Where To Eat and Drink Around the National Book Festival

Photo via Library of Congress.

The 17th Annual National Book Festival will feature more than 100 authors, illustrators, and poets at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this Saturday. When you’re not checking out major literary names like Roxane Gay and J.D. Vance at the day-long event, grab a bite to eat or a drink at one of Washingtonian’s recommended spots.


Chef Michael Friedman of the Red Hen taps into his Italian-American roots for this upscale-casual Shaw restaurant which centers creative pizzas for lunch and dinner; we love the “buona” with pepperoni and chili-honey. In addition to the pies look for house-made charcuterie and riffs on red sauce classics, like a crave-inducing eggplant parm. 1250 9th St., NW.

The Bird

The team behind pork-centric the Pig has turned its attention to poultry with this new restaurant. The menu includes a dozen-plus preparations of poultry, from fried chicken to duck meatballs. More adventurous? Try sausage with emu, duck, and ostrich, a lean red meat that tastes like beef. A daily “early bird” happy hour features aperitifs with complimentary bites. 1337 11th St., NW.

Buttercream Bakeshop

Pastry talent Tiffany MacIsaac is behind this pretty Shaw bakery. The shop opens for early-risers with delicious quick-grab options like the egg-and-sausage “breakfast bomb.” Later, try an array of sweets like Nutella ho-hos and tasty slices of cake and pie. 1250 9 St., NW.

Chercher Ethiopian

This recent addition to Michelin’s Bib Gourmand (i.e. cheap eats) list is only a ten-minute walk from the Convention Center, and is a wonderful way to explore DC’s vibrant Ethiopian dining scene. Adventurous diners should try kitfo—like Ethiopian steak tartare—while shareable platters of stew-like meats and vegetables are good for groups. 1334 Ninth St., NW (between M and O streets).


Business partners Saied Azali and chef Cedric Maupillier are behind this sibling of Mintwood Place in Shaw’s City Market at O development. A menu of “midsize” French-American dishes—bigger than tapas, smaller than entrées—is designed to share or string together into a multicourse meal that’s both playful (escargots “in a blanket”) and traditional (steak frites). Drinkers can sip tasty sazeracs and vespers at the bar, but it isn’t all about attracting the neighborhood’s youthful residents—reservations and free garage parking are a nice touch. 801 0 St., NW.

The Dabney

Few kitchens are equipped with 19th-century cookbooks or a Colonial-style hearth, but that’s just part of the reason the Dabney has set itself apart during its first months. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne—who left Charleston’s lauded McCrady’s to build his Shaw restaurant—aspires to do for the Mid-Atlantic what mentor Sean Brock has done for Southern cuisine. We’ve found the greatest satisfaction in exploring the smaller plates, which change frequently with the seasons. Langhorne does double duty as pastry chef with aplomb. 122 Blagden Alley, NW.

Del Campo

Bring an appetite to chef Victor Albisu’s South American steakhouse, where smoky grilled meats and seafood star. Lunch is more casual (try the killer chivito sandwich), while the dining room has an upscale vibe come dinner. A buzzy bar scene is great for happy hour and smoked cocktails. 777 I St., NW.

Le Diplomate

Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr spent a reported $6 million fashioning this fantasy of a Parisian bistro. The menu’s line of classics are eminently crowd-pleasing: a textbook hanger steak drenched in herbed butter and sided with crunchy fries; a gloriously smooth foie gras and chicken-liver mousse; a massive crème brûlée made with what tastes like a carton’s worth of eggs. 1601 14th St., NW.

District Distilling

DC’s first distillery pub produces whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka on the first floor, then mixes them into cocktails in the second-floor dining room and bar. The comfort-food menu includes smoked pork poutine among the bar snacks, plus entrées such as roasted half chicken or shrimp sampi. Pick up a bottle in the shop on your way out, or come back for a distillery tour. 1414–1418 U St., NW.

Espita Mezcaleria

Explore moles and mezcal at this Oaxacan-style eatery, which offers an ambitious menu and fantastic cocktails (try the cucumber-ginger highball). Lunch brings a selection of tacos and tortas, while you can settle in over shareable plates at dinner. 1250 Ninth Street, NW (between M and N streets).


This Logan Circle hotspot—which doesn’t take reservations after 6 PM—recalls Spain, from the charcuterie station to the porrons, the glass wine vessels. We like to start with an orange-scented gin and tonic, then dig into dinner at the end of the marble bar, where you get both a window seat and a view of the kitchen. 1520 14th St., NW.


The tiniest but the most ambitious of 14th Street’s Italian restaurants, Etto makes almost everything from scratch, from the flour ground in a wooden mill in back to the red-wine vinegar. Daily chalkboard specials can include roasted leeks done up with prosciutto and Gorgonzola or runny eggs topped with fried anchovy bones. 1541 14th St., NW.


The ramen masters responsible for Chinatown’s Daikaya and Bantam King opened their biggest noodle shop yet in the Atlantic Plumbing building. Sapporo-style soups are the focus of the 60-seat restaurant; we’re fans of the spicy miso and hearty vegetarian. In nice weather, a roomy patio is the place to perch for sochu cocktails and small plates such as Japanese deviled eggs topped with trout roe and crab rangoons. 805 V St., NW.

La Jambe

It took a homesick Parisian to bring Shaw this chic French wine bar. The list of about 40 bottles—half available by the glass—features tasting notes and a French geography lesson. French cheese and European charcuterie boards are already curated—just pick the size, or opt for a baguette sandwich. 1550 Seventh St., NW.


The 14th Street strip lacks little in restaurant and cocktail bars. But no-frills spots for a cold brew? That’s a drier story. Hence the popularity of this subterranean bar, which specializes in cans of beer and wine (yes, that’s a thing), free baskets of popcorn, board games, and daily happy hour. Those looking for a little more jazz can try $10 cocktails and beer-and-a-shot combos—or just load up the jukebox. 1414 14th St., NW.


Former CityZen chef Eric Ziebold is back on the scene with this elegant but unstuffy destination. The menu is designed with flexibility in mind. Guests can come in for a special occasion and order $80 Ossetra caviar and potato chips, or grab a booth by the bar and split a roast chicken. Granted it’s a fancy Black Feather bird with lemon-garlic panade and crispy potatoes, and it costs $56—but keep in mind that it clocks in at four pounds and is designed to share. And fans of CityZen’s most famous offering—buttery Parker House rolls—will be glad to hear they show up at Kinship, too. 1015 7th St., NW.

The Passenger

Tom Brown revived his beloved Shaw bar just blocks from the original, keeping the laid-back crowd, terrific cocktails, and hearty bar fare and brunch for soaking up the booze. The new digs offer more space over two floors; a roof deck is to come. 1539 Seventh St., NW.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

This restaurant exudes sophistication even as it bids you to ditch the tie; translates impeccably sourced shellfish into generous plates and bowls that strut their down-home roots; and offers impressive value without cutting corners. 1612 14th St., NW.

Service Bar

This eclectic cocktail spot has one of the more user-friendly menus around. Drinks are broken down by spirit, with little symbols indicating what’s blended, mostly alcohol, spicy, and more. The bar also pours “hyper-seasonal” cocktails and $7 classics, while the kitchen turns out fried chicken, including tenders in a waffle cone. 928 U St., NW.

Smoked & Stacked

Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley of recent Top Chef fame is all about pastrami at her new shop—piles of juicy, smoked n’ spiced brisket piled high atop homemade milk bread (that being said, the smoked chicken is also stellar). Early risers can hit the Convention Center eatery for breakfast sandwiches and coffee, while the lunch lineup includes house combos (try “the Messy”), DIY sandwiches, and draft beer/wine. 1239 9th St., NW.


Skip the chain sandwich shops and try a DC original, less than a ten minute walk from the Convention Center. A globally-inspired menu of baguette sandwiches includes all-day breakfast items. The menu offers plenty of crowd-pleasers (i.e. mozzarella-tomato-pesto) as well as more exotic finds, like the bulgogi and kimchi-stuffed Seoul. 1314 9th St., NW.


Courtney Vinopal is a former Washingtonian editorial fellow. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and previously worked as a press attaché for the Embassy of France in Washington, where she ran the institution’s social media accounts and newsletters. She lives in Woodley Park.

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.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.