NFT Washington DC Downtown Bethesda

Downtown Bethesda

Centered around the NIH and Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, the northern end of Bethesda caters to NIH, NIH's employees, and their homes in the very quaint, suburban setting (but still within the Beltway!!!). It's where Washingtonians ditch their Dupont Circle apartments and move to grow up, and to have their kids grow up, but in public school.

Sure, it's the cringingly picture-perfect suburbs complete with overeducated moms pushing their MacLaren strollers to/from the gelateria and the yoga studio in Lululemon outfits, but Bethesda does have its claim to fame as the most restaurants per square mile in the country. Some of our favorites: Rock Bottom Brewery, Passage to India, and See more.

>Faryab. There's the weekly farmers market as well, and a good shopping strip in downtown Bethesda families like to visit by bike along the Capitol Crescent Trail.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz

Olazzo is a classic Italian restaurant, featuring all the staple dishes of a traditional Italian meal. The meal starts with hot and crusty bread. The waiter shows off his flair in pouring olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dip. Salad is included as a starter to the meals. From fettucini alfredo to lasagna bolognese to eggplant parmesan, Olazzo offers familiar favorites in this cozy downtown Bethesda location, as well as at another location in Silver Spring. Owned by two Italian-American brothers, Olazzo offers quality ethnic food at an affordable price, making it a stand out choice.

Posted By:  Rachel Tepper
Photo:  Rachel Tepper

L'Academie de Cuisine
Don't know the difference between a saute and a simmer? The academy has got your back. I visited the school last week for a group cooking lesson called 'Moroccan Delights' on the wonders of Moorish cuisine. Although the academy offers more rigorous classes, the dishes prepared during 'Moroccan Delights' were fairly easy and quite suitable for a beginner chef. The lesson was run by a head instructor who walked the participants through each dish before sending the group to a fully stocked test kitchen. Once ushered to tables of 4 to 5 people, the various recipes were divvied up and several assistant instructors hovered about offering helpful cooking hints. Throughout the lesson, class participants noshed on samples of cheese, olives, almond milk (surprisingly delicious), and of course, drank several modest glasses wine. It's definitely a fun thing to do with a group of friends, although the lesson may seem a bit too elementary for even moderately skilled home cooks. However, for those of you perplexed by the instructions on the back of your blue Kraft Macaroni & Cheese box, this class might be just what you need.

Posted By:  Hunter Gorinson
Photo:  Hunter Gorinson

Peter's Carry-Out
Most Bethesda-ites will claim that the best (and only) old school greasy spoon in town is the Tastee Diner. Well, they're wrong on both counts. The menus are similar, but since both places are strictly cheeseburger-centric, that's hardly a surprise. However, from atop a white vinyl barstool at the old-fashioned lunch counter, burger in hand, the differences are readily apparent--the food is better crafted and the crowd is less truck driver than it is high school student (kids from neighboring BCC clog this place during weekday lunch hours). Don't worry--Peter's is still far from trendy. This is no-frills and grease done the right way in a suburb where it's increasingly difficult to find anything genuine.

Posted By:  Hunter Gorinson
Photo:  Hunter Gorinson

Delicias Carry Out
When this place originally opened, it was little more than a roadside stand shoved into a gardening shed, had no sign or posted hours and you practically needed a Spanish dictionary to place an order. A few years late, the place is still a closet, but any fears of possible food poisoning have long subsided. In an area rife with corporate competition (there's a California Tortilla, a Baja Fresh and a Chipotle all within walking distance), this is the only mom-and-pop burrito place in the game. It's a little joint with a big menu... and they have the common courtesy to not (ahem) charge a buck seventy-five for guacamole.

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Courtesy of BGR

BGR: The Burger Joint
The latest addition to Bethesda's dining scene is BGR, an informal spot for great hamburgers—-from bacon cheeseburgers to lobster rolls to Cuban sandwiches. Gourmet in quality, but with an informal, throwback atmosphere, BGR served me a basic burger, plain fries, and a chocolate shake--and all three met my very high and fancy expectations. But the menu's piece de resistance is the Nine Pounder. Topped with two heads of lettuce, six tomatoes, two red onions, four whole pickles, and plenty of ketchup and mustard, it weighs in at over 15 pounds. And if you can eat the $80 burger in one sitting, it's on the house. Conveniently, it's served not with a Dogfish Head draft or vanilla coke, but a bottle of Maalox. Bon appetit!

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Magda Nakassis

Now that summer has come and the temperature has risen, it's time to start picking your dining destinations by more relevant criteria, e.g., does this restaurant have a patio and/or rooftop? And more specifically, can I drink a margarita on this patio and/or rooftop? Many will head straight to Lauriol Plaza and never look back. Others will opt for La Frontera Cantina on 17th Street (good people-watching), Guapo's in Tenleytown, Alero in Cleveland Park, or Cactus Cantina by the Cathedral (LP's less glamorous sibling). I will add yet another to the list—Tia Queta in downtown Bethesda. With a rooftop and patio rolled into one, this wonderful Mexican restaurant has it all. And by that I mean great food and strong, oversized margaritas. I've never had to wait for a table, and chances are that you and a few others will have the whole outdoor area to yourselves. The atmosphere is very casual and relaxing, so go ahead and sip high up on the roof. If you're lucky you may just catch a sunset.

Posted By:  Jason DeYoung
Photo:  Jason DeYoung

Louisiana Kitchen & Bayou Bar
There must have been some good ol’ days to Bethesda, before it got well-heeled and over-stuffed with everything upscale. My evidence: The scuffed walls, the sticky vinyl tablecloths, and the shamelessly dirty shade of pistachio-pudding green ceiling tiles of the Louisiana Express Company. It looks like a roadside dive found on some lonesome stretch in Cajun country, but it’s located within spitting distance of the glitzy Bethesda Rolls Royce dealerships. The Louisiana native will doubtlessly complain that these guys don’t serve up authentic Cajun and creole fair—but, hey, it’s Bethesda for crying out loud. The Louisiana Express Company specialties are po-boys with cornmeal breaded shrimp or scallops. These sandwiches are meals unto themselves. The gumbo is rich and spicy. And the weekly specials are always a treat—last week, they had Alligator stew.

Posted By:  Jason DeYoung
Photo:  Jason DeYoung

The comic book nerd in me wants to say, “Dude, this place is awesome, and I could hang out here forever.” It has wall-to-wall comics and graphic novels, plus a staff with impeccable knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of superhero genealogy (including their obligatory deaths and soon-there-after resurrections). What’s best about this store is that they don’t waste your time with loads of back-stock and collectable issues. Everything here is new, and it’s obvious that these guys are all about the story and not how much they can ring out of you for the first issue of Doom Patrol.

Posted By:  Jason DeYoung
Photo:  Jason DeYoung

Union Jack's
In a part of Bethesda where most bars are just respectable restaurants posing as a bar, Union Jacks is the real thing. It has that faux-British pub atmosphere, and its idea of a special event is watching televised sports. Jacks has too many drink specials to write about here, but unless you’re taking in a mid-day brew, most nights you won’t pay full price. The food is a little above standard bar food, but don’t expect to eat anything here that you won’t feel tomorrow morning. Some nights the DJ turns the volume way above comfortable shouting level, and communication could be better done with pen and paper—or by just leaving.

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Restaurants (23)
Nightlife (5)
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