Small plates fly around the tables at this brick-walled mezzeteria, which at night is as loud and boisterous as a big fat Greek wedding. You could make a meal out of the excellent dips—jalapeño-fueled "crazy" feta, cooling tzatzi-ki, and fluffy taramasalata.But don't miss shares such as tender grilled octopus and miniature lamb sandwiches enlivened with fiery harissa spread. 527 Eighth St., SE; 202-543-9090.
Photograph By Andrew Propp.
2 Eastern Market
This historic food hall is a Capitol Hill landmark—and a welcome antidote to chain grocery stores. Inside you'll find butchers, bakers, poultry, produce, and the famous Market Lunch, known for its terrific crabcakes. On weekends, the outdoor flea market is a favorite for handmade crafts, ethnic goods, and works by local artists. 225 Seventh St., SE; 202-698-5253.
In business since 1978, this two-level boutique has all the essentials of the Washington professional woman's wardrobe: Eileen Fisher, Lafayette 148, and Stuart Weitzman. Upstairs you'll find an extensive selection from those three brands plus Gräf & Lantz and Hobo totes. Downstairs, gifts such as plush animals and twee stationery share space with French milled soaps and chic glassware. 218 Seventh St., SE; 202-547-7337.
4 Good Stuff Eatery and We, the PizzaPhotograph by Scott Suchman.
Former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn takes a boutique approach to fast food at his two popular hangouts. Good Stuff Eatery serves skinny beef patties with dollops of chili and sour cream or piles of bacon, onion marmalade, and tangy Roquefort—plus some of the richest milkshakes around.
We, the Pizza is the place for slices studded with spicy sausage and peppers or done up Buffalo-chicken-style with blue cheese and hot sauce. Soon Mendelsohn will add another restaurant to the block: a steak-frites bistro called Béarnaise. Good Stuff Eatery, 303 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, 202-543-8222; We, the Pizza, 305 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, 202-544-4008.
5 Senart's Oyster & Chop House
With servers in Lacoste V-neck sweaters and wonk talk every way you eavesdrop, this boxcar-wide oyster bar feels quintessentially DC. The best time to hit it is between 5 and 6:30, when bivalves are $12 a dozen—half off regular prices—and you can score a whole poached lobster for $14 (normally $20). Throw in a copper-mugged Moscow mule and a bowl of extra-thick clam chowder and happy hour can translate to dinner. 520 Eighth St., SE; 202-544-1168.
Find items for stylish city living at this purveyor of slick home goods. Shelves are stocked with Umbra frames, Bodum coffee and tea supplies, and design-conscious milk carafes and spice containers. In back there's a small selection of modern couches, tables, and chairs. 715 Eighth St., SE; 202-544-8445.
7 Monkey's Uncle and Dawn Price Baby
Why spend a fortune on your kids' clothes when they'll only outgrow them? At the consignment shop Monkey's Uncle, the options are cute and clean. Sizes go from infant to preteen, and there are strollers, highchairs, and other baby gear upstairs.Photograph by Andrew Propp.
If you're searching for a baby gift, head a few doors down to Dawn Price Baby. This boutique stocks all the favorites—Trumpette socks, Sophie the Giraffe, Aden & Anais blankets—and the staff can help you find just the right thing. Monkey's Uncle, 321 Seventh St., SE; 202-543-6471; Dawn Price Baby, 325 Seventh St., SE; 202-543-2920.
8 Montmartre and Seventh Hill
Change is always a little scary when it comes to restaurants you love for their consistency, and Montmartre—with its jammed-together tables, din of laughter and conversation, and old-school French-bistro menu—is one of those places. But new chef Brian Wilson is proving his worth with such dishes as mushroom consommé with chestnuts and spiced Arctic char with sweet potatoes and anise-scented shrimp. One thing isn't different: the lovely floating-island dessert.
Next door, sister pizzeria Seventh Hill turns out Neapolitan-style pies and hefty sandwiches—we like the Italian crammed with salami, mortadella, capicola, provolone, and a good dose of hot peppers. Montmartre, 327 Seventh St., SE, 202-544-1244; Seventh Hill, same address, 202-544-1911.
Photograph courtesy of Federal Realty.
9 Hill's Kitchen
From aprons and towels to DC-shaped cutting boards, this shop carries everything needed to prepare and serve a fabulous meal. Popular products include Staub cookware, Kuhn Rikon and Mac knives, and Rösle cooking tools. Cooking classes ($50 to $65 per person) are taught upstairs. 713 D St., SE; 202-543-1997.
With 35 Italian and American by-the-glass selections and an array of charcuterie and cheeses, this concrete-floored wine bar is a grazer's paradise. Among more substantial plates, we've had the best luck with pizzas, which sport tender, blistered crusts. Go for a basil-strewn Margherita or an Autonno, a surprisingly appealing mix of butternut squash, goat cheese, prosciutto, and pickled onions. 223 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-544-8088.
Komi alum Johnny Spero concocts four- and eight-course offerings for this tasting-menu-only spot tucked into a former apartment above the restaurant Acqua Al 2. A rustic, brick-walled decor contrasts with the modern-minimalist cuisine: Dishes such as dashi custard with kombu-cured scallops and guinea hen atop faro and sunchokes arrive on custom-designed plates from local ceramicist Amber Kendrick. 214 Seventh St., SE; 202-450-4585.
12 Ted's Bulletin and MatchboxPhotograph by Scott Suchman.
Feeling nostalgic? Head for the faux diner Ted's Bulletin, where buttery grilled cheese sandwiches taste like they came out of Mom's skillet, milkshakes (some boozed up with rum or Baileys) are served in fluted glass-es, and vintage sitcoms play on the big screen.
Nearby sibling Matchbox has a more modern, industrial feel but is just as crowd-pleasing. There it's all about the sliders (we like them with Gouda), thin-crusted pizzas, and fruity but stiff cocktails. Ted's Bulletin, 505 Eighth St., SE, 202-544-8337; Matchbox, 521 Eighth St., SE, 202-548-0369.
13 The Tune Inn
Few establishments have the staying power of this wood-paneled dive with more animal heads on the wall than a hunting lodge—it's been slinging burgers and cheap beer for 65 years. You could camp out here for hours with friends and pitchers of Maryland's Flying Dog amber ale. When hunger strikes, tackle a grilled sandwich loaded with roast beef, American cheese, and the tangy ketchup-and-mayo-based house sauce. 331 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-543-2725.
This article appears in the January 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.