The best restaurants in D.C. right now (2024)

The best restaurants in D.C. right now (1)

The best restaurants in D.C. offer diverse eats, from Michelin-starred pasta to down-home diner grub

Photograph: Tyson Bateman for Time Out

Written by Alice Levitt

Contributors: Holley Simmons, Stephanie Early Green & Laken Brooks

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New York, Los Angeles, Chicago—the country’s largest cities seem to get all the culinary cred. Despite boasting a Michelin guide since 2016, Washington, D.C. has been slow to catch up to those bigger burgs. But it’s not for lack of effort or sheer deliciousness of the food.

The 2021 census revealed that the District is now one of the most diverse cities in the country. This list will demonstrate that the cuisine matches the demographics—in fact, thebest restaurants in D.C. are as globally inspired as the embassiessurrounding them. From khachapuri to al pastor, vegan chili to Japanese-Italian pizza, D.C. has something to satisfy every taste. Now that’s representation.

This guide was updated by Virginia-based writer Alice Levitt.At Time Out, all our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Washington, D.C.

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Best restaurants in Washington, D.C.

1.Compass Rose
  • Logan Circle
Photograph: Rachel Sale

Inspired by her extensive travels with her NPR-reporter husband, Rose Previte opened this neighborhood spot to bring global flavors to curious DC diners. The menu reflects the stamps on her passport, taking cues from international street foods. Since day one, the breakout star has been the khachapuri, the Republic of Georgia’s beloved canoe-shaped cheese bread. The space resembles a garden patio, where patrons are encouraged to linger over destination-driven co*cktails like the eponymous tipple, which features sparkling wine flavored with pomegranate, rose, and mint.

2.L’Ardente

The best restaurants in D.C. right now (6)
The best restaurants in D.C. right now (7)

Chef-restaurateur David Deshaies is a newly minted member of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, but don’t let his Gallic roots get in the way of enjoying some of the city’s best pasta. At his “glam Italian” restaurant, the 40-layer lasagna, filled with short rib sugo and truffle-scented mornay sauce, gets the most word-of-mouth. But don’t miss the oversized veal parmigiana, blanketed in bubbly cheese, which will eclipse any version of the dish you’ve had before.

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3.Rasika
  • Penn Quarter

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With Penn Quarter and West End locations, Rasika has gained a stellar reputation for bringing upmarket Indian cooking to D.C. One of restaurateur Ashok Bajaj’s empire, which also includes Bombay Club, Annabelle, and La Bise, the Penn Quarter Rasika is under the creative eye of Vikram Sunderam, who ran the kitchen at London’s Bombay Brasserie for 14 years. The inspired menu begins with sweet-and-spicy avocado-banana chaat and ends with oozing chocolate samosas.

4.Pascual

The best restaurants in D.C. right now (8)
The best restaurants in D.C. right now (9)

Chef power couple Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss bring their culinary cred to the cuisine of her homeland with this creative Mexican restaurant. The live-fire hearth is responsible for the kiss of flame that touches nearly everything that emerges from the kitchen here. That includes tacos al pastor carved from the turning trompo, meaty lamb neck barbacoa, and even skate. Coss got her start baking at Mexico City’s venerated Pujol, so don’t skip desserts like her Mexican chocolate cake.

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5.St. James

The best restaurants in D.C. right now (10)
The best restaurants in D.C. right now (11)

Immigrants from Africa and Asia color the vibrant food of Trinidad. In the U Street Corridor, restaurateur Jeanine Prime shares the diverse influences in an upscale form. Start with callaloo soup, a collection of puréed greens that’s spiked with chiles, calmed with coconut milk, then topped with a liberal handful of lump crab meat. Large plates like the whole fried snapper and smoked “dino” beef rib necessitate sharing with someone you love.

6.Fiola Mare
  • Seafood
  • Georgetown
Photograph: Courtesy Fiola Mare/Greg Powers

This pearl of the Georgetown waterfront comes from local favorite Fabio Trabocchi. It’s hard to focus on your meal with welcome distractions like docking boats or glistening chandeliers in the opulent dining room where maritime kitsch need not apply. For the full experience, order a seafood tower featuring preparations inspired by the Amalfi coast. The stack is brimming with cooked and raw treats, crustaceans and bivalves, all served chilled atop crushed ice. This is definitely the place for a special occasion—with a price tag to match.

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7.barmini
  • co*cktail bars
  • Penn Quarter
Photograph: Ken Wyner

The sister joint to celebrity chef José Andrés's minibar, barmini offers co*cktail flights designed to incorporate all five senses. The funky, modern, and bright environs perfectly complement the fun and creative vibe, where anything from vapor clouds to liquid nitrogen, from sous-vide cooking to color-changing co*cktails, are put to use for guests’ entertainment.

  • Eclectic
  • Capitol Hill

Local chef Aaron Silverman’s two-story Barrack’s Row restaurant is worthy of its Michelin-starred reputation. The restaurant is named after Silverman's paternal grandmother and mixes her culinary influences with global delights like crab Rangoons served inside squash blossoms, and sticky toffee pudding flavored with Mexican mole negro and horchata ice cream. The days of Rose's not taking reservations are over, but not a drop of charm has been lost.

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9.Daikaya
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

Photograph: Brian Liu

Thank goodness chef Katsuya f*ckushima 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 and inventive co*cktails. Don’t miss his nearby Italian-Japanese restaurant, Tonari, and its memorable pizzas, either.

10.The Dabney
  • Contemporary American
  • Shaw
Photograph: Andrew Cebulka

Chef Jeremiah Langhorne—formerly the chef de cuisine at the much-lauded McCrady’s in Charleston—takes a near-obsessive approach to local sourcing at his mid-Atlantic tasting-menu restaurant in Blagden Alley. His dishes come steeped in history and are made primarily using produce grown and raised nearby, including the rooftop garden. The interior feels like a chic barn with dark wood floors, tables, and rafted ceilings. The open kitchen is anchored by a wood-burning hearth that churns out new dishes daily.

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11.Fiola
  • Penn Quarter
Photograph: Paul Burk

When Italian-born chef Fabio Trabocchi opened Fiola in 2011, he quickly established his flagship as the place to go in Washington for sumptuous iterations of the cuisine of his homeland. This Michelin-starred marvel is a grand celebration of beauty and brilliance, where every dish on the varied tasting menus is almost as photogenic as it is delectable. As long as you’re splurging, order the caviar—harvested from Calvisano, Italy, and served with milk bread and whipped ricotta.

12.Convivial
  • Contemporary American
  • Shaw
Photograph: Scott Suchman

Cassoulet, a bean stew from the south of France that’s known for its sumptuously meaty overkill, is one of chef-owner Cedric Maupillier’s specialties. Get it here stacked with two kinds of sausage, duck confit and cured pork butt. Reservations are a must, and the happy hour offer is great for anyone looking to save a dollar or two.

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13.2 Amys
  • Pizza
  • Cleveland Park

Though chances are you’ll eat more than your fill at 2Amys, 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 the inconvenience. The restaurant tends to draw a family crowd, so anticipate a seat next to a marinara-flinging toddler.

14.Sushi Taro
  • Dupont Circle

Sushi Taro is an upmarket kaiseki-style traditional Japanese restaurant owned by brothers Nobu and Jin Yamazaki. In a kaiseki-style meal, diners don’t order off a menu. Instead, the chef presents a succession of complementary dishes. The sushi kaiseki features nine courses at $135, one of the better deals on fancy fish you’ll find in D.C.

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15.Bombay Club
  • Farragut Square

India in the time of the Raj, when English colonizers would sit in restrained, masculine dining rooms and, presumably, cherry-pick the best of the subcontinent’s cuisine, influences both the cuisine and ambience here. Decorous waiters in penguin suits warn against the supposed heat of a non-threatening lamb vindaloo. Thali platters, tandoori meats, and Goan curries are also available, and the menu offers discreet explanations of the various regional styles.

16.Ethiopic
Photograph: Shutterstock/Dereje

Slightly off the main drag at the Union Station end of H Street, Ethiopic is one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in a city that’s known for the cuisine’s earthy flavors. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can find something they enjoy here, from lamb and lentils to baklava. The decor blends traditional elements of Ethiopian culture, like the country’s ancient scripts, with more contemporary designs.

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17.Izakaya Seki
  • U Street Corridor

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, as 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 accompanied by freshly grated wasabi, and the seasonal miso soup is not to be missed. The handwritten specials menu offers an extra layer of character with illustrations to match the fun fare.

18.Ben's Chili Bowl
Photograph: Courtsey Worn Creative

Ben’s Chili Bowl, which opened in 1958, looks like a relic on the yuppified stretch of U Street once known as Black Broadway. But this family business has kept up with the times. The institution’s appeal rests on three legs: nostalgia (past customers include Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Barack Obama), the insatiable late-night hunger of young partiers, and, of course, the great bang for the buck afforded by burgers, fries, and chili. In-the-know customers order chili on a dog or half-smoke (arguably Washington’s signature specialty) and cheese fries, but you can also get a turkey burger sub or a salad bowl.

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19.Bourbon Steak
  • Georgetown
Photograph: Shutterstock

If you’re looking for a decadent splurge and a high probability of a celebrity sighting, head to this modern restaurant from California chef Michael Mina inside Georgetown’s Four Seasons hotel. Here, steaks are baptized in butter and movie stars and power players rub shoulders. The addictive fries are crisped in duck fat. The swank bar is a regular hangout for VIP guests and, true to its name, offers a vast selection of rare Bourbons and Scotches.

20.Etto
  • U Street Corridor
Photograph: Courtesy Etto

Etto is a 14th Street darling, where small plates and oven-blistered pizzas are shared amongst friends. This is a very good thing, as you’ll be hard-pressed to choose just one of the displayed antipasti you’ll spot on the way to one of the restaurant’s 42 seats. The entire space radiates warmth (from the oak-fueled fire in the corner) and aromas of freshly milled flour (from the hand-crank grain mill at the back of the restaurant).

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21.The Red Hen
  • Northwest
Photograph: Scott Suchman

Cozy doesn’t begin to describe this rustic corner bistro in Bloomingdale. The restaurant is centered around the wide-open kitchen’s Argentine-style grill, which runs on Virginia oak. Most of the Italian-leaning dishes make a pit stop in the fire before hitting plates, but best of all is chef Michael Friedman’s handmade rigatoni with sausage ragu; the Biden-beloved dish that will have you throwing all your carb cares to the wind.

22.Sushi Capitol
  • Japanese
  • Capitol Hill
Photograph: Courtesy Sushi Capitol

With three locations around the city, this stalwart’s reputation for fresh fish and masterfully prepared rolls at bargain prices has remained since the inception of the tiny Capitol Hill restaurant. Our advice; ask your waiter to pick your dishes rather than opting for the omakase. They can tell you exactly what arrived that day and what’s worth trying.

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23.Toki Underground
  • H Street Corridor

Hip twentysomethings squeeze into this tiny spot to slurp big bowls of ramen in rich, house-made broth. The dumplings are great, too—we especially like the pan-fried pork ones. The space is decorated with graffiti, skateboards, and comic books, and for dessert, there’s creamy yuzu custard. What’s not to like?

24.Jimmy T's
Photograph: Lani Furbank

Walking into Jimmy T’s is like walking into a living room straight out of a 1970s sitcom. That’s because not much has changed since the diner opened in 1969. This true greasy spoon is a Capitol Hill favorite that serves up the basics, just like mom used to make. The prices can’t be beaten, and it’s small enough that politicians and regular folks may literally rub elbows over egg-and-cheese sandwiches and corned beef hash.

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25.Central Michel Richard
  • Penn Quarter
Photograph: Worn Creative

It’s easy to see why Michel Richard’s Pennsylvania Avenue brasserie wins rave reviews. The playful menu fuses American and French classics with Richard’s signature whimsy, including "faux" gras (made from chicken liver, not one from a fatted duck or goose), a stunning shrimp burger, the chef’s spin on fried chicken, and a monstrous banana split that’s sure to attract any nearby spoon.

26.Obelisk
  • Dupont Circle
Photograph: Worn Creative

The menu changes constantly at Peter Pastan’s circa-1987, prix-fixe-only townhouse. But you can always count on an array of antipasti; pasta, meat, cheese, and dessert courses; and exemplary service. Squab makes regular appearances—it’s worth the awkwardness of dealing with the tiny bones—as do seasonal vegetables and fish. The wine list is extensive, the bread baked in-house, and the atmosphere unpretentious.

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27.Duke's Grocery
  • Diners
  • Dupont Circle
Photograph: Courtesy Duke's Grocery

This small, local gastropub chain is famed for its award-winning burgers with conventional beef, veggie, or wagyu patties served on brioche. The short and sweet menu changes daily and is inspired by East London’s eclectic restaurant scene. Head to the Woodley Park location before or after a trip to the zoo.

28.Le Diplomate
  • Logan Circle

From the globe lights overhead and the wood floors underfoot to the woven bistro chairs and the curios that adorn the walls—almost everything you can touch or see or even hear in this brasserie is imported from France. Note that hungry Francophiles may have to wait one month for a weekend dinner reservation. In the meantime, hit up Le Diplomate’s brunch, when seats are less in demand, but the house viennoiseries are still worthy of a crowd.

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29.Shouk
Photograph: Courtesy Shouk

Both 100-percent plant-based and fully wind-powered, this Israeli-inspired menu is anchored by a variety of delectable pitas. Choose from pitas and bowls—we like the oyster-mushroom schnitzel with green cabbage, pickles, and harissa mayonnaise—and don’t forget to order some of the flavor-packed sides like red lentil soup and fries tossed in the brand’s trademark spice mix.

30.Equinox
Photograph: Courtesy Equinox

Husband-and-wife team Todd Gray and Ellen Kassof's 25-year-old collaboration exemplifies how plant-based dishes can thrill. The menu isn't entirely vegan, but it's easy enough to ignore the meat or fish and select veggie-only options. Well, “easy” is a relative term, as we wouldn’t turn up our noses at the Mid-Atlantic-sourced hanger steak or Amish chicken. Visit on a Sunday to enjoy the famous family-style vegan brunch.

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31.Pearl Dive
  • Seafood
  • Logan Circle
Photograph: Scott Suchman

Owners Jeff and Barbara Black were among 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.

32.Teaism

Japanese okonomiyaki and Indian palak paneer are on offer at this three-location, café-style spot. Whether you stop off for a cup of chai or a bento box, you’ll leave ready to pound the pavement again. Afternoon tea with ginger scones can be revitalizing in winter. In warm weather, try the iced Moroccan mint tea–there’s nothing more refreshing. The spacious 8th Street branch, with its downstairs hideout, has a calmer vibe.

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33.NuVegan
Photograph: Courtesy NuVegan

What’s good for the body can be good for the soul, too. The hearty plant-based mac ‘n’ cheese and fried chick’n, coupled with the relaxed environment at this local chain assures both. Choose an entrée or a sandwich from the diverse lineup and request a pressed juice, smoothie, or shake with your meal. Don’t forget to also try out the eatery’s baked treats.

Photograph: April Greer

This vegan bakery’s owner, Doron Petersan, bills herself as a “junk-foodie genius”, and she has the cred to back up that claim—namely, winning Food Network’s Cupcake Warstwice. Although the original sticky bun remains a favorite, patrons should taste the full lineup of baked goods, which includes everything from s’mores cookies to strawberry margarita cupcakes.

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Located at the corner of 14th and U Streets NW, this multi-purpose space was established in 2005 by Andy Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, restaurateur, and activist in an area with a history of 1960s Civil Rights activism. With communal tables, sofas, and cushy chairs, Busboys is the ultimate urban living room, where people meet for coffee or drinks or a snack between meals. Open-mic poetry readings, live music, and book discussions are also on the menu.

36.Comet Ping Pong

A little off the beaten path for downtown visitors, Comet’s thin-crust pizzas and warehouse chic vibe are worth the trip to upper Connecticut Avenue. As the name suggests, a rousing game of table tennis is as much of a draw as what’s on plates. A kid-heavy crowd early in the evenings gives way to hipsters, artists, and musicians (your server is probably at least one of those) as the night progresses.

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37.Chaia
  • Vegetarian
  • Georgetown
  • price 1 of 4

What started as a humble farmers' market stand in 2013 has since blossomed into a wildly popular taco empire. Founded by Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern, this vegetarian taco restaurant, with locations in Georgetown and Chinatown, includes the same beloved tacos served on hand-pressed tortillas. The range of fillings ranges from braised mushrooms to scrambled egg and black bean.

38.HipCityVeg
Photograph: Courtesy HipCityVeg

This Philadelphia-based fast-casual chain is a D.C. crowd favorite, offering tasty, 100-percent plant-based fare. Try the Crispy HipCity Ranch, a battered chick'n sandwich with creamy peppercorn ranch, or the Ziggy Burger, with smoked tempeh bacon and special sauce. Also, find salads, sweet potato fries, dips, juices, and smoothies.

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