Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in Washington, DC Right Now

Updated On 04/02/2018 at 05:04PM EST Updated On 04/02/2018 at 05:04PM EST
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Cortez

Cortez

Shaw

Colorful taco spot with a rooftop bar
Named after the Sea of Cortez, this restaurant and tequila bar from the Takoda team is channeling Baja California. The menu stars tacos, with fillings like beer-battered fish and citrus pork shoulder. They’re accompanied by staple starters like guacamole and elote. To drink, there’s tequila, rum, Latin-American beer, classic Mexican cocktails, and frozen drinks. The cactus-adorned roof deck is equipped with umbrellas, wool blankets, and gas heaters, so you can enjoy a paloma or a frozen margarita any time of year. Throughout the space, airy white brick walls and wood tables are livened up by splashes of bright colors and custom art by a San Francisco muralist.

Fancy Radish

Fancy Radish

H Street Corridor

Philly transplant where vegetables reign
Philadelphia’s Vedge Restaurant Group has sprouted up in DC with a new concept that’s all about plant-based cooking. It takes after the elegant, chef-driven Vedge, which pushes the boundaries of vegetables, but it will also have similarities to the street food at V Street. Expect the unexpected, with unique preparations that elevate produce, like rutabaga fondue or dan dan noodles with zucchini and oyster mushrooms. The bar will be stocked with cocktails, draft beers, and natural wines.

Mi Vida

Mi Vida

The Wharf

Mexican cuisine (with a dash of history) on display at the waterfront
This addition to The Wharf takes after its chef’s hometown, Mexico City, a mixing bowl of cultures and cuisines. KNEAD Hospitality + Design and Roberto Santibañez of Fonda in New York City have pulled from diverse regions across Mexico to develop Mi Vida. The menu ranges from ceviches and tacos to zesty enchiladas and roasted meats from the hearth. The spirits selection is ambitious, with more than 130 tequilas and mezcals, plus refreshing cocktails and frozen drinks that pair perfectly with the views of the Potomac from the patio or rooftop terrace. The three-level restaurant is a massive 11,000 square feet, with a clay “Tree of Life” that climbs toward the ceiling. Each floor of the space represents a period in the country’s history, from colonial furniture to Mayan designs.

Greg Powers

Sababa

Cleveland Park

Modern Israeli cuisine from powerhouse restaurateur
Ashok Bajaj closed Cleveland Park fixture Ardeo in February to make room for an entirely new concept, Sababa, which debuted less than a month later. The name comes from the Hebrew slang for cool, so this spot takes a chic, modern approach to Israeli cuisine, with influences from the Middle East, Turkey, and Greece. The menu consists of everything from hummus and mezze to vegetables and kabobs, with highlights like garlic labne, fried cauliflower, roasted halumi, harissa-marinated chicken, shakshuka, and a ridiculously tender lamb shank. The wine list focuses on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean varietals, and there’s a handful of cocktails made with Israeli spices. The space is meant to feel like the port of Tel Aviv, with canvas sails and hanging glass light fixtures on the ceiling and a wooden arbor-like design draped in string lights over the bar.

TacoArepa and Frida

Bethesda

Fast-casual Caribbean and Latin American eatery and beer garden
Alvaro and Alonso Roche, the chefs and brothers behind 202 Donuts and Bold Bite, are tapping into their heritage with two concepts that showcase Caribbean and Latin American flavors. TacoArepa is a fast-casual spot with tacos, arepas, bowls, and salads that are influenced by the brothers’ childhood in Venezuela and the West Indies. Neighboring Frida Beer Garden will serve Latin beers and tropical cocktails under globe string lights, along with games like dominoes and corn hole.

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Daniel Krieger Photography

A Rake's Progress

Adams Morgan

Ingredients from the Chesapeake region shine at Spike Gjerde’s DC debut
Local food crusader chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore lets his culinary philosophy of sustainability take center stage at his first DC restaurant, A Rake’s Progress, inside The Line Hotel. From the moment you take your seat and receive a menu kissed with a wax seal, the attention to detail is intensely apparent. Inside the menu, you’ll find an assortment of dishes, most of which come from the wood-burning hearth that runs all evening and then gently cooks potatoes in the dying embers overnight. Everything that hits your table, from the salt and butter on whole-grain bread, to the trout on a log, or the fried quail with gochujang, is sourced from the mid-Atlantic region. Even sparse citrus at the bar and sorghum (instead of sugarcane) in the desserts are from local suppliers. (Of course, there are rare exceptions, like coffee from Counter Culture and a few international wines, but those are subject to strict vetting.) Make a reservation and get ready for a performance, because many dishes are presented whole before being carved or prepared at the nearby carving station.

Scott Suchman

All-Purpose

Shaw

Jersey-style Italian eats that will take you to back to the shore
This neighborhood Italian-American joint comes from the masterminds who brought you The Red Hen and Boundary Stone. Simply put, eating here is like getting a hug from your nonna. Pizza is the focus, and crust hits all the right notes, striking a balance between sweet and savory and crispy and chewy. Choose from more traditional Italian preparations, or American interpretations. But don’t overlook the ultra-comforting Jersey-style baked eggplant Parm or the classic tuna mousse. Always order dessert, because the sweet treats come from Shaw neighbor, Buttercream Bakeshop.

Courtesy of Bad Saint

Bad Saint

Columbia Heights

Filipino gem that draws curious eaters from around the country
Bad Saint opened quietly, but since then, it’s been anything but quiet. The tiny, no-reservations restaurant quickly became a local darling, with daily lines stretching down the block. It also won over the national and international food authorities, earning a Michelin Bib Gourmand award, a spot on Bon Appétit’s Hot 10 list, and a rave review from The New York Times. If you’re trying to snag a table, you’d best show up at least two hours before opening, or try your luck and check for last-minute vacancies around closing time. The hassle will be well worth it once you sink your teeth into traditional Filipino dishes like kinilaw, tapa with a runny egg, and ukoy.

Courtesy of Pineapple and Pearl

Pineapple and Pearls

Barracks Row

Shell out for a night of upscale indulgence
With a name that nods to hospitality (the pineapple) and elegance (the pearls), it’s no wonder rockstar chef Aaron Silverman’s most luxurious endeavor is a smash hit. You don’t even have to wait in line, like at Silverman’s eldest child, Rose’s Luxury. The elaborate, wonder-filled tasting menu wowed Michelin -- they awarded Pineapple and Pearls a cool two stars. Of course, it comes at a price. It’s $280 for a parade of courses, inclusive of beverages, food, tax, and tip. If you want to save a little dough, you can sit at the bar and get away with paying $180 for your meal (drinks are extra).

Courtesy of Tail Up Goat

Tail Up Goat

Adams Morgan

Carbs are king at this Mediterranean-leaning gathering place
This Michelin-starred restaurant from Komi and Little Serow alums has been turning heads since it opened. The peculiar name is a nod to co-owner Jill Tyler’s childhood home, the US Virgin Islands, where locals distinguish between goats and sheep based on the position of their tails. (Tail up goat; tail down sheep). The menu devotes an entire course to creative bread preparations, and showstoppers are found in the pasta and entree courses, with impeccable house-made noodles and delightfully messy lamb ribs.

Rey Lopez

Hazel

Shaw

Global small plates get an extra kick from house-made hot sauce
Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Shaw outpost is helmed by chef Rob Rubba. The mouthwatering list of small plates is full of tough decisions. Favorites include Grandma Hazel’s zucchini bread with foie gras mousse, Korean-inspired gnocchi, and the steak tartare with Tater Tots, which is best enjoyed after mashing it all together with a wooden spoon (as per chef Rubba’s recommendation). Fire Panda, the house-made hot sauce served in adorable bear-shaped squeeze bottles, is steadily building a cult following.

minibar by José Andrés

minibar by José Andrés

Downtown

Out-of-the-box techniques with a sky-high price tag
Already legendary, minibar still manages to up the ante over time. Chef José Andrés added a new jewel to his crown after his extravagant tasting menu experience won two Michelin stars in the inaugural DC guide. The fantastical experience can run you upwards of $1,200 for two diners if you go all out, but you’ll get your money’s worth, with all the ooh-ing and ahh-ing over what can only be described as a culinary magic show. If you want a sample of minibar’s luxury without the price tag, you can always have a few drinks at barmini, the adjacent cocktail lab.

April Greer/Thrillist

Colada Shop

Sterling

A cheap place for outdoor vibes, delicious Cuban sandwiches, and coffee
Mixology showman Juan Coronado and his team now have two locations of Colada Shop, one in Sterling, Virginia and one in the city. The urban outpost -- modeled after Miami's ventanitas -- is right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the U Street and 14th Street corridors, but it’s a perfectly private hideaway to refuel with seriously strong coffee, flaky pastelitos, stuffed empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, and plantain chips. The craft cocktails here are on point, and their $8 price tag is a welcome change of pace around these parts.

Himitsu

Petworth

Eccentric first-time restaurant owners delight diners with crudos, sherry, and more
Its name means secret in Japanese, but the word is out about Himitsu, a 24-seat no-reservations spot from first-time restaurateurs Carlie Steiner and Kevin Tien. The pair might be new to restaurant ownership, but together they have decades of experience under their belts from working at top establishments like barmini, Pineapple and Pearls, and more. Tien’s menu is Japanese-inspired with other Southeast Asian and Latin American influences, and zingy crudos stand out from the crowd. Steiner has managed to curate a beverage program that incorporates unusual Spanish products and esoteric wines, but is still approachable for the less adventurous drinker.

Kobo

Chevy Chase

Restaurant-within-a-restaurant serving artistic Japanese tasting menus
One of the area’s hottest spots is just an eight-seat counter within Sushiko in Chevy Chase. The adventurous mini restaurant offers 12-15-course vegan and non-vegan kappo tasting menus, which change seasonally. Dining at this intimate counter is like a night at the theater, as the chefs unveil beautiful, unique creations like liquidy spheres of fruit and tofu with seaweed caviar. The vegan menu, served Tuesdays, runs you $130, while the non-vegan is available Thursday through Saturday for $160.

Courtesy of ChiKo

Chiko

Capitol Hill

Fast, casual, irreplaceable Chinese and Korean fusion
When two of the city’s favorite slingers of Asian cuisine joined forces in the kitchen, magical things happened. Chefs Danny Lee (of Mandu) and Scott Drewno (formerly of The Source), along with Drew Kim (of Matchbox Food Group) formed the Fried Rice Collective to open ChiKo on Barracks Row. It may be a fast-casual joint, but the food is a far cry from a #boringdesklunch. The menu defies categorization, with Korean and Chinese influences and techniques blended together in ways that only Lee and Drewno could dream up. Standouts include the blue catfish fried rice, the double-fried chicken wings, and a rice bowl topped with Wagshal's chopped brisket. You can order a few dishes to try, or make the wise choice and sit at the counter to sample the entire menu for $50.

Rey Lopez

Maydan

14th Street Corridor

A lively mix of flavors from across the Silk Road
Down an alley off Florida Avenue, Maydan’s unassuming façade hides a world of flavors, smells, and sounds that have landed in DC by way of the Silk Road. Rose Previte’s vision for Maydan was to create a space that embodies the restaurant’s name, a word used across cultures to mean town square. The attention to detail in the two-story space anchored by a massive copper hearth is beyond impressive, with patinaed walls, dangling greenery, and vibrant hues throughout. The meat, seafood, and vegetables come straight from the fire, and are met with fresh Georgian bread and spice-laden condiments and spreads from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus.

Del Mar

Del Mar

The Wharf

Spanish seafood on the Wharf from the Trabocchis
If you thought Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s restaurants couldn’t get any more opulent, think again. Their latest waterfront property at the Wharf is a glass palace, filled with custom tile work, imported aquatic art, and hundreds of delicate vases. The menu features coastal Spanish cuisine inspired by Maria’s roots. Start with an epic seafood tower presented on a platter shaped like an octopus, then dig in to jamón, pan de cristal, and Mallorcan sobrasada, made according to Maria’s family recipe. The paellas are massive and served tableside for an added touch of class. Pair it all with an artfully infused gin and tonic or perhaps a drink served in a glass sea urchin.

Kith and Kin

The Wharf

Afro-Caribbean cuisine by the waterfront
After Shaw Bijou -- the restaurant closing heard round the world -- chef Kwame Onwuachi did some soul searching and has made a triumphant return to the kitchen cooking food that represents his heritage. At his new digs in the InterContinental Hotel, he’s serving Afro-Caribbean cuisine like curried goat with fresh roti, Brussels sprouts coated in suya spice, and a seafood plateau with bigeye tuna kitfo. He also tips his hat to his family’s culinary traditions with peel-and-eat shrimp made with his mother’s spice blend, and a gumbo just like he remembers it from childhood. Cocktails are all about the rum, so you can toast to the Caribbean.

@BurgerDays and Jody Fellows

Lucky Buns

Adams Morgan

Towering burgers from around the world
In all of chef Alex McCoy’s global travels, he’s always managed to find a great burger. That’s the inspiration for Lucky Buns, which is influenced by the cuisine of Southeast Asia, the UK, and Australia. This compact burger shop has a laser focus, with an assortment of beef or chicken stacks, chips (aka British fries), and salads. You won’t find any basic burgers though. The buns are loaded with international flavors, like karashi slaw, Sichuan peppercorn spice paste, bacon XO jam, and masala harissa. Fans of McCoy’s previous projects will appreciate the Alfie’s Bun, with pineapple, pickled beetroot, and lucky sauce.

Scott Suchman

Tiger Fork

Shaw

Hong Kong street food and cocktails inspired by Chinese medicine
The minds behind The Fainting Goat have brought Hong Kong to Blagden Alley with Tiger Fork. Their menu puts a modern, global spin on street food, traditional dim sum, and Chinese classics, which are all served family-style to encourage sharing. The dining room has a long communal table where guests can savor kowloon buns, cheung fun, dan dan noodles, and barbecue. The drinks take after traditional Chinese medicinal techniques that rely on on herbal teas and tonics, so it’s a great place to find some alternative flu therapy.

Rey Lopez

Bresca

U Street Corridor

Hip bistro covered in honeycomb designs and serving crave-worthy pastas
Quirky doesn’t even begin to describe what chef Ryan Ratino and his team have going at their hotspot on 14th Street. The restaurant subscribes to the Parisian movement of “bistronomy” (bistro + gastronomy), which is what you get when you cross upscale French culinary techniques with a casual bistro. At Bresca, that translates to imaginative takes on classic dishes and out-there decor. So far, the decadent rotating pasta dishes have stolen the show. The name literally means honeycomb in Spanish, so bees and hexagons are featured prominently inside the place. The interior is sophisticated but kooky, with goldfish heads, preserved moss, and Animorphs-like illustrations adorning the walls.

Andrew Cebulka

The Dabney

Shaw

Hyper-local, hearth-fired fare from the Mid-Atlantic
A champion of Mid-Atlantic cuisine, chef Jeremiah Langhorne opened The Dabney with a mission to define the region’s culinary identity. He’s doing that by focusing on hardcore hyperlocality in the kitchen. For all the extreme measures he goes to, there’s no sacrificing flavor just because you won’t find imported olives or Alaskan king crab on the menu. His dishes sing the praises of seasonal ingredients that can be grown or foraged in the area. Most of the food prepared in the Michelin-starred kitchen come out of the massive wood-burning hearth, which is quite a presence in the dining room.

Whaley's

Whaley's

Navy Yard

Seafood shrine that puts sustainability first
The menu at Whaley’s reads like a love letter to the water, which makes sense since this oyster bar has a front row seat on the Anacostia River. Aquatic offerings rotate based on what’s available, but expect to find raw treasures like littleneck clams and Chesapeake Bay oysters, as well as small, medium, and large seafood towers that beg to be Instagrammed. As an added bonus, the River Keeper oyster from Rappahannock River Oysters is sold exclusively at Whaley’s, and a portion of the proceeds go to restoring the Anacostia. The restaurant also turns all their shells over to the Oyster Recovery Partnership to be used for breeding new oysters.

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1. All Purpose 1250 9th St NW, Washington, 20001

All-Purpose brings together some pedigreed partners: the teams behind the dynamite Red Hen and neighborhood bar Boundary Stone. Together, they’ve created an Italian-American, red sauce-inspired joint, serving everything from eggplant parm and antipastis to house-made charcuterie. And don’t miss the pizzas: the dough goes through a three-day fermentation process that yields a naturally rich flavor and a crispy crust.

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2. Bad Saint 3226 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

This tiny 24-seat Filipino restaurant made waves in the restaurant world when it opened in 2016, earning a Michelin Bib Gourmand award, a spot on Bon Appétit’s Hot 10 list, and a rave review from The New York Times. Bad Saint's family-style dishes are hard to describe: they're traditional but different from all other Filipino food that classifies as traditional. The menu -- split between vegetables, fish, and meat -- changes often, but expect to find ukoy shrimp fritters, ceviche-like kinilaw, and air-dried cured beef with a runny farm egg. Getting a table at the no-reservations spot is historically not easy (on peak nights, you have to stand in line for more than an hour) but the experience is worth it.

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3. Pineapple and Pearls 715 8th St SE, Washington, 20003

From Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury, Pineapple and Pearls is a luxurious dining experience that nods to hospitality and elegance. The Capitol Hill restaurant opened in 2016 and was awarded two Michelin stars soon after, a recognition that should come as no surprise given Silverman's opening mission to reinvent fine dining. The 13-course tasting menu doesn't stick to one theme, instead, it features an array of avant garde courses that bounce between light and heavy. Dinner here comes with a heavy price tag, but there is a casual coffee bar in the front that serves sandwiches, pastries, and coffee during the day.

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4. Rose's Luxury 717 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Situated in a converted townhouse on Capitol Hill, Rose's Luxury is a twinkle-lit, farmhouse-chic restaurant that draws crowds for its bold small plates. Unfortunately for those crowds, it doesn't accept reservations. Get here early for dinner and you can nab a front-row seat at the chef's counter overlooking the open kitchen, where shareable dishes like Thai-marinated pork blade steak and boudin-stuffed jalapeño are prepared with precision.

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5. Tail Up Goat 1827 Adams Mill Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009

This Michelin-starred Adams Morgan restaurant from Komi and Little Serow alums offers a funky Caribbean-meets-Mediterranean menu that'll encourage you to expand your culinary horizons. Admittedly, some of Tail Up Goat's dishes are wacky (goat lasagna with kale and anchovies), but they work. A portion of the menu is dedicated to creative bread preparations, like seaweed sourdough and bialys with trout roe, but the pasta and entrées are the real showstoppers. Try the cavatelli with spicy pork belly ragu and the tender lamb ribs... then savor the taste, you might never come across flavors this unique again.

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6. Hazel 808 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Headed up by one of our 2016 chefs-to-watch, Rob Rubba, Hazel is a warm and inviting space featuring artisan tableware, and offers an outstanding menu with influences stretching from Japan to South America. If you're in the mood to share, you and at least one other guest can opt for the Duck Duck platter, Rubba's specialty: peking-style duck, crispy wings, confit fried rice, and mixed greens. Or, if you really can't decide, go for the Chef's 7 and let the kitchen bring you its choices.

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7. Minibar by José Andrés 855 E St NW, Washington, DC 20004

The name of this Penn Quarter restaurants speaks not only to its food, but also it's seating situation -- there are only 12. Needless to say, Barmini's notoriously hard to secure a reservation at (calling won't work anymore, they use email exclusively now so they can use the timestamps to determine who asked first), and also notoriously expensive (meals go upward from $250 a person). But you're not planning and paying for just a meal, no -- you're paying for a once-in-a-lifetime experience in avant garde cuisine with no menu; Jose Andres makes whatever he feels fit for the night, and probably won't ever make the same thing twice.

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14. Chiko 423 8th St SE, Washington, 20003

Two of the city’s favorite slingers of Asian cuisine joined forces in the kitchen, and people are already losing their shit. Chefs Danny Lee (of Mandu) and Scott Drewno (formerly of The Source) open ChiKo on Barracks Row, a fast casual joint, but the food is a far cry from a boring desk lunch. With Korean and Chinese influences, you can order a few dishes to go, or make the right choice and sit at the counter to sample the entire menu for $50.