Food & Drink

An editor's guide to eating around town

Published On 04/18/2013 Published On 04/18/2013
Thrillist DC editor Leo Schmid

With the meat-and-potatoes crowd no longer dominating the DC restaurant scene, the main thing clogging up the heart of the city these days is traffic. Locally sourced ingredients and serious culinary ingenuity are the hallmarks of DC's food scene, so take a step back from Ben's Chili Bowl (just for, like, a day), and follow local editor Leo Schmid's guide to expanding your own beltway in the District's.
Best Italian: Fiola's lobster-filled ravioli in lobster sauce is the kind of date dish that ensures dinner will be followed by even more tail

Best Cheap Eats: The burgers at Shake Shack start at $4.75, and shakes at $5, which might be why New Yorkers spend hours in line at the Central Park location.

Best Chinese: What's the Source of the best Chinese in DC? Well, it's Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in the Newseum, where head chef Scott Dresnow kicks out crispy suckling pig with a black plum puree

Best Eats In A Gas Station: It's hard to believe that you'd stop at a gas station to fuel up on more than petrol, but Fast Gourmet's Cuban sandwich w/ pork butt and kosher pickles will seriously make you question what you were putting in your tank before

Best meal Just North Of The City: Wit and Wisdom in Baltimore would not only destroy me in Mad Libs, but also outclass my taste buds with a bison tartare w/ Heinz consomme & bone marrow

Best Late-Night Eats: New Big Wong. This Chinese restaurant is consistently graced with the presence of post-shift DC chefs filling their belly with curried noodles and crispy beef

Best Sandwich: From two hoagie fanatics, Taylor Gourmet does roasted pork, peppers, onions, and sharp provolone too perfection.

Best For Groups: Take your crew to the spacious bar at Robert Wiedmaier's Brasserie Beck, where raw bar oysters, moules frites, and Belgian beers will cover your delirium tremens

Best for Date Night: Women love Logan Circle and 14th Street. How do I know this? Because I've taken them to Cork restaurant & wine bar. Not only will they appreciate the real world wine descriptions, but they'll also swoon for the avocado crostini and goat-cheese cake

Best for Work Dinner: Perfect for grabbing a bite before hitting the company box with boss, Proof is known for their crispy Pekin duck breast and their collection of over 1,000 vinos. Just make sure the head honcho is picking up the tab

Best Mexican: If you have any room left after devouring table-side-prepared guac and house tortilla chips at Oyamel, you'll probably have to be thrown over a mule and carried out after finishing off their braised short ribs w/ tangy cilantro sauce

Best Tapas: Seated above all the other restaurants around it, for good reason, Boqueria sends out some seriously stellar tapas. I like to grab a seat at the bar and see how many spicey patatas bravas (crispy potatoes/ salsa brava/ roasted garlic allioli) and sea salted shishito peppers I can eat in one sitting

Best Drinking Brunch: L’Enfant Cafe & Bar’s "La Boum" (which translates to “house party”) locks the doors and blasts dance music while everyone sprays Champagne into the air like it was 1999, even though it's actually just 3 o'clock on a Saturda

Best Food Truck: Answering to lines that wrap around whole city blocks, the Red Hook Lobster Truck helps feed DC's never-ending addiction to lobster and shrimp rolls. Being from Maine, the owner has family connections that net him the freshest seafood on the coast

Best Pizza: The H &pizza bros may have gotten the biz down to simple counter service, but the made-on-the-spot 'zas are anything but ho-hum, especially my favorite: the Farmer's Daughter, w/ spicy tomato, hot sausage, and farm eggs

Best Indian: With two locations, Rasika is my favorite modern Indian here in DC. The West End version slings some serious young goat biryani w/ saffron & raita

Best BBQ: Disclaimer: I'm from North Carolina. When I'm looking for a good fix, I head over to The Standard, where I squeeze into a picnic table, hum Carolina In My Mind, and chow down on their pulled pork.

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1. Boqueria 1837 M St NW, Washington, DC 20036 (Dupont Circle)

This sexy Dupont Circle tapas bar boasts a vast selection of authentic small bites and great wines.

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2. Fiola 601 Penn Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Penn Quarter)

This modern Italian Trattoria has perpetually-changing lunch and dinner menus, an upscale cocktail list, and an extensive collection of wines compiled from Italy, Spain, France and the US.

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3. Shake Shack 1216 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20036 (Dupont Circle)

It's a widely known fact that Shake Shack flips some of the best burgers in the nation. It's a straightforward, near-perfect creation: a Black Angus beef patty topped with American cheese, tomato, lettuce, and "Shack Sauce," served on a grilled potato bun -- for $5. The burgers are the true stars here, but don't overlook their fries, dogs, and especially their shakes. It's in the name, after all.

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4. Fast Gourmet 1400 W St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (U Street)

Sometimes lunchtime glory can be found in the most unexpected of places, and in Fast Gourmet's case, that's alongside a grungy gas station. Instead of cigarettes and lottery tickets, you'll find a counter serving Latin-influenced "urban street food," which means sandwiches like the Milanesa with New York strip, golden empanadas, and pulled pork with pineapple and lemongrass slaw. All the sandwiches come with a side of fries, and the only thing you have to pump is your ketchup.

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5. Wit and Wisdom 200 International Dr, Baltimore, MD 21202 (Baltimore)

Located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, this upscale Michael Mina seafood establishment focuses on local flavors and contemporary cuisine for which the area is known.

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6. Taylor Gourmet 7280 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814 (Bethesda)

Taylor's third spot's decked out with the familiar gas-barrel light fixtures and garage-door walls, and is serving up all the same Philly-themed 'wiches you know and love.

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7. Brasserie Beck 1101 K St NW, Washington, DC 20005

From noted chef Robert Wiedmaier comes the European-style Brasserie Beck in McPherson Square. Brews include classic Belgian styles like dubbels, tripels, and saisons, while eats count options like a ratatouille crepe, classic steak frites with bearnaise and bordelaise, and Maine lobster pappardelle. Maine is notably not in Belgium, but doesn't that sound damn good?

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8. Cork Wine Bar 1720 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Logan Circle)

Imagine you're at a swanky bar, where there is wine by the hundreds and above you a woman is explaining its origin and content, get this, unpretentiously. And then you decide you want to indulge your sweet tooth with a warm apple crostada topped with bourbon vanilla ice cream, you would be, my friend, at Cork Wine Bar.

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9. Proof 775 G St, NW , Washington, DC , DC 20001 (Penn Quarter)

Proof is an award-winning restaurant located in DC's Penn Quarter. Go for Mediterranean and Asian-influenced American cuisine, and try their famous crispy Peking duck breast. While you're at it, order a fine port from its thousand-plus wine list.

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10. Oyamel Cocina Mexicana 401 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Penn Quarter)

From Spanish native José Andrés comes Oyamel, a lively and bold Penn Quarter restaurant. The menu draws from Mexico's rich regional diversity, offering up a huge variety of small plates, tacos, and an Oxacan speciality called Chapulines that features -- get this -- sautéed grasshoppers. Dig in, bro.

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11. L'Enfant Café 2000 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

If the miniature Eiffel Tower on the roof is any indication, this Adams Morgan bar and cafe is a little piece of Paris in DC. Open from 6pm to 12am during the week (and 1am on Fridays), L'Enfant is a great place to go for a glass of wine and a late bite (the menu is classic French with crepes, steak frites, and duck confit). Its claim to fame, though, is the weekend party brunch. The so-called La Boum Brunch is a three-hour Saturday and Sunday event that takes brunch to the next-level with a DJ, champagne, and plenty of dancing. Reservations are required and it fills up fast, so book a few weekends ahead of time.

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12. &Pizza 1118 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002 (H Street Ne)

This popular DC pizzeria is baking some of the best pies in the city and simultaneously giving your late-night slice conquests some legitimacy by also offering craft beers.

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13. Rasika West End 1177 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 (West End)

Rasika is an elegantly designed contemporary Indian restaurant with a boundary-pushing menu that still keeps its roots in traditional Indian cuisine. Its wine list also spans across the globe and is hand-selected to complement the menu.

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14. Garden District 1801 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (U Street)

A no frills beer and barbecue joint, Garden District has picnic-style dining and some seriously smokey sandwiches. They have an outdoor beer garden overflowing with German and Bavarian brews that pair perfectly with a rack of ribs, but make sure you get there early since everything is made in-house, they close early when they run out of BBQ.

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15. The Source 575 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Penn Quarter)

The name Wolfgang Puck attached to this Penn Quarter restaurant should tell you two things right off the bat -- this place isn't messing around with its culinary technique, and dinner here isn't going for cheap. The sleek dining area, brightened by cheerful yellow accents and floor-to-ceiling windows, is always full of people (many of whom are tourists, given the location) vying for a taste of Asian-inspired cuisine like chili oil-poached Nordic Cod or soy-marinated lamb chops. On the other side of the restaurant, the bar and lounge are a little bit calmer and offer a slew of classic and specialty cocktails along with, of course, an impressive wine list.



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