Given the option for a blowout dinner or a leisurely, fancy-ish weekend lunch/brunch, we’d opt for the latter any time. Here are some of our favorites around DC, whether you’re looking to seriously splurge, or just have a fun afternoon out (pretty patios, either way).
2622 P St., NW
If your celebration isn’t complete without Champagne and caviar, sommelier Elli Benchimol’s glitzy nook of a Champagne-and-caviar bar in Georgetown is the spot. Grab a table indoors or on one of two intimate patios for French-accented specialties like potato waffles with onion crème fraîche and gravlax.
1906 14th St., NW
Chef Ryan Ratino serves a European-style luxurious lunch at his Michelin-starred gastro-bistro on Sundays. The special lunch menu, available in the dining room or private greenhouses, includes three to four courses ($84 to $96). Forget mimosas—the bar rolls the extra mile with a roving Champagne cart stocked with Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon, and Dom Perignon.
1120 Maine Ave., SW
After a pandemic hiatus, Nicholas Stefanelli’s Italian emporium at the Wharf recently reopened for brunch—best enjoyed on the semi-enclosed rooftop terrace with its stunning water views. A seasonal menu jumps between homemade pastries like Sicilian pistachio croissants, egg dishes, and homemade pastas. There’s also a monthly rooftop drag brunch (check the schedule here).
724 Ninth St., NW
Unlike a lot of Michelin-starred restaurants that are only open for dinner, chef Pepe Moncayo’s downtown Spanish/kaiseki spot is open daily for lunch, including weekends. Diners can score a more moderately priced omakase tasting ($60, versus $118 at dinner), or mini-splurge on the best afternoon deal in town: a bento box ($38) with ever-changing treasures like venison yakitori, maitake-mushroom tempura, and shrimp-stuffed lettuce tacos.
Fiola Mare and Del Mar
3050 K St., NW; 791 Wharf St., SW
Fiola Mare, the star of the Georgetown waterfront, is a top pick for special occasion brunches (it’s still not as spendy as at dinner). Diners can spring for the $85 “sparkling brunch” that includes a warm pastry basket, choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert, and unlimited Prosecco and brunch cocktails. Over at the Wharf, Spanish sister Del Mar dresses up an afternoon with seafood tapas, Catalan egg dishes, and $45 bottles of bubbles with fresh juices. Both have ample outdoor waterfront seating.
1124 23rd St., NW
Chef Enrique Limardo’s avant-garde Mediterranean hotspot caters to a VIP crowd at dinner—but we’re fans of the Aegean-hued dining room and its patio for brunch. It’s a more casual, a la carte affair, though diners can still splurge on plates like ora king salmon carpaccio with caviar sauce, or the “Spanish sandwich” with prized mangalitsa ham, foie gras torchon, and truffle butter.
100 District Sq., SW
The Wharf’s garden-like Lebanese dining room recently launched brunch. Grab a table near the indoor fountain or indoor/outdoor veranda for riffs on brunch classics like shakshuka with spicy tomato sauce, feta, and a poached duck egg; French toast with whipped labne, cherries, and walnuts; and a “not so bloody Mary” with with vodka, tomato water, and za’atar oil.
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
The most sumptuous Sunday brunch buffet in DC can be found at the Four Seasons Georgetown. A stately dining room is filled with stations heaped with raw bar fare, salads, carved meats, and made-to-order omelets. Save room for a trip to the “dessert room.” The all-you-can-eat spread is $110, and diners can add on bottomless mimosas for $30.
Le Diplomate and St. Anselm
1601 14th St., NW
Le Diplomate, Stephen Starr’s perennially packed French brasserie, hardly needs an introduction—everyone from President Biden to your out-of-town relatives have angled for a table. Credit a soiree-like atmosphere, approachable menus—though one can always splurge on lobster frites and Champagne—and sniper-like consistency. Looking to celebrate with kids? Food critic Ann Limpert favors sister Union Market tavern St. Anselm—a hit with the family for biscuits and cake in addition to axe-handle ribeyes. Both restaurants have private outdoor booths, too.
1734 N St., NW
We often find ourselves recommending this Mediterranean charmer, a historic Dupont Circle property with a lovely wisteria-lined patio and wood-burning grill. Credit chef Anthony Chittum and his team for bringing substance to match the style. The seasonal brunch menu isn’t super-fancy—think olive oil-fried eggs, oak-grilled oysters, or ricotta pancakes—but it feels refined, especially matched with a chilled Greek wine.
L’Auberge Chez Francois
332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls
Chef/owner Jacques Haeringer delivers a French country escape in Great Falls. The elegant restaurant and its surrounding gardens offer a lovely weekend five-course “luncheon” ($54 to $60) as well as an la carte menu. Go for classics like lobster bisque, beef bourguignon, and bouillabaisse, and finish with a souffle.
801 Wharf St., SW
We love the creative spin on brunch at Kevin Tien’s modern French-Vietnamese restaurant at the Wharf—which boasts water views from its patio and glassy dining room. Go for satisfying dishes that speak to Tien’s Vietnamese-American heritage like LA-style short ribs over garlic rice with eggs, a breakfast banh mi, and a pho-inspired bloody Mary.
1337 11th St., NW
Shaw’s farmhouse-chic restaurant, courtesy of restaurateurs and Equinox alums Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, is a locavore destination both indoors and out. We think their family-style “chef’s choice” menu ($35 per person at brunch) is one of the most generous deals in town, with multiple courses like an herby spring greens salad and a Benedict with house-smoked maple ham.
1811 Columbia Rd., NW
The longest-running drag brunch in the District is a full-on Sunday party—perfect for a raucous celebration. The American brunch buffet is pretty standard, but you’re not really here for the food—it’s all about the music, dancing, costumes, and fun cocktails named after the queens. Reservations are accepted a week in advance (read here for other pandemic-era details).
Q by Peter Chang
4500 East-West Hwy., Bethesda
Some of the best dim sum in the area can be found at Peter Chang’s upscale Chinese restaurant in downtown Bethesda. There are no carts—customers order from a menu filled with made-to-order treasures like soup dumplings, braised lobster over jade noodles, and an elaborate Peking duck.
Shilling Canning Company
360 Water St., SE
The greenery at chef Reid Shilling’s Navy Yard restaurant isn’t all decorative—some of its garden patio’s herbs and vegetables make it onto the menu. A generous three-course brunch ($35 per person) features deviled eggs, buttermilk-fried Amish chicken, and homemade cider doughnuts. Add a carafe of mimosas for $35 more.