DC Shorts: Where to Eat, Drink and Chill in the Penn Quarter

DC Shorts starts on Thursday! Now in its tenth year, the DC Shorts Film Festival and Screenplay Competition returns with 153 short films from 23 nations — including the country’s largest collection of short films by emerging Russian filmmakers.

Thousands of cinema aficionados will be on the streets of the Penn Quarter, going between the E Street Cinema and the Navy Memorial, the two main venues for the festival.

I’ve told you how to get the most out of Washington’s best film festival. Now here’s my advice on where to eat, drink and chill in the Penn Quarter. These are my favorites. Plus, what not do while you’re in DC.

chicken curry at Teaism
Chicken curry at Teaism.


  • Teaism. 8th and D St NW. Located next to the Navy Memorial, this is a great place to get Asian-inspired cuisine. While their bento boxes are works of art, I’m a fan of the Thai Chicken Curry – it’s tasty, nourishing and magically restorative.
  • California Tortilla. 728 7th St NW. Our local burrito chain. It’s called “California Tortilla” because “Bethesda Tortilla” didn’t sound right. The food is quick, fast and good, which is all you want out of a burrito joint. I always get the same thing – the Honey Lime Burrito.
  • Taylor Gourmet. 624 E St NW. Another local chain, Taylor features high-brow hoagies made on bread from Philly. You want to get the 9th Street Italian or Lombard Avenue, possibly with a side of Risotto Balls.
Our local brew - DC Brau.
Our local brew – DC Brau.


  • Iron Horse. 507 7th St NW. They have a great selection of beer and happy hour specials even on the weekends. Hang upstairs if you want to people-watch at 7th and E. Go downstairs if you want to play skeeball and high-five frat boys.
  • District Chophouse. 509 7th St NW. Located right next to Iron Horse, the Chophouse is a high-end steak joint. It’s a classy place to drink a Manhattan and listen to Sinatra, no matter your age.
  • The Passenger. 1021 7th St NW. Home to the local hipster set, The Passenger is a true original featuring exotic cocktails and the best bartenders in the city. Go early.
The very mellow courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery.


  • National Portrait Gallery. 8th and F NW. Have time to kill between shows? The Portrait Gallery is open from 11-7 and features interesting photography, modern American art and one of the most beautiful courtyards in DC. Plus, there’s a little cafe with salads and sandwiches.
  • Renaissance Hotel Downtown. 999 9th St. I love a good hotel lobby and the Renaissance Downtown has a great one, featuring comfy couches, a bar, a Starbucks and even a little library to hide out in.
  • Chinatown Coffee Company. 475 H St NW. Regularly voted one of the best coffee places in the city, this indie shop makes great cappuccino. Plus, they serve beer, wine and absinthe!
january biking in DC
Tourists on distinctive red Capital Bikeshare bikes.

Bonus: What to Avoid

  • Harry’s. 11th and E NW. There’s a fine line between a dive and a dump, and this place is way on the wrong side of the line.
  • National Archives. 7th and Pennsylvania Av NW. I wish I could say, “Go see the Constitution!” But to do so means enduring metal detectors, hordes of tourists and certain claustrophobia.
  • DC Taxis. Dirty, unsafe and they don’t take credit cards. Avoid. It’s not a big city so walk, get a bike from Capital Bikeshare  or arrive in style in a private car from Uber.

DC Shorts is more than just a film festival. It’s a chance to explore the city. This weekend, do more than just see films – try some place new.