DC Travel Guide  |  Food

Tour Guide: “A Taste of DC” Culinary Walking Tour

You’ll be licking your lips after this tasting tour through some great DC neighborhoods. Just remember to bring your wallet—the cost of food isn’t covered in the ticket price.

What: Washington Walks’s Moveable Feast: A Taste of DC—a walking tour featuring tidbits of foodie history and tastes of some of the city’s best local flavors.

Where: The tour begins just outside of the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro stop on the Green and Yellow lines. From there, you’ll sample the culinary tastes and history of DC’s Penn Quarter/Chinatown neighborhood. Then you’ll hop on the subway to U Street, Northwest, where the tour ends. The nearest Metro station is the U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo stop on the Green and Yellow lines.

When: Saturdays at 1:30 PM from April 1 through October 31

Ticket price: $15 plus the cost of food—for us, that meant an additional $19. You’re also expected to pay for your own subway ticket, $1.35 a person.

Length: Three hours

Tour size: The guides welcome as many people as show up, which on our day was only six. Groups of more than 25 require reservations.

Our tour date: April 19, 2008

The lowdown: You can probably guess from its name that this tour is geared toward food lovers. In addition to learning about DC’s culinary culture and history, you’ll make several pit stops to sample local favorites for yourself. But don’t rule out dinner plans—you probably won’t leave feeling overly stuffed.

Our tour started near the Penn Quarter neighborhood at the National Archives building, which we learned had been the site of a large indoor market—the most hygienic of its time—in the early 1900s. Back then, vendors, who sold everything from breads and poultry to vegetables and flowers, were happy to set up shop here because of the market’s prime location—it was nestled nicely along a busy route from the Potomac River to downtown DC.

After spending a few minutes at the Archives, our guide, Carolyn, took us to our first eating stop, Teaism, just a block away. She encouraged us to try a cool tea beverage, limeade, or Zhenzhou Pearls—the cafe’s version of bubble tea—and one of Teaism’s popular baked goods. We browsed the tea shop for a few minutes, then headed to the site of a former department store, where local civil-rights hero, Mary Church Terrell, once fought for integrated cafeteria eating.

Next we hit Cowgirl Creamery, a designer cheese store where the friendly staff is generous with samples, before heading up the street to a storefront that used to house a popular carmel-candy shop. (It has since moved to Maidens, Virginia, but Carolyn brought some morsels for us to sample.)

Our tour ended on U Street, Northwest, which we reached by subway. We learned of the famous names and history surrounding Ben’s Chili Bowl, a late-night spot popular with locals. Carolyn encouraged us to indulge in a half smoke, a sausage creation directly out of DC; ours was smothered with chili and cheese. Then we headed to our final destination: CakeLove and Love Cafe. After peeping in the windows of the eatery famous for its pastry chef, Warren Brown, host of the Food Network’s Sugar Rush, we ate cupcakes before going our separate ways.

If you plan to take this tour—and we recommend it, even for kids—here are a few things you should plan to bring:
• A bottle of water—salty snacks will leave you thirsty when gazing at food sights on the hot pavement.
• A large canvas shopping bag for food hoarders who want to taste snacks at a later time.
• Sunscreen, as at least an hour and a half is spent listening to the tour guide outside.

Grade: A-

Want the lowdown on more area tours? Check out our Guided Tours section.

This article is part of Washingtonian's Visitors' Guide. For more articles like it, click here.