15 Famous Foods In Washington DC To Try

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Washington DC is famous for being the capital of the United States, serving as the seat of the federal government and the home of the president. It is a city rich in history, political significance, and cultural diversity, but did you know that the foods in Washington DC are also incredible? 

You’ll find that because Washington DC is such a hub in American life. Many people and cultures meet in this incredible city. This means that there are awesome dishes from all these countries available as well. In fact, that is part of what makes food from Washington DC special! 

What’s Special About Foods In Washington DC? 

While Washington DC doesn’t have a style or cuisine it is known for like many other regions in the US, it does have a diverse food scene that reflects the multicultural aspects of the city. 

As the political center of the country, the city attracts people of many different cultures and backgrounds, who let their food shine. Washington DC also benefits from being close to Maryland’s fresh seafood and other local ingredients, making the food even better! 

If you’re interested in getting a taste of the diversity of food Washington DC is known for, you should consider taking the Capitol Hill Food Tour! It gives you the chance to sample lots of dishes, ranging from Anglo-Indian food to Salvadorian cuisine and soul food. 

The variety of food tours in Washington DC is a treat for any true foodies passing through the city! 

Most Famous Food From Washington DC

Half Smoke


What food is Washington DC known for if not a half smoke? The half smoke is a type of sausage that is beloved in the capital. It is a unique blend of pork and beef, coarsely ground and seasoned with a mix of spices like paprika, chili powder, and black pepper. 

The name “half smoke” comes from its preparation, where the sausages are smoked and then grilled or griddled to perfection. This process imparts a smoky and charred flavor to the sausage, creating a distinctive taste that sets it apart from regular hot dogs. 

Half smokes are typically served in a soft, steamed bun and topped with a variety of condiments, such as mustard, onions, and cheese, or the famous DC mumbo sauce. Whether you grab one at a hot dog stand or local diner, it is an essential part of Washington DC cuisine. 

Famous Washington DC Foods

There are a lot of delicious dishes to enjoy in the metropolitan city. If you want to get a wide sampling of Washington DC foods while enjoying the sights, one of the most popular activities is a Brunch/Lunch/Dinner Cruise on a yacht! Indulge in the delicious cuisine while soaking in the views.

Meat Dishes And Foods In Washington DC

Eastern Shore Fried Chicken


Eastern Shore fried chicken is a classic regional dish, which is popular on the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia. It is known for its crispy and flavorful coating, achieved by dredging the chicken pieces in seasoned flour before frying. The chicken is often marinated in a buttermilk mixture beforehand, which helps tenderize the meat and infuse it with extra flavor. 

The use of local and fresh ingredients along with the unique spices gives eastern shore fried chicken its distinct taste. This beloved dish is a favorite at picnics, family gatherings, and local restaurants throughout the region. With such great flavor, it’s no wonder this is a famous Washington DC food! 

Mumbo Sauce Wings


Mumbo sauce wings are a delicious and iconic food from Washington DC! These wings are coated in a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy sauce known as “mumbo sauce,” which is unique to the DC area. The sauce is typically made from a combination of ingredients, such as ketchup, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and various spices, giving it its distinctive flavor profile. 

After marinating in the sauce, the wings are either baked or fried to achieve a crispy texture while retaining the saucy coating. Mumbo sauce wings are a favorite at many local bars, pubs, and carryout restaurants, representing the city’s vibrant food culture and love for flavorful comfort food. 

Peruvian Chicken


With so many cultures represented in DC, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Peruvian chicken is a hit food from Washington DC. The chicken is marinated in a flavorful mixture that often includes a blend of cumin, paprika, vinegar, and other spices, infusing it with a delicious taste. Traditionally, the chicken is cooked over a charcoal rotisserie, resulting in tender and juicy meat with a crispy skin. 

Peruvian chicken is typically served with sides like aji verde, French fries, and a fresh salad, creating a satisfying and well-balanced meal. This delectable dish has gained popularity worldwide, and Peruvian chicken restaurants are really popular in DC, so look out for one! 

Ben’s Chili Bowl

If you want to try the famous foods of Washington DC, don’t miss out on Ben’s Chili Bowl! This is an iconic and historic restaurant that was founded in 1958. 

They serve hearty chili on hot dogs, burgers, or as a topping for fries, known as “chili half-smokes.” Over the years, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a popular spot for locals, celebrities, and politicians. 

It has an energetic and nostalgic interior, adorned with murals and photographs which add to the restaurant’s unique charm and character, making it a must-visit landmark in DC. This signature eatery is a regular stop on the U Street Food, History, and Street Art Tour, which features other highlight sites and dishes in the neighborhood. 

Tasty Seafood Dishes Among Washington DC Foods

Chesapeake Blue Crabs


Chesapeake blue crabs are a famous treasure from the Chesapeake Bay, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. These crabs are renowned for their sweet and tender meat, making them a real delicacy for seafood enthusiasts. The crabs get their name from the bluish tint on their shell and legs. 

If you want to get the full experience of this food from Washington DC, you should get them steamed and seasoned with Old Bay seasoning. Enjoy them in a crab house, where diners gather to crack open these crabs and savor the flavorful meat inside. If you want the freshest crab, try to hit the high season from spring to early fall! 



Rockfish is a popular choice of fish in DC restaurants! This fish lives in various regions, including the Chesapeake Bay area near Washington DC, which is why it’s one of the famous foods of Washington DC. Rockfish, also known as striped bass, is a popular fish for recreational and commercial fishing in the region known for its firm texture and mild, delicate flavor. 

Chefs in DC prepare rockfish using various cooking methods, such as grilling, baking, or pan-searing, often pairing it with seasonal vegetables and flavorful sauces to highlight the fish’s taste. If you are a fan of seafood, definitely be on the lookout for a rockfish dish while in the area. It’s bound to be fresh! 

Maryland Crab Cakes


Food from Washington DC definitely benefits from being nearby Maryland state! Maryland crab cakes are a culinary specialty and beloved dish. These delicious cakes are primarily made from lump crabmeat, which is known for its sweet and delicate flavor. 

The crab meat is mixed with a few simple ingredients like breadcrumbs, eggs, mayonnaise, and spices such as Old Bay seasoning – a classic Maryland spice blend. 

The mixture is then shaped into round patties and pan-fried or broiled until golden and crispy on the outside, while remaining moist and tender on the inside. When you’re in DC, you must take advantage of this delicious meal! 

Desserts And Sweet Foods In Washington DC

Georgetown Cupcakes


Founded by the stars of the reality TV show, “DC Cupcakes,” this cupcake place is famous in Washington DC. Georgetown Cupcake is known for its delicious cupcakes and beautiful presentation. The cupcakes are made from scratch daily using high-quality ingredients, resulting in moist and flavorful treats. 

Georgetown Cupcakes come in a wide variety of flavors, including classic and specialty options. There is truly no better way to satisfy your sweet tooth than with this Washington DC food. If you want to hunt down other tasty food and sweet treats in the area, hop on the Georgetown Food Tour which features local delis, cafes, and eateries. 

Eastern Market Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes


The name definitely gives this one away: you must stop by the Eastern Market to try blueberry buckwheat pancakes while you’re in town. Blueberry buckwheat pancakes are a delicious and nutritious twist on traditional pancakes, made by combining buckwheat flour, fresh blueberries, eggs, milk, and a touch of honey or maple syrup. 

While there are tons of options for breakfast food in Washington DC, there really is no better option than these pancakes! This food from Washington DC gets even better with a few extra blueberries on top, maple syrup, and a dollop of butter or whipped cream. It is a must-try for any brunch or breakfast lover visiting DC! 



While Washington DC is not famous for donuts, Washington DC cuisine boasts many specialty donut shops and bakeries. You can find a wide variety of donut flavors, filings, and toppings to cater to different tastes and preferences. With traditional favorites like glazed and chocolate, as well as unique options like maple bacon or vegan alternatives, everyone can find a donut to fit their taste! 

Residents and visitors alike enjoy donuts throughout the day, from breakfast to dessert, so there’s never a bad time to pick up a donut! Join a Historic Donut Tour to hunt down some of the best donuts Washington DC has to offer, while also learning about the history of the city!

Other Popular Washington DC Foods

Ethiopian Cuisine


Washington DC has a vibrant Ethiopian community, making Ethiopian cuisine a prominent and beloved aspect of the Washington DC food scene. 

Ethiopian restaurants in DC offer a traditional dining experience centered around injera, a spongy flatbread that serves as both a plate and an accompaniment to various dishes. These dishes typically consist of richly spiced stews and vegetable curries, such as doro wat, sega wat, and misir wat. 

Ethiopian cuisine in DC is known for its communal dining style, where friends and family gather around a shared platter, using torn pieces of injera to scoop up the dishes. You’re sure to find the unique blend of spices and authentic cooking techniques in Ethiopian cuisine to be a hit! 

Gourmet Pizzas


Among all the famous foods of Washington DC, gourmet pizza definitely makes the list! Washington DC boasts a thriving gourmet pizza scene, with a wide array of restaurants offering unique and inventive pizza creations. These gourmet pizzas often feature high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and artisanal toppings. 

You can find a lot of different flavors, including classic Neapolitan-style pizzas, creative vegetarian options, and other innovative combinations! Many pizzerias in the city pride themselves on their handmade dough, wood-fired ovens, and attention to detail, resulting in the perfect balance of flavors and textures. 

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a foodie, DC’s gourmet pizza is a delight for pizza enthusiasts. 

Go-Go Sauce

Go-Go sauce is a popular condiment that originated in Washington DC, inspired by the city’s homegrown music genre called “go-go.” It is a spicy and tangy sauce, known for its unique blend of flavors. 

The sauce typically contains a mixture of ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, and various spices, which gives it a bold and zesty taste. 

Go-Go sauce is used as a topping on several Washington DC foods! You’ll find it on fried chicken wings, French fries, and other savory dishes to give them an extra kick of flavor. 

This condiment has become a staple in many DC carryout restaurants and eateries, reflecting the city’s vibrant cultural diversity. 

Iconic Drink In Washington Food Scene

Gin Rickey


A Gin Rickey is a classic and refreshing cocktail that originated in Washington DC. The drink is simple, consisting of gin, fresh lime juice, and carbonated water or soda. It is typically served over ice in a highball glass, making it a perfect choice for warm summer days. The combination of gin’s botanical flavors, the tartness of the lime juice, and the bubbles from the soda water creates a light, crisp beverage. 

This drink became popular as an accompaniment to Washington DC food among politicians and socialites in the late 19th century. If you want a little swig of history, make sure you try a Gin Rickey! 

Sampling Famous Foods In Washington DC

Millions of tourists visit every year to explore the famous landmarks in Washington DC, such as the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Washington Monument. 

With so many people coming through, it is no wonder that the cuisine is extremely good as well! The exceptional food scene is one of the amazing facts about Washington DC.

From the half smoke and chicken wings to the crabcakes and cupcakes, there is something for every palate. Make sure you take note of the food Washington DC is known for so you don’t miss out on anything! 



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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