Washington’s sights require good shoes and plenty of refuelling. From breakfast to midnight munchies, the city’s eateries might make you forget your itinerary
First you will need somewhere to rest your tired head and wake up to an impressive American breakfast. The Omni Shoreham Hotel in leafy Woodley Park has palatial rooms, cheerful staff and a breakfast buffet of presidential proportions. With the option of healthy set breakfasts too, you’ll be powered up and ready to sight-see.
A Starbucks is never far away in Washington (truly, often they are facing each other across a street), but if you like your caffeine a little less generic then head to Teaism near Dupont Circle. It can get a little crowded, but is worth the wait if you are in need of a good quality cuppa. Branch out and try something adventurous - like the French Verveine, aromatic and lemon tinged. Be warned, this is old style tea: no teabags, no Tetley. (www.teaism.com)
Lunch in DC is likely to be on the go, but resist the urge to hit Subway and instead opt for local chain Potbelly Sandwich Works. A picnic in Lafayette Park overlooking the White House is in your plans? It should be, and luckily there is a Potbelly just a block away. Possibly even tastier than the sandwiches are the shakes and smoothies, served rather endearingly with a biscuit wrapped around the straw. (www.potbelly.com)
If you fancy the classic burger and fries combination it doesn’t get any better than at Five Guys. It’s a national chain, but so popular in Washington that even President Obama recently popped up there to grab lunch for himself and the White House staff. It gets busy at lunchtime, but is worth the wait (all extra toppings are free of charge), and who knows which Washington powerbroker will be queuing next to you. (www.fiveguys.com)
By the time dinner time rolls around the choices can get overwhelming. Downtown is quiet in the evenings with restaurants that are either mediocre, expensive or both. Instead head to one of the trendy neighbourhoods like Dupont Circle. For a lively evening try Dupont Italian Kitchen in 17th Street, home to several gay bars and a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The pavement terrace is the perfect place to people watch - how authentically Italian? - and the food doesn’t pretend to be anything other than simple, fresh and delicious. Best of all you won’t be horrified by the bill, with dishes averaging around $10. (www.dupontitaliankitchen.net)
When the weather doesn’t quite suit al fresco dining head over to The Regent in 18th Street, about ten minutes walk from Dupont Circle metro. This serene Thai restaurant has great service and even does take-out, if you prefer to snuggle up in your hotel room. (www.regentthai.com)
Another restaurant hotspot is upscale Georgetown, home to many famous political faces and often used in big-budget movies. The area of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue is a cuisine goldmine. For a laid-back, family-friendly option, aim for the southern-inspired Old Glory restaurant, with its six different types of barbecue sauce to add to your substantial meal. On busy nights the service can be slow, but the food is reasonably priced and the side dishes alone can make a delicious meal. (www.oldglorybbq.com)
If you need something more glamorous or romantic, wander down to Georgetown Harbour, where you’ll have a choice of eateries with outdoor terraces overlooking the beautiful Potomac and the floodlit Kennedy Center. The restaurants are not cheap but it’s a pretty spot, with fountains and fairy lights for good measure.
Finally comes that most American of meals - brunch. On Sunday mornings there are various options across the city, but none compare to The Diner in Adams Morgan. This haven of breakfast food is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so if you want your brunch at 4am on a Tuesday morning, that’s no problem. In fact, you’ll be in good company; this place is humming at every hour. The relaxed atmosphere is summed up in the menu’s ‘Diner Declaration’, which affirms that you have “The right to wear running shorts, pyjamas, or last night's clothes to Sunday Brunch”. Efficient, friendly service, low prices and some truly miraculous buttermilk pancakes - this is a must visit. (www.trystdc.com/diner)
Washington has so many attractions that food could easily become an afterthought, but that would be a real shame. Skip anything that looks overpriced, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune to eat well in DC. Most of all, explore the different neighbourhoods and enjoy the variety of flavours and social scenes. And go on, enjoy pancakes and syrup at midnight.