
Old Ebbitt Grill. 675 15th St NW. Monday through Friday 11 to 2 a.m. Saturday through Sunday 10 to 2 a.m.