For the low-key meal out (or in!), our EIC recommends trying one of these spots in DC.
As the editor of a lifestyle magazine, there’s certainly no shortage of dinner invitations. All of us here at Capitol File magazine are spoiled with the opportunity (er, the responsibility!) to check out DC’s hottest new restaurants, and the updated menus of some of the most beloved older restaurants pretty regularly, to stay ahead of the beat and report back to our readers. It’s a tough job, but we stay up for the challenge.
But some days—and deadlines—call for a much more low-key meal out or on the go. Along the way, I’ve discovered a handful of favorite spots, from the perfect donut to the most delicious pasta, that fly under the radar. Here are some places you need to know about.
Okay, okay, okay. This is hardly a hole in the wall, but in my opinion, it doesn’t nearly get the acclaim it should. A hidden gem. Nestled in a brick row home in Dupont, Floriana has the most quaint patio for those warmer nights, and the homemade pasta does not disappoint. It certainly has its regulars—it’s been family owned since 1979!—and there’s always a good crowd, but this is one spot where you’re likely to get in without (much) wait even without a reservation. I’ve only ever even called for a reservation the day of. I’m not a card carrying foodie per se, (more of an imposter—my credentials include almost never cooking at home and dining out far more than one should) but my favorite dish on the menu is the Tortelloni Mignon, and I highly recommend giving it a go. (Pro Tip: On Wednesdays and Sundays they offer half-priced bottles of wine!) 1602 17th St. NW, 202-667-5937
Now this is a hole in the wall. The name literally means Little Corner. From the outside, I’ll admit, it doesn’t look like much—and the inside offers no more frills—but if you really want to duck away and enjoy a comforting meal, put it on your list. It’s Mexican and El Salvadoran and inexpensive and delicious. And the margaritas are small and mighty. 1129 11th St. NW, 202-789-4110
Donuts come into our lives in two stages: as little children on a cartoon Saturday morning, and throughout the workweek in the communal kitchen. Carlson’s will have you forget that there is an appropriate time and place for a donut. July, who leads the kitchen at Carlson’s—which doubles as a Thai restaurant, also good but no legendary donut—anchors the store, which has been using her recipes for more than thirty years. It should be noted, there’s nothing fancy about these donuts. No cool flavor combos or cute toppings. Just good, old fashioned deliciousness. The joint is cash only, and July will not let you leave with just one. (I’ve come to terms with the fact that a serving is two. Now if only I could limit myself to one serving…) It’s completely unassuming on the outside, and in a strange section of Annapolis, Maryland, sandwiched between a string of car dealerships, a liquor store, and a corporate building that hasn’t been updated since the ‘70s, but once you find it, you’ll won’t forget. And it (by it, I mean the dozen, not the singular donut) is well worth the drive, or the stop on your way to the beach.
Editing a magazine means a lot of late nights. Thanks to UberEats and GrubHub, etc., there are more options for delivery than ever, for sure. But aside from super limited menus and hour-plus wait times, by the time I get around to dinner, many places are long closed. Enter: Pizza D’Oro. Open until 2 a.m. even on weeknights, and they have the speediest delivery I’ve ever experienced. And their chicken cheesesteaks are delicious (I sit too close to a Philly native to say more) and arrive piping hot. It’s like they make them in the lobby before they call to come up. Shaw and U Street friends, give them a try. You won’t regret it. 717 T St. NW, 202-588-1900