Got a car, a friend with a car, or at least a SmarTrip card? Good, now use it to check out these game-changing eats in Maryland and Virginia. Everything from ethic food to seafood is covered here, complete with some pro tips. One programming note: in the interest of protecting your wallet, we've omitted some fine, higher-end outposts like The Inn at Little Washington and Volt.
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This super-seasonal, farm-fresh restaurant is full of plaid-clad waiters serving supper in an old clipper mill. The mac & cheese and pork chop are can’t-misses, and the whiskey-forward cocktail program keeps up with what’s coming out of the kitchen. They have standout hard cider and mead menus, too. Also, if you find yourself waking up in Baltimore, know that their brunch is bomb. Then do some more eating and drinking.
Eden Center, VA
Stamp your passport to Vietnam as you cruise through the entrance of Eden Center. You’re met with a bevvy of restaurants beckoning you with neon signs, but, as with all things ethnic, you should go where the line is. Dare to order something other than pho, like one of Huong Viet's many bún (vermicelli noodle) dishes topped with smoky grilled meat and golden fried Spring rolls. Warning: DO NOT spill fish sauce on your clothes or you’ll rock that scent for centuries.
Old Town Alexandria
The menu at this pork-centric tavern is packed with man treats like chile-lime cracklins and a cocktail called The Virginia Gentleman, but the ribs alone are worth a trip. Chef Brian McPherson brines them for 24 hours, smokes them for eight, and then cools and cooks them for an additional three days. That’s DEDICATION. Tag yourself on Facebook with Jackson 20’s mascot, Bessy, to win an order of BBQ pork sliders.
Silver Spring, MD
The charcuterie craze in DC is undeniable, and it expands beyond District borders. Build a board at Urban Butcher, choosing from 23 different kinds of charcuterie like smoked lamb bacon or venison salami. Those looking for a more traditional meal can try a 48-hour ox brisket, steak frites, or a selection of sausages paired with cocktails that're $10 or less. Bonus: the restaurant doubles as a butcher shop and meat cellar, so load up on meaty treats before you roll home.
Falls Church, VA
Is there good pizza in the District? Sure, but Pizzeria Orso is something special. Piping hot Neapolitan pizza exits a volcanic brick oven in flavors like The Smashing Pumpkin, with cream sauce, bufala mozzarella, smoked blue cheese, roasted pumpkin, pear, garlic, arugula, and shaved Grana. Also try Chef Will Artley’s smoked potato puree tater tots, lamb bacon sliders, or BLT gnocchi. Affordable wine and beer add to the experience.
Bowie, MD & Lanham, MD
There are crab cakes, and then there are CRAB BOMBS. This dish is so good that Jerry’s went ahead and trademarked it. 10 whole ounces of jumbo lump crab are seasoned with Old Bay (duh!) and baked until golden brown. No additional ingredients required. Before you disable your crab bomb, start your crabventure with crab bisque, crabs casino, crab balls, or crab dip at either the original Lanham location or new Bowie location right off of Route 50.
Go fancy pants at this charm-tastic French/Asian restaurant from Tim Ma with roasted bone marrow and scallops topped with melting basil ice cream. Or, opt for the refined college approach to dinner by ordering gooey baked mac, fried green tomatoes, and crème fraîche wings. All of these items come from the same eclectic menu. Make a reservation though -- there are about as many tables as appetizers, adding to the restaurant’s cozy charm.
A & J is a slice of Chinese authenticity in the burbs boasting a menu full of must-try comfort food like spicy sesame peanut noodles. The noodles are made in house -- a nice touch. Also try the scallion pancake, spicy wonton with hot red sauce, and Szechuan-style spicy beef noodle soup. Pro tip: bring cash and and spice-tolerant friends.
Restaurants housed in Four Seasons Hotels are notorious wallet-bleeders, but not Wit & Wisdom. Four mind-blowing burgers are on offer, like the Bourbon Steak Burger, which comes with a foie gras slider, just ‘cause. Then there are ample under-$30, wood-grilled meats and seafood. But if you’re feeling fancy, take on the Maryland blue crab tasting featuring a crab cake, crispy soft shell crab, and a spicy tomato crab stew.
Falls Church, VA
Want to try a duck- and foie gras-loaded burger from a chef who cooked alongside Daniel Boulud? Yeah, we thought so. Head to 2941 Restaurant, an eye-catching, enchanting dining destination with gardens and koi ponds to gaze at. It used to be out of reach for those of us who aren’t lobbyists or lawyers. But, they recently morphed into an upscale casual restaurant you can head to regularly -- especially the bar area. Save room for RAMMY winner Caitlin Dysart’s Never Say Never sweets.
Falls Church, VA
What happens when a chef adept at grilling meats (Del Campo!) sets up a taco shop? Tortillas topped with pure magic. Victor Albisu’s take on Mexican street food includes adventurous tacos like El Beso, with crispy pork and beef tongue, along with staples like carne asada, barbacoa, and carnitas. Then there are tamales, tortas, sopes, burgers, and all-day breakfast to boot. For those who believe DC struggles from a dearth of kickass Mexican food, Taco Bamba’s a short drive of a solution.
Calling all crab fans -- Cantler’s hauls in live crabs on a daily basis, ranging from medium sized (6in) to supers (7in or more), for your consumption. There’s also a strong selection of steamed and raw seafood including clams, jumbo shrimp, and mussels, plus stone and snow crab legs. Make a day of it by bringing down a group of buds to take advantage of one of their all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink packages right on Mill Creek.
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1. Woodberry Kitchen2010 Clipper Park Rd, Baltimore
2. Huong Viet6785 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church
3. Jackson 20480 King Street , Alexandria
4. Urban Butcher8226 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring
5. Pizzeria Orso400 South Maple Ave, Falls Church
6. Maple Ave Restaurant147 Maple Ave W, Vienna
7. A & J Restaurant1319 Rockville Pike, Rockville
8. Wit & Wisdom200 International Dr, Baltimore
9. 2941 Restaurant2941 Fairview Park Dr, Falls Church
10. Taco Bamba2190 Pimmit Dr, Falls Church
11. Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn458 Forest Beach Rd, Annapolis
At Woodberry Kitchen, farm-to-fork means cuisine that is curated, specifically, to Maryland's seasonal agricultural offerings. In the warmer months, the restaurant serves whole, baked Pink Lady apples, and flanks of black bass with salt clams, while the winter menu boasts wood-roasted lamb sausage with root vegetables, and marinated squash with wheatberries and cabbage. At any given time, Woodberry sources only the best of what local Chesapeake growers have to offer, basing their menu around the freshest ingredients available to them. The space itself is built of exposed red brick and heavy wooden communal tables, with chopped logs stacked against the walls. The bar is central, and the open kitchen offers an unobstructed view of the chefs, dancing around the wood-fired oven. The patio is decked with string lights, the cocktail program is whiskey-forward, and the food is incomparably fresh.
Set in the Eden Center, Huong Viet is a great spot to dare to order something other than pho, like one of their many bún (vermicelli noodle) dishes topped with smoky grilled meat and golden fried Spring rolls.
Fuel up for a romantic King St stroll by first hitting J20's sidewalk seating for a 64oz pitcher of Port City Optimal Wit or Porter, and/or a 32oz pitcher of cane rum, peach schnapps, bourbon, assorted fruit, and a Cabernet float. If you're looking to coat your stomach as well, you'll never go wrong with their chile-lime cracklins or three-day ribs.
With an in-house butcher and meat cellar, this place is serving up some delicious charcuteries, pig tails, ox brisket, and pork ribs. Every night at 8p they carve a suckling pig, so make sure you're not late! Allied: After daydreaming about how you could make your own meat cellar, hit up the Stateline Market at 7817 Eastern Ave and grab some Smith & Forge, the hard cider that's built strong -- built from Apples and built to Refresh.
After cutting pies/his teeth at prolific parlors like Red Rocks, Pizza Paradiso, and 2 Amy's, "the best pizza guy on the East Coast" according to... some author... is now serving up authentic Neapolitan pies out of a tangerine-walled diner sporting star-shaped chandeliers, and a huge painted-tile mural of a bear chowing down on a pizza, hopefully not on all-you-can-eat night.
Fancy, charming, French and Asian cuisine with the likes of roasted bone marrow and scallops topped with melting basil ice cream await you at Maple Ave.
Hiding in the suburbs is this haven for authentic Chinese food -- A & J is a great spot to go if you are into house-made spicy sesame peanut noodles, scallion pancakes, spicy wontons with hot red sauce, and Szechuan-style spicy beef noodle soup.
Don't be fooled by the location inside the Four Seasons, you can still wrap your paws around comfort food treats like the Bourbon Steak Burger, which comes with a foie gras slider, because you've earned it.
With charming surroundings full of gardens and koi ponds, plus eats like a duck- and foie gras-loaded burger from a chef who cooked alongside Daniel Boulud, 2941 Restaurant is going to cast a spell on you, and you're going to like it.
Check out Taco Bamba in Falls Church, VA for Victor Albisu’s take on Mexican street food, which includes adventurous tacos like El Beso, with crispy pork and beef tongue, along with staples like carne asada, barbacoa, and carnitas.
Seafood lovers will have a hard time staying away, with live crabs flowing in on a daily basis and a strong selection of steamed and raw seafood including clams, jumbo shrimp, and mussels, plus stone and snow crab legs.