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Appetite for Perfection: Bib Gourmand Restaurants in Washington, DC
Dine at these affordable gems 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, 22 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.
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.
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.
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 new pasta-first outpost in 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.
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.
The Shaw neighborhood has evolved into one of DC’s hottest dining areas, and Tim Ma’s Kyirisan is at the center of the evolution. The restaurant is a mix of Chinese and French flavors, with Ma preparing offbeat dishes in a communal setting that suits the sophisticated space. Ma gets creative with dishes like deep fried tofu and chicken wings featuring crème fraiche and oyster sauce, and the drink menu is also full of fun, with crafty cocktails and plenty of delicious draft choices.
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.
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.
New to the 2017 Bib Gourmand list, Rob Rubba's 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.
Using market-fresh ingredients, Boqueria re-creates an authentic Barcelona experience through its distinctive Spanish tapas and takes on classic dishes. Choose from meat, seafood and vegetarian options to divvy up at the table. The Dupont Circle location makes Boqueria a great night-on-the-town destination as you explore one of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods.
Still interested in learning more about the culinary capital? Check out DC's hottest restaurants you need to try right now.