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20+ Hot Restaurants to Try Now in Washington, DC
Wine and dine your way around these hot places to eat 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 three restaurants, Pineapple & Pearls, Himitsu and Timber Pizza Company, landed on Bon Appétit's list of America's 50 best new restaurants for 2017. 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, Elle quickly made a name for itself in DC’s busy dining scene. 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.
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.
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 at one of Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants in America you won’t soon forget.
If there’s anyone who knows the DC dining scene, it’s Haidar Karoum, chef-owner of the globally inspired Chloe and former toque at establishments across the District, including Estadio, Doi Moi and Proof, to name a few. The former RAMMY’s Chef of the Year has made a splash with his first solo venture to the always-happening Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Bring your friends, as the menu is an international tour de force designed for sharing. Looking for some ordering inspiration? Diners rave about the Mediterranean cauliflower with tahini and the crispy whole fish with tomatillo salsa verde.
The vino doesn’t travel far from the barrel at Ana, the in-house restaurant dishing out new American fare at the 17,000-square-foot District Winery on the scenic Capitol Riverfront. With seating for 50-plus in the glass-enclosed dining room and another 80 on the Instagram-ready, fire pit-included patio, Ana wows diners with a fresh, seasonal take on classic dishes. From rutabaga pierogis with lamb bacon to crispy Maryland crab beignets to a deliciously smoky duck entrée with salsa verde and mole, each bite is an eclectic culinary adventure.
Little Pearl allows you to enjoy Aaron Silverman’s award-winning culinary creations without waiting in line at Rose’s Luxury or shelling out for the Michelin-starred Pineapple and Pearls. This Capitol Hill cafe-by-day and wine-bar-by-night has taken over as the casual spot in Silverman’s dining empire. Choose from gourmet java, potato donuts and a delightfully crispy fried chicken sandwich (served fried or Japanese-style) during a daytime visit. You can also wash down one of the inventive snacks with a glass of vino from an extensive by-the-glass list.
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.
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 Israeli restaurant in Upper Northwest dishes out cuisine from the Land of Milk and Honey – and beyond. Sababa, which means “cool” in Hebrew, is the latest entrant to the exciting DC dining scene from restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, occupying the space adjacent to the original Bindaas location. Choose from dishes that reflect the culinary melting pot that is Israel, such as roasted halloumi with dates, honey and charred lemon and whole roasted fish served on grape leaves. This delectable journey to the Middle East can be had without making a dent in your wallet – small plates are capped at $10, while larger share plates are priced in the $20 range.
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.
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 latest 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.
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.
At The Salt Line, the Capitol Riverfront seafood concept from executive chef Kyle Bailey, a visit transports diners from the District to an idyllic New England setting straight from a postcard. Enjoy classics like a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth lobster roll or fried Ipswich clam bellies, or try an inspired Bailey concoction – uni carbonara, anyone? If the weather permits, belly up to the outdoor bar overlooking the Anacostia River and traverse the Eastern seaboard, sampling oysters from Virginia to Maine.
Calling all vegetarians: Fancy Radish is your new home-away-from-home on H Street NE. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, this Philadelphia-based eatery from Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby is worth a visit. Unique dishes include a rutabaga fondue served with a soft pretzel (an homage to Philly), while the restaurant’s namesake “fancy radishes” are plated with shico, shichito, yuzu avocado, pickled tofu and smoked soy.
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.
The vibrant colors and flavors of India are on full display at Rasa, the fast-casual restaurant in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood from first-time restaurateurs Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod. Diners can choose to build their own bowl from an array of tantalizing, locally sourced ingredients, or pick from Rasa’s cleverly named creations – we’re talking Tikka Chance on Me and Aloo Need is Love. Wash that down with a homemade juice or kombucha and you’ve got a delightful meal, all for under $15.
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.
Former RAMMY Chef of the Year Cathal Armstrong and his wife, Meshelle, have brought their talents to The Wharf with the opening of the highly-anticipated Kaliwa, which specializes in Filipino, Thai and Korean cuisines. The lively 185-seat restaurant pairs waterfront views with eclectic Asian cooking; the menu is segmented by cuisine, so make sure you experience the tantalizing flavors that each country offers.
This former food truck turned brick-and-mortar in Petworth has been wowing lovers of all things pizza – so much so that Timber Pizza Company was named to Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants in America list for 2017. With 30 or so seats and an interior that screams industrial chic, this order-at-the-counter dining darling may be small but the flavors are anything but. Go for the Green Monster, a pesto and mozzarella-based pie combined with any in-season green vegetable, or The Norman, starring bacon, roasted pineapple and strawberry-jalapeño jam.
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 in 2016, earning a coveted Michelin star and making Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants 2016 list.
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.
Renowned local chef Tim Ma made his District debut with Kyirisan in the sizzling new restaurant mecca that is the Shaw neighborhood, earning Michelin Bib Gourmand honors in the same year it opened. Serving up Chinese-French fusion in a simple, wood-lined dining room with blue pincushion booths, diners are invited to take a culinary journey through a savory menu organized by dishes based in the ground, on the ground or under the water. If weekend brunch is more your speed, Kyirisan’s midday menu features creative plates like the venison-blueberry sausage hash, which are best washed down with adult mimosas complete with triple sec and vodka. And be sure to follow Tim Ma as he drops by a few of his favorite spots on nearby U Street – part of our video series starring local chefs eating their way through DC neighborhoods.
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 only taken for groups of 6 to 8, so even though you’ll 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.
A woodfire-powered kitchen, bucolic decor that emulates a countryside abode and an affordable, Italian-infused menu have turned The Red Hen into one of the city’s most popular neighborhood restaurants. Pasta lovers will have difficulty resisting dishes such mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or squid ink linguini, while those hankering for seafood can savor caramelized scallops or grilled swordfish. An exceptional wine list only adds to the tranquility of this gem.
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.