Here's something we've been meaning to do for years (literally years) on this blog: share our favorite places to eat in Washington, D.C.
Our Nation's Capital is flooded with deliciousness these days. Over the years we've gladly answered readers' questions about where they should eat when they visit D.C. Right now, despite the chill in the air, Cherry Blossom season is upon us. We've gotten a few more of these questions than usual, so we're publishing this list.
(Our list of favorite places to eat in D.C. is very District-centric. Other lists you'll read from local publications will include lots of restaurants out in the 'burbs. We don't have a car, so we rarely make it out of the city for dinner.)
Come visit the District -- we promise you won't leave hungry! To help you plan your meals while you're here, here's a list of our favorite DC restaurants, followed by other places we love:
Little Serow (Dupont Circle). It's probably our favorite restaurant in D.C. right now. It's Northern Thai food and very spicy. Absolutely delicious. Fixed menu, no substitutions, $45/person. No reservations. You'll need to be in line by 5:00 at the latest (especially on a weekend) if you want to get a table that evening. Basically you can go there, get in line, put your name in, go have a drink (or two) elsewhere, and then they'll call you when your table's ready. It's a process, but it's worth it. (Oh, also, there's no sign or anything -- it's underneath a restaurant called Komi, on 17th btw P and Q. Believe me, you'll know the line when you see it.)
Bar Pilar (14th Street). We've loved this place for years. It's a bar with excellent food, but in the past few years they've completed a major expansion so they now have a dining room. We're never disappointed by their menu. It's always comforting, wonderful new American food.
Brasserie Beck (Downtown). We went here the night we got engaged, and the night before we got married, and a dozen other times, too. It's Belgian food and spectacular. Supposedly this place had the East Coast's first beer sommelier. So now you know that's a thing.
Rasika (West End or Chinatown). This is the best Indian food in the city. It also happens to be high-end Indian. For years we've been going an ordering the black cod and the crispy spinach. We're in an ordering rut, but it's a delicious rut. (Reservations are a must.)
And still more....
Beau Thai (Shaw or Mt. Pleasant). Our closest friends own Beau Thai, so this isn't exactly the most unbiased recommendation. But we heartily recommend it for a D.C. Thai food experience, especially the Mt. Pleasant location. The food is excellent. And be sure to say hi to Ralph and Aschara.
Rose's Luxury (Capitol Hill) is the buzziest new place in town. We just ate there for the first time. The wait is abysmal -- you'll be lucky if it's only an hour. But the hype is worth it.
Le Diplomate (14th Street). An insanely popular new-ish French restaurant from Stephen Starr, Le Diplomate is always busy. We've been at dinner and for brunch -- the food is great and the atmosphere is bustling and fun. If you go for brunch, order the oatmeal to share.
Etto (14th Street). We had a great little meal of Italian small plates with our friend Sue when it first opened.
Mintwood Place (Adams Morgan). A great restaurant in our neighborhood (rejoice!). We're never disappointed by the dinner or brunch.
Palena Cafe (Cleveland Park). This is a beautiful little restaurant we've gone time time again for the roast chicken and burgers (there's a fancier menu, too). [Update: bad news, Palena closed in 2014.]
2 Amy's (north of Glover Park). We think this is the best pizza in the city.
If you're visiting, D.C., you may want to try Ethiopian food (especially if you can't get it at home). D.C. has one of the largest populations of Ethiopian people outside of Africa, so we have tons of Ethiopian restaurants. It's definitely an experience worth trying. If you're unfamiliar with Ethiopian food, it's essentially a lot of spicy stews and vegetables served on a huge plate of spongy bread called injera. There are no utensils so you scoop the stews up with the injera. It's fun! The best Ethiopian places in D.C. are Dukem (U Street) and Etete (Shaw).
Any Jose Andres restaurant. You can't go wrong with choosing a Jose Andres restaurant. He's a famous chef from Spain (someone once told us he's like Emeril there) and he has a handful of restaurants in D.C. We like Zatinya (Greek mezze) and Jaleo (Spanish tapas).
The Red Hen is the Bloomingdale neighborhood of D.C. has quickly become one of our favorite spots, with their decadent pastas and very affordable wine list. The Wood-Grilled Chicken ‘Fra Diavolo’ and the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Dill & Anchovy-Caper Aioli are not to be missed.
Places for Cocktails and Snacks
The Gibson (U Street). If you like cocktails at all, go to the Gibson. It has a speakeasy vibe (no sign on the door). We recommend making a reservation, which might sound extreme for cocktails, but it actually works well because it keeps the place from getting too crowded. There are light snacks available.
POV at the W Hotel (Downtown). This bar is frankly a bit obnoxious in a luxe/swanky sort of way. But the rooftop terrace has an amazing view of the White House and Washington Monument. The view makes the crowd tolerable, at least for one cocktail.
Kramerbooks (Dupont Circle). This is a must-visit D.C. institution. (Bonus: We got engaged here, in the bookstore, which is also where we met for our first date.) It's a terrific restaurant/bar/bookstore right off of Dupont Circle. It's open 24 hours on the weekends. The restaurant is kind of dressed up diner food but they have a lovely little bar that's fantastic for a drink (and a slice of pie, if you need a snack).
Teaism (Dupont Circle, Chinatown). There are three of these little teahouses in D.C., all with some delicious Asian-inspired dishes. It's more of a lunch or snack place (we almost always order one of the bento boxes -- the salmon bento is our favorite). But Teaism's real claim to fame (and why it owns our hearts) are the salty oat cookies (available in plain or chocolate). If you leave Teaism without getting one, we will hunt you down and drag you back to get one.
Live in D.C. and have a place to add? Got a favorite dish at one of these places? Plotting a visit and have a question? Share away in the comments!
[Updated October, 2014]