In case you hadn’t heard, DC is no longer a city of overcooked steaks and wilted salads. The capital’s formerly stodgy dining scene has evolved into a foodie paradise—the best restaurants in DC are now some of the best restaurants in America. As old-time classics have taken permanent spots across the city, the best new restaurants in DC have slowly garnered recognition as well—rendering our capital a must-visit for all, and not just because of the much talked about best Washington DC attractions. Eat your way through the bounty with our list and make sure to wash each meal down with a cocktail from the best bars in DC.
Best restaurants in DC
Local chef Aaron Silverman’s two-story Barrack’s Row joint is worth every little bit of the buzz it’s getting. Rose’s doesn’t take reservations and a line forms at 4pm on weekends for a 5:30 seating; but don’t let this be too offputting. Rose’s menu is Southern meets Jewish meets Japanese meets French meets Thai meets your grandmother’s home cooking, and changes often. If you manage to get inside, immediately order the cocktail made with apple cider and brisket fat-washed moonshine (yes, you read that correctly), then wrap your hands around a bowl of Silverman’s pork and lychee salad. The Southern-style fried chicken drizzled with honey and doused with sesame seeds is crisp, moist, delicious, and our new best friend.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/T. Tseng
Johnny Monis is gathering quite a following for himself in his tiny Dupont Circle restaurant. Komi’s low-key dining room, a straight shot from front window to kitchen window, is home to some of the most adventurous eating in the city; the youthful chef is essaying New American cuisine with nods to his Mediterranean heritage and whatever else strikes his fancy. But neither he nor his staff of personable, fashionable servers is lacking in discipline; just as his talent is for showcasing unusual ingredients without showboating, theirs is for putting guests at ease with the ever-changing menu. Foodies will be talking about Monis’s suckling pig for years. See also Power Points.
When chef Fabio Trabocchi opened Fiola in 2011, he quickly established his new trattoria as the place to go in Washington for exquisite, sumptuous Italian. Pastas, naturally, are the stars of the menu, especially the tender pappardelle with bolognese ragu. But seafood plays a strong supporting role, and the bar offers a serious cocktail menu, including six different variations on the negroni. An order of bomboloni—Sardinian-style ricotta donuts—is a fitting end to a decadent evening.
Johnny Monis was just 24 when he opened Komi, the Greek-inspired restaurant that vaulted him to culinary stardom. For his second place, Little Serow, he took inspiration from northern Thailand. As at Komi, there is no menu; $45 gets you a family-style meal of about seven dishes. Flavors are bright and bold, and the heat can be intense. The menu changes weekly, but dishes might include snakehead fish with bamboo shoots and rice powder or pork ribs with whiskey and dill. The restaurant can only accommodate groups of up to four and doesn’t take reservations, but the staff will text you when a table frees up.
This pearl of the Georgetown waterfront comes from Fabio Trabocchi, the same deft chef behind Fiola and Casa Luca. It’s hard to focus on your meal with welcome distractions like docking boats or glistening chandeliers in the opulent dining room (maritime kitsch need not apply). But dishes like olive oil-poached Maine halibut and a whole dole carved tableside hold your attention. For the full rigmarole, order a seafood tower that puts Pisa to shame. The stack is brimming with cooked and raw shellfish, bivalves and more served chilled atop crushed ice. This is definitely the place for a special occasion—with a price tag to match.
Marcel’s is the kind of restaurant that you’d expect to find on Pennsylvania Avenue: exquisite food, beautifully served in a sumptuous dining room by adept professionals. Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s Flemish-inflected French fare manages the classical balance of taste and textures: subtle versus sharp-flavored, savory versus sweet, generous versus leaving you wanting more. Boudin blanc with black mushroom truffle purée and truffle madeira sauce is exemplary, and a gratin of mussels with Chimay, salsify and bacon is a blast of intense flavors. The servers get extra points for friendliness: even if you’re not one of the place’s traditional, old-money clients, they’ll still treat you as if you were.
Bad Saint, which opened officially in early September 2015, was destined to be a hit: It specializes in so-hot-right-now Filipino food; it comes from the same venerable team behind Room 11; and the tiny space—decorated with flea market finds and mix-matched China—is impossibly cozy. (Some may even say cramped. Tables are limited to parties of four or fewer.) Filipino food-lovers will appreciate both the classics, such as lumpia and bitter melon salad, as well as lesser-known dishes, like tuna jaw with calamansi.
Izakaya Seki is tucked into an unassuming and narrow, two-floor row house. Choose to eat upstairs in the dining room or downstairs at the chef’s bar. Either choice is equally no-frills; coat hooks are just about the only décor. Once seated, you’ll be hard-pressed not to salivate, either over plates arriving at neighboring tables or by what the robata cooks behind the bar are turning over a low flame. The chef’s rotating sashimi selection is explosively rich (note: the wasabi here is fresh), and the seasonal miso soup (recently served with assorted roasted mushrooms) is not to be missed. From the main menu, order the slow-grilled octopus. The salmon roe hand roll—with its barely warm rice and fresh roe—will put you in a state of nirvana. In short: Izakaya Seki deserves a deep bow of respect.
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne (formerly the chef de cuisine at the much-lauded McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C.) takes a near-obsessive approach to local sourcing at his long-awaited mid-Atlantic restaurant in Blagden Alley. His dishes come steeped in history and are made primarily using produce grown (and foraged) nearby, including the rooftop garden. The interior feels almost barn-ish—albeit much more chic—with dark wood floors and tables and rafted ceilings. The open kitchen is anchored by a wood-burning oven that churns out new dishes on a daily basis.
The sister joint to Jose Andres's minibar, barmini offers a robust lineup of 100 cocktails on its menu at any given time. Roughly half of that space is allocated to classics, with the other half showcasing original concoctions by the bartending team. The funky, modern and bright environs perfectly complement the venue’s fun and creative vibe, where anything from vapor clouds to liquid nitrogen, from leather bota bag aging to sous-vide cooking and color changing cocktails are put to use for your entertainment.
Best restaurants in DC by cuisine
Desperately seeking seafood restaurants in DC? Peruse our list of the capital’s best restaurants specializing in oysters, crabs and fish. Since cocktails and oysters are a natural match, some of them double as standout bars. And let’s not forget the best spots for sushi.
From dollar slices to gourmet versions in the finest Washington DC restaurants, pizza is ubiquitous, but which places really stand out? When the craving strikes, see below for the best pizza Washington, DC has to offer. If you’re still craving more, consult our picks of the best Italian restaurants in DC.
Authentic Indian food is a cuisine that tends to divide diners. Some are committed to the hunt for the best Washington DC restaurants serving dal, fiery chutneys, chat and thali, while others are content to munch dense samosas and neutered chicken tikka. Here are our picks for the best of the bunch.
French restaurants in the capital range from casual bistros to white-tablecloth temples of gastronomy, and serve everything from authentic classics to Gallic-accented American cuisine. For more European flavors, check out our list of the 40 best Washington, DC restaurants.