The Best Restaurants in Washington DC Right Now

Try a sleek new seafood spot, savor a smoked burger, or wake up early for the city’s best breakfast tacos.

Photo courtesy of Bar Spero

Making a decision about where to eat these days is a serious ordeal. On top of the normal decision paralysis of figuring out what you’re in the mood for, there are added considerations like: How do I score a reservation? Do they have outdoor dining? Can I book a table for a larger group? Or is there a to-go option? Plus, with so many new restaurants opening in the District lately—including massive new developments like Midtown Center, Capitol Crossing, and the second phase of The Wharf—it’s enough to make our heads spin.

If all of that is enough to make you lose your appetite, don’t worry because we’re here to help. Our ultimate DC restaurant guide is updated to feature a few excellent newcomers that have already wowed us in 2022 and our never-fail favorites that provide some of the city’s most iconic eating experiences. So whether you need a quick and comforting weeknight option or a fine-dining experience to celebrate, you’ll find something on our list of the best restaurants in DC that fits the bill.

Bar Spero
Photo courtesy of Bar Spero

Bar Spero

Downtown
$$$$

Located between Union Station and Chinatown in the new Capitol Crossing development, Bar Spero is the eponymous concept from the Michelin-starred chef behind Reverie, Johnny Spero. Don’t be fooled by its billing as a bar, the restaurant serves a seafood-centric menu inspired by destinations near and far—from the Mid-Atlantic to Basque Country. Menu highlights include imported Spanish turbot and pork from Autumn Olive Farms in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as a raw bar, and most dishes are cooked over the open flame. Meanwhile, guests can also choose from a tightly curated wine list, regional beers on tap, craft cocktails, and a wide selection of vermouths.

Available for Reservations

Hill East Burger

Capitol Hill
$$$$

DC's newest saloon and smoked burger bar comes from the owners of Sloppy Mama’s and Republic Cantina. So needless to say, the vibes are full-on western—think Texas or New Mexico by way of our nation’s capital. Playing to the theme, the menu has a green chili burger (The Puebla) akin to what you might get in Santa Fe. There’s also a stacked smashburger called The Lancaster with a smoked beef patty, bacon, smoked cheddar, arugula, tomato relish, and pickled onion. All the burgers are made with a blend of prime brisket trim and Roseda Farms dry-aged beef. Pair that with one of the zero-proof drinks on tap, like an orange-Mexican oregano soda.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Nama Ko
Photo courtesy of Nama Ko

Nama Ko

14th Street
$$$$

Michael Schlow and executive chef Derek Watson (of Morimoto fame) have curated a menu with everything from a full sushi bar to hot entrees like a Koji-aged pork chop and Wagyu New York strip. Top your meal off with a pour from one of the most extensive sake menus in the city and Nama Ko's signature soft serve ice cream and sorbet offerings, including a honey-miso black truffle flavor.

Available for Reservations

La Tejana

Mount Pleasant
$$$$

Any given day, the streets of Mount Pleasant are buzzing with early risers trying to get their hands on La Tejana’s breakfast tacos. Ana-Maria Jaramillo and Gus May have crafted a menu of Tex-Mex breakfast tacos that typically sell out within a few short hours of opening. One popular pick is a barbecue breakfast taco that stemmed from a collaboration with 2Fifty BBQ, but those who prefer a vegetarian option should try the Super Migas with onions, poblanos, and scrambled eggs, and finished with tomato, queso drizzle, and crunchy tortilla strips.

Il Piatto

Downtown
$$$$

This newly opened Italian concept by restaurateur Hakan Ilhan offers lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch service with an approachable Mediterranean fare and classical Italian cuisine from Executive Chef Lina Nicolai. Tempting starters include poached pear with radicchio, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and balsamic dressing; portobello mushrooms with creamy gorgonzola cheese; and fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella in a tomato-cream sauce. Entrees deliver on Italian comfort including Milanzana parmigiano, eggplant parmesan, and Maltagliati al Funghi, a flat pasta with truffle-infused ricotta and assorted mushroom sauce.

Available for Reservations
Grazie Nonna
Grazie Nonna

Grazie Nonna

Downtown
$$$$

Casey Patten (Grazie Grazie) and Gerald Addison (Bammy’s) are tossing pizza pies at this red sauce joint. The latest addition to the Midtown Center development in Downtown DC, its a respite from bustling downtown with an outdoor pizza garden and an extensive list of negronis. Order up the Green Goodness, with collard greens, provolone and pecorino cheese, and Clarbian Chilis, or the Drunken Love topped with vodka sauce and loaded with a mix of aged and fresh mozzarella, provolone, basil, and pepperoni cups. Main entrees are meant for sharing and include a whole branzino or the Chicago-inspired chicken vesuvio.

Available for Reservations

Causa

Shaw
$$$$

One of the most exciting openings of the year is tucked away, almost hidden in Shaw’s Blagden Alley. This Peruvian tasting menu features the talents of the award-winning Service Bar team and Peruvian-born chef Carlos Delgado. Think of this restaurant as two spaces in one. Bar Amazonia is located upstairs and has small bite offerings like ceviche and skewers, plus one of the largest collections of piscos in America. Downstairs is where you’ll find Causa’s tasting menu, which takes you on a tour of the country from the Pacific Coast to the Andes mountains.

Available for Reservations
RANIA
RANIA | Photo by Greg Powers

RANIA

Downtown
$$$$

Known for luxe Indian dining that took the District by storm in 2019, Punjab Grill has now reopened with a new look, name, and menu. RANIA held onto the former restaurant’s opulent feel to serve up unexpected takes on Indian cuisine in a dining room with sleek finishes like an Onyx bar and bone inlay tables. Executive Chef Chetan Shetty has sourced rare spices and ingredients for each menu offering like chile spice blends from Delhi and special garlic blends from Maharashtra. For $75 or $90, guests can select from a three- or four-course menu, each with a handful of options like 18-hour sous vide lamb wrapped in cheela, a savory Indian pancake, or chicken kofta topped with an excessive amount of white truffle for added decadence.
How to book: Reservations via Tock

La Collina

Capitol Hill
$$$$

This family-style Italian restaurant sticks to a simple menu of pasta, antipasti, and hearty mains sure to leave everyone at the table happy. Start with a glass (or carafe for sharing) of the grapefruit Aperol spritz. Then order up a few antipasti dishes—the dry-aged beef carpaccio and housemade burrata offer a nice salty-savory combination. For mains, it’s hard not to load up on pasta, from the thick and creamy cacio e pepe bucatini to the rigatoni and lamb. There’s also a “bambini” menu for the kids and a lush patio overlooking Eastern Market, making this an enticing place to sit and linger as Italians do.

Available for Reservations
Harvey's
Harvey's | Photo by Butcher Photography

Harvey's

Falls Church
$$$$

Chef and owner Thomas Harvey’s goal for his new 2,600-square-foot counter service restaurant was to become the go-to neighborhood spot in Falls Church. Mission accomplished—the all-day restaurant cafe is stocked with house-made sandwiches, pastries, pastas, and other dishes prepared over the open flame. Locally sourced seasonal ingredients drive the menu, so guests can look forward to entrees like cedar plank salmon with hot honey-roasted root vegetables, fennel, and Cippolini chutney, or port-braised beef short ribs from Virginia’s Seven Hills Food. Save room for one of the tempting desserts which include honey cake and a killer banana split, incorporating topplings like honey roasted peanuts, popcorn, and chocolate and caramel sauce.

St. James
St. James | Photo by Melena S. DeFlorimonte

St. James

U Street
$$$$

This long-awaited second act for the team from Cane, including Jeanine Prime and chef Emma Hernandez, offers guests a taste of the Caribbean with African, East Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, and French influences. On the menu, you’ll find several island staples like callaloo soup which has pureed spinach, chilies, and coconut milk, and comes topped with lump crab meat. Larger formatted plates are meant for sharing, including the Trini-style taro dumplings and pepper shrimp served with a scotch bonnet and pimento chili sauce and creamy corn-based puree called coo coo. Do not miss out on the paratha platter, which for $60 features an assortment of duck, beef, and vegetable curries served with murtani, a spicy mix of roasted okra, tomatoes, eggplant, and garlic.

Available for Reservations
Tonari
Photo by Rey Lopez, courtesy of Tonari

Tonari

Penn Quarter
$$$$

This Italian-Japanese restaurant was first credited with bringing “wafu” (Japanese-style) pasta and pizza to Washington. It reopened after an almost two-year-long pandemic pause, and we can’t think of better seats in town to book than the bar overlooking the pizza prep station. Tonari’s menu features pasta made in Sapporo, Japan and includes several variations to choose from like noodles covered in XO sauce and topped with bonito and Spam, or a tagliatelle bolognese with nduja and Japan’s S&B brand curry. Katsuya Fukushima is one of the city’s most celebrated chefs, and his team is loyal to wafu-style pizzas, like the pepperoni pie with Japanese brick cheese and shoyu-pickled jalapenos.

Available for Reservations

Ruthie’s All Day

Arlington
$$$$

Ruthie’s All Day is an all-day, any-day kind of hangout with a comfort food menu that centers on dishes from a custom-built, wood-burning hearth. Come for coffee or free wifi but stay to indulge whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mr. W’s biscuit is one of the best bets at breakfast—this sausage and scrambled egg biscuit comes with the option to top it with cheddar or goat cheese. Or get messy in a juicy “rad” burger (on both the lunch or dinner menu) or some finger-licking good smoked spare ribs.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

Honeymoon Chicken

Petworth
$$$$

Honeymoon Chicken occupies what was once the Formica-countertop diner known as Slim’s. It’s still got plenty of retro-flare, but the menu has changed its tune thanks to Rob Sonderman, who is also The Federalist Pig’s pitmaster. The fried chicken joint’s motto is “where funky meets fancy,” and it delivers with buckets of mouthwatering, crispy-fried chicken and sandwiches like the honey garlic chicken banh mi and a crispy, vegetarian-friendly mushroom sandwich.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Daru

H Street
$$$$

Suresh Sundas and Dante Datta (formerly of Rasika) teamed up for a restaurant inspired by the history, culture, and flavors of India. The menu has classic dishes like chicken tikka masala and wild mushroom biryani. But there are also several “Indian-ish” takes inspired by other regions of the world, like wok fried cabbage and Zaatar olive naan.

At Shilling Canning Company, you’ll find an outstanding, seasonally driven menu that features sustainably sourced produce from the Mid-Atlantic plus several house-made preserves. Shilling Canning Company serves a tasting menu at the chef's counter, similar to the three-course menu available in the dining room and on the garden patio. The tasting menu changes each week and features local fishermen in the Chesapeake region, as well as partner farms from Maryland and Virginia. Alexandra Bookless Turner, Shilling's beverage director, has designed an optional beverage pairing that adeptly picks from a variety of wines, spirits, and cocktails—several of which incorporate leftovers from the kitchen, so no ingredient goes to waste.

Available for Reservations

2fifty

Multiple locations
$$$$

Salvadoran immigrants are smoking the best version of Texas-style barbecue in the DMV at this charming pithouse in Riverdale Park, with a smaller vendor stall in Union Market. When you pull up to 2fifty BBQ, chances are you’re here for the wagyu brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and sausage links. But another favorite dish, by far, is the brisket pupusa, which seamlessly blends two cooking traditions together—Salvadoran and American-style barbecue. Be sure to order in advance or else risk the inevitable sell outs that happen on these dishes daily.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Albi

Navy Yard
$$$$

At this Levant-inspired restaurant, most of the food comes from the coals of the hearth, like prawns with harissa garlic butter and smoked chicken with corn succotash and pepper tahini. For a more intimate affair try the Sofra experience—a semi-improvisational tasting menu from chef Michael Rafidi that you’ll enjoy seated directly in the kitchen for an intimate view of the hearth. If you can’t make it for dinner, check out the sister bakery and cafe, Yellow, which doles out flaky pastries, pita sandwiches, and tahini caramel brownies all day.

Available for Reservations

Queen’s English

Columbia Heights
$$$$

This husband and wife team runs a Cantonese-style restaurant serving Hong Kong cuisine with a twist. Chef Henji Cheung grew up eating and cooking traditional Cantonese and Hakkanese dishes with his family—and his menu reflects this upbringing. Expect fresh seafood, housemade silken tofu, and Hong Kong pin noodles. Meanwhile, Sarah Thompson curates an extensive list of natural wines to match the flavors of the menu. Several bottles come from small family vineyards using minimal invention in their wine-making process.

Dauphine’s

Downtown
$$$$

As they say in New Orleans—lez le bon temps rouler! And the good times definitely roll at Dauphine’s, a restaurant that pays homage to the Crescent City. Expect an abundance of New Orleans-themed dishes, like lightly dusted beignets, seafood gumbo, and a raw bar that greets you at the door. Chef Kristen Essig called the Big Easy home for more than two decades and developed the menu and concept alongside chef and partner Kyle Bailey (also of The Salt Line). The duo utilizes Mid-Atlantic seafood including soft shell crabs, Chesapeake oysters, and rockfish. Order up a hurricane, and you might feel as if you’ve been transported to the French Quarter, and you can also find other expertly crafted cocktails from Neal Bodenheimer, owner of Cure, a top bar in New Orleans, and beverage director Donato Alvarez (The Salt Line).

Available for Reservations
Caruso’s Grocery
Photo courtesy of Caruso's Grocery

Caruso’s Grocery

Capitol Hill
$$$$

Modeled off a classic red-sauce joint, Caruso’s Grocery features classic Italian fare like you might order in The Bronx, Brooklyn, or Bergen County dialed up a few notches. Find handmade pastas dressed up in dishes like rigatoni alla vodka and five cheese ravioli, plus hand-pulled mozzarella with basil marinated tomatoes, chicken parmigiana, pork chops pizzaiola-style to round out the menu by chef Matt Adler. The restaurant also offers dessert classics, like New York-style cheesecake with strawberry preserves and a transcendent tiramisu.

Available for Reservations

Maydan

U Street
$$$$

This fiery Michelin-starred restaurant showcases the flavors of the Silk Road. In addition to an a la carte menu with dips, kebabs, and fire-roasted proteins, Maydan currently has a prix-fixe Tawle experience that ensures your table features all of the menu’s stars. Meaning “table” in Arabic, this family-style menu is intended to be shared with a group and features spreads, small plates, vegetables, and meats from the hearth, as well as a center plate that is your choice of whole grilled fish, ribeye, or lamb shank. Everything pairs beautifully with the assortment of spice-laden condiments and fresh Georgian bread.

Available for Reservations

Rooster & Owl

Columbia Heights
$$$$

The farmer’s market dictates the menu at chef Yuan Tang’s build-your-own tasting menu restaurant where sharing is encouraged. The menu’s offerings change based on what’s in season, but each guest gets to choose each course from a selection of vegetable-forward dishes and fall highlights include autumn mushrooms and Brussels sprout caesar salad. Unlike other fine dining spots, Rooster & Owl also allows you to tack on additional dishes for $10 so you’ll never leave hungry.

Available for Reservations

Oyster Oyster

U Street
$$$$

This innovative restaurant and bar is thriving with sustainability in mind. Mid-Atlantic vegetables take center stage at Oyster Oyster. Chef Rob Rubba honors producers who share an ethos of environmentally friendly farming and ingredients that are sourced and foraged locally. The tasting menu makes use of several varieties of mushrooms, plus many other tasty vegetables and local oyster dishes. Pair it all with organic and biodynamic wines.

Tim Ebner is an award-winning food, drink, and travel writer. He lives on Capitol Hill and has a weakness for Old Bay Seasoning. Follow him on Twitter: @TimEbner