Twenty-five bucks a person. These days, that amount of cash won’t get you far in many Washington restaurants (a Negroni maybe, plus a tiny bar snack). This list, though, is all about proving you can eat terrifically well if you’re in the right place. That might mean a Mexican strip-mall joint in Hyattsville, which serves some of the most wondrous mole sauce we’ve ever tasted. Or a rollicking Korean barbecue house in Annandale, where tabletop grills sizzle with pork belly and rib eye until 2 am. Or a storefront in Bloomingdale with the best chili-topped half-smokes around. (Sorry, Ben’s.)
These 100 restaurants—including 25 we’re calling out as the brightest stars on the scene—are where we’ve had some of our most thrilling meals of the year. At any price.
Last night, food lovers gathered at the National Building Museum for Washingtonian’s swank, deco-themed Best of Washington party. Their mission? To sip and sample their way through offerings from over 80 restaurants—ranging from cheap eats favorites like Thai Taste by Kob and Ethiopic to high-end destinations like Rasika and Del Campo. As parties go, it was pretty great, with boldface chefs, (candy) cigarette girls, and plenty of eye candy, including a shiny 1932 Ford and an adorable Saint Bernard in a pink tutu. But back to the eats—here are our food team’s highlights from an evening of glorious excess that would have made Jay Gatsby proud.
Favorite dessert trend: Doughnuts, doughnuts everywhere! We couldn’t get enough of the milk-chocolate doughnut pops from District Doughnut, the crackly creme brulee bites from Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, or the fried zeppole with Nutella cream from Pizzeria Orso. Runner up: The gorgeous array of colorful macarons from Olivia Macaron.
Cutest helper: Charlotte Ma, the adorable four year-old daughter of Water & Wall owners Tim and Joey Ma, helped her dad assemble plates of smoked watermelon with sea beans, roquefort, green-tomato coulis, pickled scallions, and cilantro oil.
Best cold soup: Iron Gate’s chilled pea soup with housemade yogurt, dill, and seared shrimp. The dish was creamy, cooling, and beautifully balanced. To go with it, sommelier Brent Kroll served a taste of “salty” Greek wine from a vineyard where the grapes are hit with sea air. Runner up: The thick Persian yogurt soup accented with walnuts and rose petals from the Estadio/Proof/Doi Moi team.
Most creative drink presentation: Toki Underground miniature sake bombs, balanced on chopsticks. Watching a guest bang the table in sake bomb-style and send a number of drinks flying was a party foul highlight.
Best fusion creation: Daikaya’s plate of crunchy noodles and rice, shallots, dried peas, and peanuts was a delicious mash-up of Japanese ramen and the Indian puffed-rice salad called bhel puri. Runner-up: The Jewish-Chinese pastrami lo mein from DGS Delicatessen, which we wish was available come 2 AM.
Best use of shellfish: Takoma Park restaurant Republic put out simple but sublime grilled oysters with chili butter. We’ll take a dozen, please, with a baguette for sopping up the juices. Runner up: The Fainting Goat’s corn-nut-dusted shrimp with radish salsa verde, which the chef described as a “one bite taco.”
Best fish dish: Rasika’s freshly-seared tuna, paired with aromatic coconut-cilantro chutney. Runner up: Sushi Rock’s crisp nori cones filled with citrussy raw salmon.
Best cocktail: The old-school daiquiris—no strawberries or blenders allowed—shaken to order by Restaurant Eve’s Todd Thrasher. Runner up: The tropical Pisco Punch Royale—a mix of pisco, pinapple syrup, Velvet Falernum, and champagne—from Shaw bar Lost & Found.
Best meal on a tiny plate: Thai Taste by Kob chef/owner Phak Duangchandr handed out a trio of treats: tender chicken and pork satay skewers, plus fried purses holding sweet potato, curry, and chicken. Runner up: The trio of lamb meatballs draped in tomato sauce from Boqueria, which also served a terrific blackberry sangria.
Best use of an offbeat meat: It’s a bold move to serve goat at a cocktail party, but Compass Rose’s spicy stew—a long-cooked, earthy bowl of goat, curry, and chickpeas accented with a dash of yogurt—had us craving seconds. Runner-up: The smoky chicken-liver crostini from Del Campo.
Best reason to forgo meat: The generous and lovely spring-pea salad from Blue Duck Tavern, with ultra-fresh pods, lavender honey, preserved lemon, and spiced peanuts over a swipe of farm cheese. Runner up: Summer squash with herb vinaigrette, fennel/corn salad, and feta from Cashion’s Eat Place.
Best one-bite canape: Warm, fried puffs of pizza dough, which Pizzeria Orso chef Bertrand Chemel doled out with a cool, creamy asparagus/ramp dip. Runner up: Passionfish’s sushi roll stuffed with spicy tuna and tempura flakes and drizzled with creamy “dynamite” sauce.
Best throwback dish: Bistro Bis’s cool and addictive vichyssoise sprinkled with finely cut chives and brioche. Chef Jeff Buben graciously gave recipe credit to Julia Child. Runner up: The vanilla-custard-filled eclairs from Palisades bistro Et Voila!.
Best palate cleanser: Ice Cream Jubilee owner Victoria Lai offered up miniature cones with bracing gin-and-tonic sorbet and wonderfully floral honey/lemon/lavender ice cream (among other excellent flavors). Runner up: Freshly spun Italian water ice from Bub and Pop’s, which came in flavors like dark cherry and watermelon and was made from real fruit.
Whiskey is a popular Father’s Day present, but how does one pick a thoughtful bottle? We asked Jack Rose owner Bill Thomas—the man is behind the largest whiskey collection in the Western Hemisphere, after all. Though his Adams Morgan temple to brown liquor is stocked with rare finds, he clued us in on favorites that are more readily available.
Selecting a quaffable brown liquor doesn’t necessarily mean blowing your monthly budget--even for someone with a large collection. Thomas says to start with what dad typically likes to drink, and go from there. Specialty local liquor stores like Ace Beverage in Foxhall Square, Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Potomac Wines & Spirits in Georgetown, and 1 West Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors carry extensive selections, and often have knowledgeable staff on hand that can help with a purchase.
For the bourbon-loving dad:
“I’m a bourbon guy at heart,” says Thomas. The five whiskeys he’s always happy to drink: Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel, Booker's Small Batch, and Maker's Mark Cask Strength. “In addition to being fairly readily available, they won't break the bank so you can afford to get him two.”
For the dad who loves classic cocktails:
If dad prefers to pour a classic Manhattan or Old Fashioned, Sonoma Distilling Co.'s Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is the bottle to grab. “This 109-proof rye can hold up in a cocktail as well as on its own,” says Thomas. “Wine better watch out, rye is Sonoma's hottest new export.”
For the dad who fancies single malt Scotch, but is willing to branch out:
“Japan has gained notoriety for its competitive Scottish-style single malt and blended whiskies,” says Thomas. You may recognize the name Suntory—the Japanese distilling company made headlines for its acquisition of Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, and also for its famed Yamazaki Distillery. Thomas’s top Japanese pick: the award-winning Yamazaki 18. Can't find it? “As an alternative, look to second biggest distillery in Japan - Nikka - along with smaller distilleries like Hakushu and Chichibu for unique single malt expressions,” Thomas says.
If your dad is Ron Swanson:
His best bet: Octomore 6.1. This peat-bomb from Bruichladdich Distillery in Islay, Scotland, will conjure images of firing up the grill and smoking meats at a backyard barbecue. Other smoky and readily available peated whiskeys include Talisker 10-year and Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength.
If one bottle isn’t enough:
Thomas recommends a membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA). The society membership ($229) will get him access to unique members-only bottles, tasting rooms, and events.
Father’s Day is coming up this Sunday, June 21. No plans yet? No problem. Unlike the seemingly-obligatory Mother’s Day brunch, restaurants offer a variety of specials and deals—and typically aren’t booked solid—for dad. Here’s where to find great takeout, free beer, and of course, lots of meat.
For dads who like picnicking (but not cooking):
Fried chicken to-go at Jackson 20
480 King St., Alexandria; 703-842-2790
This American restaurant’s summery feast includes eight pieces of crispy fried chicken, watermelon, and coleslaw.
Call ahead by Sunday, June 21 to order; $28 per takeout package.
BBQ bags to-go at Society Fair
277 S. Washington St., Alexandria; 703-683-3247
Chef Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong’s market/restaurant prepares a picnic-friendly basket with pulled pork sandwich makings, barbecue chicken, potato salad, and cornbread. ($75, serves four). The shop also sells a variety of items for the grill (burgers, sausages), prepared sides, and presents for dad like a spiced rum kit.
Order your bag online by 9 pm on Friday, June 19 for pick-up on Saturday, June 20.
1320 14th St., NW; 202-290-2821
Pork-loving pops will dig this swine-filled—and wallet-friendly—brunch, featuring biscuits and ham, pork fat potatoes, and the main event: a stuffed, roasted Pennsylvania suckling pig.
1914 9th St., NW; 202-686-2966
Chef Dean Gold gets in the Father’s Day spirit with Flintstone-esque portions of meat, such as a two-plus pound T-bone from Shenandoah Valley, or a boar strip loin. Dad can top it all off with luxe sauces like truffle and ramp butters.
The a la carte dishes are offered Friday, June 19 through Sunday, June 21.
Prime rib dinner at Central Michel Richard
1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-626-0015
Central’s menu gets a “manly meal” makeover for Father’s Day. The special du jour: prime rib, green beans, and a baked potato. Diners can also opt for stellar fried chicken or burgers from the regular menu.
5120 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-237-2300
Hunker down for a meal of beef Napoleons with mushrooms. or a béarnaise-sauced New York strip. Holiday bonus: the restaurant will throw in a monogrammed pilsner glass for dad.
Sunday, June 21; a la carte menu.
More meats at MET Bethesda
7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda; 301-767-1900 (Inside Westfield Montgomery Mall)
Manly specials planned for brunch include a surf n’ turf Benedict with filet and lobster. Dinner brings a ribeye steak for two with all the trimmings.
750 15th St., NW; 202-489-0140
Filet mignon, grilled tomatoes, Alaskan king crab, and banana cream pie are among the specials for dad. The restaurant recommends reservations.
Sunday, June 21; a la carte menu.
2201 14th St., NW; 202-234-5000; 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-4400
Dads get a complimentary cold one at both of Mike Isabella’s Mediterranean eateries. The restaurants suggest Victory Brewery’s Summer Love—part of Kapnos’s June tap takeover—Port City, or Champion Killer.
Sunday, June 21; a la carte.
Free beer with a barbecue dinner at City Tap House
901 9th St., NW; 202-733-5333
Love beer and meat? Head in for chipotle-glazed, hickory-smoked ribs, and get a complimentary beer for dad. On the side: homey dishes like cornbread, coleslaw, and baked beans.
Sunday, June 21; $25 per person.
Burgers and brews at Del Frisco’s Grille
11800 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda; 301-8881-0308;750 15th St., NW; 202-450-4686
Two local Del Frisco’s branches offer a burger and beer deal, which includes any beer on tap, fries, and a cheeseburger ($17.50). The North Bethesda location also offers an a la carte brunch on Sunday with Father’s Day specials.
1110 Vermont Ave., NW; 202-955-0075
Mio mixes Puerto Rican and traditional DC-brunch dishes for their Father’s Day specials. Dad’s can celebrate with a whole fried snapper, ceviche, beet salad, and a caipirinha.
Sunday, June 21; a la carte menu.
Virginian wine dinner at Jardenea
2430 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-955-6400
Explore the local wine world with dad over a four-course pairing dinner at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel’s restaurant. Dishes include duck breast with mushroom bread pudding and roasted strawberries with bourbon chocolate ganache.
Sunday, June 21; $75 per person person.
1. Dine Out at Lunch
Many upscale spots offer quickie prix fixe lunch menus. A couple of favorites: The $14.98 “Lickity Split” promotion at Restaurant Eve (110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450)—which lets you pick any two items among a lineup of cocktails, entrées, and desserts—and the “Presto!” deal at Fiola Mare’s bar (3050 K St., NW; 202-628-0065), where you can sip a seasonal cocktail alongside an entrée such as pasta with clams for $22. In general, higher-end restaurants in office-heavy neighborhoods like Penn Quarter or Ballston will offer afternoon deals to attract business lunchers.
Yes, the grub at the following restaurants is inexpensive, but what about those days when all you want is a Bayou Bakery "Dat-O-Lantern" cookie? Or when you're having trouble justifying a roadtrip to Annapolis for a lobster roll?
We've been there, and that's why we decided to round up some of our favorite recipes from restaurants featured on our annual cheap eats list.
Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21. Yes, it’s a Hallmark holiday, but most dads won’t protest being treated to a great meal. We’ve picked some of our father-friendly favorites for every taste and budget.
Barbecue: Black Hog BBQ
118 S. Market St., Frederick; 221 Shorebird St., Frederick; 3323 Worthington Blvd., Ijamsville
Some of the best barbecue in Washington comes from these destination-worthy joints. Order dad a combo plate of multi-regional ‘cue, best loaded with St. Louis-style ribs and Arkansas brisket.
700 Mill Creek, Arnold, MD
This waterside restaurant in Ferry Point Marina near Annapolis has everything a crustacean-loving parent would want: crab soups, cakes, dips, and delicious, freshly-steamed blues from the Bay. Get there early—the place gets busy, and steamed crabs go fast.
2201 14th St., NW; 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Spit-roasted meats are the main event at Mike Isabella's Kapnos, and the new Virginia spinoff focuses on seafood, but no matter—vegetarians do exceptionally well at either restaurant. Start with smoked feta dip and freshly-baked breads before moving on to a garden’s-worth of mezze.
1351 H St., NE
Fathers can feel like one of the cool kids at chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s new H Street concept, which mixes a Durkl men’s fashion boutique, coffee shop, bar, and indoor/outdoor restaurant. That’s not to say the place is all style and no substance—get the ma la-spiced fried chicken, and you’ll know what we’re talking about. Note the lunch menu is tiny, but stuffed Cambodian sandwiches and buns are all you'll need.
1122 Ninth St., NW
Shaw may be the neighborhood for hip new restaurants, but chef Tom Power’s refined New American fits the bill for fathers who like reservations, tablecloths, and ambient jazz. The menu is reliably delicious—and that tuna with sushi rice isn’t going anywhere—but thankfully for the many regulars, never boring.
3462 14th St., NW
If dad considers sweetbreads tame and pops jalapeños like they’re berries, he’ll love the exotic odd-bits and heat level at this Laotian spot. Order from the “Let’s Go to the Jungle!” menu, which includes dishes like grilled chicken hearts, pork intestine soup, and mouth-searing papaya-crab salad. A perk for families: tamer eaters can eat equally well.
Steak (splurge): Del Campo
777 I St., NW
We can’t think of a better place to satisfy carnivorous cravings in Washington right now. Chef/owner Victor Albisu’s South American restaurant isn’t your ordinary filet-and-potatoes place, but dad can still order traditional cuts of delicious meats—dry-aged ribeye, a tomahawk for two—sauced with chimichurri or smoked citrus hollandaise. The eatery also serves a terrific all-you-can-eat brunch ($45 per person).
3500 Connecticut Ave., NW; 515 Eighth St., SE
If Dad is a man of simple meaty tastes, the set menu at these sister steak-frites joints is perfect: fresh bread, salad, steak, fries, and house-special sauce for $19.75 per person.
Foodie road trip: The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville, VA
If dad dreams about a pilgrimage to Noma, take him to chef Tarver King’s greenhouse-like dining room overlooking the surrounding countryside; many of the ingredients come from the nearby land. King’s cooking is adventurous and creative, but doesn’t lack the delicious factor—thankfully Noma-esque live ants aren’t part of the experience.
301 Water St., SE
If you want to treat the family to more than a ballpark dog during the Nationals vs. Pirates games this weekend, consider Morini. The airy Italian welcomes fans with game-day specials—and don’t be shy about sporting Nats gear—but upscale dishes like truffled ricotta ravioli and wood-grilled ribeye steaks feel celebratory.
The Mosaic District development is quickly become a food-lovers destination in Fairfax, with restaurants like Gypsy Soul, recent additions such as Brine, and upcoming ventures (Mom & Pop, a collaboration from Dolcezza and Red Apron). The place to try right now: DGS Delicatessen and Specialty Bar, which opened its doors on Tuesday. The new-wave deli is a near-identical twin to the DC original, albeit in a larger 95-seat space outfitted with red booths.
The menus for the two locations are in sync, though the concept itself has evolved since owners/cousins Nick and David Wiseman debuted the Dupont Circle location over two years ago. Familiar—though better than average—deli items like thick-cut pastrami and corned beef, house-smoked fish, and matzo ball soup have been joined by seasonal plates such as grilled local lamb with white beans and fig vinaigrette. The new eatery is currently open for lunch and dinner, but will start brunch (and hopefully delivery) in the coming weeks. Both plan to celebrate Jewish holidays with special menus and catering options.
One new element of the Virginia branch is an expanded 15-seat “specialty bar” area. Guests can sip classic cocktails or house concoctions—we like the Mazel Tov with rose prosecco and gin—and nosh on Reuben egg rolls or brisket sliders. Unlike in DC, the space is equipped with two televisions for catching a game.
Though the Wisemans have no set plans for a third location, the Mosaic DGS likely isn’t the last. David says Maryland may be next. Keep your fingers crossed in the meantime--or better yet, dig into a pastrami sandwich.
DGS Delicatessen and Specialty Bar. 2985 District Ave., Set 115, Fairfax (Mosaic District); 703-280-1111. Open Monday through Wednesday, 11 to 11; Thursday and Friday 11 to 1; Saturday 5 to 1; Sunday 5 to 10. Brunch coming soon.