Dinner at the Blue Duck Tavern - Michelin-Starred Place to Eat in Washington, DC
Indulge in inspired cuisine made from locally sourced and organic fare at these DC dining destinations.
The word “locavore” (defined as, “one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible”) was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a few years ago; it’s also a concept that rules at many Washington, DC restaurants. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of must-try places to eat that source what’s on their plates from nearby states.
Blue Duck Tavern
Tucked inside the Park Hyatt Washington, this fine American restaurant serves the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic with refreshingly little pretension. Diners enter through the grand front door or like family through the open kitchen. Almost all of the produce – from eggs to crabs (when they're in season) – are locally sourced. Each purveyor receives equal billing to its starring dish on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The results are as American as apple pie, and pie just so happens to be its signature dessert.
Chef Matt Baker has turned a former tomato cannery in Ivy City into the Michelin-starred Gravitas, which highlights delicious farm-to-table fare from the Chesapeake Bay watershed in modern space with plenty of exposed brick. You can choose your own culinary adventure with the flexible five- or seven-course tasting menu options, allowing you to sample a range of Baker’s popular dishes (think yellowfin sashimi and an exceptional chocolate ganache that snakes across your plate). Green thumbs can get their kicks sipping on cocktails upstairs at the Conservatory, which includes a greenhouse and garden alive with flowers, fruits and vegetables.
A Rake's Progress
Experience the culinary prowess of acclaimed chef Spike Gjerde at A Rake’s Progress in The LINE Hotel. The James Beard Award-winning chef's airy, mezzanine-level restaurant is devoted to sourcing Mid-Atlantic ingredients, which are cooked to perfection in the large wood-fired hearth. Diners rave about the “trout on a log” (smoked trout with potato dumplings), but it’s hard to go wrong with any dish crafted by Gjerde and his team.
If you’ve never had plant-based tacos – or think you already have an idea of how they would taste – then check your misconceptions at the door of Chaia. This District favorite with locations in Georgetown and Chinatown exudes light-and-airy positive vibes paired with "farm to taco" fare. Chaia’s sustainable focus pays homage to local producers with delightful combinations like roasted butternut squash with goat cheese, chipotle yogurt and mint pressed between a corn tortilla. The tacos pair nicely with an array of fresh sides, including the fan-favorite green rice with feta, herb pesto and pepitas.
Produce and meat from family farms both regional and national (North Dakota beef!) show up on the menu at this Foggy Bottom favorite, where crowds line up for corn bread, deviled eggs, hearty salads, made-from-scratch pastas and signature dishes like chicken and waffles. Drinks, many powered by house-squeezed juices, are also a star in cocktails poured in the rustic-mod, high-ceilinged space.
Farmers Fishers Bakers
Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Washington Harbour in Georgetown, Farmers Fishers Bakers takes the same farm-first approach to dining as Founding Farmers, but with a distinctive menu that makes for a truly different, but just as satisfying, experience. Farmhouse sushi, house-made pizzas, a range of mussel pots and jambalayas are highlights, and do your best to catch First Bake, when customers can enjoy breakfast selections (to-go, if they’d like) and casual seating for a relaxed setting, complete with waterfront views and Wi-Fi access.
Birch & Barley
555 beers. That should be the leadoff to any conversation regarding Birch & Barley and its upstairs partner, ChurchKey, located on vibrant 14th Street. Of course, Birch & Barley also provides an exciting, upscale dining experience, with a menu sporting local and regional ingredients, informed by the flavors comprising beer sommelier Greg Engert’s immaculately curated beer list. And you can bet the best way to enjoy the menu is with the requisite beer pairings.
With locations across much of the Western United States, this healthy fast-casual chain debuted in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood with much fanfare. The brainchild of James Beard Award nominee Sam Fox, Flower Child was created to provide affordable, made-from-scratch dishes that cater to every diet. So yes, you can bring your vegetarian, vegan and paleo friends here for everything from creative salads and small plates to organic grain bowls and wraps.
A vet of acclaimed Charleston spots like McCrady’s, James Beard Award-winning chef Jeremiah Langhorne explores the cuisine of Maryland and Virginia at this Michelin-starred hot spot in Shaw's Blagden Alley, where an open kitchen featuring a wood-fired stove turns out grits milled nearby, Chesapeake seafood and dishes based on historic regional recipes. The throwback setting – a candlelit restored rowhouse – is romantic and relaxing.
Shilling Canning Company
Reid Shilling, the former sous chef at The Dabney, spent two-plus years setting the wheels in motion for his own spot to showcase the delicious bounty of the Mid-Atlantic region. The result is Shilling Canning Company on the Capitol Riverfront, named for the chef-owner’s family company that operated in the Baltimore area during the mid-twentieth century. The oft-updated menu features a raw bar selection, snacks, a range of small plates and large shareable plates like the dry-aged duck crown with preserved plums and black walnuts. The thrice-cooked thick-cut fries are a fan favorite, so make sure to order them on the side if your meal doesn’t include them.
At Dupont Circle’s Hotel Madera, this long-running neighborhood favorite puts seasonal spins on American classics like shrimp and grits and pot roast, while also offering produce sourced from local farmers and purveyors. Dark wood features (from the salvaged wood tables to the huge tree trunk in the center of the restaurant) and ample ambient light provide its signature cozy feel. Add a cocktail from its innovative mixology program or a local pour of beer and you’re on your way to a most serene dining experience.
Centrolina & Piccolina da Centrolina
Centrolina, which can be found along CityCenterDC's Palmer Alley, is part food market, part restaurant and home to the mastery of Chef Amy Brandwein and her take on regional Italian cuisine. The small-yet-thoughtful seasonal menu relies on fresh local ingredients to transport diners on a culinary journey across the Italian peninsula with pastas made in-house daily and wood-fired meat and fish. Across the alley you'll also find Piccolina da Centrolina, the James Beard Award nominee and former RAMMY Chef of the Year's all-day cafe featuring of wood-fired fare that complements the upscale regional dishes served across the street.
Calling all vegetarians: Fancy Radish is your home-away-from-home on H Street NE. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, this Philadelphia-based eatery from Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby is worth a visit. Unique dishes include a rutabaga fondue served with a soft pretzel (an homage to Philly), while the restaurant’s namesake “fancy radishes” are plated with shiso, yuzu avocado and smoked tamari.
For more than 25 years, this Federal period home in historic Georgetown has housed a legendary DC dining establishment. Featuring several dining rooms, antiques dating back to the 16th century and a remarkable amount of elegance, 1789 Restaurant is dedicated to high quality products and local purveyors that have been the hallmarks of this farm-to-table favorite. Good to know: Jackets are suggested attire for men.
Rappahannock Oyster Bar
With two locations in the District – inside the bustling food hall at Union Market and a restored turn-of-the-century oyster shed at The Wharf – this retro-cool seafood house offers farmed Chesapeake oysters raw, grilled and turned into po boy sandwiches. Mosey up to the bar at either location and tuck into other dishes like Maryland crab cakes and Virginia-raised beef burgers. Wash it all down with local beers and a long list of interesting cocktails.
Rooster & Owl
Despite its name, Rooster & Owl is not poultry-only. In fact, veggies take center stage on most dishes in the tasting menu-focused restaurant, and you’d be remiss to pass on the charred barbecue carrots with cornbread ice cream (you read that correctly). From the husband-wife team of Carey and Yuan Tang, the restaurant's name is derived from the nicknames for Carey, who works during the day (the “Rooster”) and Yuan, who is the late-night “Owl.”
The Red Hen
The crackling of the wood-burning oven, bucolic decor that emulates a countryside abode and an affordable, Italian-infused menu have turned The Red Hen into one of the city’s most popular neighborhood restaurants. Pasta lovers will have difficulty resisting dishes such mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or squid ink linguini, while those hankering for seafood can savor caramelized scallops or grilled swordfish. This gem also grows organic herbs from its own plot built by local urban gardeners Love & Carrots.
This Michael Mina restaurant, housed inside the chic Four Seasons Hotel, will be a treat to those who thoroughly enjoy a hearty meal in a sophisticated setting. Local farms and the riches of the Chesapeake Bay power a menu full of classic meat and seafood dishes. Try an 18-ounce dry-aged New York strip or feed the whole group with the Bourbon Steak shellfish tower, a celebration of local and national selections.