Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
Having relatives in Maryland, I make it to D.C. two or three times a year, usually to power-chow through the latest openings. But the first place I recommend when asked for dining advice in the nation's capital hasn't wavered in almost a decade. Zaytinya opened in 2002 and is my favorite among chef and restaurateur José Andrés' dozen restaurants. (His newest, a reincarnation of his elaborate pop-up America Eats Tavern, opened earlier this month at the Ritz-Carlton in nearby Tysons Corner. Andrés took his prowess with Spanish tapas and transferred it to the small plates traditions of Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey—a ballsy but rewarding leap at a time when those cuisines weren't getting the widespread play that's now percolating nationally.