Viewing cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin has always been tricky from a culinary standpoint. It seems perfect as a family outing or date destination, but it’s unfortunately lacking in good nearby dining options. Hungry blossom-goers are left with a decision: Pack a picnic or expand your usual definition of “nearby restaurant.” Either way, we have a few suggestions.
For the picnic-packer, our list of best sandwich shops are a great guide to putting together a charming al fresco spread. If you are heading in from Virginia, stop by the Butcher’s Block, Robert Wiedmaier’s European market in Old Town. A lunch of freshly baked bread, cheese, olives, sausage and house-made sandwiches is sure to make the day. Inside the city, the Cowgirl Creamery offers a similarly delectable spread, with a focus on fromage. If you are heading in from Maryland, stop in Cleveland Park to visit the Palena Market or (starting Thursday) Sugar Magnolia, the new market at Ripple. Either will provide a nice assortment of sweet and savory options direct from their restaurant’s kitchens. If you decide to hit up Sugar Magnolia, bring a cooler so you can take away some of Alison Reed’s gourmet ice cream sandwiches.
Sandwich-lovers have an embarrassment of riches no matter where they start their trip down to see the buds. Starting in Maryland or D.C., Taylor Gourmet is an easy stop on the way, and if you are coming from Virginia, you owe it to yourself a detour to Earl’s or the Italian Store. You can also put together a perfect sandwich-anchored picnic lunch at relatively new arrival Sundevich. Former Equinox cook Ali Bagheri’s globally-inspired sandwiches are delicious and inspired, and his made -fresh-daily salads and sides benefit from the shop’s relationship with the nearby market Seasonal Pantry.
Want a cherry blossom picnic that goes beyond the sandwiches-and-white wine norm? Head to Captain White’s Seafood City and grab some freshly steamed crabs from the Southwest fish market.
If you want to go the restaurants route, there are a few decent options within a relatively manageable distance. For unpretentious, filling bar fare, hike up to the Exchange, Elephant & Castle or Tonic. Founding Farmers’s conscientious American cooking and G Street Food’s international street food offerings are good destinations for an afternoon visit with the family. Taking your sweetie to see the blossoms? Cross the Mall and romance your date with some of the city’s slickest Asian fusion at Source , Fabio Trabocchi’s marvelous modern Italian cooking at Fiola or sophisticated comfort food from Ris.
If cherry blossom mania has you clamoring for a waterside view, look no further than Sou’Wester and Cantina Marina. While still casual, Sou’Wester is a more elegant dining experience, and it offers nice takes on Southern classics like hush puppies and Hoppin’ John. But with a margarita or rum cocktail in hand, there isn’t a better perch in the city than the rowdy Cantina’s split-level patio space.
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