1. Thai X-ing, Shaw. What was once a tiny carryout is now a dine-in-only restaurant with a $30-to-$40 prix fixe menu.
2. Thaitanic, Logan Circle and Columbia Heights. This humble neighborhood dining room looks innocent enough, but chili-averse beware.
3. Bangkok 54, Arlington. This stylish, low-lit setting puts out one of our favorite Thai dishes in the area: crispy duck with chilies and basil.
1. Meiwah, West End and Chevy Chase. Owner Larry La loves to paper the walls of his neighborhood standbys with photos of famous-for-DC customers.
2. A&J Restaurant, Annandale and Rockville. Northern Chinese–style dim sum—noodles with spicy pork, thousand-layer pancake—is served all day at these spartan houses.
3. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church. As the name suggests, Peking duck is the thing to get at this lazy-Susan spot.
1. Rasika, Penn Quarter. Ashok Bajaj’s modern-Indian hit offers complex stews, terrific seafood dishes, and such inventive cocktails as a Dark and Stormy made with butternut-squash soda.
2. Masala Art, Tenleytown. Neighborhood regulars love the lunch buffet, while night brings fiery vindaloos and curries that aren’t shy on spice.
3. Indique, Cleveland Park, and Indique Heights, Chevy Chase. A menu of street snacks and creative dishes such as salmon sliders sandwiched into an uttapam pancake set these dining rooms apart from other Indian curry houses.
BEST LATIN AMERICAN
1. Oyamel, Penn Quarter. Mexican small plates with a José Andrés twist, meaning that tres leches cake is accented with pineapple gelatin and margaritas are topped with salt foam.
2. El Centro DF, Logan Circle. Tacos and carne asada in the boomingly loud dining rooms, mescal cocktails in the rooftop sun.
3. Uncle Julio’s, multiple Maryland and Virginia locations. Big plates of Tex-Mex enchiladas and fajitas alongside swirled lime-and-sangría margaritas.
BEST FROZEN YOGURT/ICE CREAM
1. FroZenYo, multiple area locations. Self-serve low-cal frozen yogurt in myriad flavors can be dolled up at the toppings bar.
2. Pinkberry, Dupont Circle, Clarendon, Fairfax, and Leesburg. The Los Angeles–born obsession of many a teenage girl is now on the East Coast.
3. Pitango Gelato, Logan Circle, Penn Quarter, Capitol Hill, and Reston. Gelato and sorbet made with in-season fruits and high-quality ingredients.
BEST RESTAURANT DESSERTS
1. Co Co. Sala, Penn Quarter. This swank lounge is a fantasy place for chocolate lovers.
2. Birch & Barley, Logan Circle. Tiffany MacIsaac excels at spiffed-up versions of oatmeal cream pies and Hostess cupcakes.
3. Central, Penn Quarter. You don’t want to miss the sweets—especially Michel Richard’s take on a Kit Kat bar—at his boisterous French/American eatery.
1. Baked & Wired, Georgetown. Cookie sandwiches and “hippie crack” granola sit beside straightforward pies and excellent cupcakes.
2. Bayou Bakery, Courthouse. David Guas’s Louisiana-inspired treats include bacon-caramel popcorn, lemon curd, and fabulous Oreo-like cookies.
3. Buzz Bakery, Alexandria and Ballston. You won’t find blue-glitter-covered Katy Perry cupcakes anywhere else, but the simple espresso-iced Buzz Signature is our favorite.
1. Taylor Gourmet, H Street, Northeast; Penn Quarter; and Bethesda. The hoagies here are named for streets in the city that inspired them—Philly.
2. Jetties, Palisades, Cleveland Park, and Bethesda. All-American classics such as the Nobadeer, sourdough bread loaded with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
3. The Italian Store, Arlington. The subs here have a rabid following. If you don’t call in your order ahead of time, get in line—and wait 45 minutes for your sandwich.
1. Tabard Inn, Dupont Circle. Warm and cinnamony doughnuts, decadent eggs Benedict, and house-made bagels are the weekend draws at this rowhouse-hotel charmer.
2. Liberty Tavern, Clarendon. Choose between a homey, well-stocked buffet and an à la carte menu of omelets and sandwiches.
3. Masa 14, Logan Circle. For $35 you get all the lychee bellinis, flatbreads, and Latin/Asian small plates you can handle.
1. Gibson, U Street. With house-made bitters and esoteric liquors, the drinks at this swankily moody den feel straight out of a vintage bartender’s guide.
2. PS 7’s, Penn Quarter. The polka-dot-aproned Gina Chersevani is always playing around with new ideas. She’s currently turning cocktails into boozy cupcakes.
3. The Passenger, downtown DC. This dark, loud bar fuses a divey spirit with a serious devotion to craft cocktails.
1. Palak chaat at Rasika, Penn Quarter. We get requests to track down the recipe for this dish—feather-light leaves of fried spinach doused with tamarind sauce and yogurt—at least once a month. (The chef will never tell.)
2. Sweet-corn agnolotti at Graffiato, Penn Quarter. This freshly made pasta on the restaurant’s opening menu was a runaway summer hit.
3. Pumpkin curry at Thai X-ing, Shaw. Asian pumpkin in spicy red curry makes a perfect cold-weather dinner.
This article appears in the December 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.