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20+ Hot Restaurants to Try Now in Washington, DC
Wine and dine your way around these District hot spots.
In case you missed it, 2016 saw the nation's capital officially become a top tier foodie destination with a stream of accolades. The city was anointed with its first Michelin Guide, named Bon Appétit magazine's restaurant city of the year and Zagat's hottest food city. When you visit in 2017, you will see a Washington, DC that boasts a dining scene full of new concepts and reinvigorated favorites that generate buzz and bookings (read: reserve your table now!). Here are some of the best DC restaurants that you have to check out in the new year.
Regarded as one of the most stylish and exciting restaurants to open in recent years, Kinship – from a chef who previously helmed the Mandarin Oriental’s Cityzen and before that, San Francisco’s French Laundry – features dishes that focus on technique, history, ingredient, or communal preparations intended to be served family-style, like whole fish or 12-ounce ribeye cuts. It’s a special place, and perfect for a celebratory meal.
Housed in the same building as Kinship is Métier, an ambitious 36-seat restaurant with a $200 seven-course tasting menu. Take note: advanced reservations are recommended and jackets are required for gentlemen.
Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s acclaimed Italian restaurant is located in NoMa near the vibrant Union Market and presents one of the finer dining experiences in the city. The simplistic menu lets you pick from between three and six courses, with each plate equipped with loads of Italian flavor and pristine culinary style. The old country vibes do not stop there – Masseria’s decor reminds one of Italian farmhouses and country sides, setting the ideal atmosphere for Stefanelli’s creativity.
Smoked & Stacked is a labor of love for former Top Chef finalist Marjorie Meek-Bradley, who left her post as executive chef of Roofers Union and Ripple to focus on the popular sandwich shop located in Shaw near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Filling what Meek-Bradley saw as a citywide void of pastrami and breakfast sandwiches, Smoked & Stacked wows patrons with favorites like The New Yorker breakfast sandwich, starring pastrami that’s been cured for eight days, smoked for five hours and topped with a fried egg, comte cheese and hot pepper jelly.
Named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2014 by Bon Appétit, this homespun abode wows with its service, atmosphere and most of all, its plates. Although the menu regularly changes, you can count on small and family style dishes to be exploding with Chef Aaron Silverman’s love of cooking. The cacio e pepe is an acclaimed creation that can often be ordered, but otherwise, savor in the adventure at Rose’s Luxury. Reservations are only taken for groups of 6 to 8, so even though you’ll have to wait, you’ll depart feeling like you’ve been treated like a welcome house guest.
If the tasting menu is the movement du jour in DC dining, then Pineapple & Pearls – the two-star Michelin restaurant from James Beard award-winner Aaron Silverman – is one of the scene’s shining stars. This Capitol Hill establishment, located next to sibling Rose’s Luxury, offers an inventive 15-course, ever-changing tasting menu that is bound to delight. While this dining experience costs $250 per person (which includes beverage pairings, tax and tip), Pineapple & Pearls doubles as a café through lunch on Tuesday through Saturday offering up affordable pastries, a killer fried chicken sandwich and a full range of coffee drinks.
This Mediterranean-meets-Caribbean spot, owned by three alum of Little Serow and Komi, serves up whole-animal butchery, housemade bread and pasta and seasonal ingredients in an approachable Adams Morgan setting. It’s been racking up positive press since it opened, and even made Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants 2016 list.
Masa, mole and mezcal. These are the three M’s of southern Mexican cuisine that Espita Mezcaleria abides by. This restaurant, owned by master mezcalier (yes, that’s a thing) Josh Phillips, made quite the splash when it opened in spring of 2016. You can find one of the hottest new restaurants in DC, according to the Washington Post, in Shaw, one of the District’s hottest foodie neighborhoods.
Right next door to Espita is All-Purpose Pizzeria, a deck oven pizzeria from the teams of two beloved DC dining institutions, The Red Hen and Boundary Stone. Pizza rules here, but you can also enjoy hot and cold antipasti, and an extensive charcuterie selection. Plans for a second location by Nationals Park are in the works.
Renowned local chef Tim Ma made his District debut with Kyirisan in the sizzling new restaurant mecca that is the Shaw neighborhood, earning Michelin Bib Gourmand honors in the same year it opened. Serving up Chinese-French fusion in a simple, wood-lined dining room with blue pincushion booths, diners are invited to take a culinary journey through a savory menu organized by dishes based in the ground, on the ground or under the water. If weekend brunch is more your speed, Kyirisan’s midday menu features creative plates like the venison-blueberry sausage hash, which are best washed down with adult mimosas complete with triple sec and vodka.
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.
A woodfire-powered kitchen, bucolic decor that emulates a countryside abode and an affordable, Italian-infused menu have turned The Red Hen into one of the city’s most popular neighborhood restaurants. Pasta lovers will have difficulty resisting dishes such mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or squid ink linguini, while those hankering for seafood can savor caramelized scallops or grilled swordfish. An exceptional wine list only adds to the tranquility of this gem.
Third time’s a charm for Johnny’s Half Shell, as neighborhood favorites Ann Cashion and John Fulchino made their return to Adams Morgan in the same space of their former and much-beloved Cashion’s Eat Place. After a decade of serving fresh catches and seafood favorites on Capitol Hill, and seven years in Dupont Circle before that, Cashion and Fulchino have revamped this DC staple with a smaller seasonal lineup that won’t break the bank. For a true classic, order the celebrated Maryland-style crabcake with coleslaw and fries. And if a tall man with a booming Boston accent asks how your meal is, then know you’ve just met the restaurant’s namesake.
Ranked number four on Washingtonian’s 2016 list of the city’s best restaurants, this spot gained a lot of buzz pre-opening and managed to live up to the hype. A seasoned chef who honed his skills at Mintwood Place is behind the chic hotspot, which serves up forward-thinking French-American creations, like the fried chicken coq au vin.
James Beard Award-winner Michael Schlow brings his fifth restaurant concept to Washington, DC with Casolare, a coastal Italian spot in The Glover Park Hotel. The restaurant’s philosophy of “simple is better” is apparent from the wood-paneled decor to the dishes. Insider tip: Make sure to order the Mama Zecca’s pressed eggplant parmesan.
You’ll have to find your way to off-the-beaten-track Blagden Alley in Shaw to dine in this restaurant, which has garnered much acclaim since opening in 2016 (including a nod to Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants list). A 10-foot wood-burning open hearth and a dedication to Mid-Atlantic cuisine are the main draw, with dishes that breathe new life into recipes inspired by historical 19th-century cookbooks.
As the temperatures dip outside, the fireplace roars at the always elegant Plume, the Michelin-starred prix-fixe dining experience from classically trained Chef Ralf Schlegel. Housed in The Jefferson hotel, this luxe date spot is the perfect place to cozy up and woo your boo this winter.
If you haven’t tried Sapporo-style ramen, there’s no better time than now. The recently opened Haikan is related to Daikaya, but traverses a terrain all its own. With wide windows aligned along the dining room, you can view V Street as you enjoy Chef Katsuya Fukushima’s dazzling takes on ramen, as well as tasty sides like the mapo tofu poutine and crab rangoon. Praise for the restaurant has been early and often, so take your date to this spot that’s set to make waves in DC’s dining scene.
Looking for a breakfast in Washington, DC worthy of a Michelin star? The only place you’ll find that is at the Blue Duck Tavern, which serves three meals a day inside the luxurious Park Hyatt Washington. Handcrafted wood decor and an open kitchen makes diners feel right at home. An ever-rotating seasonal menu focusing on farm-to-fork fare lets you know just how far that oven-roasted Cheshire pork chop has traveled to make it to your plate. The one dish you’ll want to end each meal on? The crowd favorite apple pie.
Located inside CityCenterDC, Centrolina is part food market, part restaurant, home to the mastery of Chef Amy Brandwein and her take on regional Italian cuisine. The small, yet thoughtful, seasonal menu relies on fresh local ingredients to transport diners on a culinary journey across the Italian peninsula. Expect pastas made in-house daily and wood-fired meat and fish.
Just like it’s next door neighbor the 9:30 Club, the newest addition to Neighborhood Restaurant Group roster rocks. At Hazel diners will find globally inspired medium-sized plates ranging from the ever-popular Korean-style seafood pancake (just ask Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema) to barbecued carrots with fennel kraut. Step outside to the artfully decorated patio and try a “delicate” or “complex” cocktail.
This well-established modern Chinese restaurant took a few weeks off to retool in the summer of 2016, and boy, did the temporary hiatus pay dividends. The recipe for success? A redesigned dining room, a new menu and a 2016 Chef of the Year RAMMY for Chef Scott Drewno. Stop by on Saturdays after a visit to the Newseum for $5 handmade dumplings from 3 p.m. to close – you won’t regret it.
Maketto effortlessly combines a café, 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, quickly becoming one of the most talked-about meals in a city filled with buzzworthy dishes. A trip to Maketto can not only result in an outstanding dining experience, but also some cool new shoes and a great cup of coffee.
Housed inside the recently renovated Watergate Hotel, Kingbird uses local ingredients to craft a menu that touches on numerous aspects of American cuisine, including seafood (think wild caught Alaskan salmon, roasted halibut), Southern favorites (fried chicken and waffles) and fine meats (farm tenderloin, dry-aged ribeye). You can also choose from an extensive list of cocktails and wines, as well as a solid selection of bourbon and whiskey. With vibrant decor inspired by the bashful bird in its name, Kingbird is a new DC dining hot spot that you don’t want to skip during a trip.
Indian street food is the name of the game at Bindaas, the new outpost in Upper Northwest from James Beard Award winner Vikram Sunderam of Rasika and Rasika West End. Unlike its higher-end siblings, Bindaas focuses on an affordable menu broken down into savory snacks, wraps, buns and kebabs – nothing on the menu is priced higher than $15. Diners rave about the avocado golgappa, a fried pastry stuffed with a delectable combination of avocado, tamarind chutney and sweet yogurt.
These places may be hot, but DC has a huge number of established restaurants worth a try, too. Check out more dining options in the District.