I feel as though my time at NYU’s Washington Square campus really spoiled me in terms of great restaurants. With tons of options no matter what part of town you are in, it is hard to find a bad meal. Before coming to DC, I had not given its array of restaurants much thought. When I think of DC, I typically think of politics or art, but not food. To my surprise though, this city has some lovely spots that are too delicious to keep to myself. From a French bakery, to some farm to table home cooking, to even an all American chili joint, this city is filled with some not so hidden gems that are not only satisfying to the palette, but have unique atmospheres as well. Trying out new restaurants with friends is a fun way to escape the all work no play atmosphere that can take over the city during the week.
Located right down the street from the NYU building, PAUL is a French bakery over 120 years old that is known for its fresh bread that is baked daily through traditional methods. Besides their wide variety of loafs, they offer sandwiches, coffee, and delicious pastries. Although PAUL has many locations all over the world, it feels like a cozy yet modern shop, a perfect place to study if you like the hum of a calm, public space. When I have a lot of work to do I like to take time to head down the street for a fruit tart and a coffee.
Our nation’s Founding Fathers understood the need for a country that provided basic civil liberties for all people, but Founding Farmers understands the need for quality food straight from the farm. A co-op-owned restaurant, over 40,000 family farmers of North Dakota supply the kitchen. And trust me, you can taste the difference. Perpetually crowded, there is a wait even if you have a reservation. They have three locations, but the one in central DC is by far the closest to me. My two favorite things to order here are their chicken and waffles and their fish and chips. Both are equally delectable and make you feel like you are having a real meal made up of true comfort food. For dessert, the beignets are a must, they come piping hot with three different dipping sauces. For me, Founding Farmers not only makes me feel good about eating there because they support the family farming industry, but their food is satisfying and comforting as well.
When you hear that a president favors a restaurant, you know it must be good. Establishing itself in DC in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl has become an iconic staple for locals and tourists alike, even receiving visits from President Barack Obama. Obviously, their speciality is their chili. A simple place, Ben’s Chili Bowl has a straight forward menu that focuses on what they are good at. Their chili is made with a secret family recipe that they won’t share with you even if you ask (and I have). It does not have any fancy additions or crazy flavors to it, but instead, tastes like the kind of chili you hope your great-grandmother once made. Perfect for cooler nights, it is easy to see why it is a DC tradition.
While DC never seemed to me like a city that would suit a foodie, I have had the chance to try some really great spots that have helped me to understand the flavors of the city. For me, experiencing the popular restaurants and cafes of a city supplements my knowledge of the culture that exists there and helps me to see DC through the eyes of the locals.