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Three Restaurants to Try This Weekend

Recommendations for those looking to get out of their comfort zone

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Thunder Burger’s star menu offering.
Thunder Burger/official photo

Need dining inspiration for this coming weekend? Don’t fret — Eater’s here to help.

Week by week, editors select a new group of restaurants worth visiting throughout the weekend. These picks range from brand new restaurants to old, reliable favorites. Some pair well with fun weekend activities; others reflect recent happenings. Diners probably won’t get to every place in one weekend, but that’s what next weekend is for, right?

Friday, February 28

For rock-and-roll vibes and fries—Georgetown’s hip hangout Thunder Burger remains relevant 12 years in (the place was absolutely packed on a recent Saturday afternoon). After reading over its ridiculous amount of burger options (16!), I finally landed on “Love Me Tender” — a kobe beef patty topped with Tillamook aged white cheddar, tomato, and remoulade. Sides include fries, sweet potato spears, or a tangy cranberry coleslaw that also doubles as a DIY burger topper. Try not to fill up too fast on the crunchy complimentary starter at brunch: sugary and addictive chips the team calls “frites.” Brunch also brings a hearty plate of steaks and eggs and $6 cocktails to the table. Keep the bloody marys and mimosas flowing, or go against the grain with a Kir Royale (champagne and black raspberry liqueur). 3056 M Street NW — Tierney Plumb

For cheddar biscuits that are out of this world: Astro Beer Hall, the cosmic collaboration between Team Tin Shop (Penn Social, TallBoy) and next-door Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, has quickly become a happening happy hour spot downtown. Saddle up to the dim bar, lined with the lava lamps and a mural of a thirsty astronaut reaching for a beer, to order off an on-theme drink list (Elysian Space Dust IPA and “Shoot the Moon” Tito’s cocktail amped up with Red Bull). Fried spicy chicken sliders inside a soft cheddar biscuit simply melt in your mouth, and another dairy star is the mac and cheese — an upscale take on the Kraft classic. Double up on two cups. 1306 G Street NW — T.P.

For a heavy pours in Brookland—Cozy neighborhood wine bar Primrose was a welcome escape from a recent rainy and dreary night. A good way to begin at the feather-adorned French stunner is an abundant plate of globe radishes balancing on a bed of whipped butter. Bone marrow makes multiple appearances on the menu, in both hollandaise form with fried oysters and the traditional way (served with rustic bread to reach every groove). A lip-smacking order of half-roasted chicken was perfectly juicy. The solid wine list from Proof alum Sebastian Zutant leaves out few regions of France, and reds are poured generously in glass goblets. 3000 12th Street NE — T.P.

Friday, February 21

Pappe’s spicy chicken tikka with garlic tomato chutney marinade and a silver cup of mint sauce. 
Pappe’s spicy chicken tikka with garlic tomato chutney marinade and a silver cup of mint sauce.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

For North Indian dishes in Logan Circle: Pappe quietly went on — then quickly off — the market this year, and I’m glad it’s not going anywhere. Go the full-blown dinner route with butter chicken, lamb biryani, or bone-in goat with garlic tomato chutney and red chiles. Or stick to a small plates section filled out by street foods and samosas. I went the latter route on a recent visit, sampling juicy, spicy chicken tikka and gobi Manchurian (fried cauliflower bites). Indian-accented cocktails include a bourbon drink made with mango chutney bitters that was just $7 at happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.). The daily deal also includes a flight of three 1-ounce whiskey pours for $20, which is a steal for 14th Street NW. 1317 14th Street NW — Tierney Plumb

For taste of the French countryside in Chevy Chase: In Groundhog Day fashion, Valentine’s Day never ends at romantically appointed, 35-year-old mainstay La Ferme. Situated on a quiet residential strip in upper Northwest, the yellow-and-turquoise painted cottage puts the “who’s who” couples of Chevy Chase on display inside its soaring, candle-lit dining room. My preferred seat, though, is at its quaint, wood-lined bar tucked in the back. A nice way to start is an artistic plate of Parma prosciutto with grilled asparagus, toasted pine nuts, crumbled goat cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. For a solid date night hack at this pricey place, keep things simple by ordering tall draft beers and splitting a burger with fries. 7101 Brookville Road, Chevy Chase, Maryland — T.P.

For a heavily discounted brunch Champagne: The Riggsby, curiously located past a keyhole-shaped doorway inside the Carlyle hotel, continues to impress four years in. Settle into brunch with an order of deviled eggs adorned with crispy chicken skin and presented on dainty china. The Champagne brunch encourages group drinking by slashing prices in half (be sure to get there on the early side, as some bottles sell out). Choose from various juices or cordials to make your own mimosa or bellini. I’m not usually a French toast fan, but the vanilla-soaked take on the classic was a winner. Sausages flecked with herbs and perfectly-fried home fries were some of the better brunch sides I’ve had in a while. For a dose of culture in Dupont, head to the hotel lobby and peruse an ongoing pop art exhibit. 1731 New Hampshire Avenue NW — T.P.

Friday, January 31

For more than just a pretty face: An inaugural visit to The Imperial, Jack Rose’s stunning new sibling on the same strip, had me forgetting I was at the foot of Adams Morgan. Dishes and drinks in the mosaic mirror-lined corner restaurant thankfully taste as good as they look. Start with the foie gras mousse, bedazzled with pomegranate pickled gooseberries and fig purée. Treat the circular treat as a pie, cutting and savoring one small triangle at a time. I’m always down for pasta, but the quail egg-topped bucatini with anchovies was new territory for me. The bowl’s blanket of bread crumb persillade offered a harmonious crunch. Cocktails intentionally pair well with The Imperial’s fare, and The Hoppin’ Through the Vines (a riff on a Grasshopper) is minty goodness in a glass, joined by nutty sherry and warming cacao. Subsequent low-ABV cocktails kept me alert through dessert. The big buzz resides downstairs at Dram & Grain, Jack Rose’s rebooted cocktail den that’s stocked with rare whiskey bottles from owner Bill Thomas’s personal collection. 2001 18th St. NW — Tierney Plumb

For a welcome restaurant replacement: I got all nostalgic walking into Petworth’s Anafre, chef Alfredo Solis’s recent revision of his neon-soaked Little Havana. But once I dove into the coastal Mexican menu, I didn’t miss Cuba anymore. On a packed recent weeknight, I warmed up my palate with a mole Old Fashioned built with Mexican whiskey and house bitters. An authentic way to start is going for the queso mixed with huitlacoche (aka the delicious delicacy that is corn fungus). The seafood-centric eatery piles generous helpings of lobster and crab meat atop its guacamole. Try to restrain from finishing off the cheesy spread of shrimp tostadas and save room for Solis’s juicy 12-hour pork shank alongside rice and beans. The hefty entree — just $14! — sneaks in a fiery finish via morita sauce (and also works well as leftovers). 3704 14th St. NW — T.P.

For new beer pairings: NoMa’s Red Bear Brewery just unleashed its debut in-house menu, and the lineup swings from healthy (goat cheese-filled California dates or grilled tofu dressed with chimichurri) to heavy (three-cheese mac and portobello poutine). Red Bear’s brews makes plenty of appearances, between beer-basted Brussels and a beer-infused burger on a pretzel bun. Perfectly-cooked wings are slathered with rotating sauces like Thai basil. Be aware some dishes may sell out early or be out entirely; the full menu rollout will be timed in line with Red Bear’s first birthday in March. 209 M St. NE — T.P.

Friday, January 24

For scene-y Nikkei sushi—Mate, a go-to date spot in Georgetown, flipped into Peruvian-Japanese Nikkei place called Susheria a little over a year ago. A recent taste of the posh, chandelier-lined replacement proves Peruvian chef Javier Angeles-Beron has settled in nicely on the Northwest waterfront. Start off the meal with chicken and ginger gyoza and a glistening bowl of Peruvian ceviche, packed with hearty chunks of mahi mahi swimming in tangy leche de tigre sauce. The lomo saltado rice bowl is a star, filled with juicy helpings of sauteed strip steak and a nice crunch from potato strings. A “sea spider” soft shell crab roll is a D.C. delicacy in January. Its best-selling cocktail is the well-dressed spicy chilcado. The deconstructed, DIY drink arrives on a gold-plated tray, lined with glasses of pisco, lemon juice, simple syrup, and ginger beer. A pepper-infused ice cube ensures spice at every sip. Save room for the tres leche or churros with chocolate sauce. 3101 K Street NW — Tierney Plumb

For a reliable night out in upper Northwest—The best seat at Chevy Chase’s dimly lit, two-story Capital Grille is at the bar, which offers a front-row seat of bartenders shaking martinis. The chain’s signature Stoli Doli — Stolichnaya Vodka infused with fresh pineapple, chilled, and served straight up — has stayed the same since 1990. Don’t be afraid to ask to split dishes with your guest (the kitchen will gladly accommodate). You can’t go wrong with the wedge salad, slathered in blue cheese and dotted with tasty hunks of smoked bacon. Instead of steak as my main, I switched it up with sesame-seared tuna and rice, served with a trio of sesame and ginger sauces. The 10-year-old location next to Friendship Heights Metro has risen as a Cheers-like hangout for Chevy Chasers; some neighbors are known to visit five to seven nights a week. Peruse the engraved lockers in the entryway for a who’s-who list of local liquor and wine lovers. 5310 Western Ave, Chevy Chase, Maryland — T.P.

For a latke fix on Capitol Hill—Gina Chersevani’s Union Market bagel counter Buffalo and Bergen expanded to a standalone location near Union Station last month, and dinner at her new dream deli is now in full swing. Fried potato latkes pair perfectly with creme fraiche mascarpone dip and a bourbon and Granny Smith apple relish. Another hit starter is the “I Only Have Eggs for You” — a trio of beet-pickled eggs stuffed with chicken liver pate and finished with egg yolk salt. Eggplant parmigiana that’s slathered in the same tomato basil sauce her Italian grandmother used to make is an ode to Chersevani’s childhood on Long Island. The accomplished mixologist predicts this is the “year of the martini,” so naturally plenty of offbeat (and mini) varieties are available. Take a second to take in the 27-seat, retro-chic space that pays homage to Dorothy Draper. If the chatty proprietress is there, ask to see pics of her recent trip of New Orleans, where she judged a Dolly Parton lookalike contest for the country icon’s birthday. Jot down the new deli’s address (240 Massachusetts Avenue NE), as it’s currently hard to search online. — T.P.

Hindsight’s 2020 cocktail (Hendrick’s gin, Dolin dry vermouth, fresh pickled carrot, and cucumbers) pairs well with “I Only Have Eggs for You.”
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

Friday, January 10

For artsy-but-filling Italian entrees: Modena chef John Melfi knows his style could be categorized as “tweezer food.” He has a meticulous touch while layering bits and pieces of farmers market flora with swirling sauces and dramatically dyed oils that accent the main courses at the region-hopping Italian restaurant downtown. For example, see a plate of pan-roasted lamb loin with three symmetrical slices of meat offset by a spooned-on oval of eggplant caponata, charred cipollini onion agrodolce, and a smear of black garlic paste. While the antipasti cart was the headlining attraction at Ashok Bajaj’s Bibiana reboot, Melfi’s fetching entrees offer more compelling reasons to visit. Portions aren’t precious, either. A plate of pancetta-wrapped veal ribeye with crispy sweetbreads, deeply roasted Chanterelle mushrooms, and a Castelmagno fonduta is a hearty steal for $36, especially considering all of the complimentary focaccia that goes out to every table. 1100 New York Avenue NW — Gabe Hiatt

For a reconfigured brunch with a view: Since receiving a scathing review from Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema in 2018, La Vie has been retooling to redeem itself. The glitzy venue with the prime view at the Wharf development recently unveiled a solid new brunch. The $39, all-you-can-eat weekend spread of Mediterranean and American brunch classics offers a little something for everyone in a flower-filled back room lined with soft green banquettes. Load up on an array of imported Italian cold cuts and cheeses, then head back for helpings of hot moussaka — the classic Greek eggplant stack comes with ground beef and mizithra cheese. Avocado crostini, crab tartlets, and pastas packed with duck and lamb will fill up additional plates. There are thick cuts of bacon or and an omelet station for a less adventurous meal. Along with $17 bottomless mimosas and bellinis, the drink list includes espresso martinis, mocktails, and oyster shooters to knock back by the water. Save room for a theatrical Baked Alaska, hidden under a dome of cotton candy and torched table-side. 88 District Square SW — Tierney Plumb

For cheese puffs and dessert bars that hold up: Legendary French chef Michel Richard died in 2016, but his legacy can still be felt at downtown mainstay Central. More than a decade after winning a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, the place offers an impeccable presentation of golden beets dressed with labneh and pecans that serves as a strong starter for a weekend lunch. Hearty couscous steals the spotlight from a roasted salmon entree. The late chef’s face takes up a lacquered wall in the back, and many of his innovative best sellers — bite-sized cheese puffs, hanger steak au poivre, fried chicken, and a no-bake dessert bar that mimics a Kit-Kat — remain on the menu. 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb

Friday, January 3

For a pair of high-low pupusas: I was lucky enough to sample delicious pupusas, always a D.C. staple, from not one but two different local destinations in one week. The first were fancier: a duo of gooey shrimp pupusas from District Fishwife’s stall in Union Market. It’s always tough to pick between carry-out options from donburi to poke at the fish counter, but this definitely ended up being a stellar selection. For a homier (and closer to home) set of pupusas, I took some visiting family members on a late night walk to the intersection of Graham Road and Route 50 in Falls Church, where Pupuseria Mana parks a food truck. They offer everything from quesadillas to chorizo tacos, but the pupusas are the speciality: out of four varieties, the saucy pork revueltas were the star. District Fishwife, Union Market, 1309 Fifth Street NE; Pupuseria Mana truck, Graham Road and Route 50, Falls Church — Missy Frederick

For ramen on the go: Speaking of Union Market, I always sample items from multiple vendors when I’m there. This time, I decided to grab a bowl of shio ramen from Ramen by Uzu. It doesn’t have quite the “artisan” feel of some of the city’s most serious ramen purveyors, but I have no complaints about the generous toppings or the complexity of the broth, especially for a bowl of soup that was thrown together in five minutes. Ramen by Uzu, Union Market, 1309 Fifth Street NE — M.F.

For pork belly that shows off: If there’s one restaurant in Washington I want to show off to out-of-town visitors, it’s probably Thip Khao. Not every city has terrific Lao food, the service is quick, the restaurant isn’t impossible to get into on short notice, and I don’t think there’s a single item I’ve tried that I haven’t really liked. The highlight on this particular visit was Muu Som, a sour pork belly dish that’s impossible to stop eating once you start. Crispy catfish and herbal pork sausage were also winners, but it’s going to be difficult NOT to order that pork dish again next time there are friends in town. 3462 14th Street NW — M.F.

Friday, December 6

For a reliable burger: Clyde’s Group always impresses, even far away from its revenue-gobbling Old Ebbitt Grill. A recent trip to Clyde’s in Chevy Chase was a reminder that it’s a nice place warm up with consistently good cups of chili. A daily happy hour (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on weekends) means house wines are just $5. A chatty bartender may give you a heavy-handed pour. Unique to the location is the “Chevy Chaser” — a combo of whiskey and Natty Boh for $8. Its iconic cheeseburger features ground chuck from Cedar River Farms on a crispy sesame seed bun. Fries can lean on the salty side, but with a $5 happy hour discount on the $13.99 order, it’s hard to complain. 5441 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, Md. — Tierney Plumb

For legit food from a cocktail bar: I already expected the drinks at swanky Georgetown newcomer L’Annexe to be on point. Mixologist alums from Left Door and Inn at Little Washington are working there. But on my first visit, I was blown away by the quality of the food. A seasonal spin on a tostada comes topped with pumpkin puree, queso fresco, cilantro, and toasted shallots. Squeezable finger limes encourage you to play with your food. The self-described “D.C. foodie” on my right — clearly a fast friend — raved about her artsy tuna carpaccio with sweet drop peppers, pistachio butter, and petite arugula. In the back library, a long lineup of infused spirits double as colorful vats of wall art. It’s hard to go wrong, so you might as well start at the top with the “Washingtonian” (hibiscus-infused potato vodka, St. Germain, simple syrup, lemon). Owner Fady Saba plans to open restaurant next-door in the former Maxime space in February. 2917 M Street NW — TP

For a red pisco cocktail: A trip to Bresca on a recent Friday confirmed its cocktail game is on par with chef Ryan Ratino’s Michelin-rated food. I had dinner plans after, but Ratino insisted I sample his hit (albeit, weird-looking) snack: thinly-shaved beef atop crispy tendon, drizzled with funky fermented black bean and malt vinegar. I’m also glad I went with the bright red “Count of Ovalle” cocktail (pisco, gin, beet, vermouth, bitters, and olive oil) off the brandy-heavy seasonal cocktail list. Show Instagram love for bar director Will Patton’s well-executed “Bat & Lion” coupe filled with honeydew, coconut, lime, white shoyu, elderflower, and Bacardi Superior. It’s in the running for the liquor giant’s U.S. nationals competition in San Juan in January (and currently available at La Cosecha’s Serenata). 1906 14th Street NW — TP

Friday, November 22

For a chicken-fried quail brunch: Armed with insight that some D.C. diners prefer to roll out of bed late for brunch, Navy Yard newcomer Shilling Canning Co. recently opted to run its menu all-day on Sundays. Chef-owner Reid Shilling’s Mid-Atlantic restaurant is selling Maryland crab Benedict and a pork belly with scrambled eggs and parsnip puree. One dish that translates well from day to night is the chicken-fried quail, surrounded by Pennsylvania maple syrup and fall greens, that the solo diner to my right proclaimed as the “best” quail he’s ever had. A good way to end (or start) the meal is its sweet-and-savory pastry board filled out by a cinnamon roll, cider doughnut, English muffin, and blackberry jam. A fresh-squeezed autumnal mimosa subs in Supreme Core Cider for Champagne. Saddle up to the chef’s counter for a prime view of preserved vegetables and a wood-burning oven reminiscent of Shilling’s days at the Dabney. There’s a chance you’ll spot his friend and regular Davey Martinez, the manager of D.C.’s newly crowned World Series champs, who lives nearby. 360 Water Street SE — TP

For cocktails with a message: Dupont’s iconic, employee-owned Tabard Inn has a way of tricking guests into thinking they’re at home in the cozy 19th-century rowhouse. Bar manager Kat Dean’s new lineup of fall cocktails take drinkers back in time with cute conversation starters attached to each glass with a tiny clothespin. Each message contains literary passages from the past. Her martini-like “The Crystal Stair,” inspired by a line in a Langston Hughes poem, comes with Catoctin Creek gin, Civic Vodka, Capitoline White Vermouth, and apple, showing love for Dean’s former stint at Republic Restoratives. Chef Cliff Wharton’s menu also honors the Filipino comfort foods he grew up eating in Manila, like crispy lumpia sticks filed with pork, shrimp, and vegetables; coconut chicken adobo; and pork belly polenta. Drinkers are encouraged to burn the midnight oil here with a new late-night weekend menu (11 p.m. to 1. a.m.) featuring $9 cocktails and $2 oysters, and $12 bulgogi tacos. 1739 N Street NW — TP

For a surprise shabu-shabu: Chef Todd English just was in town at MXDC for Day of the Dead festivities and the release of his downtown Mexican eatery’s new Japanese hot pot offering. Turns out, the Italian-American chef is obsessed with Tokyo and travels there every chance he gets. The two-course, winter-appropriate dinner for two ($65), which involves cooking thinly-sliced meats and shiitake mushrooms in simmering dashi broth at the table, gets a Mexican twist with accompanying warm corn tortillas, red onion, cilantro and a hoisin-mole sauce. Pouring hot ingredients in liquid atop tortillas is a little awkward, if creative, but the habanero margarita works oddly well as a pairing. The second shabu-shabu course is the main event, served with angel hair pasta, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, and short rib. 600 14th Street NW — TP

Friday, November 8

For a hummus and falafel fix: I maintain a fierce loyalty for the hummus at the Mediterranean Bakery & Cafe in Alexandria, so I approach all new hummus shops in D.C. with caution. Taïm won’t ever capture the No. 1 spot in my heart, but the New York company’s new falafel counter in Georgetown showed off an impressive spoonful of the stuff that was as airy and creamy as any chickpea-tahini blend in town. The green falafel balls, pleasantly crunchy but not dried out, were toothsome, too. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around a saffron aioli that tasted like it could use a less liberal pinch of the precious red flower. But I wish I had a bottle full of the harissa ketchup in my fridge. I flung it on fries, falafel, and even a taco the next day. 1065 Wisconsin Ave NW — Gabe Hiatt

For Japanese comfort food: “It’s ramen weather!” my husband and I declared to each other Sunday, as if 80-degree weather ever stops us from slurping down ramen. Justifications aside, we’re always happy to grab lunch at Marumen, the closest thing we have to a neighborhood ramen shop. Every time we go, the menu has expanded a bit more — this time we spotted okonomiyaki, or savory Japanese pancakes. But we still opted for classics: piping-hot shio ramen (pushed almost over-the-top in richness with an added egg and pat of butter), shio ramen loaded with well-rendered chashu, and a heaping plate of crispy karaage. I’m sure we’ll be back soon. Is there such thing as okonomiyaki weather? 3250 Old Pickett Road, Fairfax — Missy Frederick

For hangover-curing diner staples: There are occasions that simply call for diner fare, and a foursome of hungover friends who went too hard at a retirement party is one of them (#thisis39). I’ve previously only been to Lazy Mike’s in Falls Church for ice cream and the occasional sandwich, but we discovered 9:30 a.m. breakfast to be a bustling, even festive affair (warning: parking was ... tricky). Everyone found something to soothe them last weekend, whether it was a spinach and havarti-flecked omelet, a restorative matzo ball soup, or respectable chicken cheesesteak and hot Italian hoagie sandwiches. There was a classic that even my husband, who was raised in Jersey diners, could appreciate: creamed chipped beef with home fries. 112 North West Street, Falls Church — M.F.

Friday, November 1

Fideo seco from Urbano 116
Fideo seco from Urbano 116
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

For a porky snack from the Yucatán: Back in the spring the Washington Post crushed Urbano 116 with a one-star review that called the flashy Mexican restaurant full of lucha libre kitsch “a letdown.” A recent lunch visit showed evidence that chef Alam Méndez Florián, who hails from Oaxaca and has a hit restaurant in Mexico City, has righted the ship. Two appetizers added as part of a fall menu refresh both left an indelible imprint on the rest of the meal. The first is a plate of guacamole and castacan that adds an animal fat flourish to the the smashed avocados with three slices of fried pork belly. The preparation of pig comes from the Yucatán peninsula that makes up Mexico’s Caribbean-touching Southern tip. An xcatic pepper sauce pooled below lets you mix in more heat. Warm, fragrant Mexican heirloom corn tortillas arrive at the table with the appetizer for scooping or taco-building. The second new appetizer hits closer to home for Méndez Florián. Fideo seco, or a “dry” style of angel hair pasta soup, brings the chef back to his mother’s table. His version shapes the swirls of delicate strings mixed with a thick, assertive chipotle-tomato sauce inside a ring mold. The smoky cylinder has a multicolored haircut with rising layers of crema, avocado, and chicharron. 116 King Street, Alexandria — Gabe Hiatt

For nutty beet tartare: I don’t think it’s crazy to admit the whole idea of Pom Pom made me a little nervous. The reinvented restaurant on Petworth’s main drag used to be essential D.C. stop Himitsu, but founding partner Carlie Steiner boldly rebranded it when chef Kevin Tien left, bringing on former Doi Moi sous Amanda Moll to design a new menu of shared plates with a lot of Middle Eastern flavors. Multiple people told me Moll was incredibly talented, but having a 26-year-old debut as an executive chef by coming up with menu in about six weeks did not exactly seem like a recipe for success. I’m relieved and delighted to report that it was. A recent dinner with friends at Pom Pom was strong from start to finish. My favorite course was the “steak and kisses,” a tartare of wagyu beef interspersed in a purple blanket of gochujang-marinated beets and toasted hazelnuts with a thin rice cracker as big as the plate. The beef added a nice chew, but the cubes were few, far in between, and camouflaged by the beets in such a way that I’d advocate for ordering the besos solamente (kisses only) for $18 instead of $24. Do splurge, though, on Steiner’s cocktails named after inspiring women, like the Toast, for Nicole Chung, with toasted sesame seed, aged rum, and oloroso sherry. 828 Upshur Street NW — G.H.

For Japanese happy hour snacks: Izakaya Seki came to my rescue when I found all the bar seats filled at Maydan while trying to walk in for an early dinner on a Sunday night. That’s how I discovered that the two-level Japanese restaurant nearby runs happy hour on the weekends. For $5, customers get a draft Sapporo and a snack, in this case a bowl of tuna tataki. When perusing the hand-drawn menu of specials, go with the kalbi if it’s listed. The thin-sliced sections of grilled short rib were super tender. 1117 V Street NW — G.H.

Friday, October 25

For Negronis on the comeback trail: Wolfgang Puck’s two-month-old Cut closed for two weeks after a mechanical malfunction caused a kitchen fire, and the glitzy steak-and-seafood spot tucked inside the Rosewood Hotel reopens its bar area today at 4 p.m. Toast the critically acclaimed restaurant’s semi-return to D.C. with one of five Negronis or an exclusive rye whiskey from Catoctin Creek in Virginia — one of 11 local distilleries showcased behind the bar. More than 500 wine labels include nods to Puck’s homeland in Austria to local makers like Virginia’s popular RdV Vineyards and Thibautt-Janisson, which made a chardonnay just for D.C.’s Cut. At a TBA date, Puck protege Andrew Skala will get creative again with wagyu beef hearts, duck tacos, and leeks cooked over coals, all dressed up in beautiful ceramic plateware that begs to be photographed. 1050 31st Street NW — Tierney Plumb

Cut cocktails
Cocktails at Cut’s newly reopened bar.
Cut/official photo

For a taste of Spain in Georgetown: Bodega, the longstanding tapas bar in Georgetown, remains a scene-y staple on M Street. On a recent night, there wasn’t a seat in the house as flamenco dancers worked the narrow, candle-lit room. Cool starters include gazpacho and an artistic plate of hearts of palm, avocado, and shrimp. The latter also stars in its sizzling-and-spicy gambas al ajillo. Another hot pick is a bowl of meatballs soaked in red wine sauce (keep the sauce as a dipper for its warm rustic bread). For a cross-section of the lengthy tapas lineup, go for the bottomless weekend brunch ($34). Stick around and saddle up to a fringed black leather seat at the bar with a glass of sparkling cava sangria in hand to catch the World Series. As an ode to the Nationals’ theme song, go for Bodega’s crispy bite-sized shark nuggets dunked in smoked paprika aioli. 3116 M Street NW — TP

For happy hour deviled eggs with caviar: Penn Quarter’s gorgeous, Southern-styled Succotash is one of those rare D.C. finds with happy hour every day (3 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Deviled eggs ($1.50 each) can be upgraded with caviar for $1, alongside $5 drafts, $7 wines, and an $8 clarified milk punch built with Creole bitters and bourbon — chef Ed Lee’s drink of choice. A pair of chicken and biscuit sliders costs $9, and cornbread cakes are $5. Deals will continue well into the night this weekend: Every time the Nats score a home run, Lee plans to dish out free hushpuppies and smoked chicken wings. Can’t-miss mains include apple cider barbecue pork ribs and the pimento cheeseburger. 915 F Street NW — TP

Interiors at Succotash
The stunning bar at Succotash.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Friday, October 18

For a stylish pizza place: Corner Office, the pizza bar and beer garden in the rear of the W Hotel, is finally running on all cylinders, joining the property’s recently renovated POV rooftop bar and new Cherry restaurant. Tables are dressed with glowing blue bulbs and crystalwear holding chile oil. Walls at the bar inside are splashed with edgy mirrored tiles and trippy graffiti. Outside, a mural of a Republican elephant and Democratic donkey chowing down shows this spot doesn’t take itself too seriously, a point also proven by ($9!) pimento cheese served with Ritz crackers. The mushroom pizza is an early standout, and there’s a riff on a Hawaiian with tasso ham and pineapple caramelized over wood flames. The cocktail list here is small but strong — try the Mai Tai or jalapeno margarita. Flip the page over for a wide variety of beers from expected local brews to trendy gems like Brooklyn’s Evil Twin Tangerine Tonic IPA. Worried about the high 8-percent ABV? Ask for the 5-ounce pour. 515 15th Street NW — Tierney Plumb

For highbrow late-night plants: The all-veggie Happy Gyro pop-up that apes Greek diner food is back at Komi this month, and I’d recommend making a reservation to land a more affordable look at one of Washington’s toughest tables. A recent spotlight from a positively giddy Tom Sietsema will make it harder to get a spot, but as of late Friday afternoon, there were still tickets available for three late seatings this weekend (10: 30 p.m. Friday; 10:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday). It’s a set menu except for the main entree, either a gyro — made with awe-inspiring pita and griddled tofu skins that stand in seamlessly for shaved beef and lamb — or a Filet-O-Fish style sandwich made with fried, battered tofu and good ol’ American cheese. In my opinion, the most fun course was the first one, two Honey, I Shrunk the Kids size hard shell tacos. Walnuts tasting of cumin and chili powder play the role of ground beef. It’s got all the flavor of Taco Bell, with none of the metal shavings. 1509 17th Street NW — Gabe Hiatt

For an affordable drink in Shaw: D.C.’s cocktail prices are getting out of control, but at least one mainstay in the heart of Shaw won’t break the bank. All Souls has a long list of mixed drinks with no-frills, numerical names (No. 1 to No. 34) that hold steady around $10. With just almonds and olives at the bar, people aren’t here to eat, but you can bring your own food or have dinner delivered. Beer snobs congregate for pours of Belgium’s St. Bernardus ($12), but drafts start at just $4 for a Sapporo — a steal for the hot dining neighborhood. Speaking of, another trendy area is getting a place for super cheap (read: $3) beers starting tonight with the arrival of Last Call in Union Market. 725 T Street NW — TP

Friday, October 11

For an epic pimento cheese burger: Macon Bistro & Larder has been open in Chevy Chase for five years now, but I went for the first time this week. I encountered a whimsical mashup of French and Southern fare — the name refers to the Macon in both France and Georgia. The pretty bistro, dressed with modern chandeliers, vintage photographs, and retro wallpaper, excels at deviled eggs, Brussels sprouts sweetened up with black strap molasses, and honey butter-topped biscuits. The super fresh heirloom tomatoes in the burrata salad got me excited that their season isn’t over yet. A burger topped with pimento cheese, collard greens, and pork belly is an epic ode to the South. For cocktails, go with a Darker Stormy made with the restaurant’s own ginger beer. In French fashion, there’s obviously lots of wine, and an on-site Coravin contraption allows for single glass pours of pricier bottles like a $200 Rhone blend. 5520 Connecticut Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb

For chorizo queso for one : I dined at Mi Vida, the Mexican mainstay at the Wharf, before this week’s sold-out Maggie Rogers show at the Anthem. The place was packed with frozen mango margarita drinkers, and chances are it will be again before Friday’s Katy Perry/Norah Jones benefit concert. I was starving upon arrival, so I killed an entire queso fundito app before my friends arrived. The cast iron skillet of cheeses and chorizo is best served hot anyway, with hand-pressed tortillas for dipping. A plate of jumbo scallops and shrimp is great for sharing, served atop a swirling green-and-red spread of avocado-serrano purée and roasted tomato sauce. A seasonal take on Brussels sprouts invites butternut squash to the dish. And a new fall cocktail not to miss is La Buena Vida, built with Milagro Reposado, Grand Marnier, agave, and orange. 98 District Square SW — TP

For a surprisingly good cocina: If I’m showing up at a Mexican restaurant that I haven’t been to before for a friend’s bachelorette party, my expectations aren’t going to be sky-high. A successful trip might include a serviceable quesadilla or fajita platter, or maybe even a margarita that doesn’t use sour mix. So it was nice to end up at Cocina on Market in Leesburg, Virginia, and end up with a meal that was delicious, not just decent. Highlights included a crispy whole fish special, well-made guacamole that wasn’t $15 an order, a very nice Paloma, and way too much queso fundido for one person. Look out, Oyamel — the place even has grasshopper tacos. 7 W Market Street, Leesburg — Missy Frederick

Friday, October 4

For a well-executed Foggy Bottom cocktail: &pizza’s newly crowned beverage director Lukas B. Smith just unleashed a lineup of elixirs at the homegrown brand’s marble-lined bar tucked inside The Hive hotel. A first taste last night confirms Cotton & Reed’s resident rum maestro knows what he’s doing. The priciest of the bunch ($16) — the Long Island Local — is basically two drinks in one. The dangerously easily-to-drink drink is packed with locals, as the name suggests (Civic Vodka, Cotton & Reed rum, One Eight gin, One Eight triple sec, Astral tequila, &pizza dark cherry cola). The balance (mostly $10 a pop) includes a Skinny Cosmo Collins, filled with vodka, cranberry, lime, and Smith’s own Red Beard line of tangerine seltzer. Full menu below. 2224 F Street NW — Tierney Plumb

For a slamming charcuterie board: Jug & Table, Adams Morgan’s reliable wine bar under Roofers Union, just rolled out a new fall lineup that’s worth checking out. Kick off the meal with an impressive meat spread sourced from all over (think bresaola from Massachusetts, paprika-laced soppressata from California, and tender smoked duck breast from New York) alongside sweet, nutty, and earthy cheeses. Say hi to its new sommelier Chas Jefferson, who’s big on pours of biodynamic and orange wines. He’ll likely recommend Oregon’s 2017 Biggio Hamina “Biha” Andreas Vineyard Gewurztraminer Willamette Valley, featuring notes of baking spices, roses, and black tea. The first date hot spot under chef Jenn Flynn’s watch is also serving a spin on a croque monsieur and an 8-ounce flat iron steak topped with Bernaise butter alongside fries. 2446 18th Street NW — TP

For a jam-packed happy hour: Head to The Eastern right now for the wine bar’s happy hour that runs until 7 p.m. Good luck finding a seat in the two-month-old retro respite on Capitol Hill, but once you do, immediately order a refreshing clear spritzer built with buzzy California-born Chareau aloe liqueur, Q Mixers tonic, and white port. And a cool cup of pimento will get you asking for more dipping bread. Can’t make it for a TGIF discount? No problem — the happy hour runs on weekends, too (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.). Better yet, go for its weeks-old brunch (11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and keep your seat for happy hour. 360 7th Street SE — TP

Friday, September 27

For Southern riffs near Foggy Bottom: Jardenea, the hotel restaurant tucked inside the Melrose Hotel, sometimes gets overlooked thanks to its weird placement between West End and Georgetown. I recently had a memorable visit, sampling big changes for the fall under new chef Jospeh Dunbar. My favorite was his seared scallops served atop a bed of prosciutto-creamed orzo and purple yams. His creative take on Southern classics are everywhere (think fried chicken and sweet potato waffles mixed with jowl bacon and topped with Mélange syrup). Hudson Valley seared foie gras makes for a fine starter, but veggies are also his thing: the broccolini that comes with the pan-seared salmon was cooked perfectly. Cocktails scream fall, built with ginger and pumpkin spiced shrubs, apple-infused vodkas, and bobbing star anise. 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb

For a new Old Fashioned: I popped into Green Zone the other night, and the ballyhooed cocktails full of Middle Eastern ingredients lived up to the hype. My friend’s slushy, vodka-laced mint lemonade was Doublemint green and super refreshing, but I still preferred my Ottoman Times, a bourbon Old Fashioned made with pomegranate syrup and Arabic bitters. An admirably light hand with the sweet, tarrt fruit made for a well-balanced drink that was just the nightcap I needed after working through a sizzling skillet of fatty and crispy pork parts in the sisig from the Game Sports Pub. 2226 18th Street NW — Gabe Hiatt

For a waterfront beer: Just 3 years old, Bardo Brewery is considered a relative relic in Navy Yard. A sleek residential tower is going up behind it, and buzzy Buzzard Point is a short walk away. Laser-cut lettering across suspended metal boards spells out the beer selection, which offer lots of sour beers and plenty of odes to D.C. (Chuck Brown Ale, Marion “Berry”). One of its most popular brews, Goatman IPA, ran dry on a recent Saturday. Bardo doesn’t sell to restaurants, so its laid-back location along the banks of the Anacostia River is the only place to try its brews. Take a minute to appreciate the old-school decor, like a working piano in the graffiti-lined women’s bathroom and beat-up vinyl couches dotting its gravel ground. 25 Potomac Avenue SE — TP

Friday, September 20

For Thai snacks in Shaw: I visited Beau Thai in Shaw last Saturday night and was glad that the weather was warm enough to enjoy its plant-filled patio overlooking the busy action along Seventh Street NW. From that seat, I recommend starting with steamed circular dumplings stuffed with chicken, pork, and shrimp (I only wished there were more than four per order). Light and crunchy fried rice paper rolls, filled with vegetables and noodles, also disappeared from the table fast. Beau Thai’s pad see ew was spot on, too, and I got my greens in by eating the noodle dish’s generous stocks of Chinese broccoli. Unless you’ve got super-strength spice tolerances, skip the fiery panang curry (my dining companion couldn’t get past a few bites). I’ll have to return for the (apparently popular) garden rolls with tamarind sauce; the restaurant had sold out by 9 p.m. 1550 Seventh Street NW — Tierney Plumb

For a salty play on green tomatoes: I checked in on Rose’s Luxury this week, both to sample the standards celebrated by national critics a few years back and to see how hard it was to land a table. After about a 90-minute wait on a Tuesday, the meal started exceptionally strong with a free plate of cacio e pepe monkey bread. The mini, pull-apart rolls were warm and squishy. Steering them in a savory direction with an assertive smack of black pepper is clever. Immediately after that, a green tomato panzanella arrived that ended up as the highlight of the night. Thin green disks in an acidic dressing brought Granny Smith apples to mind, mingling well with sourdough bread and fat bites of anchovies neutralized of their most offensive characteristics. We enjoyed the famous lychee salad, but not as much as the spicy wings with chile sauce, fennel, strips of orange rind, and battered shells that would be at home in a Korean fried chicken joint. Suspicions about the brisket, which was dry and devoid of smoke, were unfortunately confirmed. 717 Eighth Street SE — Gabe Hiatt

For high-brow mall eats: If a trip to Tysons is in the cards this weekend, fuel up for shopping at the super sleek cafe tucked inside Neiman Marcus (next to the first-floor home section that’s already stocked with elaborate Christmas decorations). NM Cafe’s white napkin-lined ambiance is just as fancy and could fit right along Rodeo Drive. Prices could, too: grilled salmon tacos set back diners $22, and a main dish of gluten-free quinoa spaghetti and heirloom tomatoes is $30 after adding grilled shrimp. My Illy espresso iced latte was a more reasonable splurge. Saddle up to the glowing bar and catch up on daily news bites via TVs tastefully integrated into the mirrored backsplash. This menu is built for ladies who lunch, featuring 10 fresh salads packed with ingredients like avocado, lump crab, zucchini “spaghetti,” and local mixed greens and sprouts. FYI: hours are limited (noon to 5 p.m. on weekends), so sipping a midday glass of white wine is encouraged. 2001 International Drive, McLean, Virginia — TP

Friday, September 13

For a Mexican spin on arancini: The best risotto I’ve eaten recently came in a breaded, fried ball stuffed with corn smut. At Chop Shop Taco in Alexandria, the mayo-smothered elote and tender, braised brisket tacos both stood out, but nothing lingered in my memory like chef Ed McIntosh’s “fried rice,” a Mexican riff on an Italian snack with a name that conjures images of Chinese take-out. Porcini mushrooms and huitlacoche give the creamy interior an inky tinge. Serrano chile salsa, pickled red onions, and a small snowfall of cotija cheese decorating the crunchy exterior give the ball different dimensions. Mezcal margs with a tajin-coated rim added another does of smoky and sour. 1008 Madison Street, Alexandria — Gabe Hiatt

To toast to year one: Miami import Pisco y Nazca just celebrated its first birthday in D.C., and the perennially-packed Peruvian eatery proves not all downtown restaurants die down at night. The server will likely push the grilled octopus and potato cake starter, jazzed up with chimichurri and ají amarillo sauce (be glad you took the rec). Frothy pisco sours aren’t my thing, but the tequila-meets-cucumber pureé Uno Más had me ordering one more. Traditional tostones are executed well here, with heaping helpings of pulled pork arriving on each pounded fried plantain disc. If you can’t land on just one ceviche — most of which submerge underwater ingredients in an addicting leche de tigre sauce — order the sampler to try three of the seven varieties. Tiger’s Milk also makes its way into its new raw fish dish tiradito panca (below). Save room for a decadent, domed finale: The dark chocolate sphere cracks table side, revealing a pillowy surprise of sweet potato custard. 1823 L Street NW — Tierney Plumb

Tiradito panca (cobia, aji panca leche de tigre, sliced cucumber, crushed cancha).
Pisco y Nazca/official photo

For upscale sports bar eats: Proper 21 executive chef Steve Forbes is a diehard Patriots fan, so he’s naturally kicking off the NFL season playing with lots of New England ingredients (like throwing abundant lobster into its popular truffle mac and cheese). You also can’t go wrong with its essential Proper Burger, a 7-ounce Angus beef patty topped with white cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, and caramelized onions. Its weekend “kickoff” special from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. lets guests sample offerings like fried green tomatoes, Buffalo chicken dip, and that burger for $20.99, with pitchers under $20. There’s more than just TVs for entertainment; Friday night calls for live acoustic sets. Co-founder Will Strozier tells Eater the team just started construction on its sequel project in Foggy Bottom. 1319 F Street NW — TP

Friday, September 6

For an artsy burrata: Chef Harper McClure recently took over the reins of Pembroke, the pretty 7-month-old restaurant tucked inside the reinvented Dupont Circle Hotel. On a recent visit, the Le Diplomate alum scored hits with every plate, starting with a raw salmon special that converted me into a fan of the fish dish for the night. McClure just started working with a new burrata supplier, and a sizable white dollop gets decorated with 24 month-aged prosciutto, figs, and a Jackson Pollock-style balsamic drizzle for an artsy app. Pappardelle works well with truffle butter and wild mushrooms, and trout arrives on a bed of melted leeks as a homage to the hotel owners’ Irish heritage. For drinks, go with the neon-hued White Negroni with Aviation gin, Lillet Blanc and Suze. End the night with second round of seasonal figs served alongside a trio of cheeses. 1500 New Hampshire Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb

For an early fall ragu: Autumn won’t officially start for a few more weeks, but the unusually crisp weather and the glut of football on TV makes it seem like we’re already in the thick of pumpkin spice season. That means it’s time for braising. Instead of heating up your own oven for hours — it’s not that cold yet — head over to Michael Schlow’s Casolare in the Glover Park Hotel. There was plenty of available seating on a recent Friday night, and the first item listed on the pasta menu was the talk of my table. Homey rigatoni with Sunday gravy, meat sauce braised for at least five hours, offered yielding meat mixed with pleasantly chewy pasta. Butterscotch budino, or Italian pudding, was way thicker and creamier than the commercial stuff. Accompanying pistachio biscotti makes it all the sweeter. 2505 Wisconsin Ave NW — Gabe Hiatt

For a smoky veggie pocket: The flame flickering through strategically stacked logs underneath the Royal’s grill is a good reminder to try the food at the South American-leaning all-day cafe in LeDroit Park. Chunks of hearts of palm pick deliver the flavor of the grill from within a cheesy vegetarian arepa that’s also packed with cabbage, scallions, carrots, sunflower seeds, and a pink salsa. Between the generous dose of melted cheese and the just-dense-enough corn pancake, I didn’t miss meat at all. 501 Florida Avenue NW — G.H.