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Hedzole specializes in West African dishes.
Hedzole

The 38 Essential Restaurants Around D.C.

Where to go now for wood-fired vegetables, elaborately prepared meats, crispy arancini, and more

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Hedzole specializes in West African dishes.
| Hedzole

With a D.C. restaurant industry bouncing back from a lengthy 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 winter 2024 refresh, new additions to the 38 include: St. James, for modern Caribbean cuisine along 14th Street NW, Melina, for polished Greek dishes in a modern Maryland complex, Cinco Soles, for glistening ceviche in Columbia Heights, and Hedzole, for portable stewed oxtail and soups in Sixteenth Street Heights.

The following restaurants, while definitely still worth a trip, are leaving the 38: Hank’s Oyster Bar, Huncho House, and Doro Soul Food; Flora Flora recently stopped dinner service.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

J. Hollinger's Waterman's Chophouse

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Restaurateur Jerry Hollinger (The Daily Dish and the Dish & Dram) delivered downtown Silver Spring an Art Deco-styled American chophouse and raw bar celebrating local farmers, watermen, and purveyors. A black truffle vinaigrette-dressed beet salad or shrimp-and-pork belly toast adorned with homemade kimchi are good ways to start, followed by Rohan duck confit, homemade spinach ricotta ravioli, halibut filet atop summer succotash, and luxe lineup of steaks like A6 wagyu strip loin. Augment dishes with underwater add-ons like butter-poached crab, lobster, jumbo shrimp, and fried oysters. The Sinatra-like space near the Fillmore also has a robust bar program starring New York Sours and fig-sage rye cocktails. Opt for a la carte or a summer tasting menu starting at $32 for two courses.

Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, the culinary duo behind Logan Circle’s super-seasonal mainstay Nina May, tacked on a Chevy Chase destination for fish, vegetables, and meats sourced from the American coastline. Opal puts a wood-fired oven to work to bake baller breads and roast all sorts of proteins. Menu highlights include chilled gazpacho amplified with Maryland crab; ricotta dumplings with brown butter, English peas, and fiddlehead ferns; mushroom risotto; bright salads bursting with peak produce; and pan-seared scallops studded with cannellini beans, bacon, and watercress. A circular bar sending out smoked Sazeracs anchors an 80-seat dining room surrounded in stone and exposed beams. Jay-Z made a surprise visit for brunch last summer.

St. James

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With Eater DC’s 2019 Chef of the Year Peter Prime no longer involved, his sister Jeanine Prime pushed the long-awaited culinary ode to their native Trinidad past the finish line in spring 2022. St. James, named after the bustling district in Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain, breathes life into brick-lined Quarter + Glory’s former home. At 2,800 square feet, the remodeled space is almost three times larger than its Bib Gourmand-designated sibling Cane, which focuses on Caribbean street foods. Small and large-format dishes that pay homage to the melting pot port city include West Africa’s callaloo, a stew full of leafy greens, Trini-style Chinese steamed buns stuffed with spicy pork, and curry crab. A vast collection of imported rums lined along the soaring mirrored bar help build fragrant and floral cocktails like a hibiscus highball.

St. James revives the space that formerly housed Quarter + Glory.
Melena DeFlorimonte for St. James

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 Sunday with the option to dine there or take it to go. 2Fifty expanded into D.C. during the pandemic with a small stall inside Union Market and are about open a sit-down smokehouse in Mt. Vernon Triangle.

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.

Pennyroyal Station

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Mount Rainier’s pandemic-era arrival for artsy American comfort foods has solidified its status as a neighborhood gem. Here Bar Pilar alum Jesse Miller sends out stellar Southern dishes like buttermilk-fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, meaty gumbos, slow-roasted rabbit and biscuits, spreadable pots of chicken liver mousse, crabby deviled eggs with chile relish, collard greens cooked with ham, and family-style helpings of brisket or pork chop platters. A lively weekend brunch brings warm bowls of shrimp and grits to the table both indoors and out across its stylish patio. Delicate, vintage plateware is one of many callbacks to the era when the restaurant space was part bank, part sewing machine factory. 

Pennyroyal Station’s mac and cheese integrates brisket and bone marrow
Pennyroyal Station’s mac and cheese integrates brisket and bone marrow.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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 is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Monday with carryout, indoor dining, and outdoor service across a cozy tented patio (90-minute limit with a $20 deposit charged via Tock). The family’s Northern Virginia staple Padaek recently settled into a new Arlington home.

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.

As a surge of Greek restaurants continue to open in D.C., Cava group’s contemporary ode to the idyllic Mediterranean country continues to impress Pike & Rose diners two years in.

Aris Tsekouras helms the kitchen after years cooking in upscale kitchens in Greece, bringing a passion for homemade breads and tangy cheeses. A year-round bounty of fresh vegetables are celebrated on the table, as seen in a gem-hued beet salad accompanied by yogurt, pickled blackberries, smoked walnuts, carob, and basil. Other lunch and dinner highlights include slow-roasted lamb neck kleftiko, cheese pie, grilled octopus, beef tartare, stone crab bucatini, and portobello mushroom souvlaki. Kick off weekend brunch with a crowd-pleasing mezze plate of smoked salmon, soft-boiled organic eggs, sourdough Koulouri bread, tarama cream, and smoked trout roe.

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; and 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. Wozniuk also runs Spicebird, a Southeast Asian takeout out of Makan featuring savory spice-rubbed roast chicken and sides. Head to underground sibling Thirsty Crow for a tasty bar bites menu.

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.

Perry's Restaurant

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Perry’s has long been an under-the-radar reliable spot for sushi, and with Eater’s 2023 Chef of the Year Masako Morishita at the helm, the revitalized Adams Morgan restaurant is generating lots of attention for her flavorful Japanese creations. Standout starters included grilled broccoli rabe in a miso-garlic butter, a fiery Fuji apple salad with a kick from Korean gochujang, garlic edamame dumplings hidden under a snowy blanket of parmesan. The deep-fried shrimp katsu burger with togarashi tartar is also not to miss. The sleek, wood-framed restaurant with a strong sake collection continues to host one of D.C.’s best drag brunches on weekends. Morishita’s new Japanese breakfast service shows up on sporadic Saturdays.

Hedzole

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Owner/chef Candice Mensah’s roving West African venture Hedzole opened a permanent home in a small Northwest space that formerly housed Social Kitchen last year. A daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, Mensah was born in D.C. and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. Hedzole debuted in 2019 and quickly amassed a loyal following at farmers markets in Northern Virginia and D.C. Longtime favorites that made their way to D.C. include her take on stewed oxtail over Ghanaian waakye and groundnut (peanut) soup, red red with fried plantains, and coconut or jollof rice. Customizable bowls offer lots of room for vegans, too. Hedzole can seat 12 inside and 20 across its patio, or go the delivery route.

Groundnut (peanut soup) with fufu and Ghanaian red red with fried plantains. 
Hedzole

Rooster & Owl

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Four years in, fine-dining vet Yuan Tang continues to seamlessly unite global cuisines across four-course seasonal tasting menus at his Michelin-rated mainstay on 14th Street NW. Options right now include a tzatziki salad with honeydew and Calabrian chili; foie gras-filled banh mi with Nueske’s bacon; “cacio-e-elote” with charred corn and queso fresco; and goat cheesecake. For a splurge-worthy add-on to the $95-per-person meal, go for Royal Ossetra caviar with creative fix-ins, brown butter steamed buns, and Champagne ($135). Tang’s local restaurant group grew last spring with the arrival of family-friendly Ellie Bird in Falls Church.

Kappo DC

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An intimate, 21-seat Japanese tasting room emerged last March in the treasured Palisades space occupied by omakase institution Sakedokoro Makoto up until 2018. Eight-course tasting menus from master chef Minoru Ogawa vary on any given night, depending on seasonality and what he can get his hands on, but the common thread throughout each meal is luxe wagyu beef imported from Japan. The reservation-only restaurant ($150 per person) is open for dinner service from Tuesdays through Sundays. Opt to augment courses with caviar and uni add-ons or sake pairings ($65). Kappo is the brainchild of Ogawa and co-owners Wilder and Adrian Williams, whose sushi menu at Shaw standby Zeppelin is designed by Ogawa.

Saddle up to the counter or one of three tables in the dining room framed in Japanese white oak. 
Kimberly Kong/Nom Digital

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. Chef’s tasting menus ($158) can be augmented with seasonal delicacies like luxe winter truffles. The fast-growing team behind two-Michelin-starred tasting room Jônt upstairs just opened a new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and expands to LA this year.

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.

SURA Restaurant

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This family-run underground lounge landed in Dupont in spring 2022 with a star cast of Thai talent behind the wheel. Former sushi chef Billy Thammasathiti brings the heat with quail egg wontons, fiery papaya salads, boneless duck laap, and spicy beef or pork skewers, plus experimental orders like Parmesan-dusted egg noodles with tom yum herbs, bacon, and roasted chili jam or bite-sized calamari dressed with garlicky salt. Andy Thammasathiti of Baltimore’s Mayuree Thai Tavern whips up passion fruit daiquiris and Sichuan baijiu cocktails behind a racy, red-lit bar fit for Bangkok. Billy’s aunt Satang Ruangsangwatana, of Fat Nomads supper club fame, also contributes destination dishes like khao soi. The 50-seat lair swings open at 4 p.m.; reserve a seat or order takeout or delivery.

Dining Review - Sura
Sura sends out Thai street foods and colorful cocktails.
Deb Lindsey/for The Washington Post

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 tasting menu ($95 per person) — now available restaurant-wide — include four courses and optional sommelier-picked wine ($65) or “sans alcohol” ($45) pairings.

 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 with a Michelin star. Crowned best chef in America at the James Beard Awards in June, Rubba first attracted D.C. critics’ attention as the former chef at Hazel and partnered with Estadio owner Max Kuller on this venture — which prioritizes sustainability with a dedication to sourcing from hyperlocal farms and mills. Think: a bird’s nest of fried celery root wrapped around a morsel of smoked tofu and shiitake chip cookie for dessert. A $70 selected wine pairing goes with a $105 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

St. Anselm

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This beloved Brooklyn import smashes the city’s stuffy steakhouse conventions with a menu at this Union Market tavern that gives vegetables equal billing. Butter-packed biscuits with pimento cheese have become the stuff of legend, and a salmon collar practically melting under a butter-lemon bath has drawn a cult following over the past five years. 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 during the pandemic that are here to stay. Stephen Starr’s blockbuster NYC bistro Pastis is slated to join St. Anselm in the budding industrial complex soon.

Causa/ Amazonia

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Causa named for Peru’s iconic national dish, sailed into Blagden Alley in August 2022 with an ambitious, prix-fixe format that aims to capture the bounty of the South American country in one sitting. The anticipated fine-dining venture with a newly crowned Michelin star joins Amazonia, its color-soaked, more casual counterpart with lots of skewers. At Causa, six-course menus ($125) send diners on a seafaring voyage along the Peruvian coastline and into the Andes Mountains. The intimate space with just 22 seats lends itself to an immersive, personalized experience led by Peruvian-born chef and co-owner Carlos Delgado.

Causa’s chic dining room is dressed with all sorts of trinkets and decor made in Peru.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Cinco Soles

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Salvadoran chef-owner Mauricio Arias turned his former Columbia Heights Italian eatery Ossobuco into a color-soaked destination for vibrant ceviches, al pastor tacos, mahi mahi tostadas, churros, bright salads, and spicy margaritas last spring. Maiz 64 alum Cristian Saucedo helped Arias execute the Mexican cuisine pivot, which includes making tortillas with imported corn flour from Mexico. A bar splashed with “Soup of the Day: Tequila” neon signage sends out creative cocktails like a “Naked in Tulum” with Aperol, mezcal, and passion fruit. Arias is also behind Rinconcito Café and Tortino in Shaw.

L'Avant-Garde

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The team behind Georgetown’s acclaimed cocktail bar L’Annexe added a sophisticated, 100-seat brasserie next door last December that pays homage to Parisian nightlife with foie gras beignets, green asparagus with yellowtail tartar, classic French roast chicken with frites, ultra-rich black truffle risotto, a parade of bubbly Bellinis, and Old Fashioneds built with duck fat-washed rye. Opulent finales include a “Grand-Cru chocolate” millefeuille with pistachio cream and chilled soufflé. Renowned French chef Gilles Epié — the youngest chef to receive a Michelin star at age 22 (in 1980 at Le Pavillon des Princes) — was most recently at the helm of the five-star Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii, and the former Montage Beverly Hills before that. His star-studded Rolodex of guests have included former French and U.S. presidents, Princess Diana, and Robert De Niro.

L’Avant-Garde’s owner Fady Saba with chef Gilles Epié manning a French block of butter.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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 omakase tasting experience at the chef’s counter (currently 16 to 22 bites) that has 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. The team expanded its West End portfolio last spring with the opening of Spanish-themed TheSaga in the Ritz-Carlton.

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

Grazie Nonna

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Partners Gerald Addison and Casey Patten (Grazie Grazie) brought hand-tossed pies and nostalgic Italian fare to Midtown Center last fall. The red-sauced tribute to Patten’s nonna and her many Sunday suppers centers around pizzas, antipasti dishes like calamari, burrata, and arancini balls, and hearty bowls of pasta. A dreamy bar lined with family photos sends out Italian wines, elderflower spritzes, and Negronis three ways. The restaurant seats about 80, in addition to an outdoor bar geared towards downtown’s 9-to-5 happy hour set. A glam lounge called Grazie Mille just arrived next door.

Grazie Nonna offers multiple types of New York-style pies.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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; and 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.

Estuary

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After a long pandemic pause, CityCenterDC’s polished seafood showpiece made a triumphant 2022 comeback with a menu full of remixed Chesapeake classics like fluke-flanked ceviche and smoked rockfish dip served in shells. The Conrad hotel’s glassy, 3-year-old restaurant, originally headlined by celebrity chef brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, reemerged with No Goodbyes alums Ria Montes and Sean Tew at the helm. Estuary 2.0 casts a wider menu net across the largest estuary in the nation, the Chesapeake Bay, with Maryland crab hush puppies dressed with yuzu aioli, steamed Virginia clams with furikake butter, white peppercorn tagliatelle, seasonal sorbets, and sourcing from local growers like Moon Valley Farm. Hungry tables should consider its expertly-fried whole fish and Roseda Farm bone-in rib-eye.

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. Last summer, the five-time James Beard Award finalist added twice as many seats, seasonal spritzes, and more wood-fired capabilities to roast all kinds of vegetables, seafoods, and meats like ribs and pork and lamb sausages. A daily pastry program produces quiche and phenomenal focaccia, and the 10-layer eggplant Parmesan remains a best-selling showstopper. Eating light is painless, too, from charred Napa cabbage to a carrot-and-bulgur wheat bowl with cauliflower, raisin, and pistachio. Order takeout online or get delivery via Caviar from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Piccolina puts a new wood-fired grill to work to send out skewered meats, veggies, and seafood. 
Scott Suchman/Piccolina

This inventive restaurant for H Street NE aims to reimagine the history of the African diaspora through the lens of a fictional character named Alonzo Bronze. Owner Keem Hughley, a hospitality vet and native Washingtonian, plants the project inside the former three-story home of Smith Commons. A 26-foot bar on the first floor offers a large cocktail menu with spirits from all over the world. Bronze’s opening dream team includes wine consultant Nadine Brown; Barmini alum and Hanumanh mixologist Al Thompson; and Brooklyn native and acclaimed Afro-Caribbean chef Toya Henry. Highlights include braised oxtail with pappardelle; coconut basmati and bamboo rice; kanpachi crudo; charred yuzu squid skewers; and a guava cheese doughnut. Hughley has ties to nearby Maketto, D.C. chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s hip hotspot for Taiwanese fried chicken, dim sum, and crystal shrimp dumplings.

Dante Datta and Suresh Sundas, a respective drink expert and chef who met while working together at Rasika West End, reunited under one roof with an anticipated Indian restaurant and cocktail bar at a corner just south of H Street NE. At Daru, which landed on New York Times’s coveted top 50 restaurants list, Sundas likes to combine Northern and Southern Indian cooking styles with some unorthodox touches. That includes 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.

Bar Spero

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Michelin-starred chef Johnny Spero (Reverie) brought a slice of Spain’s buzzy Basque country to D.C.’s Capitol Crossing complex last fall with the splashy debut of seafood-heavy Bar Spero. The well-traveled chef makes good use of a fire-fed grill to prepare everything from elegant Spanish turbot to meaty pork from the Shenandoah Valley. The raw bar is stocked with whatever Spero can get his hands on—including Nantucket scallops, oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, or lobster—and doesn’t limit itself to marine life (see: a beautiful beef tartare). Compliment the entire meal with sesame sourdough from Maryland’s buzzy new bakery Manifest. A neon-lit bar serving cocktails, wines, and regional beers on tap joins a soaring, blue-toned dining room filled with wooden four-tops and built-in booths. Reserve a table online. After suffering fire damage, Georgetown’s dearly missed Reverie makes a triumphant comeback in February.

On the sweets front, torrijas (Spanish-style French toast) joins ice cream in smoked labneh or burnt cheesecake flavors.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

L'Ardente

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Chef David Deshaies (Unconventional DinerCentral) and business partner Eric Eden unveiled their soaring, “glam Italian” restaurant in the shiny new Capitol Crossing development in fall 2022. 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, mini shots of duck ravioli served in claw-footed vessels, and polished cocktails from D.C. bar vet Micah Wilder. 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. The team doubled down on Capitol Crossing last spring with the opening of multi-part Japanese stunner Love, Makoto.

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

Daikaya 1F + Daikaya, The Izakaya 2F

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This is the flagship restaurant for Daikaya Group, D.C.’s foremost 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 (Cafe) next door, Bantam King nearby, and Haikan in Shaw.

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

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 is slowly simmered in a decadent, buttery gravy. Both the Penn Quarter flagship and its West End sibling are ideal venues for vegetarian diners, too.

The Bazaar by José Andrés

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Superstar chef and global humanitarian José Andrés fulfilled his decades-long dream of opening a restaurant inside downtown’s historic Old Post Office Pavilion last February. His Beverly Hill-born Bazaar checked into the newly minted Waldorf Astoria with a parade of avant-garde delights like “Jose” tacos topped with ibérico ham, gold leaf, and caviar; tortilla de papatas “new way” topped with potato foam; Chinese steamed bun with pork belly; and bite-sized “cotton candy foie gras” made famous in LA. Chesapeake Bay delicacies also show up in an artsy array of a la carte snacks and tapas. The two-level stunner puts a glossy Jamón carving station on full display upon entry alongside dry-aged smoked fish and poultry.

The upstairs level, immersed in leafy elements and florals, feels like dining in an indoor botanical garden. 
Rey Lopez for Bazaar

SER Restaurant

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Open since 2014, Spanish stalwart Ser continues to shine in its evolving Ballston neighborhood. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the 12-plus tapas on the list, but the tomato bread, gambas al ajillo, croquetas, and deep-fried eggplant are not to miss. Seafood, meat, or vegetable paella for two is another excellent choice, and for a dash of drama at the table, go big with a whole roast suckling pig. Other standouts include crab-topped lobster from the raw bar, gorgeous seasonal salads, and gazpacho when summer calls. Its Spanish co-owner Javier Candon infuses his own spirits, as seen in Ser’s superior gin and tonic. Joselito is its sister spot in Capitol Hill.

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 and antipasti dirty martini, receive equally attentive treatment. Keeping with theme, the menu is surprisingly affordable. Adler also runs a second location in Maryland’s Pike & Rose complex.

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

Albi chef Michael Rafidi manipulates smoke with a master’s touch, sending out dishes from the wood-burning hearth at his high-end Levantine restaurant that have a way of commanding a diner’s full attention. The Maryland native’s Middle Eastern menu tweaks dishes to incorporate peak produce — see the coal-fired mushroom hummus for spring — but the snack-sized lamb kefta kebabs speared on cinnamon sticks should never go out of style. Cocktails, desserts, and a lengthy wine list full of hard-to-find Eastern Mediterranean labels all rise to the occasion. An a la carte menu joins a newer multi-course option featuring lamb meat pie and swordfish dolma, pita with spreads, and larger plates like chermoula black bass. The feast is $125 for food; beverage pairings are priced at $75 or $125. A chic cocktail-and-dessert lounge called Saha just arrived next door. For something more affordable, head to next-door sibling bakery and cafe, Yellow, which expanded to Georgetown with fiery pies at night.

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 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. The famed Chinese chef planted roots in Dupont Circle with the opening of Chang Chang, his first-ever D.C. restaurant with a recently supersized menu. A shiny new Peter Chang arrived in McLean last fall.

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

Brothers Bistro

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The D.C. area, particularly Northern Virginia, has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to excellent Vietnamese fare. One of the newer contenders on the scene, Brothers Bistro, can be found within an unassuming, if stylish space, within a bustling shopping center in Springfield. Shiny lacquered quail gets additional bite from lime and pepper; Bun dac viet finds excellent spring rolls, sweet charred pork, and plump shrimp nestled atop herbs and rice noodles. You’ll find some items less common on other area menus, whether it be a selection of hot pot dishes or overflowing rice bowls packed with everything from Chinese sausage to fried egg. Classic dishes like crab fried rice are formidable; this isn’t the area’s best pho, but those who go the soup route will still be treated to a particularly meaty bowl, glistening with fat. Wash it all down with a stellar version of Vietnamese iced coffee. — Missy Frederick

J. Hollinger's Waterman's Chophouse

Restaurateur Jerry Hollinger (The Daily Dish and the Dish & Dram) delivered downtown Silver Spring an Art Deco-styled American chophouse and raw bar celebrating local farmers, watermen, and purveyors. A black truffle vinaigrette-dressed beet salad or shrimp-and-pork belly toast adorned with homemade kimchi are good ways to start, followed by Rohan duck confit, homemade spinach ricotta ravioli, halibut filet atop summer succotash, and luxe lineup of steaks like A6 wagyu strip loin. Augment dishes with underwater add-ons like butter-poached crab, lobster, jumbo shrimp, and fried oysters. The Sinatra-like space near the Fillmore also has a robust bar program starring New York Sours and fig-sage rye cocktails. Opt for a la carte or a summer tasting menu starting at $32 for two courses.

Opal

Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, the culinary duo behind Logan Circle’s super-seasonal mainstay Nina May, tacked on a Chevy Chase destination for fish, vegetables, and meats sourced from the American coastline. Opal puts a wood-fired oven to work to bake baller breads and roast all sorts of proteins. Menu highlights include chilled gazpacho amplified with Maryland crab; ricotta dumplings with brown butter, English peas, and fiddlehead ferns; mushroom risotto; bright salads bursting with peak produce; and pan-seared scallops studded with cannellini beans, bacon, and watercress. A circular bar sending out smoked Sazeracs anchors an 80-seat dining room surrounded in stone and exposed beams. Jay-Z made a surprise visit for brunch last summer.

St. James

With Eater DC’s 2019 Chef of the Year Peter Prime no longer involved, his sister Jeanine Prime pushed the long-awaited culinary ode to their native Trinidad past the finish line in spring 2022. St. James, named after the bustling district in Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain, breathes life into brick-lined Quarter + Glory’s former home. At 2,800 square feet, the remodeled space is almost three times larger than its Bib Gourmand-designated sibling Cane, which focuses on Caribbean street foods. Small and large-format dishes that pay homage to the melting pot port city include West Africa’s callaloo, a stew full of leafy greens, Trini-style Chinese steamed buns stuffed with spicy pork, and curry crab. A vast collection of imported rums lined along the soaring mirrored bar help build fragrant and floral cocktails like a hibiscus highball.