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.