What to Eat While Holiday Shopping in Georgetown

“Washingtonian” food staff share favorite dining spots to pop into between purchases.

Duck into cozy M Street sanctuary Unum for a quick shopping break. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Holiday shopping season is in full swing, meaning you might find yourself treading the sidewalks of Georgetown more than usual. On the upside, there are more original restaurants for a good bite than you’ll find at a big mall like Tysons. On the downside, there are a larger number of eateries oriented toward tourist dollars, meaning you could end up shelling out bucks for a so-so meal that could have been otherwise spent on glorious presents. A few of The Washingtonian food writers weigh in on what’s worth it, where you can save, and their favorite dishes.

Todd Kliman, food and wine editor

Start with breakfast—eggs, grilled ham, and toast—and/or a cappuccino and an almond croissant at Kafe Leopold.

Il Canale is the spot for a Margherita pizza.

A sugar jones can be well sated with a cupcake at Georgetown Cupcake or Baked and Wired.

Go for a tray of oysters at Sea Catch.

Stop in for small plates and wine upstairs at Bistrot Lepic’s wine bar.

Order Quenelles at La Chaumière.

Try kabob e kubideh at Moby Dick.

Taramasalata and cigales are among the best options at Cafe Divan.

Fuel up on cheesesteaks at George’s King of Falafel.

Feast on a burger, oyster stew, oysters on the half shell, and a cold beer at Billy Martin’s Tavern.

Find lapsang tea in a steaming pot and a chance at real peace of mind at Ching Ching Cha.

Ann Limpert, food and wine editor

I love the chocolate satin cupcake at Baked and Wired (the chai is pretty great, too).

Sink into a couch by the outdoor fire pits at Bourbon Steak, preferably accompanied by a 1919 cocktail—sparkling wine topped off with Aperol and grapefruit bitters.

A good Clyde’s pick: the crab-and-artichoke dip with baguette.

The multi-meat grinder at Stachowski’s is great—if it’s nice out, take it to Rose Park.

The lime-cilantro sorbetto at Dolcezza is excellent.

They Cary Grant sandwich at Peacock Cafe—ham, salami, provolone, and Russian dressing—sounds weird, but it works.

Another quick fix: fish tacos at Tackle Box.

Jessica Voelker, online dining editor

Fortify yourself before a day of shopping with an-all-you-can eat, mega-indulgent brunch at Seasons in the Four Seasons. The price of admission—$80—is high, but wait till you see that raw bar.

French-tastic Cafe Bonaparte (1522 Wisconsin Ave., NW) looks like, and is, a restaurant and casual lunch spot. But it also welcomes shoppers who want to dip in for a cappuccino or French press. Infinitely more atmospheric than the corporate coffee places.

So 1789 = formal, fancy restaurant where Georgetown legacy families dine while discussing the upkeep of their yachts, yes? Yes. But little-known fact: The tiny bar downstairs—in a little nook that abuts the entrance—is a classy spot for a martini or Manhattan.

Everyone loves the Georgetown Clyde’s  When my family and I shop in Georgetown I love to have a beer with my dad at the bar or French onion soup and wine with my mom and sister in one of the dark-wood booths.

I’m a big fan of two of the cocktails at cozy Unum. Try the Basilica martini, with Hendrick’s gin, basil leaves, St. Germain, and Peychaud’s and orange bitters; or the Manhattan Love Story: Maker’s Mark, dry sake, Domaine de Canton, and Peychaud’s. It’s also a great place for a burger—the fries are perfect—or bone-sticking short-rib pasta.

Everyone knows Bourbon Steak is the spot for all things dry-aged and marbled, but don’t skip it because you’re not a beef eater. The ultra-juicy, flavor-packed, avocado-topped turkey burger in the lounge is memorably delicious. And at risk of sounding like Georgetown’s favorite alcoholic, I have to point out that it, too, has an awesome cocktail bar. I love the Jefferson, with Bulleit, crème de mure, Carpano Antica, and old-fashioned bitters.

Anna Spiegel, assistant food and wine editor

Cafe Milano is where you’ll find the serious Georgetown scenesters. It gets packed at dinner, but is a nice spot for a leisurely European-style lunch (with better people watching). I like to start with the beef carpaccio topped with lemony arugula salad, followed by a simple pasta, like the linguini with clams. And, of course, a glass of wine.

The tartines at Le Pain Quotidien make for a quick, light lunch when you have to get back to browsing the racks. Try the curry chicken or the tuna with hummus and basil vinaigrette.

Those in the mood for a heftier sandwich (or who are willing to share with a shopping buddy) should head up to Stachowski’s. It’s hard to go wrong, but a club with house-roasted turkey and the Italian sub (also know as the “four-meat grinder”) are personal favorites.

No, it’s not toro sashimi, but I have a real soft spot for the Asian-inspired crab tower at Clyde’s.

Another shout-out for 1789: If you want a more drawn-out dining experience, nab a table by the fire in the ground-floor dining room
for dishes such as seasonally changing fish with lobster-studded farro.

No time for such decadence? The roaring fire in the Degrees lounge at the Ritz-Carlton is a great place to cozy up with a Manhattan and nibbles like shrimp-chorizo flatbread or crabcake sliders.

Saving your extra bills for presents? La Chaumière is a classic, but those on a budget may want to check out another old-school Gallic spot, Cafe La Ruche, for the likes of shrimp-stuffed avocado with creamy French dressing.

If you’ve booked it all the way up to the Book Hill neighborhood shops, a cappuccino and a pastry at Patisserie Poupon are a fine reward.

Finally, I have yet to give it a full test since the remodel, but I’m anxious to try one of the skating-rink-side tiki cocktails and sushi rolls at the newly opened Farmers Fishers Bakers. If you go, tell us about it in the comments.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.