We don’t know about you, but when we travel, we like to plan our days around where we’re going to eat. Sightseeing is a secondary endeavor—even in a city like Washington, D.C., where sightseeing opportunities are as plentiful as politicians.
The Liaison Capitol Hill makes a fine home base during your stay in D.C., thanks in part to its proximity to Union Station and the Capitol. The beds are wonderfully soporific, but perhaps more important, the hotel boasts on-site restaurant Art and Soul, manned by Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef. His regional cuisine with Southern accents—think shrimp and Anson Mills cheddar grits and house-cured salmon hoe cake—is a local favorite, and we think it a sin to leave D.C. without partaking in chef Smith’s fried chicken and waffles with sausage gravy.
MORNING GLORIES: Speaking of breakfast, make sure blueberry pancakes at Eastern Market are on your list of morning must-eats. The size of manhole covers, they are righteously light and worth the inevitable wait. Eastern Market is the city’s oldest continually operating public food market, and it’s filled with produce from nearby farms; arts and crafts; and fine meats, cheeses, seafood, and sweets from local purveyors. For a more upscale brunch experience, head to Blue Duck Tavern for short rib hash with olive-oil poached egg or baked cinnamon bun French toast. If you think your arteries can take it, order a side of duck fat fries.
SPAIN, ACTUALLY: Depending on the length of your stay in D.C., you may have to resort to drastic measures to experience the city’s food scene properly. And by drastic we mean a progressive lunch at four José Andrés concepts: Cafe Atlántico, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Jaleo, and Zaytinya. Spanish-born media darling Andrés is famous for both his avant-garde and traditional Spanish cooking, and these four restaurants showcase the breadth of his talents. Start with, say, chilled carrot soup with passion fruit oil and Greek yogurt or béchamel-filled Dominican conch fritter and jicama avocado ravioli at Cafe Atlántico, then move on to margaritas with a bouffant of salt and lime foam and tacos filled with braised beef tongue or lamb’s quarter and asparagus at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. Take a deep breath, unbutton your pants, and head over to Jaleo for a beautiful assortment of cured Spanish meats and paella. For the finale, indulge in a mezze of mini desserts at Zaytinya, such as Greek yogurt apricot parfait, and Turkish coffee.
LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST: Spend the morning walking off the previous day’s calories at Dupont Circle Freshfarm Market. Open year-round, rain or shine, the market showcases fruit, vegetables, herbs, and food products from farmers and purveyors within a 200-mile radius. It’s the perfect place to build up an appetite for a meal at Birch & Barley, where beer director Greg Engert, named the only beer-focused sommelier of the year by Food & Wine magazine, imparts his fanaticism for brews by overseeing a menu with 555 artisanal selections. When educating his guests, Engert says things like “enough aromatic complexity to keep you interested,” “slathered in marmalade,” and “the effervescence digs into the creaminess of [insert creamy foodstuff here],” which is nearly as intoxicating as the beer itself. The food is no slouch, either. Among the most memorable bites are panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes, burrata, and fried green tomatoes; tortellini with fresh corn, Dungeness crab, and broccoli rabe; and risotto with English peas and prosciutto. It’s a dining experience that lingers on your palate long after you’ve said good night.
How To Get There: Most major airlines fly daily nonstop from DFW to Dulles International Airport or Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
WHERE TO STAY: Liaison Capitol Hill
This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of D Magazine.