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Hamachi ceviche from Poca Madre.
Poca Madre/Facebook

The 38 Essential Restaurants in D.C., Winter 2019

Where to find winning Ethiopian, modern Mexican fine dining, and stellar Japanese skewers

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Hamachi ceviche from Poca Madre.
| Photo by Poca Madre/Facebook

The Eater 38 covers D.C. and its many suburbs, spanning myriad cuisines and budgets while collectively satisfying a vast array of restaurant needs. The list is fine-tuned every few months to accommodate outstanding new additions or former favorites that have made major improvements. Restaurants must be open at least six months to be eligible, but the monthly Eater heatmap has the lowdown on fresh places that have made strong first impressions.

This winter, additions include El Rinconcito Cafe, Poca Madre, and Zenebech.

To make room, it’s time to say goodbye to Colada Shop, Honeysuckle, and Mirabelle.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Sfoglina (Multiple locations)

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4445 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 450-1312
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Sfoglina excels in hand-crafted, understated pasta dishes with prices befitting a neighborhood restaurant. Season specialities such as lamb pappardelle all cost $26, and entrees including veal cutlets and 72-hour short short ribs are grouped at $28. A second location opened downtown last year, and another is headed to Arlington in 2019.

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 from 2017 Eater Young Gun Daniela Moreira. A second location is in the works in Ballston, Virginia, and the founders also have 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 reflects the passions shared by co-owners Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner. Steiner leads a bar program that carefully selects wines — there’s everything from luscious rosés to wonderfully nutty sherries. Tien crafts complex dishes that draw from the Lousiana native’s Asian and Southern heritages. So raw tuna that gets ignited by orange-chile oil, and fried chicken takes a trip around the globe with fermented chile paste, sesame seeds, and creamy kewpie mayo. It's easy to grasp why this place is packed nearly every night.

Eater file

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 NW, where chef Dio Montero’s Taqueria Habanero holds a slight edge against Mezcalero, which is just two doors down. Inspired by the streets of Puebla, Mexico, this D.C. taqueria delivers bold flavors with freshly made tortillas, fiery salsas, and eye-pleasing plates that keep the line of hungry customers flowing out the door.

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 serves as a stage for the bold cooking chef Seng Luangrath and her son, Bobby Pradachith. Powered by fermented fish sauce and a heavy does of chiles, the “jungle menu” from this family-run restaurant integrates offal and cured proteins. That includes 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 winter.

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. Blue Duck Tavern alum Brad DeBoy helms the kitchen at this all-day cafe, serving everything from supremely butter guava turnovers at the coffee bar up front to Cape May scallop ceviche with umami-packed Katsuobushi potato chips and kimchi toast in the dining room.

Kimchi toast with labneh and XO sauce at Ellē
Joe King/Joe King Photography

7. Momo Yakitori

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2214 Rhode Island Ave NE
Washington, DC 20018

With their debut restaurant, restaurateurs Masako Morishita and Andrew Chiou introduced Woodridge diners to the joys of yakitori — which translates to “grilled chicken” in Japanese and features skewers grilled over binchotan charcoal. A simple rectangular-shaped paper menu — which guests can check off, sushi bar style — promises much more: Maitake mushrooms, beef strip loin, and charcoal-toasted marshmallows, for example.

8. Bad Saint

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3226 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

The star example of D.C’s burgeoning Filipino food scene has been drawing hours-long lines with its no-reservations policy since late 2015. The ambitious cooking of James Beard Foundation Award finalist Tom Cunanan made Bad Saint the only local venue to earn a spot on Eater’s list of the 38 essential restaurants in America last year. Featured dishes range from grilled pork to curry-soaked vegetables to noodles cooked with crab fat.

9. Federalist Pig

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1654 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009

Since planting his homegrown smokehouse in Adams Morgan, critically acclaimed pitmaster Rob Sonderman has continued to churn out some of the city’s finest barbecue. Without adhering to a specific regional style, Sonderman has drawn notice for spice-crusted brisket, hearty smoked turkey, chicken wings, and jalapeno sausage links as well as crispy fried Brussels sprouts.

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 restaurant from the team of Jon Sybert, Jill Tyler, and Bill Jensen brings the same hospitality the partners learned from working at Komi and Little Serow. The Mediterranean-leaning eatery has become known for its pastas, toasts, wines, and attentive service. Lamb ribs are a sure bet, but a rotating menu highlighting locally sourced ingredients won’t always include them. After nearly three years of business, the restaurant began serving brunch last year.

Grilled pork with Taleggio cheese polenta, grilled escarole, and salsa verde
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

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 Line hotel has been a total game changer. The menu plays with dishes native to Asia — hello, takoyaki hushpuppies — Europe, and the Americas. It 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 have woven 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. 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 seen by its namesake matriarch, Zenebech Dessu. The restaurant re-located from Shaw to Adams Morgan in 2017 before closing its new venue due to a devastating fire. It re-opened in August, hosting diners in comfortable green booths while reclaiming its place as the city’s gold standard for vegetarian platters and tibs.

13. Maydan

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1346 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 370-3696
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This portal into Middle Eastern dining is all about the show-stopping hearth at the center of the dining room. From flatbread cooked in adjacent clay ovens to whole roasted chickens and lamb shoulders, the food is as impressive as the visual spectacle. Splurge on condiments ($1 each) such as the potent garlic toum to take the meal to another level at one of Eater’s 18 best new restaurants in America last year.

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

14. Red Hen

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1822 1st St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-3021
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Maybe it’s the mood lighting, or the thoughtful wine list, or the homey Italian dishes studded with touches of refinement. This Bloomingdale fixture makes first-time visitors feel at home quickly. The menu is seasonal, but the chicken liver mousse on grilled toast and the rigatoni with sausage ragu never go out of style.

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 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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An instant classic since opening in 2013, Le Diplomate is a loud, bustling ode to the French brasserie. The kitchen churns out classics like steak frites, roasted chicken, and skate, as well as some interesting twists like foie gras mousse and its go-to cheeseburger. Pristine seafood platters validate their exorbitant prices, but the complimentary bread baked in-house may be just as impressive.

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.

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 the no-reservations restaurant start forming at least an hour before opening — but the payoff is worth the wait. Northern Thai plates in all their fiery glory push diners to pluck fingerfuls of sticky rice, pick at side plates of herbs and radishes, and order glasses of milk. At $54 per person for an ever-changing tasting menu, the basement restaurant provides a more affordable alternative to its fine-dining sibling upstairs, Komi.

Whiskey marinated pork ribs with dill.
Vicky L./Yelp

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. Exorbitant omakase menus guide customers through courses of high-end ingredients such as sea urchin, lobster, and wagyu beef. Cost-conscious customers can indulge with a half-price happy hour at the bar, a la carte sushi and sashimi orders, or artfully arranged bento boxes.

20. Masseria

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1340 4th St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 608-1330
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The sleek Italian getaway stands out in contrast to the wholesale purveyors surrounding it on the outskirts of the Union Market district. Inspired by the coastal cooking found in the Puglia region in the heel of Italy, the Michelin-starred restaurant is one of D.C.’s top tables for special occasion dinners. The prix fixe menu comes with a four-course minimum ($98). The linguine with spicy XO sauce, peperoncino, and bread crumb is not to be missed.

Linguine with spicy XO sauce, peperoncino, and bread crumb.
Masseria/Facebook

21. Convivial

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801 O St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-2870
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Fans of the familiar can take comfort in culinary standards such as quiche Lorraine or seafood-packed bouillabaisse at this lively Shaw cafe from Michel Richard protege Cedric Maupillier. Indulgent diners can opt for the gourmet bacon cheeseburgers and fried chicken prepared in the style of coq au vin.

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 stalwart mixes Greek and Italian traditions with Mid-Atlantic ingredients. The historic venue offers tasting menus, family-style meals, and a la carte options inside a Dupont location that used to house a horse stable.

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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A wood-fired hearth and a commitment to local ingredients drive the exploration into traditions of Mid-Atlantic cuisine — like sweet potato rolls with fried Chesapeake catfish or winter squash cooked over embers — at this decorated kitchen in Blagden Alley. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne, last year’s James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, has also added the Dabney Cellar, an underground wine bar that serves country ham and local oysters.

24. El Rinconcito Cafe

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1129 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 789-4110
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The Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant is unfailingly packed and charmingly cramped. Pupusas, or griddled masa patties stuffed with beans, cheese, and/or pork, are a D.C. staple. Better ones might arguably be found in suburban Maryland, but the bustling atmosphere here — where the bar fills up for soccer games and the line for tables spills outside — is unbeatable.

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 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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Although Kinship has a fine-dining pedigree and an adjoining $200 tasting menu restaurant in Métier, it offers a la carte menu that gives everyday guests enough wiggle room to make their own fun. Menu sections are arranged by culinary themes (Craft; History; Ingredients; Indulgence) but do share a few things in common: gorgeous presentations and complementary flavors.

27. Poca Madre

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777 I St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 838-5300
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Sourcing heirloom corn from Mexico and processing it in-house sets a serious tone for many dishes at the fine dining restaurant from Victor Albisu. But the chef is having too much fun for the meal to ever feel stuffy. See the shrimp and cuttlefish ceviche in which the seafood is transformed into noodles and thrown into a coconut and citrus broth that tastes both Mexican and Thai. A 12-course taco omakase menu reveals the distinction between different masa but also ends with a choco-taco that arrives on a toy dinosaur.

Hamachi ceviche from Poca Madre.
Poca Madre/Facebook

28. Equinox

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818 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 331-8118
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The iconic establishment from award-winning chef Todd Gray has adapted over the years, playing up more vegetable-focused dishes, local seafood, and specialty drinks featuring inventive fruit juices. While Equinox celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Gray will continue to experiment with vegan products such as egg substitutes he can use to make pasta dough. Equinox is also working to be certified as a zero waste restaurant.

Stuffed Napa cabbage at Equinox.
Equinox/Facebook

29. Momofuku CCDC

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1090 I St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 602-1832
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D.C. area native Tae Strain has breathed new life into empire builder David Chang’s flagship D.C. restaurant, replacing initial dishes such as ramen and bao buns with daring new dishes — fluffy bing breads with assorted spreads and 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 CityCenter 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 fine-dining establishment that houses a gourmet market is known for enticing drinks, comforting pastas, 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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Led by chef Katsuya Fukushima, Daikaya is two restaurants in one. On the ground floor, a Sapporo-style ramen shop ladles out bowls of signature Chintan broth made with chicken, pork, and beef. Upstairs, there’s an izakaya specializing in Japanese-inspired bar food, including grilled avocado; hambagu salisbury steak served with foie gras and black truffle demi glace; and rice balls stuffed with pork belly and red miso.

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 gem in tastemaker José Andrés’ collection of globe-spanning restaurants offers a window into the fusion of the country’s Spanish and West African roots with influential Chinese and Japanese cuisines. Patrons can 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 D.C. — 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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At this humble counter in Capitol Hill, the mix of Korean and Chinese cooking continues to wow locals with specialities such as orange-ish chicken made with candied mandarins and chilled, marinated little neck clams. The second location from the Fried Rice Collective landed in the San Diego in November.

Shrimp toast 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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Rose’s Luxury has commanded long lines — and mad respect — since it opened in 2013, helping redefine the city’s reputation with national critics as a hip dining destination. The experimental restaurant continues to play with dishes like a pork lychee salad and Vietnamese pate as well as 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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Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi has honed his Afro-Caribbean cuisine since opening Kith and Kin in the ground floor of the Intercontinental hotel late in 2017. West African jollof rice topped with dry-aged ribeye and Maryland crab stew impressed Eater’s national critic last year. Braised oxtails often sell out before the end of service.

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 (Multiple locations)

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

Sfoglina excels in hand-crafted, understated pasta dishes with prices befitting a neighborhood restaurant. Season specialities such as lamb pappardelle all cost $26, and entrees including veal cutlets and 72-hour short short ribs are grouped at $28. A second location opened downtown last year, and another is headed to Arlington in 2019.

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 from 2017 Eater Young Gun Daniela Moreira. A second location is in the works in Ballston, Virginia, and the founders also have 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
Eater file

This adventurous spot in Petworth reflects the passions shared by co-owners Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner. Steiner leads a bar program that carefully selects wines — there’s everything from luscious rosés to wonderfully nutty sherries. Tien crafts complex dishes that draw from the Lousiana native’s Asian and Southern heritages. So raw tuna that gets ignited by orange-chile oil, and fried chicken takes a trip around the globe with fermented chile paste, sesame seeds, and creamy kewpie mayo. It's easy to grasp why this place is packed nearly every night.

828 Upshur St NW
Washington, DC 20011

4. Taqueria Habanero

3710 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

The city’s finest traditional Mexican cuisine can be found on a single stretch of 14th Street NW, where chef Dio Montero’s Taqueria Habanero holds a slight edge against Mezcalero, which is just two doors down. Inspired by the streets of Puebla, Mexico, this D.C. taqueria delivers bold flavors with freshly made tortillas, fiery salsas, and eye-pleasing plates that keep the line of hungry customers flowing out the door.

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 serves as a stage for the bold cooking chef Seng Luangrath and her son, Bobby Pradachith. Powered by fermented fish sauce and a heavy does of chiles, the “jungle menu” from this family-run restaurant integrates offal and cured proteins. That includes 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 winter.

3462 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

6. Ellē

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010
Kimchi toast with labneh and XO sauce at Ellē
Joe King/Joe King Photography

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. Blue Duck Tavern alum Brad DeBoy helms the kitchen at this all-day cafe, serving everything from supremely butter guava turnovers at the coffee bar up front to Cape May scallop ceviche with umami-packed Katsuobushi potato chips and kimchi toast in the dining room.

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW
Washington, DC 20010

7. Momo Yakitori

2214 Rhode Island Ave NE, Washington, DC 20018