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A photo of a table overflowing with tortilla chips and a bowl of guacamole.
Photograph: Rosa Mexicano

The 15 best restaurants in National Harbor

Delicious Southern cuisine and ethnic foods will delight your taste buds at the best restaurants in National Harbor

Written by
Lori A May
Contributor
Nancy Dunham
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Beyond flavor, there’s a reason that the best restaurants in National Harbor are popular: this gentrified waterfront destination in Maryland sits just a few minutes from both Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. You can think of this destination as the social hub between each of these connected states, one with a knack for pleasing hungry crowds thanks to an incredible assortment of upscale eateries and budget-friendly bites (not to mention quality craft beer).

The atmosphere here is casual fun—despite drawing on the convention crowd—as this waterfront locale is packed with tourist attractions lining the Potomac River. While local eateries here tend to focus on Southern classics, there’s a nice fusion of gastronomic trends and international influences to boot. Ready to dig in? Our list of the best restaurants in National Harbor will get you started.

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Best restaurants in National Harbor

What is it: An authentic taste of the South with a super chill atmosphere. We’re talking budget-friendly (but finger lickin’ good) eats in a wooden-tables-and-chairs kind of place. Wear your comfiest clothes and bring an appetite.

Why go: For the juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, crisp country catfish, and fried pickles. Hankering for dessert? The fried Oreos are calling your name. That’s right: Deep. Fried. Oreos.

Price: Average

What is it: Boasting a spirited vibe melding ethnic music, art, and food, this Afro-Portuguese restaurant offers a casual ambience that’s peppered with bright and funky light fixtures.

Why go: Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is one of the eatery’s many famous fans (the zesty chili sauce that tops the restaurant’s signature, succulent chicken might be the reason why).

Price: Bargain

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What is it: An old style Italian steakhouse with leather booths and great views of the Potomac River. It’s actually the sister eatery to the eponymous one found in New York’s Times Square.

Why go: The servings are large and rich (think sizzling steaks, shrimp scampi, and classic lasagna). The theme runs through the dessert menu, which is also fairly robust. With highly polished dark woods and dim lighting, this spot is as beautiful as it is tasty.

Price: Pricey

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What is it: This is a hip restaurant with a killer water view and an intimate-yet-casual vibe. Oh, and the menu smacks with jumbo shrimp, wood-fired ribs, and buttermilk fried chicken.

Why go: Don’t go just for the waterfront location or the crackling fire pit or the cozy dining room. Go for all of the above and the perfectly prepared specialties, like the General Tso turkey burger glazed with sweet and spicy sauce, falling-off-the-bone chicken, wood-fired flatbread, and an array of shared plates.

Price: Pricey

What is it: Searching for a fun double date spot? Look no further than Brass Tap, a funky venue that serves beer flights and really good bar food.

Why go: We’ll say it again: beer flights! There’s so much to try with more than 60 craft brews on tap. While you’re at it, nosh on delicious items like fried cheese curds, sirloin nachos, flatbreads and pretzel pizzas, and a serious brisket grilled cheese.

Price: Average

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What is it: A casual riverfront favorite for sushi, tempura, and savory mains.

Why go: After being greeted by two enormous Terracotta Army-style soldiers, visitors to Grace’s Mandarin can also marvel at the massive gold Buddha inside. But novelties aside, this place is upscale (with the kind of prices you’d expect at an upscale restaurant beside the Potomac). Tuck into classic Chinese dishes, stellar seafood plates, and some seriously innovative desserts.

Price: Blowout

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What is it: With a name like Cadillac Ranch, you can probably imagine the kind of menu on offer here: barbecue, wings, steak, and burgers.

Why go: This is the definition of the all-American grill. Think red leatherette booths, wood panelling, stars and stripes on the wall (alongside deer antlers), and a life-sized Cadillac, naturally. If you’re over 18 years old, there’s also a bucking bronco (if you feel brave enough to take it on).

Price: Average

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What is it: A traditional Irish bar and restaurant that boasts the kind of atmosphere that’ll transport you overseas in no time.

Why go: Happy hour and huge dinner portions. Try the fish and chips, brioche burgers, and soft pretzels with beer cheese. To wash it all down, indulge in some really good Irish whiskey. Follow up your meal with a game of darts while listening to some live music.

Price: Average

What is it: A colorful spot in the harbor serving up delicious Mexican dishes that are just as vibrant as its decor.

Why go: You’ll find Rosa Mexicano’s all over the country, but this National Harbor spot is particularly lovely. Multicolored mosaics line the exterior, while inside has big splashes of bright pink. Add to that a view over the harbor—plus the scrumptious Mexican dishes—and you’ve got a prime dinner spot. Sample the best with ceviche, street tacos, shareable sides, and agave cocktails.

Price: Pricey

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What is it: This eatery serves a mix of traditional and modern Thai fare right alongside top-notch sushi. The high-ceilinged surroundings add a layer of elegance to the otherwise laidback experience.

Why go: The extraordinary chef’s specialties, like the shrimp asparagus and Thai Pavilion steak. Also consider ordering the noodle dishes, cashew chicken, pepper beef, and crab meat fried rice.

Price: Pricey

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