Where to Eat in Washington DC Right Now
A hearty red sauce joint, New Orleans-inspired fare, and everything in between.
Making a decision about where to eat these days is a serious ordeal. On top of the normal analysis paralysis of what you’re in the mood for, there are the added COVID-19 considerations. Are they still open? Do they deliver here? Can we eat outdoors? What’s the menu like now?
If all of that is actually making you lose your appetite, we’re here to help. We have updated our restaurant bible for pandemic times, featuring a few excellent newcomers for 2021, plus our never-fail favorites that have been chugging along these past few years. Whether you need quick and comforting weeknight takeout, or a place where you can still experience a sense of occasion, you’ll find something on this list that fits the bill.
The gist: As they say in New Orleans—lez le bon temps rouler! And the good times definitely roll at Dauphine’s, a new restaurant opened in May that pays homage to the Crescent City. The restaurant boasts an 80-seat covered patio, plus a courtyard complete with a New Orleans-inspired fountain.
The food: 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 with 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).
The cost: Entrees range from $14-29, and cocktails start at $12.
The gist: What was once an overzealous preppy bar is now a refined cocktail den that has a seriously impressive menu.
The food: Donahue’s menu was designed by executive chef Antonio Burrell and chef James Duke and features swanky a la carte options like caviar, Cinco Jotas Iberico, truffles, as well as a late-night dessert display. An early favorite is the king crab served with a 62-degree egg on a bed of asparagus ricotta tortellini and topped with salmon roe caviar. After you dine, Donahue encourages you to sit and sip. Handcrafted cocktails, fine wines, and champagnes pair perfectly with the indoor and outdoor lounge settings—a nice addition in Georgetown for a nightcap.
The cost: Dishes range from $12-32 and most cocktails are $14.
How to book: Reservations via Tock
The gist: 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. It’s the latest addition to The Roost and is the first standalone concept from the food hall.
The food: 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, and dessert classics, like New York style cheesecake with strawberry preserves and a transcendent tiramisu. The concept comes from chef Matt Adler who developed the 65-seat concept for its May opening.
The cost: Appetizers from $10-$15, mains from $18-38, desserts $9-10
Little Miner Taco
The gist: After garnering a devoted following for its trendy birria tacos, Little Miner is rapidly expanding across the DMV from food hall stalls in North Bethesda and Brentwood to a soon-to-come takeout spot in Brookland.
The food: Little Miner is best known for its birria tacos, which you can purchase individually alongside a cup of savory beef consomme. But don’t miss other standouts like carne asada fries and quesowrapped burritos. Each location has unique appeal with exclusive menu items like birria ramen at Pike & Rose and birria steak and cheese available from the roving food truck that makes its way through Baltimore.
The cost: Most tacos range from $4-5 each. Sides and sweets like guac and chips, churros, and street corn range from $4-8.
The gist: A “sorta South American” cafe, restaurant, and bar with breakfast tacos and bagels that truly shine.
The food: Mercy Me is the brainchild of two restaurant industry couples—executive chef Johanna Hellrigl (formerly of Doi Moi) and beverage director Micah Wilder (co-owner of Chaplin’s), alongside co-founders Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira of Timber Pizza and Call Your Mother—so you can expect some seriously great eats. Whether you’re looking for breakfast tacos or a bacon, egg, and cheese served up on a CYM bagel for breakfast or anticuchos skewers made with juicy sirloin steak and a refreshing pina colada for happy hour, Mercy Me has you covered. The spot’s all-day vibe means you can order breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with free wifi and plenty of space to mingle with friends.
The cost: Bites range from $4-6, mains range from $10-26, and drinks are around $10 each.
The gist: This Black-owned, takeout kitchen offers tasty fried chicken sandwiches alongside vegan-friendly dishes.
The food: Expect a made-from-scratch meal served up in minutes from this come-and-go, zero-contact takeout spot in Anacostia that is a family affair run by Abigail Opare and her three sons. Crab bites are a nice nod to the region, and you can start off with a few side orders, several of which are vegan friendly, including plantains, sauteed kale with lemon vinegar, and coconut rice. The main attractions are heartier dishes, like fried chicken sandwiches, shrimp and grits, and mac n’ cheese, and vegan options like peanut soup and spinach stew.
The cost: Dishes range from $4-14.
Ada’s on the River
The gist: With a prime location in Old Town and stunning views of the Potomac River, Ada’s on the River opened earlier this year just in time for outdoor dining’s peak.
The food: From the expansive menu to the space’s layout, this restaurant centers around a wood-burning oven in its open-concept kitchen. The culinary team is led by chef Randall Matthews and includes a range of menu options from delicious hors d’oeuvres to multi-course plated meals featuring wood-fired prime steaks, fresh seafood, and vegetarian fare. The most recent addition is the weekday lunch service from 11:30 am to 4 pm.
The cost: $12-46 for most entrees and sides.
The gist: Mediterranean flavors meet contemporary Latin American techniques thanks to chef Enrique Limardo’s bold culinary approach at Imperfecto.
The food: Inside the stunning West End dining room, you can sample seasonal dishes that showcase sustainably sourced ingredients in innovative preparations, including foie gras montadito, with plantain brioche, soursop compote, black truffle, and parmesan, or mussels tart, with potato roulade and almond cream. In addition to the a la carte menu, Imperfecto has an 11-course chef’s table tasting menu that includes Limardo’s expertly curated selection of crudos and other small plates.
The cost: $14-45 for a-la carte dishes and $150 per person at the chef’s table.
How to book: Reservations via Tock
The gist: This neighborhood bar shuttered for several months, but now is back and better than ever serving up quintessential wings and burgers, plus weekend brunch.
The food: Boundary Stone is as close as it gets to DC’s Cheers bar, so when it announced it was closing temporarily last year, several people were worried, and rightfully so. Thankfully, spring has sprung, and so too has this neighborhood restaurant and pub, known for its signature wings, honey hot chicken sandwich, and build-your-own burgers. The latest add-on is brunch, which features cinnamon rolls, French toast, and of course, a breakfast burger.
The cost: Dishes are $9-$24, and the weekend brunch menu features options from $5-21
The gist: The menu is a global array of flavors, and the restaurant supports nonprofit causes channeling donors, volunteers, and groups that support immigrants. The latest addition is a weekend brunch with Mediterrean mezze, Canadian poutine, and Cuban sandwiches.
The food: Chef Enrique Limardo draws most of his inspiration from coastal cuisine in his home country of Venezuela and Caracas street food, but his menu at Immigrant Food is truly global. Limardo has worked in kitchens around the world and his restaurant’s food reflects that with dishes like Madam VP’s heritage bowl that fuses Jamaican and Indian flavors and a Viet Vibes bowl that highlights Vietnamese and Carribean cuisine.
The cost: Sandwiches, bowls, and sides at this fast-casual restaurant range from $8-15 each.
The Red Hen
The gist: Need the comfort of some carbs? The Red Hen is serving hearty bowls of pasta, plus one of the best desserts in DC: a roasted maple panna cotta.
The food: The Red Hen is known for its wood-fired Italian eats and extensive wine list, so it should come as no surprise that the spot recently rolled out a “French Hen” pop-up-themed menu highlighting a variety of wines, from Burgundy to Provance and everywhere in between. New to the food menu this spring is cavatelli with spicy lamb sausage, broccolini, spring onion, chickpeas, and espelette pepper, and baked Semolina gnocchi with parmesan fonduta, toasted pine nuts, and herbs.
The cost: Dishes range from $6-28.
The gist: Nothing will fill you up more than hearty Georgian-style lasagna and cheesy, buttery khachapuri.
The food: This come-as-you-are eatery from the team behind Supra has a budget-friendly menu and quick service style that makes Tabla an all around winner. It’s also a choice spot for breakfast or brunch with a new breakfast khachapuri, adding roasted root vegetables and cheese topped with a fried egg. Also new is the achma, sometimes referred to as Georgian lasagna. It’s a traditional dish made with khachapuri-dough noodles, cheese and butter, and the kitchen at Tabla adds caramelized onions.
The cost: Dishes range $6-15. Add any bottle of wine for $30-60.
The gist: Salvadoran immigrants are smoking the best version of Texas-style barbecue in the DMV at this charming pithouse in Riverdale Park. They also recently announced a new barbecue stall coming to Union Market this summer.
The food: You’re here for the wagyu brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and sausage links. It’s also strongly encouraged that you order in advance or else risk the inevitable sell outs that happen on these dishes daily. Our favorite dish, by far, is the brisket pupusa, which seamlessly blends two cooking traditions together—Salvadoran and American-style barbecue.
The cost: Brisket starts at $12 per half-pound, a full rack of ribs are $27, and pulled pork by the pound is $13.99.
The Duck & The Peach
The gist: With family-style dinners and early morning pastries, this restaurant centers around savory delights sure to fill you up.
The food: The latest addition to Eastern Market is the super stylish eatery The Duck & The Peach. The menu leans heavily on American comfort food and most of the dishes are sourced from local ingredients, celebrating flavor and local farms. During the day, the space is a cafe with patio or to-go service. At night, The Duck & The Peach serves meals to please the entire family, including a butcher steak with bacon salsa verde, marinated brussels sprouts, and pickled onions.
The cost: The cafe has a variety of sandwiches, pastries, and salads that range from $3-12. Dinner entrees range from $7-30.
The gist: After a winter break, this lauded Levant-inspired restaurant reopened for outdoor dining, while sister bakery and cafe, Yellow, has remained open for flaky pastries, pita sandwiches, and a tahini caramel brownie.
The food: Much of the food at Albi comes from the coals of the hearth, like prawns with harissa garlic butter and smoked chicken with corn succotash and pepper tahini. There’s also Turkish-style Manti dumplings from chef Michael Rafidi, while the beverage team has curated an impressive selection of Middle Eastern wines and cocktails, like the Jaffa Orange—a citrus-based drink with vodka, orange juice, Don Ciccio & Figli Mandarinetto, and orange blossom.
The cost: Most dishes range from $15 to $38. Family meals are available for pickup, and a new Habibi Sofra Club dinner series invites notable chefs to the kitchen for a price-fixed experience at $150 per head.
How to order: Make a reservation for outdoor, greenhouse dining or order takeout on Tock. The sofra dinner series is a limited and Resy ticketed experience with invited guests such as Michael Solomonov, Danny Lee, and Michael Mina.
The gist: This innovative restaurant and bar is thriving on U Street with sustainability in mind, from the preparation of each dish to the way your food is packed and delivered to avoid excessive waste.
The food: 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 spring tasting menu features roasted lion's mane mushroom with spring ramps and coco rubico beans, plus many other tasty vegetables, and local oyster dishes. Pair it all with organic and biodynamic wines.
The cost: Tasting menu is $55 per person. Wines range from $22-65.
How to order: Order takeout on Tock. Outdoor dining (weather permitting) available by reservation.
The gist: This Trinidadian restaurant showcases Caribbean street food with a rum shop vibe.
The food: Cane’s menu has tried and true favorites from chef Peter Prime’s former venture, Spark, as well as rotating specials. Think jerk wings and a whole fried snapper, plus an oxtail pepper pot and paratha tiffin boxes, which are stacked stainless steel tins filled with assorted curries and flatbread. Doubles are the ideal street food snack, consisting of bread topped with cumin-spiced chickpeas, and are perfect for this moment, when Cane is only open for takeout and delivery.
The cost: Dishes range from $6-45.
The gist: This all-day cafe situated in the former Heller’s Bakery space is celebrated for more than its baked goods.
The food: Ellē has always been a go-to for daytime fare like coffee, quiche, sandwiches, salads, and a unique selection of sweet and savory pastries and breads, from scones and hand pies to country sourdough and caraway rye loaves. But the restaurant’s dinner service has returned on a takeout basis, so you can enjoy chef Brad Deboy’s lauded kimchi toast and fried chicken sandwich in your own home.
The cost: Food, coffee, wine, and pantry items range from $2-32.
The gist: A fresh culinary team is breathing new life into this fiery Michelin-starred restaurant that showcases the flavors of the Silk Road.
The food: Maydan is currently offering a prix-fixe “Tawle” experience. 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 choice of whole grilled fish, ribeye, or lamb shank. Everything pairs beautifully with the assortment of spice-laden condiments and fresh Georgian bread, and it an be enjoyed at the restaurant or in your own home.
The cost: The menu is $65 per person. Drinks range from $7-15.
How to order: Make an indoor or patio reservation, or order takeout online.
Rooster & Owl
The gist: The farmers’ market dictates the menu at this build-your-own tasting menu restaurant where sharing is encouraged.
The food: The offerings change based on what’s in season, but each guest gets to choose their courses for the tasting menu from a selection of vegetable-forward dishes. Right now, highlights include watermelon with green curry and herbs, ravioli with grilled corn and lemon beurre fondue, seafood paella, and a cornflake bakewell tart.
The cost: The tasting menu is $75 per person with add-ons and beverage pairings available.
The gist: The mother-daughter team formerly behind Toli Moli is continuing its mission to share Burmese food and culture at their full-service restaurant.
The food: The food draws from Burmese family traditions. Starters include cauliflower and onion fritters, chicken salad with fish sauce, and mont phet thoke, a cold rice noodle salad with fish sauce, cabbage, and roasted shrimp powder. A must-try main is the tandoori pan seared tofu served with roasted cauliflower and black sticky rice with sesame salt. Also check out the BIPOC pantry and box sets for condiments, plus beer and wine options that your fridge is missing.
The cost: Dishes range from $10-25.