With a debilitating pandemic in the distant rearview mirror, the past year in D.C. food news looked relatively bright. Despite continued industry stressors like labor shortages and rising food costs, many chefs and restaurateurs were able to get anticipated openings across the finish line at a somewhat-swift pace. Readers were especially excited to learn about arrivals from a proven barbecue venture opening up in Maryland; an Old Town deli from a Bronx native; a year-round crab house in Fairfax; a beloved bagel brand busting into Virginia with a colorful trailer; and Tysons’ first fine-dining Singaporean restaurant, which ended up closing 10 months later.
Other hot headlines in 2023 included everything from the controversial plan to potentially overhaul Vietnamese standby Eden Center to Michelin’s announcement of D.C. stars to a deep dive inside an Eastern Shore town undergoing a culinary renaissance.
And now, here are Eater D.C.’s 10 most-clicked news stories of the year (listed in descending order):
Chef-owner Ed McIntosh’s anticipated carryout Eddie’s Little Shop and Deli opened in February with all sorts of sizable sandwiches built with Italian meats and cheeses. The beloved bodegas McIntosh used to frequent as a kid in NY were the muse for his nostalgic namesake takeout, complete with crowd-pleasers like slow-roasted ribeye on a hoagie roll and hand-pulled, marinated mozzarella made every few hours.
Money Muscle BBQ, Montgomery County’s pandemic-born food truck hit from pitmaster Ed Reavis and his wife Jennifer Meltzer, expanded to neighboring Prince George’s County in January with a dedicated location to finally call its own. The dine-in stall at Riverdale Park’s polished food hall Le Fantome showcases its top-selling lineup of smoked meats, sandwiches, sides, and standout sauces in regional styles.
Fall Church’s decades-old destination for stellar Vietnamese cuisine was flung into the spotlight this spring, when a long-term redevelopment plan came to light that threatens to upend its longtime small business owners. Operated almost entirely by first- to third- generation Vietnamese families, the sprawling, multi-building shopping mall comprised of dozens of restaurants, bakeries, and cafes is the crown jewel of a bustling commercial corridor known as the East End. It’s also one of the seven “planning opportunity areas” identified by the Falls Church city government that outlines a future roadmap for the targeted geographical region.
This spring, Eater DC explored the impacts of Bluepoint Hospitality Group’s booming portfolio on a small Eastern Shore community. Over a span of just 10 years, eccentric energy tycoon Paul Prager made it his mission to flood Easton with cosmopolitan restaurants and stylish cafes — recruiting both local and NYC-based talent to help transform the historically sleepy town into a bonafide dining destination.
Alexandria-based Common Plate Hospitality (Mason Social, Urbano, Augie’s Mussel House) expanded to the Virginia suburbs to much delight this fall, opening a crustacean-cracking venture that brings the heat in the Mosaic District. Kreole’s unique menu model combines comforting Southern flavors and spicy Asian influences, with dishes that jump from gumbo to garlic noodles. (CPH was one of the area’s fastest-growing restaurant groups this year, busting into Maryland with a fine-dining Mediterranean showpiece for Potomac and a shiny new food hall in Chevy Chase.)
D.C.-born Call Your Mother brought its hit wood-fired bagels across the Potomac River for the first time in April. The pink-and-teal shop on wheels, dubbed “Lil Deli,” parks at the Chesterbrook Shopping Center in McLean. Its Virginia fanbase was also pleased to find out an additional location is en route to Old Town. The self-described “Jew-ish” deli broke out of the DMV for the first time this spring with a pair of outposts in Denver, Colorado.
After 30 years and countless crispy pork spring rolls served, Northern Virginia’s Vietnamese standard-bearer Four Sisters permanently closed to much dismay on Mother’s Day. Originally an occupant of nearby Vietnamese complex Eden Center, family-owned Four Sisters relocated to Merrifield long before the surrounding Mosaic District arrived with a steady stream of restaurant and retail options. Despite making it through the treacherous pandemic, owners Lieu and Le Lai ultimately decided to shut down for a variety of reasons that included a potential rent spike, industry-wide issues like soaring food costs, and simply to spend more time at home.
After a long delay, the coveted little red book finally announced the newest members of its 2023 Michelin Guide family in November. A pair of D.C. establishments — a small Peruvian tasting room nestled in Blagden Alley (Causa) and fancy Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter (Rania) — each earned a star, joining the elite class of local destinations deemed worthy of a visit by the French tire company. The D.C. area is now home to 25 Michelin-starred restaurants, and all returning eateries retained the same star count. Only one still holds the title of its highest three-starred status: Inn at Little Washington, chef Patrick O’Connell’s American showstopper out in rural Virginia.
Chef Pepe Moncayo’s sprawling Singaporean stunner Jiwa Singapura opened to much anticipation in mid-February, showcasing items like chicken satay, wok-fried noodles, chili crab, and other high-end spins on street foods in a sleek setting with room for 170 inside and 80 across a year-round terrace. The opulent homage to the Singapore city-state Moncayo called home for a decade built upon the success of his 3-year-old Spanish kaiseki spot Cranes in Penn Quarter, which lost its Michelin star this year.
Jiwa continued to generate big headlines in December when it made a surprise and swift exit after just 10 months — suggesting mall-goers may prefer to fuel up at a food court rather than a fancy sit-down restaurant.
Virginians were incensed in March after a viral photo of weak-looking barbecue and deconstructed mac and cheese claimed to be from somewhere in its state. So Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Va.) did some digging on its origin on behalf of her confused constituents and revealed the source of the barbecue plate in a widely circulated Tweet, proclaiming “nothing like this has ever been served in our Commonwealth.” Turns out, the picture was pulled from the Yelp page for Ritzy B’s Smokehouse & Grill, an unassuming roadside restaurant nestled the north Texas town of Decatur.
And rounding out the 15 top-read news stories of 2023 are: