Readers, friends and family often come to Eater editors with one question: “Where should I eat right now?” Restaurant obsessives want to know what’s new, what’s exciting, which favorite chef just opened a new place. And while the Eater 38 is a crucial resource covering standbys and essentials across the city, it is not a chronicle of the ‘it’ places of the moment. Enter the Eater Heatmap, which will change monthly to highlight where discerning diners are flocking to right now.Read More
The 15 Hottest Restaurants in D.C., January 2020
Where to eat right now around the DMV
1. Pom Pom
Himitsu co-founder Carlie Steiner revamped the former Petworth hit to reflect her colorful personality, which means there are bright, fuzzy pompoms blanketing the 24-seat dining room and more puns on the menu. Steiner brought on young talent Amanda Moll to lead the kitchen, and the chef arrived toting za’atar, labneh, and a plan to preserve lemons. There are still Latin and Southeast Asian flavors on the shared plates here, but Steiner and Moll have differentiated it from its past with a smattering of Middle Eastern influences. So there’s a Persian tahdig, but the mound of grains with a crispy exterior is formed out of Peruvian green rice. Try the steak and kisses, a wagyu beef tartare brightened by lots of beet cubes, chimichurri, gochujang, and toasted hazelnuts.
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2. Anafre DC
Alfredo Solis, the restaurateur and chef behind El Sol and Mezcalero, has replaced short-lived Cuban restaurant Little Havana with a new one that focuses on Mexican seafood specialities along the Pacific and Gulf coasts. That includes a Sinaloan-style vuelve a la vida ceviche with crab, oyster, and octopus in a spicy seafood sauce; fried oyster tacos; and a fried, grilled Puerto Nuevo-style lobster served with jalapeno butter. A hardwood charcoal grill pays homage to the rural cooking of Solis’s mother, slow-cooking whole chickens and gifting a smoky flavor to revived tortillas.
3. Reveler's Hour
The owners of Tail Up Goat will continue to champion sustainable sourcing and considerate service at this sibling pasta place and wine bar in Adams Morgan. The opening menu includes seven varieties of pasta, spanning from twists of casarecce with sea island red peas and collard greens to concave capunti with beef ragu and grilled carrots. A wood-burning grill lends smoke to certain bar snacks and small plates, and there are more than 50 wines by the glass.
4. Semeli Taverna
Sakerum owner Stephanos Andreou flipped the second floor of his Asian-Latin restaurant into a Greek paradise inspired by the cuisine he grew up with. A nightly prix fixe, meze-style meal is a delicious steal: 14 courses for $39 per person. Examples on the parade of plates includes soups, a trio of dips, zucchini chips, Greek sausage, chicken souvlaki, grape leaves, and orzo with lamb. The rebrand is ripe for date night in a setting filled with olive trees, cascading vines, calming turquoise tones, and lots of Greek wine. A whole fish catch of the day option comes alongside sides like spinach rice or Greek homemade fries.
5. The Imperial
Washington, DC 20009
This three-level complex from the owners of the Jack Rose whiskey bar finally opened on Adams Morgan’s Southern border after nearly five years of construction and regulatory headaches. The Imperial aims to draw in customers with more than “cobblered” cocktails and vintage spirits. A food menu giving off whiffs of Continental nostalgia features an epic seafood tower, sorghum risotto with black truffles, anchovy-bread crumb bucatini, beef Wellington, and a large-format, koji-aged sirloin cap.
Washington, DC 20009
Chiko chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno have revived the fire-damaged Mandu space on 18th Street by installing a modern Korean pub that serves pork shank stew, 100-day kimchi, and fried chicken with three sauces (jujube mole, white barbecue, gochujang). Protege Angel Barreto is leading the kitchen and taking notes from Lee’s mom.
7. Nina May
Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, a respective chef and bar boss who first met while working at sustainable fine-dining institution Equinox, are taking on ownership roles while moving into this Logan Circle space where previous restaurant tenants have struggled to establish a foothold. Nina May is attempting to source all its produce from within a 150-mile radius of the restaurant, and McClimans is offering a $39 “chef’s choice” meal in which he picks the dishes and customers can order until they’re full. The opening wave of dishes included fresh marrow beans braised in Parmesan broth and Virginia bison tartare.
8. Brasserie Liberté
Mirabelle owner Hakan Ilhan just converted a former stuffy steakhouse space into a hip French brasserie filled with Instagram-able components like a “fabergé egg” booth, late-night service, and design touches that reference the French revolution. The sprawling 250-seat behemoth is under the watch of chef Jaryd Hearn, a 25-year-old who’s cooked at Chicago’s Michelin-starred Alinea. Along with core classics like French onion soup, duck confit, and marinated hanger steak frites, menu items like vegan mushroom Bourguignon and carrot grain bowls are designed with the millennial eater in mind.
9. Butter Chicken Company
An outgrowth of 2019 hit Bombay Street Food, Butter Chicken Company takes a straightforward approach to lunch. Huge copper pots built in Jaipur, India, hold hot portions of butter chicken built on a generous foundation of ghee, chicken tikka masala, vegetable biryani, saag paneer, and spicy stewed chickpeas. An $11 tray allows customers to configure an entree portion and two sides however they want. Early lines have been snaking far, and the shop closes down after it sells out of roughly 300 servings.
10. The Pursuit Wine Bar & Kitchen
The recently relocated wine bar on H Street fills a bigger, brighter space with new cocktails, more fresh pastas, and European small plates. A modern take on grandma’s meatballs comes cold, served alongside tangy pepperoncini vinaigrette slaw. Other go-to orders include creamy butternut squash soup, fettuccine bolognese, and familiar favorites like BLT pasta and “Little Salty Sweet” panini on Challah. Flights ($18-$23) are themed around French, West Coast, and Spanish pours. Every label can be ordered by the glass. Floor-to-ceiling windows make for prime people watching.
11. Buffalo & Bergen
Washington, DC 20002
Seven years after opening a soda counter full of New York deli staples (bagels, knishes, pastrami) in Union Market, longtime D.C. bar pro Gina Chersevani now has a standalone home for Buffalo & Bergen. The location near Union Station adds new bagel sandwiches to the mix — there’s a “Hasidic Tiger Mom” with roast beef and a rainbow cabbage slaw dressed in horseradish-filled tiger sauce — and aims to make latkes every day. The small room covered in black and white tiles is also a place to sip cocktails alongside bar bites and sample rotating dinner specials.
Chef Kevin Tien left Himitsu in September to branch out on his own with Emilie’s, where he’s deploying an all-star brigade of culinary talents from D.C. hot spots to execute a vision of New American food that blends up Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese traditions with domestic comforts. The format favors communal dining, so Emilie’s has rolling carts carrying dips, spreads, pickles, and ferments to pair with breads, small plates — try the miso butter-coated champon noodles that mirror cacio e pepe — and large-format dishes like Vietnamese pork blade steak and ranch-flavored fried chicken with Texas toast and caviar deviled eggs.
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13. Mekki DC
Mekki Karrakchou, the Moroccan-born entrepreneur behind Italian favorite Flavio in Georgetown, now serves organic and halal recipes from his mother in Barracks Row. Relocated from Greenwich Village in NYC, Mekki DC offers small plates like zaalouk, a braised eggplant salad, and kefta (Moroccan meatballs with tomato sauce and egg). A lively weekend brunch includes sangria and honey butter-slathered baghrir pancakes. The narrow setup is lined with red fez hats and plenty of bottles of La Ferme Rouge — a long-running Moroccan vineyard owned by Karrakchou’s family. Don’t skip the hit “Moroccan dessert nachos” — a helping of puffed filo, crème Anglaise, roasted pistachio, and powdered sugar.
14. ABC Pony
Chefs Paolo Dungca (formerly of Kaliwa and Bad Saint) and Chris Yates (Ellē) have joined forces to execute Erik Bruner-Yang’s vision of a neighborhood Italian joint that borrows ingredients from the Asian-owned corner store across the street. Mash-ups on the opening menu include a Roman egg-drop soup with cheese-flavored broth, Filipino lumpia filled with melting burrata and fennel-spiked meatballs, and spaghetti that’s tossed with XO sauce and covered in bread crumbs. Pastas are all under $20, cocktails are $10, and there’s a vintage Coca-Cola machine that dispenses spiked soda syrups to make hard seltzer.
Sapporo-sourced ramen noodles from the city’s chief experts at Daikaya Group (Daikaya/Izakaya, Haikan, Bantam King) now have a home in Navy Yard. Innovations include a red miso clam broth and a vegan variety with curry and a whole tomato. The inside of the shop is covered in bowls and brushes, a nod to the owners’ affinity for Tokyo’s Kappabashi Street, a go-to district for kitchen supplies.
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