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20+ Hot Restaurants to Try Now in Washington, DC
Wine and dine your way around these hot places to eat and drink in the District.
In case you missed it, the nation's capital has officially become a top tier foodie destination with a stream of accolades. The District has a Michelin Guide, was named Bon Appétit's restaurant city of the year and Zagat's hottest food city in 2016 and multiple restaurants, Ellē, Maydan and The LINE Hotel's three dining concepts – A Rake's Progress, Brothers and Sisters, and Spoken English – landed on Bon Appétit's list of America's 50 best new restaurants for 2018.
When you visit this year, you will see a Washington, DC that boasts a dining scene full of new concepts and reinvigorated favorites that generate buzz and bookings (read: reserve your table now!). Here are some of the best (and hottest) DC restaurants that you have to check out.
Founded by a cast of DC culinary all-stars in a one-time bakery, Ellē quickly made a name for itself in DC’s busy dining scene and was even named one of Bon Appétit's 50 best new restaurants in America for 2018. The hybrid cafe-bakery-restaurant in Mount Pleasant has filled the void of an all-day neighborhood eatery, doling out a diverse selection of baked goods – from savory focaccias to sweet turnovers – by day and moderately priced medium plates by night. Diners rave about the clam spaetzle, a modern take on an Old Europe staple of egg noodles with littleneck clams and breadcrumbs loaded with flavor, as well as the grilled kimchi toast with spicy XO sauce and homemade labneh.
While Eaton Washington DC is technically a 200-plus room hotel, it defies the standard definition with a cinema, a progressive-minded coworking space and four unique food and drink establishments. Acclaimed DC chef Tim Ma has crafted an all-day menu out of his experience as the son of Chinese immigrants growing up in Arkansas at American Son, Eaton’s flagship restaurant. The thoughtful seasonal menu includes highlights like the confit chicken banh mi and a very shareable spaghetti squash ssam. If it’s rooftop vibes you’re looking for, head to Wild Days for Asian-inspired tacos (short rib tacos with kimchi and puffed rice, anyone?) best paired with live music. There’s also the highly-Instagrammable Kintsugi – a coffee shop-juice bar hybrid – and Allegory, a sleek, dimly-lit cocktail bar with an extensive drink list.
Head to The LINE Hotel, housed inside a 110-year old church in Adams Morgan, to experience the culinary prowess of acclaimed James Beard Award-winning Chef Spike Gjerde at A Rake’s Progress, his first DC venture. The airy, mezzanine-level restaurant is devoted to sourcing Mid-Atlantic ingredients, which are cooked to perfection in the large wood-fired hearth. Diners rave about the “trout on a log” (smoked trout with potato dumplings), but it’s hard to go wrong with any dish crafted by Gjerde.
Officina – “workshop” in Italian – is Michelin-starred chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s three-story homage to all things Italian cuisine at The Wharf. The first floor is home to a gourmet market and an elevated no-reservations cafe starring housemade pastries and espresso by day and Italian classics paired with cocktails by night. Venture upstairs and you’ll find the casual Trattoria (think handmade pasta and prime meats from the downstairs market), a “library” devoted entirely to amaro and Terrazza, a year-round rooftop bar featuring riverfront views and cozy fire pits.
Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, the brain trust behind Timber Pizza Co., are delighting Petworth once again with even more creative ways to consume carbs. Call Your Mother, which bills itself as “a Jew-ish deli,” serves up the classics you know and love with a twist. Candied salmon cream cheese, za’atar bagels, whitefish croquettes and a matzah ball sopa embody Dana and Moreira’s unique take on Jewish cuisine. After ordering at the counter, pass the time until your number’s up with open views of the kitchen and countless pics of Canadian rapper Drake on the wall. Just make sure to get there early or during off-peak hours – the line has been known to wrap around the block on weekends.
If you’ve never had plant-based tacos – or think you already have an idea of how they would taste – then check your misconceptions at the door of Chaia. This Georgetown favorite just opened a second location in Chinatown, exuding the same light-and-airy positive vibes found in the original spot near the C&O Canal. Chaia’s sustainable, “farm-to-taco” focus pays homage to local producers with delightful combinations like roasted butternut squash with goat cheese, chipotle yogurt and mint pressed between a corn tortilla. The tacos pair nicely with an array of fresh sides, including the fan-favorite green rice with feta, herb pesto and pepitas.
Located near the bustling Union Market, O-Ku (“Oak” in Japanese) wants you to get excited about sushi. While you’ll be able to enjoy traditional sushi styles such as nigiri, Chef Bryan Emperor also showcases inventive dishes such as Tasmanian king salmon with golden tomato confit. The restaurant’s robata grill can churn out wagyu skirt steak and chicken yakatori. Combine sake, whiskey, cocktails or a beer with your meal. O-Ku also offers a rooftop dining area where you can take in views of Union Market.
In December 2018, DC restaurateur Ashok Bajaj gave longtime Penn Quarter restaurant Nopa Kitchen + Bar a makeover. The result is the Mediterranean-themed Olivia helmed by Matt Kuhn, the former Nopa chef who used a summer trip to Spain as inspiration for the new menu. Discover the flavors of the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco, Italy and Greece with bright, flavorful spreads (roasted carrot hummus, anyone?), a range of small plates under $20 and large-format, shareable mains, including braised short rib cooked in a tagine and roasted branzino with a bouillabaisse jus.
At Maydan, the latest culinary adventure from Rose Previte of Compass Rose, everything from the fiery flavors to the eclectic decor tells the story of the restaurant team’s travels across the Middle East and North Africa. Set in the back alley of a 19th century brick building just off 14th Street and marked only by a heavy wooden door, diners are greeted by the sizzling of turmeric-spiced whole chicken, lamb shoulder dressed in Syrian seven spice and chermoula sauce-marinated sardines roasting over the crackling oak-fired hearth. The two-story Maydan, which means “town square,” provides a unique communal dining experience, with some tables shared between multiple parties. This DC dining star was named 2018's second-best new restaurant in America by Bon Appétit.
Former Top Chef finalist Marjorie Meek-Bradley has formed a dynamic team with restaurateur Stephen Starr (of Le Diplomate fame) to bring DC diners the finest grilled dishes at St. Anselm. This sleek, 7,000 square-foot hot spot can be found just across the street from bustling Union Market in the NoMa neighborhood. Start your meal off right with grilled oysters dressed in smoked herb butter or clams before choosing any number of grilled meats (think: ribeyes, flat irons, New York strips).
Before or after enjoying a meal at St. Anselm, check out where Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley loves to eat in Shaw. Stoke your appetite and tune in to this Chefs Dish DC foodie adventure as Meek-Bradley savors Tiffany MacIsaac's confectionery creations at Buttercream Bakeshop and hangs out at the mezcal mecca that is Espita Mezcaleria.
This hot spot has been a big part of the burgeoning dining scene in DC’s hippest, family-friendly neighborhood, Petworth. Himitsu, the no reservations, quaint 24-seat restaurant inhabiting the Upshur strip, delivers on what first-time restaurateurs Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner call “New Japanese.” Try the fried chicken karaage or melt-in-your-mouth nigiri with a side of charred shishito peppers elote style, pair it with one of Steiner’s steal-the-show cocktail creations and voilà, you have yourself a meal you won’t soon forget.
Tucked into the bustling Shaw neighborhood, Supra brings cuisine from the Republic of Georgia to the nation’s capital. Prepare yourself for a feast that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the District, a joyous celebration starring delightfully buttery housemade khachapuri, a multitude of meats, kebabs, hand-crafted cocktails and Georgian wines that pair perfectly with what’s on your plate. Supra is open for brunch, lunch and dinner.
Johnny Spero is no stranger to the spotlight. The revered chef has worked in the kitchen of DC dining staples (Minibar and Komi, to name a couple) and internationally renowned restaurants in Denmark and Spain, is a contestant on Netflix’s new cooking competition, The Final Table, and was named a finalist for People’s “Sexiest Chef Alive.” So it’s no surprise that Reverie, Spero’s new 60-plus seat restaurant in historic Georgetown, was one of 2018’s most highly anticipated openings. Diners rave about artfully arranged dishes like scallop crudo and kampachi and the fried chicken sandwich that pairs foie and fennel.
The District’s dining power couple, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, have done it again with Del Mar, the pair’s homage to Spanish coastal fare inspired by Maria’s native island of Mallorca. The ornate restaurant decked out in nautical hues is a jewel amongst the numerous things to see, eat and do at The Wharf, DC’s newest dining, shopping and entertainment destination. That a restaurant from the Trabocchis is serving up delectable fare should come as no surprise to those who have dined at any of their award-winning restaurants throughout the city. Dining adventures begin with an array of hot and cold tapas ranging from fresh-off-the-boat seafood to delightfully creamy jamón fritters. For mains, dive into paella dishes for the whole group or savor the Secreto Iberico with cuts of tender pork so delicious they’re shrouded in secrecy.
Longtime Tosca chef Massimo Fabbri has taken his Italian-focused culinary talents to San Lorenzo Ristorante + Bar, his first restaurant venture. The Shaw ristorante is inspired by – among other things – the chef’s son and his favorite neighborhood in Florence, as Tuscan influences teem throughout the quaint, 70-seat eatery. Inspired cuisine comes at reasonable prices – everything on the menu is under $30, save for the three-pound T-bone steak – and Fabbri continues to win hearts with house-made pasta dishes like the pappardelle with herb-infused rabbit ragu.
At the happening LINE DC in Adams Morgan, DC chef and restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang has opened the sophisticated Brothers and Sisters, an Asian-influenced lobby restaurant, tea room and bar. Open from the early morning hours until midnight, Bruner-Yang offers an adventurous take on the hot dog (making it with roast octopus and pesto), while diners rave about the knife-cut noodles with the sausage and broccoli rabe. Take your meal to the next level with uni tray service, which will set you back a cool $250.
Think you know Momofuku CCDC? Celebrity chef and Momofuku founder David Chang would beg to differ. After more than two years as a CityCenterDC staple, Chang decided it was time to revamp the popular spot. The first move was to bring in Maryland-raised Tae Strain as executive chef and blow up the menu to focus on native Mid-Atlantic ingredients. Ramen and buns? Out. What’s in? Bing, a grilled Chinese flatbread served seven different ways, a new lineup of dumplings and family-style dishes that include a whole rotisserie chicken with chicken fat basmati rice and cilantro yogurt.
This new breed of fast casual Chinese-Korean fusion on Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row is the brainchild of three seasoned vets of the District’s food scene: 2016 RAMMY Chef of the Year Scott Drewno, formerly of The Source; Danny Lee, chef and owner of Mandu; and Andrew Kim of Matchbox Food Group. This all-star team conceived CHIKO (short for Chinese Korean) as the spot where traditional eastern flavors meld with contemporary techniques at an accessible price point (you wont find anything on the menu over $18). Diners rave about the orange-ish chicken and chopped brisket sourced from local market Wagshal’s. Needless to say, this recipient of the 2018 RAMMYS New Restaurant of the Year is no ordinary Chinese takeout.
Conveniently located at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Shaw, the Unconventional Diner is far from your standard all-day diner. The modern space includes a cafe area for on-the-go breakfast pastries and sandwiches, while dinner features unique twists on your favorites: Meatloaf is dressed in a sriracha glaze and morel gravy, while cheeseburgers are made with wagyu beef and topped with tomato chutney and dijonnaise.
Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi reigns over the kitchen of the new waterfront Afro-Caribbean concept Kith/Kin, a modest-yet-sophisticated 96-seat space located inside the InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf. The exciting restaurant at DC’s newest dining, shopping and entertainment destination wows patrons with a menu that celebrates Onwuachi’s heritage from West Africa to the Caribbean and New Orleans to New York. Make sure you try the hot-and-cold seafood plateau, which layers fresh shellfish atop vermillion snapper and more, as well as the curried goat roti plated with chickpeas two ways: toasted and pureed with tamarind.
Chef Ryan Ratino was named Rising Culinary Star of the Year at the 2017 RAMMYS, DC’s local culinary awards ceremony, and it’s clear to see why at Bresca, his Michelin-starred venture on hip and happening 14th Street. The restaurant’s namesake is Catalan for honeycomb and the inspiration for the bright-yet-earthy decor. An inventive menu melds tantalizing flavors and Ratino’s one-of-a-kind vision: pastrami beets are served with whipped feta and dill on rye, foie gras is made into a “PB&J” and sea urchin linguini with truffles and chili delivers a deliciously rich umami bomb. To top it off, many of the herbs and floral garnishes for dishes are grown on the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
If you’re looking for a guacamole and margarita-fueled fiesta at The Wharf, then Mi Vida is the place for you. The massive two-story restaurant, with seating for 400, offers plenty of classics from America’s southern neighbor (think: enchiladas, ceviche and hearth-roasted dishes like the pumpkin seed-crusted wild salmon with sweet potato mash and pineapple tomatillo sauce). Mi Vida also offers a great happy hour menu, so head down after work or before a concert and pair your good time with Instagram-worthy waterfront views.
Regarded as one of the most stylish and exciting restaurants to open in recent years, Kinship – from a chef who previously helmed the Mandarin Oriental’s Cityzen and before that, San Francisco’s French Laundry – features dishes that focus on technique, history, ingredient, or communal preparations intended to be served family-style, like whole fish or 12-ounce ribeye cuts.
Housed in the same building as Kinship is Métier, an ambitious 36-seat Michelin-starred restaurant with a $200 seven-course tasting menu. Take note: advanced reservations are recommended and jackets are required for gentlemen.
This Mediterranean-meets-Caribbean spot, owned by three alum of Little Serow and Komi, serves up whole-animal butchery, housemade bread and pasta and seasonal ingredients in an approachable Adams Morgan setting. It’s been racking up positive press since it opened, earning a coveted Michelin star and making Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants 2016 list.
Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s acclaimed Italian restaurant is located in NoMa near the vibrant Union Market and presents one of the finer dining experiences in the city. The simplistic menu lets you pick from between three and six courses, with each plate equipped with loads of Italian flavor and pristine culinary style. The old country vibes do not stop there – Masseria’s decor reminds one of Italian farmhouses and country sides, setting the ideal atmosphere for Stefanelli’s creativity. All of this, and more, is why Masseria was named Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year at the 2018 RAMMYS.
If the tasting menu is the movement du jour in DC dining, then Pineapple & Pearls – the two-star Michelin restaurant from James Beard award-winner Aaron Silverman – is one of the scene’s shining stars. This Capitol Hill establishment located next to sibling Rose’s Luxury was was named to Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants in America list for 2017 and offers an inventive 15-course, ever-changing tasting menu that is bound to delight. While this dining experience costs around $280 per person (which includes beverage pairings, tax and tip), Pineapple & Pearls serves snacks and drinks al fresco on the patio Tuesday through Thursday evenings.
Named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2014 by Bon Appétit, this homespun abode wows with its service, atmosphere and most of all, its plates. Although the menu regularly changes, you can count on small and family style dishes to be exploding with Chef Aaron Silverman’s love of cooking. The cacio e pepe is an acclaimed creation that can often be ordered, but otherwise, savor in the adventure at Rose’s Luxury. Reservations are limited to same-day tables and groups of 6 to 12, so even though you may have to wait, you’ll depart feeling like you’ve been treated like a welcome house guest.
All-Purpose Pizzeria is a deck oven pizzeria from the teams of two beloved DC dining institutions, The Red Hen and Boundary Stone. Pizza rules here, but you can also enjoy hot and cold antipasti, and an extensive charcuterie selection. A second location by Nationals Park on the Capitol Riverfront opened in April 2018.
These places may be hot, but DC has a huge number of established restaurants worth a try, too. Check out more dining options in the District.