clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A half-smoke from D.C. institution Ben’s Chili Bowl.
R. Lopez/Eater DC

These Classic D.C. Restaurants and Bars Are Still Worth a Visit

New isn't necessarily better

View as Map
A half-smoke from D.C. institution Ben’s Chili Bowl.
| R. Lopez/Eater DC

D.C. is a city brimming with history, and its restaurants are no exception. To qualify for the following list of classics, restaurants had to open before 1970 and stand the test of time inside District lines.

Even more stalwarts can be found in the suburbs, including Quarry House, Tastee Diner, the Original Ledo Pizza, Woodside Delicatessen, Old Angler’s Inn, and Crisfield’s in Maryland. In Virginia there’s the Vienna Inn, 29 Diner, Bob & Edith’s Diner and L’Auberge Chez Francois. Get ready for the rebirth of downtown’s historic Waffle Shop, which developer Douglas Jemal is dismantling and reassembling in a new location.

Have another favorite classic restaurant? Share in the comments below.

— Updated by Adele Chapin

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Osman & Joe's Steak 'n Egg Kitchen

Copy Link

Usually just called "Steak 'n Egg", the Tenleytown restaurant has been pumping out steak and eggs (of course) since 1931. Heard about the drunk guy and a zumba teacher who came to the diner?

Wagshal's Deli

Copy Link

With a sandwich and meat selection that's hard to match, Wagshal's has been open in upper Northwest since 1925. Known for their pastrami, meatloaf sandwiches, and the iconic presence of Pam “The Butcher” Ginsberg, there is now a second location near American University.

Raven Grill

Copy Link

One of D.C.’s ultimate dive bars, The Raven has been tucked away in Mount Pleasant since 1935. While it may have "grill" in the name, diners won’t find much more than Utz potato chips to go with the beer and rail drinks.

Mama Ayesha's

Copy Link

Mama Ayesha's, originally called Calvert Cafe, opened in 1960. The founder was Mama Ayesha Abraham who operated 24 farms in the Middle East before moving to D.C. and cooking in the Syrian Embassy in the 1940s. Mama Ayesha's nephews and great-nephews run the restaurant today. The restaurant is also known for the mural of presidents on its wall.

Old Europe

Copy Link

Old Europe is one of the city’s few options for Bavarian fare, and it’s been dishing out schnitzel, sauerbraten, and more since 1948. Meanwhile, another longtime German restaurant in D.C., Cafe Mozart, opened in 1964.

Florida Avenue Grill

Copy Link

Soul food pioneer Florida Avenue Grill has been visited by local politicians and African-American luminaries since opening in 1944. When it opened, the founders only had enough space for two bar stools and had to cook the meals in the basement. Current owner Imar Hutchins has updated some of the current menu to remain relevant to contemporary diners.

A scene from breakfast at Florida Ave. Grill
R. Lopez/Eater

Ben's Chili Bowl

Copy Link

For more than 50 years, this U Street restaurant has made the half-smoke the iconic food of D.C. But just because it's a required stop for any tour bus doesn't mean Washingtonians can't stop in for a half-smoke (or two).

A halfsmoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl
R. Lopez/Eater

Stoney's Restaurant (Multiple locations)

Copy Link

The "boss of the sauce" has been open since 1968, but it’s moved locations. Currently, there's the L Street location and the Stoney's on Logan Circle's P Street. The bar is perhaps most famous for its super grilled cheese sandwich.

Tabard Inn

Copy Link

Attributed as the oldest continually running hotel in Washington, the Tabard Inn opened up in 1922. The charming spot near Dupont Circle is still a brunch destination, serving up cinnamon and sugar-laden doughnuts with fresh whipped cream along with trendy dishes like chicken and churro waffles at its restaurant and covered garden patio.

A. Litteri

Copy Link

This traditional Italian deli has been around since 1926, and in its current location near Union Market since 1932. A favorite of nearby workers, the deli keeps limited daytime hours and is closed Sundays and Mondays. Go to eat Italian cold cuts or shop from a huge selection of canned goods, dry pastas, olive oils, vinegars, and wines.

Billy Martin's Tavern

Copy Link

Established in the midst of the Great Depression, classic watering hole Martin's Tavern in Georgetown has hosted every president from Harry Truman (booth 6), through George W. Bush and his family (table 12). John F. Kennedy even reportedly proposed to Jackie at the restaurant in 1953. The tavern is currently owned by fourth-generation Billy Martin, Jr., and celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2018.

1789 Restaurant

Copy Link

Since 1962, this fine-dining Georgetown mainstay has hosted Washington notables and plenty of politicians. Its stellar service includes the thoughtful attention of longtime waiters. The kitchen is currently overseen by chef Tracy O’Grady. Downstairs is The Tombs, which caters to the nearby Georgetown University crowd and is historic in its own right; it opened in 1962 as well and figures in the film St. Elmo's Fire.

Clyde's of Georgetown

Copy Link

No one probably thought in 1963 that Clyde's would grow from one location in Georgetown to eight locations around the region. But the original is still in Georgetown, serving up burgers, crabcakes, and more.

Loeb's NY Deli

Copy Link

Since 1959, Loeb’s has been one of the few destinations in downtown D.C. to find pastrami, knishes, and more New York deli staples. It moved into its current location in 2010.

Old Ebbitt Grill

Copy Link

This is one of those quintessentially classic restaurants — and it's the oldest on the list. Old Ebbitt Grill opened in 1856, when Franklin Pierce occupied the White House (which is right around the corner). The restaurant is home to a famed raw bar happy hour and is known for events like its annual Oyster Riot.

The Occidental

Copy Link

Built by Henry Willard (of the Willard Hotel) in 1906, the Occidental has seen its fair share of famous faces — Amelia Earhart, Robert Frost, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to name a few. The restaurant even played a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Occidental
The Occidental
R. Lopez

The Monocle

Copy Link

A Capitol Hill institution since 1960, the Monocle is a known political hangout. Because it's a stone's throw from the Hart and Dirksen Senate buildings, don't be surprised to see politicians eating and drinking there.

Tune Inn Restaurant & Bar

Copy Link

Tune Inn reopened in November 2011 after a fire shut it down for a few months. But before that fire, it had been a classic hangout since 1947. It’s less of a dive now but is still a beloved Capitol Hill hangout, serving up burgers, French dip sandwiches, and more.

Mangialardo & Sons

Copy Link

Since 1953, this Italian deli has been feeding Capitol Hill residents. And what do many of them order? The G Man — a sub that's packed with deli meats (the Big G is even more epic in size).

Loading comments...

Osman & Joe's Steak 'n Egg Kitchen

Usually just called "Steak 'n Egg", the Tenleytown restaurant has been pumping out steak and eggs (of course) since 1931. Heard about the drunk guy and a zumba teacher who came to the diner?

Wagshal's Deli

With a sandwich and meat selection that's hard to match, Wagshal's has been open in upper Northwest since 1925. Known for their pastrami, meatloaf sandwiches, and the iconic presence of Pam “The Butcher” Ginsberg, there is now a second location near American University.

Raven Grill

One of D.C.’s ultimate dive bars, The Raven has been tucked away in Mount Pleasant since 1935. While it may have "grill" in the name, diners won’t find much more than Utz potato chips to go with the beer and rail drinks.

Mama Ayesha's

Mama Ayesha's, originally called Calvert Cafe, opened in 1960. The founder was Mama Ayesha Abraham who operated 24 farms in the Middle East before moving to D.C. and cooking in the Syrian Embassy in the 1940s. Mama Ayesha's nephews and great-nephews run the restaurant today. The restaurant is also known for the mural of presidents on its wall.

Old Europe

Old Europe is one of the city’s few options for Bavarian fare, and it’s been dishing out schnitzel, sauerbraten, and more since 1948. Meanwhile, another longtime German restaurant in D.C., Cafe Mozart, opened in 1964.

Florida Avenue Grill

A scene from breakfast at Florida Ave. Grill
R. Lopez/Eater

Soul food pioneer Florida Avenue Grill has been visited by local politicians and African-American luminaries since opening in 1944. When it opened, the founders only had enough space for two bar stools and had to cook the meals in the basement. Current owner Imar Hutchins has updated some of the current menu to remain relevant to contemporary diners.

A scene from breakfast at Florida Ave. Grill
R. Lopez/Eater

Ben's Chili Bowl

A halfsmoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl
R. Lopez/Eater

For more than 50 years, this U Street restaurant has made the half-smoke the iconic food of D.C. But just because it's a required stop for any tour bus doesn't mean Washingtonians can't stop in for a half-smoke (or two).

A halfsmoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl
R. Lopez/Eater

Stoney's Restaurant (Multiple locations)

The "boss of the sauce" has been open since 1968, but it’s moved locations. Currently, there's the L Street location and the Stoney's on Logan Circle's P Street. The bar is perhaps most famous for its super grilled cheese sandwich.

Tabard Inn

Attributed as the oldest continually running hotel in Washington, the Tabard Inn opened up in 1922. The charming spot near Dupont Circle is still a brunch destination, serving up cinnamon and sugar-laden doughnuts with fresh whipped cream along with trendy dishes like chicken and churro waffles at its restaurant and covered garden patio.

A. Litteri

This traditional Italian deli has been around since 1926, and in its current location near Union Market since 1932. A favorite of nearby workers, the deli keeps limited daytime hours and is closed Sundays and Mondays. Go to eat Italian cold cuts or shop from a huge selection of canned goods, dry pastas, olive oils, vinegars, and wines.

Billy Martin's Tavern

Established in the midst of the Great Depression, classic watering hole Martin's Tavern in Georgetown has hosted every president from Harry Truman (booth 6), through George W. Bush and his family (table 12). John F. Kennedy even reportedly proposed to Jackie at the restaurant in 1953. The tavern is currently owned by fourth-generation Billy Martin, Jr., and celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2018.

1789 Restaurant

Since 1962, this fine-dining Georgetown mainstay has hosted Washington notables and plenty of politicians. Its stellar service includes the thoughtful attention of longtime waiters. The kitchen is currently overseen by chef Tracy O’Grady. Downstairs is The Tombs, which caters to the nearby Georgetown University crowd and is historic in its own right; it opened in 1962 as well and figures in the film St. Elmo's Fire.

Clyde's of Georgetown

No one probably thought in 1963 that Clyde's would grow from one location in Georgetown to eight locations around the region. But the original is still in Georgetown, serving up burgers, crabcakes, and more.

Loeb's NY Deli

Since 1959, Loeb’s has been one of the few destinations in downtown D.C. to find pastrami, knishes, and more New York deli staples. It moved into its current location in 2010.

Old Ebbitt Grill

This is one of those quintessentially classic restaurants — and it's the oldest on the list. Old Ebbitt Grill opened in 1856, when Franklin Pierce occupied the White House (which is right around the corner). The restaurant is home to a famed raw bar happy hour and is known for events like its annual Oyster Riot.

Related Maps

The Occidental

The Occidental
The Occidental
R. Lopez

Built by Henry Willard (of the Willard Hotel) in 1906, the Occidental has seen its fair share of famous faces — Amelia Earhart, Robert Frost, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to name a few. The restaurant even played a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Occidental
The Occidental
R. Lopez

The Monocle

A Capitol Hill institution since 1960, the Monocle is a known political hangout. Because it's a stone's throw from the Hart and Dirksen Senate buildings, don't be surprised to see politicians eating and drinking there.

Tune Inn Restaurant & Bar

Tune Inn reopened in November 2011 after a fire shut it down for a few months. But before that fire, it had been a classic hangout since 1947. It’s less of a dive now but is still a beloved Capitol Hill hangout, serving up burgers, French dip sandwiches, and more.

Mangialardo & Sons

Since 1953, this Italian deli has been feeding Capitol Hill residents. And what do many of them order? The G Man — a sub that's packed with deli meats (the Big G is even more epic in size).

Related Maps