Graduation season has sprung on us again and everyone’s scrambling. Parents are flying in, your lease is running out and you’ve begun to reminisce on the past four years of college life. But, what’s on the top of your mind?
Forget about finals because all you’re really thinking about is where to have your final graduation feast. In an area full of good eateries, how does one pick the best spot?
The DC-Baltimore Spoon University food experts have handpicked these 19 restaurants where you can bring your family, toast to your rather ambiguous and slightly frightening (or exciting) future and celebrate in the best way possible, by eating of course.
We’ve all been walking by 1789 for the past four years, knowing that this Georgetown stalwart is way out of our student budget. But now it is graduation and it is time to go all out at 1789.
Located only two blocks from the heart of campus in an old townhouse, 1789 offers a old-time DC cuisine, with its famous rack of lamb, an impressive plate of ruby red tuna punctuated by light, avocado flavors, and finally the warm apple tart, lightly filled with goat cheese.
If you decide to choose 1789 as the restaurant to celebrate your graduation, you should expect to pay big bucks, but in return you will receive top-notch service and excellent food.
Tucked away just off “The Avenue” in Hampden, Birroteca is another solid option. Like many of the buildings in this area (think Woodberry Kitchen), the restaurant is located in an old mill with some of the original structural components still intact, giving the restaurant its rustic-chic interior.
Although Birroteca has a casual vibe, their food is no joke. They have a long list of amazing wood-fired pizzas, with toppings like duck confit and sunny-side up eggs, along with an equally impressive selection of pastas. The generous portions and comforting dishes make Birroteca the perfect place to carb up in preparation for a long night of celebrating.
Your parents are in town, so it’s time to splurge, and Blue Duck Tavern will make every penny count. They serve up new American cuisine with classic options like braised short ribs and roast chicken but executed with the precision of a refined chef.
The open kitchen is a treat because you get to see the chefs at work. Who doesn’t like dinner and a show? If you plan on spending your graduation day at home celebrating with family, go out for brunch the next day instead. They serve up some of the best brunch foods in town.
Cafe Deluxe offers the charm of a European-style restaurant with fresh flavorful dishes that will have you coming back for brunch the next morning.
The restaurant’s inviting atmosphere, friendly staff and cozy booths offers an ideal place to relax and celebrate with friends and family. The restaurant’s Cleveland Park location is only a walk away from American University’s campus and offers plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy a sunny May afternoon.
As one of DC’s most socialite hotspots, this high-priced Italian restaurant provides a classy alternative to the Georgetown dining experience.
Cafe Milano serves up a traditional Italian menu, with tagliatelle pasta and risotto as well as veal, chicken and fish dishes all prepared with Italian flavors. Cafe Milano’s food is best described as light but you will not leave the restaurant hungry. This restaurant is perhaps best known for its high-quality service, which makes this spot an ideal place to celebrate you and your family on your big day.
Cue up your Lonely Island playlist because your grad dinner is about to be on a boat. Captain James is the only restaurant in Baltimore (and probably everywhere else in the states) that we’ve ever heard of that is literally shaped like a giant ship.
Captain James specializes in seafood, but their menu is vast and also offers options for meat lovers, vegetarians and everyone in between. For a truly Baltimorean experience, book a table at their crab house and crack open a few buckets of their famous steamed crabs.
Chef Geoff’s is the go-to spot for American University students, whether it’s Friday afternoon happy hour or a late morning brunch with friends. So, what better place to reminisce the past four years than this class joint?
The expansive menu offers contemporary American dishes for any appetite and includes plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options. Whether you indulge in their white truffle popcorn, herb crusted salmon, wild mushroom ravioli or their classic CG Burger, you’ll be guaranteed to waddle out stuffed and satisfied. Don’t forget to toast to graduation with their long libations menu and finish the night with Chef Geoff’s famous cinnamon donuts.
If you’re dealing with picky eaters (oh hey grandma and/or your little sister), then this is the place that will make everyone happy. City Cafe knows how to do the classics.
The steak frites with duck fat gouda fries are immensely satisfying, and the calamari with banana peppers are executed perfectly to deliver that ideal light crunch. Of course, the out-of-towners can get in on the Maryland action with several crab-based dishes, or get their seafood fix from a small selection of freshly shucked oysters. Pro tip: check out their bangin’ cocktail menu. Everyone knows alcohol and family reunions pair wonderfully.
Food Wine and Co. has designed itself to create an upscale dining experience with affordable neighborhood prices for its customers.
This restaurant is located in Bethesda and offers hearty main courses cooked to perfection. It also hosts a raw bar for the more adventurous diners. Take this opportunity to celebrate graduation with a half dozen of their famously fresh-caught oysters. And of course, if the parents are paying, don’t skip over the restaurant’s extensive global selection of wine and beer.
Known for its fried clams, lobster rolls, mac n’ cheese and over-the-top cocktail menu, this New England-style fish house is the perfect place to finally kick back, celebrate and ring in summer. Hank’s casual atmosphere and moderate prices along with its prime location right near Dupont Circle is sure to please a crowd.
Jaleo, owned by the renowned chef, José Andrés, produces some of the best Spanish tapas around DC. Share plates, dishes, stories and memories aside pitchers of ever-flowing sangria at this famous eatery. Reservations may fill up quickly, so book a table before the the big day.
This upscale Mexican restaurant is not only the perfect place to down a few margaritas in celebration of your huge accomplishment (or to let loose during a long weekend of family-time), but it also has tons of seating— outdoor patio included. So if you’re a little late to the graduation reservation game, Lauriol Plaza is a solid, last-minute option.
While this restaurant has only been in the District for two years, Le Diplomate attracts politicians, hipsters and DC’s premier socialites. Le Diplomate is the creation of the Philadelphia-born restaurateur, Stephen Starr, who not only wanted to bring the flavors of Paris to the District but also the experience of Parisian dining.
With pommes frites, baguettes and the lively, packed atmosphere of the French bistro, Le Diplomate is the restaurant you want to check out on graduation if you are looking for high quality food with a more casual dining experience.
A relative newcomer to the DC food scene, Michael White has brought his world-renowned Italian cuisine to our nation’s capital.
Located in the redeveloping area of DC’s Navy Yard, Osteria Morini offers food from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. The food is very rustic in style, preserving the traditions of this part of Italy. You’ve got to order the pastas, which are all made in house. Once you try fresh pasta you’ll really understand what it means to be a true Italian.
A legend in the DC food scene, Rasika has been known to accommodate the rich and powerful. Just sayin’, but President Obama actually celebrated his birthday here.
Rasika is known for their Indian cuisine which includes the usual suspects of curries and grilled specialties. The numerous vegetarian options will definitely please your herbivore dining companions and will undoubtedly make the common meat-eater consider vegetarianism. So if you see yourself as a major player in the DC game, start your career the right way and make a reservation at Rasika.
Try to make a reservation at Filomena’s only to be turned away? Join the club. If you’re looking for an upscale Italian joint that delivers authentic, tasty Italian food, Siroc is a great bet.
Although a more under-the-radar spot for students (perhaps due to its location in the business district), Siroc has continually been recognized for its great food. For a classic, fancy and reliably delicious graduation dinner, Siroc has got you covered.
You might know Brewer’s for its dimly-lit, cozy basement bar, but venture upstairs to its refined other half when you can dine on your parents’ tab. Enjoy a pint before dinner with a daily selection of charcuterie and cheese.
While The Brewer’s Art does offer a few seafood and vegetarian options, indulge in their meat dishes to get the best Brewer’s experience, of course accompanied by a cold glass of Resurrection or Beazly. If your younger cousins don’t go for the lamb, see if someone wants to venture down to the basement bar to rustle up an order of their rich and creamy mac-n-cheese.
The Source is Chef Wolfgang Puck’s first DC restaurant and also his first venture in Japanese-style cuisine. With this restaurant, Puck has really transformed his menu by taking traditional Japanese dishes and modernizing them to meet the demands of real “foodies.”
Be sure to try the tuna tartare cones, the scallop and shrimp shumai and the suckling pig with black plum puree. The very modern, “hip” feel of the restaurant is equally compounded by its location in the Newseum, one of DC’s most popular museums at the moment.
You and your family should definitely celebrate your graduation at The Source if you are looking to have a few drinks, converse over good food and really absorb the modern vibe of the District.
Woodberry Kitchen epitomizes the meaning of farm-to-table. They source their produce from local farmers in the area and acquire the freshest seafood the Chesapeake Bay has to offer.
From the flatbreads to oysters on the half shell, everything on the menu is amazing. The wood-fired entrees are a staple at this restaurant and is something truly unique that other restaurants just can’t replicate. The best part is that the menu is seasonal, so you’ll always experience something new each time you dine here.
If you’re strapped for cash and just happen to be in the DC-Baltimore area, check out these links for a good time:
- 5 DC Food Trucks Worth Chasing After
- The 5 Best Baltimore Restaurants For BYOB Dinners
- 5 DC Restaurants Where You Can Date Like the Obamas
- The 7 Best Happy Hour Deals in Baltimore
- 5 DC Happy Hours You Can’t Miss