10 Historic Restaurants in DC That Are Still Going Strong

Have a side of history with your meal

March 5, 2024 6:31 am
families sitting at green booths, waiters moving, people sitting at the bar, three big paintings
Old Ebbitt
Clyde’s Restaurant Group

It’s sometimes frustrating to have the District reduced to its historical importance, but that can also work to its benefit. Being such a storied city means there are incredibly historical places all around town, including a handful of restaurants that carry tales as memorable and compelling as the ones that shaped the District. From iconic to under-the-radar, we rounded up 10 memorable historic DC restaurants for those who want a good meal alongside their history.

African Americans lining up in front of restaurant
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl

U Street

A fixture on U Street since 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl is perhaps the quintessential historic restaurant in the DC area. Its storied legacy as a haven in 1968 would make it an essential part of any historical list — national or otherwise — but Ben’s remains a must-visit for any politician, celebrity, artist or person of note because of its simple yet delicious menu. A landmark in every sense of the word, it’s a can’t-miss, not only because of its importance to the city but because of how damn good the food is. 

1213 U Street NW

Florida Avenue Grill


Hang around DC long enough, and you’ll hear some folks complain about the lack of a good breakfast diner, which is an immediate tell that they haven’t visited Florida Avenue Grill. Opened in 1944, the perfect DC greasy spoon is now entering into a staggering 80 years of service, with some of the tastiest home-cooked meals you’ll find in town. Started by Lacey C. Wilson, Sr., the Grill has withstood the test of time and remains an affordable, delicious and must-try institution. 

1100 Florida Ave NW

Martin’s Tavern


Now in its fourth generation of familial ownership, Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown frequently hosts DC’s biggest movers and shakers — and even those fledging ones, too. Perhaps the most iconic bit of Martin’s lore is it’s where John F. Kennedy would come to read the paper after mass before proposing to Jackie in the famed #3 booth, now fittingly called “The Proposal Booth.” It’s also served as a place for Supreme Court justices to make decisions, a dining destination of four-star generals and much more. 

1264 Wisconsin Ave NW

bartender cleaning glasses at bar with war posters on the wall
The Tombs
Clyde’s Restaurant Group

The Tombs


A stone’s throw away from another significant DC historical landmark, The Exorcist steps, is The Tombs. The Hoya watering hole is the inspiration behind the fictional St Elmo’s Bar from St Elmo’s Fire. A staple in the area, The Tombs was founded in 1962 and still features its pub-style menu with tasty burgers, crisp beer and plenty of cozy booths for its patrons to live out memories from collegiate years past — or serve as the place for current GT students to make moments they won’t forget. 

1226 36th ST NW

A. Litteri

Union Market

Originally a wholesaler, Italian grocer A. Litteri opened in 1926 but didn’t switch to a deli counter until 1988. Now a full-service retailer, the spot offers all kinds of goods to grab and go or eat on-premise. Oh, and you won’t miss it when you’re walking around, as the three stripes of the Italian flag are painted on the door to show you’re in the right place. 

517 Morse St NE

The Best Restaurants in Old Town Alexandria Right Now
Longtime classics and chef-driven newcomers alike

Mount Vernon Inn

Mt Vernon

Naturally located on the grounds of George Washington’s iconic estate, the Mount Vernon Inn restaurant initially started as a way for the small home staff to serve light refreshments to those visiting back in 1853. Now far more robust than a simple tea room, the Mount Vernon Inn is both a full-service eatery and a six-station food court, catering to a variety of different needs. It’s well worth visiting for locals and tourists alike to experience a meal on presidential grounds. 

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy

Raven Grill

Mt. Pleasant

Don’t let the name fool you — there’s not much food at the Raven. There is, however, an extensive history behind this Mt. Pleasant watering hole that opened back in 1935. More than 90 years later, it’s still alive and kicking as one of DC’s finest dives, with plenty of cheap Natty Bo to go around. It’s a real “if you know, you know” kind of spot, which makes it worth seeking out as an under-the-radar hang as you crack open a cold one and snuggle into one of its vintage booths. 

3125 Mt Pleasant St NW

Old Ebbitt Grill
Clyde’s Restaurant Group

Old Ebbitt Grill 


One of the best places in DC for oysters, the expansive Old Ebbitt Grill is the city’s “oldest saloon,” dating back to 1856. The tale goes that innkeeper William E. Ebbitt purchased a boarding house on the edge of Chinatown, where it became a fixture before relocating to its current 15th Street location. With decor included from each of its previous iterations, stepping into Old Ebbitt is like stepping into a time machine, filled with a rich history like antique gas chandeliers, an heirloom clock and much more.

675 15th ST NW

Tabard Inn

Dupont Circle

Since opening its doors in 1922, Tabard Inn is the “oldest continuing running hotel” in the area. Its namesake comes from Canterbury Tales and styles itself in the manner of an old English-style manor where it largely remains and looks the same way all these years later. While a stay at the Inn is excellent, don’t miss a chance to indulge in a weekend brunch, which showcases some of the area’s best breakfast food.

1739 N St NW

Gadsby’s Tavern


Offering food and merriment to those visiting Alexandria — by land or by sea — since 1770, Gadsby’s Tavern almost didn’t make it. The story goes that the American Legion’s Post 24 needed to step in and save the building from demo in the early 20th century. Its reputation was hailed as “one of the finest public house[s] in America” by “several” U.S. presidents, and it offers candlelit dinners in one of its many historic dining rooms.

138 N Royal St


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.