Food and Drink in the District

Since the founding of the District, food and drink have almost been as important as politics. Two examples: Rhodes Tavern, which is no longer standing, is associated with the early days of the City of Washington, its governance, and politics; City Tavern in Georgetown played an important role in the early days of that once-independent port city and was linked to Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. And certainly, many delicious meals — and tasty drinks! — have led to the success of numerous deals on the Hill.

Today, Washington's cuisine is as popular as ever, with many residents visiting weekend farmers markets and booking reservations at the newest Michelin Star restaurants. This tour encompasses some of the city's historic landmarks related to food, drink, and high calories!

Early on, public markets were established and integrated into the city's plan. Center Market on Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 7th Street operated until the development of Federal Triangle in the 1930s (the National Archives is now located on the site), and Western Market at K and 21st streets NW stood until the 1960s. Thankfully, Capitol Hill's Eastern Market — designed by the major Washington architect Adolf Cluss in 1873 — is still a popular destination for Washingtonians from across the city, and tourists from around the world.

Georgetown Market on M Street NW was a center of that community, stretching back to when Georgetown was an independent city, and continued as a grocery store until recently. Unfortunately, Northern Liberty Market near Mount Vernon Square is no longer standing, but O Street (Northern) Market in Shaw is still standing and has been repurposed into a Giant grocery store.

Additionally, prior to national chains, Washington had an important baking industry centered along 7th Street NW in Shaw. This one-time hub is represented by Holzbeierlein, Dorsch's White Cross (Wonder Bread), and General Baking Company (Bond Bread Factory), which are still extant and were historically designated within the past decade. One can imagine the smell of bread and other treats wafting through the area!

Related to baking is the wholesale industry, which supplies numerous restaurants around the District with important ingredients. Union Market Historic District showcases meats, vegetables, fruits, and other delights — and is adjacent to the newest restaurants and bars.

Other businesses have been important centers of community and advocacy. During the postwar era, Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks on Georgia Avenue in Petworth catered to African American leaders in entertainment, business, and government, while Annie's Paramount Steakhouse in the Dupont Circle Historic District has long been an important social spot for the city's LGBTQ+ residents.

Also in the Dupont Circle Historic District, Tabard Inn is a longtime woman-owned business that catered to women in DC when it served as a tearoom from the 1920s to 1970. Ben's Chili Bowl, prominently located on U Street NW — which was once referred to as "Black Broadway" — is located in a one-time cinema, and is arguably one of the most famous restaurants in the city and throughout the years has been visited by many famous individuals.

Enjoy the tour, and don't get too hungry!

Eastern Market (and Interiors)

Although Capitol Hill had hosted a neighborhood market for decades, established by a presidential proclamation by Thomas Jefferson in the early 1800s, it wasn’t until 1873 that a dedicated building designed to house the market was erected. At the…

Union Market Historic District

Union Market Terminal is a large complex of wholesale warehouse buildings occupying an approximately forty-acre tract of land located east of Union Station between Florida and New York Avenues NE. Conceived in 1928 by a federation of wholesalers…

Northern Liberty Market (1875-1985)

The physical structure of Northern Liberty Market came as a result of the 1870s development initiatives of then DC governor, Alexander Shepherd (1835-1902). An earlier incarnation of Northern Liberty Market existed in Mount Vernon Square starting in…

O Street Market (Northern Market)

The O Street Market exemplifies the large, functional, well-designed market buildings erected in DC under the massive public works campaign headed by Alexander “Boss” Shepherd. After the Civil War, DC sought to revamp its small-town image. To do so,…

Dorsch’s White Cross Bakery (Wonder Bread Bakery)

First established on 7th Street by Peter M. Dorsch around 1904, the White Cross Bakery grew from a small neighborhood business to one of Washington’s largest bakeries. In 1913, Dorsch built the first of several expansions in Wiltberger Alley, where…

Holzbeierlein Bakery

In 1895, Michael Holzbeierlein (1860-1939) opened his bakery at the rear of his house at 1849 7th Street, after having worked for several years as a foreman for the Charles Schneider Baking Company at 5th and I Streets downtown. After Holzbeierlein’s…

General Baking Company Bakery (Bond Bread Factory)

The General Baking Company's Bond Bread Factory is an Art Deco-style industrial building. Constructed in 1929 to the designs of architect Corry B. Comstock, the building's style, quality craftsmanship, and decorative detailing are rare for the city's…

Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks

Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks and its proprietor played a central role in the social and political culture of DC's African American community during the period of transition from segregation to an era of Home Rule with a largely Black…

Ben's Chili Bowl

The Greater U Street Historic District is a Victorian-era neighborhood, developed largely between 1862 and 1900. The area consists of a coherent group of row houses constructed overwhelmingly by speculative builders and real estate developers along…

Annie's Paramount Steakhouse

Initially opened as a “musty little beer joint” in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, Paramount Steakhouse (later renamed Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse)) became a haven for the LGBTQ+ community, almost entirely by accident. George…

Tabard Inn

The Tabard Inn was established at 1739 N Street in 1922 by entrepreneur Marie Willoughby Rogers. At the time she was recently widowed; her husband, a prominent geologist, had died unexpectedly while on a mission with the US Geological Survey. Mrs.…

Rhodes' Tavern (1799-1984)

Built in 1799 by Bennett Fenwick (ca.1765-1801)—and, most likely, his enslaved work force—Rhodes' Tavern opened as a tavern and inn in 1801 under the management of William Rhodes. In 1805, Rhodes sold the tavern to his future brother-in-law, Joseph…

Western Market (1872 - circa 1966)

Early on, three public markets were envisioned for the city: Center (Downtown), Eastern (Capitol Hill), and Western (Foggy Bottom/West End). Of these, only Capitol Hill's Eastern Market is still standing.Established in 1802-03, Western Market was…

City Tavern

From 1796 through the mid-nineteenth century, the City Tavern provided a focus for community activity in Georgetown as a site of community meetings, business functions, and transportation. The building was at the crossroads of the early capital and…

Georgetown Market

The history of the Georgetown Market site dates back to the Revolutionary War period, when a butcher's market occupied part of the present property. This market was later replaced by the Georgetown debtor's jail, which was removed in 1795 to complete…