1. Founding Farmers, downtown DC. This folksy spot brings pot roast and pancakes to an unlikely place—the IMF building.
2. Chef Geoff’s, downtown DC, upper Northwest, and Tysons Corner. Jazz brunches and great happy-hour deals separate these upscale saloons from the pack.
3. Willow, Ballston. Kinkead’s alum Tracy O’Grady turns out luscious pastas and seafood dishes, while Firehook cofounder Kate Jansen takes care of the layer cakes and pies.
1. Bistrot du Coin, Dupont Circle. Charmingly brusque waitresses serve up straightforward French bistro fare—no lobster burgers here.
2. Marcel’s, West End. Robert Wiedmaier’s bastion of old-guard elegance offers surprises such as hamachi crudo.
3. L’Auberge Chez François, Great Falls. Owner François Haeringer died this year at 91, but son Jacques still runs the kitchen with a sure hand.
1. Dino, Cleveland Park. Dean Gold’s neighborhood place offers lots of classic preparations, but he’s likely the only one in town putting an Italian spin on scrapple and bánh mì.
2. Tosca, Penn Quarter. Sumptuous pastas and ragus in a warm-toned white-tablecloth setting.
3. Bibiana, Penn Quarter. Ashok Bajaj’s glittery dining room has fabulous desserts and digestivi.
1. 2 Amys, Cleveland Park. Artisanal ingredients such as house-made charcuterie and pies made with buffalo mozzarella and Italian plum tomatoes.
2. Pupatella, Ballston. The bright-red street cart has grown into a permanent storefront and upgraded from a propane oven to a 1,000-degree wood-burning one from Naples.
3. Mia’s Pizzas, Bethesda. This tiny, yellow-painted dining room packs in fans enjoying excellent Margherita pies.
1. Zaytinya, Penn Quarter. José Andrés turns Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese cuisine into small plates.
2. Cava, Rockville and Capitol Hill. You can now buy this restaurant’s Crazy Feta dip at Whole Foods, but it’s still worth stopping in here for Disco Fries, grilled octopus, and Greek yogurt.
3. Zorba’s Cafe, Dupont Circle. The pork gyro makes a great meal to go, and the outdoor patio is a nice spot for a quick Greek salad.
1. Rasika, Penn Quarter. Vikram Sunderam’s expert modern cooking—that’s goat cheese hiding in the kulcha—makes this one of the toughest reservations in town.
2. Indique, Cleveland Park, and Indique Heights, Chevy Chase. Excellent curries meet such inventive appetizers as mini-dosas and crab tikki.
3. Heritage India, Glover Park and Dupont Circle. There’s a great happy hour and a lunch buffet at Dupont, but the stews and tandoori meats are better at the Glover Park original.
1. Bangkok 54, Arlington. Don’t let the serene setting fool you: The cooking here can be downright fiery.
2. Thai Tanic, Logan Circle and Columbia Heights. Low-key neighborhood spots with assertive curries.
3. Thai Square, Arlington. The bare-bones dining room is livened by terrific honey-roasted duck and pillowy pork, shrimp, and chicken dumplings.
1. Meiwah, downtown DC and Chevy Chase. Photos of actors and senators paper the walls of the downtown original, while the Maryland location is a family-friendly spot for sushi and lo mein.
2. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church. There’s always a wait—even if you have a reservation—for the crisp-skinned ducks at this Bush 41 favorite.
3. Mark’s Duck House, Falls Church. Dim sum isn’t just for weekends at this bustling strip-mall spot.
BEST LATIN AMERICAN
1. Oyamel, Penn Quarter. Mexican small plates, made-to-order guac, and tacos stuffed with suckling pig or, for the adventurous, Mexico City–favorite grasshoppers.
2. Lauriol Plaza, Dupont Circle. Twentysomethings pack the roof deck, staving off hangovers with cheesy enchiladas and smoking fajitas.
3. La Caraqueña, Falls Church. A quaint motel-side place for excellent arepas and salteñas.