Friday, November 4
For an adult kids’ meal: Service Bar is always one of my go-to stops for a nice cocktail if I’m in the U Street area (last success there: a fancy vodka soda featuring homemade Concord grape syrup), but the last time in there, I needed a snack as well. The bar makes their own chicken nuggets, crunchy and satisfying, which can be augmented by a selection of various sauces. Even though I was about to have dinner, the value-minded (and extremely hungry) diner in me couldn’t resist spending an extra $2 for a generous plate of crispy crinkle fries. I can’t turn down a crinkle fry (I was among those relieved when Shake Shack brought back its frozen ones), and have a feeling they’ll become a must-order for me every time I visit Service Bar. 926-928 U Street NW — Missy Frederick
For premiere pasta: Old Town’s romantic darling Vermilion returned this summer after a two-year pandemic hiatus. My last meal here was way back in 2016, which was when chef Ben Pflaumer was doing great work across the Potomac at Osteria Morini. Now that the pasta pro is running the show at Vermilion, I knew I had to try all the carbs on my comeback visit. His standout fall risotto is a creamy and nutty medley of short-grain brown rice, black truffle, and grana padano cheese. A plate of braised pork-stuffed Italian casoncelli was equally delicious, and our table fought with forks over the last half moon-shaped ravioli. For starters, we sprang for a velvety, bright red bowl of chilled baby beet soup poured tableside and perfectly crispy potato pave. Make a reservation to sit upstairs in the polished-up brick dining room, which was especially busy for a Wednesday night. 1120 King Street Alexandria, Virginia — Tierney Plumb
For game-day (or catered) barbecue: Between a star rookie quarterback and potential sale, the NFL’s Washington Commanders are suddenly the talk of the town. Anyone flocking to FedEx Field for Sunday’s Vikings game must try the fabulous pulled pork and coleslaw at Old Fireman’s BBQ & Catering Co. At the 9/11 home opener, I stumbled upon the shiny red food truck parked in the new Legends Plaza outside Gate F. The refreshingly old-school operation that supports the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation only posts on Facebook, fields DMV-wide catering orders via an AOL email, and scribbles in red Sharpie the short game-day menu on a white board. I almost dropped my $17 stadium-bought Truly when I realized a satisfying halftime meal for $20 — a meat, side, and cookie — does exist. Pro tip: get there in the first quarter, as the rib tips were already sold out. Follow for location updates and ordering — T.P.
Friday, October 21
For a truly special occasion: I was lucky to get to celebrate 2941’s 20th anniversary at a special event earlier this month, and the menu featured some of the best dishes I’ve had all year, from a savory duck duo to an impossibly rich, fondue-stuffed ravioli blanketed with truffle. The event was an overdue reminder that I’m fortunate to have this singular restaurant, which we have a tendency to save for special occasions, right in my backyard; they’re offering a variation on the dinner (though the dishes are largely different) as a special tasting menu option through November 1. 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, Virginia — Missy Frederick
For fabulous fried dough: On a recent Friday, my roommate and I trekked downtown to Immigrant Food+ in Planet World Museum with appetites craving a little bit of everything. We started off with queso blanco spears wrapped in dough and tuna tataki. Venezuelan chef Enrique Limardo’s tequeños are simple but extremely rich. As for the tataki, the fish is so delicate and fresh and gets its personality from chickpea-edamame puree and sweet potato. With a heavy recommendation from its manager Miguel, I splurged on the chicken Milanesa. The cassava breading gives it a subtle crunch, and to add to the comfort food aesthetic, it comes with the creamiest mashed potatoes in a pool of gravy. Dessert was perhaps my favorite course. I grew up eating beignets, and their fried dough balls come with a passion fruit sauce and even more fantastic ice cream. 925 13th Street NW — Vinciane Ngomsi
For a festive bar menu: I swung by Green Pig Bistro’s Oktoberfest celebration a couple of weeks ago (disclosure; chef Tracy O’Grady lives across the street from me), and the visit made me realize that the Arlington neighborhood favorite kind of flies under the radar when it comes to excellent bar menus. Little dishes range from deceptively simple bacon crackers to perfect deviled eggs to springy foie gras nuggets to gougeres paired with a decadent truffle sauce; I’ll be back to try the fava bean hummus and buffalo pork belly, all discounted during happy hour. If you need something a little more substantial than bar food (which given the heft of the menu, may not be necessary), consider the super hearty, fall-appropriate schnitzel, heighened by smoked pork jus and scattered with spatzle and vegetables. 1025 N. Fillmore Street, Arlington, Virginia — M.F.
For a revived favorite: When I heard Dram & Grain was back, I made the mistake of trying to find it in the back of Jack Rose. Luckily, I didn’t have far to walk. The basement bourbon bar now sits in the depths of next-door sibling Imperial. The stylish reboot looks completely different from the rustic original, but some things haven’t changed. A huge collection of brown spirits seems to stretch forever behind the illuminated bar. Its illusive, whiskey-obsessed owner Bill Thomas is very much around these days (the bartender told me he was sitting in my same stool just a few hours earlier). There’s room here for other spirits too, of course. Dram & Grain makes a next-level espresso martini with nutmeg chicory tincture, but I’ll have to come back at happy hour when it’s $5 less. And my friend simply said the word “mezcal” and the bartender came up with a one-off riff on a Last Word that was so good she ordered two. 2001 18th Street NW — Tierney Plumb
Friday, October 14
For consistency: I’ve said before that a main trait I value in a restaurant is consistency, and I continue to experience it each time I pop into Le Diplomate (which tends to happen whenever my parents, who are super fans, are in town). The Friday night bouillabaisse special remains a study in rich, precise, seafood execution; the escargots remain a dream; their gougeres are still a must-add to any meal. But this time around, I found myself with mild order envy when I sampled my father’s delicately cooked duck. It’s rare to find a duck preparation that gets the temperature just right without offering a cloying sauce accompaniment, but Le Dip gets it done. 1601 14th Street NW — Missy Frederick
For fall-y porchetta: I learned when drinking at Bar Ivy in Clarendon that they’ve just added a porchetta to their fall menu, and it’s such a nice weather-transition dish to sample, paired with roasted sprouts and with notes of mustard and vinegar in the mix. Bar Ivy remains a fun stop for weekday happy hour as well; I’m not always a big fan of sherry in cocktails, but the discounted rebujito ($7) finds the right balance with the addition of a bitter, homemade soda. 3033 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. — M.F.
For ‘Trash Can’ nachos: Like it or not, flashy TV chef Guy Fieri has arrived in D.C. I went by opening night of his Guy Fieri Kitchen + Bar in Capital One Arena’s Caesars Sportsbook and went straight for a teetering tower of his novelty nachos. Unveiled tableside under a trash can-shaped vessel, the pile of house-smoked pork, black beans, sour cream, cilantro, and jalapenos was actually pretty delicious. Fieri’s bourbon brown sugar barbecue sauce shows up everywhere, from bacon-wrapped manicotti to wings. Bottles are also available for purchase near a big Flavortown mural upon entry. The unapologetically promotional restaurateur also makes sure shots are served in branded glassware of his Sousa tequila line — in supersized portions, of course. 601 F Street NW — Tierney Plumb
Friday, October 7
For fish and chips (and plenty of gin): Fall weather signals pub food for me, so my husband and I headed over to Hawk and Griffin in Vienna for dinner with friends last weekend. I’m already a huge fan of their gin and tonic menu, which has more than 15 different choices of pairings for the drink’s two main components. But it was nice to discover what a great version of fish and chips the bar delivers — the fish is fresh and pleasingly crispy; don’t forget to order a side of curry sauce for the chips. 435 Maple Avenue W, Vienna, Virginia — Missy Frederick
For a standout French dip (and a textbook Wedge): We continued the pub vibe the next day with a winding fall drive out to Upperville, Virginia, which has one of my favorite places for lunch: Hunter’s Head Tavern. I love the cozy, British-style bar, and the fact that the place uses all meats from Ayrshire makes their menu items even more special. It’s hard for me to stray from my go-to order: a singular French dip with high-quality beef, and a perfectly executed Wedge salad to start, but I did eye my husband’s chicken pot pie with plenty of interest. One request for the restaurant: bring back those killer onion rings! 9048 John Mosby Highway, Upperville, Va. — M.F.
For D.C. drafts and marquee views: High above bobbing boats at Transit Pier, Cantina Bambina is as close as you can get to the Southwest Waterfront. The drinking perch that turns five next week pours dockside staples into plastic cups. Along with Coronas, a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, and local drafts, the bar also riffs on everyday espresso martinis. Opt for iced Irish coffee or “Seattle Russian” (a Starbucks double shot and Tito’s vodka). Food here is an afterthought, but the Pearl Street Warehouse sibling randomly makes some of the best cheffed-up Chex mix in town. A direct sightline of the Anthem’s massive marquee makes Cantina Bambina a super popular spot to pregame and snap selfies before shows, so plan accordingly. 960 Wharf Street SW — Tierney Plumb
Friday, September 23
For dal and scallops: I’m glad I finally made it to last year’s Eater Debut of the Year, Daru, before reservations became even trickier to snag after accolades in Bon Appetit and The New York Times. My girlfriends and I had a fabulous meal ordering a good chunk of the menu, and there are two dishes in particular that rose to the level of must-order. The black dal with burrata is as rich and decadent as I’d hoped it would be, and the zippy scallops moilee, flavored with curry leaf and coconut, were piquant and prettily plated. The peppery Mango Tango was a picturesque, not-too-sweet drink to help kick off the evening. 1451 Maryland Avenue NE — Missy Frederick
For a very green drink: Like most people, I associate Midori with the ubiquitous sours that were Totally a Thing Ladiez Drink in college. So I was a little skeptical when I saw it was a component of the Japanese Slipper cocktail featured on Jane Jane’s menu. But it’s hard to resist the promise of a drink that might look a whole lot like Ecto Cooler, made by bartenders I trust. I wasn’t disappointed — the drink was tart and refreshing (and of course, very, very green). But clearly those sneaky bartenders have some sort of a magic touch (or secret ingredient) — my husband actually bought a bottle of Midori to try to recreate the classic recipe at home, and our version didn’t quite measure up. We’ll see how dusty that Midori bottle gets on our shelf. 1705 14th Street NW — M.F.
For a decades-old seafood standby: At my birthday friend’s request, we hit his favorite Georgetown waterfront hangout Tony & Joe’s right as the sun was setting last week. A whole steamed New England lobster has a MP of $45 these days, but the big-clawed splurge does come with huge helpings of roasted potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. (Pro tip: Tony’s runs a great lobster-and-beer deal on Mondays for $30.) It’s easy to make friends at this no-frills outdoor bar, where lapping sounds from the Washington Harbor’s nearby fountain (almost) made me feel like I was at the beach. Walk into the AC-blasted dining room to soak up its epic wall of framed celebrity fans over the years. That includes Frank Sinatra, who scribbled “to Tony — all the best” on his image. 3000 K Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For a wing delivery for the win: Adams Morgan’s 8-year-old saloon Jack Rose made a timely decision to revive its pandemic-era wing delivery service for fall football season. Its best-selling bourbon-glazed wings, on its menu since day one, join a bunch of new on-demand flavors like honey Sriracha, mezcal and lime, and gochujang (Korean chili paste). Everything arrived in neatly-packaged brown boxes with no spillage in sight. A quick trip in the oven revived some of the saucy poultry later in the week. Sides of shishito peppers and fried mac and cheese balls also hold up nicely. (Those actually ordering for a game-day watch party likely won’t have leftovers to deal with.) Available for takeout or delivery. 2007 18th Street NW — T.P.
Friday, September 9
For lechon — and everything else: I finally made it to the acclaimed Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly out in Kensington during a day-off lunch with a friend this summer. It will surprise no one that the restaurant’s signature (and titular) dish lived up to expectations, with its glistening meat and shatteringly crisp skin. The garlic rice it came with was a lovely accompaniment — but if the crab fat fried rice is listed as a special, don’t hesitate to throw that into the mix as well. 5268-H Nicholson Lane, Rockville, Md. — Missy Frederick
For “halal” pastor: I was excited to hear that popular food truck La Tingeria had gotten its own brick-and-mortar location in my town of Falls Church awhile back, and it’s proven to be an excellent takeout option for a quick meal. My favorite of their fillings is the “halal” pastor, named that way of course because they source halal meats for many of their proteins. Try the pineapple-spiked filling in a quesadilla for extra gooeyness. 626 S. Washington Street, Falls Church, Va. — M.F.
For a last taste of summer: I’m one of those people who doesn’t think summer is over until the calendar officially turns to fall in late September. But tomato season is rapidly disappearing, and one way to celebrate it before it goes away is to head to SER in Ballston for a bowl of their exquisite gazpacho. Ethereally creamy and not too sweet, the cool soup is an excellent contrast with the D.C. weather we know is going to stay hot and muggy for several weeks to come. 1110 North Glebe Road, Arlington, Va. — M.F.
For a new happy hour: Mt. Vernon Triangle’s Bartaco finally added weekday happy hour last month, which is likely due to all the taco competition there as of late. Props to the Latin street food chain for discounting some of the hardest cocktails to make out of the gate: muddled mojitos and Caipirinhas. Hard-to-find cans of Mexican lager Monopolio are cheaper from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., too. The breezy corner space, filled with driftwood decor and wavy palms, is an ideal spot to celebrate the last days of summer in D.C. Their easy ordering process entails checking off items on paper sheets. Definitely go for their gazpacho before it’s out of season. 1025 5th Street NW — Tierney Plumb
Friday, August 19
For caramel cake: I am not a cake person. I’ll take another scotch and soda over wedding cake any day, and my mom used to top pies and tarts with candles for me growing up for my birthday. So when I say the pecan caramel cake at Red Truck Bakery is unbelievably delicious, take that information with that context in the back of your head. It’s so good. It also makes for a very fun spontaneous dessert to pick up on the way to Shenandoah State Park and bring camping, but I realize that is an extremely specific recommendation. For dining inspiration in nearby Middleburg, go here. 22 Waterloo Street, Warrenton, Virginia — Missy Frederick
To salute ‘The Bear’: Ok, I seem to be the only person who hasn’t watched any episodes of The Bear yet (feels too much like work when you’re a restaurant editor), but I still know that Kevin Tien isn’t the only local cook paying tribute to the show on his menu. When I was at Ivy & Coney the other night, Italian beef sandwiches had been added to the menu, so as a lover of regional dishes I had to give it a try (I saved most of it for lunch the next day, since I couldn’t help still ordering my standby Detroit-style pizza and curly fries while I was there). They make a fine version, dripping with jus and pleasantly spiked with pickled vegetables. Just one more instance where the bar food at Ivy & Coney remains better than it has to be. 1537 7th Street NW — M.F.
For a kid’s menu blooper: A trip to Woodley Park’s pint-sized Duke’s Counter is always my go-to move after a long day at the National Zoo across the street, and last weekend was no different. The cute London pub begs to be photographed, between Banksy prints around the bar, bottles of imported HP Sauce, and a new mural of its bamboo-eating panda neighbors up front. I almost got its two-patty Proper Burger like usual, but a sweet-and-savory sandwich stuck out instead. The deliciously gooey “Nutella press” on multigrain did the trick to recharge. Only after ordering did we realize it’s part of the kid’s menu and “intended for persons aged 12 and under” (oops). But $12.50 seems like an adult price to me, so who cares. The diverse draft list here never disappoints, and I went with an icy pour of Detroit’s Founders All Day IPA. 3000 Connecticut Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For underrated pizza in Arlington: Clarendon’s Wilson Boulevard strip is so crowded with long-running bars and restaurants, I forget Mazaro is even there (to be fair, it had a quiet pandemic debut). I gave the Italian underdog a shot on a recent Sunday night and took a comfortable seat at its roomy bar. I immediately got good vibes from a fun and friendly bartender who had a heavy-handed white wine pour. I’m always suspect of a pasta place with too many options (16 here, to be exact), but the chosen cacio e pepe — a hefty heap of slippery bucatini noodles slathered in pecorino cheese and a crushed black pepper finish — was a comforting surprise. (My neighbor also raved about his layered lasagna, which oddly came out in mere minutes.) Mazaro’s menu winner, in my opinion, is worth the wait: Neapolitan pizza baked in an imported wood-fired oven in the back. My spicy diavola pie, blanketed with thinly-sliced soppressata, was a gloriously greasy way to wrap up the weekend. 2909 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, Virginia — T.P.
Friday, July 15
For good service during brunch: Service seems to be a challenge during the best of times these days, and brunch has always been a notoriously tough time to get good restaurant service. So I was very pleased to have a great experience at Fairfax’s Irish Pub The Auld Shebeen during Sunday afternoon hours the other week. Our waiter was super friendly and attentive, and even managed little touches like plating our club sandwich for two when we told him we’d be splitting it. It was a tasty Club to boot, and the Auld Shebeen remains a strong choice for bar bites like giant pretzels, creamy potato leek soup, and one of the best Bloody Marys I’ve had recently (another brunch staple that’s easy to get very wrong). 3971 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, Va. — Missy Frederick
For fabulous barbecue: Veteran-owned Valor Brewpub just made a huge hire with top D.C. pitmaster Shawn McWhirter, an alum at Hill Country Barbecue Market, DCity Smokehouse, and most recently, Smokin’ Pig. At his new Barracks Row work station, his smoker skills shine in a half-pound of juicy brisket, dry-rubbed wings, and lip-smacking ribs. His debut Valor menu, appropriately named Lick the Plate, also includes delightfully flaky fried catfish and standout sides like cilantro and lime-leaning coleslaw and a uniquely sweet potato salad with relish. A patio seat is best way to enjoy the summertime spread over a sampler of Valor beers served on a wooden board. With great barbecue, sauces aren’t really necessary, but I’m glad I took a tub of the tangy Carolina home to liven up leftovers. 723 8th Street SE — Tierney Plumb
For epic pies: Friends and I visited Alexandria’s Beeliner Diner on a recent weekend, and it became clear that it’s a place where it’s worth ordering dessert. For us, the decision was the chocolate creme pie, and it delivered — rich but not too sweat, a sturdy and flavorful crust, etc. I’m not much of a cake eater, but it was clear to me that cake fans should also give this place a try - epic cakes are a specialty, and even a single slice will grant you seven-layer, towering pieces at the strip mall restaurant. The cheese curds aren’t bad, either. 3648 King St, Alexandria, Va. — M.F.
For a Belgian favorite: As a regular since 2009, I breathed a sigh of relief when Robert Wiedmaier’s K Street staple Brasserie Beck finally reopened in June. Memories instantly flooded back during a comeback visit this week, and my mussels and fries tasted as good as I remember. The raw bar’s selection of oysters is impressive, considering today’s supply chain woes (opt for plump and squishy Kusshi if they’re in stock). A bright heirloom tomato salad, dressed with a pleasant vinaigrette, offered a first taste of the late summer produce. My favorite seat is its big marble bar, framed with antique mirrors and displayed magnums of Veuve. The big and slightly dusty bottles are like time capsules, scribbled with autographs of Wiedmaier’s chef friends over the years. Belgian Independence Day festivities next week will expand its already-big European beer list with rare imports like Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel and Duvel 666. 1101 K Street NW — T.P.
For nostalgic dishes: It was nice to visit Dupont’s classic gay gathering place, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, during Pride month for a pre-theater dinner. Shrimp cocktail is one of those dishes I’m less likely to order these days on account of price, but $14.50 will get you a generous eight chilled pieces at Annie’s. Also on the nostalgic dish front, I enjoyed a rare, crusty London Broil, swimming in mushrooms and gravy. I’d describe the martini as more strong than nuanced, but I was more than happy to be drinking it among the convivial crowd. 1609 17th Street NW — M.F.
Friday, June 17
For a crab feast: To me, it’s not truly summer until a crab feast happens, and for the past three years, Captain Pell’s has been our standby for takeout crabs. Prices are high this year for crab in general, so it was nice to see that even the medium sized ones from Pell’s had enough yield to be with the effort. Hush puppies and peel-and-eat shrimp are necessary add-ons. Warning: even if you call ahead a day before, expect to wait at least a little bit before your order is ready when you arrive (bonus: it doesn’t feel like the food is sitting around cold for your arrival). Always order a few extra crab (or even shrimp); it means, if you’re patient enough to do a little extra picking, you can put together another fun meal the next day (in our case, shrimp and crab etouffee). 10195 Fairfax Boulevard, Fairfax, Va. — Missy Frederick
For a hip waterfront hangout: When it comes to classy sports bars, Brighton is the move on the Wharf. I checked out the Hilton brothers’ Southwest bar on a recent rainy Sunday night, and a comforting container of shepherd’s pie hit the spot. A generous and bright Cobb salad also did not disappoint. The sleeper hit, however, was the unexpected item on the Irish-leaning menu: a warming bowl of chicken curry with carrots, onions, basmati rice, naan bread. The beer list gives loves to lots of locals (Aslin, Solace) and a cocktail collection of “Ice Breakers” includes a refreshing watermelon crush. The rectangular-shaped bar sports a handsome and cozy look, complete with Edison bulbs and quilted brown leather booths. Claim a nook to linger and watch whatever is airing above (tomorrow night, that will be the Stanley Cup finals). 949 Wharf Street SW — Tierney Plumb
For lip-smacking smoked meats: Birch and Barley alum Jarrad Silver mastered the art of barbecue at his Kensington home during the pandemic, and now his shiny new Silver and Sons truck roams around Rockville, Bethesda, and Silver Spring. Meats get smoked with hickory and oak wood that Silver cut down himself. Silver uniquely unites American barbecue techniques with Mediterranean flavors, and everything comes with delightfully squishy challah rolls, turmeric pickled cauliflower, carrots and celery, and sauces seasoned with homemade spice blends. Baharat mustard pumped up with paprika goes well with everything, but the baby back beef ribs weighing in at two pounds stand on their own. It’s hard to go wrong with sides, but consider the light watermelon salad with chunks of smoked feta or potatoes with rendered schmaltz and a tangy finish via fresh lemon juice. Order takeout or follow the truck around. — T.P.
Friday, June 3
For life-changing flan: I first dined at Dolce Vita in February for my birthday, and when the coastal Mediterranean spot on 14th Street NW announced a brunch menu, I knew I had to return. You can choose from a social brunch for two which yields a bottle of prosecco, salad and main to share for $35 each or purchase cocktails a la carte. My friend and I opted for the latter, and the Medi Brunch Punch did not disappoint. The fresh fruit is especially refreshing on those painfully hot days. The pastry basket is a sinful must-have, packed with both savory and sweet options like made-to-order churros and spanakopita. Speaking of churros, those are used as the base for chicken and churros — Dolce Vita’s take on chicken and waffles. The bird is covered in Moroccan spices before it’s deep fried and covered in an elderflower jus that seeps into the crispy churro underneath. If there’s still room for dessert, the saffron-coconut flan will change your life. 1610 14th Street NW — Vinciane Ngomsi
For doner, sausages, and more: I was unreasonably excited to visit German Gourmet the other day. Sure, they’re a fun place, but this was more about the fact I hadn’t left the house in many days after finally succumbing to COVID-19, and was finally at the stage where I could resume activities masked. As a result, I was a little...over enthusiastic with my purchasing. But with good reason. Their doner sandwich isn’t quite what you might expect — instead of a pita or flatbread, the meat and toppings sit atop a large, firm, dill-flecked roll — but the results are interesting and delicious. It was also the perfect place to stock up for Memorial Day brats (so many varieties), German beers, sour Haribo candy that’s actually from Germany, and supplies for a special dinner to replace a canceled anniversary trip involving everything from schnitzel to spaetzle. Consider a prepared potato pancake for the road, and think about calling ahead if stopping by during peak lunch or weekend hours. 5838 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, Va. — Missy Frederick
For sushi that shines at a ramen restaurant: I finally checked out Navy Yard’s Basebowl, adorably named for its placement next to Nationals Park. I was banking on its ramen headliner to steal the show, but I was wrong; its new-ish sushi menu did. The high quality of the fish — white tuna, tuna, yellow tail — made for top-notch nigiri. The one-bite wasabi flying fish roe is a bright green dome of roe that delightfully pops in your mouth. Veggie gyoza was also a winner here. As for the ramen, I probably strayed too off base with a Thai spicy coconut curry broth, but props to the chunks of tasty chicken karaage that arrived on the side instead of getting too wet inside the bowl. Everything pairs well with ice-cold glasses of Kirin on draft. The sleek black bar also sends out well-executed cocktails, with help from a snazzy new food dehydrator that dries rows of citrus discs (and potentially salmon jerky in the future, per a bartender). 1201 Half Street SE — Tierney Plumb
Friday, May 13
For hefty pies: Detroit-style pizza is arguably my favorite style of pizza (even if choosing between it and a great NY-style slice is like picking favorites between children). So I was pleased to discover another solid, Virginia-based destination for it in Little Beast. The Motown pizza brings together some of my favorite pizza toppings, from meatball and pepperoni to banana pepper and onion. Grandma-style pizzas are also available, but the thick-crusted Detroit pies have my affection here. 12100 Sunset Hills Road, Reston, Va. — Missy Frederick
For crustaceans in the city: I’m sure I lost some of my Mid-Atlantic cred the other day when I decided to order crab legs rather than blue crab at Ivy City Smokehouse the other day, but sometimes you have to satisfy a craving. The meat was sweet and fresh, but it almost was upstaged by one of my continual favorites there, the garlic shrimp appetizer perked up with shishito peppers and heat. Don’t be shy — you know you want to ask for extra bread to sop up all of that greasy, spicy sauce. 1356 Okie Street NE — M.F.
For za’atar galore: I’m overdue to make it to Z&Z’s Manouche Bakery in Rockville, but at least I’ve found another way to support the spice purveyor: their stand at the Mosaic District Farmers Market. Their flatbreads are a great breakfast option for those who like things substantial and savory: try the jibneh manouche with three types of cheese atop it. 2920 District Avenue, Fairfax, Va. — M.F.
For excellent Indian takeout in Alexandria: You know how you open your takeout app and the prompt is “Order again...”? I don’t want to know how many times I’ve ordered from Namaste (based out of a strip mall in Alexandria), and every one of those times I’ve gotten the samosa chaat. This vegetarian dish features chunks of filling crispy potato-filled samosas hidden under a layer of chickpeas, tomato, onion, and cilantro. The tang from yogurt and tamarind sauce takes it to the next level. My basic, often-repeated order also involves the butter chicken, but maybe one day I will branch out to the Nepalese dishes on the menu. 6138 Rose Hill Drive, Alexandria, Va. — Adele Chapin
For a taste of Thailand: I recently headed to H Street dive Haymaker to check out Toh Roong’s weekend-only residency that runs through June. My super-spicy egg noodle soup was the ideal antidote to yet another rainy Friday night. Thai founder Kitima Binomials switches up bowls every week at her latest D.C. pop-up. Looks like my fiery khao soi phased out, but this weekend is all about thick rice noodles dressed with braised beef and her mom’s secret spice seasoning. A “One Night in Bangkok” cocktail also brings the heat with chili-infused tequila, or opt for a standout espresso martini made with Japan’s Haku vodka, Thai coffee, and on-trend Mr. Black. Shrimp chips, a popular drinking snack at Thai night markets, go well with an ice-cold Singha beer. FYI: Haymaker has TVs everywhere to catch the crucial Caps game(s). 1015 H Street NE — Tierney Plumb
Friday, April 29
For excellent Peruvian — and $2 margaritas: The Midwesterner in me loves a deal, so as soon as I heard that Inca Social serves $2 margaritas during Thursday happy hour for the ladies, I knew I was going to have another excuse to go there. We usually frequent the Dunn Loring location, but we decided to check out the larger, swankier Rosslyn location with friends on a recent Thursday evening. We found a bigger, more diverse menu, but the same great Peruvian food and drink deals (the margarita special meant that things were HOPPING that night, especially with women). In addition to great standbys like lomo saltado, generous portions of fried rice dishes (don’t miss the chaufa aeropuerto with egg and ginger), and aji de gallina stew, there’s a whole roster of sushi dishes, a bunch of festive small plates, and several more ceviche and tiradito raw options. Who doesn’t love a party that just happens to serve great food? 1776 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. — Missy Frederick
For a newly rebooted Old Town bar: The Study is back open in The Morrison Hotel under the direction of new chef Tomas Chavarria, who hails from Costa Rica and got his start under Charlie Palmer. His new menu at the classy Study takes this traditional hotel in a new direction with Mesoamerican culinary touches from Central and South America. Top snacks include esquites in a three-chili spiced rub or croquetas served in a bright and bold aji amarillo sauce. Meanwhile, the cocktail menu is a must, if only for one drink. The colorful Fire & Ice calls for pineapple-infused chartreuse, lemon juice, simple syrup, and ghost pepper tincture. It’s a cocktail that screams, “Cheers to the weekend!” 116 S. Alfred Street, Alexandria, Va. — Tim Ebner
For tartare in a chic downtown setting: It’s rare, if ever, that I venture near the White House for dinner. But when a friend of mine suggested we dress up and head for a Thursday meal at La Bise, I couldn’t refuse an excuse to wear something other than leggings for once. The upscale French eatery had big shoes to fill after occupying the space previously held by The Oval Room for 27 years. Chef Michael Fusano’s take on beef tartare and Berkshire pork belly are visually stunning as they are delicious. The coq a vin is plentiful for two, but it’s so delicious you won’t want to share. The Parisian gnocchi’s personality shines with the addition of toasted raisins and pistachio, two things I’d never had accompanied with the pillowy pasta dish. Considering it’s a French spot, I recommend asking the sommelier for wine pairings. I immediately placed an order for a case of the rosé that arrived with the tartare. 800 Connecticut Avenue NW — Vinciane Ngomsi
For superior broth and service: One recent Saturday, I settled into Columbia Heights gem Queen’s English for what would be quite the memorable evening. With hit after hit landing on our table, it was hard to pick a favorite. But the shrimp and tobiko gnudi with crispy ginger in “Superior Broth” stood out from the rest. The slippery-skinned coins are delightfully confusing. Their tender buoyancy resembles an Italian ricotta-based dumpling, but a first bite reveals their immediate likeness to the plump crystal shrimp har gow found at your favorite dim sum joint (but better). The faultless execution of the Superior Broth, a staple as central to Hong Kong cuisine as mother sauces are to France, left us bickering over whether the broth or the dumplings were the best part. One thing that rivals the food at Queen’s English was the team’s superior hospitality. It’s clear that chef Henji and Sarah take good care of their staff (our server couldn’t seem to tell us enough just how happy he is to be a part of this team). The optional, four-percent “wellness” fee on the bill — there to “provide staff with healthcare, competitive wages and the opportunity to build a career” — was an upcharge our table was more than willing to shell out for. 3410 11th Street NW — Nat Belkov
Friday, April 15
For great fries (that aren’t frites): I like my fries super crispy, and often that means that ultra-skinny frites are my favorite, almost by default. It’s rare that a more “regular” fry impresses me, so Unconventional Diner deserves props for winning me over with their not-so-skinny fries: perfectly crisp with still enough texture and heft behind them to taste like potato, and impeccably seasoned to match. They come with a side of “sexy sauce” that I found tasty but unnecessary (wouldn’t mind them with a little brown gravy, though, and that’s exactly what I doused the leftovers with at home). The restaurant, which I hadn’t visited since (right) before the pandemic started, continues to be a great place for consistency — killer meatloaf, a fine dressed-up chicken parmesan, and almost lumpia-like taquitos were other hits from our quick dinner at the bar. 1207 9th Street NW — Missy Frederick
For a fancy French lunch: My husband and I checked in on McLean institution L’Auberge Chez Francois for lunch on a recent weekend when we were in the area for a nature-y activity. The institution remains a great choice for people looking for hyper-attentive, leisurely paced service — and its prix fixe menu is more affordable (usually $55-$60 per person if you don’t choose something with an upcharge) during lunch time, too. Everything we ordered was prepared with precise care and intense flavor, from the tender beef cheeks appetizer prepared almost like a stew, to the robust, overstuffed bouillabaisse. I highly recommend unnecessarily ordering a side of frites for the table. 332 Springvale Road, Great Falls, Va. — M.F.
For pasta with a gin finale: I made the most of a Capitol Hill corner the other night with dinner at glossy “Italian-ish” spot La Collina, followed by liquid dessert at The Wells — the same group’s stylish gin bar next door. Per out waiter’s rec, we started out with a beautiful antipasti board, assembled with marinated mozzarella, soppresatta, Mangalica ham, giardiniera, and a dollop of apple mostarda. Gloriously wide highballs and carafes are the wine vessels here, and pours appeared to keep coming without question to each sleek wooden table. For the core carbs, we kept things simple with a delightfully fresh bowl of bucatini and meatballs and a neat nest of cacio e pepe. For a light finish, go with a cherry blossom ice cream sandwich that just extended its popular spring run. Steps away at The Wells, its polished drinking lair lined with framed Hermès scarves and hunter green paint, expertly-made botanical cocktails even sold my tequila-only friend on gin by the end of the night. 747 C Street SE — Tierney Plumb
For top-notch Chinese food from Glover Park: Located in an unassuming brick building up Wisconsin Avenue NW, Dumplings and Beyond is sometimes overlooked (I admittedly Googled the address to jog my memory of its facade). The Chinese mainstay has clearly mastered the art of takeout during the pandemic, in both neat packaging and brevity; delivery to the Wharf arrived faster than any food I’ve ordered from upper Northwest. Instead of getting its best-selling dumplings, I fed into the “beyond” part of the name and went with a massive container of combination lo mein. The soft noodles were a nice compliment to the crispy spiciness of a Sichuan chicken entree. Its hot and sour soup is one of the best I’ve had, and a crazy-low price tag ($2.95) for the substantial tub was icing on the cake. Dine-in or order takeout online. 2400 Wisconsin Avenue NW — T.P.
Friday, February 25
For sharing: For me, one of the iconic D.C. dates is dinner at Bourbon Steak lounge, followed by an event at the Kennedy Center nearby. The tight lounge menu is festive for sharing, and the solicitous bartenders will plate split versions of everything from their iconic burger to their wedge salad for diners. Pair those two options with their iconic duck fat fries, and your evening is off to a good start. The menu has a couple more elaborate new additions, from mussels to steak frites, but we stuck to the classics last Friday. Bourbon Steak’s cocktails are always perfectly balanced and classy, and the lounge is enough of a scene to make eavesdropping an additionally fun date night activity. If you are, in fact, finishing the night at the Kennedy Center, get pumped that concessions are now open (but only on the first floor, so sneak some overpriced sparkling wine up to the terrace levels and take in the view). 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW — Missy Frederick
For flautas: We moved (temporarily) recently to the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Falls Church, and because I am a Responsible Human, I made it one of my first missions to have a drink at the bar closest to our new apartment. “Bar” ended up having to be defined loosely, and we found ourselves at Tex-Mex restaurant Mi Pueblo Bar & Grill. We were the only ones inside that chilly Monday afternoon, when we found ourselves filling up on chips and salsa and drinking icy (decent) margaritas and Mexican beers. The pleasant surprise came when we ordered the chicken flautas as an appetizer, and they were some of the best I’ve had. Delightfully crispy, doused in cheese and crema, and paired with a zippy green salsa, they were enough to convince me that I’ll definitely be back to this neighborhood haunt. 5863 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, Virginia — M.F.
For hand-pulled noodles: Uyghur cuisine — a unique intersection of Chinese and Middle Eastern flavors — is pretty hard to find in D.C., but Cleveland Park’s Dolan Uyghur is all about it. Last weekend’s delivery order did not disappoint, starting with plump, sauteed mushrooms surrounded by tender bok choy stems. Dry-fried chicken “nuggets” with spring onions, chili pepper, and sesame sprinkles was also a comforting winter entree. For starters, pumpkin-stuffed steamed buns were an unexpected hit, but I think superior spring rolls exist elsewhere in the city. Chewy, hand-pulled noodles are a must here, and I poured the last of the order’s spicy sauce all over a side of rice. 3518 Connecticut Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For star anise-infused gin: Dining at Masala Art is a page-turner. The Southwest outpost’s Indian menu is ridiculously long, but our friendly server offered great advice on where to focus. Start with a delicious trio of ground lamb kebabs featuring hints of jalapeno and mint. Its best-selling biryani bowls are humorously hidden on the last page, and our silver tin opened tableside revealed a big dome of fragrant chicken and delicately cooked rice. A creamy, cashew nut shrimp curry married nicely with triangles of fluffy naan flecked with rock salt and cilantro. Masala’s take on a Ramos Gin Fizz comes with with star anise-infused gin and club soda topper, and a tall, icy bottle of Taj Mahal beer also worked well as a fizzy refresher through dinner. Romantic details are aplenty here, from flickering candles balanced on metal figurines to wood-carved elephants to street lights piercing through a beaded curtain wall. 1101 4th Street SW — T.P.
Friday, January 28
For takeout-friendly fries: I’m not one to declare that a certain type of french fry is superior, as long as it’s well-executed — there’s plenty of room in my world for curly fries, crinkle fries, and skinny frites to coexist. But I do have a fond place in my heart for waffle fries, and Lost Dog Cafe makes some of the best in town (RIP Philly Wing Fry, though). In general, while fries are not the best dish to order takeout, Lost Dog’s stand up better than many, and my air fryer has justified its existence many times over reheating these and others to perfectly crispy perfection. And oh yeah, the indulgent multi-meat pizzas and generously stuffed sandwiches still deliver. Multiple Northern Virginia locations — Missy Frederick
For an unexpected fry fix: I curbed a recent cheesesteak craving at Grazie Grazie on the Wharf, and as expected, the gooey, meaty order did not disappoint (its founder Casey Patton is from Philly, after all). I wasn’t expecting its waffle fries to stand out too. Truth be told, I didn’t even know the 2-year-old sandwich shop serves spuds, but every last piece was crispy and greasy in all the right ways. Another sleeper hit was its seasonal minestrone soup, a warming cup of carbs that promises to be “better than nonnas,” per the menu. 85 District Square SW — Tierney Plumb
For an artistic cocktail: I just checked out Artechouse’s new Transient: Impermanent Paintings exhibit, where a glowing “XR Bar” upon entry gave me Barmini vibes (without the price tag). Sit and stay for an interactive experience that weaves music, technology, and DIY art alongside five well-made cocktails ($14). The installation’s namesake option (lime, fresh bell pepper, smoked wood chip agave mezcal) arrived with a surprise side: watercolor pens and an adorably small white canvas on an easel that’s sized for a squirrel. For inspiration behind my mini masterpiece, I simply turned around to take in the immersive, audiovisual display of zippy, colorful brushstrokes timed to a symphony soundtrack. The cocktail itself doubles as a 3D art show. Hover your phone over app-enabled coasters and ice cubes to watch trippy graphics jump and dance around the drink. Or just ditch the tech and get a Georgian amber wine that’s gorgeous on its own. 1238 Maryland Avenue SW — T.P.
Friday, January 7
For fondue: A group of six of us ended up at Stable for New Year’s Eve, and it really worked out perfectly. The meal was festive, the vibe was cozy, we didn’t have to deal with a crowded bar scene, and the full menu was available at regular price without annoying upcharges (with limited optional NYE’s extras thrown in for those who might want to splurge). We didn’t think far ahead enough to order the raclette, which requires 24 hours notice, but the raclette toast appetizer satisfied that craving. And we found ourselves with more than enough cheese anyway, given we ordered the fondue for four with black pepper and garlic (definitely pick the cornichons as a dipper). The venison loin and Zurich-style veal were standout mains, though a dining companion raved about the scallops. I’d totally celebrate NYE Swiss-style again. 1324 H Street NE — Missy Frederick
For delicious Detroit-style pies: I’m really behind on sampling D.C.’s various Detroit-style pizza (relative) newcomers, and it’s a shame given it’s my favorite style of pizza. But at least I confirmed this week that Red Light is putting out an excellent version. We went with the one topped with pepperoni, salami, jalapeno, and hot honey and it was an excellent marriage of flavors. The crust was the pillowy, crisp-on-the-edges style you’d expect from the genre, and the sauce was one of my favorites to top a pizza in quite some time. Tip: to end the meal, head across the street to Jane Jane and drink your dessert by ordering the Branca Menca-spiked grasshopper cocktail. 1401 R Street NW — M.F.
For fruity faux meat: My first meal of 2022 was brunch at Crazy Aunt Helen’s on Capitol Hill, and the quirky comfort foods spot sold me on jackfruit as an unlikely stand-in for carnitas. The fermented fruit adopts a believable meaty taste and texture, topped on tostadas with eggs and avocado. There’s plenty of ways to get a carnivorous fix here, however. Biscuits slathered in gravy arrive with plump maple sausage the team makes on-site, but the sleeper standout of the meal was a last-minute order of gloriously greasy smoked pork belly. Creative cocktails that loop in locals include a Civic vodka lemon drop and Cotton & Reed fruit punch, and there’s also spirit-free drinks for those partaking in dry January. Sunday brunch, capped off with a free plate of Andes chocolates, also comes with a side of entertainment. A drag queen donning in a smart yellow-and-black houndstooth suit worked the room to an amazing rendition of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” 713 8th Street SE — Tierney Plumb
For 99 beers on the wall: If there was such a thing as a beer connoisseur’s paradise, Tap99 fits the bill. Navy Yard’s self-pour taphouse is named after its whopping 99 selections of draft beer, seltzer, cider, wines, cocktails, and kombucha, all lined up around the perimeter of the glossy red-tiled bar that opened in August. I kept the holidays alive during a recent visit by dispensing Delirium Noël — a potent (10-percent ABV) winter ale its Belgium brewery only makes for Christmas and the new year. Grab a red Solo cup and keep the pours coming for a dressed-down, DIY tasting that costs around 75 cents to $1 per ounce. Beer is the star, but its bar food was surprisingly good. Our piping hot pepperoni pie was a welcome snack between sips, but I was jealous of our neighbors’ ridiculously thick mozzarella sticks. With a front-row seat of Nationals Park, sports are naturally always on Tap99’s big TVs (beer-fueled NFL weekend plans, anyone?). 1250 Half Street SE — T.P.
Friday, December 3
For consistent tapas: It had literally been years since I’d wandered into Estadio on 14th place, and I was thrilled to discover recently that the restaurant is just as deliciously consistent as ever. Jamon croquetas are super creamy, bomba rice with truffles is appropriately rich, and it’s hard to stop eating the grilled calamari. Fancy gin and tonics make for just the right accompaniment. 1520 14th Street NW — Missy Frederick
For tlayudas: I’ve had (colorful, excellent) drinks several times at Tequila y Mezcal but never stopped for a meal there until recently, despite ogling just about anything that came out of the kitchen while drinking my hibiscus margaritas. The food measures up — fajitas mixtas prove to be a satisfying tower of grilled meats and vegetables, and I was especially pleased to find tlayudas, a favorite from a vacation spent in Oaxaca, on the menu; try the one topped with birria. Service here is continually warm and attentive, and it’s just a fun, festive place to spend some time. Next time, I’m coming back for a burrito. Or the carne asada. Or... 3475 14th Street NW — M.F.
For welcome run-ins with regulars: My Columbia Heights friends swear by Capa Tosta, their neighborhood pasta pick for date night once a week. The Italian-American restaurant quietly replaced Napoli this spring, and a full house on a recent Friday tells me word is out about its orecchiette tossed with broccoli rabe and spicy sausage and pillowy ricotta gnocchi. Partner Angelo Ciotola says his culinary parents from Naples came out of retirement just to revive their recipes inside. We warmed up to their homemade noodles with white wine mussels and quartet of homey meatballs, and everything paired well with pours of Piedmont’s Broccardo. The lush red lasted through the airy tiramisu, thanks to a generous regular who secretly kept the bottles coming to our shared communal table. 2737 Sherman Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For Dupont’s latest brunch move: Mi Casa’s palm-filled, covered patio is a favorite new place to sit and stay on a Sunday. The Tex-Mex spot’s weekend answer to an iced latte is spiked with Hornitos Reposado and Australia’s trendy Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur. A filling quesadilla is the size of a pizza. Crispy, whole tortillas cut in triangles pack in scrambled eggs, refried beans, pickled jalapeños, chorizo, and pepper jack, with a circular crema squiggle. We strayed from the brunch menu with our server’s top rec for enchiladas and tangy yellowtail ceviche surrounded in a shimmering passion fruit ponzu. Our chia pudding got lost on the crowded table, but the colorful coupe of Greek yogurt, mangos, toasted coconut, granola, and strawberries worked well as a refreshing finish. 1647 20th St NW — T.P.
Friday, October 15
For a smoky beef roll and a pineapple mule: Wanting to fortify ourselves for a round of amari tasting at the Don Ciccio & Figli headquarters in Ivy City, my dining companion and I met a friend for lunch at the (Biden-approved) Las Gemelas Taqueria inside La Cosecha. I gravitated toward one of the taco stand’s new tortas stuffed with tasajo, a salted and thinly sliced preparation for beef. The strips of steak picked up just the right amount of char from the flat top, maintaining a distinguishable flavor within a soft telera roll stacked with lettuce, tomato, avocado, black beans, and pickled jalapeno. Everything else we tried from our barstools just outside the ordering window — lengua and beef cheek tacos, breakfast tacos made with crispy hash brown pucks, $9 carbonated pineapple mules with tequila and gin — showed the takeout-friendly spot has only got sharper since opening in mid-March. 1280 Fourth Street NE — Gabe Hiatt
For a tender poached halibut with gnocchi and chicken skin: Ellē chef Brad Deboy is the type of guy who will tell you that he was so excited about figuring out a dish that he couldn’t sleep for a whole night. In this case, he was talking about a truly unique mix of nixtamalized, kombucha-compressed watermelon, fermented mustard seeds, and burrata, all of which he insists tastes like a strawberry shortcake. By comparison, a poached halibut gnocchi sounds tame, but that was the bite that stuck with me after a recent visit. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a piece of fish so soft. Light potato gnocchi had a similar texture, and a combo of rich brown jus and crackly chicken skin made the whole thing sing. 3221 Mt Pleasant Street — G.H.
For tavern food that doesn’t disappoint: Shaw’s Tavern paved the way for many restaurants to move into its namesake neighborhood when it opened on the corner of Sixth Street and Florida Avenue NW a decade ago. It’s hard to choose what to order on a large American menu with a Southern bent, so I picked from a few sections for a recent takeout lunch. A friend claims they serve the best burger in town, and its juicy Cali Burger did not disappoint. A ubiquitous Cobb salad is a good barometer for the quality of tavern food, and their crisp version was a winner, with generous grilled chicken chunks atop a bright bed of fresh cherry tomatoes, hardboiled egg, blue cheese, and bacon. Chicken chipotle pasta is a little pricey at $20, but the portion is massive and filled the to-go container to the brim with a delicious medley of fusilli, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, and mozzarella, all mixed up in a zesty chile cream sauce. An accompanying pair of toasted bread slices not mentioned on the menu came in handy to soak up the sauce. With a big corner patio and warm weekend temps, tonight feels like the right opportunity to partake in alfresco fajitas — a sizzling special that runs every Friday. 520 Florida Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For a mood-boosting cocktail bar in Logan Circle: Located at the foot of the Liz development on 14th Street NW, compact cocktail bar Jane Jane is one of the cutest new drinking destinations in town. It’s hard not to smile in a space all dressed up with large lampshades, a colorful wallpaper that depicts a liquor library, and blue-and-yellow tiles crawling from the floor up the side of the bar. A page of whiskey cocktails feature all the usual suspects (Old Fashioned, Boulevardier, Sazerac), but the server suggested I go with one I hadn’t heard of before: the Scofflaw (rye, Dolin dry vermouth, lemon juice, grenadine, and orange bitters). The red coupe performed a magic act between sips, forming a heart-shaped foam that felt meant to be. While cocktails here are the star, a short list of drinking snacks include highlights like an adorable jar of pickled okra spears jazzed up with cumin and coriander and glass tub of pimento cheese. 1705 14th Street NW — T.P.
For seafood paella and the warmest service: My parents are creatures of habit. As someone who rarely gets the opportunity to become a “regular,” because my job (at least partly) involves trying new places, I sometimes envy their consistency. If they’re coming up to visit me, we’ll probably end up at their favorite Arlington restaurant, SER. So when they came to visit me for the first time since the pandemic, I was happy to share a meal with them on the Spanish restaurant’s festive patio. Service was as warm and effusive as always, even while owner Javier Cordon patiently endured my parents’ 47 questions about his homemade liqueurs, and the kitchen was just as attentive to the food. We ordered a memorable meal of rich paella studded with generous portions of seafood — including a whole lobster — along with impossibly creamy croquetas and a complex carpaccio with Iberico ham, tender duck, and vibrant tomato bread. Getting the chance to dine at such a homey location with much-missed family members really felt like a return to (semi) normalcy. 1110 N Glebe Road, Arlington, Virginia — Missy Frederick
Thursday, September 17
For spicy raspberry cocktails and dry-aged burgers: Quill, the fancy cocktail bar tucked inside the Jefferson hotel, recently reopened with a cocktail list created by members of the opening staff who have come back into the fold. I headed straight for a seat at its sleek orange bar I’ve missed dearly, juxtaposed with historic artwork that honors the hotel’s namesake president, and went with Frank’s refreshing “Gila Monster” (jalepeño-infused tequila, raspberry, lime juice). Chef Ralf Schlegel’s upscale bar bites show off his chops as a Michelin-starred chef, starting with his heirloom tomato salad. Bright bulbs of the peaking produce are piled atop a goat cheese mousse presented in a decorative zig-zag pattern. His burger stars a Martin’s Farm 30-day dry-aged prime sirloin patty on a creative “popcorn” potato bun. The revived hotel feels edgier these days, starting with a rainbow light installation shining down from the lobby’s atrium. 1200 16th Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For artsy tuna crudo near Capitol Hill: Yotel hotel’s Art & Soul restaurant recently emerged from hibernation mode on Capitol Hill with a modernized design, neon installations, and new chef Danny Chavez. I kicked off dinner with a shimmering plate of his tuna crudo surrounded by an abstract application of bright green avocado mousse flecked with white circles of buttermilk horseradish. The charcuterie platter here features foie gras, chicken terrine, fiery habanero sausage, pork rinds, and house jams. I got a pasta fix via a plentiful bowl of plump corn ravioli that celebrates the tail end of summer, featuring spinach, a punch from piquillo peppers, and silky smooth corn velouté. 415 New Jersey Avenue NW — T.P.
For wings and gin mojitos on U Street: The Hilton brothers’ corner fixture Brixton is attempting to do things a little different on the menu these days — and it’s working. Mussels swimming in a bowl of creamy house curry are the latest reason to visit. Head to the top to enjoy a breezy, fan-filled rooftop bar outlined with decorative metal grates and street lamps that speak to its longstanding British theme. Wings are hard to come by these days, and their price point is pretty low — eight for $12 — with five varieties to choose from. Instead of the typical Buffalo route, we went with Bali wings dressed in honey, garlic, ginger, sambal, and a fish sauce dip that was so tasty, we asked for extra cups; it also ended up pairing well with fried calamari. Cool cocktails include a “Mint Condition” — a gin spin on a mojito that subs in cucumber and lime-infused McClintock Forager from Frederick, Maryland, for the usual rum. 901 U Street NW — T.P.
Thursday, September 2
For pineapple-topped hot dogs next to Merriweather Post Pavilion: To get to Walrus Roadside ahead of a recent concert in Columbia, Maryland, we had to putter through a packed mall parking lot in search of a space. Once we got out of the car, the new hot dog and milkshake stand attached to the Walrus Oyster & Ale House stood out as a colorful beacon with a pleasant curbside patio surrounded by chain restaurants. Service from a teenager at the counter was fast and friendly. A fried oyster taco with a slightly stiff tortilla was fine, but after sinking my teeth into a Nathan’s Famous beef link covered in bright green relish and and an al pastor mayo, I wished I had doubled up on tube steaks. I liked my custom order, but a taste of the Hawaiian dog (crazy mayo, pineapple barbecue sauce, pineapple, cotija cheese, fried onions) showed me not to sleep on the predetermined combos. Figuring I’d have a beer inside the venue, I sadly willed myself away from ordering a banana cream pie shake. 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Maryland — Gabe Hiatt
For a humongous Virginia ham sandwich near Shenandoah: I was pretty pumped to discover Staunton, Virginia, was right off my route down to a North Carolina mountain town for a recent getaway. That meant I could pop into Staunton Grocery, the pandemic-era market from chef Ian Boden, who typically makes high-end, Southern-meets-Jewish tasting menus at the Shack. Between the two sandwiches we tried, I preferred the trademark Tissy to a smoked salmon riff on a banh mi; the slices of a mahogany-colored pan loaf were outstanding, but the sandwich didn’t feel right without an airy roll. Regarding the Tissy, though, it’s safe to say you’ve never had a porky sandwich quite like this: slices of country ham and “Surryano” ham from Edwards Virginia smokehouse, mortadella, provolone, nduja mayo that was more rich than piquant, lettuce, pickled banana peppers, olive oil, and celery leaf vinegar from Keepwell. Considering that was all piled onto a dark ciabatta that had to be a foot long and almost as wide, we snacked on it for several days. 103 S. Coalter Street, Staunton. Virginia — G.H.
For beer cheese totchos and passionfruit sours: While I was driving back from Shenandoah National Park last weekend, I learned that Front Royal Brewing Company changed its name to Vibrissa Beer. I never went there under the old name, but I heard they had solid sandwiches, which was good enough for me to venture out for a visit. I can’t compare the place to how it used to be, but I can endorse the totchos. Topped with corn, candied jalapeno (I was skeptical, but it worked), tomatoes, sour cream, and most importantly, a generous drizzle of beer cheese, they disappeared almost immediately after they landed at our table. There’s also an enjoyable passionfruit sour beer, margaritas, wings, and, interestingly, a Caprese salad with super-fresh heirloom tomatoes. I’ll be back to give the fried pickles and giant pretzel a try. 122 East Main Street, Front Royal, Virginia — Missy Frederick
For roast duck takeout: I’m sadly in need of a new go-to for Cantonese takeout because XO Taste has closed its doors in Falls Church. Enter Full Kee, which is shaping up as a solid contender after one delivery. Roast duck traveled reasonably well and was eventually transformed into a knockout red curry the next day thanks to a little assistance from my air fryer. Black pepper beef with Chinese broccoli proved to be a strong choice, and there’s a whole variety of chow fun variations to choose from; I tried one that was spiked with curry powder a la Singapore noodles, with shrimp and pork providing heft. 5830 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, Virginia — M.F.
Friday, August 26
For Turkish lamb kebabs and carrot tarator: The first good sign when I entered Cafe Istanbul for lunch this week was the site of three skewered eggplants charring over live coals. The new Turkish cafe in Dupont is a nice place to lunch outside, especially with blue chairs to match the umbrellas set up on the sidewalk patio. If it’s too hot to drink coffee or tea, you can start off with carrot, orange, or kiwi juice. Follow the grill here and get the Adama kebab for a juicy minced lamb (or beef) served alongside a small salad, fries, and rice. The highlight of a meze plate was a carrot-based tarator dip with strong shot of garlic yogurt. 2035 P Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For an activated charcoal cocktail: The secret is out about DLeña Roja, Richard Sandoval’s candle-lit cocktail bar that quietly opened under his high-end Mexican restaurant in June. Try to snag a seat at the bar that’s completely lined in dark brown leather (using a coaster is pretty much required). The all-black “La Luna” coupe completely captures the sultry underground vibe, made with activated charcoal, El Silencio mezcal, Cointreau, and a big circular ice cube bobbing inside. We capped off the meal with clean pours of a small-batch Oaxacan brand — poured from bottle 41 of 551 to be exact — with handwritten notes about its origin and flavor profile (“sweet and earthy”) scribbled on the back. While the liquid goods are the subterranean star, a short list of drinking snacks includes corn empanadas, tuna tostadas, and guac. By the numbers, there’s over 100 types of tequila and mezcal on-site and 44 private lockers available to store tequila. 476 K Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For fine pho: Takeout from H Street’s new-ish Pho Viet USA was a treat on a recent workday and lasted me well through the week. For starters, the steamed shrimp rolls wrapped in rice paper were a refreshing summertime snack. And fried egg rolls here are super stuffed with a mix of ground pork and mushrooms. I cut up the sticks into several pieces and dunked them in a delicious sweet-and-sour garlic fish sauce. The main event is relatively cheap ($11 per pho bowl) so I tried two: white chicken meat paired with a chicken broth and a bowl of brisket and beef broth. The latter was the overall winner, but the generous amount of poultry provided in neat packaging translated well into random pasta meals I made during the week. Giant cups of Vietnamese iced coffee made it safely to the apartment without spillage. 333 H Street NE — T.P.
Friday, August 13
For a ridiculously reasonable seafood plateau: Ordering a tower of iced seafood for a special occasion is a tradition in my house, so for a recent anniversary, my partner and I snagged an outdoor table in front of Cafe Riggs in Penn Quarter. Almost about the place screams hotel prices — I have yet to try the $98 caviar grilled cheese sandwich — but the seafood plateau offers a more generous deal than I’ve observed anywhere else in the city. For $85, customers get a dozen oysters, in our case, creamy specimens from the West Cost; six huge shrimp with cocktail sauce; homemade potato chips with a tin of cucumber and caviar laid over a sour cream dip; scallop ceviche on the half-shell speckled with citrus wedges and diced jalapeno; and a crab meat salad chock full of pickled mustard seeds. 900 F Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For Ethiopian red lentils spiced just right: After a long walk from Logan Circle through Park View, my dining companion and I met up with another couple and rewarded ourselves with a $10 bucket of Bud heavies on the artificial turn lawn behind Tsehay. The combo of a cool, sweating beer bottle, warm smiling service, and bursts of trumpet from a live jazz outfit all made me mellow out more than I have in a long time. Sambusas, often an afterthought, were excellent due to a hot, thin, flaky crust and ground beef filling with a hit of chile that made my tongue tingle. My favorite part of the meal, though, was the misir, a portion of red lentils stewed in a berbere sauce that tasted almost fruity, not muddled in stale spices. 3630 Georgia Avenue NW — G.H.
For curly fries and Midwestern vibes: As a former Midwesterner who loves dive bars and considers Detroit-style pizza one of her favorite foods, it’s kind of mind-boggling that I’d never been to Ivy and Coney until this week. Once I got there, I didn’t want to go home. Our bartender was chill and friendly, the crowd was festive but manageable, the vibe was unpretentious, and a vaccination requirement added to a sense of comfort. The drink menu was limited but exactly what you want out of a bar with a Chicago and Detroit bent, given its beer and shot combos, strong rail drinks, and mix of local and Midwestern brews. And the food was excellent, even if a friend and I definitely went overboard with our ordering. I can endorse the pepperoni-topped Detroit-style pizza, the Buffalo wings, and the Chicago-style hot dog. But I’m going to spend a little bit of extra time babbling on about the curly fries, which are like Arby’s fries if they were actually well-executed, and probably the best version of the snack that I’ve had. I’ll be back, Ivy and Coney, and I may just not leave next time. 1537 Seventh Street NW — Missy Frederick
For a smoky, complex mezcal cocktail: Allegory, the hotel speakeasy with an “Alice in Wonderland” theme, reopened inside the Eaton hotel downtown on August 6. After meeting friends for a recent visit, I’d recommend ordering a mezcal-based Jabberwocky ($16) as soon as possible. This smoky, spicy cocktail has more layers than the hotel has floors. In addition to the agave spirit, there’s a sweet Ambrosia liqueur from D.C. apertivo maker Don Ciccio, cachaca, pineapple, line, North African ras el hanout spice, and a fermented pepper brine. 1201 K Street NW #1 — G.H.
Friday, August 6
For sweet and salty custard sundaes: A couple of ice cream fans and I recently snagged a place in line at the new Goodies ice house in Alexandria after a visit to the Old Town Pool, which offers free parking and $6 entry for D.C. residents, and a light lunch at Chop Shop Taco, which now has a turf-lined back patio. Brandon Byrd’s frozen custard is worth the wait: not too sweet, smooth as softened butter, and the ideal canvas for chocolate sauce, candied pecans, and an assertively salty caramel in the owner’s favorite order, the boogie woogie sundae. The soundtrack was just as sweet; Teddy Pendergrass serenaded us with wails of regret on the classic track, “I Miss You,” for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. 200 Commerce Street, Alexandria, Virginia — Gabe Hiatt
For artichoke mac and cheese by Chinatown: All-day cafe Urban Roast looks like it will have real staying power about a year after opening in Penn Quarter. A growing global menu contains a dozen mac and cheese varieties, and we went with a top seller that mimics artichoke dip. Crispy empanadas are filled with just as many flavors, including a chicken pesto and a spinach and cheese. Homemade hummus topped with beef shawarma also stood out. The versatile sangria bar captures summer with a ceiling filled with flowers and upside-down umbrellas. A seasonal cocktail menu swings from a complex lavender lemonade made with Empress gin to a sort of hilarious Whiteclaw’garita. Unfortunately, the shop ran out of White Claw after a busy brunch, so we didn’t get to try it. Green tea shooters, which seem to be everywhere right now, hit a little different here thanks to a homemade sour mix. 916 G Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For surprisingly good strip club food: Richard Sandoval’s high-end Mexican restaurant DLeña somewhat stole the spotlight from Cloakroom, its upstairs strip club neighbor, when it opened at the corner of 5th and K Streets NW in May. The gentleman’s club, though, released its own short menu this summer that (I think) holds its own. The retractable, neon-lit rooftop above Cloakroom sells tasty pork belly tacos dressed with escabeche slaw, salsa verde crude, and cilantro; Old Bay shrimp cocktail; and a cheeseburger, among other things. The priciest order is a 7-ounce wagyu filet mignon with a side of chimichurri and grilled asparagus ($68). The night we went they ran out of filet, so Cloakroom graciously sent up plump and juicy sirloin (on the house) that arrived perfectly cooked. I noticed its guacamole is curiously similar to DLeña’s — identical down to the look, verbatim menu description, and taste — though owners and representatives from the two businesses tell me they’re not affiliated. They do share kitchen space, however, and items quickly travel upstairs in a dumbwaiter. 476 K Street NW — T.P.
For agreeable Greek in Fairfax: I’m glad to have a new (to me, anyway) neighborhood Greek option in Our Mom Eugenia, a relatively recent addition to the Mosaic District development in Fairfax. Greek salads are fresh and colorful, there’s a delectable version of tzatziki, and small plates like kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters), Greek meatballs, and flaming saganaki cheese all sing. You can find also find a clean martini, a nicely bittersweet Negroni, and several Greek wines. I’ll be back to try some of the heartier dishes, from an appealing looking lamb shank to the Greek lasagna known as pastitsio. 2985 District Ave Suite 185, Fairfax, Virginia — Missy Frederick
For rooftop rosé: Also on the Mosaic District front, Parc de Ville has opened a rooftop wine bar to appeal to summer crowds. The menu is small, at least at the moment, with a handful of snacks, some beers and wines, and one aperitif-style cocktail. The views of other Mosaic buildings won’t inspire any Shakespearean sonnets, and the busy servers are stretched a little thin upstairs. But it’s a comfortable space that feels festive for a Friday night, and any new outdoor seating option for drinking wine is certainly welcome in this neighborhood. 8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax, Virginia — M.F.
Friday, July 23
For Mochi Doughnuts and more: Three of us decided to take a stroll through the new(ish) K-Market in Annandale (next to the Block and in the former K-Mart space) to check out their grocery options. Those are vast and impressive (and we bought out their selection of BTS-themed coffees for a friend who’s obsessed), but we couldn’t leave without taking a peek at the adjoining food court, even though our plans for the night were to make homemade soup dumplings. Four skewers, three pastries, four mochi doughnuts, and one roll of kimbap later, we had our pre-dinner “snack”. The ring-style doughnuts from Dragon Mochi Doughnut are light and sweet (and reminiscent of Japan’s Mr. Donut), with interesting glazes like ube and mango. The skewers from the accurately named You Like Skewers are nicely flavored with dry pot-style spicing (don’t skip the lamb), the kimbap from K Street is neatly stuffed with filling (though could use some more pickled vegetable for contrast), and there’s a nice variety of pastries from Gateau Bakery and Dessert Cafe accented with flavors like matcha and black sesame (as well as a more-than-respectable brownie). I’m excited to go back and explore more of the Korean soups and stews, as well as the Japanese stall. And I’ll still probably end up with another doughnut. 4239 John Marr Drive, Annandale, Va. — Missy Frederick
For a scene-y bar serving Aussie truffles: RPM Italian continues to be one of my favorite bars in this city. Dimly lit with a matte black ceiling and billowing curtains, it feels like a place Sinatra would visit in Vegas to sip its stellar negroni. And now that bar seating is back, I opted to be there over its dining room on a recent Saturday night while I was surrounded by bachelorette parties and dates. My go-to entree is Mama DePandi’s bucatini, a bright red nest of pomodoro with a fluttering of Genovese basil on top. I also like that it’s only $14, which is substantially less than some of the other pastas (read: $49 for lobster fra diavolo). I didn’t even know Australian truffles are a thing, but they are and make their way into RPM’s risotto and atop toasts. Another high-brow way to start is twirled slices of San Daniele prosciutto aged 600 days, served with hefty hunks of bread and thick chianti butter. 650 K Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For a unique Italian find: While it’s a trek out to Camp Springs, months-old Via Roma is worth the trip to sample its cloud-like “pinsa” pizza that’s curiously crispy on the outside but super soft in the center. Its Naples native owner/operator Biagio Cepollaro claims his is the only DMV restaurant that specializes in the three-day dough (though Ivy City’s virtual food vendor Pinsa Love sells frozen versions). The bubbly bread also builds lengthy paninis stuffed with proteins like Italian cold cuts, chicken Parm, and plump meatballs, and I’m told they can be supersized for parties. Pasta portions here are also enormous, and leftovers of the bolognese and scampi dotted with meaty shrimp lasted me days. I was at first suspect of its Italian take on a margarita that employs amaretto, but it ended up being a winner. Look around the soaring space to soak up Via Roma’s namesake, splashed all over the walls in the form of colorful murals that depict the famous street in Napoli. 4531 Telfair Boulevard, Camp Springs, Maryland — T.P.
Friday, July 16
For loaded focaccia sandwiches: At Little Food Studio in Petworth, chef Danielle Harris made an afternoon menu full of massive focaccia and cold cut sandwiches. Each square of puffy bread is as wide as two bricks and just as tall, balancing Italian meats like mortadella and capicola with smart condiments like pistachio spread and pecorino cream. On weekends, Little Food Studio sells out fast on a breakfast menu full of pretty danishes, sausage rolls, and savory scones. Espresso or watermelon lemonade can help you lighten up the whole lunch and bounce back into your day. 849 Upshur Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For crab dip doughnuts and wood-charred cauliflower: I’m pleased to report the crab dip doughnuts at the Point are as good as they look online. Chef Benjamin Lambert’s potato starch-infused fritters turn golden and airy with a soft crumb inside. They make a nice light clamshell for creamy, tangy dip that’s closer in density to deviled crab than crab imperial. I still had plenty of appetite left for a few items off the wood-burning grill. Do not skip the shawarma-style cauliflower in lentil-cashew hummus. Lambert’s pita puffs nicely and picks up a lot of char on the grill. An impressive, rich tzatziki adds some heft that goes well with a ramekin of pickled red cabbage. 2100 2nd Street SW — G.H.
For mezze platters on one of Old Town’s most beautiful patios: You’d never know from the King Street entrance that Taverna Cretekou offers outdoor seating in a massive courtyard shaded with trees and covered patio. Decorated with twinkly lights and potted plants, you can almost pretend like you’re on vacation in Greece while sharing a plate of appetizers like spinach-filled filo dough and stuffed grape leaves. 818 King Street, Alexandria, Va. — A.C.
For a dinner designed for Hemingway: Logan Circle mainstay Bar Pilar just switched up its menu for summer with a globe-trotting lineup inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s travels. Executive chef Jin Chong’s Thai take on mussels are some of the best I’ve tried in town, swimming in a delectable broth built with lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger, and chilies. Bao buns and fried dumplings planted on pretty patterned plates are also good ways to start, and burrata pairs well here with Asian pears, prosciutto, and hefty chunks of grilled baguette drizzled in balsamic. A well-done daiquiri and chartreuse-filled “Naked and Famous” arrive in frosty gold coupes. Be sure to also soak up all the nautical and mermaid decor straight out of a page from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. 1833 14th Street NW — Tierney Plumb
Friday July 9
For Italian-American classics and $10 cocktails: From start to finish, my recent meal at Caruso’s Grocery was a delight. They had me at $10 cocktails and for being a place where I can actually find veal Francese on the menu (I used to live near Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and have always been disappointed that the dish is not quite as much of a mainstay around here). But there was much more to like once we actually sat down for dinner: textbook linguine and clams, a slightly spicy and expertly sauced penne a la vodka, airy calamari with an assertive marinara, and a seasonal pesto-draped burrata special served with garlic bread (though I would have liked them to spring for more than two pieces with it). I was worried the antipasto martini would prove a gimmick, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that garnishes like mozzarella and cherry tomato actually enhanced the drink. There was so much to try that we didn’t get the chance to order — spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parm, gnocchi sorrentino — that I know we’ll be back. 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE — Missy Frederick
For banh mi that trumps mediocre road trip food: I’m always a quest to sniff out road trip food options that help me avoid a mediocre rest stop. For a recent trip to New Jersey, my husband and I decided to think ahead and bring along some banh mi from nearby Lee’s Sandwiches. They’ve got tough competition with Banh Mi DC Sandwich close by, but they definitely rise to the occasion. The baguettes are excellent, the grilled pork sandwich is great, and the pork meatball one is quite good. All are stuffed with generous portions of sweetly pickled vegetables. I’d like to go back to sample their more European-style sandwiches, as well as side items ranging from chicken wings to spring rolls. I won’t have to wait long: we already decided to pack some for a tubing excursion. 3037 Annandale Road, Falls Church, Virginia — M.F.
For rigatoni that stands the test of time: I haven’t been back to Red Hen in years, so I changed that last week with a prime seat at the Bloomingdale staple’s rustic bar. A Caesar salad packed with peaking produce suits summer well. A bountiful bowl of green pea shoots and grilled snap peas comes tossed with cured egg yolk, bread crumbs, and Parmesan. My dinner mate and I went all in on the pasta list. The longstanding rigatoni in fennel sausage ragu hasn’t gone anywhere (and tastes just as good as I remembered). A generous assortment of grilled calamari pops atop a bed of black squid ink linguini gets a nice kick from Fresno chile. We tried, but couldn’t finish, a third bowl of duck bolognese garganelli. I should add the espresso martini — a cool coupe of local Civic vodka, Swings cold brew, and Caffè Amaro — to this map ASAP. 1822 First Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For hip hotel bites from a South Beach chef: Penn Quarter’s dim-lit Dirty Habit is back in action with a fresh global menu from new chef Edgar Escalante. His experience from the gastronomic-chic spot at the SLS hotel in Miami shines at D.C.’s (arguably) edgiest-looking lobby restaurant. Chlorophyll oil shows up in a compressed watermelon tartare as well as a clarified green juice cocktail, with the droplets suspended in a glass of Botanist gin and honey. The detailed drink is inspired by the hotel’s glowing emerald light fixtures, a manager tells me. Short-rib adobo stands out next to purple sweet potato puree, charred bok choy, and glazed carrots on a sleek black plate. During weekday happy hour, “crabbie” hand rolls with umami mayo (usually $21) are $11, and fried sticks of truffle Parm mac and cheese are half-off at $9. 555 Eighth Street NW — T.P.
For a low-key destination for gluten-free fried chicken: During the week I returned to sitting at bars for the first time in about 15 months, I grabbed a solo stool at the retro-cool marble counter inside the new Lyle hotel in Dupont. I was pretty shocked to find one of the better bar food values in town in the form of a two-compartment, oval wooden bento box ($14) that included an arugula and bacon salad, sugar snap peas, and two pieces of brined, twice-fried chicken that chef Nick Sharpe coats in potato starch overnight before brushing on a rice flour batter. All that was $14, the same price as my chipotle-spiked Moscow mule, and the complimentary focaccia was a tasty bonus. The exterior crackle of the plump chicken was first rate, and I was happy as a clam when a waiter whisked over a tiny bowl of Crystal hot sauce that gave my drumstick a uniform dressing and a necessary boost of seasoning. 1731 New Hampshire Avenue NW — Gabe Hiatt
For a raw fish happy hour: Tokyo Pearl’s new weekday happy hour (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) brings a steal of a deal to Dupont Circle, when fun starters like tuna nachos and 10 types of sushi rolls are just $5. A frozen drink machine planted on the patio churns out tiki cocktails in every color of the rainbow that are served in sizable mason jars and topped with umbrellas and cherries. Tokyo Pearl stepped up its patio game during the pandemic with swinging bucket chairs, bright green turf, chic lacquered tables, and lanterns. The party moves inside to its graffiti-lined club after 10 p.m., capitalizing on the recent return of D.C.’s nightlife scene with DJs spinning under a dizzying LED light display. 1301 Connecticut Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For reliable chili and nautical vibes in Alexandria: I escaped the city last week to meet the ‘rents at Clyde’s Mark Center, the group’s serene standalone location next to a koi fish pond. It pays off to be an early bird, with discounts on oysters from Maine and Massachusetts from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. I went the easy route with two of the brand’s top sellers: the chili and Cedar River Farms burger on a superior sesame bun. To dad’s dismay, a glaring menu omission was its popular crab cakes. Soaring lump meat prices are a big problem these days, and the cakes won’t return until the “sourcing and its negative impact on crab populations stabilizes,” the menu says. The Newport Room is the spot to dine here, setting a seafaring scene with model sailboats, nautical flags, and slick navy booths. 1700 N. Beauregard Street, Alexandria, Virginia — T.P.
For half-priced seafood plateaus downtown: One of the great pleasures of indoor dining is returning to favorite bars, especially ones with distinctive happy hours. I was pleased to find myself back at the storied oyster bar at Old Ebbitt Grill this week, where a friend of mine met for martinis and raw bar. In case you’ve forgotten, raw bar items are half-priced during its 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. happy hour (there’s also a late night equivalent). I won’t pretend you still won’t leave with a decent-sized dent in your wallet — the two of us unnecessarily shared one of the Orca platters teeming with briny oysters, juicy clams, and plump shrimp cocktail — but you can at least justify this decision to yourself a little better during the discounted times. And the oyster bar remains a bustling, convivial space with skilled and responsive bartenders, in case you had any doubt. 675 15th Street NW — Missy Frederick
For barbecue, emphasis on the sides, in Falls Church: Barbecue screams “summer” to me, and Liberty Barbecue makes it easy to throw a meal together with its family-sized specials and speedy curbside pickup. Most people will be focused on the meats there (I recommend the brisket and the char siu-style pork; the fried chicken also has shatteringly crisp skin but could use a bit more salt in its pickle brine). But what really dazzled me last Friday were the sides: toothsome navy beans are studded with burnt ends, and their sharp, creamy mac and cheese is one of the best versions I’ve had in the area. Get a biscuit and save it for a breakfast sandwich the next morning. 370 West Broad Street, Falls Church — M.F.
Friday, June 4
For standout steak and mushrooms: So much of chef Jerome Grant’s spring menu at Jackie leaps off the page for sheer ingenuity — the pimento cheese croquettes with fried egg mayo, the crawfish fried rice with homemade spam, a duck pastrami served on peanut butter toast with cherry jam, for starters — but it was a fairly simple steak dish that stuck with me the most. Dry-aged ribeye gets grilled over high-heat Japanese charcoal on a konro grill. Maitake mushrooms are seared to produce crispy edges. Together with an oxtail jus poured on top, the shrooms boosted the savory flavor of the beef for bites that exceeded many I’ve had at dedicated steakhouses. Grant’s sizzling pork, a clear adaptation of sisig, came swimming in a sauce of smoked soy, calamansi, and Thai chile that made it more of a braise than a hissing platter. It was great over rice the next day. Order takeout online here; 79 Potomac Avenue SE — Gabe Hiatt
For Detroit-style pizza that requires two hands: Side Door, the postage stamp-sized pizza place born last fall out of the side door of Scarlet Oak restaurant, is now a permanent, pickup-only Navy Yard fixture. Nine months in, it tastes like co-owner Brian Schram has mastered his pandemic-era passion project. It took two hands to lift squares of his hefty, Detroit-style pies out of the box, and my “Fahgettaboudit” was packed edge to edge with homemade Italian sausage, roasted peppers, grilled onions, provolone, and cherry pepper aioli. All pies are baked with a traditional Wisconsin brick cheese and finished with a racing stripe of sauce. I offset all those gloriously greasy squares with a Brussels-packed salad with shaved, roasted, and crispy versions of the sprouts. And because chicken wing prices are out of control, “in protest we bring you confit/fried/grilled drumsticks,” the menu reads. A trio of lip-smacking sticks is just $5. Order online. 909 New Jersey Avenue SE — Tierney Plumb
For an all-American feast: With an adorable pictorial on proper mask use from a cartoon duck on the door, I knew I was in for a treat at Eastern Market’s Duck and the Peach this week. The star of my meal at the New American restaurant was in the fowl family, of course. D’Artagnan’s free-range chicken, prepared in a top-flight rotisserie oven, was one of the juiciest poultry orders I’ve had in a minute. The menu plays with lots of seasonal veggies, and a medley of asparagus, snap peas, basil blossoms, and micro mint with a whipped, salted goat butter dipper is a fine way to start. Refreshing pink pours of Rosato di Syrah from Long Island’s Mudd West Vineyard pretty much went with everything. Desserts aren’t normally my thing, but savory-leaning selections won me over. Basque-style goat cheesecake and olive oil cake with lemon curd are the way to go. Order takeout/delivery online or make a reservation for indoor/outdoor dining; 300 Seventh Street SE — T.P.
For a tasting menu in a rural Virginia cabana: I’m not sure what I was expecting when I booked an outdoor “cabana” reservation at Field & Main in Marshall, Virginia, for my anniversary, but I was surprised and impressed by the setup, which was basically a miniature heated house with sliding doors and a single table. Field & Main’s tasting menu continues to be a stellar offering of seasonal dishes, with menu standouts including a knockout Wagyu ribeye and sweet, expertly seared scallop paired with roe and watermelon radishes. The service is warm and disarming. If you make it an overnight like we did, Marshall is a cute little town to explore. You can pick up hearty biscuits and gravy at the Marshall Diner or go the sweet route and sample a decadent pecan pie from Red Truck Bakery as well. 8369 West Main Street, Marshall, Virginia. — Missy Frederick
For a stalwart British pub with a strong French dip: Memorial Day weekend isn’t customarily a time when you’re looking to dine somewhere “cozy,” but all that miserable rain over the holiday meant that Hunter’s Head Tavern offered a welcome respite after a chilly hike at Sky Meadows. I am always a sucker for the British pub’s friendly waitresses, dark wood accents, and English country decor, outfitted with a fox hunting theme and several fireplaces (no bar seating yet, but we’ll get there). But what keeps me coming back is a food menu with meats primarily sourced from affiliated Ayrshire Farms. Since I hadn’t been since pre-pandemic times, it meant that it was time to revisit all my old favorites. That meant a terrific French dip, a textbook Wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, and crispy onion rings. 9048 John S. Mosby Highway, Upperville, Virginia — M.F.
Friday, May 14
For takeout chaat and thali platters: The compact dining room inside Bombay Street Food Express, the latest addition to restaurateur Asad Sheikh’s mini empire of casual Indian restaurants, was covered in paper to-go bags when I popped in to pick up my order the other day. It smelled incredible in there, ripe with fenugreek and simmering curries. A $7 order of samosa chaat was a bargain considering there were two fried potato-and-pea pockets smothered in chana masala, crunchy sev noodles, tamarind and green chutneys, yogurt, onion, and tomato. I didn’t specify a heat level on anything, so the entirety of our dinner, from the chaat to saag paneer and butter chicken, carried an adrenaline-inducing hit of chiles. I’m already making a note to go back for thali platters under $20 and $5 vada pav (fried potato rolls). Order takeout online; 1915 18th Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For wine, cheese, and Vietnamese crab dip: I had a lovely patio hang with some friends at St. Vincent Wine this week. The wine selection is both extensive and smartly picked, and the prices per bottle are refreshingly affordable. You could have an enjoyable evening just sticking to wine and one of the generous charcuterie and cheese platters, but don’t sleep on the more intricate fare from chef Sam Molavi. Rich halloumi cheese gets contrasted with sumac-spiked strawberries, and basically any dish involving crab is worth ordering, from the Vietnamese-style dip to the savory bucatini, balanced out with accents of lemon and nori butter. Reserve a table here; 3212 Georgia Avenue NW — Missy Frederick
For a mini Logan Circle bar crawl: The Skybox rooftop above Players Club boasts priceless views of 14th Street NW from its wraparound perch. Clear CD cases are used to present QR codes that pull up a condensed list of four draft cocktails, 16 beers, and four wines. The Gonzo Fizz is the winner here, and metal cups help all the drinks stay cool. After that, I did an impromptu mini bar crawl of the block, starting with gay dive Trade and its daily “XL” happy hour (running until 8 p.m.). I saw frothy green tea shots — I’m calling these as this summer’s big drinking trend) — along with admittedly stale popcorn and photo ops by a giant plastic pumpkin and Santa donning masks. There’s always reliable brick-lined bar Black Whiskey upstairs, where a rep for Three Chord bourbon told me it’s the first place in D.C. to stock the finely tuned whiskey label founded by Pat Benatar’s producer, Neil Giraldo. Multiple locations — Tierney Plumb
For a huge Milanese in a swanky hotel: Dupont Circle Hotel’s midcentury-chic bar Doyle recently returned under the close watch of talented D.C. chef Taylor Burlingame. During a comeback visit this month, my sleek seat along a curved window wall offered dinnertime entertainment from the bustling traffic circle outside. The diverse menu swings from super fresh oysters to perfectly cooked rigatoni with plump meatballs to Burlingame’s newest creation: a substantial portion of pounded veal Milanese, greasy and crispy in all the right ways. For drinks, consider a tart Negroni and sparkling pours of northern Burgundy’s Domaine Long-Depaquit. The hotel continues to come to life this weekend when its glam Pembroke restaurant slowly reopens with brunch to start. And a Suntory-sponsored patio lined with turquoise-and-white umbrellas just went live for the summer, starring cocktails from the Japanese distiller like a “Hokey Toki” — a riff on a gin fizz with Toki Whisky, strawberry shrub, and egg white. 1500 New Hampshire Avenue NW — T.P.
Friday, April 23
For crunchy Roman pizza with cheese made that morning: The pictures alone looked good enough to convince me to seek out Stracci Pizza, but chef Tom Cardarelli’s spiel about pulling his own mozzarella every morning, then soaking it in organic cream to make straciatella, made me reserve a pickup slot for the trailer setup in Del Ray. The free-form, individual pies have a rigid, crunchy crust that will give your molars a workout and won’t wilt underneath toppings. A 72-hour fermentation imparts a faintly sweet and sour taste that comes through even on a meat-heavy Brooklyner topped with ’roni cups, sausage, Calabrian chile, and honey. The soft, fresh cheese is every bit as good as it sounds, making Cardarelli and wife Annalisa a smart pair for naming their trailer after it. A spinach and artichoke Erminia pizza, boosted with melty Fontal fontina, is a knockout, too. It’s exciting to think about what the Cardarellis will come up with when Stracci grows into a recently acquired restaurant space next to the lot where they park their trailer. Order online here; 106 Hume Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia — Gabe Hiatt
For surprisingly light wedge salads and deviled eggs: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, the Southern comfort food spot that hatched in South Beach a decade ago, just touched down in D.C. For my first visit to the sleek, snazzy replacement to Cajun restaurant Acadiana, I had to give its best-selling fried chicken (brined 27 hours) a whirl. A gold, bird-shaped basket housing thick-battered pieces arrives next to waffles. I took a wrong turn on my way to the bathroom and spotted rows of watermelon waiting in the wings to get sliced and spiced to round out the head-turning order. “Buckets” of wedge salad topped with charred corn, cherry tomatoes, and bacon chunks get drizzled with a buttermilk ranch that leans on the lighter side. So do Yardbird’s light-green deviled eggs, topped with tall garnishes of dill, chives, and smoked trout roe. A small but strong Y.B.G.M. coupe (Yardbird Gibson Martini) has an adorably cute pickled ramp bobbing inside, paying homage to the Mid-Atlantic spring onion. Open for takeout, delivery, and dine-in. 901 New York Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For the newest birria option on the block: Roy Boys, the neon-lit bar for fried chicken and oysters that blasts hip-hop hits in Shaw, is giving its “Rita’s Taco” pop-up an extended stay. The menu capitalizes on the rise of cheesy beef birria by sending out the gloriously greasy order in tacos and quesadillas served with consomé for dipping. Roy Boys also translates its Nashville hot chicken into an offbeat taco topped with mac and cheese and Red Hot Heat sauce. I was glad to see its all-day rojo bloody marys (vodka or tequila) aren’t going anywhere, either. For one of the better drink deals I’ve spotted in Shaw, the $9 “Kick N Tha Door” combo includes a Coronita beer with a shot of Jameson, El Silencio Mezcal, or Jagermeister Cold Brew. Open for dine-in, takeout, and delivery. 2108 8th Street NW — T.P.
For reliable frites and more in a patio cubby: One of my most impressive outdoor dining experiences to date was dinner at the ever-reliable Le Diplomate. The brasserie has expanded its appeal with long lines of mini-booths that wall off tables but remain open to the street and sidewalk, with plentiful heating. Snagging one meant booking several weeks in advance for an 8:45 p.m. dinner, but the meal was a late, leisurely delight. Menu standards like escargot and veal escalope still sing. The delicate bouillabaisse is worth seeking out as a Saturday special, and I now know what all the fuss is about regarding the warm shrimp salad, a dish I liked enough that I’m going to attempt to recreate it at home soon (probably not nearly as successfully). Order online or reserve a table here; 1610 14th Street NW — Missy Frederick
Friday, April 2
For shakshuka with a side of arepas: Although fast-casual bowls are the main draw, Immigrant Food looks a little more dressed up these days after a pretty patio makeover installed ahead of its debut brunch service this weekend. I sampled an early taste from a sunny seat jazzed up with orange napkins, soft patterned pillows, and palms. One standout was a Middle Eastern shakshuka skillet with a pair of soft Venezuelan arepas. The global menu from chef Enrique Limardo also includes a Cuban sandwich loaded with three types of tender pork on a toasted French hoagie (even my meat-loving dad/date couldn’t finish it in one sitting). Goblets of pineapple mimosas and sangrias are good brunch candidates here, but I thoroughly enjoyed my icy Polar beer (Limardo’s favorite pilsner, says the QR code menu). This week, the White House-adjacent restaurant got a celebrity customer: Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who naturally ordered the Madam VP’s Heritage Bowl, created in honor of his wife. Book a table online. 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
For a hot pizza that never goes out of style: Few food items feel as closely connected to status as a D.C. resident (for close to a decade now) as a pizza from Comet Ping Pong. From my earliest visits to numerous returns with friends from out-of-town, Comet has been a reliable constant. So it came as a joyful surprise to find out the personal-sized, wood-fired pizzas tasted better than ever after ordering them from ever-friendly staff members at a tent in the back parking lot of the Spring Valley restaurant. Simple pies like a raw jalapeño and pepperoni Hottie or the meatball and mozz Jimmy will never go out of style, and a restrained number of toppings helps you appreciate a light crust that tears apart with an admirable degree of stretch. Reserve a table, order online or walk up to the tent in the back; 5037 Connecticut Avenue NW — Gabe Hiatt
For a mushroom-artichoke pie with a side of arancini: Similar to Comet, Pupatella in Arlington has been an old standby for communal meals with friends and family. When I finally tried the recently opened D.C. outpost in Dupont Circle, I felt confident about Enzo Algarme’s quality control amid an ambitious expansion. Eggplant arancini arrived at an edible temperature, not molten hot, which I appreciated alongside an outdoor apertivo. I can see the Capricciosa pizza, with sauteed mushrooms, marinated artichokes, and prosciutto cotto, becoming a new personal favorite. A can of DuClaw’s hopped peach sour ale made the whole scene feel downright summery. Order for pickup up or walk up for patio seating; 1801 18th Street NW — G.H.
Friday, March 26
For a crab dip burger to go: I don’t know what was more surprising, that ABC Pony chef Armani Johnson slathered crab dip on a hamburger, or that the unconventional combo makes so much sense. After a year of experimenting with all sorts of specials and cuisine-themed menus, Erik Bruner-Yang’s Navy Yard restaurant has most recently been operating by as a pop-up that models itself after Five Guys. On the AJ burger, a Creekstone Farms beef patty was seasoned well, juicy, and medium rare even thought I didn’t undo its foil wrapper until after a bike commute back home. Johnson’s crab dip is lighter than most, producing a fresh seafood flavor that stands up to the beef alongside Old Bay onions that tie the two together. A fried calamari sandwich with preserved lemon remoulade made me think of a po’ boy and ask myself, why haven’t I eaten more squid rolls? The kitchen honored my request for sauce on the side, which meant I could dip my still-crispy fries in a cup of chili crisp ranch (thanks, Lao Gan Ma). Preorder for pickup here; 2 Eye Street SE — Gabe Hiatt
For a salty summery snack with rooftop cocktails: Kudos to the masked server who recommended I order a cup of fried clams when a colleague and I went out for drinks on the rooftop section of the Imperial in Adams Morgan. The three-level sister spot to Jack Rose borders on precious given the high drink prices and uber-sleek design, so I wasn’t sure how it would handle the beach snack. But after becoming transfixed by each crunchy, salty sliver of breaded clam from chef Russell Jones, I feel like these were on par with the benchmark version that’s stuck in my memory ever since a trip to Newport, Rhode Island. These weren’t tough or rubbery; they were eminently poppable, especially with a white sauce that sits somewhere between tartar, aioli, and ranch. Reserve a rooftop table here; 2001 18th Street NW — G.H.
For fresh signs of spring: Three years in, Chevy Chase sports bar the Avenue has emerged as a go-to neighborhood hangout for reliable Angus burgers and draft beers. The half-rack of ribs, a newer addition, boasts meat that falls off the bone alongside sides of fries and cole salw. During a recent dinner, I also noticed more menu references to owner Tim Walsh’s Capital Crab catering company (think jumbo lump crab and corn soup, or crab mac and cheese). The two ventures have now joined forces under one roof. Starting this weekend, Walsh is distributing fresh shipments of crabs (single, half-dozen, or AYCE options) served across a back deck. The combo makes sense to me; just about anything on the Avenue’s American menu goes with Capital Crab’s seafood spice. Call for reservations or order carryout; 5540 Connecticut Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
Friday, March 19
For barbecue beef ribs and stellar biscuits: Now that he’s started playing with fire, chef Edward Reavis doesn’t think he’ll stop anytime soon. Reavis, one half of the couple that owns seafood-focused All-Set Restaurant and Bar in Silver Spring, began selling smoked meats under the banner of Money Muscle BBQ back in September. During a recent pickup, he reported a bump in business that’s returned to — and on some days exceeded — pre-COVID sales. Reavis has even added a reverse-flow barrel smoker in the parking lot outside the restaurant. I’d recommend splurging on a beef rib with fatty strands of meat that pull clean off the bone. Reavis excels with sides and sauces, particularly tender collard greens, mac and cheese with a crunchy topping, and a sweet and tangy South Carolina-style mustard sauce. Whatever you order, make sure to add some of his cheddar Sriracha biscuits topped with flakey salt crystals. Order online here or find the Money Muscle truck on Twitter; 8630 Fenton Street, Plaza 5, Silver Spring, Maryland — Gabe Hiatt
For breakfast sandwiches on homemade English muffins: Every time I stop by Present Company Public House, I find something new to appreciate about chef Lincoln Fuge’s approach to bar food. At brunch the other day, it was the soft, sourdough English muffin Fuge makes himself — seriously, who does that? A neatly folded stack of scrambled eggs was tucked in between each half, along with bacon, cheddar, tomato, mayo, and onion jam. Maybe I didn’t need a side of shredded hash browns and tater tots (homemade again) stuffed with pimentos, but I enjoyed both. Fuge makes multiple flavors of hot sauce you can get in a ramekin or buy by the bottle; I’m stocking smoked habanero-rye in my fridge. A simple, well-balanced hot toddy (whiskey, honey, and lemon) hit the spot during a chilly on a patio that boasts a handful of fire pits. Reserve a table here; 438 Massachusetts Ave NW — G.H.
For a gorgeous açaí bowl: Fueled by its roastery in Queens, New York import For Five Coffee stands apart in D.C.’s crowded cafe market with unexpectedly awesome food. Executive chef Scheyla Acosta lives here and uses the months-old L Street NW locale as her test kitchen to whip up inventive dishes that eventually make their way across the coast-to-coast chain. Her specialty is making healthy taste (and look) good; a bright blue “Starry Night” açaí bowl is arguably the prettiest in town. The diverse all-day menu includes a chickpea salad sandwich, avo Benedict, bibimbap, savory pancakes (okonomiyaki), Korean chicken bao buns, and tuna poke. One best seller that’s stuck around under her watch is a beautiful bowl of 24-hour oatmeal — a medley of overnight oats, strawberry jam, fruits, caramelized walnuts, plus pumpkin seeds, flax, hemp, chia seeds and honey and cashew butter. Definitely spring for a soft rainbow cookie at checkout with a creamy chocolate latte. An online store sells coffee bags and canned nitro or cold brew coffee adorned with the Statue of Liberty. Order ahead for pickup, with dine-in and patio service too. 2000 L St NW (plus Arlington and Alexandria locations)
Friday, March 5
For to-go lechon and a riff on Atlantic Beach pie: I found myself in a surreal scene outside of Bad Saint the other night. Instead of the perpetual line that occupied D.C.’s seminal Filipino restaurant, only I and one other guy were standing in the dark, waiting for our pickup orders like two moths drawn to the light over the sign at the Columbia Heights standby. Original chef Tom Cunanan is gone, but there’s still so much to like here. A $40 lechon platter was a value buy considering the generous amount of tender pork shoulder we found luxuriating in a coconut milk bath. Steamed buns and white rice come on the side, along with banana ketchup, chile vinegar, and a dark semisweet all-purpose sauce. Shards of cracklin’ are smartly packaged separately to preserve their brittle integrity. Burnt coconut crema with radish crudite, pistachios, and agave syrup remains a rich, dreamy, and vegan-friendly dish. A Kalamansi citrus curd served on a salty pastry crumb, while definitely worse for wear after a bike trip home in a backpack, was a fun, tart play on Atlantic Beach pie. Order online here for pickup or delivery only; 3226 11th Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For a seafood spot that plays the hits beautifully: Tony & Joe’s, the sprawling seafood destination on the Georgetown waterfront, is counting down to spring, when crab season starts and its one-page menu will multiply. I still had plenty to choose from while dining around a fire pit last weekend, starting out with a dozen fresh oysters, Rhode Island calamari, a warm bowl of all-beef chili, and a heavy-handed pour of white wine. Tucked under a fried crust, the meat of a whole branzino was cooked perfectly. I heard the broiled mahi mahi is a best seller, and I got a taste of the Ecuadorian product in a blackened fish taco. Upon entry, take note of the framed photo of its eponymous founders smiling at its opening in October 1987 — the same month as the “Black Monday” stock market crash. Despite the latest global crisis, they should still be smiling knowing their restaurant is running well 34 years later. Open for indoor/outdoor dining and takeout and delivery (same goes for its Georgetown waterfront sister Nick’s Riverside Grill). — Tierney Plumb
For lomo and ceviche: We’re lucky to have several terrific options for Peruvian food around Falls Church and Merrifield, though most purveyors, like Spin Pollo and Super Chicken, lean pretty casual. Inca Social was going for something a bit more upscale when it debuted back in 2019, and while their colorful interior and spacious bar are less relevant to me now as a takeout customer, I do still get the benefit of ordering off their diverse menu, which ranges from tender riffs on lomo saltado to fresh ceviche and appetizers, such as gooey cheese-stuffed “Inca balls” and delectable empanadas. We went with the standard chaufa fried rice, flecked with large pieces of chicken and strips of red bell pepper, but the restaurant even has a spin with quinoa. Next time, we’ll dip deeper into the menu, possibly for creamy aji del gallina stew or a fried seafood assortment. I was worried that might not travel well, but I’ll take the gamble. Inca Social is clearly doing many things right. Order for pickup online; 2670 Avenir Place, Vienna, Virginia — Missy Frederick
Friday, February 26
For a bowl of white queso with sturdy tostadas: Determined to make the most of intermittent sunshine and the promise of 50-degree weather, my dinner partner and I ventured over to Lulu’s Winegarden (née Vinoteca) near U Street NW this week for food and drinks. The back patio has a cool weathered chiminea puffing out smoke from a wood fire and a small fountain with an audible trinkle, which was nice atmosphere, but I was there to eat queso. When the rebranded wine bar opened in February 2020, chef Cable Smith added a bowl of melted white cheese with pops of green chile, red onion, sheet-white sour cream, and pico de gallo, all served with crunchy tostadas (you’ll want to order extra). Smith’s toasts and sandwiches are all worth a try, but after the queso, I went for an order of grilled broccolini dressed in smoked chile aioli, lime, Parmesan foam, and salami breadcrumbs. For $5 more, I added a fried chicken cutlet (tender and seasoned nicely), adding another crunchy element to the charred green leaves. Reserve a table streetside, on the patio, or indoors here; Order delivery through third-party apps; 1940 11th Street Northwest — Gabe Hiatt
For an al pastor-topped pie: Graffiti-lined bar Rebel Taco made a pizza-centric pivot this month, making use of a brick oven in its U Street NW space to fire Neapolitan-style pizzas with Mexican toppings. Last Friday night, I picked up a solid sampling of the menu. Framed with a pillowy crust, 11-inch pies are blanketed in everything from short rib barbacoa to Serrano ham. Its “Meat Affair,” a riff on a ubiquitous “Meat Lovers” pie, stars spicy chorizo in lieu of Italian sausage. My new favorite “Hawaiian” is Rebel’s al pastor-and-pineapple variety, dotted with applewood bacon and cotija cheese. Another plus: a carafe filled with bright mango margarita and capped with a secure pop top did not spill in my purse. Not in a TGIF pizza party mood? Tacos are also back in full swing this week. Order online for takeout and delivery; 1214 U Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For an elegant appetizer platter: The Grill just celebrated its 1-year anniversary on the Wharf; It opened weeks before COVID-19 shut down dining rooms. So I just saw the glowing, sleek space in action for the first time. I’ll have to come back to try a la carte meats cooked atop a theatrical Josper Grill, but I got a taste of the pricey kitchen component with juicy ground lamb skewers that are part of an abundant “all the bites” appetizer platter, along with bacon-stuffed dates, indulgent grilled cheese triangles flecked with pistachios, and deviled eggs stuffed with duck liver mousse. Another winning “beginner” is a catch-of-the-day crudo built with radish and citrus. Martini fans feel right at home here, with a huge menu of gins and vodkas to choose from. Open for pickup or indoor and spacious patio dining; 99 Market Square SW — T.P.
Friday, February 12
For a dip that makes the most of tough-to-get pizza: If you want to preorder a naturally leavened pizza from Martha Dear, you better be decisive. The puffy pies, topped with Mediterranean ingredients like charred dollops of ’nduja sausage spread or salty Halloumi cheese, sell out so fast that we struck out the first time we tried to order despite pulling up the website right at noon. On the second attempt, I knew exactly what I wanted, and I was able to secure a couple pizzas. The most clutch part of the process turned out to be adding a cup of bagna cauda, a zippy, garlic anchovy butter that maintains a liquid state when it sits inside the same box as a steamy pizza. The dill “ranch” was pleasant enough, but I kept going back to the golden pool of fishy sauce. Don’t sleep on the kalamata olives marinated in citrus and oregano, either. A Valentine’s Day deal (Saturday and Sunday) includes feta and olives, a choice of pizza, a choice of pink wine, and chocolate cake. Preorders for same-day pickups go live at noon; 3110 Mount Pleasant Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For a cool Irish coffee and cookies: I recently stumbled upon one of the prettiest patios in town during a nighttime stroll along H Street NE. Retro-chic diner Fare Well’s mood-lifting decor out back includes dangling greenery, slick yellow tablecloths covered in cute art of strawberries and blackberries, and individually wrapped utensils in bright blue buckets. Feeling nice and toasty next to a flickering heat lamp, I went with a cool pick-me-up on its ToastTab portal: an (iced) DIY Irish Coffee using my fave local roaster (Ceremony), jazzed up with Jameson. The vegan bakery’s chocolate chip cookie has the diameter of a honeydew melon, and it was an ideal dunker that hit the food-with-booze requirement for just $3. Order online or a book a seat out back. 406 H Street NE — Tierney Plumb
For reliable cocktails in Shaw: Despite its unfortunate placement next to D.C.’s currently-empty convention center, I was happy to see the patio at Morris American Bar was semi-full during a recent taco Tuesday visit. Mixologist Doug Fisher was there and wearing a smile, per usual, while dropping off a mean mezcal-and-Cynar cocktail that paired well with my birria order from food truck Tacos la Michoacana. There’s no shortage of Valentine’s Day options, but the date night deal on the cozy, covered patio covered with string lights seems extra sweet: $60 per person for three cocktails — like a gin and Fernet “Hanky Panky” — plus oysters, burrata, and theatrical desserts from a chef who used to cater for Cirque du Soleil. Book a seat through Sunday, February 14, with an encore weekend starting Wednesday, February 17. 1020 Seventh Street NW — T.P.
For beef on weck with a side of self-serve beer: Some friends and I discovered Ono Brewing Company in Chantilly when we were out for a hike in that area last weekend. The weather was just warm enough to convince us to try sitting outdoors. Ono’s self-service model made it even more inviting during the pandemic. Instead of relying on waiters to bring us our, we were able to pour our own from a wall of taps inside. The brewery had a smart sanitation station set up, which included individual, single-use protectors for its taps. I’m not a big beer person, so take my endorsement of the mango wheat beer with an appropriate grain of salt. But I am a roast beef on weck person, so I was delighted to find a standout version of this hard-to-find, Western New York-style sandwich here, courtesy of Odd BBQ. This sandwich alone is worth the trek. Everything we sampled from them was great, including cheesy, crumbly biscuits; a monster-sized pit beef grilled cheese; and a creamy, salty onion dip. 4520 Daly Drive Suite 102, Chantilly, Virginia — Missy Frederick
Friday, February 5
For cheesy birria tacos that travel well: The characteristics that have made quesabirria tacos one of the biggest national food trends of the past couple years would also seem to make them suspect as a to-go item, but that didn’t stop me from driving to Brentwood, Maryland, to try the version from Little Miner Taco. I’m happy to report that the beef was still tender, the melted cheese still gooey, and the thick, red chile-rich side of consomme was still warm when I chomped on my first taco about half an hour after acquiring it. A web of griddle-crisped cheese expanding over the edges of the tortilla makes the whole package more appealing. My wife went with a carne asada burrito that’s also stuffed with fries and drizzled with a spot-on Sriracha aioli. If you’re bored with birria de res tacos, Little Miner also sells birria burritos and birria cheesesteaks. Order takeout online here; 3809 Rhode Island Avenue, Brentwood, Maryland — Gabe Hiatt
For surprising wine bar specials: Smoke-puffing, chimney-equipped fire pits planted throughout the backyard at St. Vincent Wine made a recent outdoor brunch in Park View more comfortable. To warm up our stomachs, our group of four split the chef’s special that day, a Tuscan lamb toast that was heartier than it sounded. A thick, brown lamb ragu brought bolognese to mind in flavor, color, and warmth, but lemon ricotta and pretty garnishes of shaved celery, colorful radish, walnuts, and fresh horseradish brightened up the heavy meat sauce. Chef Sam Molavi, who’s worked in several stellar kitchens around town (St. Anselm, Compass Rose, Ripple) only offers one special at a time to augment the build-your-own meat and cheese boards. I can’t wait to see what he does when the pandemic passes and he can build out a whole menu. Reserve a seat indoors or outdoor here; 3212 Georgia Avenue NW — G.H.
For a simple breakfast done well: I headed to the back of Kramers bookstore for a recent Saturday brunch, not realizing they now do all-day breakfast. Dupont Circle has “streateries” everywhere, and Kramers has a great spot with a small section of 19th Street NW closed to traffic. I snagged a patio seat, but there’s also an igloo option called a “Bookish Bubble” (adorably dorky). I went with the Kramers Breakfast — a spread of two eggs, toast, potatoes, and turkey sausage ($11). The mimosas were a tad pricy at $7, so I switched over to strong coffee, served in a sturdy white ceramic mug encircled with its red caps lock logo under the D.C. flag. Open for indoor/outdoor service, pickup, and delivery. 1517 Connecticut Avenue NW — Tierney Plumb
Friday, January 29
For DIY sushi rolls: H Street NE go-to Sticky Rice has been sticking to takeout and delivery only for a while, so it has to-go packaging down pat, even for sake bombs. It recently started sending out sushi-making kits to help fans pass the time at home. The 12x12 delivery includes the essentials — including a bamboo mat — to make eight rolls. All you’ll need is a knife and a cutting board. I opened the shiny black box to reveal vacuum-sealed slabs of fresh tuna, salmon, and yellowtail, along with a ripe avocado, thin cucumber spears, and cute containers of spicy mayo and sesame seeds. I figured I’d botch dinner as a first timer, but assembly was actually really easy. A pound of cooked and seasoned sushi rice goes in the microwave for 30 seconds before the white building block gets patted atop seaweed sheets. To cater to both tech-savvy and old-school home chefs, there’s a QR-code enabled video tutorial and step-by-step instructions (with pictorials) on the back of the ingredients page. Order online for takeout or delivery. 1224 H Street NE — Tierney Plumb
For an at-home Korean barbecue feast: Because fast-casual shop Seoul Spice is considering opening a Korean barbecue restaurant in D.C., it’s giving customers a taste of the potential place at home. This weekend is last call for the to-go preview that comes with a portable table-top grill, marinated bulgogi, spicy pork, soy-ginger-garlic chicken, and a slew of banchan. I’m glad I brought my roommate to help carry the heavy load home. It’s sort of hilarious there wasn’t any instructions, but we at least had Google translator to decipher the packaging instructions on the grill that were written in Korean. I braved the cold to cook on my roof, because firing up a butane can in the apartment just didn’t seem like a good idea. It took some patience to heat up all the raw meat with sesame marinade, so I didn’t wait to dig into a container of its popular kimchi. Banchan also includes kale slaw, bean sprouts, cooked corn, and pickled Korean radish, to name a few. Generous tubs of hot sauce and creamy Sriracha go with pretty much all the proteins, which can be topped on beds of glass noodles or huge portions of rice. Order the four-person kit ($60 and up) through Sunday, January 31 for pickup in NoMa or Tenleytown. — T.P.
For homemade ruffles and smoked onion dip: If you’ve been reading a lot of buzz about Pennyroyal Station lately, that’s because chef Jesse Miller had already been on food insiders’ radar due to the the first-rate bar snacks he used to make at Bar Pilar. The new restaurant in Mount Rainier, Maryland, similarly offers up a variety of dishes that are fried or full of meat, which can make ordering feel like a puzzle. I decided to embrace the hodgepodge with my takeout picks this week, building a meal where the only “main” was a winter vegetable salad. My favorite item turned out to be Miller’s sour cream and smoked onion dip, with a potent hit of smoke that mellows out the tang. I think I detected caraway seeds, too. Homemade kettle chips, twice as thick as you’d find out of a bag, were ruffled for texture and remained crunchy through transit. Confit chicken wings taste a little sweet before heat rises like a hammer game at a carnival. Those were another winner, especially after a dip in ramp ranch. Open for takeout and limited capacity indoor dining; 3310 Rhode Island Avenue, Mount Rainier, Maryland — Gabe Hiatt
For tender, spicy tibs: It had been way too long since I had checked in on Chercher, the Ethiopian standby in Shaw, so I popped into the takeout setup in the basement the other night to pick up a veggie combo and an order of zil zil tibs. The strips of beef sautéed with onions and jalapenos were still pink in the middle and striated with morsels of caramelized fat. Pinching pieces of injera and swiping the meat through fiery spices piled onto a little pool of awaze creates the perfect bite. Order online here;1334 Ninth Street NW #B — G.H.
For Indian worth revisiting for days: We definitely over-ordered while trying new-to-us Saffron Indian Cuisine for takeout last week, and I have absolutely no regrets. We were eating shrimp korma and butter chicken for days, and by the time the meat was gone, we were still clinging to the remnants of sauce left in those plastic containers so we could pour it over the generously portioned lamb biryani. Saffron also makes respectable samosas, a thick and velvety mulligatawny soup, and a rich and herby dal maharani (urad dal and kidney beans). Just be prepared to have a little patience for it all; our carryout order was ready about a half hour later than the projected pickup time on a busy Friday evening. 1077 West Broad Street, Falls Church, Virginia — Missy Frederick
Friday, January 22
For crunchy Cali-Mex tacos and tostadas: My appetite for tacos knows no bounds, so the Gonzo pop-up from erstwhile Californian Nick Olivas would have called out to me even if I wasn’t within walking distance of its lunchtime weekend home at strong Sichuan spot/cocktail bar Astoria on 17th Street NW in Dupont. Olivas, an alum of Pineapple and Pearls, has built hard-shell tacos stuffed with braised beef and fistfulls of shredded cheese that I’d love to crush after too many Coronas. But the favorite crunchy bites for me and my wife came from meat-free guacamole tostadas that must have had a full mashed avocado (at least) on each tortilla. The cotija cheese tasted extra fresh, and black bits of fried jalapeno were another pleasant touch to chomp through. Order online through Astoria from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday; 1521 17th Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For Turkish meze with garlicky grilled bread: I made a note to try H Street NE cafe Sospeso back in the summer, when I first noticed Turkish expat Tuğçe Salihoğlu-Curtis had come on as executive chef. After finally swinging by to pick up a multi-person meze platter (a good deal at $40) for curbside pickup, I’m kicking myself for taking so long. The chef’s quick-pickled red cabbage and airy falafel with whipped garlic toum were both special, but it was the simplest part of the package that kept drawing me back for seconds. Smoky, grilled sesame bread painted with garlic-heavy olive oil was delicious in its own right, but of course I dragged it through labneh, hummus, and baba ghanoush, too. A market section of the online menu made me feel like a winner for snagging a 4-ounce jar of homemade harissa. Order online here; 1344 H Street NE — G.H.
For booze in a bubble: Shaw staple HalfSmoke just converted the parking patch across the street from the Howard Theater into a 100-person patio dotted with glowing igloos and picnic tables, where servers briskly walk over dishes and drinks from the restaurant a block away. I called one heated bubble home for a post-4 p.m. brunch. A Bluetooth-enabled speaker (and a friend with a good playlist) helped set the scene. With menus plumped up by pandemic-era pizza and breakfast sandwich pop-ups and carafes of pineapple mimosas that kept coming, I didn’t move until after dark. My “Battleship” passionfruit-mezcal order, served in a massive martini glass, managed to make it to our white-clothed circular table without any spillage. For his first orders of business, new chef Brian Dunbar makes gloriously greasy pan pizzas like a “Bromance Worthy BLT,” with smoky bacon and garlic confit to go along with reliable sausage in gooey mac and cheese. Halfsmoke’s Winter Wonderland opens daily at 10 a.m. 625 T Street NW — T.P.
For TGIF sushi outside: All the inauguration excitement on TV made me want to exit the house and celebrate IRL at one of the few places open that day. As I walked to Union Market district, I remembered O-Ku has a solid happy hour (Monday through Thursday). The sushi spot blasts music outside its steel door to signal service at 5 p.m., and its upstairs patio fills up fast with those in the know about the deal. There are $7 cocktails like a mulled tequila-and-plum wine with soft Asian pear slices at the bottom of the glass mug double as a spiked dessert. For around $6, diners can load up on elegant crab or tuna rolls or crispy beef gyoza dumplings — recommended for a weekend splurge, too — dunked in black vinegar soy. Fine dining details even at happy hour include a welcome board of bright lemon and lime slices that waiters plop into water glasses with metal tongs. Happy hour (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Open for dine-in, takeout, and delivery daily. 1274 5th Street NE — Tierney Plumb
Friday, January 15
For picturesque Peruvian takeout: As someone who spends a significant chunk of their work time sifting through promotional food pics, I’ve learned not to let professionally styled and lit photos jack up my expectations. But when I popped the lid on a few takeout containers of a two-person dinner package from Peruvian pop-up Criollo, I let out an audible “wow.” Chef Carlos Delgado, the Lima expat who helped get Taqueria Xochi up and running after being furloughed from China Chilcano, managed to transfer fine dining plating into stackable takeout containers. The ring shape of a cold causa held intact while I walked it home, with a citrusy potato whip supporting sliced avocados, a quarter of a hard-boiled egg, and a kewpie chicken salad splashed with a sunny aji amarillo and a purple sauce. Another yellow plate, arroz con mariscos, featured tender shrimp, calamari, and octopus with pease and red onions popping against the creamy, cheesy rice. Oyster sauce adds a pinch of funky depth to a lomo saltado with beef tenderloin, soft fries, hunks of tomato, and slightly sweet onion petals. Order takeout online or grab a seat at Service Bar’s streetside patio; 928 U Street NW — Gabe Hiatt
For fiery fried rice: If it wasn’t for Postmates’s aggregated suggestions nearby, I likely never would have tried Royal Thai, an unassuming spot in Chinatown I must’ve walked by dozens of times. For my first order, I went with some go-to Thai dishes that didn’t disappoint. Whole mushrooms bob inside a container of tom yum soup, and generous chunks of chicken hold down the bottom. The garden roll — incorrectly advertised as “one” — went a long way for just $6.99: The app is actually two massive rice paper rolls, wrapped tightly together in cellophane. Spicy tofu fried rice, a fiery main made with garlic, chile, bell peppers, and fresh basil, lived up to its a two-asterisk warning. Ubiquitous mango sticky rice featured fresh chunks of the orange fruit and sweet, steamed sticky rice that’s finished with sweetened coconut milk. Have silverware ready, unless you specify plasticware at checkout. Order online for takeout or delivery. 507 H Street NW — Tierney Plumb
For replacement fajitas: I was craving fajitas for takeout courtesy of a suggestion put in my head by your intrepid food editor Gabe Hiatt. We were going to give Cyclone Anaya’s a whirl for takeout; turns out it’s been closed quite awhile in Merrifield’s Mosaic District. Instead, we experimented with Taqueria Cancun, which treated us to a generous portion of mixed fajitas with rice and beans. Adding shrimp was unnecessary, but the beef and chicken were well-seasoned. We also tried crunchy tacos fritos, which were basically chicken flautas. Warning, carne asada nachos are much more topping than chip. They could use more cheese, to be honest, so you have to down them quickly before they get soggy. Order online here. 7810-G Lee Highway, Falls Church — Missy Frederick
Friday, January 8
For mozzarella bars and limoncello martinis: Antsy after lockdown, I got in a solid walk last night for takeout from Mozzeria on H Street NE. The welcome addition to the end of the strip is a deaf-owned and deaf-operated pizzeria born in San Francisco. Upon entry inside the soaring and immaculately lit space, the massive, mosaic-tiled oven tasked with making its Neapolitan-style pies immediately stole the show. I went with two of its best sellers: the Margherita and Salumi, blanketed with generously sized orbs of thinly sliced coppa and soppressata. Pies returned home still warm inside their glossy black boxes, but I threw some slices in my own oven to make both the already-charred crust and the edges of the Italian meats delightfully crispy. Its best-selling “mozzarella bar” appetizer lives up to its name: a bar of fried cheese surrounded by a moat of marinara in its box. I didn’t wait to get home to drink a tangy limoncello martini that relies on local distillers Don Ciccio & Figli and Republic Restoratives. Served on ice in a portable plastic cup, I sipped it all on the walk home. Can you blame me after this week? Order online for takeout and delivery. 1300 H Street NE — Tierney Plumb
For a healthy helping of coconut rice named after the VP-elect: While Detroit-style pizza, ramen, and short-lived fried chicken sandwiches might have attracted others’ attention to Ghostline, the carryout-centric food hall in Glover Park, I’ve been most excited to try Tokri, the option focused on Indian khichdi bowls from DC Dosa’s Priya Ammu. I liked what I found when I finally made to the Ghostline after a soggy hike through the park. I couldn’t pass up the “Coco Kamala” full of black urad dal and broken rice cooked down in coconut milk that gets more enticing as you fold in supporting players like a daikan and cabbage salad in a sweet-and-savory sesame tamarind dressing (my favorite), a tomato apricot chutney, a couple red lentil fritters, and light, bite-size rounds of papadum I would buy by the bag (if possible). My wife was feeling pizza, and the deck-oven pie we got from Little Beast had pleasantly chewy, slightly tangy crust we both appreciated, even if we felt the topping combo of pulled pork, mumbo sauce, and what was advertised as collard greens but had to be kale, didn’t quite work. Order Tokri for takeout or delivery (in range) here. 2340 Wisconsin Ave NW — Gabe Hiatt
For a colorful dinner that lasts for days: After too much roast beef and ham over the holidays, I wanted anything but meat one night. Shaw’s reliable Ethiopian go-to Habesha Market overdelivered for my non-carnivorous craving. Its deluxe veggie combo, served in a massive metal tray fit for a casserole, required both hands to bring upstairs to my apartment. After uncovering the hefty order, I was dumfounded on where to start. The beautiful and bright spread of 10 traditional veggies, each neatly partitioned, sits atop a bed of spongy injera bread. Spicy lentils, yellow peas, collard greens, cabbage, shire, house salad, mild lentils, spicy potato, tomato salad, and yemetad shiro, oh my. The generous dish that lasted for days ($22) comes with the extra perk of not having to find a clean fork: a hefty bag of folded injera included in the order is there to help grab each veggie at leisure. Order online for pickup or delivery. 1919 9th Street NW — T.P.
For a pickle in a cocktail pouch: It’s great to see Pete Sitcov back at a sandwich counter. The former Yang Market proprietor and Crush Subbies cook has a new sub shop on 14th Street NW called Compliments Only. Aside from enjoying the “Marisa Tomei Eats Free” —fresh basil and arugula strike a bitter note against soft blocks of mozz, capicola, Genoa salami, a and honey chili aioli — I got a kick out of the whole deli pickle packed loosely in fluorescent green brine inside a to-go cocktail pouch. Order carryout here; 1630 14th Street NW — G.H.