Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and even if you’re not heading to the beach, there are plenty of opportunities in town to shuck crabs, grill corn, or hit a poolside bar. Many restaurants also offer bottomless brunches, so you can while away a day over mimosas (or in one case, unlimited beer). Just don't forget to pause at 3pm on Monday, in honor of all those who made this weekend of feasting possible.
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
If you're looking for a more low-key Memorial Day weekend, the 22nd annual Delaplane Strawberry Festival runs from Saturday to Sunday at Sky Meadows State Park, an hour west of DC in Delaplane, Virginia. Gates open at 10 and close at 5, and strawberries will be for sale in flats, pints, sundaes, and shortcakes. A petting zoo and hayride will be there for the kids, along with three-legged races, tug-of-war, and other games. Admission is $25 per car at the gate, or $20 in advance. Buy tickets here.
Graffiato bottomless beer brunch
707 6th St., NW
Mike Isabella's downtown dining room is offering a three-course brunch menu ($35) on Saturday and Sunday, with new items like lemon ricotta pancakes and chicken and (cornbread) waffles. An extra $20 gets you bottomless pours of Victory's Hop Devil IPA.
Marvin rooftop reggae party
2007 14th St., NW
U Street dancehall Patty Boom Boom closed its doors for good in February, but sister operation Marvin is bringing a reggae dance-party to the deck for one night on Saturday. DJs play from 4 to 10, while crowds can fuel up on rum punch and $5 patties (spicy beef and chicken).
Policy crab feast
1904 14th St., NW
Crabs, hot dogs, chicken wings, corn on the cob—it's an all-American feast, which also translates to all-you-can-eat. A $50 ticket gets you inside the fifth annual crab festival and covers food; the event runs from noon to 5 on Sunday. Buy tickets in advance here, and don't forget your beer money: drink specials on brews like Corona and Pacifico run all day.
Cafe Saint-Ex crawfish boil
1847 14th St., NW
A crawfish boil takes over the patio starting at noon on Monday, with all-you-can-eat crawfish, corn, potatoes, red beans, and rice ($50 per person). If shellfish aren't your thing, an à la carte grill menu will also be available, with buckets of beer for sale. No reservations are required, though crawfish should go fast.
City Tap House oyster Shuckfest
901 9th St., NW
It’s all about the oysters for the Memorial Day Shuckfest from 2 to 6, where you can dig into fried oysters po' boys, Benedicts, grilled oysters Rockefeller, cucumber vodka-oyster shooters, and $1 oysters on the half shell. Entertainment includes a blue-grass band and corn hole. Admission is free; drinks and dishes sold separately.
EatWell DC Restaurants happy hours and brunches
Memorial Day specials abound at all four EatWell spots. Grillfish (1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW) will be serving brunch from 11 to 4, with $1 oysters until 7 and its usual happy hour menu from 4 to 7. A $49 brunch-for-two special gets you a dozen oysters, two brunch entrees, dessert, and a bottle of champagne. Commissary (1443 P St., NW) will have its own egg-heavy brunch from 9 to 4. For those who believe in the two B’s—bourbon and bacon—The Pig (1320 14th St., NW) will have brunch from 10:30 to 3, with an extended Bourbon Happy Hour running from 3 to 7. Logan Tavern (1423 P St., NW) also has brunch from 11 to 4, with happy hour following from 4 to 7.
The Gibson barbecue
2009 14th St., NW
The restaurant's back patio hosts a boozy Memorial Day afternoon, with music by DJs Jazdux and John Jazz alongside barbecue and boozy popsicles. Tickets to the Gibson Family Reunion: Do the Right Thing Edition are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, one poptail included.
Local 16 bottomless brunch
1602 U St., NW
Local’s bottomless brunch starts at 10:30 on Monday morning for the early risers, and caters to the night owls until 4. Guarantee a table—rooftop seating goes quickly—by reserving in advance.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace brunch
1612 14th St., NW
Head over for Monday brunch at this Logan oyster-ia from 11 to 3. Mimosas go for $4, with a choice of orange or grapefruit juice and bubbly.
Richard Sandoval Restaurants do all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunches
Six of restaurateur Richard Sandoval's eateries offer bottomless brunches on Monday: Ambar (523 8th St., SE) has its usual Balkan menu from 10 to 3:30, for $35; El Centro D.F. (1819 14th St., NW; 1218 Wisconsin Ave., NW) offers a Mexican brunch, with breakfast enchiladas alongside buttermilk pancakes, from 10 to 3, for $35; Masa 14 (1825 14th St., NW) serves a Latin-Asian brunch from 10 to 3 (last seating at 2), for $39; Zengo (781 7th St., NW) offers a mix of ceviche, sushi, and traditional brunch plates from 10 to 3 for $39; and Toro Toro (1300 I St., NW) has Mexican and Latin brunch plates from 11 to 3, for $39.
Unlimited bloodies and mimosas at Tico
1926 14th St., NW
Monday brunch runs from 11 to 3 at this buzzy 14th Street dining room, with bottomless bloody marys and mimosas for $19.
For the past six months, our food team has subsisted on a steady diet of kebabs, banh mi, Peruvian chicken, and other delicious meals-on-a-shoestring to find the 100 best cheap eats restaurants this area has to offer—all places where two diners can get a meal and drinks for under fifty bucks. Now, you can dig in too. Our annual Cheap Eats issue hits newsstands today (and the full list will be online soon).
What’s different this year? There were plenty of wondrous discoveries—the joys of Yemeni food, for instance, or the city’s best half-smoke (sorry, Ben’s), or some of the best mole we’ve ever tasted, hiding in a Hyattsville strip mall. We also decided to call out 25 places as the brightest stars on the scene—the most delicious barbecue, crave-worthy ramen, and tastiest tacos this city has to offer. Read on to find out about those—these restaurants are where we’ve had some of the most thrilling meals of the year. At any price.
Happy Thursday, food truck followers. Rain got you down? Pull on your boots and splash in some puddles on your way to Farragut Square, where you'll find beer-battered fish tacos from DC Empanadas, or head to Ooh Dat Chicken, serving rotisserie chicken at Metro Center.
Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of swim season for many places in Washington, including a number of private pools that are open to the public for a fee. A variety of options await, from DJ-fueled pool parties to relaxing spots with cabanas, chef-driven menus and plenty of summery cocktails.
10 I St., SW; 202-488-7500
The Skyline’s popular summer pool party series is back on Saturday, May 23. The lively scene is fueled by three outdoor bars, a grill serving burgers and dogs all day, and tunes from resident DJ Antonio Ernesto. Don’t expect to nap in the sun, but do plan to have high-energy fun (and a hangover).
Fee: Register in advance online for discounted entrance, regularly $20 per person (drinks and food purchased separately).
1155 14th St., NW; 202-737-1200
Sadly only Donovan Hotel guests can swim in the rooftop pool during the day, but the public is welcome come evening to watch the sunset, sip a boozy slushy, and nibble on sushi, ceviche, and robata skewers from Zentan (located in the hotel lobby). Sunbathers can catch rays during Saturday and Sunday brunch, where chef Yo Matsuzaki serves Asian riffs on classics like shrimp and grits with shiitake mushrooms ad strawberry-brandy beignets.
Fee: Entrance is free to the public after 4 Monday through Friday, and 5 on Saturday; brunch serves 11 to 4, Saturday and Sunday.
415 New Jersey Ave., NW; 202-638-1616
The Liaison’s rooftop pool opens on Monday, May 25, and is one of the best bets for a relaxing afternoon by the water in a chaise lounge or daybed. The outdoor pool bar mixes cocktails and pours local brews from 11 to 11, while rooftop happy hour runs from 5 to 7:30, Monday through Friday. Art & Soul restaurant in the hotel is also a good option for dining post-swim.
Fee: The public can purchase day passes online for $25. Unfortunately single Memorial Day passes are sold out, but six-to-eight person cabanas are available (starting at $350 with a $100 food credit).
1612 U St., NW; 1212 Fourth St., SE
Don’t expect to see rooftop swimmers doing laps at these swanky fitness clubs—the vibe is more après-spin, when the toned members are ready to let loose. Chef Spike Mendelsohn recently signed on to design the menus, so you can sip a jalapeño margarita or “skinny” vodka-spiked lemonade in a private cabana while snacking on ceviche, fish tacos, or a spicy lamb burger.
Fee: You’ll have to sign up for a pricey pool membership for full access, but there’s hope for outsiders: find a fit friend. Members can bring one guest during peak times (Saturday, Sunday, and holidays) for $25.
2015 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-265-1600
One of the newest rooftop bar/lounges on the scene is kicking off the summer in style with a party hosted by HOT 99.5 on Saturday, May 23 from noon to 6. Guests can head up to the tenth-floor deck—which is high for Washington—for swimming, dancing to DJ tunes, drinking summery cocktails, and sampling “swimsuit-friendly” dishes from hotel eatery Station Kitchen & Cocktails.
Fee: $45 per person online, which includes a ten percent discount at Station Kitchen & Cocktails, and 20 percent off guest rooms.
10 Thomas Cir., NW; 202-842-1300
Complimentary towel service and a poolside bar make this a pleasant place to lay out for an afternoon. Whole summer passes are available for true sun worshippers.
Fee: $50 per person for a day pass. The public can call the day-of to inquire about availability, which is based upon hotel occupancy.
Ice cream-muffin sandwiches at Uprising Muffin Company
1817 Seventh St., NW
The Shaw muffin shop commemorates its first anniversary with the creation of sweet treat: The Upwich, where a scoop of vanilla ice cream is sandwiched between two muffin crowns. Pick between two flavors, chocolate chip or double chocolate ($4.99 each). The shop also just started pouring their own roast from Ceremony Coffee called Elevation Blend, a medium-bodied Fair Trade brew.
Boozy popsicles and bao buns at Ping Pong Dim Sum
900 Seventh St., NW; One Dupont Cir., NW
Ping Pong gets in “dimsummer” mode with a lineup of alcohol-infused popsicles in flavors like a whiskey Earl Grey julep or papaya-rose. Five new bao buns are also in the mix, stuffed with fillings like hoisin duck, ginger-soy mushrooms, or Thai basil beef.
Barbecue and Burgundy at Society Fair
277 S. Washington St., Alexandria
Alexandria’s market/restaurant mixes casual eats with fine wines for a new Tuesday series: barbecue and Burgundy. Drop by between 6 and 8 for pulled pork ‘cue with assorted sauces, panzanella and potato salads, and a seasonal dessert ($28 per person). A variety of Burgundy wines are available for pairing by the glass or bottle. Reservations are recommended, and can be made online.
Summer cocktails launch at Sushiko
5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase
Guests can head out to the 55-seat patio of this Chevy Chase Japanese restaurant for sushi and a new lineup of cooling cocktails. Summer sips include the Sagano Saketini with sake, cucumber liquor, and green tea sweetener, or a bourbon-based Minka Old Fashioned with muddled cherries, orange, and Lindera Farms honey vinegar. Drinks are $11 to $13.
Drink more Rosé outside at Poste, Grille at Morrison House
700 F St., NW; 116 S. Alfred St., Alexandria
Summer is a perfect time to drink rosé wines al fresco, and there are two new options. Poste created a menu specific to their outdoor patio, with sips like the sparkling Rivarose Brut. Over in Alexandria, the Grille launched 100 Day of Rosé, with a menu that includes still and sparkling bottles, wines by the glass, and flights.
One of our favorite Friday night standbys. Although this sliver of a wine bar definitely gets crowded, it’s often easier to snag a seat here than it is at the massive pub-on-steroids Brixton a few doors down. Plus, there’s a nice, extensive roster of wines by the glass and a pretty killer nouveau banh mi stuffed with Creekstone Farms ribeye, pickled carrots, jalapeno, and plenty of chicken liver pate.
What to get: Ribeye banh mi; cheese and charcuterie boards.
If you’re hitting a show with a group, this warm Ethiopian bistro hung with pendant lights is a good bet. It can be a sweet deal, too, with big rounds of injera—the slightly sour, spongy bread that is used as both platter and utensil—holding dollops of sharable stews, meat dishes, and salads (the $15 vegetarian platter can easily feed two or three).
What to get: Sambusas (flaky lentil-stuffed pastries); vegetarian platter; doro wat.
Sublime sashimi platters can be found at this minimalist father-and-daughter-run izakaya a few blocks away from 9:30. The cooked stuff—whether popcorn-light fried chicken or a bountiful bowl of fried rice with garlic chips and shiso leaves—is often as memorable as the beautifully presented raw fish. To go with it, there's one of the city's best sake lists.
What to get: Sashimi; fried chicken; tuna tataki; marinated short ribs; fried rice with garlic chips and shiso.
Short of scarfing a veggie burger inside the club, you can’t get more convenient than this indoor/outdoor hangout, which sits right next door. The kitchen slings a mix of sandwiches, tater tots, and burgers (the latter are named after musicians like Henry Rollins and Chuck Brown), but perhaps best of all are the thick, boozy milkshakes—try the Frank Costello, a mix of chocolate, mint, and Bushmills Irish whiskey.
What to get: Fried chicken; mac’ and cheese; Frank Costello shake; Vincent Vega shake, with vanilla ice cream and Bulleit bourbon.
Unless you want to go the food truck or fast-food route, this taco shop hung with tissue-paper garlands is your quickest option. Two layers of nubby corn tortillas hold an array of traditional fillings-carne asada, fiery chorizo—topped with cilantro, radish, and a little chopped onion.
What to get: Tacos al pastor (with pork and pineapple); chorizo tacos; tacos with Oaxacan cheese and peppers.
Good Tuesday morning, food truck followers! It's slightly swampy in the DMV, but head outside for Puerto Rican roast pork at Borinquen Lunch Box in NoMa, or a vegetarian thali (sampling of several dishes) at Chatpat Truck by the State Department.
Garden to table: L’Auberge Chez François hosts its first Garden to Table Extravaganza on Monday at 6:30. Guests wander through the restaurant’s gardens during an opening reception, and then partake in a five course al fresco meal centered around seasonal ingredients. Tickets ($160) are available online.
Wine dinner: Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley comes to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse on Monday at 7 for a dinner. Nine varietals accompany the five-course menu, filled with dishes like gnocchi with morels, fiddlehead ferns, and black truffles. Seats ($295 excluding tax and gratuity) are available by calling 202-289-0201.
First bloom dinner: Chef Anthony Chittum of Iron Gate invites guests for a family-style spring meal on Tuesday at 5, centered around platters of rotisserie spring lamb, whole chickens with lemon, and grilled sourdough with mint and burrata. Tickets ($55 per person) are available by calling 202-524-5202.
Korean pop-up: Compass Rose hosts a pop-up on Thursday inspired by Korean night markets from 7 to 10. Chefs from Mandu, Bar Pilar, and Café Saint-Ex collaborate on a menu street foods served at live cooking stations, such as barbecue short ribs and chilled noodles with kimchi. Tickets ($20) include food, tax, and gratuity; drinks sold separately. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase.
Margarita wars: Who makes the best margarita in Washington? Head to Yards Park on Thursday at 6:30 to sample some top contenders during the Margarita Wars competition. Barkeeps from spots like El Centro D.F. and Del Campo fight to make the tastiest. Tickets ($25) include unlimited margarita tastings. Food will be available for sale.
Tasting table: Glen’s Garden Market hosts its monthly Tasting Table dinner on Thursday and Friday at 8:30. Chef Travis Olson’s four-course menu draws from whatever’s fresh in the fields--including foraged ingredients--and will be paired with beers, wines, and ciders. Tickets ($75, inclusive of tax, tip, and alcohol) are available online.
Beer brunch: Graffiato teams up with Victory Brewery for a beery Memorial Day weekend special. Head to the restaurant on Saturday and Sunday for brunch with bottomless Victory Hop Devil IPA alongside three courses. Reservations ($35 per person) are available online.
Strawberry festival: Take a weekend day trip to Virginia’s Sky Meadows State Park for the Delaplane Strawberry Festival on Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5. The family-friendly occasion includes plenty of berries in shortcakes, frozen shakes, and for sale by the pint, as well as hayrides, craft-making, and an antique car show. Advance tickets ($20) are available online.
Good news today for Virginia food truck operators and their many customers: governor Terry McAuliffe will sign a bill at 3 o’clock that lifts the ban on food trucks serving from state-maintained roadways. Previously mobile vendors were confined to operating on private property, which excludes many of the streets in the Washington area.
“The way that Virginia has developed, that majority of the streets are state-maintained,” says Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association. “Arlington is a good example—if VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] is plowing the snow, there’s no vending.”
The signing ceremony with governor McAuliffe, sponsor delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, and several food truck operators will be held in Tyson’s Corner on Greensboro Drive—formerly an area of contention, where operators were sporadically fined by police, despite public demand for their presence in an area with many offices and few walkable dining options. Vending regulations have gradually improved up to this date; a 2014 rule in Fairfax County allowed trucks to do business in office parks and shopping centers like Tysons, lowering zoning fees from over $16,000 to $100. The latest bill represents another step forward, both locally and nationally.
“The governor is the highest-ranking official in more than a generation to lift a barrier on food truck operation, and spur action for growth,” says Ruddell-Tabisola. “It sets the stage of us to pass better vending laws all over.”
Though Monday marks a victory for Virginia food trucks, don’t expect to see changes right away. The new bill doesn’t automtically open roadways to mobile vending--laws are determined by county, and in Fairfax, codes are pending. Still it's a promising sign for the small businesses, allowing much more flexibility on the part of local governments to create street food-friendly regulations going forward.