Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and industry pros to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to an annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts this week. First up, the dining experts share their regular go-to destinations in 2023 and the most exciting newcomers to D.C.’s restaurant scene.
Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post food critic: My job requires me to chase the new and revisit established players, to take their pulse. But if I could return as many times as I wanted, without regard to mission or deadline, the restaurants I’d find myself in would be the fresh faces Local Provisions in Sterling and Padaek in Arlington, two restaurants that are serving their communities very well, and Reveler’s Hour, the delicious definition of a neighborhood anchor. And I love sitting in front of the grill at Chicatana on 14th Street and watching the cooks make art from shrimp, masa, tongue, and pork.
Ann Limpert, Washingtonian executive food editor and critic: During the day: Elle for its slightly sour bagels and my fave London Fog, Little Food Studio for cherry scones, District Fishwife for po’boys, Bread Furst for jambon-beurre sandwiches, and of course my weekly Vace slice. My off-hours meals tend to favor things my seven year-old will eat: CYM and Bullfrog Bagels (I go for the reuben), Pearl Dive for brunch, Doro Soul Food, Andy’s and Nighthawk, Convivial, Masala Story (best butter chicken!), and I have a whole new appreciation for the tortilla machine at Cactus Cantina.
When it comes to newcomers, I loved pretty much everything about the ultra-sophisticated L’Avant Garde, the chic and refined Joon, and the super-fun Beloved BBQ. And I am so happy Tsehay is back!
Tim Carman, the Washington Post reporter and columnist: I ate at Pizza Serata more than I should have, and more than I needed to. But some afternoons, I just couldn’t resist the siren song of chef Chris Morgan’s pies, which he developed with the assistance of former Roberta’s pizzaiolo Anthony Falco. These rounds redefine personal pan pizza — they’re sized for a single diner, yes, but they’re as unique and personal as a fingerprint.
Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: A not-so-secret secret is that I moved to Virginia this year(!!!), so I’ve got a whole new roster of go-to spots. I’m spending a lot more time at Eden Center, where one of my favorites is Pho Ga Vang for the lemongrass chicken rice platter. I’ve also become a devotee of La Tingeria, which has some of the best tacos in the entire region (get the birria goat and tinga chicken). With my kids, we usually go to Westover Beer Garden for the chill vibe and great burgers and sandwiches with sweet potato fries.
For newcomers on the scene, I’m very excited about the additions to the tabletop grill scene. Puzukan Tan in Falls Church has become one of my top picks for Korean barbecue. It’s one of the only places in the area using hybrid charcoal-gas grills, and the giant rib kalbi is unmatched. Meanwhile, Japanese steakhouse Beloved BBQ has made the grill-your-own-meat experience even more luxe (but still tons of fun) with its top-tier wagyu tasting.
Nycci Nellis, TheListAreYouOnIt.com publisher: It was an exciting year for new restaurants in the D.C. market, and while many out-of-towners planted their flags here in D.C., the locally-owned places really stand out. I am a massive fan of Love Makoto. It is such a vast undertaking that David Deshais and his team execute beautifully. The sushi, takeaway, and izakaya are terrific, but my heart (and belly) live in the Beloved BBQ experience. Two runner-ups that are completely different: Kappo, that little gem on Macarthur that serves a dreamlike omakase, and Scott Drewno & Danny Lee’s all-day breakfast spot, I Egg You — that milk bread French toast.
Paola Velez, Author, owner of Smallorchids INC and co-founder of Bakers Against Racism: The Grill from Ipanema, Lutèce, Bronze, Maketto, Anju, El Presidente, Duck and the Peach, Bar Spero, Thompsons Italian, Oyster Oyster, Qui Qui have been on my rotation this year any time I had a moment to rest from my travels. A newcomer I’m super excited about is I EGG YOU! I love Danny [Lee] and Scott [Drewno], and I love egg sandos! What more could a girl want!
Amanda Gomez, DCist reporter: I’m a regular at the Mount Pleasant wine shop, Nido. I’m a big fan of the wine selection, duh, but also the tortilla española and burnt basque cheesecake. Grab a slice of each with a glass of natural wine and a seat by the window, and you are in for a helluva time. Wine queen Thea Merl will also bless patrons with her bountiful knowledge. I was most excited by Love, Makoto, a glorious ode to Japan. Beloved BBQ got me going to downtown on a weekday night. It didn’t disappoint – I loved the savory Manhattan cocktail (topped with shiitake mushrooms!) and Japanese wagyu.
David Hagedorn, Arlington Magazine/Bethesda Magazine dining columnist: When you dine out for work you don’t get to go to old faves as much as you’d like, but my tried-and-trues are Buck’s Fishing & Camping, Centrolina and The Duck and the Peach. For newcomers on the scene, Beloved BBQ at Love, Makoto, and Kappo DC are terrific (and—coincidentally—beef-centric) additions. Ellie Bird, too.
Rick Chessen, Rick Eats DC blogger: Date nights are likely to be comfortable spots with great food like Lutèce, Caruso’s Grocery, or Queen’s English. Fridays tend to be pizza nights at Martha Dear, Frankly…Pizza!, or Andy’s. When I’m dining solo, you’ll often find me hunched over some Papa B’s Fried Rice at Kuya Ja’s, pozole at Cielo Rojo, chicken mole at Taqueria El Mexicano, Hot & Sour Foon at Yu’s Noodles, or a pastrami sandwich at 2Fifty Texas BBQ.
I’ll call out the the Heights Food Hall in Friendship Heights for best newcomer. First, because it’s walking distance from my home and the neighborhood needs more options. Second, it has attracted top-notch talent like Kevin Tien, whose Red Dragon Roll at Doki Doki is now my favorite sushi roll in town. Also, it’s not a new restaurant, but Chef Masako Morishita is doing some great things at Perry’s. How great? These days if the roof deck is full, I’ll gladly eat inside.
Angie Duran, director of operations at Duo Group, VIN. VITALITÉ co-founder: Consistently, Lutèce remains a perennial favorite for me. Every visit is exactly what I need. They have the best omelette in the city, and their sweetbreads are perfect. Perry’s, I hold close to my heart; Chef Masako’s gem-filled menu checks all the boxes any day of the week. I’m sure I am not the only one to say this, but Amazonia always sparks my joy, no matter the size of the meal or if it’s just for drinks; the team crushes every single time. Bronze was my favorite newcomer; the grilled sea bass had the perfect balance of sour/sweet/spice that hit all the right points on my tongue.
Missy Frederick, Eater cities director: My go-tos are Ariake in Fairfax for sushi, Peter Chang in Arlington for everything, Rare Bird for coffee, Jane Jane for cocktails, Bourbon Steak bar when headed to the Kennedy Center, The Italian Store for pizza, Hank’s for lobster rolls. Would like to become more of a regular at the Game, Caruso’s, Tonari, Himalayan Wild Yak, Northwest Chinese, Essan, Hu Tieu Mi Lacay Cho Lon in Eden Center, and Bros. Bistro in Springfield.
Ellie Bird has proven to be a delicious, creative, and ambitious addition to my neck of the woods, though I wish I could just pop in easily for a casual drink (they tend to save the bar seats for reservations).