Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

GC in DC: Tales From the Swamp: GC’s not-so-declassified food survival guide

I explore D.C. food, from coffee shops and cafes, to lobbyists’ favorite hang-out spots.

GC In Dc column graphic
Graphic by Bex Povill

If New York is the city that never sleeps, Washington, D.C. is the city that always eats.

On the early morning walks to my internship, scores of businesspeople, policymakers, staffers and advisors walk to pick up teas, coffees and breakfast sandwiches to charge up before they start their day. They stop at coffee shops and diners, setting their agendas and taking the time to recover from the previous day.

They then grab lunch at stops near their workplaces. With chicken and waffles, sandwiches, soups, pasta and General Tso’s chicken, D.C. lunch is vast in culture and calorie count. The options only get tastier at dinner, particularly on the weekends. D.C.’s Chinatown, Georgetown and even places right across the street from where I work and live have some of the best food I’ve had.

It may not be nearly as good as Kelly’s Diner or Ball Square Café, but I needed to throw out my Tufts superiority complex for the semester.

Thus far, the food scene in D.C. impressed me so much that I made a list of my favorite culinary destinations. Whether during a work day with my co-interns or on the weekends with my friends, we indulge ourselves and seek out new places. Below is a short list of my favorite locally owned food stops that I tend to eat at with my friends and co-interns.


  1. Pearl’s Bagels, 1017 Seventh St. NW

Pearl’s Bagels is located a few minutes west of where I live, and it’s one of my favorite go-to places for bagels when I head out for work. Their breakfast sandwiches, including a classic egg and cheese sandwich and an “El Pollito” bagel sandwich with egg, cheese, chicken sausage and microgreens, are superb. It also helps that they have a broad selection of bagels, including their homemade cinnamon raisin bagels, which are extremely fluffy. Their spreads, especially their honey butter, make me beg for more. Pearl’s Bagels is one of the smaller contemporary cafes around Mount Vernon Square, but it’s definitely worth the time to relax here anyways.

  1. Jimmy T’s Place, 501 E. Capitol St. SE

Jimmy T’s has been a family-owned establishment serving the D.C. community since 1969, and you can feel that immediately walking in. There are no pretensions in this place: The staff is incredibly nice, there is no computer ordering system and every order is paid for in cash only, which reminds me of a Tufts favorite. I talked to some other customers and they told me how multiple generations of their family have regularly gone to Jimmy T’s for over 40 years after baseball games and even before wedding ceremonies. Congressional aides sitting near other tables further told me how they would wake up at 5:30 a.m. just to come here and get a seat before their day starts. Like the environment, the food is also unpretentious: It’s just plain good. It’s inexpensive compared to nearby establishments, and their breakfast plate of Belgian waffles, fried eggs, bacon and sourdough toast forced me to check my weight after. Simple, yet scrumptious.

  1. Cafe Manet, ITC Food Court, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

During one of my lunch breaks at work, my boss decided to take the research fellows and co-interns down to Cafe Manet for a late breakfast. Little did we know that we had to go through security points to get there. Located in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Cafe Manet is situated in the underground food court of the building next to some less-appealing food options (New Yorkers might hate me, but Sbarro is not giving). The Cafe’s “All-American Breakfast,” including their homemade crispy hash browns, is very convenient for people who have to quickly run to get food. The smaller portion sizes are also great for people like me, who don’t really eat much breakfast at all.

Lunch or Dinner

  1. West Wing Cafe, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

On the first day of my internship, my fellow interns and I were searching for local spots to eat, and we found out that West Wing Cafe is across the street from where we work. Decked out with tables inside and outside, West Wing Cafe has the best cafe lunch I’ve ever had. It is known by its local customers for its homemade sandwiches, which include honey turkey wrap, grilled chicken breast panini and my favorite: the tasty turkey cold sandwich. They also have some of the best smoothie options around: the “Daily Squeeze” with strawberries, bananas, apple juice and honey and the “School Day” with banana, peanut butter, yogurt and honey are just some of the many smoothies they make people happy with every day. In an environment where time means everything, West Wing Cafe is a lifesaver.

  1. Cornerstone Cafe, 1501 M St. NW

Cornerstone Cafe is known around the area for its buffet-style lunches and dinners, mixing food from different cultures. The lunches include conventional sandwiches, Angus burgers and chicken tenders, but they stocked the buffet with a Southern-style BBQ special the time I went with my co-intern for lunch. Pulled pork, cornbread, mashed potatoes and green beans was the signature dish, and it appropriately stuffed me for the remainder of the day. It’s located just a mile from the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, so if you’re ever looking for places with close proximity and high accessibility, Cornerstone Cafe is an excellent option right in the center of a hodgepodge of other cafes.