News & Politics

Theater Dining Guide

Where to eat before or after the shows at the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, and Studio Theater


Dining near the Kennedy Center can be a challenge. Here are good choices within easy walking or cabbing.

Inside the Kennedy Center

Roof Terrace Restaurant & Bar (202-416-8555). The redesigned Roof Terrace Restaurant is a convenient and expensive treat. It serves dinner from 5 PM on performance evenings; supper and dessert after performances Thursday through Saturday evenings; and Sunday brunch.

The KC Cafe, also on the Roof Terrace level, offers a quick-service line with salad bar, smoothie bar, coffee bar, pizzas and pastas, and daily specials.


Aquarelle (Watergate Hotel, 2650 Virginia Ave., NW; 202-298-4455). The Texas-style Jeffrey’s has become Aquarelle again—this time with a Mediterranean menu. A three-course pre-theater menu is $29.90.

Circle Bistro (1 Washington Cir., NW; 202-293-5390). American dining in a casually sophisticated atmosphere.

Dish (River Inn, 924 25th St., NW; 202-338-8707). Innovative American cooking at moderate prices.

Kinkead’s (2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-296-7700). Washington’s favorite seafood restaurant is scheduled to reopen soon after remodeling and kitchen renovation.

Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-296-1166). Chef Robert Weidmaier serves a three-course pre-theater menu every night from 5:30 to 7 for $48 a person. The price includes limousine service to and from the Kennedy Center. Dessert may be enjoyed at Marcel’s after the performance.

-Thomas Head (March 2004)


The Studio Theatre was a pioneer in the revitalization of DC’s 14th and P streets area, and its commitment to the neighborhood has paid off. The number of mostly new restaurants in the area means that finding a good meal before a performance is almost never a problem. Here’s our pick of good restaurants that are close enough to the theater that you should have to park only once.

Cafe Saint-Ex (1847 14th St., NW; 202-265-7839). A casual and popular bistro and lounge with an aviation theme.

Komi (1509 17th St., NW; 202-332-9200). Inventive and usually successful modern Mediterranean food from a talented young chef.

Logan Tavern (1423 P St., NW; 202-332-3710). A hip neighborhood restaurant with an appealing menu of American favorites.

Mar de Plata (1410 14th St., NW; 202-234-2679). An appealing Spanish restaurant, more attractive for its tapas selection than its main courses.

Rice (1608 14th St., NW; 202-234-2400). A high-style Thai restaurant with good, nontraditional dishes.

Sushi Taro (1503 17th St., NW; 202-462-8999). The city’s longest sushi bar is a fast and pleasant place for a light pretheater dinner.

Thai Tanic (1326 14th St., NW; 202-588-1795). Thai cooking in a modern atmosphere.

-Thomas Head (April 2004) 


Dining near Arena Stage (1101 Sixth St., SW) can be tricky. The Southwest waterfront is lined with touristy restaurants where the expensive buffets aren’t nearly as good as the view. But the neighborhood is showing promise: Eric Ziebold, chef de cuisine at Napa Valley culinary mecca French Laundry, will head the restaurant to open in late summer in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. In the meantime, here are pretheater options, all a quick walk, drive, or Metro ride away (Arena is near the Green Line’s Waterfront-SEU stop).

Walking Distance

Cantina Marina (600 Water St., SW; 202-554-8396). This casual beach bar on the river serves barbecue shrimp with Texas toast and Corona-with-lime in cans. The $20 three-course pretheater menu is served Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 7 or 7:30.

H2O (800 Water St., SW; 202-484-6300). Formerly Hogate’s, this spiffed-up riverfront space is best for drinks but also serves traditional seafood—crabcakes, newburgs, and the like—in a lounge setting. Later it turns into a velvet-rope nightclub.

Metro/Driving Distance

The newly opened Café Mozu at the Mandarin Oriental (1330 Maryland Ave., SW; 202-787-6868) serves upscale fusion fare and is one Metro stop (L’Enfant Plaza) from the theater. At CityZen in the same hotel, Eric Ziebold's $45 three-course prix fixe menu, served only at the bar, is a terrific deal. 

Zola (800 F St., NW; 202-654-0999). The inventive pretheater menu, served from 5 to 7 PM at this chic Modern American spot, is worth traveling an extra Metro stop for. And at $28 for three courses, it’s a deal. For $10, the valet will hold your car until show’s end. Zola is near Gallery Place Metro, three stops from Arena on the Green Line.

-Ann Limpert (May 2004)