The Best Restaurants in DC, from Tokyo-Inspired Food Halls to Chesapeake Bay Seafood (2024)

  • Washington Dc
  • Eat
  • Restaurants

Make a reservation at the hottest new spots in town.

By

Tim Ebner

The Best Restaurants in DC, from Tokyo-Inspired Food Halls to Chesapeake Bay Seafood (1)

When it comes to narrowing down a place to eat these days, decision fatigue is a serious ordeal. On top of figuring out what you’re in the mood for, there’s much to consider: How do I secure a reservation? Do they have outdoor dining? Is there enough room for my whole squad? Or is to-go ordering an option? Plus, a dizzying array of stellar debuts in The District lately aren’t making it much easier, whether it’s massive new developments like Midtown Center, Capitol Crossing, and the second phase of The Wharf.

If all of that is enough to make you lose your appetite, we’re here to help. Our ultimate DC restaurant guide is updated to feature a few excellent newcomers that have already wowed us, alongside reliable stalwarts that provide some of the city’s most iconic eating experiences. So whether you need a low-key option or a fine-dining experience to celebrate a special occasion, here’s our lineup of the absolute best new restaurants in DC to visit right now.

Love, Makoto

East End

$$$$

Think of this food hall as your nonstop ticket to Tokyo. Chef and restaurateur Makoto Okuwa drafts a love letter to Japan with an enormous 20,000-square-foot food hall. Phase one of this Japanese culinary collection consists of three full-service options. Dear Sushi is an omakase experience that celebrates both traditional and envelope-pushing takes on sushi. Beloved BBQ models a high-end yakiniku (Japanese steakhouse) with smokeless grills on each table for cooking wagyu beef. And Hiya Izakaya is a high-energy bar with whisky highballs and other inspired co*cktails plus sake, beer, and wine, which can be paired with skewers and bites prepared over a robata grill.

Available for Reservations

Estuary

City Center

$$$$

Crabs are in season, and Estuary, the marquee restaurant inside The Conrad Hotel, has revamped its menu to channel Chesapeake Bay cuisine for both spring and summer. This is also the perfect place to book an upscale casual brunch. Top dishes include the Blue Crab Benedicts, Shrimp and Cheesy Grits, and Chicken and Waffles. Chef Ria Montes came on as chef de cuisine last year and brings playful new touches to the main menu like a Seafood Carbonara and Seared Rockfish with Green Curry.

Available for Reservations

Alhambra

Downtown

$$$$

Taking inspiration from the historic Alhambra palace in Spain—this seasonally inspired menu mixes southern Spanish cuisine with Middle Eastern fare. Chef Zivkovic, along with executive chef Brian Bladfält Landry, present bold flavors across a variety of the region’s cultures. With distinct menus offered across brunch, lunch, and dinner, the dining concept focuses on four sections of small plated dishes—sea, land, garden and table—all meant to be enjoyed family style. Signature items include the 100-Layer Patatas Bravas with Garlic Aioli, Tuna Tartare with Pistachio, Quail Egg and Gem Lettuce, and a Smoked Eggplant Mousse over Grilled Dates.

Available for Reservations

Chang Chang

Dupont Circle

$$$$

Chef Peter Chang and his daughter Lydia Chang debuted an upscale, contemporary Chinese restaurant in the Dupont Circle, and it’s attracting critical praise for a menu that is experimental and ever-changing. A fixture item is the Duck Four Ways, featuring a bird that is marinated, blanched, air-dried, and tea-smoked. Each duck takes two-days to prepare, so only a limited number are available daily (and they usually sell out). In addition to dinner service, there’s a lunch special on weekdays that includes a bento box-style meal with rotating sides paired with a choice of entree. On weekends, the restaurant offers brunch with a spread that marries dim sum favorites with brunch co*cktails.
How to book: Via Tock

Albi

Navy Yard

$$$$

At this Levant-inspired restaurant, enjoy one of many hearth-cooked dishes like Black Bass Grilled Over Coals with smoked squid or Smoked Bobo’s Chicken with sunchoke haydari. For a more intimate affair, opt for the Sofra experience—a semi-improvisational tasting menu from chef Michael Rafidi that you’ll enjoy seated directly in the kitchen for an intimate view of all the action. If you can’t commit to a full dinner, check out the sister bakery and cafe, Yellow, which doles out flaky pastries, pita sandwiches, and Turkish Coffee Caramel Brownies all day in Georgetown.

Available for Reservations

Bar Spero

East End

$$$$

Located between Union Station and Chinatown in the new Capitol Crossing development, Bar Spero is the eponymous concept from the Michelin-starred chef behind Reverie, Johnny Spero. Don’t be fooled by its billing as a bar, the restaurant serves a seafood-centric menu inspired by destinations near and far—from the Mid-Atlantic to Basque Country. Menu highlights include imported Spanish Turbot and very hammy Bar Spero Bikini—a dish with serrano ham, housemade morcilla, idiazabal and manchego cheese. There’s also a cold section of the menu plus a raw bar. Meanwhile, guests can also choose from a tightly curated wine list, regional beers on tap, craft co*cktails, and a wide selection of vermouths.

Available for Reservations

Caruso’s Grocery

Multiple locations

$$$$

Modeled off a classic red-sauce joint, Caruso’s Grocery features classic Italian fare like you might order in The Bronx, Brooklyn, or Bergen County dialed up a few notches. Find handmade pastas dressed up in dishes like Rigatoni Alla Vodka and Spicy Neapolitan Ragu, plus Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Francaise to round out the menu by chef Matt Adler. The restaurant also offers dessert classics, like New York-style Cheesecake with strawberry preserves. The Capitol Hill location is the original, but there’s a new outpost in the Pike & Rose development in North Bethesda.

Available for Reservations

Causa

Shaw

$$$$

One of the most exciting tasting menus in the city is tucked away (practically hidden) in Shaw’s Blagden Alley. This Peruvian tasting menu features the talents of the award-winning Service Bar team and Peruvian-born chef Carlos Delgado. Think of this restaurant as two spaces in one. Bar Amazonia is located upstairs and has small bite offerings like ceviche and skewers, plus one of the largest collections of piscos in America. Downstairs is where you’ll find Causa’s tasting menu, which takes you on a tour of the country from the Pacific Coast to the Andes mountains.

Available for Reservations

Suresh Sundas and Dante Datta (formerly of Rasika) teamed up for this restaurant inspired by the history, culture, and flavors of India. Along with familiar favorites like Chicken Tikka Masala and Wild Mushroom Biryani, the menu also features several “Indian-ish” takes inspired by other regions of the world, like Wok-Fried Cabbage and Zaatar Olive Naan.

Available for Reservations

Doro Soul Food

Shaw

$$$$

Doro Soul Food infuses traditional American soul food with Ethiopian flavors. Helmed by Ethiopian-born, French-trained chef Elias Taddesse, the menu features fried and char-grilled chicken at various spice levels from mild (Naked) to hot (Berbere) and very hot (Mitmita). He’s best known for his wildly popular Fried Chicken Breast Sandwich, but the restaurant also offers a selection of vegan tenders and sandwiches made from jackfruit and pea protein.

Grazie Nonna

Downtown

$$$$

Casey Patten (Grazie Grazie) and Gerald Addison (Bammy’s) are tossing pies at this red sauce joint. The latest addition to the Midtown Center development downtown, it's a respite from office buildings and typical fast-casual spots with an outdoor space and an extensive list of negronis instead. Order up the Green Goodness, with collard greens, provolone and pecorino cheese, and calabrian chilis, or the Drunken Love topped with vodka sauce and loaded with a mix of aged and fresh mozzarella, provolone, basil, and pepperoni cups. Main entrees are meant for sharing and include the Whole Branzino or the Chicago-inspired Chicken Vesuvio. And just in time for warmer weather, be sure to enjoy some al fresco dining in the new outdoor pizza garden with a spritz bar.

Available for Reservations

Hill East Burger

Capitol Hill

$$$$

DC's latest saloon and smoked burger bar is served up from the owners of Sloppy Mama’s and Republic Cantina. So needless to say, the vibes are full-on western—think Texas or New Mexico by way of our nation’s capital. Playing to the theme, the menu has a green chili burger (The Puebla) akin to what you might get in Santa Fe. There’s also a stacked smashburger called The Lancaster with a smoked beef patty, bacon, smoked cheddar, arugula, tomato relish, and pickled onion. All the burgers are made with a blend of prime brisket trim and Roseda Farms dry-aged beef. Pair that with one of the zero-proof drinks on tap, like an orange-Mexican oregano soda. The latest addition to the menu is brunch featuring smoked breakfast sandwiches on weekend mornings.

Kirby Club

Mosaic District

$$$$

Restaurateur Rose Previte (Maydan and Compass Rose) opened Kirby Club as a gathering place for celebrations. It’s a restaurant concept that harkens back to her childhood in Ohio, including her time spent in Lebanese American social clubs. The menu revolves around kebabs, a universal love language shared across multiple countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Guests can order a la carte or opt for a Kebab Shindig, a full-blown party with one of each kebab on the menu plus dips and spreads like havuc, a carrot dip with garlic and lemon, or the Bessara, a spread made of fava beans, tahini, and cilantro.

Available for Reservations

La Tejana

Mount Pleasant

$$$$

On any given day, the streets of Mount Pleasant are buzzing with early risers hungry for La Tejana’s breakfast tacos. Ana-Maria Jaramillo and Gus May have crafted a menu of Tex-Mex breakfast tacos that draw repeat customers. The menu includes a vegan taco (La Betsy), a vegetarian option (El Frijolito), and a popular pick: the Tio Willie with scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, and queso drizzle.

Oyster Oyster

U Street

$$$$

This innovative restaurant and bar is thriving with sustainability in mind. Mid-Atlantic vegetables take center stage at Oyster Oyster, where chef Rob Rubba honors producers who share an ethos of environmentally friendly farming and ingredients that are sourced and foraged locally. The tasting menu makes use of several varieties of mushrooms, plus many other tasty vegetables and local oyster dishes. Pair it all with organic and biodynamic wines.

Available for Reservations

RANIA

Downtown

$$$$

Known for luxe Indian dining that took The District by storm in 2019, Punjab Grill has now reopened with a new look, name, and menu. RANIA held onto the former restaurant’s opulent feel to serve up unexpected takes on Indian cuisine in a dining room with sleek finishes like an Onyx bar and bone inlay tables. Executive chef Chetan Shetty has sourced rare spices and ingredients for each menu offering like chile spice blends from Delhi and special garlic blends from Maharashtra. For $75 or $90, guests can select from a three- or four-course menu, each with a handful of options like 18-Hour Sous Vide Lamb Wrapped in Cheela, a savory Indian pancake, or Chicken Kofta topped with an excessive amount of white truffle for added decadence.

Available for Reservations

Ruthie’s All Day

Arlington

$$$$

Ruthie’s All Day is an all-day, any-day kind of hangout with a comfort food menu that centers on dishes from a custom-built, wood-burning hearth. Come for coffee or free wifi but stay to indulge, whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mr. W’s Biscuit is one of the best bets at breakfast—this sausage and scrambled egg biscuit comes with the option to top it with cheddar or goat cheese. Or get messy with a juicy Rad Burger (on both the lunch or dinner menu) or the Smoked Half Rack Sticky Spare Ribs.

Available for Reservations

Tonari

Penn Quarter

$$$$

This Italian-Japanese restaurant was first credited with bringing “wafu” (Japanese-style) pasta and pizza to Washington. Katsuya f*ckushima is one of the city’s most celebrated chefs, and his team is loyal to wafu-style pizzas, like The Pepperoni with Japanese brick cheese and shoyu-pickled jalapenos. The menu also features pasta made in Sapporo, Japan and includes several variations to choose from like the Mentaiko with cod roe, butter, and chili flakes, or the Miso Alla Vongole with clams, miso, and lemon. The latest addition is Tonari's “Hole in the Wall” Dessert Bar, featuring a sweet, new tasting menu overseen by the restaurant’s talented pastry chef Mary Mendozza.

Available for Reservations

2fifty

Multiple locations

$$$$

Salvadoran immigrants are smoking the best version of Texas-style barbecue in the DMV at this charming pithouse in Riverdale Park, with a smaller vendor stall in Union Market. When you pull up to 2fifty BBQ, chances are you’re here for the American Wagyu Brisket, Pulled Pork, a multiple variety of ribs, and sausage links. But another favorite dish, by far, is the Prime Brisket, which seamlessly blends two cooking traditions together—Salvadoran and American-style barbecue.

Tim Ebneris an award-winning food, drink, and travel writer. He lives on Capitol Hill and has a weakness for Old Bay Seasoning. Follow him on Twitter:@TimEbner

The Best Restaurants in DC, from Tokyo-Inspired Food Halls to Chesapeake Bay Seafood (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gregorio Kreiger

Last Updated:

Views: 6084

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gregorio Kreiger

Birthday: 1994-12-18

Address: 89212 Tracey Ramp, Sunside, MT 08453-0951

Phone: +9014805370218

Job: Customer Designer

Hobby: Mountain biking, Orienteering, Hiking, Sewing, Backpacking, Mushroom hunting, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Gregorio Kreiger, I am a tender, brainy, enthusiastic, combative, agreeable, gentle, gentle person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.