If you’re visiting the nation’s capital, odds are you’ll spend some time exploring monuments and museums or sampling local dining establishments you find on Yelp or Facebook. But what about the local D.C. experience?

To welcome you to our hometown in an authentic History Factory way, our team has put together a list our favorite local spots, shops and watering holes. Enjoy and welcome to the authentic D.C.!


An Authentic Slice


  • 2Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria: The only pizzeria with the official Italian government’s “DOC” stamp of approval. Now that’s authentic!


  • Wiseguy Pizza: Created with the Five Boroughs in mind, Wiseguy offers a sampling of pies that would make Tony Soprano proud.


  • Vace Italian Deli: D.C.’s “old-country” Italian deli, founded by Blanca and Valerio Calcagno in 1976 and still operated by their family.


Ethnic Cuisine


  • Greek Deli: Order the Famous Gyro: It’s pronounced (jīrō). And don’t worry—Kostas isn’t as scary as he looks.


  • Bottomless brunch at Agora: D.C. runs on bottomless brunch. Agora also has the best Turkish fare in town.


  • Ramen at Daikaya: Sip and slurp some authentic, fast-paced, Sapporo-style ramen.



  • Zenebech Restaurant: The D.C. area is home to the largest Ethiopian community in the United States. It’s no surprise that you can find an amazingly large number of outstanding Ethiopian restaurants, including Zenebech.


The Eat Coast



  • Farmers Fishers Bakers: Situated on Georgetown’s waterfront, with the best farm-to-table crab dip in the city. Maybe the world!


  • Central Michel Richard: This lively bistro, a stone’s throw from the White House, serves the legendary chef’s shrimp and ahi tuna burgers. Enjoy with a side of cheese puffs (gougères).


A (Nonpartisan) D.C. Roast


  • The Potter’s House: A nonprofit café, bookstore and event space for authentic conversations, creative expression and community transformation.


  • Colony Club: Whether it is a cappuccino, cortado or a craft beer you’re in the mood for, Colony Club is the perfect place to dial down after a long day of sightseeing.


  • Kramerbooks & Afterwords: Kramer has bestsellers aplenty, with no shortage of author appearances. The café is incredible, too.


Watering Holes


  • Denson Liquor Bar: This speakeasy’s exposed brick, wooden accents, leather booths and dim lighting make it a true hidden gem.


  • The Line: A church-turned-hotel with a drink menu that includes fruit- and herb-based cocktails and communal punches with influences from the North and the South. Farm beers and Maryland ciders available on tap.


  • The Raven: This PBR-soaked Mount Pleasant neighborhood institution is always at the top of any list of “dive bars” in America.


Authentic Experiences


  • Library of Congress: While the main reading room is open only to researchers with a permit, you can still see the majestic space from the balcony. It’s simply spectacular.


  • Georgetown: Historically a key tobacco port, the Georgetown waterfront features some of the best views in D.C. Stop by Clyde’s for authentic coffee cake, or grab a cocktail and welsh rarebit at Martin’s Tavern, and sit in the booth where Senator John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier.


  • National Portrait Gallery: Explore the story of America as illustrated by the people who shaped the nation’s history, development and culture. Visit the atrium to find the best angles and lighting for the perfect D.C. selfie.


  • Union Market: The epicenter of culinary creativity in D.C. Sample kombucha and other items from 40 authentic vendors.


  • Dupont Circle Farmers Market: More than 50 farmers offer everything from conventional and organic fruits and vegetables to D.C.-made spirits. It doesn’t get more authentic than this.


  • Florida Avenue Grill: Grab an artery-clogging breakfast—served all day—and check out the photo-lined walls at this D.C. institution that bills itself as “the oldest soul food restaurant in the world.”


  • Glen Echo Park: The site was first developed in the 1890s as a Chautauqua retreat and then served as an amusement park until the 1960s. A great family destination with a restored carousel, children’s theaters, playgrounds and aquarium.


  • Around the World Embassy Tour (typically the first weekend in May): Step into another world when you see the ornate offices and residences of the international diplomats who reside in D.C.


  • Heurich House Museum: The rooms of this museum reflect the end of the Victorian era and hint at the splendor surrounding Christian Heurich, a German-born businessman who made his fortune in brewing.


  • Meridian Hill Park: Visit on Sunday at 3 p.m. to observe or participate in the famous drum circle, with a multicultural mix of creatives, slackliners, yogis and jugglers.


  • National Cathedral: The sixth-largest cathedral in the world sits right here in D.C. Take your time viewing its various exhibits.


Souvenirs, Not Knick-Knacks:


  • National Building Museum: The National Building Museum gift shop offers authentic books, hostess gifts, toys and trinkets for that hard-to-shop-for relative. You know the one.


  • Sullivan’s Toys and Art Supplies: Visit Sullivan’s Toys for authentic, handcrafted gifts for friends and family. It’s D.C.’s oldest family-run toy store, in operation since 1954.


  • Chocolate Moose: Specialists in all things weird and wonderful, this gift shop “serving weirdly sophisticated Washingtonians” is where locals go for that oddball gift . . . or gift for oddballs.
Share this

More on this Topic