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Washington D.C.

sidewalk dining in washington dc

Washington's vibrant restaurant scene has been gaining national attention as it moves from meat and potatoes to a more creative environment. At top-end and historic restaurants near Capitol Hill you can dine with the movers and shakers, or head to Adams Morgan (specifically 18th Street NW, south from Columbia Road) for an array of ethnic cuisine. The historic Union Station railway station has a large food court for a quick lunch (everything from Cajun to crepes).

You can carbo-load at Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat, where pastas and breads -- all made in-house -- take center stage. This Adams Morgan bistro offers unique dishes (seaweed sourdough; lasagna with goat, kale and anchovy) in a laid-back atmosphere.

Ben's Chili Bowl is a landmark lunch spot -- the signature dish being a chili-covered "half-smoke" hot dog. The place has been at its original U Street location since 1960 and was featured in the movie "The Pelican Brief." (There's now a handful of other locations, including H Street and Arlington.)

For delicious hot and cold mezze (Turkish, Greek and Lebanese appetizers) perfect for sharing, head to Zaytinya. Construct a meal from small plates like falafel, grilled Mediterranean octopus and lamb kebabs. There are numerous vegetarian options.

A longstanding favorite a stone's throw from the White House, the Old Ebbitt Grill is the oldest bar in town, established in 1856, and a good spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner amid a display of Teddy Roosevelt's hunting trophies. Presidents Grant, Cleveland and Harding were also regulars here. Sit in the mahogany and velvet booths, and you may spot politicians and journalists among your fellow diners. There's a lengthy menu, but oysters are a specialty.

The name of upscale Indian restaurant Rasika is Sanskrit for "flavors." There are multiple tasting menus on offer, or you can order a la carte from a menu that includes dishes such as tandoori salmon, halibut Goan curry and duck vindaloo. The excellent wine list is a nice bonus.

Discover Balkan cuisine at Ambar, in Capitol Hill. The restaurant's original location is in Belgrade, Serbia, and the founders have brought those local flavors to diners in D.C. Order the "Balkan Experience" for the table, and everyone can sample unlimited small plates and drinks -- such as crispy phyllo meat pies, stuffed sour cabbage and "drunken mussels" (with fruit brandy, garlic and capers).

For a quick and cheap bite in Adams Morgan, the Amsterdam Falafelshop serves falafel and French fries accompanied by a huge bar of condiments and sides including hummus, red pepper sauce, baba ghanoush and tomato/cucumber salad.

Movers and shakers do power lunches and dinners at Charlie Palmer Steak, where the menu includes meat, game and fish, creatively prepared, and the extensive wine list is unusual in that it's all-American. Views out the windows are of Capitol Hill.

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