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The 38 Essential Washington Restaurants, April 2013

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city and surrounding areas, spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

This time around, the 38 bids farewell to 2Amy's, Ripple and Ren's Ramen, not because they're not great, but simply because time moves on. New additions: Thai destination Little Serow, neighborhood favorite Cork Wine Bar and the revamped 2941 in Virginia. All of these changes are reflected in totally random order here.

And, just in case, rather than a stage-4 meltdown over our having excluded your favorite restaurant from the list, wouldn't it be more productive to just nominate it for inclusion?


January 2013: Added Ethiopic, Liberty Tavern, Zaytinya, Bombay Club, Et Voila, Ren's Ramen, Mintwood Place
April 2013: Added Little Serow, Cork Wine Bar, 2941

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Rasika

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

2. Birch & Barley

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1337 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 567-2576
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This Logan Circle restaurant pays as much attention to its beer list as to the food. Chef Kyle Bailey's menu, featuring refined flatbreads, pastas and a signature brat burger, pairs well with his wife Tiffany MacIsaac's creative desserts and a 555-strong beer list curated by beer director Greg Engert.

3. Estadio

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1520 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 319-1404
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The wait for a table seems to have barely abated since Estadio opened under the direction of Proof executive chef Haidar Karoum. The contemporary Spanish small plates menu boasts a strong selection of cheese and charcuterie, as well as pintxos, bocadillos and classic tapas dishes.

4. Toki Underground

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1234 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 388-3086
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Sure, it's not easy to score a seat at Erik Bruner-Yang's tiny ramen shop on H Street, but grabbing drinks downstairs first makes for a totally reasonable wait. And it's worth the wait for a bowl of the Taiwanese-style ramen that includes varieties like curry chicken and kimchi. Dumplings here are also worth a try.

5. Ray's The Steaks

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2300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 841-7297
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Michael Landrum's ever-expanding empire includes the popular (and presidentially endorsed) Ray's Hell Burger. But it all started with Ray's: The Steaks in Arlington, which offered high-quality beef in a no-frills environment and at an affordable price point — which set it apart from all the steakhouses that once characterized Washington's dining scene.

6. Proof

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775 G St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 737-7663
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Proof is best known for its stellar wine program, but that's not the only reason it has become a neighborhood staple. The cheese and charcuterie selections are outstanding, as is the modern American menu from chef Haidar Karoum. The restaurant also has a hard-to-beat lunch deal in the bar that pairs an entree with a glass of wine for $14.

7. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

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1612 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009-4307
(202) 319-1612
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The latest project from restaurateur Jeff Black, this Logan Circle restaurant is more than just the hype that has surrounded it since opening. Grab a number and wait upstairs in the seafood restaurant's sister bar Black Jack, slurping oysters and sampling the cocktail list. When your number comes up, head back downstairs for gumbo, po'boys, fried chicken and more.

8. Hill Country Barbecue Market

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410 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 556-2050
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Hill Country is Texas barbecue by way of New York City, where you'll find the original restaurant. Try the moist brisket, the sausages imported from Kreuz Market or any variety of sides from this cafeteria-style restaurant and settle into the dining room or the even noisier basement Boot Bar. Most nights of the week bring live music and pitchers of Shiner are always $20.

9. Ben's Chili Bowl

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1213 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-0909
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Ben's Chili Bowl is one of those rare Washington establishments that manages to be both a tourist trap and a local favorite. Lines can wrap around the corner during peak tourist scenes, but also late-night when locals stop in for the eatery's signature half-smokes. It doesn't hurt that Bill Cosby and President Obama are both patrons.

10. Majestic Cafe

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911 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 837-9117
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The Majestic has been a neighborhood haunt in Old Town Alexandria since 1932 and remains so today under the guiding hand of restaurateurs Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong. It's still got the neon Art Deco sign of days past and the menu is a throwback, too: fried green tomatoes, Amish chicken, home-style meatloaf and a special rotating family-style dinner menu on Sunday nights.

11. Hank's Oyster Bar

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1624 Q St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 462-4265
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Jamie Leeds hit it big in Dupont Circle six years ago with the opening of Hank's Oyster Bar. The seafood restaurant offers New England-style classics like lobster rolls, po' boys, lobster bisque and oysters on the half shell from the ice bar. Hank's has since opened up locations in Alexandria and Capitol Hill, and has expanded its original Dupont location.

12. Room 11

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3234 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 332-3234
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This Columbia Heights wine bar, which recently expanded into the space next door, remains as iconic to the neighborhood as ever. The menu features a small selection of plates meant to be shared — rock shrimp risotto, slow-roasted pork belly and more — but Room 11 really shines in its wine list and mixology program.

13. Bibiana Osteria & Enoteca

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1100 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 216-9550
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Yet another fine selection in Ashok Bajaj's restaurant empire, Bibiana is the restaurateur's love letter to Italian cuisine. The kitchen is helmed by Nicholas Stefanelli, who twice worked under Italian master Fabio Trabocchi at both Maestro and New York's Fiamma. Any of the pasta dishes here are a great bet.

14. Brasserie Beck

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1101 K St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 408-1717
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Robert Wiedmaier is best known for Marcel's, the jewel of the chef's restaurant empire. But the more casual Brasserie Beck is his more accessible foray to Belgian cuisine serving moules-frites and other classic Belgian dishes at reasonable price points. They've got you covered on booze too: Beck has more than 100 types of Belgian beer by the bottle.

15. Vidalia

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1990 M St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 659-1990
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Jeff Buben's Vidalia is a staple, especially for those who work in the Dupont/Farragut black hole of restaurants. Buben's Southern-inspired menu offers a classic take on shrimp and grits, plus options like sweetbreads and waffles, frogmore stew and a macaroni and cheese dish made with cheddar, goat cheese and smoked ham.

16. Graffiato

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707 6th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 289-3600
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Mike Isabella's much-anticipated debut displays the influences of the chef's Jersey-Italian upbringing as well as his time spent in the kitchen at Zaytinya. Beyond the handmade pastas and artisanal pizzas, Graffiato has a ham bar, prosecco on tap and, of course, that famous pepperoni sauce from his stint on Top Chef: All Stars.

17. Fiola da Fabio Trabocchi

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601 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-2888
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Italian chef Fabio Trabocchi has returned to Washington with his latest effort, Fiola, and the restaurant has really hits its groove. Trabocchi brought back some of his old restaurant Maestro's most popular dishes, such as the lobster ravioli and a thin-layered lasagna, and there are plenty of new things to keep diners coming back for more.

18. Central Michel Richard

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1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 626-0015
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t can be pricey, but Central is the most accessible restaurant in chef Michel Richard's empire and for good reason. The menu boasts two much-discussed dishes that are the French chef's spin on classic American comfort food: a lobster burger and a bucket of fried chicken (which is available to-go, by the way).

19. The Source by Wolfgang Puck

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575 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 637-6100
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This Wolfgang Puck restaurant is on the pricier edge of the spectrum, but between executive chef Scott Drewno's talents and the approachable brunch and lounge menus, the Source is a keeper. Sit downstairs in the sleek bar and lounge and order off a menu that includes sushi, dumplings, pork belly buns, sake and craft beer

20. Bistrot Du Coin

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1738 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-6969
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istrot du Coin has an authentic French bistro feel and that's why it's no surprise to find a lot of expats hanging out here over a bottle of wine. It's a go-to in the Dupont Circle area, open seemingly all the time, with an expansive menu of French classics from cassoulet, tartiflette savoyarde, steak served with bearnaise sauce and some killer fries.

21. Pho 75

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1721 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 525-7355
Rosslyn's Pho 75 is one of the region's Vietnamese restaurants where you're most likely to find expats supping on the the classic beef noodle soup. The cash-only cafeteria-style restaurant has other regional branches, but the Arlington location has been a local favorite for decades.

22. District Commons

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2200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 587-8277
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Jeff Tunks and the team behind the Passion Food Hospitality Group opened District Commons and its neighboring burger restaurant at the end of September 2011. All-American is both the culinary and the design emphasis here, and they've got a raw bar, 99 bottles of beer and charcuterie served on pig-shaped boards.

23. Newton's Table

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4917 Elm St.
Bethesda, MD
Newton's Table is one Bethesda restaurant that everyone seems to agree upon as a hit. Chef Dennis Friedman offers a really intriguing menu with Asian hints and other twists here and there — such as duck confit nachos, Kobe wontons and a lobster tempura surf and turf dish.

24. BlackSalt

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4883 Macarthur Blvd NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 342-9101
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This Palisades restaurant is perhaps the most beloved in Jeff and Barbara Black's expansive empire. And like the others, it is a monument to seafood — and with its own fish market to boot. Oysters, blue shell mussels, fried Ipswich clams and more join entrees like bouillabaisse, skate wing and smoked toro dashi to pretty much cover the gamut of seafood.

25. Jaleo

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480 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-7949
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A fixture of the DC culinary scene for about 20 years, Jaleo recently underwent a flashy renovation filled with foosball tables and private nooks. But the classic tapas fare is as iconic as ever. Complement a glass of sangria with Ibérico ham, patatas bravas, croquetas served in a shoe and, of course, a variety of paellas served in pans that feed six people or more.

26. Bar Pilar

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1833 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 265-1751
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Bar Pilar has long been a go-to spot on 14th Street and now there's even more space to sample Justin Bittner's menu and an even more extensive list of cocktails. The small plates menu changes frequently, but includes favorites like a chicken liver pate, lard fried buttermilk chicken, a stinging nettle quiche and an all-day roasted pork shoulder. To drink, try the Ruffled Shirt or the boozy Cuba Libre float.

27. Pizzeria Paradiso

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3282 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 337-1245
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The original Pizzeria Paradiso opened in Dupont Circle in 1991 and now the pizzeria has three locations in the DC area. And on Georgetown's M Street, Pizzeria Paradiso is a best bet for its Neapolitan-style pie plus dedication to beer in the form of the 16-tap basement birreria. Pizzeria Paradiso offers 8 and 12-inch pizzas from the traditional margherita to the Atomica topped with salami, kalamata olives, hot pepper flakes and mozzarella.

28. Little Serow

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1511 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 505-1511
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Getting into Little Serow can be a challenge — lines for Johnny Moni's "no reservations" restaurant tend to start forming before opening — but the payoff is worth the wait. The chef prepares fiery, authentic Thai cuisine in a spare and stylish setting. At $45 per person for a multi-course, ever-changing menu, Little Serow provides a more affordable alternative to the chef's neighboring destination restaurant, Komi.

29. Blue Duck Tavern

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1201 24th St NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 419-6755
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Blue Duck Tavern has long been a favorite of the West End and by all accounts is better than ever under the watch of executive chef Sebastien Archambault. Stick with wine and charcuterie in the lounge or peer into the open kitchen from Blue Duck's dining room over a meal of fried sweetbreads, muscovy duck breast, 12-hour roasted suckling pig, plus a variety of seafood and vegetarian dishes. Don't forget an order of Blue Duck's signature hand cut fries.

30. Fishnet

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5010 Berwyn Road
College Park, MD 20740
(301) 220-1070
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Former Corduroy manager Ferhat Yalcin brought this casual seafood restaurant to College Park in late 2011 and while the opening was under the radar, Fishnet has quickly gained cred among the critics and locals alike. Inspired by the traditional Turkish fish sandwich "Balik Ekmek," menu items also include fish tacos, a lobster sandwich, and fresh fish sticks that are nothing like those that Mom used to take out of the freezer. Bonus: Fishnet is a solid cheap eats destination, too.

31. Cork Wine Bar

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1720 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 265-2675
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Since the installation of Chef Robert Weland, the neighborhood wine bar from Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts has taken a more seasonal approach to its well-edited menu of small plates. But familiar favorites, such as the avocado bruschetta and crispy lemon and black pepper-dusted calamari and rock shrimp, remain. The restaurant is known for its wine list, and the rotating, curated flights are a good opportunity to sample some of the more usual selections from it.

32. Bombay Club

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815 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 659-3727
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Ashok Bajaj's Bombay Club is one of those classic, old school DC restaurants that has been a favorite among politicians for ages. But unlike some of the city's classic steakhouses, you won't find a dated menu or indifferent service at Bombay Club. The restaurant serves up a stellar brunch buffet, properly made Manhattans and traditional Indian fare such as lamb roganjosh. The thali platters are a good way to sample a variety of dishes. And there's even a piano player in the evening.

33. Et Voila!

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5120 MacArthur Blvd NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 237-2300
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Et Viola! is a neighborhood restaurant that is worth the drive for Chef Claudio Pirollo's Belgian and French-inspired bistro fare. Look for dishes such as endive soup, a variety of mussels and seafood burgers at this Palisades restaurant. There's cozy seating and plenty of Belgian beers, too.

34. Mintwood Place

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1813 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009
In its first year of operation, Mintwood Place as established itself both as a neighborhood favorite and a larger draw for Cedric Maupillier's French-inspired cooking. Escargot hush puppies are a no brainer, and the brunch menu has some hits such as the "hangover special", where a hamburger, several cheeses, hot peppers, bacon, and a fried egg all come together in harmony.

35. Ethiopic

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401 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 675-2066
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Though it's outside of DC's own "Little Ethiopia", Ethiopic has established itself as the place to go for traditional Ethiopian fare in a trendy and friendly atmosphere. The owners also just opened Batter Bowl Bakery in the same neighborhood.

36. Liberty Tavern

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3195 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 465-9360
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Liam LaCivita's restaurant serves up American cuisine with an occasional Eastern European flair, due to the chef's Pittsburgh roots (hence a take on the Primanti Bros.' sandwich). Dishes like stroganoff and pizza are winners. The menu changes several times a year to reflect the seasons, and the restaurant has one of the best brunch buffets around. For a cheap eats option, there's always the longstanding "Burger and a Pint" deal.

37. Zaytinya

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701 9th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 638-0800
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This Jose Andres restaurant may be even more popular than his flagship Jaleo. It's hard to go wrong with the ever-changing menu of Mediterranean dishes. The buzzy restaurant has delicious brussels sprouts, flatbread and octopus small plates, and a number of fun festivals throughout the year.

38. 2941 Restaurant

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2941 Fairview Park Dr
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 270-1500
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It's been more than a year since the former destination restaurant retooled its concept, and 2941 has finally struck the right balance between formal and casual, and between straightforward and elaborate cooking. The picturesque setting remains, and chef Bertrand Chemel's skills are evident in such dishes as a paella soup, or broccoli raviolini with smoked pioppini mushroom. Diners can also choose from a range of price points, whether it be a snack at the bar or a full tasting menu.

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1. Rasika

633 D St. NW, Washington, DC 20004
Rasika is not just one of the most popular Indian restaurants in DC — it's also, quite plainly, one of the most popular restaurants in DC, 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.
633 D St. NW
Washington, DC 20004

2. Birch & Barley

1337 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20003
This Logan Circle restaurant pays as much attention to its beer list as to the food. Chef Kyle Bailey's menu, featuring refined flatbreads, pastas and a signature brat burger, pairs well with his wife Tiffany MacIsaac's creative desserts and a 555-strong beer list curated by beer director Greg Engert.
1337 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20003

3. Estadio

1520 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
The wait for a table seems to have barely abated since Estadio opened under the direction of Proof executive chef Haidar Karoum. The contemporary Spanish small plates menu boasts a strong selection of cheese and charcuterie, as well as pintxos, bocadillos and classic tapas dishes.
1520 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

4. Toki Underground

1234 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Sure, it's not easy to score a seat at Erik Bruner-Yang's tiny ramen shop on H Street, but grabbing drinks downstairs first makes for a totally reasonable wait. And it's worth the wait for a bowl of the Taiwanese-style ramen that includes varieties like curry chicken and kimchi. Dumplings here are also worth a try.
1234 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002

5. Ray's The Steaks

2300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201
Michael Landrum's ever-expanding empire includes the popular (and presidentially endorsed) Ray's Hell Burger. But it all started with Ray's: The Steaks in Arlington, which offered high-quality beef in a no-frills environment and at an affordable price point — which set it apart from all the steakhouses that once characterized Washington's dining scene.
2300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

6. Proof

775 G St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Proof is best known for its stellar wine program, but that's not the only reason it has become a neighborhood staple. The cheese and charcuterie selections are outstanding, as is the modern American menu from chef Haidar Karoum. The restaurant also has a hard-to-beat lunch deal in the bar that pairs an entree with a glass of wine for $14.
775 G St NW
Washington, DC 20001

7. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

1612 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009-4307
The latest project from restaurateur Jeff Black, this Logan Circle restaurant is more than just the hype that has surrounded it since opening. Grab a number and wait upstairs in the seafood restaurant's sister bar Black Jack, slurping oysters and sampling the cocktail list. When your number comes up, head back downstairs for gumbo, po'boys, fried chicken and more.
1612 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009-4307

8. Hill Country Barbecue Market

410 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Hill Country is Texas barbecue by way of New York City, where you'll find the original restaurant. Try the moist brisket, the sausages imported from Kreuz Market or any variety of sides from this cafeteria-style restaurant and settle into the dining room or the even noisier basement Boot Bar. Most nights of the week bring live music and pitchers of Shiner are always $20.
410 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004

9. Ben's Chili Bowl

1213 U St. NW, Washington, DC 20009
Ben's Chili Bowl is one of those rare Washington establishments that manages to be both a tourist trap and a local favorite. Lines can wrap around the corner during peak tourist scenes, but also late-night when locals stop in for the eatery's signature half-smokes. It doesn't hurt that Bill Cosby and President Obama are both patrons.
1213 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20009

10. Majestic Cafe

911 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314