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Washington is full of culturally diverse eats, and you can’t afford to miss these.  Last fall, I welcomed new friends who moved to D.C., many whom have never visited Washington.

It occurred to me that while some Washingtonians know where the city’s best unique eats are, many don’t.  Any magazine or blog will tell you the newest and trendiest places to go, but how would you know what the locals know?

I’m here to tell you about the tried-and-trues, old and new favorites, places that have made a special contribution to Washington. You’ve gotta try them all at least once. I know you’ll be back:

  • Dukem – Washington is home to the largest Ethiopian population in the U.S., and Dukem consistently delivers the best Ethiopian food outside of Africa. What to get: Dukem special lamb tibs, vegetarian fasting plate.  1114 U Street NW, Washington DC. 202.667.8735.
  • Full Kee – Chinese food in Washington is dreadful at best, but this veteran shop is the only place that serves authentic Hong Kong style fare worth eating.  What to get: roast pork chow fun, shrimp dumpling soup.  509 H Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.371.2233.
  • Ben’s Chili Bowl – While most of the city was shut down during the 1968 riots, Ben’s remained open, a glimmer of hope in a city in shambles. What to get: the signature half-smoke—half pork and beef smoked sausage with mustard, onions and spicy homemade chili. 1213 U Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.667.0909.
  • Amsterdam Falafelshop – Great at lunch or late night, these vegetarian-friendly, fried chick pea patties are made to order and topped with your choice of 21 sauces and toppings. What to get: falafel with roasted eggplant, garlic cream, or beets. 2425 18th Street NW, Washington DC. 202.234.1969.
  • Komi -The best splurge for a special occasion, Chef Johnny Monis personally prepares every dish that leaves the kitchen. What to get: the Greek-inspired, multi-course tasting menu. Read more here. 1509 17th Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.332.9200.
  • Mitsitam Café – Situated in the Museum of the American Indian, it’s the only Native American restaurant in the city. What to get: grilled buffalo strip loin, achiote roasted leg of pheasant.  4th St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC.

  • Kushi – Stop here for the freshest sushi in town, and bring your non-sushi-eating friends. Grilled meats and vegetables from the robata grill are equally outstanding. What to get: pork belly, raw oysters, sashimi, onigiri rice balls. 465 K Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.682.3123.
  • Oyamel – From the zany mind of José Andrés comes the only place in town that serves insects, as well as other Mexican specialties. What to get: grasshopper tacos.  Read more here. 401 7th Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.628.1005.
  • Honey Pig – A barbeque lover’s wet dream, generous plates of meat are grilled to smoky perfection right before your eyes. What to get: short-ribs, pork belly, seafood pancakes.  Read more here. 7220-C Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA.  703.256.5229.
  • Patty Boom Boom – A shop that specializes in Jamaican-style patties, you can choose from over 7 hot, flaky varieties, then go upstairs for live reggae and rum-based drinks. What to get: guava goat, jerk chicken patties, Dark ‘n’ Stormy. See my review here. 2007 14th Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.797.7171.
  • Eamonn’s – The only place to get authentic fish ‘n’ chips in town.  Fish is all this Dublin-style chippery serves and they do it excellently.  What to get: fish ‘n’ chips with Kitty O’Shea sauce. Read more here. 728 King Street, Alexandria, VA. 703.299.8384.
  • Song Que – While there are many shops in Eden Center that sell Vietnamese bánh mì, Song Que scores every time with fresh, crusty baguettes filled with garden-fresh vegetables and flavorful meats. What to get: grilled pork bánh mì.  6769 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA. 703.536.7900.
  • Vinoteca – Not only do they offer more than 100 wines from around the world, Vinoteca has the only bocce court in town. What to get: potato gnocchi, Muscovy duck breast.  1940 11th Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.332.9463.
  • Biergarten Haus – The only beer garden in the city, come year round and enjoy a shaded courtyard in summer, heated courtyard in winter. What to get: plates of bratwurst, weisswurst, wienerschnitzel, pints of German ale. 1355 H Street NE, Washington, DC. 202.388.4053.
  • Domku – The only restaurant in Washington serving Slavic and Scandinavian fare, this is the place to get great winter comfort foods.  What to get: chicken nalesniki, gravlax. 821 Upshur Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.722.7475.

Feature photo courtesy of Museum of the American Indian.