Washingtonian Recommends: Where to Eat Near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Our favorite spots, breakfast through happy hour.

The Duke #7 pizza at All-Purpose. Photograph by Scott Suchman
Washingtonian Recommends

Our Washingtonian Recommends lists bring you the best places to eat, drink, and be entertained—all selected by Washingtonian editors.

Our picks for breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner–all within a ten minute walk (or less) from the Convention Center.

1250 Ninth St., NW
Chef Mike Friedman upgrades Italian-American favorites but never sacrifices their homey allure. There are garlic knots blanketed in Alfredo-like fonduta, not to mention the city’s best eggplant Parm. And that’s before you get to the excellent pies. Toppings change often, but the fabulous Buona, with pepperoni and hot honey, always sticks around. Moderate.

Buttercream Bakeshop
1250 Ninth St., NW
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.

1334 Ninth St., NW 
One of Washington’s greatest culinary treasures is its wealth of Ethiopian restaurants. What makes this homey rowhouse dining room stand out? Owner Alemayehu Abebe draws both East Africans and newcomers alike for a vegetarian sampler with garlicky collards and berbere-spiced lentils splayed around a wheel of injera. But Chercher is just as known for it soulful meat stews and kitfo, a minced-sirloin tartare traditionally served raw with a mild white cheese and hot chili powder. A bottle of St. George, the Budweiser of Ethiopia, is an ideal complement.

801 O St., NW
Playful without being pretentious, French chef Cedric Maupillier clearly loves to have fun with Americana at his Shaw restaurant. Witness his mushroom-vinegar potato chips with onion dip or his Thanksgiving-all-year-round salad of pulled turkey leg, cranberries, endive, spiced pecans, and buttermilk ranch. That’s not to say that he’s forgotten his origins. Convivial’s butterflied poulet rouge with crisp skin and tarragon vinegar tastes like something you’d actually happen upon in France, and leeks dijonnaise start out as a textbook classic before being blitzed with croutons, fried capers, and hard-boiled egg.

The Dabney
122 Blagden Alley, NW
Spend enough time in this farmhouse-like dining room and you might be inspired to install a hearth in your own kitchen. That’s how seductive chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s ember-singed creations are these days. He has a mind-blowing way with vegetables—in his hands, a dubious-sounding pairing of mint chimichurri and ’nduja hollandaise does wonders for a plate of charred brassicas. Few pull off Southern (or Mid-Atlantic) comfort like Langhorne, who came up under Sean Brock in Charleston. A biscuit laden with foie gras, country ham, and a fried egg is just about the best breakfast-for-dinner we’ve tasted.

El Sol
1227 11th St., NW
Chef Alfredo Solis and sister Jessica evoke the flavors of their native Mexico City at this no-frill taqueria. The shoe-box-size spot offers a dazzling array of tacos, huge torta sandwiches, and chicken cloaked in inky mole. Don’t miss “basket tacos,” soaked in guajillo salsa and stuffed with black beans, chorizo, and chicharrones.

Espita Mezcaleria
1250 Ninth Street, NW 
This modern Mexican restaurant calls itself “authentic, not traditional.” Ceviche gets an upgrade with habanero orange ice, while tacos al pastor come with pickled watermelon. The place is particularly known for its impressive mezcal list and fantastic cocktails.

Farmers & Distillers
600 Massachusetts Ave., NW
There’s something for every preference and every diet at this American restaurant and distillery, which pays homage to George Washington. (Why yes, that’s a painting of the founding father as a hipster with a man bun on the wall.) The massive menu has it all: handmade pastas, hand-pulled Chinese noodles, burgers, salads, dumplings, steaks, grain bowls, and fried chicken with doughnuts. Don’t miss the cocktails, which use the restaurant’s housemade vodka, gin, and whiskey.

San Lorenzo
1316 9th St., NW
Former fine-dining chef Massimo Fabbri has transitioned to rustic Tuscan food at this neighborhood Italian spot. Handmade pastas—like a delightful pappardelle with rabbit ragu—come in fairly petite portions that are best for a light appetite or first-course. For something more substantial, try the fall-off-the-bone Tuscan-style pork ribs covered in herbs and char.

Seylou Bakery & Mill
926 N St., NW
Walk into Jonathan Bethony and Jessica Azeez’s minimalist Shaw bread bakery and you may be struck by how quiet it is. It’s not because the customers are all grinding away on their laptops. Instead, Seylou feels almost temple-like, a place to reflect and savor what’s in front of you, whether a lovely apple tart or chocolate-almond croissant, or a painstakingly made cup of chai tea.

1314 Ninth St., NW
Skip the chain sandwich shops and try a DC original. A globally inspired menu of baguette sandwiches includes the jerk chicken and pineapple salsa “Kingston” and bulgogi and kimchi “Seoul.” Breakfast sandwiches are also available all day.

Tiger Fork
922 N St., NW
It seems like all of DC’s young and fashionable have funneled into this Blagden Alley hotspot. And not just because the lighting is gorgeous—it’s easy to get hooked on the Hong Kong street fare coming out of the kitchen. What’s listed as a “humble plate of chili wontons” emerges snappy and delicious, and a combo plate of Chinese barbecue is a feast in itself. Fried rice is good with either chicken and Chinese sausage or salted fish and prawn—even better when you mix the two.

Unconventional Diner
1207 Ninth St., NW
The name says it all at longtime Central chef David Deshaies‘ offbeat diner inside the Convention Center. The 90-seat space isn’t open 24-hours and serves breakfast most of the day, with fresh pastries from wife Ana Deshaies. Diner dishes come with a twist, like chicken pot pie “poppers.” Our favorites: the kale lasagna, shiitake spring rolls, and a double cheeseburger that looks like a diner patty but tastes like a steakhouse splurge.

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.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.