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Appetite for Perfection: Bib Gourmand Restaurants in Washington, DC
Dine at these affordable places to eat featured in Washington, DC’s Michelin Guide.
Although Michelin stars are highly coveted, the Bib Gourmand designation (“Bib” is short for “Bibendum,” known as “Michelin Man” in English) signifies a restaurant delivering a high quality dining experience at a reasonable price. To be precise, a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand restaurant must offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. In total, 39 DC restaurants have received the honor in the Washington, DC Michelin Guide. We’ve picked out some of our favorites that you should make a point to visit this year.
At Maydan, the latest culinary adventure from Rose Previte of Compass Rose, everything from the fiery flavors to the eclectic decor tells the story of the restaurant team’s travels across the Middle East and North Africa. Set in the back alley of a 19th century brick building just off 14th Street and marked only by a heavy wooden door, diners are greeted by the sizzling of turmeric-spiced whole chicken, lamb shoulder dressed in Syrian seven spice and chermoula sauce-marinated sardines roasting over the crackling oak-fired hearth. This DC dining star was also named one of 2018's best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit.
If DC had a culinary Mount Rushmore, José Andrés would certainly be on it, so it’s fitting that the acclaimed chef has four restaurants that achieved Bib Gourmand status (and you can tour all of them with the Tour de José). China Chilcano, situated in Penn Quarter, serves up a delightful rendition on Peruvian food, which also features flavors from China and Japan. Relish in the combination and Andrés’ mash-up skills, and you’ll leave without completely emptying your wallet.
Another Andrés attraction, Jaleo first opened in the same Penn Quarter neighborhood back in 1993, helping to enliven DC’s downtown along the way. The sleek and stylish eatery serves up some of the finest tapas in the District, as well as Spanish paellas. Drinks pair perfectly with the plates, as you can choose from Spanish wines, sherries, sangria and cocktails to make your (affordable) meal perfect.
Former Top Chef contestant and James Beard Award nominee Edward Lee has gone all in on DC, and it's paid off with Succotash. Situated in an historic bank from the early 1900s, the stunning, multilevel restaurant features an array of design accents that maintain a sophisticated look and feel. And we haven’t event talked about the food yet, which is Lee’s signature blend of Southern cooking and Asian flavors. Classics like fried catfish are enhanced with mint-jalapeño aioli, while the dirty fried chicken is topped off with a honey gochujang sauce nori flakes.
This casual neighborhood restaurant in the heart of Adams Morgan brings the vibrant flavors of Afghanistan to one of DC’s most diverse neighborhoods. The Popal family left their home country in the early 1980s, yet have operated primarily French-focused eateries – including Georgetown’s Malmaison – before returning to their roots with this labor of love. Open for dinner and brunch on the weekends, treat your taste buds to veggie dishes – described on the menu as Afghanistan’s “best-kept secret” – as well as tantalizing lamb chop kebabs and traditional dumplings.
It’s no surprise that this cozy neighborhood abode received Michelin Guide love. A woodfire-powered kitchen, bucolic decor and a menu filled with Italian favorites make it Bib Gourmand-worthy. Pasta lovers will have difficulty resisting dishes such as mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or squid ink linguini, while those hankering for seafood can savor caramelized scallops or grilled swordfish.
Tucked into the bustling and evolving Shaw neighborhood, Supra brings cuisine from the Republic of Georgia to the nation’s capital. Prepare yourself for a feast that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the District, a joyous celebration featuring khachapuri (housemade bread filled with cheese), knikali (soup dumplings), a multitude of meats, kebabs, hand-crafted cocktails and wine and beer selections that pair perfectly with what’s on your plate. Supra is open for brunch, lunch and dinner.
Combine a unique concept, DC’s hippest alleyway and one of the city’s most buzzworthy neighborhoods and you get Tiger Fork, a Blagden Alley hot spot where you’ll often find chefs whipping up delectable dishes in the open kitchen. The dimly lit restaurant channels the vibe of a fast-paced Hong Kong night market and has its own spin on Asian dishes: chili wontons with turkey and shrimp, grilled lamb with cumin and crispy fish, as well as cocktails muddled with Chinese medicinal plants and herbs.
This former food truck turned brick-and-mortar in Petworth has been wowing lovers of all things pizza – so much so that Timber Pizza Company was named to Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants in America list for 2017 and a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand honoree in 2018. With 30 or so seats and an interior that screams industrial chic, this order-at-the-counter dining darling may be small but the flavors are anything but. Go for the Green Monster, a pesto and mozzarella-based pie combined with any in-season green vegetable, or The Norman, starring bacon, roasted pineapple and strawberry-jalapeño jam.
This teensy 24-seat restaurant in Columbia Heights has been the star of the DC culinary scene with its modern take on Filipino food, served family-style and only to groups of four or fewer. How much has this walk-ins only hot spot soared, you ask? It was named the number two best new restaurant in the country by Bon Appétit in 2016. Expect bold food with the cuisine’s influences of Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and American flavors.
What is a sfoglina, you ask? In Italy, it’s a pasta-making matriarch who practices her delicious craft using only traditional techniques. In DC, Sfoglina is Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s pasta-first outposts in Downtown and Upper Northwest. Just like at its sister locations, Michelin-starred Fiola and Georgetown’s Fiola Mare, homey Italian vibes abound. Dig in to a rotating cast of seasonal takes or classic dishes that will transport you to Rome, including thick tangles of tonnarelli noodles served with sheep’s Pecorino, black pepper and walnuts. Pro tip: the ‘G’ is silent.
Since opening in spring 2016, Whaley’s on the Capitol Riverfront quickly became one of the hottest seafood spots the District has to offer (peep its famous seafood tower on your Instagram to see why). Order from the lengthy selection of seasonal plates from chef Daniel Perron or slurp down bivalves at this waterfront oasis.
You’ve never had a Mexican food experience like the one at Oyamel — and José Andrés wouldn’t have it any other way. The adventurous eater may want to try the innovatively tasty grasshopper tacos, but there’s much more to this Penn Quarter hot spot. Journey south with the locale’s unforgettable guacamole, several creative margarita concoctions and yes, there are plenty of other taco options to choose from. ¡Salud!
Continue your culinary journey around the world with José Andrés at Zaytinya, another Penn Quarter treasure from the renowned chef. This time, you’ll visit the Mediterranean, as Zaytinya’s mezze menu winds through Greek, Lebanese and Turkish cuisine. These small plates are meant to be enjoyed among friends, so gather up your group and tack on some specialty cocktails or scour the extensive wine list for the perfect pairing. It’s officially party time.
Located near the vibrant Union Market, Bidwell is Chef John Mooney’s Southern-inspired home run of a restaurant, dealing in comfort food with more dazzle than you’d come to expect. Standout dishes include a lobster taco with avocado tomatillo salsa, crispy deviled eggs and even suckling pig. Much of the restaurant’s produce is grown on the roof of Union Market, which is as locally sourced as you can get.
A lot can be said with a name. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is appropriately titled, as the Logan Circle locale serves up some of the best oysters in the District. The interior is decorated with relics from America’s past, suitable as you barrel through oyster spreads sourced from both the East and West Coasts. Chef Jeff Black’s seafood expertise does not stop there, though – entrees like shrimp gumbo and any of the “po’ boy” sandwich choices will leave you breathless.
Calling all vegetarians: Fancy Radish is your new home-away-from-home on H Street NE. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, this Philadelphia-based eatery from Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby is worth a visit. Unique dishes include a rutabaga fondue served with a soft pretzel (an homage to Philly), while the restaurant’s namesake “fancy radishes” are plated with shico, shichito, yuzu avocado, pickled tofu and smoked soy.
Ivy City, a small neighborhood located just north of Union Market near the U.S. National Arboretum, is gaining major buzz in the District. Tantalizing smells of savory smoked meats emanating from the Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse make this second-story restaurant and bar a must-visit when in the area. Try the "salmon candy," the restaurant's signature hot smoked salmon with honey, or start off the day with the smokehouse fish board for two.
All day, all night. That’s the (unofficial) motto of The Royal, a Shaw neighborhood coffee shop/lunch spot/dinner and drinks destination with a Colombian twist. Seriously, you could have every meal of the day at this affordable Bib Gourmand honoree. Start as early as 8 a.m. with coffee and a breakfast arepa, a crispy-hulled corn-based sandwich oozing with a runny fried egg, avocado and cotija cheese. Stay as late as 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays while enjoying the glorious fried chicken sandwich with jalapeño aioli and a drink or two from the extensive – and moderately priced – cocktail list.
Hazel brings globally inspired medium-sized plates and an extensive beer list to the buzzworthy Shaw neighborhood. The often-updated seasonal menu features stalwarts like Grandma Hazel's zucchini bread with foie gras mousse, or diners can choose to get "ducked up" — a mallard-themed meal for up to three guests served on a lazy Susan.
Maketto effortlessly combines a cafe, a fashionable retail outlet and a restaurant into one of the most unique locales in the District. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s kitchen churns out Cambodian and Taiwanese-style dishes that linger in your memory, especially the fried chicken and bread, one of the most talked-about meals in a city filled with buzzworthy dishes. A trip to Maketto will result in not only an outstanding dining experience, but also some cool new shoes and a great cup of coffee.
The wonders of Turkish cuisine are highlighted at Hakan Ilhan’s Ottoman Taverna, located in Mount Vernon Triangle. Ilhan pays homage to his native country at this I Street space that serves up enough deliciousness to warrant a visit from Michelle Obama and friends. The Taverna’s wood charcoal grill churns out incredible kebab, while the separately prepared flatbread makes for ideal accompaniment.