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Michelin-starred tasting room JÔNT sprinkles in some unexpected menu surprises like a container of fabulous fried chicken.
Nitiya Sin

Upscale Spins on Fast Food Are Having a Moment at D.C. Restaurants

Where to find high-end takes on Big Macs, Papa John’s pizza, Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supremes, and more

Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

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.

A duck-filled crunch wrap at Pop Fizz.
Brent Kroll

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.

Chef Matt Baker’s double smash burger pays homage to his Texan roots.
Leading DC

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

Multiple locations

Chef Matt Baker’s all-day cafe slings a “Breakfast Sammy” (bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit) along with a riff on an Egg McMuffin.

Baker’s Daughter updates morning menu items at McDonald’s.
Leading DC

The “Colossal” short rib sandwich arrives with hand wipes and gloves to help contain the mess.
Maritza Rondon

“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 mini take on a Burger King milkshake at JÔNT.
Nitiya Sin
Cute containers of fried chicken at JÔNT.
Nitiya Sin

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.

The Blue Rock Burger.
The Restaurant at Blue Rock

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.

Gatsby’s double-patty smash burger with American cheese comes on a sesame potato bun.
Rey Lopez for Gatsby

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

Mi Casa’s beef picadillo-filled crispy taco comes with a flour tortilla wrap, cheddar, avocado, and sour cream.
Mi Casa

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:

Silver Lyan offers hot dogs as part of its pop-up picnic experience this week (March 27 to April 1).
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

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