Your boss told you it’d be dark, but you never expected something like this on your first mission—you can barely see a foot in front of you. You nearly turn around and head back to HQ, but then the door swings open, and before you know it, you’re walking through a curtain of chains and into a bar where tropical cocktails are flowing, a disco ball is spinning, and there’s someone in the corner eyeing you up and down like they know something you don’t. Focus—you’re here to get your hands on those clandestine documents.
Actually, we hate to interrupt this highly entertaining espionage fantasy, but you’re really just here to drink alcohol and eat some cheeseburger bao. But feel free to let your imagination run wild, because Foreign National on Capitol Hill is a perfect place to do that.
This spot is dark and kind of sexy, and generally feels like somewhere a spy might use to rendezvous with a source—in a highly stylized movie, at least. But don’t let the interior distract from the food and drinks. The menu has excellent cocktails and bar snacks, like a cheeseburger bao that tastes like a beautiful cross between a Chinese pork bun and a Big Mac, and crispy potato wedges dunked in creamy sriracha hollandaise. Foreign National is the sister bar to Stateside, one of our favorite upscale Vietnamese spots, so we’re not surprised the food is so good—we only wish there were more options to choose from.
Since Foreign National is small, don’t come with a group. Sit at the bar with a date, order cocktails and bites, and take it all in. If, by the end of the night, you’re either brave or buzzed enough to admit that this place makes you dream about starring in an espionage thriller, and your date agrees, you two are clearly meant to be together.
Cheeseburger Bao & Special Sauce
Ridiculously good, and one of the best bar bites in the city. On the outside, this just looks like a bun with sesame seeds on top, but inside there’s a ball of savory seasoned ground beef, plus cheese and pork floss. Be careful not to get molten cheese all over yourself—you don’t want to waste any of that goodness.
Crispy Fried Potatoes, Sriracha Hollandaise
Get these with the bao for a burger-and-fries kind of thing.
Malaysian Spiral Cut Chicken Curry Puffs
This is a crispy horn-shaped pastry filled with chicken in a creamy curry sauce, and it’s a great drinking food. An order comes with two.
Phở Cuốn, Nước chấm
Phở-braised beef with Vietnamese herbs and crispy shallots in a rice noodle wrapper. The beef is tender, the dipping sauce is sweet and spicy, and it’s a lighter bite than the other things on the menu. The rice noodle wrapper can get a little gummy, but otherwise, this is a great appetizer.
Smashed Cucumbers In Strange Flavor Sauce
Cucumbers can be so boring. Not these, which come in a spicy szechuan pepper sauce. They’re a great thing to munch on if you're in the mood for some plants.