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Sashimi on a white plate.
Japanese-style sashimi at El Secreto de Rosita gets a cool kick from a passionfruit leche de tigre poured tableside.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

The 38 Essential Restaurants Around D.C.

Where to go now for butternut squash tamales, fiery papaya salads, and more

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Japanese-style sashimi at El Secreto de Rosita gets a cool kick from a passionfruit leche de tigre poured tableside.
| Rey Lopez/Eater DC

With a D.C. restaurant industry emerging from a two-year pandemic, going out to eat now comes with a semblance of normality. The Eater 38 offers a selection of defining culinary destinations that showcase the diversity of D.C. (and its many suburbs). Some of D.C.’s most cherished restaurants that weathered the pandemic through takeout are finally able to show off their best sit-down spreads and prix-fixe menus in person. 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 2022 refresh, new additions to the 38 include Bresca, for fantastical French tasting menus and expert cocktails in Logan Circle; El Secreto de Rosita, for pristine Peruvian cuisine on U Street NW; and Chercher, for an Ethiopian stalwart in Shaw and Bethesda.

The following restaurants, while definitely still worth a trip, are leaving the 38: Benitos Place, Ellē, and Zenebech.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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2Fifty Texas BBQ (Multiple locations)

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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 like red kidney beans braised with brisket, caramelized pineapple, and coleslaw interspersed with raisins nod to the owners’ Salvadoran heritage. Diners can preorder for pickup Wednesday through Saturday with the option to dine there or take it to go. Last year, 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.

Thip Khao

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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 tamarind glazed wings, grilled pork shoulder with lemongrass, and a fiery Lao papaya salad. The restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) with carryout, indoor dining, and outdoor service across a cozy tented patio (90-minute limit with a $20 deposit charged via Tock). For small plates and tiki cocktails from Minibar alum Al Thompson, consider its Shaw sibling bar Hanumanh.

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.

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. The bar mixes 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.

Martha Dear

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Inside a narrow, dark basement underneath an ice cream shop in Mount Pleasant, Martha Dear owners Tara Smith and Demetri Mechelis serve a style of Greek pizza that’s unlike anything else in D.C. Mechelis mans a domed oven that fires round, naturally leavened pies studded with salty Mediterranean cheeses; the white pizza boasts crumbly myzithra and hard kefalograviera, while Mechelis’s take on pantzarosalata dots the classic roasted beet and yogurt salad with candied hazelnuts and herbs. Slices of exceptionally soft chocolate olive oil cake bring brownie batter to mind, albeit one made with a first-press fat sourced from one of Mechelis’s uncles in Greece. Pre-order online for carryout or snag a no-reservations seat inside or out.

Martha Dear’s “Sausage + Peppers” sourdough pizza with tomato, mozzarella, onions, peppers, and ‘nduja sausage.
Martha Dear’s “Sausage + Peppers” sourdough pizza with tomato, mozzarella, onions, peppers, and ‘nduja sausage.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

No Goodbyes

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Chef Opie Crooks champions Mid-Atlantic farmers, fishers, and small-time ranchers at his wood-burning magnet for locavores that landed inside the retooled Line hotel last summer. Crooks centers seasonal delicacies in his breakout Adams Morgan menu. Right now there’s catfish lettuce wraps, ember-grilled Path Valley carrots with vadouvan yogurt, and delicately fried ramps alongside slow-cooked brisket, with a parade of plump heirloom tomatoes waiting in the wings. Chesapeake oysters flecked with a house hot sauce warm up diners to an abundant charcuterie “salthouse board” with black pepper biscuits and homemade pickles. Childhood favorites get a grown-up edge here, as seen in his paper-thin potato chips dusted in crab spice and sticks of “hush doggies” bursting with bratwurst. Cocktails from D.C. bar vet Lukas Smith include a black walnut Old Fashioned and refreshing gin and tonic jazzed up with blood orange.

Shibuya Eatery

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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 zen middle floor for shabu shabu. 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 a soft shell crab entree next to brothless ramen or a 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.

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. 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. Owners Rose Previte and Mike Schuster (Compass Rose) secured future homes in Fairfax and Clarendon for Tawle, their Middle Eastern, family-style menu offshoot born at Maydan.

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

El Secreto De Rosita

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U Street NW’s old Chi-Cha Lounge transformed into a stylish Peruvian hotspot a year ago with a focus on comforting Criollo food and other dishes that speak to culinary influences from Japan and China. Standout starters include teriyaki wings, sizzling shrimp (gambas al ajillo), and ribeye yakitori. Any of its tangy ceviches are likely to impress, but the hit since day one is the “Mercado” (a mixed medley of fried calamari, rocoto chile base, mahi mahi, and fried plantain chips). Chef Cristian Granada carves out room for creativity with one-off specials like lobster ceviche, delicacies like grilled beef hearts, and use of daring Andean ingredients. A leafy bar oozing Amazonian rainforest vibes makes its own chicha morada, which gets turned into a syrup for a frothy, lavender-colored take on a pisco sour.

Chandeliers, velvet jewel-toned chairs, a smooth marble bar, and wild, jungle green wallpaper contribute to an edgy-meets-elegant look.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Appioo African Bar & Grill

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Descend a set of stairs to discover this longstanding West African gem in Shaw. Chef-owner Prince Matey draws inspiration from his grandmother’s Ghanaian recipes while creating flavors that cater to native Washingtonians. Slow-cooked seafood okra is a destination dish, but Matey’s hearty egusi soup, jollof rice, and red red (stewed black eye peas in palm oil) are also not to miss. Much of the menu goes well with his expert preparations of goat, oxtail, and fufu — Ghana’s doughy starch staple made of mashed plantain flour. Diners in the know flock here for one of the top vegan dishes in town: an off-menu garden egg stew.

A seafood okra stew in a white bowl next to fufu at Appioo.
Seafood okra stew and fufu at Appioo.
Appioo [official]

Chef Ryan Ratino’s buzzy bistro on lower 14th Street NW whips up prix-fixe dinners filled out by tuna crudo with Calabrian chile, wild fennel, makrut lime and foie gras gateau with pistachio, strawberry, celery, and anise. The ambitious chef, who’s among the youngest to ever earn a Michelin star, also incorporates a vintage French duck press gifted by gourmet supplier D’Artagnan into a theatrical tableside offering. A boundary-pushing bar program spearheaded by beverage director Will Patton is also not to miss, earning the team an “Exceptional Cocktails Award” from Michelin this year. Note: Bresca returns from a quick summer break on Friday, July 15 with fresh seasonal menus starting at $55 (reserve via Resy).

Situated between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, Anju serves Korean bar food with a refined touch from the restaurant group behind casual hit Chiko. James Beard Award-nominated chef Angel Barreto leads a kitchen that plates up standouts ranging from pork and kimchi mandu (dumplings) and smoky gochujang-glazed 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.

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

Lutèce

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At this hip reboot of Georgetown classic Cafe Bonaparte, chef Matt Conroy adopts a French appreciation for market produce to ensure that every ingredient shines on the plate. Parisian gnocchi and grilled octopus are among the seasonally rotating, “neo-bistro” dishes available in its casual and cozy dining room. Reservations for a chef’s table menu ($75 per person) include four courses and a view of the kitchen.

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

Oyster Oyster

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Chef Rob Rubba puts vegetables on a pedestal, so Oyster Oyster’s presence in Shaw is somewhat ideal 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 — which prioritizes sustainability with a dedication to sourcing from hyperlocal farms and mills. The latest menu includes a significant holdover, a bird’s nest of fried celery root that’s wrapped around a morsel of smoked tofu, roasted sweet potato with pickled ramp shoots, and a shiitake chip cookie for dessert. A $60 selected wine pairing goes with a $90 meal. Reservations are available here.

Oyster Oyster chef Rob Rubba shows off a fresh batch of mushrooms
Oyster Oyster chef Rob Rubba shows off a fresh batch of mushrooms.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Chercher Ethiopian Restaurant & Mart

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Tucked inside a quaint Shaw row house, this decade-old D.C. institution for Ethiopian food is known for its standout vegetarian, meat, and vegan platters and owner Alemayehu “Alex” Abebe’s discerning standards for beef. The affordable and unpretentious hideaway draws a steady stream of regulars for its injera and other Ethiopian staples and imported beers. One of its longtime fans is now-celebrity chef and Top Chef judge Kwame Onwuachi, who made a point to squeeze in a visit during a quick trip to D.C. last month. A second Chercher debuted in downtown Bethesda in 2018.

Chercher’s best-selling vegetarian combo platter.
Chercher/Facebook

Maïz64

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This flashy Mexican restaurant from Oaxaca-born, Mexico City-based chef Alam Méndez Florián entered Logan Circle’s competitive dining landscape last fall, instantly piquing interests with tangy ceviches, cactus salads, cilantro-and-tomatillo margaritas, marinated octopus roasted over coals, and expert applications of its namesake ingredient with the use of a gas-fired comal up front. July brings on board butternut squash tamales and mole-flanked brisket with cauliflower puree. Blue corn from the Mexican state of Tlaxcala builds a tortilla for a suckling pig terrine taco, while a crunchy tostada relies on yellow corn to balance a medley of veggies on top. Head below to a candle-lit mezcal den to pair rare pours with grasshopper tacos. Brunch is available, too.

A tuna tostada from Maiz 64.
A tuna tostada from Maïz64.
Maïz64

St. Anselm

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Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley smashes 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. Stephen Starr’s blockbuster NYC bistro Pastis is slated to join St. Anselm in the budding industrial complex.

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

The Dabney

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Jeremiah Langhorne’s focus on researching Mid-Atlantic recipes, deploying hearth-fueled 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 ($110 each) that require advanced planning for anyone hoping to snag a reservation in Shaw. Customers can expect to find dishes like Autumn Olive Farm pork with young collard greens, mustard, and sarsaparilla or fluke with pea shoot pistou. Indoor and outdoor reservations are released in two-week blocks, with an la carte menu at the bar.

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

Dauphine’s

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It’s well known that New Orleanians cock an eyebrow when anyone who tries to translate the Crescent City’s iconic cuisine in another place, but veteran New Orleans chef Kristen Essig’s uniquely capable hands help Dauphine’s spin dishes worthy of the Crescent City herself. Essig’s dedication to sourcing items like light and crispy po’boy bread from Leidenheimer Baking Company in New Orleans means that dishes like the Peacemaker po’boy (roast beef debris plus fried oysters) taste authentic; fried hogs head cheese suggests a knowledge of Louisiana cuisine that steps beyond just the greatest hits. The sauerkraut and cracklins on the sharable duck jambalaya demonstrates that Essig’s knowledge runs deep enough that she can veer from tradition in welcome and thoughtful ways.

Duck jambalaya with roasted duck breast, fresh duck and jalapeño sausage, sauerkraut, and duck skin cracklins.
Duck jambalaya includes roasted duck breast, fresh duck and jalapeño sausage, sauerkraut, and duck skin cracklins.
Dauphine’s/Facebook

Imperfecto

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Venezuelan chef Enrique Limardo’s follow-up to scene-y, tropically appointed Seven Reasons brings the West End a new fine dining venue for Mediterranean-Latin fusion full of surreal plating and modernist technique. Sturdy staples like a moussaka cigar — with crispy phyllo dough, smoked eggplant, ground lamb, and goat-manchego cream — and fried Spanish octopus with Amazonian chimichurri anchor the rotating dinner menu. Go a la carte or choose the 10-course, omakase tasting experience at the chef’s counter that just picked up a Michelin star. A soaring white bar lined with soft cranberry stools sends out sharply conceived cocktails with Mediterranean ingredients like Greek olives, truffle honey, and limoncello.

Crispy phyllo dough cylinders sit on a plate next to a white dipping sauce.
Moussaka cigars are filled with smoked eggplant, ground lamb, and goat-manchego cream at Imperfecto.
Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post via Getty Images

Reverie

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Reverie chef and owner Johnny Spero draws inspiration and techniques from Nordic countries, Japan, and Maryland at his alleyway gem in Georgetown that just got its first Michelin star. Reverie’s 10- to 15-course prix fixes in the open-kitchen dining room or on a ventilated, covered patio in the back might include anything from sunchoke miso ice cream and caviar to Carolina gold rice with crab and egg. The seafood-centric tasting menu ($205 per person) changes based on availability. Next up for the well-traveled chef: Bar Spero, a lively tribute to the nightlife in Spain’s Basque country opening this summer in Capitol Crossing.

A look inside Reverie’s kitchen.
A look inside Reverie’s kitchen.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Mélange

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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.

Baan Siam

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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.

Piccolina da Centrolina

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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. Plus, Brandwein recently added wood-fired pizzas to the mix. Order takeout online or get delivery via Caviar from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed Monday). Brandwein will soon expand the brand into the next-door space.

Piccolina’s wood-burning oven next to a fridge.
Most of Piccolina’s menu takes a trip through its wood-burning oven.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Maketto

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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.

Dante Datta and Suresh Sundas, a respective drink expert and chef who met while working together at Rasika West End, reunited under one roof last summer with an anticipated Indian restaurant and cocktail bar at a corner just south of H Street NE. Sundas likes to combine Northern and Southern Indian cooking styles with some unorthodox touches: Think za’atar olive naan, chicken tikka tacos, chimichurri chutneys, or grilled chicken reshmi kebabs with a hint of blue cheese. Datta and bar manager Tom Martinez, both alums of now-closed Columbia Room, collaborate on inventive riffs on classics. Book a seat online for service after 5 p.m. or order takeout and delivery for both lunch and dinner.

Striped seabass with tomato and Sichuan pepper chutney from Daru.
Daru’s striped bass paturi boasts a turmeric-yellow coat and a marinade that folds in Makrut lime leaves, lime juice, coconut powder, and Kashmiri chile.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

L'Ardente

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Chef David Deshaies (Unconventional DinerCentral) and business partner Eric Edens unveiled their soaring, “glam Italian” restaurant in the shiny new Capitol Crossing development last fall. The flashy showstopper, framed with shimmering Missoni drapes and abstract art, has amassed a fast following for pizzas crisped to perfection in a gold-plated oven, a 40-layer lasagna that begs to be photographed, and Florentine steaks fired up on an imported grill from Spain’s Costa Brava region. Other highlights include generous orbs of saffron-accented arancini, grilled cabbage adorned with creamy beurre blanc and glistening trout roe, and mini shots of duck ravioli served in claw-footed vessels. Starting at 5 p.m., fight for a spot at its scene-y bar to order a spot-on Negroni and decadent espresso martini. Reserve a seat in the dining room or order takeout and delivery, with lunch and brunch coming soon.

A charred, split chicken cooks on a wood-fired grill at L’Ardente.
A charred, split chicken cooks on a wood-fired grill at L’Ardente.
Rey Lopez/For L’Ardente

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. There’s $45 bento boxes available weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. An omakase version handpicked by the chef is $65 (with a beverage pairing for $30). At dinner, opt for a 10-course omakase for $128. Tapas range from patatas bravas to duck rillete gyozas, and a la carte large plates offer yellowfin tuna with shiso pesto or paella studded with smoked eel.

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

Zaytinya

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Since opening 20 years ago, 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 $70 a person; a “meze ora” (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday) includes $6 pide and $10 cocktails. There’s also a four-course meze brunch with rosé flights, too ($85 for two).

Daikaya 1F + Daikaya, The Izakaya 2F

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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, its experimental 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. The entire Daikaya Group portfolio, which tastes and looks more polished than ever these days, includes Tonari next door, Bantam King nearby, Hatoba in Navy Yard, and Haikan in Shaw.

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

Café Riggs

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Tucked inside a historic bank building, Penn Quarter’s opulent, all-day hotel brasserie that unveiled right before the pandemic has really hit its stride. Tourists and locals alike come for a consistently impressive raw bar selection, pristine cocktails, and all-day omelettes engineered with beautifully buttery Vaughan Cheese. Decadent bar bites like puffy gougères or a bright bowl of caviar and cucumber with fresh potato chips are discounted during its weekday “Banker’s Hour”. The stately space now extends outdoors onto a year-round patio garden terrace. Take a trip to the depths of the bank for martini service and a half-smoke Rickey at Silver Lyan, the experimental cocktail lair from world-famous bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana.

Dramatic, plum-colored drapes are one design piece at Cafe Riggs
Cafe Riggs serves an elegant American menu in a lavish setting.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Rasika (Multiple locations)

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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. Both the Penn Quarter flagship and its West End sibling are ideal venues for vegetarian diners, too.

Sushi Nakazawa

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When NYC-import Sushi Nakazawa opened in the Trump International Hotel right after José Andrés stormed out of a contract in the same location, it became the most controversial sushi bar in D.C. (Fortunately for the restaurant, the clocktower-topped hotel is now a Waldorf Astoria and will soon welcome a Bazaar by José Andrés.) The 20-course, nigiri-sushi omakase stuns in the expert hands of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” chef Masaaki Uchino. There’s no dinner menu, which leaves more time to linger over an impressive list of Japanese whiskey and sake. The most coveted seats are at the 10-seat sushi bar that offers the best view of the action.

Officina (Multiple locations)

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The name means “workshop,” but this three-level Italian complex on the Southwest Waterfront is an impressive multi-hyphenate: cafe-market-butcher-shop-amaro-bar-trattoria-rooftop-lounge. Restaurateur Nicholas Stefanelli, who holds a Michelin star at tasting menu destination Masseria, offers classed-up standards like bucatini all’Amatriciana, Manilla clams with saffron linguine, and stuffed pork chops. During the course of the pandemic, Officina added sibling locations downtown and in Georgetown. Philotimo, Stefanelli’s ambitious Greek tasting spot, opened in Midtown Center in January.

A grilled shrimp is surrounded by squid and fish on a white plate.
A mixed plate of grilled seafood from Officina at the Wharf.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Caruso's Grocery

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Matt Adler’s decidedly unmodern tribute to classic red sauce joints takes diners on a well-worn path that carefully steers clear of the contrived. Dishes heavy on nostalgia, quality ingredients, and technique are served in a red banquette lined, vintage photo-laden dining room that buzzes with hospitality and delight. Tender chicken parm with a light breading gets tucked under a zingy marina, hunky garlic bread arrives with a bowl of four-cheese sauce for dipping, and shrimp scampi gets splashed with house-made limoncello. Drinks, like a Manhattan with an amaretto rinse, receive equally attentive treatment. Keeping with theme, the menu is surprisingly affordable. Adler recently revealed plans to open a second location in Maryland this fall.

Chicken Parm from Caruso’s Grocery.
Chicken parm from Caruso’s Grocery gets pounded thin every morning before service.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Moon Rabbit DC

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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 also serves a five-spice foie mousse tart with tamarind onion jam and cornmeal-fried catfish dressed with pea leaves and fermented mustard greens. A new banh hoi dac biet order for the table loops in woven noodles, lemongrass pork, salt and pepper shrimp, and short ribs. On the lighter side, a green mango salad gets a sweet kick from lychee. The sleek bar sends out spins on a Boulevardier and espresso martini engineered with chicory drip coffee. Up in Petworth, Tien recently reunited with chef Caleb Jang to open Korean American darling Magpie and the Tiger in the same Himitsu space they used to work.

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. Starting Tuesday, July 12, the dining room will only offer prix-fixe feasts starting at $95, with a limited a la carte menu at the bar only. The Maryland native’s Middle Eastern menu tweaks dishes to incorporate peak produce — see the smashed pumpkin labneh or apple and pear fattoush for fall — but the snack-sized lamb kefta kebabs speared on cinnamon sticks should never go out of style. This summer marks the return of Rafidi’s beloved manti dumplings with urfa crunch. 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, which will expand to Georgetown this fall.

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.

Mama Chang

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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 delivery via Uber Eats.

Four crispy pastries topped with sesame seeds.
Sesame shaobing from Mama Chang
Rey Lopez/For Mama Chang

Nasime Japanese Restaurant

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Tiny Nasime feels like a restaurant you might stumble on while wandering the corridors of Tokyo, with its intimate atmosphere and small, convivial sushi counter. But the daily prix fixe menu reaches beyond sushi (that said, its otsukuri sashimi course is universally pristine). For $95, find a selection of six carefully prepared courses (plus dessert) with seasonal touches, usually including something grilled, something fried, and a communal soup or stew (broiled lamb chop and a duck and mushroom udon, for example, both figure on the current menu). Largely a two-person operation led by chef/owner Yuh Shimomura, service is consistently sunny and personable. During the pandemic, the restaurant ventured into high-end bento boxes, available for $48 per person.

2Fifty Texas BBQ (Multiple locations)

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 like red kidney beans braised with brisket, caramelized pineapple, and coleslaw interspersed with raisins nod to the owners’ Salvadoran heritage. Diners can preorder for pickup Wednesday through Saturday with the option to dine there or take it to go. Last year, 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.

Thip Khao

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 tamarind glazed wings, grilled pork shoulder with lemongrass, and a fiery Lao papaya salad. The restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) with carryout, indoor dining, and outdoor service across a cozy tented patio (90-minute limit with a $20 deposit charged via Tock). For small plates and tiki cocktails from Minibar alum Al Thompson, consider its Shaw sibling bar Hanumanh.

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.

Makan

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. The bar mixes 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.

Martha Dear

Martha Dear’s “Sausage + Peppers” sourdough pizza with tomato, mozzarella, onions, peppers, and ‘nduja sausage.
Martha Dear’s “Sausage + Peppers” sourdough pizza with tomato, mozzarella, onions, peppers, and ‘nduja sausage.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Inside a narrow, dark basement underneath an ice cream shop in Mount Pleasant, Martha Dear owners Tara Smith and Demetri Mechelis serve a style of Greek pizza that’s unlike anything else in D.C. Mechelis mans a domed oven that fires round, naturally leavened pies studded with salty Mediterranean cheeses; the white pizza boasts crumbly myzithra and hard kefalograviera, while Mechelis’s take on pantzarosalata dots the classic roasted beet and yogurt salad with candied hazelnuts and herbs. Slices of exceptionally soft chocolate olive oil cake bring brownie batter to mind, albeit one made with a first-press fat sourced from one of Mechelis’s uncles in Greece. Pre-order online for carryout or snag a no-reservations seat inside or out.

Martha Dear’s “Sausage + Peppers” sourdough pizza with tomato, mozzarella, onions, peppers, and ‘nduja sausage.
Martha Dear’s “Sausage + Peppers” sourdough pizza with tomato, mozzarella, onions, peppers, and ‘nduja sausage.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

No Goodbyes

Chef Opie Crooks champions Mid-Atlantic farmers, fishers, and small-time ranchers at his wood-burning magnet for locavores that landed inside the retooled Line hotel last summer. Crooks centers seasonal delicacies in his breakout Adams Morgan menu. Right now there’s catfish lettuce wraps, ember-grilled Path Valley carrots with vadouvan yogurt, and delicately fried ramps alongside slow-cooked brisket, with a parade of plump heirloom tomatoes waiting in the wings. Chesapeake oysters flecked with a house hot sauce warm up diners to an abundant charcuterie “salthouse board” with black pepper biscuits and homemade pickles. Childhood favorites get a grown-up edge here, as seen in his paper-thin potato chips dusted in crab spice and sticks of “hush doggies” bursting with bratwurst. Cocktails from D.C. bar vet Lukas Smith include a black walnut Old Fashioned and refreshing gin and tonic jazzed up with blood orange.

Shibuya Eatery

This versatile, basement-level shop is part of a three-piece project from chef Darren Norris that includes a penthouse cocktail bar and zen middle floor for shabu shabu. 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 a soft shell crab entree next to brothless ramen or a 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.