Where To Eat With A Third-Tier Friend

Restaurants to take your third tier friend.
Where To Eat With A Third-Tier Friend image

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

At some point or another, you’ll find yourself roped into a hangout you’ve been secretly avoiding for months now. It’s okay to admit it. We all have third-tier friends. You know the type, the ex-college roommate that refused to clean the bathroom or the coworker you always run into on your way out the door. The “let’s grab lunch” but the lunch never materializes friend. And yet, somehow, through a series of events that can only be described as unfortunate, you’re actually… meeting up. No need to panic, we’ve got you covered. Here are 6 spots that won’t cost too much, won’t last too long, or are brimming with so many distractions, it’ll all be over faster than you can say ‘debt ceiling disaster.’



Penn Quarter

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner
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There’s a lot going on at Bantam King, a ramen restaurant in Penn Quarter, which is why it's a great place for a dull time. The shop is a colorful, wonderful mess with lanterns in different sizes falling from the ceiling. A long table stretches the entire length of the restaurant where seats are packed uncomfortably close to one another. Be prepared to sit snug next to people you don’t know, which will come in handy if you need to zone out and eavesdrop for a bit. Though most of your attention will be fixated on your plate. The steamed chicken dumplings soaked in a sesame seed and chili oil will have you scouring for every last drop.



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There’s no safer bet than Ted’s Bulletin for you and your least favorite friend, and that’s because they’ve got service here down to a T at this fast-casual diner. You can get in and out in under 30 minutes if you wanted to at this Capitol Hill spot, which we’re not saying is an acceptable time frame, but it’s comforting to know you can. Besides, the menu here is pretty expansive and includes all-day breakfast options like blueberry pancakes and chicken biscuits. The food is not great, but entrees will only set you back around $15. Besides, milkshakes and pancakes make everything better.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

You can walk-in to Sticky Rice, a sushi restaurant on H St. without a reservation and armed with surface level talking points. There’s so much to talk about here, there’s a gong sitting awkwardly behind the bar, a spaceship painting on the wall, and lanterns, so many lanterns. It all creates a wonderfully ridiculous atmosphere. The sushi is great, with rolls costing anywhere from $8-18. The menu also includes sweet potato tater tots (appropriately called the Sweet Jesus Bucket of Tots) that are a great snack to munch on when the conversation grows stale.

Alice DC is a TikTok fever dream. There are so many things to do here that you and your third-tier can spend an entire evening bypassing the small talk for arcade games instead. The theme, as implied by the name, is an ode to Alice In Wonderland and the U St. spot has curated a loopy, surreal experience to match. There’s crystal chandeliers, beaming lights, and a hallway mural painted in neon colors. You'll find a fast-casual pho restaurant on the bottom floor, an arcade on the second, and a club on the third. Time here is a construct, so the hours will fly by.

If you’re meeting up with your friend of a friend after work and you find yourself in Dupont, Chiko is a great fast-casual option. Service is quick, and entrees average around $18. The popular Chinese and Korean fusion restaurant serves some seriously good food like their bulgogi stir fry which you can hover over while awkwardly avoiding eye contact. Since there’s an after-work dinner rush, the place can get pretty packed which is good because the momentum can help drive the conversation if things get slow.

Boardwalk Bar & Arcade gives you classic beach city vibes with basic American food and games that will bring out the kid in everyone, which will help you laugh your way through an afternoon with that person you haven’t seen since graduation 5 (plus) years ago. The food is what you’d expect to find on a boardwalk—popcorn, pretzels, hot dogs, and some bigger bites like pizza and tacos. Sit on the patio near the first floor bar to take in the people watching on the Wharf or head upstairs to the pink beach house (yes, there’s a whole beach house complete with surfboards) where you can sit on a swing or battle your friend in DDR.

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