82. Jackie’s ★★
8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-565-9700
Cuisine: If restaurants were people, this would be the hearty partyer who hunkers down with Wittgenstein in his spare time: playful but with a serious side. That side—evident in the fine stemware, thoughtfully composed salads, and detailed riffs on American comfort food—transforms what otherwise might be a convivial night of fun into a minor gastronomic outing.
Mood: The dining room—all exposed beams, dangling light bulbs, hot-pink pillows, and sculpted plastic chairs—is a masterpiece of retro chic. It’s framed by a bar with a drop-down projection-screen TV and an open kitchen, and it crackles with an energy rare in fine dining.
Best for: Dining out without getting dolled up—or having to leave the kids at home.
Best dishes: Butter lettuce with anchovy dressing and aged sheep’s-milk cheese; Prince Edward Island mussels in a Madras curry broth with lime jelly and cilantro; pan-seared swordfish with shrimp butter; pimiento-topped “Elvis” burger; Hudson Valley duck leg with duck sausage; a roast of braised pork, house-made sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and hominy stew.
Insider tips: Frank Morales, who previously manned the stove at Rustico, has recently come aboard to run the show. The streamlined menu is a little less zippy, and Morales is given at times to overproducing his dishes, but the Elvis burger is better (and bigger) than ever and the cheese grits are otherworldly.
Open Monday through Saturday for dinner (cafe menu on Monday), Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate to expensive.
81. Hook ★★
3241 M St., NW; 202-625-4488
Cuisine: Chef Jonathan Seningen turns out an ever-changing, all-over-the-map roster of seafood that encompasses the au courant (a crudo of mahi mahi with pickled jalapeño) and the enduring (fish and chips). Meat lovers might want to look elsewhere—there’s only one non-fish entrée on the menu—but seafood fanciers will smile. Every fish is sustainably caught; think Arctic char, not Atlantic salmon.
Mood: The softly lit, minimalist dining room has turned into something of a weeknight clubhouse for Georgetown couples and families. On weekends, tables are filled by a snappily dressed crowd of thirtysomethings and internationals.
Best for: A quiet date or dinner; brunch.
Best dishes: The menu changes daily, but look for a trio of smoked fishes—salmon, mackerel, and bluefish; oysters three ways; beet salad with pistachios and goat cheese; gingery tuna tartare; tempura-fried pufferfish with piquant cilantro sauce for dipping; whole grilled Greek dorade with olives and chimichurri; lingonberry linzertorte with Taleggio ice cream; butterscotch tart.
Insider tips: Pastry chef Heather Chittum is a top talent; even if you’re not having a meal, you can graze on her sweets at the bar.
Open Monday for dinner, Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. Expensive.
80. Brasserie Beck ★★
1101 K St., NW; 202-408-1717
Cuisine: Vegetarians and believers in portion control will find little to like about this buzzing den of immoderation, perhaps the finest of the area’s growing contingent of Belgian-inspired restaurants. Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s menu abounds in burly servings of beef stews, lamb sausages, and roasted rabbit—even salads sport bits of pork. Just as hearty is the Belgian-dominated beer list that’s as thick as a novel and closely managed by a suds sommelier.
Mood: A gleaming open kitchen is the backdrop for a frenetic dining room, where cooler-than-thou servers cater to hungry beer lovers and celebratory groups, while gaggles of young professionals swarm the granite bar at happy hour. In summer, try the patio for a quieter scene.
Best for: Celebrating with a large group—you don’t have to worry about being too loud, and dishes are easy to share.
Best dishes: Buttery lentils supporting a house-made lamb sausage; triple-fried frites, herb-dusted and served with three mayos; garlic-happy mushrooms and spaetzle with a crunchy baguette slice and a warm poached egg; coq au vin, liberally scattered with bits of bacon; fried-parsley-flecked snails; a soufflé-like black-currant-and-fig clafoutis.
Insider tips: Resist the allure of the steamed mussels—more-flavorful pots are to be found elsewhere. Instead, splurge for Wiedmaier’s house-made charcuterie.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate to expensive.