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An array of Peruvian-Japanese dishes at China Chilcano.
An array of Peruvian-Japanese dishes at China Chilcano.
China Chilcano

The 38 Essential Restaurants in D.C., Fall 2017

Where to find enticing spring rolls, crave-worthy fried chicken, and the dreamiest lobster French toast around

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An array of Peruvian-Japanese dishes at China Chilcano.
| China Chilcano

It's time to update the Eater 38, the answer to the age-old question about the best dining D.C. has to offer. This elite group covers the entire city and surrounding areas, spans myriad cuisines and budgets, and collectively satisfies nearly all restaurant needs — except for those occasions that typically mandate forking over half a paycheck. The list is fine-tuned every few months to accommodate outstanding newcomers (restaurants must be open at least six months to qualify) and/or returning favorites (which must have made major improvements).

This time around, additions include China Chilcano (for sharing the magic of chifa-style dining with the District), Proof (terrific wines, amazing food, and now brunch), and Range. To make room, it's time to say goodbye (for now) to Barrel + Crow, Jaleo, and The Partisan. The list has been arranged by neighborhood for easier mobile searching.

Eater has published an archive of previous, recent Eater 38 players here. Share any thoughts on the picks in the comments below or sound off via email (dc@eater.com).

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Republic

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6939 Laurel Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-3000
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This Takoma Park restaurant from chef Jeff Black and Danny Wells has lots of oysters, a strong brunch menu (especially the seafood offerings) and live music in the evenings. It's also a destination for creative vegetarian offerings.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

2. Timber Pizza Company

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809 Upshur St NW
Washington, D.C. 20011
(202) 258-6832
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This one-time food truck has flourished as a brick-and-mortar, putting its wood-burning oven to work spinning out not just beautifully scorched pies — herb-packed pesto, feta, and kale anchor the healthful-sounding Green Monster; honey, chorizo, and peppers fuel the crowd-pleasing Bentley — but now also brunch-friendly bagels, pastries, and biscuits. Add in a commitment to locally sourced ingredients, a surprisingly diverse canned drink selection (think: craft brews, imports, session beers, ciders, and mead), and the real community vibe it’s fostered in Petworth, and Timber seems unlikely to fall any time soon.

Timber Pizza Co DC oven Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

3. Range

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5335 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20015
(202) 803-8020
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Top Chef alum and empire builder Bryan Voltaggio continues to expand his reach (steak house at MGM National Harbor; fish sandwich shop headed to California), but also still wows at the five-year-old restaurant which crowns the glitzy Chevy Chase Pavilion. His take on modern American cooking extends from the trendy (avocado breakfast sandwiches; tuna poke) to traditional favorites (brined fried chicken, shrimp and grits with ham sofrito).

Gourmet biscuits and gravy at Range. Photo: Range

4. Himitsu

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828 Upshur St NW
Washington, D.C. 20011

This adventurous spot in Petworth is a direct reflection of the passions shared by co-owners Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner. From the carefully selected wines — sip everything from luscious rosés to wonderfully nutty sherries — to complex dishes that brilliantly bridge the gap between ingredients (think: raw tuna ignited by orange-chili oil), and sometimes entire cultures (Southern-style fried chicken is transported around the globe by fermented chili paste, sesame seeds, and creamy kewpie mayo), it's easy to grasp why this restaurant is packed nearly every night.

Photo: Himitsu

5. Thip Khao

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3462 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

D.C.'s leading Lao restaurant has made a splash with its spicy and unusual fare (yes, ant eggs have appeared on the menu). Try the jungle menu for the most chile-powered fare the family-run restaurant has to offer. The family-style dining format — dishes are served as soon as they are ready rather than sequentially — can produce erratic pacing. But any timing issues are typically forgiven upon arrival of the expertly layered cuisine.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

6. Bad Saint

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3326 11th St NW
Washington, D.C.

Perhaps the most representative restaurant of the growing Filipino food trend in D.C. over the past couple of years, Bad Saint has been drawing lines down the street since opening in late 2015. It's a tiny restaurant, but an ambitious one. Expect even longer waits now that the place has been atop a few national "best of" lists.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

7. Lapis Afghan Bistro

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1847 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 299-9630
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Here's somewhere to go for modern Afghan cooking, in an atmosphere that manages to be both classy and homey (with surprisingly affordable prices for the Adams Morgan neighborhood). Feast on Afghan dumplings, pumpkin preparations, baked eggplant, and standout kebobs in many varieties. A recent recipient of Michelin's Bib Gourmand designation, vegetarians eat well here.

8. Tail Up Goat

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1827 Adams Mill Rd NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 986-9600
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This Adams Morgan restaurant from Jon Sybert, Jill Tyler, and Bill Jensen, brings the same hospitality the partners learned from time spent at Komi and Little Serow. Drawing influences from time spent on St. John, the restaurant has become known for its pastas, breads, wines, and attentive and easygoing service. Lamb ribs are a sure bet, but don't ignore rotating dishes highlighting seasonal ingredients.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

9. Izakaya Seki

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1117 V St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 588-5841
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The underrated Izakaya Seki puts out some of the best raw fish in the area. Under the direction of chef and co-owner Hiroshi Seki, the restaurant features adventurous dishes like beef tongue, Japanese classics like kara-age and a number of accompaniments to its fine sake selection.

Mackerel at Izakaya Seki. Photo: Izakaya Seki

10. Compass Rose

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1346 T St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

The sheer diversity of this neighborhood restaurant's small menu is impressive, and the kitchen manages to excel at a number of different cuisines, ranging from South American to Georgian. A signature dish is the Khachapuri, an addictive bread and cheese, pizza-like concoction. A thoughtful wine list and gorgeous design also elevate the experience. The restaurant recently added a new private dining option served underneath a Bedouin tent.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

11. Convivial

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801 O St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 525-2870
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Award-winning restaurateur Cedric Maupillier has created a welcoming neighborhood spot in Shaw with this lively cafe. Fans of the familiar can take comfort in culinary standards such as quiche Lorraine or seafood-packed bouillabaisse, while others may indulge in gourmet bacon cheeseburgers and fried chicken prepared in the style of coq au vin.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

12. All-Purpose Pizzeria

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1250 9th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 849-6174
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Chef Mike Friedman’s self-styled pizza place is on everyone’s lips. Crowds continue to pour into the Shaw-based restaurant to indulge in artful appetizers, seasonally themed pies, and spirited beverages.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

13. The Dabney

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122 Blagden Alley NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 450-1015
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Chef Jeremiah Langhorne's Washington debut displays some of the most aggressive commitment to local sourcing and Mid-Atlantic cuisine in the region. As a result, the hearth-fired dishes — smaller plates range from $13 to $25, while family-style fish dishes and steak platters hover around $50 — rotate frequently. Its Michelin star awarded last fall solidified the cuisine as some of the best in the city.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

14. Kinship

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1015 7th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 737-7700
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Though he’s long been a critical darling — Michelin-starred, even — Kinship chef and founder Eric Ziebold provides enough wiggle room at Kinship for everyday guests to make their own fun. Menu items are arranged by culinary themes (Craft; History; Ingredients: Indulgence), but share a few things in common: gorgeous presentations, and complementary flavors.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

15. Hazel

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808 V St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 847-4980
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Rob Rubba has rocketed to chef superstardom with this self-styled contribution to the Shaw neighborhood, from Neighborhood Restaurant Group. Here, he makes a name for himself with unique dishes with an Asian flair, and has a particular way with duck. Find a carefully-curated wine list and a festive dim sum brunch here, too.

Photo: Hazel

16. Royal

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501 Florida Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 332-7777
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This versatile LeDroit Park restaurant has flourished as a neighborhood gathering place at all hours of the day, from breakfast to those between-lunch-and-dinner hours. The menu has a Latin American slant, with stellar arepas and interesting takes on everything from avocado to breakfast sandwiches. There's lots of vegetarian options, too.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

17. The Red Hen

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1822 1st St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

One of Eater's former Restaurant of the Year winners is the whole package: food, design, service. Bloomingdale residents and destination diners turn to the Red Hen for offal, homemade pastas, and a carefully curated wine list (orange wine, anyone?).

Photo: Red Hen

18. Le Diplomate

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1601 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 332-3333
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Le Diplomate asserted itself as an instant classic when it opened in Logan Circle in 2013. Now James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr's first entry into the D.C. market excels at classic dishes like steak frites and skate, as well as some interesting twists like foie gras mousse. The atmosphere is loud and bustling, and the French-themed decor is transporting.

Photo by Missy Frederick / Eater DC

19. Estadio

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1520 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 319-1404
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Estadio has been a major player in D.C.'s Spanish food scene since it opened. The contemporary small plates menu boasts a strong selection of cheese and charcuterie, as well as pintxos, bocadillos and classic tapas dishes.

Photo: Estadio

20. Little Serow

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1511 17th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Getting into Little Serow can be a challenge — lines for Johnny Monis's no-reservations restaurant tend to start forming before opening — but the payoff is worth the wait. The chef prepares fiery, authentic Thai cuisine in a spare and stylish setting. At $49 per person for a multi-course, ever-changing menu, Little Serow provides a more affordable alternative to the chef's fine-dining establishment, Komi.

Photo by Bill Addison / Eater

21. Iron Gate

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1734 N St NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 737-1371
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One of the most romantic restaurants in the city, Neighborhood Restaurant Group's Mediterranean-themed restaurant features cooking from Vermilion alum Anthony Chittum. There are tasting menus, family-style meals, and a la carte options at the restaurant. All are complemented by seasonally inspired cocktails, and abundant Greek and Italian wines.

Photo: Iron Gate

22. Bombay Club

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815 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
(202) 659-3727
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Ashok Bajaj's Bombay Club is one of those old school DC restaurants that has been a favorite among politicians for ages. But unlike some of the city's classic steakhouses, you won't find a dated menu or indifferent service at Bombay Club. The restaurant serves up a stellar brunch buffet, properly made Manhattans and traditional Indian fare such as lamb roganjosh. The thali platters are a good way to sample a variety of dishes. And there's even a piano player in the evening.

Photo: Bombay Club

23. Del Campo

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777 I St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Victor Albisu's South American restaurant serves up a variety of grilled smoky meats, grilled arepas, and beefy brunch dishes. There's even a cocktail list with edible, meaty garnishes available in the lounge.

Photo: Del Campo

24. Centrolina

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974 Palmer Alley NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 898-2426
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With her all-in-one outpost in tony CityCenterDC, James Beard Foundation Award nominee Amy Brandwein has proven she’s a force to be reckoned with. The seasoned chef operates this gourmet market/fine-dining establishment with a team of talented women, all of whom contribute to a hospitality experience punctuated by enticing drinks, comforting meals, and artful desserts.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

25. Zaytinya

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701 9th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 638-0800
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This Jose Andres restaurant may be even more popular than his flagship Jaleo. It's hard to go wrong with the ever-changing menu of Mediterranean dishes. The buzzy restaurant has delicious vegetables, flatbreads and seafood dishes, and celebrates various festivals throughout the year, including Greek Easter.

Photo: Zaytinya

26. Proof

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775 G St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 737-7663
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This Penn Quarter fixture is experiencing a renaissance as of late, introducing an intoxicating brunch (think: duck-filled waffles topped with foie gras butter; rum-fueled “shakes”), showcasing regional spoils via seasonally inspired tasting menus, and filling glasses with tasty beverages (sherry and gin cocktails are current favorites).

Potato gnocchi in basil pesto at Proof. Photo: Proof

27. Daikaya

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705 6th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 589-1600
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The stunningly-designed Daikaya is two restaurants in one. On the ground floor: Sapporo-style ramen in a bustling setting. Upstairs, an izakaya specializing in Japanese bar food, whiskeys, shochu, and Japanese beer. Minibar alum Katusya Fukushima creates dishes like grilled avocado and okonomiyaki-style Brussels sprouts with pork.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

28. China Chilcano

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418 7th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
(202) 783-0941
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The Peruvian-Japanese gem in tastemaker José Andrés’ collection of globe-spanning restaurants offers a window into the fusion cooking that’s driving so much of the culinary conversation in South America. Find citrus-splashed ceviches, meaty dumplings, elaborate stir-frys, and, of course, boozy pisco drinks.

Assorted dishes at China Chilcano. Photo: China Chilcano

29. Rasika

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633 D St NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
(202) 637-1222
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Rasika is not just one of the most popular Indian restaurants in DC — it's also, quite plainly, one of the most popular restaurants in D.C., period. Chef Vikram Sunderam (formerly of London's Bombay Brasserie) mans the kitchen at the Penn Quarter restaurant, where he takes a modern look at traditional Indian fare with favorites like the crispy palak chaat, flavorful curries, and more.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

30. Masseria

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1340 4th St NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 608-5959
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Though it's tough for a tasting menu-centric restaurant to make it on the Eater 38 due to pricing constraints, Masseria provides a variety of entry points with its range of guided dinners (four-, five-, and six-course meals are available). Diners can also go the bar snack route and still take in stylish environs featuring an open kitchen, chef's counter, airy main dining room, and spacious patio.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

31. The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse

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1356 Okie St NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

In addition to wooing patrons with its signature honey, hot-smoked salmon “candy,” this casual rooftop retreat also applies its smoke-em-if-you-got-em philosophy to chicken wings, ribs, tacos, and bagel platters. Rather chill? Raw bar selections and daily specials showcase the best the sea has to offer.

Photo by Ebony K. / Yelp

32. Maketto

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1351 H St NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 838-9972
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Erik Bruner-Yang's second restaurant was the opening of 2015. Its unique design, combining indoor/outdoor spaces and restaurant with retail, provides a home for an addictive dim sum brunch and beloved dishes like Taiwanese fried chicken.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

33. Hank's On The Hill

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633 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
(202) 733-1971
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All locations of Hank's Oyster Bar are terrific neighborhood hangouts, but Hank's on the Hill gets a nod this time around for its festive vibe and the ever-changing cocktails to be found at its Eddy Bar. Regardless of the location (there are also Hank's restaurants in Alexandria and Dupont Circle), find delicious fish and chips, lobster rolls, oysters, and more.

Photo by Leyla D. / Yelp

34. Rose's Luxury

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717 8th St SE
Washington, D.C. 20003

2013's breakout restaurant represents the whole package: service, ambiance, and cuisine. James Beard Award-winning chef Aaron Silverman's experimental restaurant plays with dishes like a pork lychee salad, Vietnamese pate, and bigger, family-style plates like schnitzel or brisket. The menu changes frequently, and specials are worth seeking out, from uni scrambled eggs to a buttery Carolina rice. Vegetarians eat well here, too. Warning: lines here tend to be epic.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

35. Kapnos Taverna

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4000 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22203
(703) 243-4400
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Mike Isabella's second restaurant in the Kapnos empire puts the emphasis on seafood, with dishes like a lobster salad flatbread. But it still offers the same popular mezze, dips, and roasted meats as the U Street original.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

36. 2941 Restaurant

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2941 Fairview Park Dr
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 270-1500
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2941 manages to strike a balance between elegant and casual, and between straightforward and elaborate cooking. Bertrand Chemel's skills are evident in such dishes as a paella soup, and broccoli raviolini with smoked pioppini mushroom. Diners can have a snack at the bar, an a la carte meal, or a full tasting menu. It's all available in a picturesque setting by a lake and waterfall in Falls Church's Fairview Park neighborhood.

Photo: 2941 Restaurant

37. Requin

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8296 Glass Alley
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 462-8662
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Chef Jennifer Carroll can frequently be seen in this open kitchen in Merrifield's Mosaic District, cooking and overseeing the completion of dishes like octopus a la plancha and confit duck legs. Carroll puts her own spin on French classics like moules frites (some of the best frites in the area, by the way) and French onion soup, while still getting creative with additional Mediterranean fare. Raw bar items are a good way to go here, and if Carroll's expert rendition of bouillabaisse returns to the menu this winter, don't neglect to order it.

Photo: Requin

38. Hai Duong Restaurant

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6795 Wilson Blvd
Falls Church, VA 22044
(703) 538-5289
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Many restaurants in Eden Center do one particular thing well, whether it be a fine bowl of pho or a standout banh mi. Hai Duong, though, is a restaurant where diners can find everything from expertly made banh xeo (savory crepes) to fine rice and noodle dishes (and yes, that pho is pretty terrific, too). The atmosphere is casual, but seating is plentiful at this family-friendly restaurant.

Photo by Tierney Plumb / Eater DC

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1. Republic

6939 Laurel Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

This Takoma Park restaurant from chef Jeff Black and Danny Wells has lots of oysters, a strong brunch menu (especially the seafood offerings) and live music in the evenings. It's also a destination for creative vegetarian offerings.

6939 Laurel Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912

2. Timber Pizza Company

809 Upshur St NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
Timber Pizza Co DC oven Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

This one-time food truck has flourished as a brick-and-mortar, putting its wood-burning oven to work spinning out not just beautifully scorched pies — herb-packed pesto, feta, and kale anchor the healthful-sounding Green Monster; honey, chorizo, and peppers fuel the crowd-pleasing Bentley — but now also brunch-friendly bagels, pastries, and biscuits. Add in a commitment to locally sourced ingredients, a surprisingly diverse canned drink selection (think: craft brews, imports, session beers, ciders, and mead), and the real community vibe it’s fostered in Petworth, and Timber seems unlikely to fall any time soon.

809 Upshur St NW
Washington, D.C. 20011

3. Range

5335 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20015
Gourmet biscuits and gravy at Range. Photo: Range

Top Chef alum and empire builder Bryan Voltaggio continues to expand his reach (steak house at MGM National Harbor; fish sandwich shop headed to California), but also still wows at the five-year-old restaurant which crowns the glitzy Chevy Chase Pavilion. His take on modern American cooking extends from the trendy (avocado breakfast sandwiches; tuna poke) to traditional favorites (brined fried chicken, shrimp and grits with ham sofrito).

5335 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20015

4. Himitsu

828 Upshur St NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
Photo: Himitsu

This adventurous spot in Petworth is a direct reflection of the passions shared by co-owners Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner. From the carefully selected wines — sip everything from luscious rosés to wonderfully nutty sherries — to complex dishes that brilliantly bridge the gap between ingredients (think: raw tuna ignited by orange-chili oil), and sometimes entire cultures (Southern-style fried chicken is transported around the globe by fermented chili paste, sesame seeds, and creamy kewpie mayo), it's easy to grasp why this restaurant is packed nearly every night.

828 Upshur St NW
Washington, D.C. 20011

5. Thip Khao

3462 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20010
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

D.C.'s leading Lao restaurant has made a splash with its spicy and unusual fare (yes, ant eggs have appeared on the menu). Try the jungle menu for the most chile-powered fare the family-run restaurant has to offer. The family-style dining format — dishes are served as soon as they are ready rather than sequentially — can produce erratic pacing. But any timing issues are typically forgiven upon arrival of the expertly layered cuisine.

3462 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

6. Bad Saint

3326 11th St NW, Washington, D.C.