The Best DC Restaurants For Special OccasionsBecause big moments deserve big celebrations.
While inviting your family to your favorite dive bar to toast your new job—and the fact that you’re finally moving out again—sounded like a good idea at first, you can do better. Whatever special moment is happening, from 49th wedding anniversaries to the pre-K graduations, you need somewhere that’s actually appropriate to celebrate. Here are some restaurants that prove you’re a grown up who has a handle on at least some of the stuff going on around you.
Ilili is one of the city’s most beautiful restaurants—and the Lebanese food isn’t half-bad if you know what to order. Lush green vines and cages full of light-up birds hang around the glass-enclosed restaurant. Hand-painted Mediterranean tiles line the floor and in the middle of the dining room a stone water fountain trickles softly. Families and friends pull out their Sunday best to celebrate graduations and job promotions, but we like the Wharf spot for a romantic night out. Ditch the small plates and order the mixed grill, a combination platter big enough to share that includes chicken shish taouk, wagyu beef kebab, kafta, and lamb chops, all charred to perfection. And for dessert, get the toasted, honeyed knafe over the Ilili candy bar, no matter how much your waiter pesters you.
You waited until the last minute to figure out where to take your Lola for her 78th birthday celebration. But Georgia Brown’s, a soul food restaurant downtown, can save you from her favorite old adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This place feels like a New Orleans jazz club full of velvety green booths and a grand piano centerpiece that might get played during your meal. The catfish fingers and fried green tomatoes are popular favorites that actually live up to the hype. And no one will know that you booked the reservation the day before.
While special occasions don’t always mean fine-dining, it certainly doesn’t hurt. And if you want fine-dining Ethiopian style, head to Das Ethiopian in Georgetown. Enjoy the people-watching through the windows that overlook 28th and M streets while sipping honey wine from crystal glasses at tables draped in white linen tablecloths. Classical music plays in the background and waiters walk around hanging out injera to anyone who needs another piece (no, you don’t get a whole basket, just one piece at a time). The beef tibs are arguably the best in the city, but portions are small, so be prepared to order a few extra dishes.
Your political junkie friend just finished grad school and you want to take them somewhere to remind them that politicians are stupid (because you take your job of keeping them humble very seriously). The Monocle, a Capitol Hill steakhouse, is so close to Capitol it’s basically inside the rotunda. Here’s your chance to poke fun at congressmen and lobbyists who talk a little too loud after that last glass of scotch while you all wait on your ribeye served with spicy chili butter. If you want something a little more secluded, you can book a big group dinner in the wine room on the second floor.
Pineapple & Pearls throws a party in their dining room every night, and for $325 a head, you can be part of it. The food is great (which it should be for this price), but we’re most impressed by the staff, who dance and sing along to the Wash-FM-style playlist while chatting with you and your friends. Telling you exactly what happens during dinner at Pineapple & Pearls would be like spoiling the ending to The Menu, though you might end up with a similar take-home item. The choose your own adventure options on the four course tasting menu rotate, but if they have Marco’s gnocchi, get it. It’s the most pillowy, delicious version we’ve ever had.
One of the best tasting menus in the city for one of your best people on one of their best nights? Hell yeah. You’ll find it at Rasika, an Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter. The six-course menu will run you $88 for the omnivores at the table and $72 for the vegetarians, with an optional wine pairing for $50. The restaurant is intimate, so smaller celebrations are better here. The bulk of the dining room is dim with flickering candles and low chatter, giving off big date night vibes. So it could be a great spot to *whispers* pop the question.
Strong Lady & The Tramp vibes are in your anniversary future at L’Ardente, an Italian restaurant in East End. Slide into a teal booth seat in the gold and white dining room with floor-to-very-high-ceiling windows. Get the Zucca, little bell-pepper-shaped pasta served with a spicy sausage ragu and fennel pollen that has a generous meat to pasta ratio. And if you tell them you’re here celebrating, there might even be a sparkler in your future.
Le Chat Noir is the kind of spot where one person could wear a cocktail dress and the other jeans and a t-shirt, but no one would feel out of place. The Friendship Heights restaurant is a great family spot, where you can bring every generation together to toast to your little cousin’s sixth grade graduation, which happens to be on your great-uncle’s birthday. The kiddos will love the Nutella crepe, which is the best in town, and the straightforward, yet delicious steak frites. And anyone seeking more “sophisticated” French food will enjoy the butter-soaked escargot.
What you do on a special night is important. But the pictures last forever. Nara-Ya gives you lots of backdrop options, whether that’s simple shots along the Wharf, samurai wallpaper in the restaurant, or their dedicated bright pink photo room you walk through on the way to the restaurant. Get the chef’s omakase, which is 10 courses for $115 and gives you a greatest hits of the menu, from the crispy cauliflower to the miso glazed chilean sea bass that is covered in a creamy dashi miso creme.