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Signature Flavors: Dishes You Must Try in Washington, DC
These popular dishes show off the incredible diversity of DC’s dining scene
With DC’s first Michelin Guide set for release this October, we want to show off the signature dishes at some of the city’s most popular restaurants. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong at many of these eateries, but if you’re a “What’s the dish I should try?” type of diner, we’ve got you covered.
A reminder: restaurant menus frequently change, so while these dishes are often featured, there’s no guarantee that they will be available on the night of your visit. Check with a server about the dish’s availability, or opt for another one of the restaurant’s tasty offerings.
Home to Scott Drewno, winner of the 2016 RAMMY Award for Chef of the Year, The Source’s wonton soup blends pork, chicken and beef over egg noodles, scallions, cilantro, shrimp and pork dumplings and a poached egg flavored with tea and soy sauce. The hearty soup is enough for two to indulge in.
Seasoned chef Cedric Maupillier, who honed his skills at Mintwood Place, has wowed the masses with his innovative rendition of French cuisine at Convivial. The standout is the fried chicken ‘coq au vin,’ which features double-fried chicken, mushrooms, potatoes and bacon, all smothered in a wine glaze. Dishes like this are why Convivial ended up on Washingtonian’s 2016 list of the city’s best restaurants.
From the mind of Chef Robert Wiedmaier (winner of Chef of the Year at the RAMMYs in 2009), this fine dining establishment is a French experience through and through. The boudin blanc is a favorite, so much so that it’s written as “Marcel’s Classic Boudin Blanc” on the menu. The delicious white sausage is served with black truffle mushroom puree, caramelized onions and lardons of bacon.
Bourbon Steak, housed inside Georgetown's chic Four Seasons Hotel, will be a treat to those who thoroughly enjoy a hearty meal in a sophisticated setting. Before you dive into a T-Bone, treat yourself to the famous duck fat fries, sporting three different flavors and accompanied by spicy ketchup, barbeque sauce and chive onion crème fraiche.
Espita Mezcaleria serves Southern Mexican cuisine in the happening Shaw neighborhood, and, as you may be able to glean from its name, plenty of mezcal. The eatery has all kinds of fun with its maitake mushroom tacos, which are served on house-made tortillas and flavored by a mezcal-seasoned tomatillo salsa, pickled onions and cilantro. The vegetarian dish will get meat-lovers going, too.
Take a trip to the French Quarter without leaving Penn Quarter when you visit Acadiana, known for its creative takes on New Orleans classics. The barbeque shrimp take down-home to a whole new level, with the head-on shrimp served with garlic butter, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. We’re on our way there already.
Named the best new restaurant in America by Bon Appétit Magazine in 2014, Rose’s Luxury has plenty of ways to wow you. Diners have especially marveled at the cacio e pepe, a pasta dish that is as simple as it is delicious. Featuring mainly cheese and pepper, the Italian specialty goes down smooth and, like the restaurant itself, leaves quite the impression
The stylish Maketto on H Street NE features one of the city’s hottest dishes at the moment. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang takes on fried chicken with flair, turning it into a crispy Taiwanese platter that is both sweet and spicy (thanks to the kick of peppercorns). Served on top of French bread, the ensemble can feed three people, who will most likely sit in silence as they marvel at the dish’s flavor explosion.
A woodfire-powered kitchen, bucolic decor and an Italian-infused menu have turned The Red Hen into one of the city’s most popular neighborhood restaurants. Regulars rave about the ricotta cavatelli (small pasta shells flavored with ricotta cheese), which packs a punch alongside spicy lamb sausage, spring onion, chickpeas and broccolini, topped off with crispy breadcrumbs. The unique combination makes for an outstanding pasta experience.
The Riggsby is Chef Michael Schlow’s 1960s-style abode, housed inside The Carlyle Hotel, known for fanciful cocktails and this farm-sourced pork chop that comes to the table sliced and fit to fill up two people. Also joining the party: spicy sausage, hot cherry peppers, potatoes, onions and an unforgettable jus sauce.
Yes, you read that right. The grasshopper tacos at José Andrés’ Oyamel are certainly an adventure, but one that pays off with loads of flavor. The Mexican eatery serves these tacos de chapulines, which are an Oaxacan specialty, with shallots, guacamole and a hint of tequila. Once you bite into the sautéed grasshoppers, you’ll know where we’re coming from.
Captained by chef/owner Victor Albisu, winner of the 2015 RAMMY Award for Chef of the Year, Del Campo serves upscale South American cuisine, and its rolled wagyu skirt steak has been known to dazzle diners (including Lionel Messi). The wagyu cut is known for its explosion of flavor, and Albisu layers the 12-ounce filet with Dijon mustard, onion jam, rosemary and Parmesan cheese.
Ever had chili honey on a pepperoni pizza? Nope, probably not – so it’s the perfect time to take your taste buds to All-Purpose Pizzeria, a spot from the same Italian-American cuisine experts that brought you The Red Hen and Boundary Stone. The buona pizza throws together the aforementioned ingredients as well as mozzarella, basil and grana for a truly distinctive pie.
One of the city’s most spectacular culinary creatives for more than a decade, Eric Ziebold gets bold at Kinship with his spin on a classic French dish. The torchon mix consists of mushrooms, caramelized garlic and onions to go along with pureed butter. Served alongside a baby beet and wild mushroom salad, toasted brioche and huckleberry gastrique, this dish tastes as excellent as it sounds.
Although you will have to visit the Rosewood Washington, D.C.'s The Grill Room during lunch time to enjoy this American specialty, it’s well worth a break from the humdrum of the office. Served on a sesame seed bun with house-made mayo and truffle cheese, the juicy cut of deliciousness may have you journeying to The Grill Room for lunch on the reg.
Sure, you’ve had lamb chops before, but Rasika West End takes the dish to another level. The highly acclaimed Indian restaurant cooks the chops with a tandoor, a clay oven that uses wood and charcoal for maximum heat and flavor. Graced with mace and cardamom (two types of Indian spice) and garnished with cashew nuts and ginger, the dish is Indian-style cooking at its best.
American comfort food is the name of the game at Boss Shepherd’s, fittingly located within walking distance of the National Mall. Since the spot opened in 2014, the fried chicken has been a main attraction. The 12-hour brined half chicken is seasoned with smoked egg yolk sauce, hot sauce and honey, served with a buttermilk biscuit and a seasonal vegetable. Boss, indeed.
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. Diners have gravitated towards the ampalaya, a melon dish cooked with salt, then toasted with tomatoes, red onions, shallots and ginger. An egg and black beans top off this foreign special.
The neighborhood comfort of Compass Rose is reflected in its menu, sprinkled with international cuisine that can be served in a restaurant or on the street. The star of the show at this hot spot located one block from U Street is the khachapuri, a cheese-filled bread coated in an organic egg and butter, often served in Georgia. Pair this with a Pass the Ish, a drink featuring Sarajishvili Georgian brandy and fresh lemon, and you’re officially transported.
Mike Isabella has appeared on Top Chef, and is the brilliant culinary mind behind DC restaurants like Kapnos and Graffiato. The chef can also craft one heck of a sandwich, as evidenced by the wonders at G by Mike Isabella. The roasted cauliflower sandwich is a favorite among loyalists, a vegetarian option with enough flavor to satisfy all taste buds.
The numerous DC restaurants helmed by celebrity chef José Andrés incorporate flavors from around the world. Jaleo is no different, with its bacon-wrapped dates (a fruit from the Middle East) hearkening back to the sweet-and-savory combos that José enjoyed while growing up in Spain. The deep-fried delectable, known as “Dátiles con tocino 'como hace todo el mundo'” on the menu, is appropriately served with an apple-mustard sauce.
Still hungry? Check out these hot restaurants to try now as you wine and dine your way through the District.