BON APPETIT – Tasty Christmas and Hanukkah holiday dining in Washington, D.C.


BON APPETIT - Dec 2015 Header 2December 6, 2015
Alex Barron
Restaurant Critic
Bon Appetit

You’re staying on the Hill this holiday season, but after Thanksgiving, you’re not sure you have it in you to prepare another massive feast for Christmas. What to do? The options are more plentiful than you think, and go far beyond the traditional goose. (Does anyone even do that anymore?) Even if you are planning to spend a quiet Christmas at home with the family, there are plenty of area restaurants perfect for a respite from shopping and a quick bite to put you in the holiday mood. Here are a few spots to check out this holiday season.

Hanukkah Delights
Jewish food tends to consist of thick, heavy dishes, served at greasy spoons whose names are still well-known to your grandparents. But DGS Delicatessen, owned by third generation Washingtonians Nick and David Wiseman, is single-handedly dispelling the notion that this cuisine is out of vogue. Heapingly portioned hot pastrami sandwiches and Reubens are the big ticket items, but this Hanukkah, there will be no better spot to nosh on latkes. DGS’ take on the potato pancake is seasoned with sweet onion and thyme: an interesting twist on a classic recipe.

Star & Shamrock is one of those oddball, “only in America” originals, that you would expect to find in Brooklyn rather than D.C. A hybrid Jewish deli and Irish pub, it just might be the only spot in the District where it’s possible to wash down a plate of knishes with a pint of Guinness. This H Street bar seems a particularly festive spot to enjoy the season and to celebrate the convergence of two disparate cultures, united by more than just a love of corned beef. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a Pickleback (a shot of whiskey, chased with a shot of pickle juice) from the bar.

The food is just serviceable at Tony Cheng’s in Chinatown, but the atmosphere is alive – and on Christmas, it’s hard to find a more unexpectedly exuberant dinner destination. Behind the ornately decorated gates of this two-story walk-up, lie a Mongolian barbecue downstairs, and a spacious banquet hall upstairs. This is a preferred spot for many Jewish families — celebrating Christmas with the traditional dinner and Chinese – but all are welcome.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes
There is no clear consensus about how the Feast of the Seven Fishes came to be, but this Italian-American Christmas tradition is a meal that belongs on every foodie’s bucket list. A multi-course succession of seven or more seafood dishes, this feast can be tough to find at area restaurants. Lucky for locals, Mike Isabella offers his stellar rendition at G, the upscale sandwich joint and trattoria on 14th Street. A bold snow crab arrabbiata and tender pan seared black bass highlight the feast, which rolls out on December 16th and runs on most days through the 27th. ($65 per person; $90 for meal plus drink pairing)

For the month leading up to Christmas, Mockingbird Hill, the popular cocktail bar in Shaw, will temporarily transform into Miracle on 7th Street, the District’s only Christmas-themed pop-up watering hole. Free Christmas cookies on Thursday and caroling performances from the Gay Men’s Chorus of D.C. help to ring in the holiday spirit, along with clever cocktails – like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a concoction made with Pink Peppercorn-infused Gin. Enjoy a round of Manischewitz pong at the “Hanukkah Hangout” in back.

These days, it can be hard to wade through the crowds of tourists that flock to the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center in December. In contrast, the rink at the Washington Harbor in Georgetown is vibrant and fun, without becoming a total zoo. Skating on the rink within eye-shot of the Kennedy Center and the Watergate Hotel is a consummate D.C. holiday experience. The Sequoia restaurant, located right on the rink, offers a hearty brunch buffet on Christmas Day, and its window seats offer an excellent view of the skaters below.


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