John F. Kennedy once griped that Washington D.C. combined “Southern efficiency and Northern charm,” but amid the museums and monuments celebrating America’s history is a bar and culinary scene that will transport you across the pond to Europe. From German beer halls to quaint tapas locales and hidden Euro-chic cafes, D.C.’s varied booze and bites are a welcome compliment to the capital’s political legacy.
Begin your first morning in iconic Georgetown—D.C.’s oldest neighborhood—for brunch at Leopold’s Kafe, a casual dining spot nestled in cobblestoned Cady’s Alley. White lacquer and pops of orange adorn the restaurant’s minimalist interior, a chic and comfortable atmosphere to enjoy your meal. Sip on a latte before noshing on Belgische Zuckerwaffeln, four corners of a Belgian-style sugar waffle dotted with sliced banana and served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce to dollop and drizzle. To walk off your brunch, saunter down M Street, where you can peruse boutiques and high-end labels, before exploring Georgetown’s residential roads lined with candy-hued historical townhouses for a dash of local color.
Indulge in both European and D.C. history by paying a visit to the Hillwood Estate, the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post— heiress to the General Foods company and a pioneering businesswoman during the 20th century. The centerpiece of the 25-acre estate is a Georgian mansion boasting the most extensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia, as well as artifacts from 18th-century France, such as Sèvres porcelain serving ware in the “celeste” blue color—a favorite among royalty and Parisian aristocrats at the time. After browsing the treasures inside, wander through the property’s various green spaces such as the multilevel Japanese-style garden featuring a winding stream, Japanese maple trees and a tranquil pond.
Next, head to the Shaw neighborhood for some sips from Anxo, D.C.’s first licensed cidery. These connoisseurs import varietals from across the world and also whip up their own in a nearby Brightwood Park production facility. Settle in at the spot’s quaint second-level dining room and choose from a list of more than 50 ciders. Indecisive imbibers should go for the Anxo flight—four 2-ounce pours with varying flavor profiles— including the bright Cidre Blanc, winner of the silver medal in the International Cider and Perry Competition. Since cider is closely tied to Spain, Anxo offers Basque-inspired tapas bites such as pan con tomate and fried artichoke with a poached egg for guests to enjoy.
DISTRICT DESTINATION: Along with architectural and culinary delights, Washington D.C. serves some history at the Hillwood Estate.
Circle back to Georgetown and keep the drinks flowing at the Sovereign, a cozy spot tucked into the end of a lantern-lit alley. This Belgian-style brew destination is stocked with more than 50 drafts from U.S. and European brewers. Get comfy in a second-floor booth and sip on suds such as the citrusy Southside Blonde and the Brune from Luxembourg’s La Rulles—with baking spices and fruit notes—in the bar’s antique-inspired interior incorporating wood beams, warm candlelight and gilded chandeliers.
The next morning, explore the iconic National Mall for your required dose of American antiquities. Designed by city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant to be D.C.’s centerpiece, the two-mile-long green space—spanning from Capitol Hill to the Potomac River—was constructed with open corners to represent equality among citizens. Channel your inner history buff and survey the war memorials and the famed monuments celebrating Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson that dot the landscape.
For a spot of tea, stop by Lady Camellia, a whimsical tearoom nestled in a Georgetown row home. Furnished with tufted chairs, patterned wallpaper and gold picture frames, the pint-sized teahouse is renowned for its macarons made with Spanish marcona almonds. You’ll feel like an English rose sipping from mismatched china teacups and nibbling on dainty treats such as brie and apple sandwiches, flaky scones and passion fruit panna cotta.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite again, snag a table on the terrace at Agora—a Mediterranean-inspired tapas spot in the upscale Dupont neighborhood. With a name that means “gathering place,” the restaurant has a rustic, candlelit ambiance that’s ideal for sharing a bottle of Turkish wine and small plates with travel buddies. Split dishes such as fried Brussels sprouts with truffle yogurt and lamb loin with butternut squash puree in a sour cherry sauce.
Stroll a few blocks to Sauf Haus Bier Hall, where you can enjoy a brew in German fashion. Don’t be fooled by the discreet entryway—this spot is hiding a lively indoor beer garden on its top floor with string lights, pennants, greenery and a glass ceiling made for stargazing. Settle in at one of the bright orange picnic tables and toast with a pint of Schofferhofer Grapefruit radler while catching an international soccer match on the bar’s big screens. It’s a fitting conclusion to your European-infused getaway that just so happened to be in our country’s capital. ◆
— Grab a bite at the original Founding Farmer’s location—a D.C. landmark for farm-to-table fare—but be sure to reserve in advance.
— Embrace your inner cinephile with a visit to Georgetown’s “Exorcist steps,” the steep 75-step staircase featured in
the 1973 horror flick’s gruesome ending.
Agora, agoradc.net; Anxo, anxodc.com; Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, hillwoodmuseum.org; Lady Camellia, ladycamellia.com; Leopold’s Kafe, kafeleopolds.com; Sauf Haus Bier Hall, saufhausdc.com; The Sovereign, thesovereigndc.com