India’s epic celebration of Diwali (or Deepavali in South India) runs Saturday, October 22 to Wednesday, October 26 this year. The biggest day of festivities falls on a Monday (October 24), when many restaurants are closed, so some are opting to start the party early.
Traditions tied to the popular Indian holiday include lighting up oil lamps called diyas, puja performances, blasting off fireworks, and decorating homes. The annual festival is also a time to gather with friends and family for a good meal marked by plenty of sweets.
Here’s a running list of local restaurants celebrating Diwali.
427 11th Street NW
The palace-like Penn Quarter space that formerly housed Punjab Grill reopened this spring as a luxe new Indian restaurant called Rania, which means “Queen” in Hindi and Sanskrit. Chef Chetan Shetty, who recently cooked at acclaimed New Delhi restaurant Indian Accent, celebrates Rania’s first Diwali with a special four-course spread ($90). The decadent dinner includes options like ash-roasted sweet potato chaat; pepper shrimp vadai; chana chicken rezala, poppy seed curry, and smoked chili oil; sides of dal, raita, and puffed rice; and desserts like apple tarte tatin with chai ice cream. View menu here and book a seat via Tock. Rania is open Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Karma Modern Indian and Kismet Modern Indian
611 I Street NW; 111 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, Virginia
Penn Quarter’s Bib Gourmand-designated Karma Modern Indian and sibling Kismet, its casual new offshoot in Old Town, celebrate Diwali all weekend long with treats from chef and New Delhi native Ajay Kumar. On Sunday, October 23, both restaurants will dish out sweets to guests. Everyone dining on-site that night will receive complimentary coconut medallions. (The restaurants will be closed on Monday, October 24.)
Bombay Street Food
151 American Way, Oxon Hill, Maryland
Bombay-born restaurateur Asad Sheikh’s months-old National Harbor location rings in Diwali with free mango lassis for customers all week. “Just come in, ask the server, and say, ‘happy Diwali,’” Sheikh tells Eater. Bombay Street Food, which has other locations in Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill, specializes in thali — a popular order during Diwali — all year. The sharable platters feature an assortment of curries, vegetables, bread, and rice.
1625 1st Street NW
This AAPI-owned, women-owned business in Shaw serves North Indian street foods like tofu curry and fluffy naan in a hip, laid-back setting. Since Glassey is closed on Mondays, it rings in Diwali with a special candle-lit dinner on Sunday, October 23, starting at 5 p.m. The dinner includes a spread of street foods, specialty cocktails, and henna tattoo artists. Guests are encouraged to bring their own candles to participate in a DIY festival of lights.
In honor of Diwali on Monday, October 24, the fast-casual counter for Indian bowls in D.C. (Navy Yard, Mt. Vernon Triangle), Arlington, and Fairfax offers diners a sweet or savory treat on the house. Wish the team a “Happy Diwali” at the register and choose between free mini samosas or chai chocolate chip cookies with any in-store purchase. For online orders that day, use promo code HAPPYDIWALI at checkout to redeem the chosen freebie.
3512 Connecticut Avenue NW
The modern Indian mainstay in Cleveland Park celebrates the holiday with a sharable thali platter ($30) and a vegetarian option for $28.
815 Connecticut Avenue NW
Diwali at Ashok Bajaj’s decades-old Bombay Club calls for a sea of dinnertime specials ($7-$36). Opt for paneer mushroom korma, mango fish curry, vegetarian biryani, and naan dressed with almond, pistachio, and apricot. Guests can enjoy Indian petit fours at the conclusion of their meal.
Bajaj’s beloved Rasika in Penn Quarter and the West End prepares a special a la carte menu featuring kebabs with mint chutney, lamb shank flanked with kashmiri chilies and cloves, and tandoori chicken with saffron. All entrees come with dry fruit pulao and kashmiri naan.