The Wharf, a bustling waterfront area in Washington, DC, is known for a growing number of restaurants ranging from fast casual to fine dining. It can get crowded around any holiday, nice weather weekend, or concert at The Anthem. It’s always a safe bet to make a reservation anytime you go but visiting during the week, during the off-season, or when the weather isn’t so great can mean limited crowds. Busy times at The Wharf are usually Cherry Blossom season, summer, and any time a special event is scheduled. This is not a comprehensive list of places to eat on The Wharf – just a few of my favorites.
Fast Casual Dining on The Wharf
Fast casual dining on The Wharf doesn’t necessarily mean cheap but these stops will generally be the most inexpensive options in the area. Most of these spots have their own outdoor dining tables. You can also enjoy a to-go order anywhere along the water in a variety of public seating.
Bartaco has a number of locations across the country and several in the DMV. All locations have a beachy, waterfront feel but the location on The Wharf is actually right near the water. Tacos and other foods like guacamole, street corn, ceviche, and more are ordered individually so you can mix and match whatever you like. There’s a variety of meat, fish, and veggie options to keep any type of group happy. Plus, look out for creative cocktails and the secret menu taco.
You are probably familiar with these famous burgers and shakes but this is always a reliable spot for a quick bite. Enjoy burgers, chicken, fries, shakes, and more at their outdoor seating. Or take it to go and enjoy on one of the piers.
This Cuban coffee shop offers a variety of coffee, breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and all-day snacks like empanadas and croquetas. I especially love this spot to catch up with friends or grab a quick bite before strolling the waterfront. Colada Shop also offers a variety of cocktails including an $8 mojito available all day.
The Fish Market
The Fish Market is not as big as it once was but you can still grab ready-made fish dishes from a few boats. My favorite way to do this is to grab a warm soup during winter. The soup keeps you warm while you enjoy the water with much fewer crowds. That said, there’s no bad time to grab a fish sandwich or soup to enjoy along the water.
Toastique calls a few spots in the DMV homes and it is one of my favorite places to grab lunch when I’m in the neighborhood. Their toasts seem small but fill you up quickly with masterful flavor combinations. The menu varies slightly by day but my favorites are Tomato Buratta, Peanut Butter Crunch, and the Greek. Toastique also offers bowls and smoothies if toast isn’t your thing.
A Meal with Friends or Family
Hanks Oyster Bar
Hanks Oyster Bar is one of my favorite spots to bring family and out-of-town guests. Maybe it is just my love of seafood but this place always calls to me for a mid-range special occasion. You can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches or an assortment of small plates. I almost always order the crab dip served with chips. On the weekends, Hanks offers a memorial brunch with lots of egg dishes plus a variety of their regular fish dishes. Don’t miss their crab cake eggs benedict.
If you enjoy Mexican food, MI VIDA delivers. Everything on the menu is good but my favorites are the slightly spicy pescado (fish) tacos or any of the enchiladas. MI VIDA also offers creative happy hour deals on both food and drinks to help you dine on a budget. From 3 to 6 PM on Monday to Friday, try deals on drinks and snacks including empanadas, enchiladas, and more. Don’t miss the snack board with a variety of favorites priced by the number of people you have. On Tuesdays, MI VIDA adds a few extra taco deals to happy hour.
Boardwalk Bar and Arcade
Need something more fun and casual? Enjoy arcade games and outdoor seating with carnival food favorites. On the menu, you’ll find hot dogs, sandwiches, pizzas, and appetizers like soft pretzels and popcorn. Boardwalk also has a variety of fun cocktails including frozen ones. Join them for happy hour daily from 4 to 6 PM.
Kirwan’s Irish Pub
This classic Irish Pub offers an extensive lunch and dinner plus late night bites from 10 PM to midnight. Kirwan’s expansive dining room is two floors plus and outdoor patio. It’s perfect for bigger groups or group that just want a large, fun atmosphere.
Date Night or Special Occasions
This Spanish inspired fine dining experience might not be your everyday spot but the atmosphere is perfect for a special occassion. Build a meal with small plate or paellas priced to feed 2 or 4 people. Del Mar offers beautiful dining spaces inside and outside including a second floor with views of the waters.
Where to Grab a Drink Before a Concert at the Anthem
Get the party started before your concert at Tiki TNT. Their fun cocktails and food will set the mood and look great in photos. Tiki TNT stacks their menu with classic cocktails, cocktails with their own twist, and even extra large “bowls” to share with 2-4 people. Get their early to grab a spot on their balcony seating and enjoy happy hour from 3 to 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
As mentioned above, Colada Shop, MI VIDA, bartaco, Kirwan’s, or Boardwalk Bar and Arcade are also great options before an Anthem concert.
I love a good doughnut and District Doughnut never disappoints. The shop is usually open until the late afternoon but get there early (before noon if possible). They will sell out. The menu rotates by season but they usually have their famous brown butter and funfetti doughnut. Seasonal favorites include cherry blossom, pumpkin, and hot coco.
Avoid Driving: If you can avoid it, try to avoid the limited and expensive parking. The Wharf is accessable from to metro lines: L’Enfant Plaza (all lines except red) and Waterfront (green). Waterfront will drop you closer to the lower end of the Wharf near Hell’s Kitchen while L’Enfant will drop you at the other end near the Fish Market.
Watch out for special events: The Wharf has a variety of special event weekends that can get very crowded. When I attend, I always try to arrive at the beginning of the event to enjoy before a ton of people show up. Some notable events include Bloomaroo (Cherry Blossoms), JazzFest, Oktoberfest, Dia de los Muertos, and the holiday boat parade. The Wharf usually leaves holiday decorations, particularly for the holidays and the cherry blossoms, throughout the season.
Escape across the river: Across the river, you’ll find East Potomac Park. This park offers lovely walking trails, minature golf, and Capital Bike Share rentals. Some people call this area Hains Point but this is just the name of the tip of the island. In the summer, hop on the Wharf Jitney, a free boat shuttle to bring people between the Wharf and the park. In the off season or if you miss the last shuttle, you can also walk across teh 14th Street Bridge.