The 8 Most Fun Dinner Spots in DC
photo credit: Nina Palazzolo
Those seeking a polite meal, click away now. This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and might have a penchant for mid-dinner photoshoots and post-dinner bar hopping. Chairs aren’t just for sitting in some of these restaurants and, while food is important, a good time takes priority. They range from new spots flooding your feeds to classics where successful meals are determined by how many martinis you drink with your server. These places may not all be the best new restaurants in town, but you'll always walk out with a story or two. And if you happen to be looking for some fun bars in DC, we know just the ones to prioritize.
Bohemian Rhapsody and lo mein go together real good at Wok and Roll, where you can belt out karaoke hits while chomping down on Chinese and Japanese favorites like beef and broccoli, and sushi (hence the name). The restaurant itself is small, with a bar and some wooden tables, but there are also private rooms at the Chinatown spot where you can sing your heart out for $40 an hour. They run a lot of karaoke specials during the week, like BOGO hours Monday and Tuesday, so check those out before you go. If the private rooms aren’t your thing, there’s a lively group karaoke situation that pops off in the main dining room some nights.
Alice in Wonderland themes are everywhere these days, but Alice on U Street is in a league of its own. There’s a fast-casual pho restaurant on the bottom floor, arcade games on the second, and a club playing the latest R&B hits on the third—all wrapped up in crystal chandeliers, neon lights, and quirky hallways that will have you feeling a little loopy. Amidst all the excitement, it's tempting to skip over the food at Alice and head straight to the dance floor, especially since you can’t bring it up with you. Don’t. The pho is crafted from a family recipe passed down from the owner's mother, who also happens to be a cook in the kitchen. And the crispy chinito wings, tossed in a sweet sesame and scallion marinade, are a hit.
Some dinners require you to bring the entertainment, but at Pineapple & Pearls dinner is the entertainment. The Capitol Hill American restaurant offers a $325 tasting menu tailor-made for the high rollers in your life. The four-course choose-your-own-adventure menu comes with a bunch of surprises. We won’t ruin it, but one thing Pineapple & Pearls does is give you an experience. You’ll enter the dining room by walking through a pink curtain and disco ball archway (where there’s an activity before you’re seated). The food is great, but it’s really about the party that the staff is throwing. Sing along to Wash-FM style jams and enjoy the show in the kitchen while you’re served delicious bites like Marco’s gnocchi, the most pillowy, delicious version of the pasta we’ve ever had.
Dining at The Bazaar feels like a José Andrés meets Willy Wonka fever dream. Lush cathedral arches and grand crystal chandeliers illuminate cherry blossom trees in full bloom—indoors—at the Spanish restaurant inside the Waldorf Hotel. Drinks displayed in clouds of dry ice are delivered to guests wearing dark wash jeans and $30,000 watches. Creative, quirky tapas like the cotton candy foie gras (great) and dragon fruit ceviche (not so great) float to each table. It’s the type of place where you bring a group, dress up and blow half a stack on delightfully bizarre (see what we did there) stuff.
Friday nights at Akeno Sushi Bar and Thai are the epitome of a good time. Grab your group of friends for a round of drinks from the restaurant's tiki-bar-esque cocktail menu and momentarily escape the looming threat of political unrest that hovers over the city like a dark cloud. To get to the Capitol Hill restaurant you have to climb a set of steps where you’ll find yourself in a secret alcove covered with blooming pink cherry blossoms and red and blue Japanese lanterns. The setting is an ideal backdrop for spending mindless hours sipping on matcha sours and lavender gin fizz while downing impeccably crafted soft shell crab tempura.
El Presidente is a show-stopping Mexican restaurant in Union Market bursting with animated sharks and crustaceans. The restaurant is so over the top, it feels like you’re on the set of Guillermo del Toro's next blockbuster film (with more color and less spooky). Brought to us by the owners of Le Dip, it's the perfect place to catch up with friends on plush blue couches, though, the conversation will inevitably focus on the peculiar one-eyed creatures floating around the spot instead of your friend's latest crush. While they share their new romantic dreams, you can all check out the menu that's all about sharing. Try the spicy house-made blue-crab guacamole and the savory tuna tostada (though you’ll likely want to keep that one for yourself).
The Park at 14th has four floors where you’ll find people day drinking endless mimosas on Saturday afternoon or swinging through to watch the night's big fight. Either way, the downtown clubstaurant is shoulder-to-shoulder with folks bustling for bar space while listening to the most popular rap and R&B music from the last three decades. If you want to sit, make a reservation in advance, but if there’s a special event going on, know that your table time will be limited. The food here isn’t great, but you’ll be so busy wining along with your couple hundred newest friends, you won’t care.
DC isn’t Miami, but at Royal Sands, you can get a bit of that South Beach swag. Stop by the pool bar when you first come in to check out the premade cocktails and some pretty good sushi rolls. On weekends, expect the pool—and nearby umbrella tables—to be full, as a DJ spins from the lifeguard booth. Things move a bit slower at the upstairs bar, where a dusky Miami sun never sets, and friends laugh over drinks around a cabana-style bar.