Explore Washington D.C.

Making Overtures: Pre-theater Dining in D.C.

Discover the joys of eating well and getting to the show on time with these restaurants and their nearby theaters.

With theater season underway, we offer a few tips on how to catch dinner before the curtains go up. 

In Arlington, Virginia, restaurants like soulful Busboys & Poets play to Signature Theatre-goers, while on D.C.’s 14th Street, hip bistros surround the Studio and Source theaters. In Bethesda, Maryland, Daily Grill satisfies those heading to the nearby Round House Theatre with sophisticated dishes like quinoa-arugula salad, tomatoes with grapefruit and pecans, true lump crab cakes, short ribs with horseradish mash, ahi tuna tacos with Sriracha aioli and finishes like the Ghirardelli-laced brownie fudge pie. Classic notions remain—meatloaf, chicken pot pie and happy hours. Read on for more theater dining options.

Arena Stage

Station 4
Station 4 (Courtesy the restaurant)

The theater has cafeteria-style Catwalk Café, the best bet a tasty prix-fixe (reserve online) meal that often nods to what’s on stage, “Fiddler on the Roof” a likely inspiration. Nearby, find three-course, pre-theater menus at both Masala Art, a glowing new space with Indian crafts, stone walls and classics from chicken tikka to galub jamun, and at stylin’ Station 4, where Orlando Amaro sends out rich soups, crab cakes and (come back after the final curtain) dessert.

Ford’s Theatre

Bistro D'Oc
Bistro D'Oc (Courtesy the restaurant)

Across the street from this theatre, cozy Bistro D’Oc serves three courses before and after shows. Regulars tout the Greniers’ cassoulet and duck confit.

Kennedy Center

Roof Terrace Restaurant
Roof Terrace (Courtesy the restaurant)

Dine on-site with river views from the elegant Roof Terrace or popular cafeteria-style KC Café. At casual Campono (across from the north entry steps), order exceptional pepperoni pizza at the counter, where sometimes the Beard-winning chef Bob Kinkead himself will serve. Other treats include subs, Asian chicken salad and gelati-like espresso/caramel and butter pecan/chocolate.

Shakespeare Theatre

Penn Commons
Penn Commons (Courtesy the restaurant)

With stages at the Lansburgh and at Harman Hall, this Tony-winning company operates in Penn Quarter, a zone that also handles crowds en route to Verizon Center. Legal Sea Foods on 7th Street serves clam chowder and stuffed lobster beneath a hull-like ceiling, and Wok & Roll near the Chinatown arch offers happy hour specials and sushi. Good times prevail at family-style Carmine’s, the legendary New Yorker that’s just published “Carmine’s Celebrates: Classic Italian Recipes for Everyday Tastes,” and at Penn Commons, spacious digs with bustling bar, quieter banquettes for fried oysters, shrimp and grits, softshell crabs and a “crunchy” sundae.