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Washington DC - United States

Perhaps the best way to gauge Washington's ethnic diversity is to examine the menus of its fine international restaurants. The culinary palette here is as varied as its patrons. The abundance of Vietnamese, Afghan, Salvadoran and other ethnic restaurants in the city is evidence enough.

From Embassy Row to Capitol Hill, Washington is a city of people with tastes as varied as the opinions of Congress. At Washington's restaurants, diners will find everything from regional American specialties to varied ethnic food.

American cuisine ranges from California Asian-fusion to speciality dishes such as New England Clam Chowder and New Orleans-style blackened catfish. If you are looking for barbecue, you might sample variations of North Carolina, Memphis or Kansas City specialties, or perhaps try the original New Mexico-inspired American fusion-cuisine.

The contribution of Washington's suburbs is quintessential to the dining scene. Maryland crab cakes are legendary, but if you don't mind working a bit, roll up your sleeves and order steamed crabs. Crack the shells open with a mallet and pull out the succulent meat yourself. In Virginia, you can sample colonial fare including peanut soup, oyster stew and famous Virginia ham.

Much as the United States is a "melting pot" of nationalities, Washington is a melting pot of international cuisine and what delights this pot holds. From upscale to casual, continental, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, restaurants are abundant. Additionally, some of the nation's best Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Ethiopian restaurants are found here. If you want to stretch your taste buds a bit further, try Burmese, Jamaican or Egyptian. Whether you're looking for a great meal to make you feel at home, or far away from home, Washington is the place to find it.

Adams-Morgan An area that has gone through a number of changes over the years, Adams-Morgan is now one of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in the city and this is reflected in its eateries. If you want to try Ethiopian, Meskerem is a good bet. For Mexican, go for Mixtec. Grill from Ipanema is as good as its clever name suggests for fun cocktails and Brazilian food. Numerous bars and coffeehouses are open till late for after-dinner conversation and people-watching.

Chinatown/Seventh Street Adjacent to the Verizon centre, Chinatown is a great area to have a bite or two before or after a sporting event or concert; it is hard to miss Tony Cheng's. Seventh Street, once a fashionable shopping district, is emerging as a centre for arts and culture. For tapas and sangria, head to Jaleo or, if you're in the mood for Irish stew and a Guinness, visit Fado.

Downtown/Foggy Bottom There are lots of exciting restaurants in the downtown area that cater to office workers. Whether you're going for a power lunch, a business dinner or just want to have a great meal, Old Ebbitt Grill and Brasserie Les Halles are Washington favourites. Craving seafood? Kinkead's boasts some of the best oceanfare in town.

Dupont Circle With its many restaurants, shops and bars, Dupont Circle is a fun area to be on weekend evenings. Most of the bars above Massachusetts Avenue and P Street attract mainly a gay crowd. If you're in the mood for upscale Southern food, try Vidalia. At The Palm you might catch a glimpse of a TV political pundit as you enjoy your steak and martinis. For a more calming environment, Teaism is an Asian teahouse with small meals and, of course, a wide selection of exotic teas. Sesto Senso is an Italian restaurant that transforms into a disco in the later hours. If you'd rather browse books and have coffee after dinner, try Kramerbooks.

Georgetown/Washington harbour Cosmopolitan and hip, Georgetown is full of student-oriented clubs. The older crowd can enjoy jazz at Blues Alley. Start down at the harbour area at Sequoia Restaurant for a drink as the sun sets over the Potomac. Stay for dinner, or head up to Georgetown for a fabulous Indian meal at Aditi or for some of the best Ethiopian fare around at Zed's. Citronelle features Californian-French cuisine and for historical ambiance, 1789 has a great atmosphere and food.

Old Town Alexandria The town of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, Alexandria is steeped in history. Experience its past as you sample some of Washington's favourite dishes at Gadsby's Tavern Museum, where the General often dined. For decadent Southern food and outrageous desserts, Southside 815 is a must.

Bethesda, Maryland Just over the District of Columbia line in Maryland, Bethesda is the mecca for food lovers. Bacchus is popular for its Lebanese mezze and kebabs, and Bethesda Crab House is the place to go for some of those famous Maryland crabs.
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