As Washington flower buds burst into vibrant reds, oranges, yellows and pinks with the onset of spring, Capitol Hill restaurants fling open their doors and set up their patios.
In Washington nice weather draws Hill interns, staffers and Members of Congress out of their offices in search of fresh air and good food, and they are able to find it on the Senate and House sides as well as in nearby Eastern Market, Union Station and on Pennsylvania Avenue, no matter what their taste buds are craving.
Restaurants with outdoor dining strive to keep it, and those without yearn to get it. Given the culinary competition, restaurants on the Hill try to set themselves apart from the crowd. The outdoor option is so important to restaurateurs that two of Capitol Hill’s well-established eateries are trying to add the patio option this season.
One is Park Cafe. The tables and chairs of 106 13th St. SE are venturing out onto the sidewalk for the first time in the eatery’s 14 years in an effort to draw more customers.
“We have a great view of the park,” said owner Alciune Vinet, referring to Lincoln Park. “It should inspire people to come by.”
Becoming a restaurant with a patio is not as easy as simply setting up tables on
the sidewalk. Vinet said Park Cafe’s makeover included changing the front to include full-length windows and potting evergreen plants to block the dining area from pedestrian traffic.
With the changing appearance comes a new menu and new hours. The summer/outdoor menu consists of a fish entree, a beef entree, a chicken pasta and a salad. And Park Cafe will also start serving lunch.
Another longtime Hill restaurant, Two Quail, is in the process of obtaining the required permits to expand its dining options to outdoor seating. Owner Michele Sullivan has been meeting with city historic preservation regulators since March and hopes to have outdoor seating by June.
A patio “will help to maintain a competitiveness in the neighborhood and also to create a serene outdoor atmosphere,” Sullivan said.
Two Quail, located at 320 Massachusetts Ave. NE, features an early-bird dinner for $25 that includes a three-course meal available before 6:30 p.m. With the outdoor seating Sullivan plans to open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Currently the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.
Many restaurants around the Hill already offer patio dining, and most claim that it boosts their business by 20 percent to 30 percent each spring and summer.
Patios vary in shape and size, but they all offer tourists and locals an opportunity to sit back and observe the hustle and bustle of the capital city while enjoying some of D.C.’s best food.
Whether you are looking for sun or shade, burgers or lobster, the Hill area has it and a place outside to enjoy it. Roll Call broke down some of the Hill’s outdoor eateries into three categories: Intern ($15 or less), Staffer ($16-$25) and Member ($26 and up).
Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria
226 Massachusetts Ave. NE
This eatery offers a lunchtime buffet for $5.99 that includes pizza and salad as well as individual menu items. The patio, completely shaded by an awning, is a nice lunch spot on a hot day.
Bread and Chocolate
666 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Located on the House side, Bread and Chocolate offers lighter fare at a reasonable price. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (until 7 p.m.), the menu includes omelettes, danishes, soups, salads and sandwiches at prices ranging from $1.95 to $8.50.
520 North Capitol St. NW
This Irish restaurant and bar offers an authentic Irish atmosphere and features dishes such as shepherd’s pie for $8.95 and corned beef and cabbage for $10.95. For those not craving traditional Irish food there are burgers and other American fare starting at $7.95.
Hawk ’n’ Dove
329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Located between the Capitol and Eastern Market, this Vietnam-era bar has an active nightlife, but the historic venue also offers a popular Sunday brunch. For lunch or dinner it has traditional American fare, sandwiches and burgers ranging from $5.75 to $7.25. Patrons have the option of dining outside at one of seven sidewalk tables.
225 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Il Radicchio offers traditional French food at reasonable prices. It offers sandwiches, salads, pizza and pasta from $5.50 for various appetizers and deserts to $12.95 for a whole marinated roasted chicken.
Kelly’s Irish Times
14 F St. NW
The Irish Times has true Irish flare and is one of the few places that offers Guinness on tap. For the hungry it offers fare ranging from salads to dinner platters and, of course, corned beef and cabbage. Prices range from $3.95 to $11.95.
316 Massachusetts Ave. NE
For a lunchtime Mexican food craving La Loma is a popular restaurant featuring colorful umbrellas and tablecloths. Selection includes enchilada platters, tacos, fajitas, and, for those with a lighter craving, salads. Prices range from $6.95 to $13.95.
1330 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
A sister to La Loma, La Lomita is a popular hangout for Hill staffers with margaritas and a large patio seating 100. The menu expands to include more salads for the spring and summer but keeps its Mexican favorites. In the summer softball teams from various Hill leagues celebrate their victories or mourn defeat after games at La Lomita.
Red River Grill
201 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Red River Grill is a popular happy hour stomping ground for Hill staffers and interns, offering different drink specials every night. Popular in the summer are the Saturday and Sunday specials on buckets of Coronitas and red, white and blue margaritas. It has a full menu and a large covered patio.
The Greek Islands Taverna
307 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
The Taverna features traditional Greek fare including its popular gyros ($6.95) and moussaka ($8.95). It also boasts a bar that spans two rooms.
The Tune Inn
331 1/2 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
The Tune Inn claims it is the favorite place of the National Republican Campaign Committee executive director, but also boasts some of the cheapest food on the Hill. The menu features burgers, chicken sandwiches and, of course, french fries.
50 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Located in Union Station, this restaurant offers menu selections from almost every region of the country. On a nice day diners can sit on the patio outside the station for a cool breeze and some shade.
607 New York Ave. NW
AV claims to have the “best pizza in town” and also prides itself on a welcoming patio centered on the Fountain of Neptune. The fare is Southern Italian and in the summer it features soft-shell crabs sauteed in butter and garlic served on a bed of linguine.
322 Massachusetts Ave. NE
With the opening of Cafe Berlin’s patio comes the much-anticipated spring and summer asparagus menu. All entrees include asparagus, and asparagus soup is on the menu. In addition to the special menu it also serves weiner schnitzel that is popular among Hill staffers and Members alike. The patio is more elegant than some, featuring linen tablecloths and a well-landscaped garden.
239 Massachusetts Ave. NE
With the patio elevated from the sidewalk, La Brasserie gives patrons a feel of being separated from the outside world while dining on traditional French fare from a menu that “lightens up” for the summer. It’s a popular hangout for Members and staffers.
1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
This French bistro offers a relaxed atmosphere and elegant food. The extensive menu stays the same for the summer, and the eatery offers outdoor seating to further enhance the Parisian atmosphere.
317 Seventh St. SE
The 35-seat outdoor area at Monmartre is intimate and provides a romantic atmosphere in which to enjoy its spring salmon or its most popular dish — rabbit in a red wine sauce over pasta. Members and staffers dine here regularly.
The White Tiger
301 Massachusetts Ave. NE
This is the only restaurant on the Hill to offer Indian food and outdoor seating. The menu features curry dishes made with chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables. The patio is large and fenced.
15 E St. NW
Claiming Members and Senators as regulars, this romantic restaurant features a variety of wine and a changing menu depending on what the two chefs prepare. Its specialty is the five-course tasting menu from which patrons are served small portions of several of the chef’s daily features.
400 North Capitol St. NW
La Colline features seating outside for 100 people and a special terrace menu featuring quiche, soups and salads. The dining room menu is also available on the terrace.