It’s easy to forget that there’s a middle ground between a two-hour luncheon and grabbing a sandwich at Potbelly (again). Buzzy restaurants like Bourbon Steak and Adour are offering quick-service, mid-afternoon meals at gentler prices than you’ll find at dinner, and lunch at a popular new eatery is a prime chance to sample the fare without fighting evening crowds. Check out these nine newly debuted lunch options for your afternoon escape, plus two coming-soon menus to keep on the radar.
Daily, 11:30 AM to 2 PM
Chef Alain Ducasse's elegant restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel offers lunch starting today, with an eye towards lightening both the menu and formal ambiance you'll find at dinner. The lineup of seasonal dishes includes many from Ducasse's latest cookbook, Nature, which focuses on healthy, vegetable-forward items such as farro risotto with basil and olives, spring vegetable tartines, and asparagus salad. If you're pressed for time, the waitstaff can have you out the door in under an hour.
Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM
The newest Spanish tapas joint in Washington just debuted its lunch menu, along with an outdoor patio perfect for dining al fresco. You'll find many of the same classic tapas searched at dinner--tortilla Española, hanger steak a la plancha--but there's an additional menu of hot and cold sandwiches filled with Spanish meats and cheeses, a hamburger, and entrée salads.
Tuesday to Friday, 11 AM to 3 PM
Many H Street eateries aren't open for lunch, but President Obama's recent dinner visit prompted this two-month-old spot to add daytime service. The menu changes frequently, but you can expect seasonal American bistro-ish fare like Maryland crab soup, Wagyu cheesesteak with horseradish and bacon, and poached shrimp-farro salad.
Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM
You can spend hours and some serious dough in restaurateur Michael Mina's sceney dining room at dinner, but the new "B Line" lunch menu is designed to save both time and money with speedy service and a $25 price tag for an appetizer, entrée, and takeaway oatmeal cream pie. Order a bacon-y iceberg wedge, steak tartare, channel Don Draper, and try to resist a Manhattan (though the zero-proof West Indian Limeade with ginger and Angostura bitters is a craveable stand-in).
Tuesday to Sunday, 7:30 AM to 6 PM
The Shirlington wine shop just reopened as a market-restaurant-cafe-event space, making it a good choice for those looking to grab lunch, wine, and grocery items like chocolate and cheese all at once. The cafe offers sandwiches such as chicken salad and a p.l.t (prosciutto, lettuce, and tomato), calzones, and pastries, as well as coffee and tea. In the coming months, full lunch service with wine will debut at the restaurant, which is currently serving dinner in the evenings.
Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 2 PM
Lunch at Equinox is nothing new, but now there's a special "Power Hour" menu for those who know to ask. The set two or three-course offering ($19 for an appetizer and entree, $25 with added dessert) changes frequently, but you can see a sample on the restaurant blog. An added incentive: executive chef Karen Nicolas just earned a place in Food & Wine magazine's prestigious "Best New Chefs 2012" circle.
Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 5 PM
This brand-new Foxhall Road Italian quietly opened for lunch, and is serving continuously throughout the day (see a sample of the menu here). Chef Roberto Donna offers a lineup of pastas and Neapolitan-style pizzas similar to those at dinner, plus panini reminiscent of the sandwiches that gained a cult-like following at Donna's shuttered Galileo Grill. There's also a $15 "Piatto Express" menu that includes caponata; a choice of panini or one of two pastas; and zuppa Inglese for dessert.
Rasika West End
Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Tables at the original Rasika in Penn Quarter are notoriously tough to snag at all hours, so fans welcomed the debut of a sister restaurant just over two weeks ago. The window-enclosed dining room is pleasantly light and airy for lunching, and while much of chef Vikram Sunderam's menu is the same, there are new items such as crispy black bass with a yoghurt dipping sauce and shrimp curry.
11 AM to 8 PM
You'll have to wait for dinner-time to dine at Ripple, but there are five different to-go sandwiches at its new boutique market in the adjoining storefront. Try one stuffed with smoked mackerel, porchetta, or prosciutto, along with snacks like potato salad and chef Logan Cox's addictive bacon-roasted pecans, and plenty of dessert options from pastry chef Alison Reed. There is also a whole menu of cookie ice cream sandwiches, just in time for summer.
Green Pig Bistro
Opening for lunch early May
Scot Harlan's nose-to-tail bistro just debuted, but they're planning on adding lunch in early May. The meaty, nose-to-tail menu will be the same in the afternoon and evening, with dishes like duck confit, frisée, and poached egg salad; trotter tots; and twice-baked potato gnocchi.
Jaleo Penn Quarter
Opening for lunch mid-June
José Andrés's Jaleo just got a face-lift after 19 years, and more than the décor is different. Over a quarter of the menu includes new items like toasted bread topped with sea urchin and grilled Ibérico pork ribs, plus there's a first-time lineup of sandwiches and flautas for lunch like grilled Spanish cheeses, tuna salad, and Jamón Serrano with Manchego cheese. If June is too long to wait, pick up lunch at Pepe, Andrés's new food truck.