Barracks Row or Eighth Street, SE, has been a thriving business district since 1799. It was the first commercial center in Washington, D.C. The proximity to the Anacostia River made it essential.
Thomas Jefferson selected 8th and I Street as the first post for the Marine Corps to protect both the Navy Yard and the U.S. Capitol.
Businesses sprung up around the needs of those who lived and worked in the neighborhood. Barracks Row restaurants, especially oyster houses, quickly became the place to go in the area.
After ammunition production ceased at the Navy Yard, residents left for the suburbs.
A freeway project and riots after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. left scars on Barracks Row that destroyed the area’s appeal. The vibrant shopping and dining in Barracks Row declined.
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the Barracks Row Business Alliance improved businesses’ opportunities to reopen.
The Alliance founded “Barracks Row Main Street,” and it was selected by the Office of Economic Development and four other “Main Streets” around the city. They were given funds and revitalized.
Over twenty years later, the retail businesses are thriving in this Capitol Hill neighborhood which is also a foodie mecca. Several sit-down and take-out restaurants in Barracks Row are operating and serving delicious dining experiences.
Here are six Barracks Row restaurants that you must try when you’re in the area!
Before you dive in, if you’re interested in knowing more about delicious local Mexican food, check out our guide of the 11 Must-Try Cozumel Restaurants.
7 Best Barracks Row Restaurants
514 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C. // +1 (202) 544-0100
If you watched Bravo’s “Top Chef” 10th Edition, you might have seen Chef Bart Vandaele compete for the promising title.
He’s the award-winning chef who put Belgian food on the map in Washington, D.C. Belga opened in 2004 and has been successful ever since.
In 2015, Chef Bart added Betsy, a rooftop bar (above Belga and a bit of a secret) named after one of his favorite chickens.
Betsy is known for fantastic Belgian beer, Genever (similar to gin), and the same delightful Belgian menu. We came for brunch, but lunch and dinner are also served.
One look at the menu, and you’ll have trouble deciding on egg dishes, “Doffles” a donut waffle, crepes, Belgian waffles, or lunch such as mussels, soup, salads, and burgers.
It’s a tough choice because some of the waffles are savory. Still, you can go sweet and order a Belgian French toast waffle with apricot sauce, roasted almonds, and honey.
We started with Belga’s Bellini, a concoction of white cranberry juice, crème de Pêche, and pomegranate sparkling wine; it was refreshing.
Our table ordered from each category an egg dish, a waffle plate, and a burger. The lamb and chorizo burger arrived topped with goat cheese, spinach, yogurt-garlic sauce, sliced radish, and a side of crisp Belgian fries. The burger, served medium, had a zingy spice from the chorizo.
The toppings gave it a satisfying crunch, while the addition of the creamy-garlicky sauce smoothed the heat.
The buttermilk fried chicken and waffles with jalapeño honey syrup and pickled jalapeños were just what we hoped. The waffles and chicken combination is excellent here because they know how to do waffles. The chicken was juicy and crisp.
The perfect bite was to add the spicy honey over a forkful of chicken and waffles with the addition of a slice of jalapeño. It was perfection.
The Coddled Egg in the Bokaal was absolutely astounding.
Bokaal means jar in Dutch. The dish consists of slow-poached eggs, rich, buttery, carrot mashed potatoes, creamy hollandaise, chives, and a chunk of baguette. I mean, wow.
I have never enjoyed anything like it. It was a mix of savory and sweet but balanced and comforting.
This is what putting Belgian food on the map in Washington, D.C. is all about, introducing diners to dishes that are Dutch but unique flavors here. For Continental flavors in our capital, Belga is one of the best Barracks Row restaurants.
524 8th Street SE, Washington, D.C. // + 1 (202) 558-9506
Restaurateur Asad Sheikh knows Indian cuisine.
He’s run successful restaurants since 2011 in Virginia, and each venture earned him accolades from The Washington Post and other notable press.
He sold them all to his associates and started his newest dream, bringing the street food of Mumbai (Bombay) to the streets of D.C.
His many memories from growing up there and his recent trips to taste his childhood food were researched to make that authentic experience available in several neighborhoods and on Main Street in his Barracks Row restaurant.
The menu is vast, starting with sharable appetizers, including snacks typically served during Monsoon season.
Monsoon, the rainy season, lasts four months.
Families enjoy the spicy snacks with a cup of cutting chai tea. There are fusion dishes of Indo-Chinese, Chinese seasoning, and cooking techniques with Indian ingredients, specialty dishes selected by Asad, and various vegan, vegetarian, and non-veg dishes.
As starters, we selected Bombay Palak Chat, famous street food of crispy spinach, topped with yogurt and chutney. This is my favorite.
The flavors are spicy but sweet, and the spinach’s crunch is so satisfying in this dish. And Bhel Puri, puffed rice, chopped onions, cilantro, tomato, and chutney.
It is a typical street snack, but this presentation was unique.
It was served on a large plate, constructed as a tower with a crisscross of chutneys and crisp crackers. It was crunchy and fresh. Both dishes had flavors that were savory and addictive.
Both entrees were vegan, Aloo Gobi, a potato and cauliflower dish with cumin, ginger, garlic, tomato, and the second, Chana Masala, stewed chickpeas tomato gravy which came with fragrant Basmati rice.
The portions are generous and are meant to be shared.
The spice level is spicy as a general rule, but is modified per the diner’s request. It was an unexpected trip to a vibrant country through food, and I highly recommend a visit to this Barracks Row restaurant.
Call Your Mother is a Jew-ish neighborhood bagel shop and deli.
This is the second location for the storefront, with additional locations in Georgetown, Bethesda, food trucks for farmers markets around D.C.
Call Your Mother creates the most fantastic bagel sandwiches that I have ever tasted.
It is the ultimate comfort food, and their tongue and cheeky slogans and merch make me laugh. In the window, there’s a T-shirt for sale that says “Carbohydrate.”
The wood-fired bagels make each sandwich legendary. Everything is homemade or sourced from incredible purveyors like Ivy City Smokehouse, Z&Z, and Liberty Delights. This is the spot for breakfast in Barracks Row.
The order-online feature makes mornings a breeze.
Place your order for a specific time, pay, and pick it up. My order, The Sun City, came with local bacon, eggs, American and cheddar cheeses, and spicy honey on an everything bagel.
The sandwich was out of this world.
Other exciting options are The Horizon, smashed avocado, Fritos, pickled onions, roasted pepitas, jalapeños, on an everything bagel, or The Grand Villa, Big Spoon peanut butter, raspberry -guava jam, on a cinnamon raisin.
There are lunch sandwiches, latkes (potato pancakes), schmears like smoked salmon or whitefish, and sweets like donuts or muffins.
You can also order bagels by the dozen. This shop has a heart too.
The business provides breakfast for those in need, job training, helping underserved immigrants, participating in Food Rescue, and working with Park Morton Kids Camp to make spaces for kids to be creative. Your mother would be proud. Do your part by supporting this Barracks Row restaurant.
1100 8th St. S.E. Washington, D.C. // +1 (202) 543-3700
Three brothers, Isidoro, Ramon, and Jose Amaya, had a dream of coming to America.
It led to the opportunity to start a restaurant in Washington, D.C. In 1990, they left El Salvador and opened an authentic Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant named Las Placitas, the Spanish name for a little plaza located at an active volcano named El Chaparrastique in San Miguel.
For over 30 years, this restaurant has served authentic food in a casual spot with a lively vibe.
I stopped in at Las Placitas for lunch on a sunny day and grabbed a table outside. The first thing you notice when the chips and salsa arrive is how fresh the salsa tastes.
There are chunks of tomatoes and onions with cilantro. It’s so simple but often tasteless in the wrong hands. The menu is extensive and filled with a variety of Mexican classics and Salvadorian dishes. I chose authentic tacos Mexicanos.
I couldn’t resist the trio of grilled steak, chicken, and shrimp in flour tortillas with guacamole, pico de gallo, rice, and beans for $12.95.
The plate was bursting.
The shrimp were marinated and grilled perfectly, and the chicken and steak were tender and juicy. I chose to open up the tortillas and pour the additional spicy Verde sauce on the meat and fish to pair them with the crunchy salad and creamy guacamole.
The service was warm and friendly, making this a comfortable place to enjoy the delicious, authentic fare. There is nothing fancy about Las Placitas; the food speaks for itself. Go listen at this Barracks Row restaurant.
1007 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C. // + 1 (202) 675-1000
The Brig is an outdoor beer garden and gastropub that is dog and group-friendly.
The large patio is the perfect place to gather with friends on a sunny day or stop by for a casual dinner in the evening.
The lively atmosphere offers over twenty taps of German and local craft beer and a menu that includes pub favorites like wings, burgers, and German Wursts.
The long tables are reminiscent of beer gardens in Europe, and the convivial atmosphere is similar.
The menu at the Brig is focused on food that pairs well with beer.
There are pretzels and nachos topped with smoked chicken and a house specialty of smoked chicken wings finished on the grill and served with house-made wing sauce and blue cheese.
There are a few salads, but the main draw is the grilled sausages. The Bratwurst is a pork sausage served on a warm beer pub bun, with Dijon aioli and fries.
They also have Bauernwurst and Debriziner (both pork and beef) and Chicken Apple Sausage. The menu rounds out with burgers and chicken sandwiches and the Brig hotdog, an all-beef dog with beef chili and fixings. Our group loved the Bratwursts and wings.
The casual nature of eating elevated finger food outdoors makes a night out with friends fun. They have TVs all over for sports enthusiasts. Your taste buds will never feel “arrested” at the Brig.
Try all the comfort food favorites at this Barracks Row restaurant.
735 8th Street SE, Washington, D.C. // +1 (202) 450 6452
Chef-Owner Steve Yoon opened Sushi Hachi with the idea of bringing artisan sushi rolls and incredible quality to Barracks Row. In Japanese, the name “Hachi” is the word for eight, which signifies happiness and luck.
Luckily for the customers, this fantastic 8th Street Barracks Row restaurant lives up to its mission. The sushi is incredibly fresh, the quality is paramount, and the price is affordable.
We began our meal with a starter of edamame, which are blanched soybeans sprinkled with salt. Edamame is really healthy, and this appetizer was terrific. We were handed hot towels, and we enjoyed our next course.
We chose Nigiri sushi, raw fish sliced and placed on rice, and two different types of sushi rolls. The Nigiri salmon was delicate and sweet.
The spicy tuna and avocado roll and the crunchy shrimp with eel sauce were equally fresh and flavorful. The tempura shrimp inside was not greasy, and the combinations were excellent.
We heard that the Japanese fried chicken or Chicken Kara-age was fantastic, so we ordered one for the table. The dish lived up to the hype. Tender chicken in a thin batter fried crisp with a homemade tartar dipping sauce was really light and flavorful.
The whole meal was delicious, and we were delighted. I loved the serene environment, the gentle service, and the attention to every detail.
Lavagna means “slate” in Italian. In the Genoan village of Lavagna, slate production, quarried in the Capenardo and S.Giacomo mountains nearby, kept the men employed.
This restaurant is named after slate or what was later translated to mean “blackboard” because, like a blackboard, the food should be wiped clean to start fresh, to be innovative and new. Luckily, this neighborhood gem always is. The Italian fare is farm to table with a trusted network of farmers.
Everything in the kitchen is freshly made from scratch, even the pasta. It’s your friendly neighborhood wine bar, and on Sundays, wine by the bottle is half price, a total bonus. The vibe is to laugh, eat, and drink, and the menu is seasonal and small, reflecting the best of what’s in the season to showcase each ingredient.
We knew we wanted to share. Since the cheese comes from a great purveyor, we ordered the Burrata with arugula, basil, EVOO, and balsamic vinegar. The cheese was creamy, and the arugula was so fresh. The leaves had that peppery bite. It was lightly dressed with fruity olive oil and sweet balsamic—a terrific starter.
Next, we dove into our plates of pasta. I ordered the Carbonara, a simple peasant dish of house bacon, parmesan, black pepper, and egg. The ingredients are fantastic together, but on fresh pasta, they are incredible.
My friend ordered the Rigatoni Pesto, fresh basil, pine nuts, and homemade pasta. She opted to eat this without protein (you can add chicken or sausage), and I loved it this way. The basil was so sweet, and the sharp cheese makes this pasta dish elegant but straightforward.
We loved our meal. It took me right back to my travels in Italy. With a glass of wine and some delicious ingredients, you can transport yourself right to that little village in Genoa.
Make sure to try this Barracks Row restaurant for a great dining experience.
There are so many up-and-coming places on the Barracks Row restaurant scene that I will have to return to cover even more great eats in this Historic Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Which of these Barracks Row restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Jeanine Consoli is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and foodie based in Washington Crossing, PA. A retired elementary school teacher used her summers to feed her passion for travel and kept journals of all the destinations she explored. Today, Jeanine is working as a writer full-time. She loves uncovering the history and understanding the culture of each location, including the local flavors of each place. She has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe and is excited to keep adding to the list, finding special places that are off the beaten path both at home and abroad.