Where To Eat Near The Kennedy CenterBecause who doesn’t love dinner and a show?
Those opera tickets you bought months ago are finally coming due and you failed to remember the most important part of the evening: where you’re going to eat. The Kennedy Center is a 15-minute walk from Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, and the West End, which means the food options are endless. So we’ve narrowed down your pre-show pre-fixe spots and after party bars—and yes, you can show up in your sparkly theater outfit. Here are the best places for your Kennedy Center extravaganza, whether you’ve blown your whole budget buying a box or you’re out here making it rain.
Tazza should be your first choice when you’re looking to eat before a show at the Kennedy Center. The Mediterranean cafe is right across the street, and has some of the best food in the area. The umbrella-covered patio seating catches the breeze off the Potomac across the street, a nice touch on hot summer days. Or head inside to grab a booth or table, which you should do before you go to the counter to order paninis, pizzas, entrees (also breakfast if you have a matinee showing), and a variety of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The chicken pesto panini, served on soft ciabatta bread with homemade chips and a side salad, is delicious.
Your friends have no problem agreeing to see The Lion King (again), but when it comes to making dinner plans, no such luck. Instead of wasting valuable group chat meme time arguing over where to eat, go to Western Market. The Foggy Bottom food hall is only half a mile from the Kennedy Center and has fast casual favorites like ArepaZone and Falafel, Inc. so everyone can pick and choose, then meet up at a communal table. Or you can call an audible and grab a table at one of the sit-down spots, like Duke’s Grocery, which serves half-priced wine on Mondays.
Italian food and a stroll along the Potomac on your Kennedy Center date night? Babe, yes. Fiola Mare is about a 10-minute walk away and the views alone, both on the walk and at dinner, are worth it. If you sit outside, you can catch boats docking along the Washington Harbour, or just head inside to relax on the velvet turquoise couches. The menu isn’t cheap, with cocktails averaging around $20, but the food here is outstanding. Get the Amalfi Coast crudo made with kampach, basil, and lemon granita and the oysters served with a strawberry mignonette.
You are a connoisseur of the DC art scene—or at least that’s what you tell your friends when they call you cheap—and just like you kept it thrifty with your $35 MyTix orchestra seats, you also want a frugal pre-show meal. Hit Happy Hour at Tonic At Quigley’s in Foggy Bottom where you can snag frosé and rail cocktails for $6. The Sadie shrimp salad, full of crisp arugula and perfectly ripened avocado, is a great light dinner and the sweet thai chili wings, which come fried hard, have a nice kick to balance out the sugar. The American restaurant is on GW’s campus (if you can call it that), so there are a ton of college kids crammed into the wooden booths jammin’ to rock music that any old heads nearby will swear they’re too young to know.
The views at Top Of The Gate are unmatched and that alone is reason to make it a stop on your Kennedy Center night out. You can see across the city, the river, and into Virginia from the perch atop the Watergate Hotel. The views and the name are going to cost you—think $25 cocktails and $17 truffle fries—but it’s all enjoyable, especially if you’re just looking for light American bites before or after the show. Lean back on oversized plastic wicker patio furniture and warm up with the gas fire pits if the wind starts to pick up, all while taking in the city.
The Kennedy Center has plenty of family-friendly shows, so you’ll need a restaurant that feels inclusive, too. Pizza is always a good idea. Head over to the Georgetown location and pick from a dozen different curated options, build your own personal pie or opt for the larger option. Sit outside, if you’re the type to brave a patio along M St., or just dine in the bright yellow dining room. Toss in an order of hard-fried wings, and you’ve got a solid meal. And if your show is on a Thursday-Saturday after 5pm, there’s also a game room with arcade-style video games, shuffleboard, and darts (admittedly a little less kid-friendly) to pass the time.
Good burgers are tough to come by, but Thunder Burger & Bar does them well, and in every meat (and non-meat) option you can think of. Beef, pork, chicken, impossible, black bean, bison, you name it. Pop into a pink zebra-skin booth at the Georgetown restaurant to grab a quick bite before the show. If you’re in a rush, food comes out fast, but you can also chill out and grab a drink or two at the sparkly new bar. Get the Love Me Tender, a juicy kobe beef burger served with a sweet housemade remoulade and crispy fries.
It’s a night at the Kennedy Center, so why not go all out and have dinner there, too? While the food at the Roof Terrace isn’t spectacular, the rooftop restaurant will be jam-packed before showtime and it’s a fun way to mingle with people you’re getting ready to enjoy a show with. Sit in the bar area, which is covered in velvet and will remind you of a Kennedy Center where people didn’t show up in jeans and sneakers. The rest of the restaurant kind of looks like a high school cafeteria, except here it's full of septuagenarians on double dates. Grab cocktails before the show to add a little zhuzh to your evening.