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The best restaurants in DC

Our guide to the best restaurants in DC, from Capitol Hill classics to date-night restaurants to sushi and Italian

By Holley Simmons and Stephanie Early Green |
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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

11
Sushi Taro
Restaurants, Japanese

Sushi Taro

icon-location-pin Dupont Circle

Sushi Taro underwent a major renovation in 2009 and has reborn as an upmarket Kaiseki-style traditional Japanese restaurant, under owner Nobu Yamazaki. In a kaiseki-style meal, diners don’t order off a menu. Instead, the chef presents a succession of complementary dishes. The Suppon Kaiseki Tasting focuses on the very traditional soft-shell snapping turtle. There is also an excellent saké selection.

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12
Himitsu
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mindy D.
Restaurants

Himitsu

The breakout star of 2016, this modern Japanese restaurant packs big flavors into a tiny space—just 24 seats in total, to be precise. Chef Kevin Tien blends Latin American and Southeast Asian flavors with Japanese ingredients for explosively delicious dishes. The menu changes almost daily to reflect fresh cuts of fish, but you can always expect the main attraction: a buttermilk fried chicken thigh with a Korean glaze and kewpie. Drinks, courtesy of beverage wiz and co-owner Carlie Steiner, are equally playful: think gin and tonic with fresh lavender, a rosé mule and white rum with lime, seaweed and sea salt.

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13
Rasika
Restaurants, Indian

Rasika

icon-location-pin Penn Quarter

Rasika brings the delicacy of upmarket Indian cooking to Washington. One of restaurateur Ashok Bajaj’s empire, which also includes the Oval Room, Bombay Club, 701, Ardeo+Bardeo and Bibiana, Rasika is under the creative eye of Vikram Sunderam, who ran the kitchen at London’s Bombay Brasserie for 14 years. Grouped into categories including "chaat," "tawa" and "tandoor," the menu covers much ground, with ample choices for both vegetarians and carnivores. Whatever you do, try the palak chaat, a signature dish of crispy baby spinach leaves dressed with yogurt that melts on the tongue.

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14
Le Diplomate
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/NCinDC
Restaurants, French

Le Diplomate

icon-location-pin Logan Circle

From the globe lights overhead and the wood floors underfoot, to the woven bistro chairs and the curieux that adorn the walls—most everything you can touch or see or even hear in restaurateur-impresario Stephen Starr’s brasserie is literally imported from France itself. Even with so many great raw bars around town, les fruits de mer are not to be missed. Nor is the steak tartare de parc, which features a tender, sweet filet chopped fine and topped with salty capers and a velvety quail egg. For entrées, the grilled loup de mer is lightly seasoned and served overtop a rich, buttery tapenade and hearty, oversized white beans. If its simple bistro fare you cherchez, the steak frites are a wise choice. Note that your inner-Francophile may have to wait one month for a weekend reservation. In the meantime, hit up Le Diplomate’s brunch, when seats are less in demand, but the food is just as good. C’est bon.

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15
Mintwood Place
Restaurants, American

Mintwood Place

icon-location-pin Adams Morgan

Everything about this bistro is inviting—the relaxed, almost rustic decor that evokes an upscale farmhouse, the welcoming service and, most of all, the satisfying French-American comfort food, often presented with an inventive twist. You could easily make a meal of starters such as escargot hushpuppies and bacon-and-onion flammekuche, or dig into a wood-grilled bacon cheeseburger, President Obama’s pick when he dined here. But it would be a shame to miss out on entrées like the tagliatelle bolognese or roasted pork for two. For dessert, try the dreamy brownie sundae or the apple tart à la mode.

Time Out says
16
Daikaya
Restaurants, Japanese

Daikaya

icon-location-pin Chinatown

Thank goodness chef Katsuya Fukushima was never told to stop playing with his food. (Or if he was, thank goodness he didn’t listen.) The former culinary director at Jose Andres’s ThinkFoodGroup has so many good ideas he opened two restaurant concepts under one roof. Downstairs: a Sapporo-style ramen shop set to a soundtrack of ’90s music and satisfied slurps. Upstairs: a fast-paced izakaya with clever small plates (like cod roe spaghetti and a grilled avocado) and inventive cocktails (like a spherified sake bomb floating in a glass of Sapporo beer.)

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17
The Red Hen
Photograph: Scott Suchman
Restaurants, Italian

The Red Hen

icon-location-pin Northwest

Cozy doesn’t begin to describe this rustic corner bistro in Bloomingdale. It’s essentially one huge hearth, thanks to the wide-open kitchen’s Argentine-style grill, which runs on 100 percent Virginia oak. Most of the Italian-leaning dishes make a pit stop in the fire before hitting your plate, including the chicken with kale, fingerling potatoes and currants. Best of all is chef Michael Friedman’s handmade rigatoni with sausage ragu, which will have you throwing all your carb cares to the wind.

Time Out says
18
Pearl Dive
Restaurants, Seafood

Pearl Dive

icon-location-pin Logan Circle

Quickly after Pearl Dive Oyster Palace opened in 2011, restaurateurs Jeff and Barbara Black’s fifth restaurant became the Delta prize of Logan Circle. And it’s not hard to see why: Weathered wood floors, busy fans hung from whitewashed ceilings, too many mermaids to count, and a thick, coiled rope chandelier make up just some of the décor. When the weather’s nice, the building’s old garage door by the bar can be flung open, allowing drinks and light fare to be enjoyed curbside. (A little secret: When the garage is open, it’s a nice spot to grab a quick beer and order a bucket of fried chicken to go.) Pearl Dive has a menu that really struts its Gulf Coast roots. The Blacks hail from the South and were some of the first restaurateurs to tap into Washington’s bivalve addiction. Pearl Dive offers a variety of both East and West coast oysters, all of which come expertly shucked (read: you won’t mistakenly find any shell fragments in your mouth) and served with a cilantro-jalapeño “dive sauce.” For a real treat, ask for a list of the premium oysters available. Corn muffins that accompany the complimentary bread basket are perfect for soaking up the belly-warming seafood gumbo, which is loaded with oysters, Louisiana shrimp, local crab, Tasso ham, okra and more. But perhaps Pearl Dive’s most popular dish is its messiest: the C.E.B.L.T. po-boy—a B.L.T. dressed with a lightly battered-and-fried catfish and an ooey-gooey egg served between two slices of toasted French bread. Order it.

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19
Estadio
Restaurants, Spanish

Estadio

icon-location-pin Logan Circle

This 14th Street tapas joint is regularly packed to the brim and for good reason. The menu reads like a grazer’s dream with a host of traditional Spanish snacks perfect for sharing—cheeses and meats, toothpicks called pintxos stacked with anchovies, olives and chorizo, fresh figs stuffed with cheese and wrapped in jamon, and croquetas in mushroom or jamon. Vintage World Cup soccer games play on TVs over the bar. Don’t miss the "slushitos," boozy frozen slushies that change flavors to suit the season. Feeling daring? Order wine out of a glass porron. The traditional Spanish wine spouts will have you dribble vino down your shirt at least once, depending on your learning curve, but they make for great fun.

Time Out says
20
2 Amys
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Nat Tung
Restaurants, Pizza

2 Amys

icon-location-pin Cleveland Park

Though you’re likely to eat your face off at 2 Amys, consider grabbing a snack beforehand: The secret is out on this Cleveland Park restaurant, and wait times can stretch over an hour. But the Neapolitan pies, which meet Italy’s precise Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) standards, are worth it. 2 Amys tends to draw a family crowd, so anticipate a seat next to a marinara-flinging toddler. Otherwise, enjoy pies like the puttanesca (tomato sauce, rapini, mozzarella, sliced garlic, anchovy and hot pepper) and stellar calzones distraction-free.

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Best restaurants in DC by cuisine

Pearl Dive
Photograph: Scott Suchman
Restaurants

Best seafood restaurants in DC

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.

Bob's Shanghai 66
Photograph: Courtesy Bob's Shanghai 66
Restaurants, Chinese

Best Chinese food in DC

Noodle o’clock? Dim sum time? Check out our guide to the best Chinese food in DC for fine dining and cheap eats.

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The best sushi in DC
Photograph: Shutterstock
Restaurants

Best sushi in DC

Our guide to the restaurants serving the best sushi in DC, with killer specialty rolls and swimmingly fresh sashimi

Restaurants

Best American restaurants in DC

It’s only appropriate that the nation’s capital has an excellent array of American restaurants. From Capitol Hill power-broker canteens like Ted’s Bulletin to chic Georgetown steakhouses like Bourbon Steak, we round up the essential spots.

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Restaurants

Best pizza in DC

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.

Restaurants

Best Italian restaurants in DC

The best Italian restaurants in DC range from chef-focused trattorias to the city’s top spots for pizza. For more European flavors, check out our list of the 40 best Washington, DC restaurants.

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Restaurants

Best Indian 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.

Moby Dick House of Kabob
Photograph: Yasi Farazad Photography
Restaurants

Best Middle Eastern restaurants in DC

Whether you’re willing to travel for life-changing baba ghanoush, or you’d rather stick closer to home, we’ve found the best Middle Eastern restaurants in DC.

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Restaurants

Best French restaurants in DC

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.

Restaurants

Best Thai restaurants in DC

The capital’s best Thai food goes beyond standard takeout fare. If you’re on the hunt for superior pad Thai, fiery curries or other authentic dishes, we’ve selected the best Washington, DC restaurants for regional Southeast Asian cuisine.

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