Where To Eat When You Can't See One More Neon Sign

Our eyes can't take it.
Where To Eat When You Can't See One More Neon Sign image

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

Like most books, it’s important not to judge a restaurant by its cover. But seeing the words “Hakuna mimosa” on a neon sign raises some questions. Is the plastic lobby behind all this? Is there a senator playing the stock market and making a fortune off fake flowers? Because why else are there so many d*mn neon signs, artificial hedges, and plastic flowers in DC restaurants? While we wait for answers, here's a list of places doing things differently.


photo credit: Reema Desai


Adams Morgan

$$$$Perfect For:HalalBrunch


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Your friend just dropped a photo in front of a neon sign that reads, "It was all a dream." You’re not really sure what that means, but you’re willing to figure it out while treating yourself to a meal at Lapis in Adams Morgan. Whether upstairs on Persian rugs or downstairs at the hidden bar, be sure order the leek dumplings served on a bed of garlic cream sauce and the lamb shank drenched in a smoky tomato stew.

At Caruso's you don't need a neon sign to tell you to "Keep Calm and Carry On." Dining at the Italian restaurant in Capitol Hill is like entering a world where bad days don’t exist. Diners are snugly packed into tomato-red cushioned booths, trading in the day's passive aggressive emails for zesty lemon-butter chicken piccata and rich and velvety blood orange crème brûlées. Because, you know, not every problem has a solution, but truffle butter alfredo is always there to make it just a little bit better.

While nothing beats the iconic Moulin Rouge neon sign, this French restaurant in Dupont Circle comes close. Floor-to-ceiling windows hug the veranda, a wraparound bar sits in the center of the room, and smooth jazz plays in the background amidst a sea of emerald green walls and chairs. When ordering, go for the branzino—its caramelized, crispy skin makes it one of the best we've ever had.

Trade in the buzz of neon signs for the sizzle of Maydan's kabobs. At the center of this Middle Eastern restaurant in Cardozo is a custom-built hearth where food is grilled over an open fire. Dinner is served family style, so the restaurant works great for group outings with families or friends looking to break bread, literally, somewhere warm.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo



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The warm, dusky glow at Any Day Now isn’t coming from a neon sign reading "All You Need Is Love." In truth, all you need is the ADN burger, a juicy beef patty sandwiched between two crispy scallion pancakes. In the mornings, the restaurant transforms into a fantastic all-day cafe. Relax on tweed couches, an ube latte in one hand, and tackle emails with the other.

Keren lets the food speak for itself—no disco lights or crystal chandeliers, just linoleum floors, groovy gold crinkle cut wallpaper, and well-worn bar stools. On weeknights, the Eritrean restaurant hums as endless groups of friends and first dates crowd around shaky wooden tables full of trays of tibs. We’re especially fond of their massive selection of East African beers and wines that are on display behind the restaurant’s monochromatic gold bar.

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