Food

12 Under-the-Radar Brunch Spots That Are Totally Worth Seeking Out

Low-key places for bagels, breakfast sandwiches, and bottomless drinks.

House-smoked salmon salad at Smokecraft. Photograph courtesy of Smokecraft Modern Barbecue

Who wants to wait an hour-plus for a table at brunch? Here are some places where you *likely* won’t find a big weekend crowd (not that they don’t deserve one).

1914 Kolben
1914 Ninth St., NW
If you don’t feel like battling the crowds at Falls Church’s Eden Center, this Northern Vietnamese cafe and street-food spot in Shaw is the real deal. Dishes nod to Hanoi “train street” fare: crispy waffle-wrapped egg rolls, fried-egg-topped banh mi, chicken pho, and barbecue-pork sticky rice. Match a meal with milk teas, mango smoothies, and Vietnamese iced coffee.

Bagels Etc.
2122 P St NW 
Calling a bagel shop under-the-radar is like saying a beach is “undiscovered” (it isn’t). But if there’s a bagel-hype meter with Call Your Mother on the hysterical end, this unfussy, cash-only spot a few blocks from Dupont Circle lands on the other. This is the place to bring your New York friend who’s always complaining that are no good bodega-style bacon-egg-cheeses in DC—or anyone who loves pizza bagels, schmeared bagels, or bagels in general.

Café Filí
701 Second St., NE
Walking into the cool, Aegean-hued dining room feels a bit like a spa day—especially compared to the madness at Union Station nearby. The modern Mediterranean restaurant—an import from Baltimore—opened just before the start of the pandemic, though the owners had operated the beloved, long gone Cafe Ole in Tenleytown for almost 20 years. There’s a little something for everyone: salads and grain bowls for the yoga crowd; scrambles and Benedicts for traditionalists; a short rib grilled cheese for your hungover friend; and pour-your-own mimosa packages for the table. A small patio is also nice.

A chicken shawarma brunch bowl at Cafe Fili. Photograph by Anna Spiegel

Desi Breakfast Club
3065 Centerville Rd., Herndon
This new Pakistani restaurant from the family that runs Chantilly’s Charcoal Chicken is all about breakfast—all day, every day, except Monday (note: reservations are required on weekends). Try South Asian specialties like halwa puri, flaky fried breads with chickpea stew and spiced potatoes, paratha crepes, or dahi bhalla (lentil fritters in yogurt with a variety of chutneys). To drink: lassis and spiced Kashmiri chai.

Electric Cool-Aid
512 Rhode Island Ave., NW
What’s more offbeat than a brunch destination that doesn’t technically serve food? Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry at this Shaw beer-and-frozen-drink garden, which regularly schedules food trucks like the Grassfed Griddle and Schmaltz Bros for hearty weekend eats. Check their Insta page for details, plus info on semi-regular disco brunch parties with DJs, jello shots, frozen bevvies, and cute dogs (who are always welcome).

Guajillo
 1727 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Mexican brunch goes beyond tacos at this homey Arlington spot (though we do love breakfast tacos). Try hearty platters like sizzling breakfast fajitas with steak, chorizo, and eggs, or comforting huevos motuleños, corn tortillas layered with scrambled eggs, refried black beans, and plantains—all smothered in salsa roja and queso fresco. Bottomless brunch drinks ($25 per person) get an extra kick with margaritas, tequila-spiked bloody Marys, mango mimosas, and sangria. 

Keren
1780 Florida Ave., NW
On busy weekend nights, you may find a small line outside this snug Eritrean restaurant. But mornings are relatively peaceful (the cafe opens daily at 10 AM). It’s prime time for scoring a window table and comforting bowl of ful (mashed fava beans), which is topped with chopped tomato, jalapeno, yogurt, and scrambled eggs. We also like eggs silsi—scrambled with spicy Eritrean tomato sauce—and the strong coffee. Good news: breakfast is served all day.

The backyard patio of St. Vincent Wine in Park View. Photograph courtesy Peyton Sherwood.

Rakuya
1900 Q St., NW
Sushi happy hour and lunch combos are both great deals at this Dupont izakaya—but don’t sleep on their new-ish Japanese brunch, offered both indoors and on a big patio. The teishoku sets are a delicious, filling steal ($16 to $22) that all come with shrimp and vegetable tempura, soup, rice, a bunch of small salads and pickles, chawanmushi egg custard, fresh fruit, and your choice of a main like sashimi or fried chicken karaage.  There are also lesser-found dishes like omu hayashi rice, and crowd-pleasers like bubble waffles and $15 bottomless mimosas.

Smokecraft Modern Barbecue
1051 N Highland St., Arlington
Barbecue for breakfast often means leftover ribs straight out of the fridge (yum). Not only is this Arlington joint one of the best new ‘cue spots in town, it also serves a great brunch menu with creative dishes like applewood-smoked avocado toast with poached eggs; brisket-stuffed omelets; and nine styles of Benedict, dressed with everything from pulled pork to smoked crab cakes. Cap it all off with a grilled-peach Bellini on the patio.

St. Vincent Wine
3212 Georgia Ave., NW
No, this charismatic, New Orleans-inspired wine garden in Park View isn’t under the radar for drinks or date night. But it’s not our first thought for brunch. Shame on us. What could be better than posting up in a spacious, tree-lined courtyard with chef Joel Hatton’s confit fried chicken and bottle of something bubbly?

Swahili Village and the Consulate
10800 Rhode Island Ave., Beltsville; 1990 M St., NW
This beloved Kenyan restaurant and its newer finer-dining downtown DC sibling should be on your weekend map if they aren’t already. The flagship serves an all-day menu while there’s a dedicated Sunday brunch in DC. A filling set menu includes nyama kaanga (grilled beef fried with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro) and ndengu, a lentil-coconut curry with fish, jollof rice, fruit, scrambled eggs, and more. Brunch is $45 per person and includes bottomless “Kamala mimosas.”

Takoma Beverage Company
6917 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park
You can start the day with a cafe au lait or London fog on the umbrella-shaded patio at this all-day cafe, which collaborates with a number of local producers for items like Ivy City smoked salmon toast, Rishi tea, and Counter Culture Coffee. Also a fan favorite: breakfast tacos.

Correction: This article initially listed Sam Molavi is as the chef at St. Vincent’s. The chef is Joel Hatton. 

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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.