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A colorful seafood dish from Cranes
A colorful seafood dish from Cranes
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

The 38 Essential Restaurants Around D.C.

Where to go now for upscale Vietnamese fried chicken, pork chops from a “neo-bistro,” vegetable-centric tasting menus, and more

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A colorful seafood dish from Cranes
| Rey Lopez/Eater DC

This summer, as increasing vaccinations lead customers back to indoor dining en masse, restaurants are readying for a roaring comeback. The Eater 38 offers a selection of defining culinary destinations that showcase the diversity of D.C. (and its many suburbs). While recent versions of this map recognized the limits of dining out during a pandemic with a focus on comfort, takeout, and outdoor dining, the latest edition eases those restrictions. Restaurants on this map must be open for at least six months. For the most exciting new restaurants in town, check out the heatmap.

For the summer 2021 refresh, new additions to the 38 include French “neo-bistro” Lutece, high-end Vietnamese restaurant Moon Rabbit, and vegetable-centric prix fixe place Oyster Oyster. Mid-Atlantic destination the Dabney and Spanish-Japanese Cranes rejoin the list, too. The following restaurants, while definitely still worth a trip, are leaving the 38: Convivial, Clarity, Happy Gyro, the Salt Line, and Taqueria Xochi.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kuya Ja's Lechon Belly

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5268-H, Nicholson Ln
Kensington, MD 20895
(240) 669-4383
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Javier “Ja” Fernandez has fine-tuned a stellar Cebu-style pork belly lechon, but there’s more to the family-run Filipino restaurant outside of Rockville than the roast with crackly skin. Confit and fried wings come with a tamarind-pepper rub or spicy adobo glaze, long pork and shrimp lumpia (eggrolls) look like skinny cigarillos, and pork belly and head cheese sisig mingle with garlic fried rice inside a burrito. As of early July, the small store offered limited dine-in service, takeout, and delivery.

A cross section of rolled pork belly lechon complete with bronze, crispy skin, juicy pale meat, and a lemongrass and garlic stuffing at Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly.
A cross section of rolled pork belly lechon complete with bronze, crispy skin, juicy pale meat, and a lemongrass and garlic stuffing at Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

2. 2Fifty Texas BBQ (Multiple locations)

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4700 Riverdale Rd
Riverdale Park, MD 20737
(240) 764-8763
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For D.C. residents, sampling the most tantalizing brisket inside the Beltway requires a drive into Riverdale Park, Maryland. Fernando González and Debby Portillo, the couple that own and operate 2Fifty, pay homage to Central Texas by using oak smoke to develop a dark bark on fatty hunks of prime and American wagyu beef that jiggle on the chopping block. Beef ribs, pulled pork, sliced turkey, and St. Louis-style ribs are all available, too. Daily specials like brisket tacos and barbecue pupusas give the kitchen a creative outlet. Sides such as red kidney beans braised with brisket, caramelized pineapple, and coleslaw interspersed with raisins nod to the owners’ Salvadoran heritage. Customers are encouraged to preorder for pickup Wednesday through Sunday with the option to grab a picnic table outside. In June, 2Fifty expanded into D.C. with a small stall inside Union Market.

A platter of meats and Salvadoran-influenced sides from 2Fifty Texas BBQ
A platter of meats and Salvadoran-influenced sides from 2Fifty Texas BBQ
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

3. Muchas Gracias

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5029 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 244-5000
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Chef Christian Irabién started this Mexican pop-up in Upper Northwest to support relief efforts for refugee chefs and hungry hospitality workers. Now a permanent fixture, Muchas Gracias has amassed a steady following for its lunchtime burritos, full of braised short ribs or charred sweet potatoes, that pay homage to the filling lunches he ate growing up in Northern Mexico and West Texas. A dinner menu offers a mix of snacks like carne asada disco fries, seasonal specials like ramp enchiladas verdes, taco platters, and a standout tres leches cake covered in flowers and berries. Call or email to reserve outdoor tables positioned in the front and back.

Muchas Gracias [official]

4. Anafre DC

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3704 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 758-2127
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Alfredo Solis has been a restless chef long before the pandemic pushed restaurants to become more adaptable. Case in point: before opening this region-hopping, seafood-heavy Mexican place north of Columbia Heights, Solis ran the space as a Cuban operation called Little Havana. At Anafre, generous portions of delicately cooked seafood have appeared in dishes like a ring-molded Los Cabos guacamole swimming with lobster and crab since its November 2019 debut. During the public health crisis, Solis installed a brick pizza oven to send out pies that feature barely pink shrimp and tangy chorizo or all the components of a chile relleno. Order takeout online, grab a seat on the patio, or dine indoors with limited capacity.

A ring of guacamole is topped with lobster and crab at Anafre
A ring of guacamole is topped with lobster and crab at Anafre
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

5. Thip Khao

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3462 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 387-5426
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Considered the standard-bearer for Lao cuisine in D.C., Thip Khao comes from mother-and-son chefs Seng Luangrath and Boby Pradachith. Their Columbia Heights standby continues to satisfy heat-seekers with a menu full of fermented fish sauce, a heavy dose of chiles, offal, and cured meats. Hit orders include crispy chili glazed wings, grilled pork neck with lemongrass, and a fiery Lao papaya salad. The restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) with carryout, indoor dining, and outdoor service across a cozy tented patio (90-minute limit with a $20 deposit charged via Tock). The owners’ original Lao restaurant, Padaek, is in Falls Church.

Muu som, a dish of rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao
Muu som, a dish of rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

6. Makan

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3400 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 730-2295
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At this Malaysian restaurant in Columbia Heights, chef James Wozniuk navigates a balance of pungent, spicy-sweet, and funky umami flavors that vary in intensity but never veer out of control. Wozniuk’s condiments — sambal made from bird’s eye chiles, palm sugar, tamarind, and fried anchovies; appetite-piquing pickled limes with prune and golden raisin; peanut-based satay sauce — assert themselves in an array of rice and noodle dishes. Bar manager Colin Sugalski makes complex tropical cocktails, like a blackstrap rum and pineapple Jungle Bird, that vie for attention. Order takeout or delivery online. Tables are available in a breezy dining room or on a patio. 

Nasi campur, or “with rice,” dishes at Makan include beef rendang, center; pajeri nenas (pineapple currry), top; ayam goreng (fried chicken with salted duck yolk and curry leaf), right, and okra in sambal.
Nasi campur, or “with rice,” dishes at Makan include beef rendang, center; pajeri nenas (pineapple currry), top; ayam goreng (fried chicken with salted duck yolk and curry leaf), right, and okra in sambal.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

7. Ellē

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3221 Mt Pleasant St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 652-0040
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This destination bakery and all-day cafe is housed inside the historic Heller’s Bakery building in sleepy Mount Pleasant. A takeout window operates from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week, offering regulars a chance to stop by for a coffee, a guava turnover, or a mini goat cheese cheesecake. The restaurant serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday, holding indoor tables and bar seats for walk-ins. Streetside patio tables require reservations. Chef Brad DeBoy is the fermenter-in-chief in charge of an ambitious cafe menu that offers rotating items like carta di musica crackers — decorated with sungold tomatoes, preserved cherries, labneh, and holy basil — and homemade smoked tempeh burgers.

A pastrami breakfast sandwich from Ellē
A breakfast sandwich from Ellē
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

8. Call Your Mother Deli (Multiple locations)

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3301 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, DC 20010

The “Jew-ish” deli known for wood-fired bagels and funky flavor combos has expanded in a hurry. In addition to the original in Park View, co-owners Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira opened three new locations for its wood-fired bagels (Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Bethesda) during the pandemic, with another en route to North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose complex. Go for a pastrami, egg, and cheese, or a bagel with candied salmon, cream cheese, cucumbers, and crispy shallots. Doughnuts, a new addition offered Thursday through Sunday, are here to stay. As of early July, Call Your Mother was sticking to takeout only and encouraging customers to order ahead online.

Call Your Mother pizza bagel
A pizza bagel from Call Your Mother.
Hillary Dixler Canavan/Eater

9. Reveler's Hour

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1775 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009

Tail Up Goat partners Jill Tyler, Jon Sybert, and Bill Jensen have reinstated their vision for the candle-lit pasta parlor and wine bar that opened in Adams Morgan month before D.C.’s public health emergency began. Start indoor meals (Wednesday through Sunday) with Sybert’s garlic knots or an order of meatballs and whipped ricotta. Then segue to seasonal pasta dishes like bucatini with pancetta, peas, cream, and garlic breadcrumbs. An extensive online wine shop is one pandemic adaptation that stuck around.

Jill Tyler, center, with restaurant partners Jon Sybert, left, and Bill Jensen.
From left, Reveler’s Hour partners Jon Sybert, Jill Tyler, and Bill Jensen
Washington Post via Getty Images

10. Rooster & Owl

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2436 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 813-3976
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With a propensity to mix Asian, Italian, and Middle Eastern ingredients, Rooster & Owl navigates around fusion tropes that would trip up lesser restaurants. Chef Yuan Tang’s stunner has drawn a lot of notice in its first years, winning a Michelin star in April. The 14th Street NW eatery reopened for on-site dining in March after a year-long hiatus, offering four-course feasts featuring dishes like its signature Carolina-style barbecue carrots, braised morel mushroom and grilled asparagus risotto, or a lobster Americaine with fava beans and a buttermilk grit cake. Dining room and patio reservations are available on Resy.

Rooster & Owl executive chef Yuan Tang.
Rooster & Owl executive chef Yuan Tang
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

11. Zenebech Restaurant

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2004, 2420 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-4700
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In a city renowned for Ethiopian cuisine, Zenebech has survived as an annual favorite thanks to the sharp, fresh flavors overseen by its namesake matriarch, Zenebech Dessu. The restaurant relocated from Shaw to Adams Morgan in 2017, then temporarily closed after a devastating fire before reclaiming its place as the city’s gold standard for vegetarian combo platters and awaze tibs.

Dining Review - Zenebech Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

12. Shibuya Eatery

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2321 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 450-2151
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This versatile, basement-level shop is part of a three-piece project from chef Darren Norris that includes a penthouse cocktail bar and a forthcoming shabu shabu spot that’s expected to open in late July. At Shibuya Eatery, Norris’s team prepares sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri that incorporate North Pacific blue fin tuna and yellowtail flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. There are also succulent short rib skewers grilled over binchotan charcoal, build-your-own bento boxes, and donburi bowls. Noodles brim with hot or cold dashi, chopstick-thick udon, or matcha tea-green soba. Seasonal surprises include compressed summer melon with mint, garlic chive oil, and crispy ham. Walk-ins are welcome in the 15-seat basement, top-floor Death Punch bar, and outdoors, which all serve the same food menu. Call for pickups, order delivery through third-party apps, or reserve a seat on Resy.

Dining Review - Shibuya
A temari sushi box set from Shibuya
Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

13. Maydan

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1346 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 370-3696
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Maydan sets an Arabic table with communal plates like zucchini baba ghanoush, chicken shish taouk kebabs, and ribeye seasoned with blue fenugreek, all complemented by an array of condiments such as toum, tahina sauce, and zhug. Desserts like strawberry knafeh and chocolate m’halabia come from decorated executive pastry chef Paola Velez. In addition to a dining room built around a theatrical wood-burning hearth, Maydan covered the alleyway leading to its doorway with patterned carpets that add an inviting touch to its outdoor setup.

Lamb shoulder at Maydan
Lamb shoulder at Maydan
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

14. Seven Reasons

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2208 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 417-8563
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Chef Enrique Limardo’s trendy, expensive Latin American restaurant north of the U Street corridor is running on all cylinders again, complete with a daily tasting menu ($110). Grab a seat at its leafy bar, the mezzanine level, or a back patio adorned with Limardo’s artwork. Ceviche framed with a luscious ring of purple sweet potato, crispy quinoa pearls, red long peppers, and aji amarillo leche de tigre is a top seller for good reason. Seasonal highlights include a sharable bomba rice wity wild mushrooms, confit baby corn, green pea puree, black truffle, vegan mayo, and espelette pepper syrup. Brunch features a take on veal Milanese and crispy pork belly sandwiches. Reserve a seat online.

An artsy octopus dish from Seven Reasons
An artsy octopus dish from Seven Reasons
Seven Reasons [official]

15. Anju

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1805 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 845-8935
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Situated between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, Anju serves Korean bar food with a refined touch from the restaurant group behind casual hit Chiko. Chef Angel Barreto leads a kitchen that plates up standouts ranging from pork and kimchi mandu (dumplings) and fried chicken with white barbecue sauce to a seafood fried rice bokum bap and seared ribeye galbi boards. Weekend brunches bring on breakfast sandwiches and a grit bowl that riffs on juk. Four-course tasting menus are also available for $65 per person.

Anju chef Angel Barreto
Anju chef Angel Barreto
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

16. Sushi Taro

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1503 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 462-8999
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The Michelin-starred sushi bar boasts a sleek Dupont Circle space planted atop a CVS. After an extended switch to takeout-only, chef Nobu Yamazaki’s renowned omakase menu is back in business inside the restaurant, offering customers small dishes, sashimi, and sushi for around $250 per person. Sushi Taro is also known for a strong sake list, a la carte orders of octopus tempura and salt grilled yellow tail jaw, and bowls of udon and soba noodles. Regulars who are still looking to keep their distance can splurge with takeout sets of sashimi or wagyu starting at $100.  

Food trend piece for the magazine from Sushi Taro
Chirashi from Sushi Taro
Photo by Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

17. Benitos Place

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1437 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 299-0977

This tiny, versatile restaurant in Logan Circle provides an essential service to homesick customers from throughout Central America. Telma Majano’s kitchen does justice to Honduran staples like plate-sized flour tortilla baleadas, full of refried beans and salty crema, or fried chicken drizzled with mayonnaise dressing, cabbage, pickled beets, and a mountainous portion of thick plantain chips. There are also Salvadoran pupusas and pan con pollo (stewed chicken subs with potato and boiled eggs) as well an impressive selection of Mexican dishes like a rich, porky white pozole, a rich chicken mole Poblano, and tacos served with sweat-inducing verde and habanero salsas. Call for takeout orders or walk in to sit in the small dining room.

Chicken mole Poblano at Benito’s Place
Chicken mole Poblano at Benito’s Place
Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

18. Lutèce

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1522 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-8830
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At this casual, cozy “neo-bistro” in Georgetown, chef Matt Conroy adopts a French appreciation for market produce. That’s evident in a symmetrical pattern of cucumber coins repeating over cool slices of tuna crudo that shimmer with smoked olive oil and leche de tigre. The chef’s restraint exudes confidence in dishes made with a handful of ingredients, like the pillowy Parisian gnocchi that Lutece offered with corn and poblano pepper on one visit, and with chanterelles and leeks on another. A briny, cornichon-filled sauce charcutière complements a perfectly seared Berkshire pork chop that’s plenty generous for two — and a steal at $35.

 Parisian gnocchi from Lutece
 Parisian gnocchi from Lutece
Scott Suchman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

19. Oyster Oyster

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1440 8th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Chef Rob Rubba puts vegetables on a pedestal, so Oyster Oyster’s recent indoor opening in Shaw is fantastic news for diners who don’t eat meat but still want to enjoy an avant-garde tasting menu. Rubba, who attracted D.C. critics’ attention as the former chef at Hazel, partnered with Estadio owner Max Kuller on this venture prioritizing sustainability. A little less than a year after introducing Oyster Oyster with a takeout-only format, Rubba began serving a six-course “solstice” selection. The highlights — a bird’s nest of fried celery root that’s wrapped around a morsel of smoked tofu and dusted in ramp powder; a verdant combination of English peas, sugar snap peas, sweet pea tendrils, pickled sugar kelp, and crispy potato bits, all sitting in a chilled peanut broth — are both thought-provoking and promising for future seasons. Wine director Sarah Horvitz selects a $55 pairing to go with a $70 meal. Reservations are available here.

20. St. Anselm

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1250 5th St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 864-2199
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Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley smashed the city’s stuffy steakhouse conventions with a menu at this Union Market tavern that gives vegetables equal billing. Her butter-packed biscuits with pimento cheese have become the stuff of legend, and a salmon collar practically melting under a butter-lemon bath has its own cult following. Ax-handle ribeyes and pork chops are priced by the ounce for communal feasts. Like sibling spot Le Diplomate, St. Anselm built nifty dining nooks on the street.

Marjorie Meek-Bradley
St. Anselm chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

21. The Dabney

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122 Blagden Alley NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 450-1015
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Jeremiah Langhorne’s focus on researching Mid-Atlantic recipes, deploying wood-fire cooking, and working with local purveyors has paid off with national accolades from Michelin and the James Beard Foundation. The Dabney ditched takeout earlier than many local hotspots, instead focusing on four-course prix fixe menus that require advanced planning for anyone hoping to snag a reservation in Shaw. Customers can expect to find dishes like quail stuffed with foie gras cornbread and served with cherries, charred fennel, and verbena leaves. Cooks build a sweet “Baked Virginia” with chocolate chess pie, peanut ice cream, and toasted meringue. Indoor and outdoor reservations are released in two-week blocks. As of early July, the Dabney was not accepting walk-ins or offering a la carte meals.

A portrait of chef Jeremiah Langhorne at the Dabney
The Dabney chef Jeremiah Langhorne
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

22. Unconventional Diner

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1207 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 847-0122

At his convention center-adjacent restaurant full of pop art, chef David Deshaies plays with comfort food staples that call back to road meals he enjoyed with mentor Michel Richard. There are carefully developed versions of fried chicken and double cheeseburgers, and bite-size pot pie poppers. Daily brunch bites until 4 p.m. bring creative avocado toasts and “jam-edict” with bacon jam and breakfast potatoes to the table. Don’t skip out on the San Sebastian-style cheesecake from award-winning pastry chef Ana Deshaies. Takeout, delivery, and dine-in are available from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and starting at 9 a.m. on weekends.

A meatloaf dinner with all the fixings from Unconventional Diner
A meatloaf dinner with all the fixings from Unconventional Diner
Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post via Getty Images

23. Swahili Village - The Consulate DC

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1990 M St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 629-2353
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Since opening the first Swahili Village in suburban Maryland over a decade ago, chef Kevin Onyona has been expanding the audience for his brand of Kenyan fine dining. The exacting char on each tender cube of beef nyama choma from the luxury outpost downtown showcases Onyona’s technique. Pliant chapati flatbread, spinach sauteed in coconut milk, and kuku (chicken) curry display the Indian influence on the Eastern African cuisine. Reservations are available in the basement-level dining room downtown, and the restaurant also offers curbside pickup.

Dining review - Swahili Village
Fried tilapia in coconut sauce comes with dies of plantains and spinach cooked in coconut milk.
Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post via Getty Images

24. Reverie

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3201 Cherry Hill Ln
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 808-2952
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The end of winter signaled a return to special-occasion cooking for Reverie chef and owner Johnny Spero, who draws inspiration and techniques from Nordic countries, Japan, and Maryland. Reverie’s eight- to 10-course prix fixes — available for $135 per person inside the open-kitchen dining room or on a ventilated, covered patio in the back — demonstrate a strong relationship with a Maine-based seafood purveyor. Spanish turbot skin performs beautifully as a crunchy puffed cracklin’ snack, and the unctuous fish reappears as a main component paired with chicken drippings and smoked mussels.

25. Mélange

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449 K St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 289-5471
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Chef Elias Taddesse dresses freshly ground Maryland beef patties with brown butter aioli to make a cheeseburger as fine as any that can be found around the District, but that’s just an entry point to Mélange. Ethiopian spices stored in translucent containers inside the ordering counter in Mt. Vernon Triangle clue customers into more inventive options that mix up Taddesse’s East African heritage, haute cuisine background, and nostalgia for American drive-thrus. Do not miss the National, a berbere-marinated and dry-spiced fried chicken sandwich reminiscent of doro wat stew. Takeout pints of ice cream in simple flavors like milk or toast are also exceptional. Walk in or order online.

The National from Mélange turns doro wat into a fried chicken sandwich.
The National from Mélange turns doro wat into a fried chicken sandwich.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

26. Baan Siam

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425 I St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 588-5889
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At this roomy Thai restaurant in Mt. Vernon Triangle, chef Jeeraporn Poksupthon has a kitchen worthy of her skill and ambition. Poksupthon led large catering kitchens in Thailand before she helped usher a wave of chile-fueled Northern and Northeastern cooking into D.C. at now-closed Baan Thai in Logan Circle. At Baan Siam, she’s playing the hits — creamy, crunchy, and complex khao soi; tapioca skin dumplings with ground chicken, peanuts, and sweet fermented radish; all sorts of spicy-sweet salads — while exploring sour-leaning dishes from her home country’s interior and ultra-hot curries from the South. Order for pickup or in-house delivery here, or reserve a table for indoor or outdoor dining here.

Chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong is expanding her repertoire at Baan Siam
Baan Siam chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

27. Thamee

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1320 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 750-6529
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Retired schoolteacher Jocelyn Law-Yone is enjoying a phenomenal second career as the chef at this Burmese spot on H Street NE that unites Indian, Thai, and Chinese flavors. Law-Yone’s edible curriculum includes lessons on traditional dishes like a turmeric-tinged mohinga curry, brimming with noodles and stewed catfish, or lahpet thoke, a pickled tea leaf salad interspersed with crunchy broad beans. Colorful cocktails match the food for flavor and ingenuity. As of early July, Thamee had not yet reopened for on-site dining. Customers can order takeout (Wednesday through Sunday) and shop from a pantry spotlighting BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) producers here.

Thamee dishes
A range of Burmese dishes at Thamee.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

28. Piccolina da Centrolina

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963 Palmer Alley NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 804-5713
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A wood-burning oven imported from France is the workhorse inside Amy Brandwein’s Italian cafe in CityCenter, an everyday alternative to Centrolina, her dressier osteria across the street. The chef and her crew pull ratatouille omelets out of long-handled frying pans that sizzle next to glowing red logs. There’s phenomenal focaccia here, and the 10-layer eggplant Parmesan is a showstopper, but eating light is painless, too, with choices like a charred chicken and escarole salad. Order takeout online or get delivery via Caviar from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed Monday and Tuesday).

Amy Brandwein pulls a sheet of focaccia out of the oven
Piccolina chef Amy Brandwein pulls a sheet of focaccia out of the oven
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

29. Maketto

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1351 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 838-9972
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H Street’s cool cafe, streetwear shop, and, now, record store, continues to stay relevant five years in thanks to a loyal following for its Taiwanese fried chicken, dim sum, crystal shrimp dumplings, and lo mein topped with pork shoulder and chicken confit. Prolific D.C. chef Erik Bruner-Yang wasted no time when the pandemic hit, launching ambitious crowdfunding system Power of 10 to put restaurant workers back on the job and feed communities in need at the same time. Book a table or order pickup and delivery online.

30. Cane

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403 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 675-2011
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Cane aims to recreate the close quarters and lively atmosphere of a Trinidadian rum shop, so a summer return to indoor dining marks a significant comeback. Chef Peter Prime’s pimento-smoked jerk wings are a mandatory order. Customers at the narrow H Street NE space should also consider starting off meals with a plate of doubles, a street snack of fry bread topped with stewed chickpeas and spicy chutneys. Whole fried snapper escovitch and cumin-rich geera pork belly are ideal for sharing. Place online pickup orders here.

Peter Prime cracks at coconut at Cane
Chef Peter Prime was named Eater D.C.’s 2019 Chef of the Year
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

31. Cranes

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724 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-4900
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Business lunchers, beware. Anyone who orders a Spanish gin and tonic will likely find themselves thirsty for an eminently refreshing refill. Chef Pepe Moncayo, a Spaniard who spent a large chunk of his career cooking in Singapore, oversees this Michelin-starred Iberian-Japanese melting pot that makes people feel welcome in many ways. The $35 bento boxes are available weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. There’s a six-course omakase for just under $100. Tapas range from patatas bravas to duck rillete gyozas, and a la carte large plates offer steamed mussels in sake or paella studded with smoked eel.

Mushroom rice from Cranes
Mushroom rice from Cranes
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

32. Zaytinya

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701 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 638-0800
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Since opening in 2002, José Andrés’s mega Mediterranean complex in Penn Quarter has amassed a devoted fan base for crispy Brussels sprouts with coriander seed and barberries, impressive kebabs, billowing pita breads, and Greek yogurt cheesecakes. Chef Michael Costa offers family-style tasting menus for $55 a person. A “meze ora” (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday) includes $5 pide and $8 cocktails. There’s a four-course meze brunch with rosé flights, too.

33. Daikaya 1F + Daikaya, The Izakaya 2F

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705 6th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 589-1600
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This is the flagship restaurant for Daikaya Group, D.C.’s foremost experts experts in ramen. The ground floor houses a first-come, first-served ramen shop that imports bouncy noodles from Sapporo. On the second level, a recently rebooted izakaya gives chef Katsuya Fukushima a platform to present playful dishes like a new wagyu beef tartare with rice crackers and kimchi, a classic fried eggplant and miso rice ball, or a beloved mentaiko (spicy cod roe) burrata with orange zest and grilled toast. During the pandemic, the company put considerable thought into takeout and delivery, which remains an option. Customers can order par-cooked noodles for a quick nuke in the microwave, or uncooked if they want to boil their own.

Magazine dining column on Daikaya
Vegetarian ramen from Daikaya
Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post via Getty Images

34. Rasika (Multiple locations)

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633 D St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 637-1222
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James Beard award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam plays liberally with spicy chiles and sour fruits to make Rasika one of the most celebrated Indian restaurants in the country. His palak chaat, a fried baby spinach dish decorated with sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney, has inspired imitators around town. Dal makhani slowly simmered in a decadent, buttery gravy is another signature. Both the Penn Quarter flagship and its West End sibling are ideal venues for vegetarian diners, too.

35. Moon Rabbit DC

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801 Wharf St SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 878-8566
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Anyone who’s followed Kevin Tien’s career in D.C. restaurants should know well enough to order crudo and fried chicken wherever he’s cooking. At Moon Rabbit, like at short-lived Emilie’s and nationally regarded Himitsu, Tien delivers on those signatures with aplomb. At the modern Vietnamese restaurant inside a luxe hotel on the Southwest Waterfront, he serves thin slices of kombu-cured scallops in a lime and coconut tom kha broth. Mountainous portions of ga chien, an upscale riff on chicken wings sold by street vendors, stack crunchy legs and thighs dripping with a spicy-sticky coating of Virginia maple syrup, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and three different chiles. On the lighter side, a green mango salad leans on other sweet fruits with a welcome addition of lychee and stone fruit.

Scallop crudo comes in a Thai tom kha broth at Moon Rabbit
Scallop crudo comes in a Thai tom kha broth at Moon Rabbit
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

36. La Famosa

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1300 4th St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 921-9882
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Joancarlo Parkhurst’s Puerto Rican restaurant in Navy Yard bills itself as soulful, which is to say it packs in the type of heady garlic punch, affinity for pork fat, and deeply developed flavors associated with matriarchal kitchens across multiple cultures. The all-day cafe fills mornings with Ceremony coffee, flaky guava pastelillos (pastries), and breakfast sandwiches built on mallorcas, or sweet, spiraling rolls coated in powdered sugar. More substantial options include pressed tripleta sandwiches (roast pork, ham, ribeye), mashed plantain mofongo, whole-fried snapper, and a sous vide-then-fried chuleta kan-kan — a traditional cut of pork that includes chop and belly. Order takeout or delivery online, or use a QR code to pull up a menu on the patio.

A blue plate holds a smashed, fried circles of plantain tostones, rice, pink beans, and a chuleta kan-kan (bone-in pork chop) that features a “mohawk” of pork belly cut to expose three edges from each fatty piece.
La Famosa’s chuleta kan-kan (bone-in pork chop) features a “mohawk” of pork belly cut to expose edges from each fatty piece.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

37. Albi

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1346 4th St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 921-9592
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Albi chef Michael Rafidi manipulates smoke with a master’s touch, sending out dishes from the wood-burning hearth at his high-end Levantine restaurant that have a way of commanding a diner’s full attention. The Maryland native’s Middle Eastern menu tweaks dishes to incorporate peak produce — see the hummus topped with cherry tomatoes and “herb-hini,” or the veggie kibbeh nayeh with spring peas standing in for minced lamb — but the snack-sized lamb kefta kebabs speared on cinnamon sticks should never go out of style. A lengthy wine list full of hard-to-find Eastern Mediterranean labels, cocktails, and desserts all rise to the occasion. For something more affordable, head next-door to sibling bakery and cafe, Yellow.

A plate of ground duck sfeeha (meat pies) served with pine nuts, lemon, and a side of whipped garlic toum at Albi
A plate of ground duck sfeeha (meat pies) served with pine nuts, lemon, and a side of whipped garlic toum at Albi
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

38. Mama Chang

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3251 Old Lee Hwy Ste101
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 268-5556
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The “home-style” Chinese restaurant in Peter Chang’s portfolio pays tribute to the women that influenced the legendary former embassy chef, with fiery dishes that call back his childhood in the Hubei province of central China and his home life in Virginia. Chang, a master of numbing spice, has woven in Sichuan and Hunan techniques into a menu of vegetable-heavy plates, dim sum, and family-style orders. There’s dine-in seating across its plant-filled, zen dining room in Fairfax. Order takeout here or get and delivery via Uber Eats.

Mama Chang shaobing
Sesame shaobing from Mama Chang
Rey Lopez/For Mama Chang

1. Kuya Ja's Lechon Belly

5268-H, Nicholson Ln, Kensington, MD 20895
A cross section of rolled pork belly lechon complete with bronze, crispy skin, juicy pale meat, and a lemongrass and garlic stuffing at Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly.
A cross section of rolled pork belly lechon complete with bronze, crispy skin, juicy pale meat, and a lemongrass and garlic stuffing at Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Javier “Ja” Fernandez has fine-tuned a stellar Cebu-style pork belly lechon, but there’s more to the family-run Filipino restaurant outside of Rockville than the roast with crackly skin. Confit and fried wings come with a tamarind-pepper rub or spicy adobo glaze, long pork and shrimp lumpia (eggrolls) look like skinny cigarillos, and pork belly and head cheese sisig mingle with garlic fried rice inside a burrito. As of early July, the small store offered limited dine-in service, takeout, and delivery.

5268-H, Nicholson Ln
Kensington, MD 20895

2. 2Fifty Texas BBQ (Multiple locations)

4700 Riverdale Rd, Riverdale Park, MD 20737
A platter of meats and Salvadoran-influenced sides from 2Fifty Texas BBQ
A platter of meats and Salvadoran-influenced sides from 2Fifty Texas BBQ
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

For D.C. residents, sampling the most tantalizing brisket inside the Beltway requires a drive into Riverdale Park, Maryland. Fernando González and Debby Portillo, the couple that own and operate 2Fifty, pay homage to Central Texas by using oak smoke to develop a dark bark on fatty hunks of prime and American wagyu beef that jiggle on the chopping block. Beef ribs, pulled pork, sliced turkey, and St. Louis-style ribs are all available, too. Daily specials like brisket tacos and barbecue pupusas give the kitchen a creative outlet. Sides such as red kidney beans braised with brisket, caramelized pineapple, and coleslaw interspersed with raisins nod to the owners’ Salvadoran heritage. Customers are encouraged to preorder for pickup Wednesday through Sunday with the option to grab a picnic table outside. In June, 2Fifty expanded into D.C. with a small stall inside Union Market.

4700 Riverdale Rd
Riverdale Park, MD 20737

3. Muchas Gracias

5029 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
Muchas Gracias [official]

Chef Christian Irabién started this Mexican pop-up in Upper Northwest to support relief efforts for refugee chefs and hungry hospitality workers. Now a permanent fixture, Muchas Gracias has amassed a steady following for its lunchtime burritos, full of braised short ribs or charred sweet potatoes, that pay homage to the filling lunches he ate growing up in Northern Mexico and West Texas. A dinner menu offers a mix of snacks like carne asada disco fries, seasonal specials like ramp enchiladas verdes, taco platters, and a standout tres leches cake covered in flowers and berries. Call or email to reserve outdoor tables positioned in the front and back.

5029 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

4. Anafre DC

3704 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
A ring of guacamole is topped with lobster and crab at Anafre
A ring of guacamole is topped with lobster and crab at Anafre
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Alfredo Solis has been a restless chef long before the pandemic pushed restaurants to become more adaptable. Case in point: before opening this region-hopping, seafood-heavy Mexican place north of Columbia Heights, Solis ran the space as a Cuban operation called Little Havana. At Anafre, generous portions of delicately cooked seafood have appeared in dishes like a ring-molded Los Cabos guacamole swimming with lobster and crab since its November 2019 debut. During the public health crisis, Solis installed a brick pizza oven to send out pies that feature barely pink shrimp and tangy chorizo or all the components of a chile relleno. Order takeout online, grab a seat on the patio, or dine indoors with limited capacity.

3704 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

5. Thip Khao

3462 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
Muu som, a dish of rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao
Muu som, a dish of rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Considered the standard-bearer for Lao cuisine in D.C., Thip Khao comes from mother-and-son chefs Seng Luangrath and Boby Pradachith. Their Columbia Heights standby continues to satisfy heat-seekers with a menu full of fermented fish sauce, a heavy dose of chiles, offal, and cured meats. Hit orders include crispy chili glazed wings, grilled pork neck with lemongrass, and a fiery Lao papaya salad. The restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) with carryout, indoor dining, and outdoor service across a cozy tented patio (90-minute limit with a $20 deposit charged via Tock). The owners’ original Lao restaurant, Padaek, is in Falls Church.

3462 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

6. Makan

3400 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
Nasi campur, or “with rice,” dishes at Makan include beef rendang, center; pajeri nenas (pineapple currry), top; ayam goreng (fried chicken with salted duck yolk and curry leaf), right, and okra in sambal.
Nasi campur, or “with rice,” dishes at Makan include beef rendang, center; pajeri nenas (pineapple currry), top; ayam goreng (fried chicken with salted duck yolk and curry leaf), right, and okra in sambal.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

At this Malaysian restaurant in Columbia Heights, chef James Wozniuk navigates a balance of pungent, spicy-sweet, and funky umami flavors that vary in intensity but never veer out of control. Wozniuk’s condiments — sambal made from bird’s eye chiles, palm sugar, tamarind, and fried anchovies; appetite-piquing pickled limes with prune and golden raisin; peanut-based satay sauce — assert themselves in an array of rice and noodle dishes. Bar manager Colin Sugalski makes complex tropical cocktails, like a blackstrap rum and pineapple Jungle Bird, that vie for attention. Order takeout or delivery online. Tables are available in a breezy dining room or on a patio. 

3400 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

7. Ellē

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010
A pastrami breakfast sandwich from Ellē
A breakfast sandwich from Ellē
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

This destination bakery and all-day cafe is housed inside the historic Heller’s Bakery building in sleepy Mount Pleasant. A takeout window operates from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week, offering regulars a chance to stop by for a coffee, a guava turnover, or a mini goat cheese cheesecake. The restaurant serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday, holding indoor tables and bar seats for walk-ins. Streetside patio tables require reservations. Chef Brad DeBoy is the fermenter-in-chief in charge of an ambitious cafe menu that offers rotating items like carta di musica crackers — decorated with sungold tomatoes, preserved cherries, labneh, and holy basil — and homemade smoked tempeh burgers.

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW
Washington, DC 20010

8. Call Your Mother Deli (Multiple locations)

3301 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010
Call Your Mother pizza bagel
A pizza bagel from Call Your Mother.
Hillary Dixler Canavan/Eater

The “Jew-ish” deli known for wood-fired bagels and funky flavor combos has expanded in a hurry. In addition to the original in Park View, co-owners Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira opened three new locations for its wood-fired bagels (Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Bethesda) during the pandemic, with another en route to North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose complex. Go for a pastrami, egg, and cheese, or a bagel with candied salmon, cream cheese, cucumbers, and crispy shallots. Doughnuts, a new addition offered Thursday through Sunday, are here to stay. As of early July, Call Your Mother was sticking to takeout only and encouraging customers to order ahead online.

3301 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, DC 20010

9. Reveler's Hour

1775 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009