Does the thought of going to M Street on a Saturday - and worse, finding a decent place to eat - make your body convulse like it’s having an allergic reaction? It doesn’t have to be that way. Georgetown may not be the culinary capital of DC, but that’s no reason to settle for an iceberg lettuce caesar salad at one of the many tourist-infested chain restaurants in the area. Here are 16 better options, all of which will make a trip to Georgetown worth the hassle.
The first words that come to mind when you think of Georgetown are likely “expensive” and “crowded.” Paolo’s is neither. We’ve never had trouble getting a table or a spot at the bar, and the Happy Hour has $5 drinks and $6 small plates (making it one of the few affordable spots on Wisconsin). The Italian food is pretty standard, but overall this is a solid place to keep in mind when wandering around or looking for a casual early date.
Eating at Filomena is one of the most old-school Italian dining experiences you can have in the city. The dining room is dark, loud, and complete with an area where you can watch your pasta being made by hand. It’s a good option for dinner with the parents - just know it goes all out for Christmas and Halloween decorations, so it can get overwhelming around the holidays.
This place claims JFK proposed to Jackie O. at one of its booths, which we don’t recommend doing. Especially since you’re not JFK. But you could come here for something more casual. The space looks like it hasn’t been updated in a few decades, and that’s part of its appeal. There’s a dark wooden bar, stained glass light fixtures, and pictures and paintings of DC back in the day. The menu is a mix of American and pub food (expect things like potato skins and fish and chips), and while it isn’t life-changing, you’ll probably get a history lesson while you eat it.
Ristorante Piccolo has a violinist who walks from table to table most nights, which is actually pretty charming if you’re looking for a fun date idea. Or not charming if you dislike string instruments. We’d recommend getting a seat on the balcony that overlooks part of Georgetown. The classic Italian food (pasta, seafood, veal, etc.) is solid, and while you probably don’t need to come back, it’s a good experience to have once.
Chez Billy Sud is one of our favorite fancy-ish restaurants in Georgetown. The French bistro is upscale without being stuffy, and the ornate wall mirrors and white tablecloths will probably impress whatever date/parent/date’s parent you’re with. If it’s nice out, try to get a spot on the courtyard out back. The wine bar next door (owned by the same people) is also a good place for snacks and drinks.
Not to sound like a disappointed mom who just found out her teenager drinks a case of Natty Light every weekend instead of playing mini-golf, but we feel like the Georgetown waterfront hasn’t really reached its full potential. The view is great, but the restaurants are generally overpriced, too crowded, and not worth the hassle. Fiola Mare is an exception. It’s expensive, but actually worth the price for a special occasion. In addition to a great view of the water, it has excellent seafood and pasta dishes your mom will approve of.
Thomas Sweet is a classic old-timey shop with a hand-drawn chalkboard menu, fudge counter, and some of the best ice cream in the city. The space is pretty small, so there’s sometimes a line out the door, but you can kill the time by deciding what you want from the slightly overwhelming menu. Don’t worry too much about your order, though - everything here is excellent.
You won’t find any meat at Chaia, a vegetarian taco shop off of Wisconsin. The menu has surprisingly good tacos with things like smoky collard greens and roasted acorn squash. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who rely on this place for a kind of healthy lunch in the area. Even though the small, cottage-like space is down a random side street, it’s constantly crowded. Plan to take your plate of plants to-go.
Stachowski’s is your best bet for a meal on the go in Georgetown. The corner market/butcher shop serves huge, meat-heavy sandwiches, as well as dinner specials like roast chicken and pork schnitzel. We prefer it earlier in the day, and our go-to order is the 4 Meat Grinder - essentially the stretch Hummer limo of Italian subs (obnoxiously huge, but when you want it, there’s no substitute).
It’s easy to fall into the trap of settling for underwhelming chain food after spending too much money on shoes you’ll never actually run in at the M Street Nike store. But you’re not a settler - ask yourself: Would Usain Bolt eat at Johnny Rockets? OK, maybe he would. Regardless, walk two blocks over to Sweetgreen, and get an actually good salad you won’t regret five minutes after you finish it. Just do it.
Maybe you already know that the best cupcakes in town are in fact not at Georgetown Cupcake. But if you don’t, and are considering waiting 30 minutes in line for them, we have a better option for you. Go to Baked & Wired instead. In addition to a shorter line, you’ll find much better adult-sized cupcakes, and also cookies, muffins, and actually good granola. They have some couches to hang out on while you eat or do some work, but just know there isn’t wifi.
The Sovereign is a Belgian pub with medieval-style chandeliers, long wooden tables, and a general Game of Thrones feel. While it’s near the main drag of Wisconsin Avenue, it’s down an easy-to-miss alley, so it doesn’t get too crowded. There are over 50 draught options, and food like charcuterie, mussels, and frites that’s all ideal for sharing with a group or a date. Post up at one of the high-top tables to start off your night, and move to a booth if you’re staying for a full meal.
Consider El Centro your all-purpose Mexican spot in Georgetown. The street-level dining room is a great option for a casual date or group dinner, and the big open-air rooftop is a fun place to keep the night going afterward. Your night might end with one too many rounds of tequila shots with your freshman year college roommate, but it will definitely be a good time. We like it for brunch, too.