79. Etete ★★
1942 Ninth St., NW; 202-232-7600
Cuisine: Ethiopian is among the great strengths of Washington’s ethnic-dining landscape, with restaurants, bars, groceries, and even bakeries dotting the scene. This family-run operation remains the best spot to dig into the complex, spice-laden stews, called wats, that form the backbone of the cuisine. Tiwaltengus Shenegelgn, who runs the kitchen, is a star in the local community, and no wonder: Her cooking is the most refined, with clear flavors and a lingering depth in her saucing.
Mood: The coziness and sophistication call to mind a contemporary urban cafe, and the multicultural crowd, sipping cocktails and sharing platters of stews, reinforces the relaxed vibe.
Best for: A cheap and sustaining meal before or after a concert or outing on U Street; a big gathering with friends (particularly if the group includes vegetarians).
Best dishes: Sambusas, crisp, three-cornered pastries filled with spiced beef or lentils; yebeg wat and doro wat, the former made up of sliced lamb, the latter involving a leg of chicken and a hard-boiled egg, and both of them buried in the same thick, spicy, brick-red sauce; a vegetarian platter with azifa (brown lentils with Ethiopian mustard), kik alicha (a creamy, yellow-lentil stew), and yemisir wat (spiced red lentils).
Insider tips: The coffee ceremony, which takes place in the afternoon, is a treat, featuring strong, dark brews, bowls of popcorn, and the smell of incense—a chance to take a moment, slow down, and breathe.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.
78. Eventide ★★½
3165 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-276-3165
Cuisine: Chef Miles Vaden’s ambitious Clarendon kitchen doesn’t produce anything too out-there, but his Modern American cooking is full of surprises. A classic tartare is made from bison, sweetbreads are rolled in oats, and octopus comes not grilled but marinated, escabeche style.
Mood: You might expect a crowd out of Twilight in this soaring, Goth-chic dining room. But under the black chandeliers sit casual families, empty-nesters, and smartly turned-out young professionals.
Best for: Bar snacks in the downstairs lounge or, in the summer, on the roof; dinner dates.
Best dishes: Grilled-pear salad with blue-cheese flan; octopus with olives and mashed chickpeas; Arctic char over spaghetti squash and spicy-tangy rémoulade; duck with foie gras butter and lush polenta cake.
Insider tips: Virginia permits unfinished bottles of wine to be taken home, and the restaurant provides wine “doggie bags.”
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch. Expensive.
77. Addie’s ★★½
11120 Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-881-0081
Cuisine: What’s come out of the kitchen at Jeff and Barbara Black’s folksy first restaurant can best be described as uneven. But now it’s a different story with Nate Waugaman behind the stove. Gone are the scattered attempts at fusion fare, and in its place are house-made charcuterie (plus a whole lot of excellent Benton’s ham from Kentucky) and rootedly American roasts and fish dishes. Finally, the food has one personality, not 15.
Mood: Driving past strip mall after strip mall, you might miss this creaky, sunshine-yellow Victorian set back in the trees. (Look for the diner-like neon let’s eat sign.) Inside the tiny dining rooms, funky charm abounds, with cheerful young servers and side tables made from antique ovens.
Best for: Lunch or dinner after hitting White Flint Mall; families (although the place can get very loud); satisfying a case of small-town nostalgia.
Best dishes: Charcuterie, including lomo, peppery soppresatta, rustic rabbit pâté, and a wonderful pumpkin marmalade; fried green tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese; artfully presented beet carpaccio over rounds of ashy goat cheese; fried oysters with lemon and chopped egg; grilled trout with brown-butter vinaigrette; rustic vegetable lasagna; in the summer, a fabulous mixed-bean salad with ham.
Insider tips: Don’t be hesitant to make a meal out of the generous appetizers—they tend to outshine the entrées.
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for dinner. Moderate.