When most people think about Washington DC, they mainly picture a city full of people who work for the government in some way or another, with jobs they can hardly talk about because of the security clearance, and Hillterns (you can just tell...trust me). What many—scratch that, most—people don't know is that DC has a very underrated but lively food scene. Although I grew up in the DMV and frequently visited the nation's capital on field trips, I rarely got the opportunity to see for myself all the culinary wonders that DC has to offer. 

Most of my hometown friends are in the same boat as me, having visited DC many times but never stopping to eat there. Although it hasn't happened yet, let's pretend my childhood bestie is finally coming to visit me in the nation's capital. Here are the top seven places I would take them:

For Breakfast: Call Your Mother Deli

Swara Bhatt

Anyone who lives in DC knows that you have to get bagels from Call Your Mother at least once during your time here. Not only is the ambience pretty incredible (the bright pink and teal-painted exterior make it look so cute!) but the menu is spectacular, too. They have a wide variety of signature bagel sandwiches such as the Thunderbird (pictured above) that cater to non-vegetarians and vegetarians alike. Have your own recipe in mind? There is an option to make your own DIY bagel sandwich as well.

If bagels are generally not your thing, Call Your Mother also offers traditional sandwiches alongside a small selection of sweets, drinks such as coffee and tea, and sides like latkes and gluten-free cheesy Yuca bread. If I had to bring my bestie here, I would probably get to the restaurant really early. Even at 9 AM, there's a line. And for good reason.

For Lunch: Falafel Inc. 

Swara Bhatt

I don't go out for lunch that often, but if I'm with my bestie, then I would take them to Falafel Inc. for a plethora of reasons. Although there are only three main items on this fast-casual chain's menu (falafel sandwich, falafel bowl, and vegan shawarma sandwich), they all are equally tasty and delicious. None of the main offerings or sides--which include Za'atar Fries, extra Hummus, and Pita Bread--contain any meat products.

The complimentary sauces here are to die for. My favorite is their signature habibi sauce (pictured above on my falafel salad bowl). The garlic and red sauces are definitely up there, too. The best part? Everything is under $6. Falafel Inc. has two locations in DC (Georgetown and Western Market) that are easily accessible by bus and metro. A trip to either is always worth it. 

For Coffee: For Five Coffee

Swara Bhatt

For Five Coffee on L Street has to be my favorite coffee shop in all of Washington, DC. Aside from their speciality drink offerings, this cafe also has an extensive food menu with v/gf/df options alongside a wide selection of pastries and delicious stuffed cookies. Want to get some work done? For Five Coffee also has plenty of seating and free wifi. I love coming here early in the morning on weekends to study while sipping on a delicious caramel oatmilk latte (pictured above), or have brunch with my best friends.

For a Fancy Dinner: Flavio Restaurant DC

My bestie and I are Italian food aficionados, and if we are in the mood for something fancy, Flavio is the way to go (haha see what I did there? No? Pretend that never happened...). Tucked away in one of Georgetown's many sidestreets, this Italian eatery is also vegetarian-friendly with a menu of classic Italian salads, appetizers, pizzas, and pastas.

Although Flavio is best known for pizza, their standout dish for me is the Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with parmesan cream sauce (pictured above); it is by far the best gnocchi I have ever tasted. The best part is, for a relatively fancy restaurant (especially in DC where prices can be quite high), most of the dishes are relatively affordable. That definitely lessens the impact on me and my bestie's bank accounts.

For a Casual Dinner: Satay Club

Swara Bhatt

If eating at a fancy restaurant is not the vibe, then this Tenleytown gem is the next stop on our journey. Satay Club is a fan favorite among American University alumni for a reason; the family-owned restaurant serves outstanding Southeast and East Asian fare like curry laksa and basil chicken. On top of that, the Club offers separate sushi and Chinese menus, the latter featuring my all-time favorite tomato and egg stir fry (pictured above) and fried eggplant. With a plethora of both non-vegetarian and vegetarian options, the offerings are accommodating of most dietary restrictions.  

The drink menu is also worth noting, especially the Thai Iced Tea. The few dessert options are favorites among fellow college students, especially the Mango Sticky Rice and Fried Ice Cream. The vibes are casual and lively, making for a relaxed but intriguing dining experience.

For Dessert: L.A. Burdick Chocolates

Swara Bhatt

To end the day on a sweet note, since my bestie is not a huge fan of hot chocolate, the last place on our food journey is the amazing and underrated L.A. Burdick Chocolates, located on M Street in Georgetown. It is both a chocolate shop and café selling handmade chocolates, pastries, and specialty drinks.

L.A. Burdick Chocolates is known for, you guessed it, their hot chocolate. It comes in 3 flavors: milk, dark, and white. This cocoa is definitely worth the hype; the dark hot chocolate (pictured above) is the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. L.A Burdick Chocolates is not somewhere I visit often because of its high price point, but it is a staple of mine on special occasions.

Honorable Mention: Union Market

I couldn't write this article without featuring my favorite DC food hall! Union Market is a burgeoning culinary superstore with 40+ vendors located in an eponymous area off of Florida Avenue. Union Market has a little bit of everything: bagels from Buffalo and Bergen, open-faced sandwiches from On-Toast, bread and pastries from RavenHook Bakehouse, stuffed dosas from DC Dosa, and fresh ice cream from The Creamery. 

Walk upstairs for Hi-Lawn, a rooftop eatery offering seasonal fare alongside a green with outdoor games. (If you don't want to eat off this menu, customers are also allowed to bring up food from other vendors. The vibes here are immaculate, especially at sunset, and it will always be somewhere I visit whenever my hometown friends drop by.