The 13 Best Places to Eat and Drink in Washington, D.C.

Kirkikis, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Kirkikis, iStock / Getty Images Plus

We've covered a lot of the best foods, destinations, and bookstores in all 50 states here at Mental Floss, but unfortunately, our historic and vibrant capital city doesn't get represented in those lists. In fact, Washington, D.C. has trouble getting represented at all. Today, we're correcting that wrong. Here are 13 places you won't want to miss if you need a meal in the District.

1. Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Washington, D.C. // Baked & Wired

Georgetown's Baked & Wired might be known for their cupcakes, but they have more than a dozen cookie and other sweet treat options, including a soft chocolate chunk cookie with optional walnuts. The only problem? The shop's self-serve cookie bar with its clear-glass cookie jars can be tough for those who like to think with their sweet tooth.

Read our Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in All 50 States

2. Best Pie in Washington, D.C. // Pie Sisters

"Any time is pie time, morning noon or night." The three real-life sisters behind Pie Sisters live by that motto and treat their customers to a wide enough variety of pies that you truly could eat them at any time of the day. Their specialty Jumble Berry includes a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, but if you need a dinner option, the Country Tomato or Pulled Pork Barbecue savory pies would be a good lead-in to a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan dessert. Gluten and lactose-free options are also available by request.

Read our Best Pie in All 50 States

3. Best Diner in Washington, D.C. // Osman & Joe's Steak-N-Egg Kitchen

Need 24/7 access to the best steak and eggs dish around? Osman & Joe's has been open around the clock since 1993, and everyone from the locals to visiting dignitaries know to pop in for a breakfast platter or a kosher hot dog with an old-fashioned milkshake.

Read our Best Diner in All 50 States

4. Best Coffee Shop in Washington, D.C. // The Wydown Coffee Bar

Two coffee-obsessed brothers run the two Wydown locations—the 14th Street location focuses on the perfect pour-over to pair with their popular blackberry lavender scones, while the H Street location resembles a Viennese cafe, with its assortment of coffees, treats, and wine spritzes.

Read our Best Coffee Shop in All 50 States

5. Best Ramen in Washington, D.C. // Sakuramen

The brothers who own Sakuramen say they are committed to creating the best possible ramen "sourced from pure bone broth coupled with the freshest ingredients available." And while the menu is full of Japanese and Korean staples, there's also a more local tribute: the DC Miso mixes Berkshire pork belly chashu with bamboo shoots, naruto (fish cake), nori … and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Read our Best Ramen in All 50 States

6. Best Pizza in Washington, D.C. // Timber Pizza Company

Famous for serving wood-fired pies since 2014 at local farmers markets, Timber Pizza Company opened their first location in Petworth, D.C. during the summer of 2016. While they have various options for red, white, and green pizzas (try the Green Monster, which is covered in pesto, feta, zucchini, and kale), they also know how to cater to any number of unusual add-ons, like nectarines, sugar snap peas, or cilantro.

Read our Best Pizza in All 50 States

7. Best Grilled Cheese in Washington, D.C. // The Pursuit Wine Bar

The only thing that could make a well-curated wine bar better would be a selection of sweet and savory grilled cheese sandwiches—for pairing purposes of course. Pursuit offers five wildly different grilled cheese options, like the "Some Like It Hot II" (jalapeño cheddar, pepper jack, tomato, mixed greens) or the "Little Salty Sweet" (brie, honey, prosciutto, and dried dates on challah).

Read our Best Grilled Cheese in All 50 States

8. Best Burger in Washington, D.C. // Lucky Buns

Lucky Buns in Adams Morgan has been serving seasoned-to-order burgers covered in house-made pickles and sauces since 2016. Try the Alfie's Bun for a sweet combination of runny egg soaking into gouda and a pineapple slice, or the Hot Tiger Bun for a fiery mix of spicy fried chicken and Sichuan peppercorn paste.

Read our Best Burger in All 50 States

9. Best Chili in Washington, D.C. // Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl has been a U Street staple for more than 60 years. It's the kind of place with celebrity and presidential photos lining the walls (president-elect Barack Obama ate there just days before his first inauguration), and all-original booths, stools, and diner counter. But most important are the bowls of their thick, delicious chili con carne. Ben's is also famous for their half-smoke—a smoky hot dog with mustard and onions and covered in their spicy chili, which they've been serving since 1958.

Read our Best Chili in All 50 States

10. Best Food Truck in Washington, D.C. // Feelin' Crabby

In D.C., politicians and plebeians alike love seafood—especially when it's topped with a generous pinch of Old Bay. That's where Feelin' Crabby comes in: The punny food truck serves lobster and crab-based sandwiches, salads, and sliders, including the giant "Crabwich" sandwich, which contains 5 ounces of jumbo lump crab meat and 2 ounces of lobster claw and knuckle meat.

Read our Best Food Truck in All 50 States

11. Best Sandwich Shop in Washington, D.C. // SUNdeVICH

According to owner Ali Bagheri, the name SUNdeVICH alludes to the accented pronunciation of "sandwich" that he hears in the middle east, but the flavors on his menu are fully global. A quick trip to this converted garage along an alleyway can yield sammie-inspo from Athens (lamb, greens, tzatziki), Havana (roasted pork, gruyere, dijonnaise), Seoul (bulgogi beef, kimchi, garlic mayo), and Tehran (mortadella, feta, fresh herbs)—no passport needed.

Read our Best Sandwiches in All 50 States

12. Best Bookstore in Washington, D.C. // Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café

Who needs dinner-and-a-movie when you could do dinner and a bookstore? A combination bookstore and restaurant, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in Dupont Circle gives patrons the oft-overlooked satisfaction of browsing the stacks and immediately sitting down with their new find over something as fancy as filet mignon or as comforting as fried chicken on cheddar waffles.

Read our Best Bookstores in All 50 States

13. Best Picnic Spot in Washington, D.C. // The Yards Park

Whether you want to take a nice stroll or have lunch with a view, this scenic park along the Anacostia River provides plenty of space and is free and open to the public. The Dancing Fountains at the entrance of the park are fun for kids (or adults!) to cool off in, and their annual Summer Fridays concert series invites people to indulge in some food while listening to live music.

Read our Best Picnic Destinations in All 50 States

6 Strange Maritime Mysteries

Neville Mountford-Hoare/iStock via Getty Images
Neville Mountford-Hoare/iStock via Getty Images

The oceans cover over 70 percent of our planet, so it's little wonder that their seemingly impenetrable depths have provided a series of fascinating mysteries, from missing ships to eerie monsters. Below are six mysteries of the deep—some of which scientists think they've at least partly explained, while others remain truly puzzling.

  1. The Mary Celeste

On December 5, 1872, the crew of the British ship the Dei Gratia spotted a vessel bobbing about 400 miles off the coast of the Azores. They approached the Mary Celeste to offer help, but after boarding the ship were shocked to find it completely unmanned. The crew had disappeared without a trace, their belongings still stowed in their quarters, six months' worth of food and drink untouched, and the valuable cargo of industrial alcohol still mostly in place. The only clues were three and a half feet of water in the hold, a missing lifeboat, and a dismantled pump. It was the beginning of an enduring mystery concerning what happened to the crew, and why they abandoned a seemingly sea-worthy vessel.

Numerous theories have been suggested, including by crime writer Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned a short story in 1884 suggesting the crew had fallen victim to an ex-slave intent on revenge. A more recent theory has pointed the finger at rough seas and the broken pump, arguing they forced the captain to issue an order to abandon ship. Since the missing crew have never been traced, it seems unlikely that there will ever be a satisfying answer to the enigma.

  1. The Yonaguni Monument

An underwater area known as the Twin Megaliths at the Yonaguni Monument
An area known as the Twin Megaliths at the Yonaguni Monument
Vincent Lou, Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0

In 1986, a diver looking for a good spot to watch hammerhead sharks off the coast of the Ryukyu Islands in Japan came across an extraordinary underwater landscape. The area reportedly looked like an ancient submerged village, with steps, holes, and triangles seemingly carved into the rocks. Ever since it was first discovered, controversy has surrounded the site that's become known as the Yonaguni Monument, with some researchers—such as marine geologist Masaaki Kimura—arguing it is a clearly manmade environment, perhaps a city thousands of years old and sunk in one of the earthquakes that plagues the region. Others believe it's a natural geological phenomenon reflecting the stratigraphy (layers) of sandstone in an area with tectonic activity. The area is open to scuba divers, so the really curious can strap on air tanks and decide for themselves.

  1. The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle has probably spawned more wild theories, column inches, and online discussion than any other ocean mystery—more than 50 ships and 20 aircraft are said to have vanished there. Although the triangle has never officially been defined, by some accounts it covers at least 500,000 square miles and lies between Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

The mystery first caught the public imagination in December 1945 when Flight 19, consisting of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo bombers and their 14 crewmembers, were lost without a trace during a routine training operation in the area. Interest was further piqued when it was later reported that one of the search-and-rescue planes dispatched to find the missing team had also disappeared. Articles and books such as Charles Berlitz’s The Bermuda Triangle, first published in 1974 and having since sold over 20 million copies in 30 languages, have served to keep the mystery alive, providing potential theories both natural and supernatural. Scientists—and world-renowned insurers Lloyd’s of London—have attempted to debunk the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, offering evidence that the rate of disappearance in the vast and busy triangle is no higher than other comparable shipping lanes, but such is the power of a good story that this is one story that seems likely to continue to fascinate.

  1. The Kraken

A model of a giant squid on display at the Natural History Museum in London in 1907
A model of a giant squid on display at the Natural History Museum in London in 1907
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

For hundreds of years, sailors told tales of an enormous sea creature with huge tentacles known as the Kraken. Stories around the mythical kraken first started appearing in Scandinavia in the 12th century, and in 1555 Swedish cartographer Olaus Magnus provided an account of a sea creature with “sharp and long Horns round about, like a Tree root up by the Roots: They are ten or twelve cubits long, very black, and with huge eyes.” The stories persisted, often mentioning a creature so large it resembled an island. In his 1755 book The Natural History of Norway, Danish historian Erik Ludvigsen Pontoppidan described the kraken as “incontestably the largest Sea monster in the world."

Scientists have proposed that these stories might derive from sightings of giant squid (Architeuthis dux), although evidence for an even larger, yet extremely elusive, colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) has also come to light. The colossal squid is found in the deepest part of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, and is thought to be up to 46 feet long and 1100 pounds. The problem is that the animal is so rare very few specimens have been found intact, and no live specimen has ever been observed, which means that estimating its exact size is difficult. Researchers have also noticed that sperm whales have been observed with large scars, and have suggested that these could be the result of violent encounters with the colossal squid, which is known to have sharp rotating hooks on the ends of their tentacles.

  1. The Treasure of the Merchant Royal

The remains of the Merchant Royal are known as one of the richest shipwrecks ever. The ship set sail from the New World in 1641 laden with 100,000 pounds of gold, 400 Mexican silver bars, and thousands of precious gems—in total, a haul thought to be worth $1.3 billion today. The ship got caught in a storm and was thought to have gone down somewhere off the coast of Cornwall, England. The lost wreck became known as the “el Dorado of the seas” due to the enormous value of its cargo, and over the years numerous treasure hunters have searched fruitlessly for its final resting place, which remains undiscovered. In 2019 fishermen snagged what is thought to be the anchor from the Merchant Royal, but to date the dangerous conditions and extreme depths at which the wreck is thought to lie have meant it has remained unclaimed.

  1. Attack of the Sea Foam

In December 2011, residents of Cleveleys, England, awoke to what appeared to be a soft blanket of snow. But as locals ventured out into the streets it soon became clear that this was no snowstorm, but instead something far more puzzling. Trees, cars, roads, and houses were all wrapped in a thick, white layer of foam. The Environment Agency were quickly deployed to take samples of the sea foam, since residents were understandably concerned as to the origin of the strange, gloopy substance, fearing it might be caused by pollutants.

The dramatic images of the foam-soaked town soon had journalists flocking to the region to investigate the phenomena, but as quickly as it appeared the foam disappeared, leaving behind only a salty residue. Scientists analyzing the foam confirmed it was not caused by detergents, and instead suspected that it was caused by a rare combination of decomposing algae out at sea and strong winds, which whipped up the viscous foam and blew it into land. The phenomena has apparently occurred at other times before and since, and researchers are now working to try and understand the exceptional conditions that cause it to form so that residents can be warned when another thick blanket is set to descend.

Bonus: The Bloop—Mystery Solved

Over the years, the oceans have produced a number of eerie and often unexplained sounds. In 1997, researchers from NOAA listening for underwater volcanic activity using hydrophones (underwater microphones) noticed an extremely loud, powerful series of noises in the Pacific Ocean. The unusual din excited researchers, who soon named it “The Bloop” in reference to its unique sound.

Theories abounded as to the origin of the bloop—secret military facility, reverberations from a ship’s engine, or an enormous sea creature. The most fanciful suggestion stem from H. P. Lovecraft fans who noticed that the noise came from an area off South America where the sci-fi writer’s fictional sunken city of R’lyeh was supposed to be. They proposed that the bloop might have originated from Lovecraft’s “dead but dreaming” sea creature, Cthulhu. In 2005, however, scientists found that the mysterious sound was in fact the noise made by an icequake—or an iceberg shearing off from a glacier.

10 Clever Stranger Things Season 3 Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed

Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove in Stranger Things.
Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove in Stranger Things.
Netflix

Warning: This story includes spoilers for all aired episodes of Stranger Things.

After waiting nearly two years for the latest season of Stranger Things, most fans couldn’t help but binge all eight episodes in a row. But now that we know how it all went down, with Billy Hargrove being taken over by the Mind Flayer and Jim Hopper’s tragic (maybe) death, it's time for us to reprocess the season ... and rewatch it all over again.

While giving the season a second watch, keep an eye out for all the clever Easter eggs sprinkled into each episode, including several references to classic 1980s movies, earlier Stranger Things episodes, and unexpected connections we had never imagined were possible.

1. Peter Gabriel could be hinting at a major plot twist.

Arguably the most heartbreaking scene in Stranger Things history came in the final episode of season 3, “The Battle of Starcourt,” when Eleven reads the scrapped letter Hopper wrote for her and Mike. Viewers at home cried along with Millie Bobby Brown's character as she prepared for life without her “dad,” but one element in the scene might be a hint that Hopper isn’t really dead.

The song that starts playing just as Eleven finishes up reading the letter is Peter Gabriel’s cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” which is the same rendition of the song that played in the season 1 episode “Holly, Jolly,” when it was believed that Will had been killed. Of course, he turned out to be very much alive, meaning the same could (hopefully) happen for Hopper.

2. Jim Hopper is channeling Martin Brody.

Stranger Things has never shied away from paying homage to classic movies. And Redditor LucasLeArtist noticed that one of Hopper's season 3 lines was a direct quote from Jaws. When Hopper is about to leave Enzo’s after Joyce stands him up, he’s told he can’t take the alcohol with him, to which he drunkenly responds, “I can do anything I want, I’m chief of police.” This mimics a scene in Jaws where Chief Brody said the same line before taking a swig of his drink.

3. Murray Bauman’s phone number is real.

Brett Gelman, Natalia Dyer, and Charlie Heaton in Stranger Things
Netflix

One of the more eccentric characters in Stranger Things, Murray Bauman, turned out to be extremely helpful this season, as he served as translator for Hopper and the Russian scientist Alexei. In one scene, Murray’s phone number is shown—and it turns out that it's a working phone number ... which does indeed belong to Murray. As CNET reported, when you dial 618-625-8313, you get a lengthy, and hilarious, answering machine message from the character.

4. Billy Hargrove’s nod to Stand By Me.

While Billy Hargrove surprisingly turned into a character you felt sorry for by the end of season 3, his scenes in the first episode proved he was still just as much of a bully as he was in season 2. One example of this is when he’s lifeguarding and yells at a kid for running by the pool. Billy calls him a “lard-ass,” which doesn’t just remind you of how mean of a person he is, but is also a borrowed line from Rob Reiner's classic 1986 film Stand By Me. As IndieWire pointed out, that particular insult was famously used in the movie during the scene in which Gordie tells his friends a memorable story about a pie-eating contest.

5. Dustin Henderson is crushing on Phoebe Cates.

When Dustin returns to Hawkins from camp, he shocks everyone with the reveal that he now has a girlfriend. Of course, the first reaction from his friends (Steve included) is that she isn’t real. Dustin keeps the story going, however, telling everyone that her name is Suzy and that she's better looking than Phoebe Cates—as in the actress best known for her role in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In the season’s final episode, we learn that Suzy is indeed real. And when Robin is trying to get Steve a job at the video store, he falls into a cardboard cutout of Cates as Linda Barrett (her Fast Times character) before stopping to admire it.

6. Dustin and Robin recreated a scene from 1992's Sneakers.

A Twitter user pointed out an unexpected callback to the 1992 River Phoenix film Sneakers, as Dustin and Robin recreate one of its scenes when getting the “complete blueprints” of the Starcourt Mall. It's almost word-for-word, with the only difference being that in Sneakers, they’re looking at the Playtronics Corporate Headquarters.

7. Eleven visits the house from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

During Eleven’s scariest venture into the Void this season, she tries to find the missing lifeguard Heather. As she approaches Heather's home, the red door is reminiscent of the house that belonged to Nancy Thompson’s family in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. A Twitter user claimed the number on both doors was the same, but Stranger Things changed it by one number, as Heather lives at 1438. We’re not sure if they had to change it because of legal matters or if was just a coincidence—but in a show full of horror movie references, the similarity would seem a little too coincidental.

8. Steve Harrington can't keep his Michael J. Fox projects straight.

When Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin manage to escape the Russians in the seventh episode, “The Bite,” they end up in the movie theater at the mall, which is showing Back to the Future (1985). Steve and Robin soon leave, and while very high—and trying to analyze what they just watched—Robin hilariously says she’s pretty sure “that mom was trying to bang her son,” referring to Marty McFly and his mom, Lorraine. A confused Steve replies, “Wait, wait, the hot chick was Alex P. Keaton’s mom?” Alex P. Keaton, of course, was the name of Michael J. Fox’s character in the hit NBC series Family Ties, not Back to the Future.

9. "Weird" Al Yankovic's Reality Bites link.

In episode 2, “The Mall Rats,” Winona Ryder's Joyce ends up ditching Hopper to go find the kids’ science teacher Mr. Clarke, only to find him jamming out to "Weird" Al Yankovic’s parody song “My Bologna.” A Twitter user pointed out that this could be a nod to 1994’s Reality Bites, which features a memorable scene of Ryder dancing to the original song, “My Sharona.” Ethan Hawke is also in the scene, who is the real-life dad of Maya Hawke, who plays Robin in Stranger Things.

10. The post-credits scene that hints at Hopper's survival.

Perhaps the most important detail in the entire season comes during the post-credits scene, which includes another major hint that Hopper is still alive. Viewers are taken to the Russian base, where prisoners are being fed to the Demogorgon. One soldier then says, “No, not the American,” before moving on to the next person held captive. Fans are convinced the American would have to be Hopper, although there are plenty of theories floating around about other Americans that character could be. Now we’ll just have to wait until season 4, which has not been announced yet, to know who it is for sure.

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