DC’s version of the artisanal pie originated at Dupont Circle’s Pizzeria Paradiso, and the Georgetown spinoff (3282 M St., NW; 202-337-1245) offers the same blistered crusts and inspired toppings. We go for the Atomica—salami with black olives and red-pepper flakes—or the Bottarga, with salty sprinkles of Parmesan and red-mullet roe. To accompany the pizza, there are 16 beers on tap plus a bottled lineup of Belgian tripels, German bocks, and British stouts.
Lobster pot pies for $85 and $145 steaks rule the dining-room menu at celeb chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak (Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-944-2026), but the fare in the lounge revels in a different sort of excess—the caloric kind. You can sip a Hemingway daiquiri or a pomegranate sidecar while enjoying high-rolling versions of carnival treats: fried pickles, lobster corn dogs, duck-fat-fried French fries, truffle-dusted popcorn. Need a break from the cholesterol? The ahi-tuna tartare, one of our favorites in the dining room, is available at the bar.
What happens when you let a couple of twentysomethings loose in the kitchen of one of the city’s most venerable restaurants? Really good things, in the case of chef Daniel Giusti, 24, and pastry chef Travis Olsen, 26, who are now running the show at 1789 (1226 36th St., NW; 202-965-1789). Giusti mixes the traditional (a classic oyster gratin) with the gently boundary-pushing (nettle soup with beer-battered snails and Irish Coolea cheese). Olsen’s sweets share the old-meets-new sensibility: A cannoli is filled with star-anise cream and candied fennel, and an ice-cream sandwich is made from Turkish-coffee ice cream and brioche.
Walking into Ching Ching Cha (1063 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-8288), we instinctively make sure our cell phone is on vibrate. The Chinese-style teahouse is as calming as a yoga class. A short snack menu is worthwhile for the five-spice peanuts and boiled, tea-and-soy-sauce-marinated eggs, but the reason to come is the tea selection, which ranges from a glass pot of softly scented chrysanthemum blossoms to an elaborate service of pungent aged pu-erh.
At the Argentinean-style gelato shop Dolcezza (1560 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-4646), the chocolate is Valrhona, the coffee comes from North Carolina’s esteemed Counter Culture, and the pistachios are flown in from Sicily. So it stands to reason that the place would seek out the best-quality fruits for its icy sorbetto. You can taste the difference in flavors such as blood orange, Champagne-mango, and Thai coconut milk, which is delicious paired with lime.
You can be as virtuous as you want with the light salads and spare seafood dishes at Hook (3241 M St., NW; 202-625-4488). But when dessert rolls around, good luck. Pastry chef Heather Chittum’s sweets—a classic lingonberry linzertorte with Taleggio ice cream, a standout chocolate pudding, a riff on s’mores—are tough enough to choose among, much less resist.
Whether it’s Brad and Angelina or Joe and Jill Biden, celebrities keep flocking to Cafe Milano (3251 Prospect St., NW; 202-333-6183). The best place to take your $29 bowl of Risotto Gucci and hope for a boldface sighting? The white-linen-covered tables set among the hibiscus shrubs.
Set up your laptop or bring some Kafka to a table by the fountain outside Leopold’s Kafe + Konditorei (3318 M St., NW; 202-965-6005), the Austrian-style coffeehouse that’s tucked away among the gleaming furniture shops of Cady’s Alley. Whether you come for pressed coffee, salty chocolate cookies, or miniature grilled Gruyère sandwiches, few places are more relaxing in the afternoon sun.
Rumor has it that Michel Richard is planning a move to the Tysons area, but in the meantime his flagship, Citronelle (3000 M St., NW; 202-625-2150), remains at the tip-top of the city’s food chain. The President and First Lady even paid a visit in May for a date night. The chef’s $190 nine-course “promenade gourmande” menu is equal parts lavish and mood-lightening, taking diners on a spin through Richard’s repertoire of greatest hits, from the trompe l’oeil “egg surprise” to the buttery lobster burger and the fabulously rich 72-hour short ribs.
A wood grill and deep fryer are put to equally good use at the urban fish shack Tackle Box (3245 M St., NW; 202-337-8269). From the grill come smoke-infused filets of bluefish and spears of asparagus. Then there are the fry baskets, piled with crisp bay scallops (best with lemony aïoli), battered shrimp, or Ipswich clams with tartar. Pick one as part of the $13 Maine Meal, which includes two sides.
Baked & Wired (1052 Thomas Jefferson St., NW; 202-333-2500) is known for its cupcakes, but we love the pies just as much. The sugar-topped cherry, tangy strawberry-rhubarb, and peach-cream varieties ($32) are perfect for cookouts. Order them two days in advance.
The epicenter of DC nightlife has moved beyond Georgetown, but a few vestiges of its heyday have stuck around. In the ’70s, the back room of Nathans (3150 M St., NW; 202-338-2000) was the place to be. It’s more sedate now but still serves a strong drink and a good burger. The 75 year-old Martin’s Tavern (1264 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-7370), best known as the place JFK proposed to Jackie, satisfies regulars with shad roe and oyster stew.
The Glover Park snack bar Surfside (2444 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-337-0004) has a beach-bum vibe and a laid-back Cali-Mex menu, but there’s a serious chef in the kitchen. David Scribner’s quesadillas and tacos are worthy dinners, but for a post-work snack, look to the guacamole, which is chunky and full of lime and cilantro. The tart, strong margaritas are half price on weeknights between 5:30 and 6:30.
This article first appeared in the June 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.