Best brunch for a posh special occasion around DC

Waffles and caviar in Bresca, which hosts an elegant Sunday lunch. Photo courtesy of Bresca

Given the possibility of an explosive dinner or a quiet and chic weekend lunch/brunch, we would opt for the latter anytime. Here are some of our favorites around DC, whether you’re looking to splurge or just have a fun afternoon (lovely patios, anyway).

aperitif
2622 P Street, NW
If your celebration isn’t complete without champagne and caviar, sommelier Elli Benchimol’s glitzy corner of a champagne and caviar bar in Georgetown is the place to be. Grab a table inside or on one of the two intimate patios for specialties with French accents like potato waffles with onion crème fraîche and gravlax.

Bresca
1906 14th St., NW
Chef Ryan Ratino serves a luxurious European-style lunch in his Michelin-starred gourmet bistro on Sundays. The special lunch menu, available in the dining room or in the private greenhouses, includes three to four courses ($84 to $96). Forget the mimosas – the bar goes the extra mile with a roving champagne cart filled with Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon and Dom Pérignon.

pharmacy
1120 Maine Ave, SW
After a pandemic hiatus, Nicholas Stefanelli’s Italian Emporium at the Wharf recently reopened for brunch – best enjoyed on the semi-enclosed rooftop terrace with its stunning water views. A seasonal menu jumps between homemade pastries like Sicilian pistachio croissants, egg dishes, and homemade pasta. There’s also a monthly rooftop brunch (check the schedule here).

The Officina Terrace is now open for brunch (and special brunch drag performances). Photo courtesy of Officina

cranes
724 Ninth Street, NW
Unlike many Michelin-starred restaurants that are only open for dinner, chef Pepe Moncayo’s Spanish/kaiseki restaurant is open for lunch daily, including weekends. Diners can get a more moderately priced omakase tasting ($60, compared to $118 at dinner), or a mini-splurge on the best afternoon deal in town: a bento box ($38) with ever-changing treasures like venison yakitori, maitake mushroom tempura, and shrimp-stuffed lettuce tacos.

Fiola Mare and Del Mar
3050 K Street, Northwest; 791 Wharf Street, South West
Georgetown’s waterfront star Fiola Mare is a great choice for special-occasion brunches (it’s still not as pricey as dinner). Diners can swoop in for the $85 “sparkling brunch” which includes a basket of hot pastries, a choice of starter, main course and dessert, plus unlimited Prosecco and brunch cocktails. At the dock, Spanish sister Del Mar cooks up an afternoon of seafood tapas, Catalan egg dishes and $45 bottles of bubbles with fresh juices. Both have plenty of outdoor seating by the water.

Imperfect
1124 23rd Street, NW
Chef Enrique Limardo’s edgy Mediterranean hotspot welcomes a VIP dinner crowd, but we’re fans of the Aegean-hued dining room and its patio for brunch. It’s a more casual, a la carte affair, though diners can still splurge on plates like the ora king salmon carpaccio with caviar sauce, or the “Spanish sandwich” with prized mangalitsa ham, torchon foie gras and truffle butter.

Ilili
100 square neighborhood, southwest
The Wharf’s garden-like Lebanese dining room recently launched brunch. Grab a table by the indoor fountain or indoor/outdoor veranda for riffs on brunch classics like shakshuka with spicy tomato sauce, feta and a poached duck egg; french toast with whipped labneh, cherries and nuts; and a “not so bloody Mary” with vodka, tomato water, and za’atar oil.

Seasons
2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
DC’s most lavish Sunday brunch buffet is at the Four Seasons Georgetown. A stately dining room is filled with stations filled with raw bar fare, salads, cut meats, and made-to-order omelets. Save room for a trip to the “dessert room”. All-you-can-eat spread is $110, and diners can add bottomless mimosas for $30.

A nice brunch buffet at Seasons. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

The Diplomat and Saint Anselm
1601 14th St., NW
Le Diplomate, Stephen Starr’s always-busy French brasserie, hardly needs an introduction – everyone from President Biden to your out-of-town relatives fished for a table. Credit an evening atmosphere, accessible menus — though one can always splurge on lobster fries and champagne — and sniper consistency. Looking to party with kids? Food critic Ann Limpert favors sister tavern Union Market St. Anselm, a hit with the family for cookies and cakes in addition to ax-handled rib eye. Both restaurants also have private outdoor booths.

iron gate
1734 N Street NW
We often find ourselves recommending this Mediterranean charmer, a historic Dupont Circle property with a lovely wisteria-lined patio and wood-burning grill. Thanks to Chef Anthony Chittum and his team for bringing substance to match the style. The seasonal brunch menu isn’t fancy — think fried eggs in olive oil, oak-grilled oysters, or ricotta pancakes — but it’s refined, especially paired with a chilled Greek wine. .

Iron Gate outdoor terrace. Photograph by Scott Suchman

The Auberge Chez Francois
332 Springvale Road, Great Falls
Chef/owner Jacques Haeringer offers a French country getaway in Great Falls. The elegant restaurant and its surrounding gardens offer a lovely five-course weekend “lunch” ($54 to $60) as well as an a la carte menu. Go for classics like lobster bisque, beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse and finish with a soufflé.

moon rabbit
801 Wharf Street, Southwest
We love the creative twist on brunch at Kevin Tien’s modern French-Vietnamese restaurant at the Wharf, which offers water views from its terrace and glass-enclosed dining room. Opt for satisfying dishes that speak to Tien’s Vietnamese-American heritage, like LA-style ribs over garlic rice with eggs, a breakfast banh mi, and a pho-inspired Bloody Mary.

Nina Mai
1337 11th Street, NW
Shaw’s farmhouse-chic restaurant, courtesy of restaurateurs and Equinox alumni Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, is a locavore destination inside and out. We think their “chef’s choice” family menu ($35 per person at brunch) is one of the most generous offerings in town, with several dishes like a green salad with herbs and a Benedictine with ham with garlic. house smoked maple.

Nina May in Shaw. Photo courtesy of Nina May

Perry’s
1811 Columbia Road, NW
The longest-running drag brunch in the district is a full party on Sundays, perfect for a rowdy celebration. The American brunch buffet is pretty standard, but you’re not really there for the food – it’s all about the music, dancing, costumes, and fun cocktails named after the queens. Reservations are accepted one week in advance (read here for further details on the pandemic era).

Q by Peter Chang
4500 East-West Road, Bethesda
Some of the best dim sum in the area can be found at Peter Chang’s upscale Chinese restaurant in downtown Bethesda. There are no carts — patrons order from a menu filled with made-to-order treats like soup dumplings, braised lobster over jade noodles, and elaborate Peking duck.

Shilling Canning Company
360 Water Street SE
The greenery of chef Reid Shilling’s Navy Yard restaurant isn’t just decorative: some of the herbs and vegetables from the garden terrace feature on the menu. A generous three-course brunch ($35 per person) includes deviled eggs, buttermilk-fried Amish chicken, and homemade cider donuts. Add a carafe of mimosas for an additional $35.

food editor

Anna Spiegel covers the restaurant and bar scene in her native DC. Before joining Washingtonian in 2010, she completed the MFA program at the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in New York and St. John, in the US Virgin Islands.

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