Designers in D.C. kept raising the bar for creativity and verve with a slew of restaurant openings this year that wowed Eater editors. From an understated space full of slick, amber-hued wood at la Betty to the obscenely luxurious surroundings at Punjab Grill, these are the dining rooms that stayed etched in our minds this year.Read More
The 17 Most Beautiful Restaurants That Opened in D.C. This Year
Eater editors pick the most visually appealing eating spaces of 2019
1. Tequila & Mezcal
Washington, DC 20010
Colorful murals of women done up like calaveras cover the walls at this agave-obsessed bar from Taqueria Habanero owners Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado. Cocktails glasses rimmed with citrusy chile de arbol tajin and sal de gusano add to the atmosphere with hibiscus-red drinks. —Gabe Hiatt
2. Sonny’s Pizza
The Park View pizzeria serving up square slices of grandma-style pies went to great lengths to cultivate a ’70s rec room vibe. Floors planks are reclaimed from an old bar, orange and white benches were snatched from a bowling alley, and the tabletops were built out of high school bleachers. Plus, there’s a psychedelic companion bar with a roof made out of color-changing light panels next-door, and a pizza garden out back. — G.H.
3. Calabash Tea & Tonic
A “mid-century meets Marrakesh” look pervades in this sun-soaked tea room full wellness-minded drinks. Dr. Sunyatta Amen dressed the 900-square-foot space with globally sourced goods like a Moroccan lamp made of taut goat skin, a century-old Indonesian wedding bed that’s now converted into shelves, and rugs sourced from Syria and Lebanon. — Tierney Plumb
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4. The Imperial
The white-splashed, mod bar seen through large bay windows on 18th Street NW is just one third of this long-delayed, three-piece project from the owners of Jack Rose. Vintage spirits and low-ABV cocktails are the focus at the main bar, and there’s a dark-hued basement bar (Dram & Grain) for stronger stuff. A rooftop bar overlooks at downtown from a prime vantage point in Adams Morgan. — G.H.
Designer Natalie Park led a sentimental renovation project to replace the original location of Mandu, her husband’s Korean restaurant in Dupont Circle, with a new pub that serves 100-day kimchi and gochujang-glazed fried chicken. Park chose to restore the wooden floor and expose original brick, wood joists, steel beams, and plaster to honor the building’s history. Verdant plant life and paintings full of flowers help lighten up the space. — G.H.
6. Bar Sirenis
The aquamarine blue bar inside an amaro distillery in Ivy City is themed after Don Ciccio & Figli owner Francesco Amodeo’s native Amalfi Coast. The bar is lined with pictures that pay tribute to his family. Mermaid and underwater accents pair well with liqueurs poured in curated glassware that reminds him of his grandmother’s set. — T.P.
Washington, DC 20001
Shaw got a brief, beautiful glimpse of this Lao bar from Thip Khao’s Seng Luangrath and Bobby Pradachith in the spring, but it’s been temporarily closed due to a plumbing problem. Monkey murals range from playful to reverent throughout the dim-lit venue full of exposed brick and woven basket lights — G.H.
8. Coconut Club
Bubblegum and Barbie convertible pink are prevalent throughout chef-owner Adam Greenberg’s island-style warehouse bar on the edges of Union Market. Walls that look like cinderblocks contrast with a bright rectangular bar that boasts a glinting perimeter of multicolored disco balls. Garage doors open up when the weather’s nice. — G.H.
9. Republic Cantina
Cacti, faded red bricks, a retro peg-board menu full of top-notch breakfast tacos, and kitschy touches like chile pepper hanging lights make this day-to-night, Tex-Mex cafe/cantina an ideal place to linger for a chill teleworking session or gather with friends over queso and spicy margaritas. — G.H.
10. Brasserie Liberté
Restaurateur Hakan Ilhan, the man behind Mirabelle, Ottoman Taverna, and Al Dente, gave this aging steakhouse space a dramatic transformation into a contemporary brasserie intended to lure in droves of millennials. The Swatchroom design includes lush velvet drapes and custom chairs upholstered in leather and plaid. The main dining room — a warm palette of pumpkin, crimson, and rich navy — is anchored by a creamy white fireplace invoking the shape of a Moroccan tagine. — T.P
11. la Betty
Architect-turned-restaurateur Tony Velazquez designed the minimalist comfort food spot (get the schnitzel and the cheesecake) full of black paint, amber wood, and homey rugs. The tastefully restrained atmosphere helps make a dramatic art piece and the dynamic light fixture full of honey-colored orbs stand out. A neon sign out front and a square porthole make the wide front door one of the coolest in town. — G.H.
The New York brand’s second D.C. location granted Penn Quarter a taste of Barcelona’s modern tapas scene with lots of swaying palms, Ibérico ham primed for carving by the entrance, and abstract artwork. Striking terrazzo flooring lines the entry vestibule and bathrooms, and the dining room is framed with glowing, oak-trimmed banquettes and oversized lanterns. — T.P.
13. Punjab Grill
The winner of Eater D.C.’s Design of the Year award, Punjab Grill stands out with precious materials like the white mother-of-pearl bar with siding made of glowing onyx or a 12,000-pound, 40-foot chunk of solid pink sandstone carved with intricate designs. — G.H.
14. The Eastern
The team behind Barrel expanded in Capitol Hill this summer with the debut of a mid-century style wine bar with a few 21st century touches. Along with a custom service station and sleek wood desk acting as the hostess stand, the 1,500-square-foot space exudes retro vibes with pastel-hued abstract artwork and loads of geometric patterns across floor tiles, pillows, banquettes, and the even bathroom walls. — T.P.
The fourth ramen shop from Daikaya Group takes after a Tokyo district full of restaurant supplies, which explains all the bowls, baskets, brushes, and sake receptacles artfully arranged on the walls. Clear cases filled with shokuhin sampuru, display models of items like ramen bowls or gyoza, make for a three dimensional menu. — G.H.
16. Chop Shop Taco
The owners of this converted auto body garage in Alexandria claim that it used to be a real, illicit chop shop. The original garage floor is all buffed up, and white bricks interspersed with hanging greenery lend the industrial space a Mexico City feel. — G.H.
17. Urbano 116
Lots of lucha Libre masks, lights glowing in neon green and pink, and a tile mosaic floor that crawls up the side of the bar all make for a fun setting to enjoy chef Alam Méndez Florián’s Oaxacan-inflected cooking. — G.H.