1. Ray’s the Steaks, Arlington. There’s a line outside this bare-bones dining room for a reason. Two words: hanger steak.
2. Tie: Ruth’s Chris Steak House (three area locations) and Morton’s (six). Both chains offer manly portions and professional service.
3. Charlie Palmer Steak, Capitol Hill. A lobbyist favorite that’s popular for more than just Angus and Wagyu.
1. Five Guys, 42 area locations. It’s everywhere from Florida to New York, but locals still love this homegrown burger spot.
2. Central Michel Richard, Penn Quarter. Not in the mood for beef? This Franco-American bistro also offers lobster, tuna, and shrimp patties.
3. Palena Cafe, Cleveland Park. Frank Ruta’s hand-ground beef burger with truffled cheese is $10 worth of pure bliss.
1. Kinkead’s, Foggy Bottom. Signature dishes range from lunchtime lobster rolls to pepita-crusted salmon.
2. Oceanaire Seafood Room, downtown DC. Everything, from the plates of fresh fish to the baked Alaska, is supersized.
3. McCormick & Schmick’s, eight area locations. This Portland-based chain offers 30-plus varieties of seafood daily.
1. Clyde’s, nine locations. Each of these saloons has a distinct feel, from the brass-laden Georgetown original to a newly opened Loudoun County farmhouse.
2. Tie: Blue Duck Tavern, West End. Hearty, wood-fired meats with pairings such as bourbon-soaked peaches and roasted tomatoes. Carlyle, Shirlington. Winning service and approachable, satisfying comfort food.
3. Artie’s, Fairfax. A comfy family favorite with everything from Tex-Mex egg rolls to Creole pasta.
1. Central Michel Richard, Penn Quarter. Charcuterie, ratatouille, and . . . a banana split? Richard’s bistro is full of surprises.
2. Brasserie Beck, downtown DC. The best seats at this Belgian spot are in front of the action-packed open kitchen.
3. Bistrot du Coin, Dupont Circle. Loud and crowded, with good, cheap steak frites.
1. Ristorante Tosca, Penn Quarter. This expense-account favorite offers ethereal pastas.
2. Filomena, Georgetown. A long list of towering cakes caps off an Italian-American menu.
3. Zeffirelli Ristorante, Herndon. Hearty, Tuscany-inspired cooking.
1. Zaytinya, Penn Quarter. José Andrés’s hip mezzeteria modernizes Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish classics.
2. Lebanese Taverna, five area locations. Fantastic hummus and layered fattehs.
3. Komi, Dupont Circle. Twentysomething chef/owner Johnny Monis is one of the hottest talents in town.
1. Huong Que (Four Sisters), Falls Church. A gracious, orchid-strewn Eden Center dining room.
2. Pho 75, five area locations. Local chefs love to fuel up at these soup spots.
3. Taste of Saigon, Rockville and McLean. Go for lime-marinated steak, lobster salad, and anything with black-pepper sauce.
1. Rasika, Penn Quarter. A gorgeous, amber-lit dining room showcases chef Vikram Sunderam’s creations.
2. Heritage India, Glover Park. Lovely stews and curries, vegetarian and not.
3. Indique, Cleveland Park. A pretty setting for tandoori specialties and tamarind margaritas.
Best South American
1. Ceiba, downtown DC. Jeff Tunks’s chic Nuevo Latino spot for ceviches and mojitos.
2. Café Atlántico, Penn Quarter. Killer margaritas, guacamole made tableside, and one of the most interesting brunches.
3.Tie: El Pollo Rico, Arlington and Wheaton. The Peruvian-style charbroiled chicken has legions of loyal followers. Fogo de Chao, Penn Quarter. All-you-can-eat gaucho-style beef in an Adamstein & Demetriou–designed dining room.
1. The Diner, Adams Morgan. French toast, bacon, and seven kinds of grilled cheese served around the clock.
2. Ben’s Chili Bowl, U Street. Half-smokes with a side of DC history.
3. Tie: Bistro Français, Georgetown. A three-course late-night special with a glass of wine is $21.95. Amsterdam Falafelshop, Adams Morgan. The fixings bar brims with creative pita toppings.
Best Weekend Brunch
1. Georgia Brown’s, downtown DC. An all-you-can-eat Southern buffet so generous that most people take their entrées home.
2. Carlyle, Shirlington. Bountiful salads and a winning flourless chocolate waffle.
3. Tabard Inn, Dupont Circle. Sugared yeast doughnuts arrive warm from the fryer.