American cuisine is a vast mishmash of culture, tastes, and of course, burger joints. Washington DC provides plenty of quality choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner (along with free soft drink refills). Here is the best of a wide selection, sampled by myself and picked by a six month DC resident.
We The Pizza offered pizza by the slice. There was a wide range from pepperoni to butternut squash and goats cheese. It also provided good value for money for a quick bite, although it had nothing on the fresh taste of Bacio’s.
If you were looking for something a bit healthier, Sweetgreen and Cava are food chains that echo Subway’s ‘make your own’ USP. Sweetgreen offered salads including a Chickpea Curry Bowl and the Harvest Bowl (a mix of kale, goats cheese, sweet potato chips, almonds, apple and dressing), which were personal favourites. Cava provided falafel, meatballs and sides such as rice and humous. Both eateries allowing the customer to take charge with their food choices and offering a large range. It was nice to have a heathy option to hand.
The Pub and The People is another local from Bloomingdale. The atmosphere of this venue is its main attraction. The staff are friendly, the toilet is covered in pictures of dogs (that customers old and new have contributed), and the stacks of books behind the bar and bare brick walls add a chic feel to this venue. Burgers, pumpkin mac and cheese, and steak are just a few of the options on the menu, all coupled with excellent beer, cocktail and wine choices. If you want to feel like an insider, this is the bar to visit.
Shaw’s Tavern provides a taste of Southern American food. The fried chicken in waffle cones with a bacon bourbon maple syrup was a decadent sharing starter. There are plenty of options here from pasta, sandwiches, burgers, and other vegetarian and meat mains. This wooden tavern with high rise tables and central bar is continuously buzzing. This is a great place to come to get a feel for a typical American bar. However it’s a little on the pricey side and lacks the charm of some of the smaller local bars, so it is best to save this place for an occasion.
Coffee is a huge market in America and although I am a natural tea drinker, I found it easy to slip into this addiction due to the plentiful coffee venues throughout Washington. Starbucks, although a large chain, is better in the US. The coffee is better, the service is better, and although the venues seem to be smaller due to their frequency on every street, the atmosphere is also better.
If you are not into conglomerate chains however, there are plenty of independents to sample. Big Bear, Uprising Muffin Company and Compass Coffee were our locals.
Big Bear provided an excellent breakfast selection including the best cinnamon swirl I have ever tasted, and a breakfast burrito that easily makes my top three for things I have eaten in America. An obvious example of gentrification, this hip coffee shop is open from 7.30am to 8.00pm providing a great space to socialise or work. The staff are friendly, provide personalised service and although they are not extremely quick off the mark, it is worth waiting for the coffee they provide.
Compass Coffee accommodates its own coffee making facilities in full view of the customer. Selling nine different blends in both industrial and domestic sized bags, this cafe is very much self-sufficient. A light and airy space full of colour provides a great place for any type of meeting. There is cold brew on tap and plenty of original flavours to spice up your coffee — why not try a brown sugar cinnamon latte or a nutella mocha?
The Uprising Muffin Company hosts its own pioneering coffee and unsurprisingly, excellent muffins. From snickerdoodle to banana and walnut there is a wide variety of muffin flavours that make a great on-the-go breakfast.
Something a little different
Just off Dupoint Circle, in North West DC, Afterwards Cafe is open from from 7.30am – 1.00am inside of the 24 hour Kramer Books store. Kramer Books is a favourite not only for its original choice of published fiction and non-fiction, but also for the Afterwards Cafe’s great tasting food. Try brunch here for a hash of fried breakfasts and pancakes.
Tortilla Coast is a hot spot for happy hour drinks and Mexican snacks on Capitol Hill. Having tried the Margarita I can advice that they are strong, sour and salty: there is no lack of cultural authenticity in this venue — although the Tex-Mex style food leaves something to be desired.
District Taco is a local DC chain which started up as a food truck before expanding into restaurants, it hands down beats any Mexican food you will find in the UK. The steak burrito is a must. Pitched at good prices, and although sporting unbranded soft drinks (it really makes a difference), this isn’t a bad place to make your regular stop.
GCDC has a wide option of grilled cheese sandwiches and sides such as a classic tomato soup and tater tots, this place undoubtedly provided the best meal I ate in America. Choose the ‘French Onion’ or ‘The Young American’ for a perfectly portioned lunch.
Johnny Rockets is a typical diner chain that serves up a higher standard, Mcdonalds type burger. With unlimited fries for $2 and a wide choice of burgers and hot dogs this is a great chain to get to grips with.
Shake Shack however, is at the top of the burger chain for me. Peanut butter milkshakes, cheesy fries and non greasy burgers are what I expect from American cuisine, Shake Shack is somewhere you can depend on for this. Although I will never get used to having a pint in a fast food outlet, the service works like clockwork and every outlet is the same, making this a dependable choice in any American city.