Best casual dining in washington dc

There are so many great options when it comes to finding the best casual dining in Washington DC. 

These casual DC restaurants may be low key, but their food and ambiance is top notch. You just don’t need to get super dressed up to head over to one of these fun casual restaurants. 

This list first goes over the best casual dining options in DC for small groups and then features the best restaurants for casual dining for larger groups. 

Best Casual Dining In Washington DC: For Small Groups

If you are not in the mood for a tasting menu or fine dining, but still want some high quality food, here are some of the best casual restaurants for small group dining in Washington DC. These restaurants may not be super “high end” but they are trendy, sleek and chic. One of the best ways to explore DC’s growing food scene is to head to different neighborhoods to check out all these amazing casual but delicious restaurants. 

Bar Chinois – Top Recommendation!

Bar Chinois is a very popular restaurant in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Washington DC. This restaurant has a sleek and fun vibe. During the week they have a very popular happy hour that fills up with locals. 

Bar Chinois also knows how to give their patrons a deal. From Tuesday to Sunday they have dollar dumplings from 5 to 7 PM. Even if you don’t opt for the dollar dumplings, most items on their menu are very reasonably priced and have good sized portions.

Red Chili Wontons at Bar Chinois

For a unique spin on Asian cuisine, Bar Chinois is the best place in the area to give your taste buds a treat. This popular restaurant is opening a second location with a slightly different spin called Bar Japonais which is set to open on 14th Street. 

Shrimp Bao Buns at Bar Chinois

Maxwell Park – Great For Wine Lovers

Maxwell Park is a great neighborhood wine bar in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington DC. In the warmer weather, there is a spacious patio to enjoy your wine and bites outdoors. If you are a fan of wine education, you can also check out some of their private wine tastings. 

Maxwell Park also hosts private events if you are looking to host an intimate event. One option is to host a wine pairing at Maxwell to impress your guests. You can rent their indoor space as well as their outdoor space if you want to.

Their menu items includes items like burgers, burrata, and a truffled grilled cheese, all which are priced under $20. Each menu option pairs well with their many wine choices. 

Lucy Bar 14th Street – Delicious Pizza

Lucy Bar 14th Street is a really cute and friendly neighborhood spot. It is on the far end of the very busy part of 14th Street in DC, not too far from Columbia Heights. While the place itself is boho chic, no one here is judging what you’re wearing. So, come as you are!

While the restaurant itself is kid-friendly, it gets pretty lively (but not obnoxious) during end of the week happy hour so if your child prefers a quieter environment, this may not be the best fit. It’s a great spot for a group of 2 to 4 friends, or a small family. 

Cozy tables at Lucy Bar

The pizza here is the highlight of the menu. Their classic Margherita pie is a favorite as well as their hot honey pizza. The menu also has tons of options without any eat making it a great place for vegetarians. 

Margherita Pizza at Lucy Bar

This cute and cozy spot has a outdoor seating as well right on the corner of 14th street. There’s also a fun indoor outdoor window that you can dine at if you want the best of both worlds. It’s a great place to enjoy the weather and some quality pizza. 

Petite Cerise – Paris Vibes

Petite Cerise is an all-day French bistro located in Shaw, Washington, DC. Petite Cerise offers French-inspired cuisine and aims to create a neighborhood spot with a focus on French flavors and philosophies. 

The restaurant is owned by chef Jeremiah Langhorne, who is also the owner of The Dabney.Chef Jeremiah Langhorne brings his expertise and love for French cuisine to this establishment, which has garnered attention for its unique approach to all-day dining.

Laos In Town – Michelin Rated

Laos In Town brings the vibrant flavors of Laos to Washington DC. This restaurant earned a spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, which highlights restaurants that have high quality cooking at affordable prices. 

Their menu features authentic Laotian cuisine, perfect for adventurous diners looking for an exceptional culinary experience. Popular dishes here include their stick rice, which is a staple in Lao cuisine and their Khao Poon Noodles. This is a popular dish featuring rice vermicelli noodles in a rich, fragrant broth with meat, herbs, and vegetables.

Honeymoon Chicken – Michelin Rated

Honeymoon Chicken is a popular spot in DC that is known for uniquely preparing chicken in different ways. The restaurant prides itself on serving signature, all-natural, cage-free, crispy, honey-dusted chicken, which can be ordered in original or spicy variations. 

Some of the popular menu items at Honeymoon Chicken include their Hot Honey Dipped Chicken Sandwich, the Crispy Mushroom Sandwich, and their Shrimp Po’ Boy. This restaurant has flavorful chicken dishes, earning the restaurant a spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand List.

Yellow Not Pizza – Michelin Rated

Yellow Not Pizza is a sister restaurant to the one star Michelin restaurant Albi by Chef Michael Rafidi. Yellow itself has been featured on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list. 

The restaurant has an innovative twist on pizza, featuring a unique yellow corn crust, vegan options, and creative toppings. For those looking for a fresh take on a classic favorite, Yellow Not Pizza is definitely a venue worth a visit.

Stellina Pizzeria – Michelin Rated

Stellina Pizzaria is a modern Italian eatery in the Union Market neighborhood of Washington DC. This pizza is so good that Stellina has also been featured on the Washington DC Michelin Bib Gourmand List. 

This chic but casual pizza spot serves up some of the best pizza in the area. You can get a view of the open kitchen from the cozy tables in the restaurant. There is also a small bar area that you can dine at if you prefer that.

Etto Italian On 14th Street

Etto Italian on 14th Street serves high-quality Italian cuisine in a casual setting, perfect for small groups. It is located right on the busy part of 14th street, but if you’re not looking for it, you might miss it. 

Etto has house-made ingredients and artisanal pizzas. It’s also family friendly and is a great casual dining option for Italian food in Washington DC.

Emmy Squared

For a taste of Detroit-style pizza in the heart of DC, Emmy Squared is the perfect place. Emmy Squared has couple locations including one in Navy Yard, one in Shaw, and one in Northern Virginia. 

In addition to their popular pizza choices, they have a variety of dishes including savory appetizers and hearty salads. Menu highlights here are the Colony Pie, the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the Brussel Sprouts Salad. 

Oyamel Penn Quarter – Michelin Rated

Oyamel Penn Quarter is the go-to spot for great Mexican cuisine in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. This restaurant has also been featured on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for great food at a great price.

Chef José Andrés has created a remarkable menu, combining traditional Mexican street food with innovative flair. The tableside guacomole is a hit with nearly everyone so it is worth mentioning.

Amparo Fondita

Amparo Fondita is a casual sit down restaurant just off of Dupont Circle. This Latin eatery brings authentic Mexican flavors to DC with a focus on fresh, cooking. 

Their warm, colorful dining room, combined with an exceptional menu, creates an inviting atmosphere for a small group gathering.

Il Canale In Georgetown

Il Canale is one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Georgetown. It is well known for having some of the city’s best Neapolitan-style pizza. This restaurant is very charming and very laid-back. 

You can dine inside in their large dining room, or ask for a seat outside. The location is right off of M street in the heart of Georgetown. Especially in the warmer months, you will always find people seated outside at Il Canale. 

Colada Shop

Colada Shop has several locations in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. The 14th street location has a really fun vibe with a rooftop that gets lively in the warmer months. 

The menu has a selection of Cuban sandwiches, empanadas, and strong, traditional Cuban coffee, making it a go-to spot for a taste of Havana in DC. Their frozen drinks, especially their pina colada (as expected by the name) are strong and tasty. 

Castas Rum Bar

Castas Rum Bar offers a taste of the Caribbean with innovative cocktails, yummy dishes, and a fun atmosphere. Their extensive rum selection and crave-worthy dishes make it the perfect place for a casual group outing. 

Casta’s Rum Bar does allow cigar smoking in their outdoor space. Request a table indoors if you think the smoke or smell may bother you.

Bistro Du Jour

Bistro Du Jour is a French-inspired eatery that brings the charm of Paris to Washington DC. The menu features classic French dishes, such as quiche and onion soup, along with various pastries, making for a delightful experience with a touch of European flair.

Bindaas Indian Street Food

Bindaas Indian Street Food is a must-visit for fans of Indian cuisine seeking bold flavors in a casual space. Located in Foggy Bottom, this casual Indian eatery is perfect for lunch or dinner. 

The menu has a variety of popular Indian street food items. You can order dishes like Bhel Puri, Samosas, and Chaat for under $15. Larger items like Kathi Rolls are between $15 and $20. 

Silver Diner Navy Yard

Silver Diner in Navy Yard is a classic American diner with a contemporary twist. This casual hip restaurant has several locations in Northern Virginia and Maryland . In addition to all their classic diner items, don’t forget to have some ice cream before you leave. 

Silver Diner is also great for anyone with specific dietary preferences. In addition to having several vegetarian items, they also have vegan items, and a Halal friendly menu.

Best Casual Dining In Washington DC: For Large Groups

Washington DC offers many casual dining options perfect for accommodating large groups. These venues provide a variety of cuisines, allowing everyone to find something they will enjoy. 

This section will highlight some popular options around the city for casual group dining occasions. The only thing to be prepared for when planning a meal with a large group is call ahead or check online for a reservation to make your experience seamless. 

Calico DC In Blagden Alley

Calico DC in Blagden Alley is a bit of a hidden gem. It is well known to locals, but if you don’t know about the many restaurants in Blagden’s Alley, it’s easy to miss them. 

Calico has a spacious outdoor patio that is a nice place to enjoy refreshing cocktails and shareable plates in a lively atmosphere. This place is kid friendly as well as pet friendly. While this popular spot can accommodate large groups, you will have to get there early during peak hours on weekends and evenings. 

All Purpose Pizza

All Purpose Pizza serves generous portions of mouth-watering pizzas ideal for big groups seeking a casual place. There is a location near the waterfront as well as one in the Shaw neighborhood. 

If you want to guarantee a reservation for a large party, you are in luck. All Purpose takes online reservations for large groups ahead of time. Just be sure to plan ahead. 

Founding Farmers

Founding Farmers is a farm-to-table restaurant offering dishes created from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. There are several locations for Founding Farmers both in Washington DC as well as in the surrounding suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Each restaurant is large and spacious and can accomodate large groups and families. 

Just like the space, the menu is also big at Founding Farmers. The a la carte menu has tons of options to choose from at this casual DC restaurant. Founding Farmers also has many vegan and vegetarian options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Duke’s Grocery

Duke’s Grocery features a menu with diverse options, allowing everyone to find a dish they love. This restaurant has several locations in DC with the Foggy Bottom location being one of the most spacious. This location is also very popular for students and families of students who attend George Washington University.

Bar Taco

Bar Taco is known for its vibrant atmosphere and delicious tacos. There are also soe options for people who have dietary restrictions making it an easy destination with a group. Be sure to also have one of their margaritas to enjoy along with your food. 

Union Market

Union Market is a food hall that has many various food vendors giving visitors a vast array of options. From pizza to Indian cuisine you can literally have almost any type of cuisine at Union Market. 

It’s a fantastic gathering spot for large groups looking to sample diverse cuisines in a lively, casual setting. If the weather is nice, you can take your food upstairs to their rooftop lawn area and enjoy the views while you eat. This place is also very family friendly so don’t stress about bringing the kids. 

Lulu’s Wine Garden

Lulu’s Wine Garden is one of the best wine bars in Washington DC. It has a unique setting with indoor and outdoor features. 

This casual chic DC restaurant has a great selection of wines, along with small plates and other dishes to share. Most of the food items on the menu are under $15. They have several wines by the glass for $10 or less and they also have bottles of wine under $40. It’s a well priced chic venue for groups looking to enjoy a relaxed time in Washington DC.

Dacha Beer Garden

Dacha Beer Garden is a casual outdoor space with an extensive beer menu and communal seating. The beer garden often hosts events and live music, making it a favorite spot for socializing and unwinding. 

Also, Dacha Beer Garden is well known for its spacious outdoor seating areas. It is an ideal destination for enjoying drinks and food in an open-air setting. Host your next warm-weather gathering here. 

Busboys And Poets

Busboys and Poets combines good food with a strong artistic vibe, hosting live music and poetry events. This welcoming establishment is an excellent choice for groups who appreciate art and culture. It is also open early in the morning if you need a place to grab breakfast or brunch. 

Bluejacket Navy Yard

Bluejacket Navy Yard is a very spacious brewery with indoor and outdoor space. Indoors you will find a buzzing vibe and many televisions to catch both local and national sports.

This large restaurant has a selection of craft beers along with solid food. The outdoor patio is pretty spacious with ample seating. The overall experience is perfect for a group looking to enjoy each other’s company in a casual and unpretentious atmosphere. 

Gatsby Navy Yard

Gatsby Navy Yard is a large restaurant with multiple levels. It feels a bit more like a sports bar rather than something out of the Gatsby era, but it is a good casual dining spot for a large group. It’s a popular spot to head to before or after a game at Nationals Park. 

They have a huge bar with plenty of seating both around the bar as well as at tables. Their second floor has even more seating available as well as private event spaces. If you want to watch a game, the ground floor bar has several televisions. 

The Salt Line

If you want to enjoy some local fish from the Chesapeake Bay, then head to The Salt Line. The Salt Line is a seafood-focused restaurant with a laid-back environment and diverse menu options, making it a top choice for groups looking for a casual dining experience close to the water.

Bar Spero

Bar Spero is known for its Mediterranean-inspired dishes and welcoming atmosphere, attracting large groups looking for an inviting setting to share a meal. It is located right by Union Station and is also in close proximity to the H Street Corridor.

Ambar Capitol Hill

Ambar restaurant has been a popular casual restaurant in Washington DC for many years. They are well known for their lively brunch that comes at an affordable price. They have a small plates option as well which allows you to try a little bit of each one of their dishes. 

Ambar serves Balkan dishes during both their brunch and dinner service. Popular dishes here are the drunken mussels and the beet tzatziki.

Best Casual Dining In Washington DC: Fast Casual Restaurants

Fast casual restaurants have exploded across the nation in recent years. If you are looking for a very quick dining experience, there are plenty of fast casual restaurants in Washington DC. 


Cava is a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant chain that offers customizable bowls, salads, and pitas filled with fresh and flavorful ingredients like grilled proteins, veggies, and various sauces. With a focus on healthy and wholesome options, Cava is a popular choice for those seeking a quick and nutritious meal on the go. Their menu also caters to various dietary preferences, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.

Tatte Bakery And Cafe

Tatte Bakery is a beloved fast-casual bakery and cafe chain with locations across the Boston area, including Washington, D.C. Known for its European-inspired pastries, artisanal bread, and gourmet sandwiches, Tatte offers a delightful array of sweet and savory treats. 

Popular menu items here are their almond croissants, their savory toasts, and their delicious shakshuka. With a warm and inviting atmosphere, Tatte provides the perfect setting for a leisurely brunch with friends or a quick coffee break on the go. It’s also a great place to have a meeting or get some work done while you eat. 

Good Stuff Eatery

Good Stuff Eatery has multiple locations not just in the nation’s capital but also in several cities around the United States. The chef de cuisine here is Top Chef sensation Chef Spike Mendelsohn. The Capitol Hill location is very popular with government workers. 

From good burgers to yummy fried chicken, there’s no shortage of “good stuff” to eat here. The Farmers Markets salad options are also a personal favorite. The restaurant sources its ingredients from local farms to ensure freshness and high quality. 

&pizza (And Pizza )

&pizza, often stylized as “And Pizza,” is a fast-casual pizza chain known for its unique rectangular-shaped pies, creative toppings, and artisanal flavor combinations. Customers can choose from a selection of signature pizzas or customize their own, with options for different crusts, sauces, cheeses, and toppings. 


Sweetgreen is a fast-casual salad chain that emphasizes seasonal, locally sourced produce and sustainable ingredients. Their menu features a variety of signature salads and grain bowls, as well as the option to create your own custom salad with a wide selection of fresh toppings and house-made dressings. Sweetgreen is committed to promoting healthy eating habits and environmental sustainability, making it a popular choice for health-conscious diners looking for convenient and nourishing meals.


Chipotle Mexican Grill is a popular fast-casual chain known for its customizable burritos, bowls, tacos, and salads made with fresh, responsibly sourced ingredients. Customers can choose from a selection of proteins, including grilled chicken, steak, carnitas, barbacoa, sofritas (tofu), and vegetarian options. 

District Taco

District Taco is a fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain that originated in the Washington, D.C. area, offering a variety of tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads inspired by the flavors of Mexico. Their menu features a selection of proteins such as grilled chicken, steak, pork carnitas, and al pastor, as well as vegetarian options like grilled veggies and black beans. 

District Taco has freshly made tortillas, flavorful salsas, and generous portions. It’s great for a quick and delicious Mexican meal. With a commitment to quality ingredients and friendly service, District Taco has expanded to multiple locations across the D.C. metropolitan area, becoming a beloved staple in the local fast-casual dining scene.


Potbelly is a popular fast-casual sandwich shop known for its toasted sandwiches and freshly baked cookies. This fast casual restaurant has a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups, and sides, Potbelly caters to a range of tastes and preferences. Customers can choose from classic favorites like the “Wreck” or “Italian” sandwiches, or opt for lighter options such as the “Turkey Fresco” or “Farmhouse Salad.” 

With friendly service and a commitment to using high-quality ingredients, Potbelly provides a satisfying dining experience for both individuals and families alike. Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite on your lunch break or enjoying a leisurely meal with friends, Potbelly offers comfort food with a personalized touch.

Quickway Japanese Hibachi 

Quickway Japanese Hibachi is a fast-casual restaurant chain offering a unique dining experience centered around Japanese hibachi-style cooking. Known for its flavorful teppanyaki dishes cooked on a sizzling grill right before your eyes, this Japanese steakhouse provides an interactive and entertaining meal for customers. 

From quality grilled meats like chicken, steak, and shrimp to fresh vegetables and fried rice, there’s something for everyone at this restaurant. With its quick service and affordable prices, Quickway Japanese Hibachi is a popular choice for those seeking a fun and delicious Japanese dining experience without the formality of a traditional hibachi restaurant.


Chop’t is a fast-casual salad chain renowned for its innovative and customizable salad options, offering a fresh and flavorful alternative to traditional fast food. With a wide array of greens, proteins, toppings, and dressings to choose from, customers can create their perfect salad combination to suit their tastes and dietary preferences. 

Each Chop’t location prides itself on using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients whenever possible. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic Caesar salad or a more adventurous Thai-inspired creation, Chop’t provides a convenient and health-conscious dining experience for busy individuals on the go.


Shouk is a fast-casual restaurant in Washington, D.C. that specializes in plant-based, Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine. With a focus on fresh and locally sourced ingredients, Shouk offers a menu featuring innovative dishes such as their signature Shouk Burger made with a hearty blend of vegetables and grains, as well as their famous sweet potato fries and flavorful salads. 

The restaurant’s commitment to sustainability extends to its packaging and practices, making it a favorite among eco-conscious diners. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply looking to try something new, Shouk provides a delicious and satisfying dining experience that celebrates the vibrant flavors of the Middle East.

Food Trucks

Washington DC has many food trucks scattered all over town. Especially along Constitution Avenue you will find several in front of the National Museum Of Natural History and the National Archives. 

Best Casual Dining In Washington DC: Summary

There is no shortage of places when it comes to casual dining options in DC. Whether you have a small group or a large one, there’s plenty of options to choose from in the nation’s capital. From the vibrant streets of Dupont Circle to the historic charm of Capitol Hill, there’s a great place for every palate. Some of the best bets when it comes to great casual dining are Bar Chinois, Lucy Bar, Union Market, Laos In Town, Lulu’s Wine Garden and Tatte Bakery. Read through the list above for a full run down of all the best casual restaurants in Washington DC. 

For those seeking a grab and go option, you can easily find a food truck for street food favorites like pork belly tacos and fresh fish ceviche. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual place to grab a quick bite or a nice spot for a special occasion, DC’s dining scene has something to satisfy every taste bud.

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