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Ten Sustainable Restaurants in DC

By Jessica van Dop De Jesus

Washington, DC has always been known as a city of politics and power players. However, it is now starting to gain recognition as a foodie city. New restaurants are popping up not only in the city, but its bustling metro area as well. The common thread in many of these local restaurants is the desire to work with local farms and introduce sustainable ingredients to their menus. From fine dining to casual restaurants, DC restaurateurs are listening to their customers who are demanding to know where their food comes from. Here’s a diverse selection of restaurants where you can sample cuisine created from ingredients sourced from sustainable farms located within 100 miles of the city:

Caption: Corzetti, a type of fresh pasta with stamped designs typical of northwest Italy, is made fresh every day at Lavagna. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus.


This local favorite is located in Barracks Row in Southeast Washington DC. Its beloved brunch includes mascarpone pancakes and handmade sausages. Although brunch is popular, especially with its bottomless mimosas, dinner service can’t be missed with homemade pasta and sauces made with ingredients sourced from small farms in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The name Lavagna means “chalkboard” in Italian. Owner Stephen Chung likes to use the word to describe the restaurant since the menu is never the same and is constantly changing due to fresh, seasonal ingredients. Treats including charcuterie (cold cooked meats) and pickled vegetables are made from scratch on a regular basis. Local farms providing the ingredients are also listed on the menu.

  • Lavagna, 589 8th St NE, Washington, DC
  • (202)546-5006


Caption: Who said fresh grilled salmon couldn't be on the menu of a fast food shop? Enter Halsa. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus


Healthy food and fast food are not phrases that usually go together. However, Hälsa, meaning “health” in Swedish, makes healthy fast food happen. Located in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC, it provides organic and locally sourced ingredients that are not only reasonably priced, but also served approximately ten minutes within placing your order. Guests can be seen indulging in colorful “market plates” with salmon, raw vegetables and quinoa in the summer or keeping warm with popular bone broths in the winter. The bright décor and bleached white wood easily transport you to Scandinavia. For more information about Hälsa’s sustainability practices, follow their blog.

  • Hälsa, 655 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC
  • (202)832-1131


Photo credit: DC Harvest

DC Harvest

In the vibrant neighborhood of H Street NE, there’s DC Harvest, a restaurant which prides itself in using products such as spirits distilled in DC (like MD rum and Greenhat Gin) and oysters and catfish collected in Chesapeake Bay. Owners Jared and Arthur Ringel had worked in the restaurant industry for years and were looking to open their own place with a local spin. You can spot guests eating sweet potato chips instead of bread and concluding their dinner with fluffy, homemade marshmallows. The restaurant also prides itself with a 100% domestic wine and spirits menu, focusing on local spirits such as Lyon Rum distilled in Maryland.

  • DC Harvest, 517 H St NE, Washington, DC
  • (202)629-3296


Caption: Now, that's a pork chop. Big Bear Cafe. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus

Big Bear Café

With its vine covered patio, herbs planted alongside its restaurant and local art, Big Bear Café has become the anchor of the hip Bloomingdale neighborhood. Open since 2006, Big Bear Café has helped the neighborhood foster the development of the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market, which comes to life every Sunday in late spring, summer and early autumn. The restaurant purveyors come from local farms in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania, such as Bounty Hill Farms for eggs or Path Valley Farms for meats. During the day, you can spot local creatives typing away on their computers with a French presses filled with coffee. At night, it becomes a cozy date night spot with its dimly lit patio and perfectly curated dinner menu.

  • Big Bear Café, 1700 First St NW, Washington, DC
  • (202) 643-9222


Caption: Papaya salad with local catfish. Word on the street is that this one delish dish. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus.

Mango Tree DC

Mango Tree DC is an upscale Thai restaurant located in the newest hub for luxury shopping in DC, City Center DC. It recently welcomed a new head chef, Adrian Salazar who is a self-proclaimed farm-to-fork fanatic. Although he admits that it is challenging to prepare Thai dishes with local ingredients, he has persuaded Mountainview Farms in Virginia to grow Thai eggplant in order to introduce it to the menu. Chef Salazar also travels often to the Chesapeake area to foster relationships with local fishermen and find ways to introduce local ingredients to the menu with a Thai flair. Try the papaya salad with the catfish, it is truly amazing.

  • Mango Tree, 929 H St NW, Washington, DC
  • (202)408-8100  

Caption: Meat and potatoes fans, here is your fix: Yankee pot roast from Founding Farmers. Photo credit: Founding Farmers

Founding Farmers  

Founding Farmers has several locations in the DC area. Whether patrons flock to the locations on Pennsylvania Ave. or suburban streets in Maryland and Virginia, they know they will have to wait for a while to be seated; time is a price to pay for dining at of the most popular restaurants in the area.The restaurant is known for its American cuisine, including juicy burgers, sandwiches, local fish and creations like the bourbon batter French toast. Not only is the food sustainable, but the spaces themselves are LEED certified, which ensures that the construction and décor of the restaurants have minimal ecological impact.

  • Founding Farmers. Several Locations


Caption: Broccolini has reached a new height. Casa Luca. Click here for the recipe. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus.

Casa Luca

If you are of the belief that Italian food is fattening and unhealthy, Casa Luca has a different mindset to share with you. An upscale restaurant in the revitalized City Center DC neighborhood, Casa Luca offers an impressive selection of entrees and treats made from fresh organic ingredients. Executive Chef Erin Clarke grew up in the area and has always had a passion for all things healthy. Aside from being a chef, she has also educated children and families in healthy cooking. Among the homemade pastas at Casa Luca, you can indulge in ingredients such as broccolini sourced from Path Valley Farms in Pennsylvania. Chef Clarke uses every centimeter of the vegetables she buys, even turning broccolini stems into pesto.

  • Casa Luca DC. 1099 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC
  • (202)628-1099


Caption: Garlic Scape Tartare at Water and Wall. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus

Water & Wall

Owned by a local husband and wife, Tim Ma and Joey Hernandez-Ma, Water and Wall has a creative modern American menu with an Asian twist to pay homage to Chef Ma’s Chinese roots. Many dishes are sourced from organic farms such as Tuscarora Organic Farms in Pennsylvania. The creativity of the menu can be seen with garlic scape (the flower bud of the garlic - similar to chives) “tartare” topped with an organic egg or cold ramen with pork belly. Each dish is painstakingly orchestrated and presented with pride.

  • Water & Wall.  3811 N. Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA
  • (571)228-3627


Caption: Octopus at Mitsitam Cafe. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus

Mitsitam Café

The Mitsitam Café is located in the National Museum of the American Indian and widely regarded as one of the best museum restaurants in the United States. Chef Jerome Grant develops recipes based on Native Tribe cuisine from Peru to the Pacific Northwest. With ingredients like wild ginger, corn, mussels, mushrooms, duck and azafran aioli, the Mitsitam Café has much to choose from as well as learn from. The café sources many of its seasonal ingredients from farms on Native American reservations. The café also serves meats cured in house and practices the ancient art of food preservation in Native American fashion.

  • Mitsitam Café. 4th St & Independence Ave SW. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC
  • (202)633-1000


Caption: Tuna sashimi in all its glory at City Perch. Photo credit: Jessica van Dop De Jesus

City Perch

This sleek, modern restaurant located in the new Pike and Rose shopping area in North Bethesda keeps its menu local. Chef Matt Baker is not only seen behind the open kitchen, but also at local farmer’s markets giving cooking demonstrations. The restaurant focuses on ingredients such as crab from the Chesapeake Bay for crab cakes,  and tuna, caught from the North Atlantic with the sustainable “pole and line” method, for sashimi.

  • City Perch.  11830 Grand Park Ave, North Bethesda, MD
  • (301)231-2310
July 28, 2015

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