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Elle DC’s charred kale caesar with crispy aleppo chickpeas is served at lunch.
Elle/Facebook

The 38 Essential Restaurants in D.C., Fall 2018

Where to find celebrity-endorsed eats, a portal into Middle Eastern dining, and stellar Japanese skewers

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Elle DC’s charred kale caesar with crispy aleppo chickpeas is served at lunch.
| Photo by Elle/Facebook

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 Maydan, Brothers and Sisters, Elle, Kith and Kin, Momo Yakitori, and Taqueria Habanero. To make room, it’s time to say goodbye to Compass Rose, The Royal, Maketto, Ray’s the Steaks, Casolare, and Via Umbria.

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. Sfoglina

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4445 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 450-1312
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Restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi is busy making Spanish food at his Wharf restaurant, Del Mar, but his Van Ness kitchen supplies neighborhood residents with their favorite pasta dishes. The casual eatery features a weekday lunch deal at the bar ($20 for a non-alcoholic drink and choice of entree), along with seasonal offerings, as well as a pasta tasting option (three portions for $68). The expansion-minded brand just debuted downtown (replacing Trabocchi’s Casa Luca), with another location headed to Arlington, Virginia next year.

Assorted dishes at Sfoglina.
Sfoglina/Facebook

2. Timber Pizza Company

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809 Upshur St NW
Washington, DC 20011
(202) 853-9746
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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. A second location is in the works in Ballston, Virginia, and the founders just debuted a “Jew-ish” deli dubbed Call Your Mother in Park View.

A gourmet pie at Timber Pizza Company.
Timber Pizza Company/Facebook

3. Himitsu

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828 Upshur St NW
Washington, DC 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 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. Tien has a new celebrity fan in Questlove, who praised the chef on Instagram this summer.

Wagyu steak and fried quail eggs at Himitsu.
Warren Rojas/Eater DC

4. Taqueria Habanero

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3710 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 722-7700
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The city’s finest traditional Mexican cuisine can be found on a single stretch of 14th Street, where the Montero family’s Taqueria Habenero holds a slight edge against Mezcalero, which is just two doors down. Inspired by the streets of Puebla, Mexico, this famed D.C. taqueria delivers bold flavors with freshly made tortillas, fiery salsas, and eye-pleasing plates that keep the line of hungry, multi-lingual customers flowing out the door. Soon the shop will expand into Maryland, adding a second location in College Park.

Authentic Mexican fare at Taqueria Habanero.
Taqueria Habanero/Facebook

5. Thip Khao

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3462 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 387-5426
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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 dishes the family-run restaurant has to offer, including tender alligator bolstered by fresh mint and green apple, goat swimming in cilantro-laced curry, and cured pork belly accompanied by fried shallots. The owners are getting ready to debut another Laotian restaurant called Hanumanh in Shaw this fall.

An array of spicy offerings at Thip Khao.
Warren Rojas/Eater DC

6. Ellē

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3221 Mt Pleasant St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 652-0040
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Nowhere else nails the mash-up of comfort food and high-brow sensibilities quite like the new tenants of the Heller’s Bakery building in Mount Pleasant. Bad Saint owner Nick Pimentel and Paisley Fig founder Lizzy Evelyn have assembled a talented crew, including chef Brad DeBoy, who deliver solid (and surprisingly affordable) food and drinks from the coffee bar up front to the dining room in the back. Inventive offerings include Cape May scallop ceviche with umami-packed Katsuobushi potato chips and kimchi toast, cooled off by unctuous dollops of creamy labneh. Don’t skip breakfast. The supremely buttery guava turnovers are just one example of the elevated pastries in play.

Elle DC’s charred kale caesar with crispy aleppo chickpeas is served at lunch.
Elle DC/Facebook

7. Momo Yakitori

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2214 Rhode Island Ave NE
Washington, DC 20018

First-time restaurateurs Masako Morishita and Andrew Chiou introduced Woodridge diners to grilled skewers that range from tame (trumpet mushrooms) to adventurous (duck hearts) earlier this year. The duo knows what they’re doing: They each grew up around yakitori, which translates to grilled chicken in Japanese and features foods cooked over binchotan charcoal. A simple rectangular-shaped paper menu — which guests can check off, sushi bar style — is split into snacks, vegetables, chicken, and miscellaneous sections.

Japanese savory custard at Momo Yakitori.
Momo Yakitori/Facebook

8. Bad Saint

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3226 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

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 led by James Beard Foundation Award finalist Tom Cunanan. Featured offerings range from grilled pork to curry-soaked vegetables to noodles cooked with crab fat.

Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

9. Federalist Pig

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1654 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009

Revered pitmaster Rob Sonderman has big plans for the homegrown smokehouse he’s planted in Adams Morgan, including adding more meaty indulgences to the menu and spreading his slow-fired proteins all over town. Those who’ve become accustomed to Sonderman’s spice-crusted brisket, hearty smoked turkey, and crispy fried Brussels sprouts should cheer on the expansion. In Tim Carman’s annual ranking of barbecue joints, The Washington Post food writer moved Federalist Pig up two slots this summer to No. 2, calling its Thursday beef short rib special “unforgettable.” Sonderman’s chicken wings, jalapeno sausage links and brisket burnt ends also left an impression on hard-to-please Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn.

Assorted meats and banana pudding at Federalist Pig.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

10. Tail Up Goat

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1827 Adams Mill Rd NW
Washington, DC 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.

The main dining room at Tail Up Goat.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

11. Brothers And Sisters

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1770 Euclid St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 588-0525
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The all-day eatery that restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang planted inside the immaculate lobby of Adams Morgan’s long-awaited Line hotel last year has been a total game changer. The menu — featuring dishes native to Asia, Europe, and the Americas — reads backwards, with items arranged to read from right to left. That initial culture shock is deliberate — as is every other detail, ingredient, and culinary technique Bruner-Yang and his growing hospitality team wove into the sophisticated and transportive venue.

A top seller at Brothers and Sisters this year was an octopus hot dog.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

12. Maydan

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1346 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 370-3696
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Once diners push open Maydan’s heavy wooden door, they’re immediately transported to another country across the globe. The portal into Middle Eastern dining showcases bread baking in clay ovens, fueled by flames flickering through the show-stopping hearth. The rest of the food is as impressive as the visual spectacle, and a sea of critics have spoken. Splurge on condiments ($1 each) such as the potent garlic toum to take the meal to another level. The hot spot was named one of Eater critic Bill Addison’s 18 best new restaurants in America.

Assorted dipping sauces and spreads at Maydan.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

13. Colada Shop (Multiple locations)

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1405 T St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-8800
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This Cuban-themed gathering spot has charmed District residents with its gourmet pastries (the guava-filled pastelitos are a sweet counterpoint to the robust coffee), pork-laden sandwiches, and boozy coffee cocktails. Factor in the gorgeous rooftop lounge it shares with year-old Bresca, which was just awarded a Michelin star, and it’s no wonder locals happily camp out here from open to close.

A Cuban sandwich at D.C.’s Colada Shop.
Colada Shop/Facebook

14. Red Hen

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1822 1st St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-3021
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One of Eater's former Restaurant of the Year winners offers a complete package of food, design, and service. Bloomingdale residents and destination diners turn to the Red Hen for offal, homemade pastas, and a carefully curated wine list (orange wine, anyone?). A recent mix-up involving a similarly-named restaurant that got into it with the Trump administration created an unexpected backlash, but locals have rallied around the resilient restaurant.

Assorted dishes at Red Hen.
Red Hen/Facebook

15. Ivy City Smokehouse

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1356 Okie St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 529-3300
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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. An adjoining live music venue makes for a full night out.

Fish tacos at Ivy City Smokehouse.
Ivy City Smokehouse/Facebook

16. Le Diplomate

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1601 14th St NW
Washington, DC 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 Foundation 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 and its go-to burger. The atmosphere is loud and bustling, and the French-themed decor is transporting. Last month, Starr expanded his D.C. portfolio with the arrival of neighborhood tavern St. Anselm in Union Market.

The entrance to Le Diplomate.
Missy Frederick/Eater DC

17. Estadio

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1520 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 319-1404
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Estadio has been a major player in D.C.'s Spanish food scene since it opened, not to mention a major pioneer in the 14th Street NW boom. The contemporary small plates menu boasts a strong selection of cheese and charcuterie, as well as pintxos, bocadillos and classic tapas dishes. Now that Max Kuller’s restaurant group unloaded Proof and Doi Moi this year, all their eggs are in Estadio’s basket for now.

Customers dining at Estadio.
Marissa Bialecki/Estadio

18. Little Serow

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1511 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036

Getting into Little Serow can be a challenge — lines for Johnny Monis' no-reservations restaurant tend to start forming before opening — but the payoff is worth the wait. The chef prepares northern Thai plates that push diners’ limits for spiciness in a spare and stylish setting. At $54 per person for an ever-changing tasting menu, Little Serow removes ordering from the equation and provides a more affordable alternative to the chef's fine-dining establishment upstairs, Komi.

A spicy dish at Little Serow.
Bill Addison/Eater

19. Sushi Taro

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1503 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 462-8999
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New Japanese restaurants come and go, but this Michelin-starred standby continues to wow diners no matter what the price point. Big spenders are welcome to indulge in guided omakase menus laden with high-end ingredients (sea urchin, lobster, wagyu beef). Cost-conscious patrons can indulge with a half-price happy hour at the bar, piece together sushi and sashimi orders a la carte, or opt for artfully arranged bento boxes.

Assorted sashimi at Sushi Taro.
Michelle J./Yelp

20. Masseria

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1340 4th St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 608-1330
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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. Fans of chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s Italian cooking can sample a la carte dishes inside his new tri-level cafe and market on the Wharf.

The courtyard at Masseria.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

21. Convivial

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801 O St NW
Washington, DC 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.

Burrata with chilled English peas and espelette bread crumbs at Convivial.
Convivial [Official photo]

22. Iron Gate

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1734 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 524-5202
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One of the most romantic restaurants in the city, Neighborhood Restaurant Group's Mediterranean-themed sweetheart features cooking from Vermilion alum Anthony Chittum. Iron Gate offers tasting menus, family-style meals, and a la carte options inside the historic dining destination, tucked inside a former horse stable. All are complemented by seasonally inspired cocktails, and abundant Greek and Italian wines.

The courtyard at Iron Gate.
Iron Gate/Facebook

23. The Dabney

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122 Blagden Alley NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 450-1015
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Chef Jeremiah Langhorne's Michelin-starred restaurant stands out through its commitment to local ingredients that drive its exploration into the traditions of Mid-Atlantic cuisine. 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. Langhorne recently added the Dabney Cellar down below, a neighborhood wine bar that serves country ham and local oysters, among other gourmet snacks. The cocktail program got a serious boost this summer with the addition of San Francisco bar vet and sommelier Sarah Ruiz.

The dining room at the Dabney.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

24. Honeysuckle

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1990 M St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 659-1990
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Vidalia alum Hamilton Johnson is keeping things somewhat Southern while also weaving in Nordic influences at his debut D.C. restaurant. Featured offerings range from Champagne-poached oyster stew and pimento cheese-topped bruschetta to seared trout with beets and smoked roe. The underground space, which features murals depicting some of Johnson’s many tattoos, is popular with the happy hour crowd.

A shrimp dish at Honeysuckle.
Meg H./Yelp

25. Bourbon Steak

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2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 944-2026
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This tony Georgetown eatery is now under the watchful eye of Rose’s Luxury alum Drew Adams, who has condensed the steak menu and added in more regional offerings. How regional? Adams has taken to guiding customers on foraging trips so they can gather the ingredients for a gourmet feast.

A vegetable tartine with country ham at Bourbon Steak.
Bourbon Steak/Facebook

26. Kinship

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1015 7th St NW
Washington, DC 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.

The bar at Kinship.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

27. Mirabelle

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900 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 506-3833
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Following a major staff shakeup this summer, downtown’s glitzy Mirabelle ushered in a new cast of characters to reinvent the restaurant. Chef Keith Bombaugh’s previous cooking experience at Grant Achatz’s imaginative Alinea in Chicago is evident throughout the completely overhauled menu. This time around, three courses with dessert costs $85, or $95 with cheese. And 12-course chef’s tasting menu is available for $195. Anything, however, can be ordered a la carte.

Mirabelle
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

28. Equinox

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818 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 331-8118
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Seasoned restaurateur Todd Gray is focusing on Middle Eastern street food at new museum eatery Manna, but continues to celebrate regional spoils and vegetarian dining at his flagship restaurant, Equinox. The iconic establishment has adapted over the years, playing up more vegetable-focused dishes, local seafood, and specialty drinks featuring inventive fruit juices.

Stuffed Napa cabbage at Equinox.
Equinox/Facebook

29. Momofuku

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1090 I St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 602-1832
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Area native Tae Strain is breathing new life into empire builder David Chang’s flagship D.C. restaurant, slowly replacing initial offerings (ramen, bao buns) with daring new dishes (fluffy bing breads with assorted spreads; gourmet toast smothered in savory clams). The alum of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred The Progress is also working to add more regional accents to the popular City Center destination, including more local seafood.

Clam toast at Momofuku.
Momofuku/Facebook

30. The Oval Room

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800 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 463-8700
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This power dining mainstay is more approachable than ever now that chef Bryan Moscatello is calling the shots. The 701 alum is now offering diners a glimpse into his menu writing process via the experimental tasting menus he serves on Tuesdays, and he’s included gourmet snacks and refreshing drinks to fuel people watching on the well-situated patio.

A seasonally inspired fish dish at Oval Room.
Oval Room/Facebook

31. Centrolina

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974 Palmer Alley NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 898-2426
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With her all-in-one outpost in City Center DC, James Beard Foundation Award finalist 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.

The dining room at Centrolina.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

32. Daikaya

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705 6th St NW
Washington, DC 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, there’s an izakaya specializing in Japanese bar food, imported whiskies, shochu, and Japanese beer. Recent menu additions include tuna poke with watermelon, fried chicken with Tabasco honey, and takoraisu, an Okinawan dish featuring seasoned ground beef, salsa, and sour cream layered over rice.

A flame grilled scallop at Daikaya.
Daikaya [Official photo]

33. China Chilcano

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418 7th St NW
Washington, DC 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.
China Chilcano/Facebook

34. Rasika

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633 D St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 637-1222
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Rasika is not just one of the most popular Indian restaurants in DC — it's 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.

The interior of the original Rasika in Penn Quarter.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

35. Chiko

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423 8th St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 558-9934
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The Rammy Award-winning new restaurant of the year continues to wow locals with its mind-blowing mix of Korean and Chinese cooking. And the fun is just getting started. The co-founders are opening a second location on the West Coast soon and another in Dupont this year. They plan to continue recruiting guest chefs for the “After Dark” series here in D.C.

Kimchi stew at Chiko.
Chiko/Facebook

36. Rose's Luxury

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717 8th St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 580-8889
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Ever since it broke out in 2013, chef Aaron Silverman's James Beard Foundation Award-winning experimental restaurant has played with dishes like a pork lychee salad, Vietnamese pate, and bigger, family-style plates like schnitzel and 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.

Part of the main dining room at Michelin-starred Rose’s Luxury.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

37. Kith and Kin

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801 Wharf St SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 878-8566
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Comedian Dave Chappelle is a big fan of the Wharf newcomer — he loved the snapper he ordered from Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi this summer. The young chef debuted the Afro-Caribbean restaurant a year ago in the ground floor of the Intercontinental hotel, featuring a dedicated bar, a private dining room, a “wine wall” displaying nearly 400 bottles, and a centerpiece mural that hangs on a back wall.

Assorted offerings at Kith and Kin.
Rey Lopez/Kith and Kin

38. The Salt Line

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79 Potomac Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 506-2368
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This pioneering Navy Yard restaurant keeps firing on all cylinders. Whether its serving spicy oyster shooters, Nashville-style hot crab creations, extra cheesy smash burgers, or seafood snatched from nearby waters, the Salt Line team shows it reveres the D.C. area and is delighted to share its spoils.

A stuffed lobster dish at Salt Line.
Salt Line/Facebook

1. Sfoglina

4445 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
Assorted dishes at Sfoglina.
Sfoglina/Facebook

Restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi is busy making Spanish food at his Wharf restaurant, Del Mar, but his Van Ness kitchen supplies neighborhood residents with their favorite pasta dishes. The casual eatery features a weekday lunch deal at the bar ($20 for a non-alcoholic drink and choice of entree), along with seasonal offerings, as well as a pasta tasting option (three portions for $68). The expansion-minded brand just debuted downtown (replacing Trabocchi’s Casa Luca), with another location headed to Arlington, Virginia next year.

4445 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

2. Timber Pizza Company

809 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011
A gourmet pie at Timber Pizza Company.
Timber Pizza Company/Facebook

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. A second location is in the works in Ballston, Virginia, and the founders just debuted a “Jew-ish” deli dubbed Call Your Mother in Park View.

809 Upshur St NW
Washington, DC 20011

3. Himitsu

828 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011
Wagyu steak and fried quail eggs at Himitsu.
Warren Rojas/Eater DC

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 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. Tien has a new celebrity fan in Questlove, who praised the chef on Instagram this summer.

828 Upshur St NW
Washington, DC 20011

4. Taqueria Habanero

3710 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
Authentic Mexican fare at Taqueria Habanero.
Taqueria Habanero/Facebook

The city’s finest traditional Mexican cuisine can be found on a single stretch of 14th Street, where the Montero family’s Taqueria Habenero holds a slight edge against Mezcalero, which is just two doors down. Inspired by the streets of Puebla, Mexico, this famed D.C. taqueria delivers bold flavors with freshly made tortillas, fiery salsas, and eye-pleasing plates that keep the line of hungry, multi-lingual customers flowing out the door. Soon the shop will expand into Maryland, adding a second location in College Park.

3710 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

5. Thip Khao

3462 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
An array of spicy offerings at Thip Khao.
Warren Rojas/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 dishes the family-run restaurant has to offer, including tender alligator bolstered by fresh mint and green apple, goat swimming in cilantro-laced curry, and cured pork belly accompanied by fried shallots. The owners are getting ready to debut another Laotian restaurant called Hanumanh in Shaw this fall.

3462 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

6. Ellē

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010