A Small Sampling of Spots to Get Local and Organic in Washington, D.C.

For the first time Simple, Good and Tasty is exploring the local, organic food scene in our nation's capital and the surrounding area. There’s a lot to savor in both restaurants and farmers markets; here’s just a small sampling of notable spots to get a hungry visitor started.

Washington restaurants that offer local, organic meals span the range from formal to casual. Some are good for a special celebration or date night; others are family- and budget-friendly. I’ve included one to fit every pocket and occasion. They’re located in various neighborhoods in and around Washington, and each is accessible by the city’s Metro system.

Hook Restaurant
Hook, a seafood restaurant located in tony Georgetown and run by restaurateur Jonathan Umbel, is dedicated to local and sustainable eating practices, as mentioned in its mission statement: “Hook Restaurant is committed to providing an exceptional dining experience, but also to educating the community about our mission. The menu changes daily to reflect whatever sustainable fish are in season and available,” including dishes such as Virginia oysters with champagne gelee and Virginia red trout with green beans, carrots, and squash puree. The restaurant (photo above) also uses organic, Maryland-raised chicken and beef and locally grown produce. Washingtonian magazine named it among D.C.’s “100 Very Best Restaurants” in 2010 and praised the skills of its pastry chef, Heather Chittum.

Hook, 3241 M Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007. Closest Metro stop: Foggy Bottom/GWU.

Mark’s Kitchen
Owner Mark Choe opened his restaurant 20 years ago and has since become a neighborhood standard with his family-friendly atmosphere, reasonable prices, and extensive menu of Asian and American favorites. Choe obtains some of his fresh produce — including spinach, zucchini, and squash — from the nearby Takoma Park farmers’ market and uses it in dishes such as spinach tofu cakes and sauteed veggies over rice. “I’m trying to get more organic vegetables and more fresh vegetables from the farmers’ market, because my customers want them,” he notes. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are clearly marked on the menu, and kids can choose from both the standard grilled cheese or cheeseburger, or the less-typical grilled tofu and brown rice.

Mark’s Kitchen, 7006 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, Maryland 20912. Closest Metro stop: Takoma Park.

Pete’s Apizza
Pizzas at Pete’s are cooked “New Haven style,” with a thin, crispy crust and a restrained hand with toppings, so the slice does not become soggy. Chef/owner Thomas Marr is full of enthusiasm for local produce, which he obtains both through a produce supplier and also from area farms and farmers’ markets. Local produce “is a big thing for us,” he says. “Sometimes it’s for the topping for a pizza, sometimes it’s for a salad. We also use it for antipasti.” Marr’s antipasti comprises four dishes using whatever produce is in season; in late June those included zucchini with ricotta cheese and smoked sea salt, and a corn and tomato salad.

Pete’s Apizza is open at two locations: 4940 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016 (closest Metro stop: Tenleytown/Friendship Heights )and 1400 Irving Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20010 (closest Metro stop: Columbia Heights).

Poste Moderne Brasserie
Poste maintains its own organic “kitchen garden,” serving the fresh vegetables and herbs year round and recycling its used coffee grounds as fertilizer — just two among many eco-friendly practices. Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema included the restaurant on his list of “50 Favorites,”calling chef Robert Weland’s beef tartare “superb” and singling out a springtime dish of ravioli with morels, sweet peas, and black walnuts as “true to the season.” Poste obtains much of its produce, meat, and dairy products from local farmers’ markets, dairies and ranches. One charming feature is the “Market to Market” dinner, in which Weland escorts guests to a nearby farmers’ market, where they chat with local farmers and choose produce, and then takes them back to the restaurant and prepares their food.

Poste, 555 8th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004 (closest Metro stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown).

Restaurant Nora
For many people Nora Pouillon’s name is synonymous with sustainable, organic eating in Washington, D.C. Her eponymously named restaurant, launched in the late 1970s, was the first certified organic restaurant in the United States, and her many achievements include the initiation of a collection of farmers’ markets in Washington, called the Fresh Farm Markets. The menu at Restaurant Nora includes foods as majestic as grassfed beef tenderloin tartare, made with beef from Virginia, and as humble as local cabbage fennel slaw, with a helpful list of in-season produce. When asked in an interview with Behind the Burner what influenced her cooking style and the menu at Restaurant Nora, Pouillon answered simply, “The season and the farmers.”

Restaurant Nora, 2132 Florida Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008 (closest Metro stop: Dupont Circle).

Farmers' Markets
Farmers’ markets abound in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area, with new markets springing up to stand beside the most venerable. Which market one chooses to patronize is a matter of location as well as taste. Do you prefer a busy, bustling atmosphere, complete with live music and non-edibles such as soap and handicrafts? Or do you want to pause just long enough to grab a bag of tomatoes and a bunch of basil for tonight’s salad? The markets we’ve chosen to profile here are just a few out of dozens of possibilities in Washington, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. Each is close to public transportation and is located in a tourist-friendly setting with attractions such as historical sites, art galleries,  shops, and restaurants.

The Dupont Circle market is one of Washington’s biggest and busiest, with more than 30 vendors and a bustling crowd of eager patrons, all in an eclectic urban neighborhood. Vendors are generous with their samples of tomatoes, berries, and sausages, and on a recent visit not one but two live bands were playing. Tree and Leaf Farm offers vegetables and seedlings, and One Straw Farm’s display boasted a tableful of fresh fava beans. If you’re in the mood for unusual cheeses, take your pick between Firefly Farms’ goat cheese and Everona Dairy’s sheep cheese. Or, heck, grab a piece of each, along with a loaf of crusty bread from Atwater’s Bakery.

The Dupont Circle farmers’ market runs from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sundays, April through October. (10a.m.- 1 p.m. during the winter months). 1500th block of 20th Street, Washington, D.C. Closest Metro stop: Dupont Circle.

The vibe at the Silver Spring farmers market is decidedly family-friendly, with live music, a gelato stand, and a brightly tiled fountain that sprays plumes of water high in the air when the temperature soars. Vendors offer fruits and vegetables, applesauce, honey and jam. For those looking for a quick, delicious dinner, Copper Pot purveys handmade ravioli (goat cheese and beet is our favorite) and sauces; at a nearby stand Gunpowder Bison sells bison meat in all forms, including steaks, burgers, and jerky.  The Welsh Garden’s lavender products include both those expected, like lavender soap, and unexpected, such as lavender sugared almonds.

The Silver Spring farmers’ market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, April through October (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the winter months). Ellsworth Drive between Fenton Street and Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland. Closest Metro stop: Silver Spring.

Its location in the historic center of Alexandria — an independent city a few miles outside of Washington — makes the Upper King Street market the perfect place to nosh on an afternoon. Old Town Alexandria’s antique shops, historic landmarks, and stunning arts center (called the Torpedo Factory) lend themselves to browsing, but in between stops one can pause to buy tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, yogurt, cheese, hot peppers, baked goods and other treats for a pick-me-up.

The Upper King Street farmers’ market runs from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. on Wednesdays, May through October. 1806 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Closest Metro stop: King Street.

As the summer continues, we’re looking forward to dipping into more local, sustainable delicacies in the Nation’s Capital and its suburbs. Come join us!


Elizabeth Roca is staff editor for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers, and her writing has appeared in Brain, Child; The Washington Post; Utne; and other publications. She lives with her family in Maryland, where she often is found jockeying for the last bag of spinach and tasting gelato at the local farmers’ market. She has high hopes for the herb garden she and her children planted this spring. Her last post for Simple, Good and Tasty was "Cook Food: A Manualfesto" That Makes You Want to Run to Your Kitchen.