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D.C.’s Most Exciting New Restaurants of 2020, According to the Experts

Food writers, bloggers, and industry pros share their favorite newcomers to the D.C. dining scene

A plate of manti dumplings in urfa broth with urfa chile crunch, herbs, and garlic yogurt at Albi
A plate of manti dumplings in urfa broth with urfa chile crunch, herbs, and garlic yogurt at Albi
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and — as a new twist this year — a couple industry pros to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to an annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts this week. Next up, the dining experts share their picks for the most exciting new D.C. area restaurant (or bar, truck, pop-up, food hall stall, etc.) to open in 2020.

Anela Malik, Feed the Malik blogger: Albi. What an incredible restaurant turning out show-stopping meals that remind me of some of the best flavors I experienced living and traveling in the Middle East.

Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: Makan! It opened just before the pandemic, so I don’t think it ever got the full attention it deserves. It’s one of the best restaurants in DC. I love the spicy hakka noodles for dinner and biscuits with coconut pandan custard for brunch.

Lenore Adkins, freelance food writer: I think it’s remarkable that chef Elias Taddesse is flipping burgers when he’s French-trained and spent his career working in or running kitchens at Michelin star restaurants in France and New York City. He plans on turning Mélange, now a takeout spot, into a proper restaurant with traditional Ethiopian and contemporary French cuisine that I can’t wait to try once the pandemic is behind us. And he just launched a sold-out, handcrafted ice cream line. Can’t wait to see what Taddesse does next!

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: Partly because Persian cooking doesn’t have a lot of representation in the area, but mostly because I love the fried eggplant, ghormeh sabzi, and hospitality it serves up, Rumi’s Kitchen gets my vote.

Tim Carman, Washington Post food columnist: I love Muchas Gracias, chef Christian Irabien’s pivot into homestyle Mexican cooking. I’m also a huge fan of La Tejana’s breakfast taco pop-up, which introduced Washingtonians to some of the pleasures of Rio Grande Valley cooking. But my true romance this year is 2Fifty Texas BBQ, founded by a Salvadoran couple who fell in love with Central Texas smoked meats. They nail it.

Raman Santra, Barred in DC blogger: All of the Roost, but Shelter in particular. The new food hall is huge for Capitol Hill and the east side of D.C. in general even though Neighborhood Restaurant Group asked me to retract the story breaking the news in 2017. Can’t wait to have a craft beer on the patio in 2021.

Simone Jacobson, co-owner of Thamee: The guys at Jerk at Nite are cranking out some of the best Jamaican food I’ve ever had in the D.C. area. Before reopening Thamee, I passed by their truck on my way to a virtual cocktail class we were hosting (with no kitchen staff on site) and exercised some pretty hard core self-control to not wolf it down right away. Di Yaadie and their JaMacNCheese are so good (even at room temperature I couldn’t wait another second to eat it post-event). They’re using organic ingredients, and they often sing while they work. Anyone who knows singing to your food just makes it exponentially better feels like family to me.

Takera Gholson, Flights and Foods blogger: Shell Shack Seafood has really impressed me this year. From their Caribbean-inspired Thanksgiving menu to their brunch pop-up, everything I’ve eaten from their menu has been delicious. Every time I order, no matter what I choose as an entree, I must add crab and corn fritters as an appetizer.

Ann Limpert, Washingtonian food editor and critic: As a recovering desk-luncher who was fueled by Sweetgreen, I have been really digging the whole sandwich boom. My favorite upstart was Crush Subbies from Coconut Club’s Adam Greenberg, which served Connecticut-style grinders and other sandwiches. It’s temporarily closed as he looks for a new space, and I really hope it comes back.

Paola Velez, executive pastry chef for Maydan, Compass Rose, and La Bodega: Crush Subbies with chef Adam and the team.

Gabe Hiatt, Eater D.C. editor: I’ll echo what’s already been written by saying I’ve enjoyed incredible meals from Albi (and its more affordable daytime cafe, Yellow); Makan; Mélange; Rumi’s Kitchen; and 2Fifty Texas BBQ. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Taqueria Xochi — now located in a hot pink facade on U Street NW with a carryout window that serves gorgeous tlayudas, pressed cemitas tortas, cheesy beef birria tacos, and chocoflan. I’m enamored with Rose Ave. Bakery, where Rose Nguyen’s brand of Asian-American pastries includes sweet potato brioche doughnuts piped full of Vietnamese coffee cream or passion fruit curd. Also, I really hope Daikaya Group brings back Tonari, the wafu (Japanese-style) pasta shop with a dreamy style of pan pizza based on a recipe for fluffy white bread.

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