With so many great food choices in DC, finding the right places to eat is no easy task! While I struggle with making a choice many times (only because there are so many!), I can imagine that problem compounded for someone who has only a short time in the city. Luckily, there is now a solution for all DC foodies and visitors: the new food tours from Carpe DC.
I recently tried out Carpe DC’s new U Street and Shaw food tour. I have lived in the U Street area for 4 years, and am a self-professed foodie, but even still, learnt SO much about my neighborhood and the places we stopped at for tastings!
No DC food tour is complete without a stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl – and when we started there, I knew I was going to be in good hands. As we enjoyed our chili half-smoke and a cold DC Brau, Stefan told us about the history of this iconic establishment, the U St neighborhoodand the impact of the 1968 riots.
As we walked along U Street, we got to see some local street art. I have to admit, I walk this street on a daily basis, and I still had not noticed the murals or known the story behind it. Playing tourist in your own city can open your eyes to a wide variety of things that you normally don’t register!
Our next stop, at Eatonville, was for their twist on the fried green tomato, also enjoyed with a local beer. Stefan told us the story behind the restaurant’s name, décor, and the origin of the fried green tomato, which was absolutely fascinating! Without giving it away, I can assure you that fried green tomatoes are most likely not where you think they are from! No one in our group knew!
With just two stops down, I had already picked up so much new knowledge and trivia.
The tour continued with corn empanadas from Fast Gourmet - the most gourmet gas station food you will find. Apparently, Jose Andres once came in here and ordered everything on the menu, because he had heard how it good it all was. And I can vouch for the fact that the line is out of the door here late nights.
As we walked over with our empanadas to the Shaw neighborhood, Stefan gave us the fascinating history of the DC alleyway culture, we saw the only art moderne building in the city, other historical establishments, and got so many more fun facts! I did not knew Edgar.J. Hoover went to the school that’s 2 blocks from me!
Our next stop was for Ethiopian at Etete where we enjoyed traditional injera bread with delicious vegetarian sides. The others in my group had not tried Ethiopian food before, and were surprised to hear about the huge Ethiopian population in DC (the largest outside Ethiopia!). Typically, this tasting is paired with an Ethiopian style honey wine which is made in house, but unfortunately they were out of it, so we had a beer alongside instead.
Which brings me to what I LOVED about Carpe DC. All their tours include only local establishments, many of which are also minority owned. I loved the fact that we were getting to try local drinks and food, showcasing the diversity of the DC food scene. Additionally, they partner with Bread for the City (which is also locally based in the Shaw neighborhood and you see it on the tour), and a portion of every ticket goes to feeding a DC resident in need. And it does not end with the tour - you get coupons to use for discounts at bars/restaurants after the tour! Win on all fronts.
We walked through Shaw before stopping at Compass Coffee for a caffeine fix. Compass Coffee, which opened in 2014, is owned by a couple of local guys and has really taken off in the last year. They have superb coffee which you can find at local Whole Foods and other markets. I was happy to stop by the coffeeshop itself, which is a beautiful open space, with lots of seating and views of the coffee roasting machines.
From here, we moved on to the gorgeous Howard Theater and then our final stop at Calabash tea and tonic for cookies and tea. At this point, we were all full and happy and definitely knew much more about the city than we did just 3 hours prior!
The tour is way more than just a food tour – it is a food tour, walking tour, and a history tour all rolled into one. The tour is GREAT for visitors and locals alike if you want to escape the typical tourist traps, get to know the real history of DC, discover the wide and varied tastes available, and have a fantastic time in the process. There’s also a happy hour tour of the bustling 14th Street, and Carpe will do private tours that you can arrange in advance.
If you want to visit the places that locals go to when we’re in need of a good meal, and even feel like a local by the end of the tour, this is the experience for you!
Are you hungry yet? Check out the food tours offered by Carpe DC.