Planning a weekend getaway to our nation’s capital? Here’s where to eat in DC from local budget bars to pricier historic establishments.


Lox & schmear bagel for brunch. #nomnomnom

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There are plenty of dining options in DC, but one thing I noticed as a broke grad student was this: in DC, good food comes with a price tag. So if you’re on a budget, you’re probably wondering where to eat in DC that won’t hurt your wallet too much. DC is not like NYC where delicious food can be found in a hole in the wall for a few bucks. As a grad student, I was careful about when and where I splurged so not all my recommendations are fine dining options.

Assuming you have a standard(ish) 9-5, you’ll likely leave NYC Friday after work to make the most of your time in DC. The trip takes 5-6 hours by car or bus depending on traffic, which you’ll almost always run into on the I-80 as you approach DC. By the time you check-in to your hotel, it’ll be after midnight. I expect you’ll be sleeping so let’s start the weekend with brunch.


Brunch: Luna Grill & Diner

Like a true New Yorker, smoked salmon on anything makes me happy. I lived in DuPont Circle when I was in DC so there was always plenty of brunch options nearby. Luna Grill & Diner was a staple. It’s a low key neighborhood brunch spot.

Now that you’re fueled for the day, I’d imagine you’d want to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the amazing (and free) Smithsonian Museums.

Pre-Drinks/Dinner/Club: The Park at 14th Street

I was working out on the dance floor at The Park every Saturday night when I first moved to DC. A friend of mine offered complimentary dinner for two at The Park and when my dish arrived, I completely forgot that I was dining at a nightclub. It was delicious! The salmon flaked perfectly and paired really well with the waiter’s wine recommendation. So if you’re looking for a one stop shop for dinner, drinks and dancing – this is it. Get there early because the line runs down the block later in the evening.


Brunch: The Founding Farmers

Kicking off #MemorialDay with some delicious French toast. #nomnomnom #dceats #foodporn

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With all the dancing, you won’t be up early enough to get the worm. Don’t worry though. The Founding Farmers has the lightest, fluffiest and softest French toast that will soak up all the excess alcohol. This is my favorite brunch place because it’s owned by more than 40,000 farmers! They come together to advocate the farm-to-table movement, which promotes serving local food to local restaurants. It doesn’t get fresher than this.

Late Lunch: Saint Arnold’s on Jefferson

You know you’re a broke grad student when you save your lunch money for happy hours.

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Saint Arnold’s in Dupont Circle is my favorite mussel bar. I always came for their Happy Hour special, which was $11 mussel pots and $3 for fries. Appetizers were half price and drinks were $5! It was made for broke grad students like me. Even though you might not be able to do their HH special, the mussel bowls are still worth at a taste. I recommend sharing a creamy mussel bowls and save some bread to soak up every last bit of that sauce.

Dinner & Drinks: Old Ebbitt Grill

Lunch time at Old Ebbitt Grill!

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The carbs are to get you ready for drinks at dinner because Old Ebbitt Grill ( is one of DC’s finest establishments. The décor is Victorian and the interior is filled with antiques and velvet booths. It’s most famous for The Oyster Bar, but if you’ve had enough seafood at Saint Arnold’s they also serve upscale (read pricy) American saloon food. Go ahead. Treat yourself.

This list doesn’t even begin to cover all of the delicious restaurants I’ve eaten at in DC, but for an affordable weekend trip – these are my go-to recommendations. There are always new restaurants popping up so if you have a recent fav, please share so I know where to eat in DC during my next visit!

Now that you have a list places to eat, here are ideas on things to do in DC!

Monica reflects on her travels by sharing her thoughts on A Cup of Moca. She writes about her journey as she experiences the destination to encourage others to marinate in the moment instead of just checking things off a bucket list.