Move over, McDonald’s. Lots of refined restaurants around D.C. are embracing fast-food favorites these days with fun dish drops, “value meals,” and off-menu items inspired by everything from a McRib to Popeyes fried chicken.
The following area establishments—including polished cocktail bars, hip hotel hangouts, and even Michelin-starred standbys—offer cheffed-up takes on drive-thru classics. And for upscale takes on drinking snacks, go here.
Crunch wrap and more at Pop Fizz
2108 Vermont Avenue NW
To meet its mission of delivering salty, fatty, and craveable fare, Shaw’s sleek new bubbles bar draws inspiration from popular American chains like Arby’s, In-N-Out, and Taco Bell. That includes curly fries; a “animal sauce” atop its Pop Burger; and crunch wrap starring duck. Sommelier/owner Brent Kroll’s new Navy Yard cocktail bar Trouble Bird also toys with nostalgia, as seen in an “Everything Bagel” Sazerac.
Value Meal at Michele’s
1201 K Street NW
Mondays at Michele’s downtown calls for a $30 “Value Meal” special, complete with a koji-cured double smash burger with fries and a beer-and-shot combo. Supersize your meal with an warm apple hand pie and add scoop of vanilla bourbon ice cream for a Frosty-like friend to fries. The fancied-up fast food items are also part of chef Matt Baker’s daily a la carte rotation at his lobby-level restaurant in the Eaton hotel.
Breakfast sandwiches at Baker’s Daughter
Chef Matt Baker’s all-day cafe slings a “Breakfast Sammy” (bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit) along with a riff on an Egg McMuffin.
“Colossal” short rib sandwich at Joy by Seven Reasons
5471 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland
The partners behind D.C.’s pricey Latin standout Seven Reasons debuted a dressed-down offshoot in Chevy Chase last year, complete with a “Colossal” short rib sandwich that takes tips from a McDonald’s McRib. Michelin-starred chef Enrique Limardo’s fancy version, weighing in at over two pounds, is built with ciabatta bread, 16-hour braised rack of short ribs, bib lettuce, veal demi, tomato, plantain butter, fried shallots, pickled onion, and smoked cheddar cheese. The giant, on-the-bone order is designed for three, but some customers have crushed it solo.
Milkshake, fried chicken, and pizza at JÔNT
1904 14th Street NW
A social media influencer once challenged that Michelin-starred chefs can’t make a burger. JÔNT chef Ryan Ratino proved them wrong by making a Burger King-inspired salted caramel sesame milkshake to go with it. His 14-seat, two-Michelin-starred chef’s counter also likes to send out fried chicken to the unassuming guest, presented in a cute Popeyes-style container with handles. And two of JÔNT’s regulars reportedly like to grab pizza after they do prix-fixe dinners in NYC, so at the end of its own 32-course tasting menu, hospitality director Nitiya Sin created a “Papa JÔNT’s” box with a pizza made from scratch inside. These special surprises are all one-offs and not regularly on the $375-per-person menu that leans into Japanese seafood.
A la Big Mac at the Restaurant at Blue Rock
12567 Lee Highway, Washington, Virginia
The quintessential American burger—the Big Mac—is the idea behind Blue Rock’s hefty handheld. Two dry-aged beef patties, with a middle bun cut in-house, are contained with Martin’s sesame buns on the top and bottom. A homemade “1001 dressing” plays off classic Thousand Island, joined by pickled onions, shredduce, sharp cheddar, and American cheese—“aka pasteurized cheese product, because I think there’s a nostalgia there that you can’t replace,” per a restaurant rep. There’s also a bucket of “BR Fried Chicken to Share” available as an add-on to its four-course tasting menu.
A la In-N-Out at Gatsby
1201 Half Street SE
Knead Hospitality + Design’s founders Jason Berry and Michael Reginbogin met at their alma mater (the University of Southern California), where In-N-Out Burger is everywhere. Their upscale American diner next to Nationals Park takes the West Coast cult classic up a notch with caramelized onions, high-quality buns and beef, and Thousand Island dressing.
Supreme Crunch at Mi Casa
1647 20th Street NW
Taco Bell’s iconic Crunchwrap Supreme is the muse for Mi Casa’s newest Mexican dish for Dupont diners. “By using hard and soft tortillas you get the best of both worlds with a decadent crunch, paired with the soft tortilla filled with cheese that holds everything together,” says Knead Hospitality’s director of culinary operations Christian Plotczyk.
Tots and Shots at Silver Lyan
900 F Street NW
Perfectly crispy tater tots-and-shots are designed for grown-up palates at Penn Quarter’s cocktail haven in the depths of the Riggs hotel. The beloved bar food is shaped like a coin as a clever homage to Silver Lyan’s placement in a former bank vault—and also provides an even crunchy-to-cushy ratio in each bite. Spuds gets tossed in a homemade “ranch” salt and come with a dill-buttermilk ranch dipper. Sippers on the side include a next-level lemon drop made by extracting the essence of lemon peels—no added sugar needed—along with lemon oleo, Kettle One Citron and Cointreau.
And this week’s cherry blossom-themed hanami picnic package with NYC’s Katana Kitten showcases haute hot dogs in paper trays: