Everywhere You Need to Eat Right Now in Washington DC

Killer Texas-style barbecue, top-notch omakase, and more.

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 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 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 and our never-fail favorites that have been chugging along through trials and tribulations for the past year and a half. 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.

Daru

H Street

The gist: The hotly anticipated restaurant from Suresh Sundas and Dante Datta (both formerly with Rasika) is now open at the corner of Maryland Avenue and H Street, NE, and so far, the buzz has brought lines of people starting at the 5 pm seating and continuing all night long.

The food: Daru is inspired by the history, culture, and flavors of India. The menu has classic dishes like chicken tikka masala, paneer pesto korma, and wild mushroom biryani. But there are also several nontraditional “Indian-ish” takes, like desi guacamole served with naan chips and a roasted sweet potato and cauliflower salad. The bridge to India also extends to the bar, where spices and flavors transform cocktails, like the Hari Daiquiri which calls for rum, lime, mint, cilantro, and kefir—it’s a drink inspired by the taste of green chutney.

The cost: Dishes range from $16-26. Sides are $6-12. Cocktails are $14, and dessert is $8.

How to book: Dinner is first-come, first-serve for indoor and patio dining from 5-10 pm

Crazy Aunt Helen’s
PHOTO BY ABDUL RAHMAN MAJEEDI, courtesy of Crazy Aunt Helen's

The gist: Crazy Aunt Helen’s is the latest addition to Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row, and it brings a homey, eclectic vibe with Southern flair to the block. Chef Mykie Moll is a DC native who wants you to feel as if you’re eating at grandma’s house. That means there’s tender love and care built into every dish.

The food: The menu includes family-inspired dishes like Bega’s Brisket, a version of Moll’s grandmother’s traditional Jewish-style brisket with horseradish aioli, mashed potatoes, and carrot vichy. In addition to comfort food, the menu reflects seasonal ingredients, as well as vegan options, like a vegan-style crab cake with smoked asparagus, redskin potatoes and hollandaise sauce. Crazy Aunt Helen’s serves lunch and dinner, and starting this month, will host dinner-and-a-show performances on the second floor stage.

The cost: Main dishes range from $16-$32.

How to book: Reservations via website

The gist: Let the smell of smoked meat be your guide to this modern barbecue restaurant, which recently hit its one year anniversary in Clarendon. Andrew Darneille and Wayne Thompson Jr. are the pitmaster and sous chef duo. Their award-winning techniques are tested and perfected on the competition circuit, and the team is continuously evolving to push the boundaries of barbecue.

The food: Darneille believes in a “golden rule” that all food must be touched by fire or smoke, and so the entire menu reflects this mandate. Appetizers include fire-grilled artichokes, which are poached in white wine and served with smoked garlic oil and garlic aioli, brisket egg rolls, and cherry-wood smoked bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper. No order is complete without ribs and Darneille offers his competition-style baby back ribs (in half or full racks), featuring prairie fresh USDA prime grade ribs that have been cherry-wood smoked.

The cost: Sandwiches range in price from $15-$20, entrees from $20-$45 and sides are $8 each.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

The gist: This is an outstanding seasonally driven menu featuring sustainably sourced produce from the Mid-Atlantic plus several house-made preserves.

The food: Shilling Canning Company recently introduced an expanded seven-course 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. Jacob Weinstein, Shilling's beverage director and general manager, 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.

The cost: The seven course tasting menu is $95 with an optional beverage pairing for $55. Meanwhile, the three course tasting menu is $55, plus $35 for beverage pairings. And main a-la-carte dishes range from $28-$46.

Available for Reservations

2fifty

Riverdale Park

The gist: Salvadoran immigrants are smoking the best version of Texas-style barbecue in the DMV at this charming pithouse in Riverdale Park, which recently opened a vendor stall in Union Market.

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. A 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 is $27, and pulled pork by the pound is $13.99.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Albi

Navy Yard

The gist: This lauded Levant-inspired restaurant reopened for outdoor and indoor 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.

How to book: Make a reservation for outdoor or indoor dining or order takeout on Tock. The Sofra dinner series is a limited and Resy ticketed experience.

Nara-Ya

The Wharf

The gist: Meet your sushi date night spot over at The Wharf. The sleek, waterside digs have already become a mainstay since the restaurant and are only beat by Nara-Ya’s menu, which features Japanese cuisine from two extremely talented chefs—DC’s chef Kaz Okochi (KAZ Sushi Bistro) and Lucas Irwin, who studied under Iron Chef celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto.

The food: The menu is centered on modern and classic dishes from Japanese cuisine. Take for instance the umami-laden tofu and shitake mushroom steak, marinated in a lemongrass miso glaze, or the colorful vegetable futomaki, a mosaic-style sushi roll made with seasonal vegetables. Sake and Japanese whiskey tastings are also popular thanks to a versatile and extensive list.

The cost: Small plates range from $12-24. Entrees from $24-45. The five-course omakase is $85 per person and the chef’s luxury omakase is $155.

Available for Reservations

Queen’s English

Columbia Heights

The gist: This husband and wife team run a Cantonese-style restaurant serving Hong Kong cuisine with a twist. The dining room is well dressed and the perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion.

The food: Chef Henji Cheung grew up eating and cooking traditional Cantonese and Hakkanese dishes with his family. The 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.

The cost: Main dishes range from $14-$29. Wines are $14-$18 by the glass. Cocktails are $15.

How to book: Reservations via website

Dauphine’s
Photo by Jen Chase, courtesy of Dauphine

Dauphine’s

Downtown

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.

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

Caruso’s Grocery

Capitol Hill

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

Available for Reservations

Little Miner Taco

Multiple locations

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 queso-wrapped 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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Mercy Me

West End

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

Maydan

14th Street

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 can be enjoyed at the restaurant or in your own home.

The cost: The Twale menu is $65 per person. Drinks range from $7-15.

How to book: Make an indoor or patio reservation via website

Open Crumb

Anacostia

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Rooster & Owl

Columbia Heights

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.

Available for Reservations

Boundary Stone

Bloomingdale

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

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations
Immigrant Food
Immigrant Food | Photo Courtesy of Immigrant Food

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 Mediterranean 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 Caribbean cuisine.

The cost: Sandwiches, bowls, and sides at this fast-casual restaurant range from $8-15 each.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Tabla

Park View

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

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 $75 per person. Wines range from $22-65.

Ellē

Mount Pleasant

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Thamee
Thamee | Photo by April Greer for Thrillist

Thamee

H Street

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 dish 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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
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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