Power Lunches and Midday Munches in the Nation's Capital

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but lunch is by far the trickiest. After all, if you're bold enough to head out to a sit-down meal in the middle of the workday -- and bravo if you are! -- you're forced to keep one eye on the clock as you're scanning the menu. And if you're just visiting the city and seeking a delicious midday snack, you want to choose a place wisely so you'll know your dining-out dollars have been well spent. But how to select the perfect lunch spot? By perusing this list. Here, we've compiled some of the most popular -- and often most buzz-worthy -- lunch spots in Washington, DC. Although each place offers different cuisine, ambience and price points, they share an important common thread: All 10 make for destination-worthy midday dining. So whether you crave South American braised pork from Ceiba or a simple Reuben with a side of chips from C.F. Folks, you'll find something to savor here. (A word to the wise: If you really are in a hurry and need to get back on the road -- or back to the office -- quickly, it's best to call ahead to make sure the restaurant can seat you right away.)

10 Al Tiramisu
This festive eatery ripples with laughter and conversation, drawing celebrities, politicians and regular folks to its doors every day. Al Tiramisu offers classic Italian cuisine in a pleasant environment and is great for a quick business lunch or a leisurely dinner with friends. Seafood is the specialty and is often grilled and served with olive oil and lemon. Veal, beef and duck draw rave reviews, too, as do pastas such as spinach-ricotta agnolotti and lobster-topped linguine with cherry tomatoes. And if you're wondering whether the desserts are any good? With a name like Al Tiramisu, what do you think? METRO: Dupont Circle. (202-467-4466)

9 Meskerem
Three stories of vibrant hues and African artifacts set the scene at this well-known Ethiopian restaurant. Curries and stews make up a large part of the menu and come with plenty of spongy injera to soak up the tangy sauce. (This is an eat-with-your-hands cuisine, so keep that napkin parked in your lap.) Condiments accompanying the dishes can be either spicy or mild, but be forewarned that spicy means SPICY. Vegetarians will rejoice at the many meatless options, and all guests will rejoice at the celebration of colors, textures and flavors found on each and every plate. METRO: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan. (202-462-4100)

8 Bread Line
Bread Line offers exactly what the name says: great bread and long lines. Still, with the city's best baguettes, freshest bagels, tastiest muffins and most flavorful scones awaiting when it's finally your turn to order, cooling your heels in the queue is well worth it. The restaurant's decor is minimal and industrial; its ambience can feel chaotic. But those aforementioned loaves? They're exquisite. And the handmade sandwiches -- including prosciutto di Parma, chicken and goat cheese and Merguez sausage -- they're used in? Out of this world. After lunch, be sure to buy an extra loaf to take home. METRO: Farragut West. (202-822-8900)

7 Tabard Inn Restaurant
Located inside one of DC's oldest hotels, this restaurant plies guests with delicious American cuisine. It places a premium on fresh, regional produce and meats and changes the menu depending on what's available. An apple and walnut salad skillfully mixes flavors and textures. Seafood is the house specialty, and sautéed soft-shell crabs over wilted greens are proof of the Tabard's commitment to keeping it local. Rigatoni with bolognese sauce also delights, as do homemade ice creams and white-chocolate cheesecake. If you don't mind waiting for an available table, the enclosed courtyard is a wonderful place to dine during mild weather. METRO: Dupont Circle. (202-331-8528)

6 Old Ebbitt Grill
Since 1856, this landmark bar and restaurant has served DC's power class (including presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Teddy Roosevelt). Rich with historic furnishings, including the head of a walrus allegedly shot by Roosevelt, the place never fails to satisfy. Known for its dependable American cuisine, the saloon has a fantastic raw bar with seven types of oysters. Its popular lunch offerings include a terrific burger, Reuben, chicken wings and grilled filet mignon. Filet mignon? For lunch? Well, this is DC, a town not exactly known for its moderation and self-control. So go ahead and order dessert, too. In for a penny, in for a pound. METRO: Metro Center. (202-347-4800)

5 Georgia Brown's
Underneath all the politicking and intrigue, DC is a Southern city at heart. And that's why this upscale mainstay continues to attract a wide mix of politicos and world citizens longing for Low Country cooking. Barbecued salmon fillets, shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew (seafood, no frogs) and fried chicken are menu classics that come with cornbread, biscuits and lots of animated conversation. (Vegetarians can happily tuck into meatless dishes like sautéed black-eyed-pea cakes.) Fried catfish, biscuit-battered French toast, country ham with gravy and other brunch delights are also popular draws. Sure, some say this type of food is a bit heavy; others simply loosen their belts and butter another biscuit. METRO: McPherson Square. (202-393-4499)

4 Rocklands — Georgetown
Barbecue is serious business, and the folks at Rocklands take their barbecue very seriously. With four locations -- Georgetown, Alexandria, Arlington and Rockville -- in and around DC, grilled-meat lovers have plenty of places to stop and get their fill of baby-back ribs, baked beans, collard greens and jalapeno cornbread. Feeling adventurous? Go ahead and order the Belly Buster, an out-of-this-world combo of ribs, chicken, brisket and sausage. But when you have trouble standing up afterward? Better pencil in an afternoon nap. (And keep in mind: Each Rocklands outpost is known for a different specialty, so trying one does NOT mean you've tried them all.) Metro: Varies by location. (202-333-2558)

3 Pizzeria Paradiso — Dupont Circle
With outposts in Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria, there's no excuse not to grab an incredible pie for lunch. Pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven come with thin, hearty crusts and unusual toppings like mussels and eggs (but fear not: good ol' mushrooms and pepperoni are available, too). The menu provides much more than great pizza, though. So whether you're craving a sandwich stuffed with cold cuts, roasted vegetables and tangy cheese or an Italian salad with anchovies and marinated olives, Pizzaria Paradiso will satisfy your hankerings. Metro: Dupont Circle, King Street or Foggy Bottom (which is nearest to Georgetown, but still a considerable walk away). (202-223-1245)

2 C.F. Folks
C.F. Folks, which only opens for lunch (and only on weekdays, to boot), attracts hungry noontime diners who willingly jockey for position at open tables in the small, nondescript eatery. Even Washington's Who's Who are known to queue up at the counter and wait their turn to order a popular daily special. The regular menu -- which features all the usual suspects, from hot pastrami on rye to grilled chicken breast and Havarti on sourdough -- is a testament to the beauty of dependable, no-frills lunch offerings. Want Coke and a brownie with that? Of course you do. Metro: Dupont Circle. (202-293-0162)

1 Ceiba
The sizzling cuisines of South and Central America have invaded the nation's capital and, thankfully, the DC dining scene will never be the same. A decor of Yucatan stone, mosaics and furniture fashioned from Brazilian wood takes traditional elements and gives them a modernist slant. Ceviches, of course, lead the menu, and it's wise to go ahead and sample the yellowfin tuna or Yucatan shrimp variety. From there, look to such flavorful courses as Brazilian-braised pork shank with black beans and rice, Bahian-style boullabaisse or jerk-barbequed young chicken with rice, peas and sautéed callaloo. And, naturally, you'll want a side of plantains with whatever you order. METRO: Metro Center. (202-393-3983)


Holly is an award-winning writer and editor with 15+ years of experience working with newspapers and magazines primarily in the Washington, DC, metro area. She also has a Master of Arts in Writing degree from the Johns Hopkins University, a fact that no longer impresses even her own four children.

Read more about Holly Smith here.

Connect with Holly via: Blog | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | StumbleUpon

Maps and Directions

1
Al Tiramisu 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Cuisine: European, Italian, Vegetarian
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
COST: $$
2
Meskerem 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: African, Ethiopian
Dining Options: Disabled Accessible, Live Music, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Neighborhood: Adams-Morgan
COST: $
3
Bread Line 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Catering, Family Friendly, Take Out
COST: $
4
Tabard Inn Restaurant 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, New American
Dining Options: Disabled Accessible, Family Friendly, Live Music, Parties / Private Rooms, Pastry Chef
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
COST: $$
5
Old Ebbitt Grill 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Regional, Seafood
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Disabled Accessible, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Parties / Private Rooms, Take Out
Neighborhood: Downtown
COST: $$
6
Georgia Brown's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Disabled Accessible, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Live Music, Parties / Private Rooms, Take Out
Neighborhood: Downtown
COST: $$
7
Rocklands — Georgetown 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Barbecue
Dining Options: Catering, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
COST: $
8
Pizzeria Paradiso — Dupont Circle 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Family Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Cuisine: European, Italian, Pizza
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
COST: $
9
C.F. Folks 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Deli
Dining Options: Catering, Family Friendly, Non-Smoking
COST: $
10
Ceiba 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Disabled Accessible, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Parties / Private Rooms
Cuisine: Latin
COST: $$