The Best Restaurant Bars in Washington, D.C.

An unexpected leader in America’s culinary scene, it’s only natural that Washington, D.C.’s restaurant bar scene has followed close on the kitchens’ heels. From old school whiskey-and-cigar standards to new, hyper-focused restaurants that go deep on a single spirit, D.C.’s restaurant bars are some of the best places to have a steak and a Martini or a sherry and a plate of Ibérico ham.

  • 1

    Bar Pilar

    At first glance, Bar Pilar might seem like a regular neighborhood pub, but after a few moments at the bar or in the nook under the stairs, it's clear that Pilar is so much more. Between the warm service, locally-sourced food and solid cocktails, this is a local haven in which to spend a few hours on a Sunday, or happy hour after a long day trekking through D.C. There's nothing revolutionary or fancy about the space—it's really just a bar—but order the cheesy poofs, a kale salad, a pint of something cold and carouse with the U Street scenesters and you'll see what we mean when we say that there's much more to the place ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • craft beer
    • full menu
    • bar food
    • late night
  • 2

    Bourbon Steak

    This Four Seasons and Michael Mina steakhouse is one of the most plush and refined in the District. Its old school, cigar-and-scotch sensibilities are well balanced with a new school streak that adds an edge not necessary expected of a white tablecloth establishment. One page of the cocktail menu is dedicated to 40 classic drinks—from the Adonis to the Vieux Carré—while another details house standards that range from a Gin and Tonic with proprietary grapefruit tonic to a Manhattan mixed with bourbon from casks hand-selected by the bar.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • lots of whiskey
    • full menu
    • steakhouse
    • hotel bar
  • 3

    Daikaya

    Daikaya is first and foremost about ramen. The bar scene may be secondary, but it's a fantastic accompaniment to the giant bowls of steaming noodles, plates of seaweed-wrapped rice balls and crunchy crab croquettes. The restaurant has created its own brand of D.C.-cool with its spare, wooden room and lofty upstairs izakaya den decorated with Japanese manga wallpaper. Drinks include the requisite—and excellent—sake and shochu list, but also a solid selection of Japanese whisky and beers and a handful of quirky cocktails infused with ingredients like fermented walnut syrup and palo cortado sherry.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • lots of whisky
    • lots of sake
    • full menu
    • bar food
    • craft beer
  • 4

    Estadio

    In the same restaurant family as Proof and 2 Birds 1 Stone, Estadio is a mecca of Spanish tapas done right. The large dining room is plastered with Moorish tiles and buzzing with socialites whose tables collect tiny plates of ham, cheese and pintxos as the meal progresses. Bartender Adam Bernbach has created a cocktail menu flush with sherry classics, seasonal Gin and Tonics and a couple of oddball slushy drinks that might not be very Spanish in spirit, but deliver in composition (think manzanilla and pistachio).

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • lots of sherry
    • tapas
    • craft beer
  • 5

    Etto

    A newcomer on D.C.'s popular 14th Street corridor, Etto already has a reputation for offering the city's best pizza. But it's also home to the city's gutsiest wine list. Drawing almost exclusively from Sicily and Beaujolais, the restaurant offers just 35 wines, half of which are offered by the glass.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • outdoor / patio
    • full menu
  • 6

    Iron Gate

    In an old carriage house beneath a stone mansion in Dupont Circle is Iron Gate, a restaurant recently revived from an indefinite hiatus. Opened in 1923 as an inn, the Iron Gate was D.C.'s oldest continually operating restaurant until it closed for several years in 2000. Under the direction of chef Anthony Chittum, it's been reincarnated into one of the city's dreamiest spaces, lit with lanterns and anchored with leather banquettes and a fireplace. Outside, a leafy patio hosts guests nearly all year round beneath the carriagehouse's original grape arbor. The bar itself is long and welcoming with a focus on brown and ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • craft beer
    • good wine
    • full menu
    • patio / outdoors
    • historic
  • 7

    Old Ebbitt Grill

    Though the Old Ebbitt Grill just opened in its current iteration in 1983, it's been a Washington, D.C. institution since 1856 when innkeeper William Ebbitt opened his boarding house. Here presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Ulysses S. Grant bellied up to the bar, and—among tourists and locals alike—it remains a D.C. favorite. Grab a seat at the grand wooden bar, order a raw seafood tower, sip on a Gin Rickey and soak up the history.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • historic
    • full menu
    • bar food
    • raw bar
  • 8

    Oyamel

    José Andrés's casual ode to Mexico City, Oyamel can feel a little big box-y, but proves worth the bustling mall atmosphere when the bright, crisp plates of ceviche and soft, melting tinga tacos arrive. The crown jewels of Oyamel's sprawling menu are the Margaritas, which range from avant-garde (Andrés's salt-air foam topped iteration) to seasonal (the blood orange  and chile pequin version).

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • lots of tequila
    • full menu
  • 9

    Proof

    A wine-focused restaurant that's both warm and sophisticated, Proof is the handiwork of Mark Kuller, a legendary tax attorney who was eager to find a place for his 7,000-bottle wine cellar. The list goes heavy on many of the predictable blue-chip California wines, but if you look past the obvious you'll find a fantastic list of Bordeaux and one of the best collections of grower Champagne in the city. While it might not be the city's most cutting-edge wine list, it's just about the best place to go deep on the classics.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • grower Champagne
    • low wine markups
    • outdoor / patio
  • 10

    Room 11

    Sitting at Room 11's cozy bar feels like having an intimate drink at a cottage somewhere deep in the country. The beauty of the place is its roughhewn familiarity. The restaurant is open all day, transitioning from a sunny bakery serving coffee and biscuits into a candlelit café whipping up amari-laden drinks and roasted chicken by night. Come with a book in hand, indulge in a late lunch and stay on through dinner with a kölsch or a burnt sugar Old-Fashioned to keep you company.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • bar food
  • 11

    The Partisan

    With 400 options and 50 by-the-glass pours featuring wines stretching back to 1950s, the wine list at The Partisan can be a bit overwhelming. But the list is as deep as it is affordable (particularly on the high-end), and with a little guidance it's a goldmine for wine nerds and novices alike.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • vintage wine
    • low wine markups
    • full menu

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