Remember the point in the pandemic where a nice, sit-down lunch was harder to find than a reservation at Le Diplomate (coincidently, one of the rare spots open for a nice, sit-down lunch)? Thankfully, the afternoon meal is back in a big way—whether you’re doing business or playing hooky and doing you.
1100 15th St., NW
Spend a leisurely lunch hour or two at this New Orleans-inspired spot at Midtown Center. Favorites like the oyster spaghetti make an appearance alongside a good-looking lineup of gumbos and Big Easy sandwiches (muffalettas, po’ boys, etc.). Diners can create their own two-or-three-course prix-fixes ($32 and $40).
200 Massachusetts Ave., NW
It’s tough to snag a primetime dinner reservation at chef David Deshaies Italian hotspot near Penn Quarter (thanks, Obama). Afternoon tables are a little easier—and you’ll be rewarded with many of the same pizzas and pastas, plus more entree salads. Celebrating? The kitchen also turns out showstoppers like a $95 whole Maine lobster thermidor.
963 Palmer Alley, NW
Centrolina chef Amy Brandwein recently unveiled her expanded, full-service Italian cafe at CityCenterDC. Go for wood-fired skewers, seasonal vegetables, indulgent pizzas and sandwiches, and a fun spritz menu.
1200 19th St., NW
Lauded Chinese chef Peter Chang just unveiled his first-ever DC restaurant, near Dupont Circle. The two-in-one-concept is split between an upscale, modern-Chinese dining room and a Szechuan takeout/delivery operation—each with distinct menus, and both offering lunch. “Chang Out” serves all-day takeout staples, while “Chang In” specializes in bento boxes at lunch with a rotating selection of main dishes and set seasonal sides.
1120 King St., Alexandria
Alexandria’s date night staple recently reopened after a long pandemic closure—and now it’s a date lunch destination, too. Chef Ben Pflaumer prepares seasonal plates—many with an Italian bent—such as Maryland crab croquettes, rigatoni with Shenandoah goat ragu, and a terrific burger. If you miss lunch, a more limited midday menu is also available alongside tasty cocktails.
250 Fifth St., NE
Buttery biscuits aren’t just a weekend splurge at Stephen Starr’s steak-centric tavern near Union Market. Lunch—offered only on Fridays—brings a number of treats. We can see ourselves hunkering in a booth with a bacon-cheeseburger and a martini—it’s practically the weekend, don’t judge—or one of the “bigs from the grill.”
Hank’s Oyster Bar Alexandria
818 N. St. Asaph St., Alexandria
Hank’s recently moved to new Old Town digs—now with a lovely rooftop—and rolled out an all-day menu. All the classics are here: creamy bisque, lobster rolls, fried seafood platters, and more.
1309 Fifth St., NE (inside Union Market)
A trio of Maydan alums just opened this Lebanese kebab-and-cocktail bar in Union Market’s prime restaurant spot (formerly Rappahannock Oyster Co). An all-day menu shows off a kaleidoscope of dips, salads, platters, and warm pita sandwiches stuffed with meaty and vegetarian options. If you’re not going back to work, try one of barman Said Haddad’s herbaceous cocktails—or, on the flip side, an invigorating cardamom cold brew.
Seamore’s Sustainable Seafood
2815 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington
Manhattan-based Seamore’s just opened its first branch outside New York. Sustainable fish and shellfish are the focus, defined by any species whose populations are stable or growing. Casual, Montauk-style fare includes lobster rolls, oysters, fish tacos, and bowls with grilled local catches.