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Hotspots and casual neighborhood finds, a brewpub and live jazz joint. By Anna Spiegel
SER brings Spanish flare to Ballston with homestyle dishes and plenty of sangria. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

SER

1110 N. Glebe Rd., Ballston

There’s a lot going on at this sunny Spanish newcomer in Ballston—a Mediterranean-style raw bar, daily happy hour, lunch shop with quick-grab sandwiches and salads, and outdoor seating for 100. The one thing you won’t find: tapas. Chef Josu Zubikarai highlights homestyle dishes from his native Spain, such as seafood paella or chicken braised in white wine and garlic, and leaves the sharing for large-format dishes such as roast suckling pig for two. Head in through Wednesday, March 11 for a 20 percent soft-opening discount.

Live music plays nightly at Sotto, which used to house the HR-57 jazz club. Photograph by Amir Lowery.

Sotto

1610 14th St., NW

The name means “under” in Italian, but that’s the only European trait of this subterranean American bar/restaurant from the Ghibellina team. Chef Keith Cabot crafts a menu of smoked ribs and brisket, house sausages, and seasonal vegetables, along with a few carnivalesque treats like chef-y Cracker Jacks and a caramel apple dessert. Live jazz, blues, and neo soul play nightly as a tribute to the former occupant, the HR-57 jazz club, while cocktails also take musical cues. We have our eye on the Groover with gin, pineapple, and Dolin Blanc vermouth.

The Pour House serves 90 draft brews, which can be sipped on a patio in warm weather. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Old Town Pour House

212 Ellington Blvd., Gaithersburg

The growing Downtown Crown development is home to this handsome, copper-hued brewpub, outfitted with a 92-seat patio in warm weather. The third location—and first outside the Chicago area—for the Pour House keeps in line with the flagship theme: beer, and lots of it. Drinkers can pick between 90 globally-sourced drafts (which include several local names), and pad the stomach with midwestern eats like Chicago-style dogs, pretzels with beer cheese, and pickle chips. Watch out a goblet-sized bloody Mary, garnished with various meats, cheeses, and vegetables and a Slim Jim "stir stick."

Family Meal Ashburn opens with diner signatures like fried chicken (above) and new dishes. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Family Meal Ashburn

20470 Exchange St., Ashburn

Bryan Voltaggio expands to Virginia with a third branch of his diner concept (there's a Frederick flagship and spinoff in Baltimore). Many signatures remain the same, including fried chicken baskets, thick shakes--boozy and kid-friendly--and breakfast all day. Keeping in the theme of comfort fare with a twist, the kitchen added items like a pepperoni burger with avocado and a fried egg, hearty French onion soup stewed with short ribs, and a veggie riff on a Reuben made with smoked, pastrami-spiced beets. A fourth branch in Richmond is coming soon.

Mason Social brings gastropub fare and a casual feel to Alexandria's Parker-Gray neighborhood. Photograph courtesy of Mason Social.

Mason Social

728 N. Henry St., Alexandria

Mason jar lamps light the bar at this neighborhood-oriented gastropub in Alexandria's Parker-Gray neighborhood, opened by four local friends who wanted a casual place for eats and drinks. The spot isn't no-frills; former Bourbon Steak sous-chef Joseph Lennon helms the kitchen, and turns out dishes like mussels steamed with beer and bone marrow butter, or rockfish with winter citrus. Still there's plenty to keep potential regulars happy--a thick burger and fries, small-kids menu, and bar that stays open until 2 from Thursday to Saturday.

Go for classic grilled cheese at Melt Shop, or fancier version like this one with slaw and fried chicken. Photograph courtesy of Melt Shop.

Melt Shop

1901 L St., NW

Washington gets the first branch of this Manhattan-based grilled cheese shop outside New York. True to its name, the menu centers around melty sandwiches, from classic American on white to patty melts and spiffed-up versions stuffed with the likes of pepper jack, slaw, and fried chicken. Rounding out the all-day selection are tater tots, tomato soup, and shakes, as well as a custom-designed Abita beer for more adult tastes.

Highline RXR brings a place to work and play in Crystal City. Photograph courtesy of Highline RXR.

Highline RXR

2010 Crystal Dr., Crystal City

Arlingtonians get a new space to work and play thanks to this loft-like bar/restaurant from the owners behind Buffalo Billiards and Penn Social. Patrons are encouraged to linger with laptops and local Zeke's Coffee during the day thanks to wifi and plenty of outlets, while numerous arcade and table games like Ms. Pac Man, Golden Tee, and Jenga make for a playful evening. A simple menu of sandwiches, soups, and snacks is served throughout.

Stella serves California-style pies with seasonal ingredients like kale, roasted garlic, and pecorino cheese. Photograph courtesy of Stella Barra.

Stella Barra Pizzeria

11825 Grand Park Ave., Rockville

Rockville's burgeoning Pike & Rose development now contains two California-inspired eateries from the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group and chefs Jeff Mahin and Francis Brennan: Summer House Santa Monica, which opened in January, and sister pizza joint Stella Barra. The latter takes its cues from Los Angeles, with a warehouse-like interior and menu of thin-crust pies topped with kale and roasted garlic, or house-made pork sausage, mozzarella, and fennel pollen. Anyone looking to eat like an aspiring Hollywood star (on a splurge night) can go for a lighter-carb "thin sin" crust.

Orange Anchor brings a taste of the beach life to the Georgetown waterfront. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Orange Anchor

3050 K St., NW

It may not feel like beach-y weather, but you wouldn't know it inside this jaunty, nautically-themed eatery on the Georgetown waterfront. The menu draws from the ocean and boardwalk, with lobster and shrimp rolls, grilled fish, duck confit corn dogs, and a robust selection of rums. Once the weather warms diners can relax on an outdoor patio, while seafaring patrons can order boat delivery service to their vessels.

Posted at 11:32 AM/ET, 03/06/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Smoked beets, meaty 'shrooms, and roasted veggies fill these melty sandwiches. By Anna Spiegel
Chef Bryan Voltaggio makes a veggie Reuben with smoked, spiced beets. Photograph courtesy of Family Meal.

Reubens are the best classic sandwich to turn vegetarian, hands down. Griddled rye, sauerkraut, melty Swiss, Russian dressing--who cares what else you put in there? All right, a few smoky slabs of corned beef or pastrami make for an addictive combination. But if you're vegetarian, or just overloaded with meat after this long winter, these riffs hit the spot.

Pastrami-spiced tempeh Reuben at DGS Delicatessen

1317 Connecticut Ave., NW

DGS makes one of the best Reubens in the city, and the meatless version isn't too far from the original. The kitchen treats tempeh the same way it does pastrami: rubbing it with mustard, black pepper, and coriander, smoking it until tender, and stacking it on buttery rye with local No. 1 Sons sauerkraut and Swiss. House-made Russian dressing spiked with pickle juice drives the flavors home. Try it any time of day in the deli, or take it to-go from the lunchtime counter.

Smoked beet Reuben at Family Meal Ashburn

20470 Exchange St., Ashburn

Chef Bryan Voltaggio loves a classic Reuben, but as he says of his new meatless riff: "If my doctor told me I couldn't have pastrami anymore, this would be the cure." The kitchen pressure-cooks beets to intensify their flavor, smokes the rounds, and crusts them in pastrami spice. The sandwich is finished with kraut and Meunster, plus an umami-rich version of thousand island kicked up with soy.

The Reuben is also served in DC at G by Mike Isabella during the second round of the Sandwich Madness competition, where guest chefs compete to make the best creation. If you're not in the mood for beets, Isabella crafts a tasty wild mushroom version that's a staple on shop's menu.

Portobello Reuben at Ris

2275 L St., NW

This is one of our favorite veggie Reubens around, even besting some of the meat and fish dishes on chef Ris Lacoste's menu. The sandwich is comfort food at its best: a hearty roasted 'shroom, tangy Russian dressing, and bright slaw, all heaped on rye that tastes like it's griddled with a generous amount of butter.

Vegan "tofu Reuby" at the Randy Radish

Food truck locations in Virginia (@therandyradish); 506 Shaw Rd., Sterling

Taking the meat and dairy out of the equation definitely makes for a different sandwich, but this self-described "compassionate cousin" of the Reuben still delivers the salty, spicy, creamy notes we crave without any animal-related products. Baked tofu is infused with spices for a corned beef-like flavor, and topped with caramelized kraut and a smoky house dressing before getting stuffed between slices of toasted marble rye.

Grilled veggie Reuben at Corned Beef King

Food truck locations in Maryland (@cornedbeefking); shop inside Exxon at 18000 Georgia Ave., Olney

Though the King (a.k.a. chef/owner Jon Rossler) reigns true to his name, he can still whip up a vegetarian version that deserves its own crown. Unlike most meatless riffs that pick one beef substitute, here you'll find marinated eggplant, zucchini, seasonal squash, and pickled cabbage atop toasted nine-grain bread. The sandwich isn't particularly healthy--all those veggies lay under a blanket of melted Swiss, Provolone, and creamy Russian--but it's one of the tastier ways to eat your vegetables.

Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 03/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Todd Kliman picks his spots for favorite dumplings, noodles, ma po tofu, and more. By Todd Kliman
NaiNais Noodle and Dumpling Bar serves delicious noodle bowls, like this pai gow with ground pork and chili oil. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Hong Kong Palace

6387 Leesburg Pike, Seven Corners Center, Falls Church

Forget the name; this isn’t a Cantonese restaurant, it’s a Szechuan restaurant, and one of the best in the area, maybe the best. The chef is Liu Chaosheng, who also operates Uncle Liu’s Hotpot in Falls Church, China Jade in Rockville, and Mala Tang (with co-owner Owen Molovinsky) in Arlington—an empire that makes his the preeminent name in Chinese cooking in the area. I’m a fan of the latter restaurant, in particular its array of excellent small plates, but I’m giving HKP the nod for its versatility and its value. All the staples of the Szechuan canon are here—cumin lamb, dan dan noodles, ma po tofu—and the kitchen works with such deftness that you’re not just hit with wave after wave of heat, but can taste the thrilling interplay of hot and numbing, of pungent and smoky. Timid souls are advised to dip their toes into the roiling water with the Chengdu-style Kung Pao chicken, which is hotter, yes, than the dish you know, but also more focused in its flavors.

China Bistro

755 Hungerford Dr., Rockville

The Chinese name is not China Bistro, it’s Mama’s Dumplings. That’s not to say if you don’t order dumplings, as a good friend of mine did recently on a visit, you’ll be sorry (his crispy beef was a cut above the norm), but you won’t be tapping into what makes the place special. The dumplings are as supple as you can expect from wrappers that don’t aspire to be thin and delicate. An order brings a dozen steamed bundles in the shape of tied kerchiefs, generously packed and juicy (go for the shrimp-and-chive or the pork-with-dill), and eminently satisfying. And be sure to fill your tiny saucers with black vinegar and dumpling sauce, and dip liberally. I also like to get a bowl of the excellent cold sesame noodles, with its smoky, pungent chili sauce, and an order of garlicky cucumbers.

Full Key

2227 University Boulevard W., Silver Spring/Takoma Park

Amazing? No, not amazing. But consistent, mostly delicious, always filling, and on top of all of that, a stupendous value in an area that is stupendously overpriced. The dish to come for—the dish you can’t leave without ordering—is the shrimp dumpling soup, a dish that has changed not at all in two decades, and thank god for that. The dumplings are small and delicate, packed to bursting with shrimp, pork, and water chestnuts, and with subtle notes of white pepper flavoring the mix, and the broth has unexpected depth for something so clear. Among the entrees, don’t miss the beef hot pot, laced with black pepper. It’s what pepper steak can only dream of tasting like.

Panda Gourmet

2700 New York Ave., NE

There are some dishes at this crummy motel restaurant that will astonish you, they’re that good. You may find yourself saying something like, "I’ve never tasted ma po tofu like this, ever, anywhere." Your expectations will begin to rise, like the heat in your system; you’ll become giddy at the thought that everything that comes after will be as terrific as that ma po tofu. It won’t be. For every two dishes that knock you out, there will be another one that will leave you wondering what the hell they did with the cook who made your ma po tofu. We haven’t even gotten to the service, which, on a good day, is gruff, forgetful, and negligent. But that ma po tofu. That fish in spicy soup. That double-cooked pork. That lamb with cumin.

Bob’s Shanghai 66

305 N. Washington St., Rockville

The proprietor, Bob Liu, used to own Bob’s Noodle 66, which, in its day, in the early aughts, was one of the most dependably delicious spots in Rockville’s unofficial Chinatown. It slid so precipitously after Liu left the restaurant that it became irrelevant. When Liu returned to the scene a couple of years ago, he made big moves, shifting Bob’s Noodle 66 to a spot around the corner, and installing Bob’s Shanghai 66 in the old Bob’s Noodle space. Confused? Don’t be. The restaurant to remember is Bob’s Shanghai 66, which has found a wonderful groove after a slow start. My most recent visit was full of gems. Go for the bean curd and pork—the long, thin bands of curd have the slipperiness and chew of great noodles, and the saucing is delicate and tight—and a plate of tiny shrimps in a surprisingly balanced sweet-and-sour chili sauce.

Hunan Taste

10160 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax/718 N. Rolling Rd., Catonsville

You know that ballplayer who either smacks a home run or manages a weak single, and only rarely produces a result in between? That’s what eating at this elegant strip-mall restaurant is like. Fortunately, the mushroom casserole with pork (best not to study its long, dark tadpole-like fungi), or a plate of silken strips of fish fillet in a tight and spicy bean curd sauce, or Divine Incense Mint Pork (chewy-crunchy strips of pork belly with fried mint) are so memorably good as to make you forget all about those dishes that did nothing for you.

NaiNai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar

1200 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring/Takoma Park

Pluck one of the long strands from your noodle bowl, and you’ll see a thick end and a thin one. Don’t ask what gives with the irregularity; be grateful. The lack of uniformity tells you that nothing comes from a package, which is just what you would hope to find in a place that bills its noodles in its name. Each bowl, here, features the genuine article, hand-rolled and hand-pulled, and with just the right heft and chew. My favorites are the pai gow, the noodles tossed in a heady stew of ground pork, bean sprouts, and mustard greens, blitzed with ground peanuts, and dashed with smoky chili oil; or a Northern Chinese preparation called mahjong noodles, in which a thick tangle of noodles, cucumbers, carrots, and bean sprouts is drenched in a rich sauce of peanut butter and sesame paste. The dumplings, alas, are merely good, not great.

Posted at 03:46 PM/ET, 02/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The tastiest ways to fight the cold. By Anna Spiegel
Warm up with a hearty recipe from a local restaurant, like True Food Kitchen's zucchini casserole. Photograph courtesy of TFK.

"Arctic blast" sounds more like a Gatorade flavor than a weather condition, but it feels pretty real when you step outside. Today's high may reach a balmy 19 degrees, with predicted record low temperatures. Thankfully, bars and restaurants can help fight the cold—read on for new happy hours, warming recipes, and places to sip by the fire.

Get paid to eat food.

You know it's insanely cold when a restaurant pays guests to eat. So goes it at California Tortilla all day on Thursday. The burrito chain includes a free order of chips and queso with any purchase, and gives customers an extra 10 cents in honor of the negative-9 chill this morning. A penny for your thoughts, and a dime for braving the blast.

Warm up with hearty, spicy dishes.

Steamy Thai soups. Cassoulet. Sizzling platters of Filipino sisig. If you need to thaw out, check out these 11 belly-warming dishes guaranteed to fight the freeze.

Explore a new happy hour.

Negative temperatures are a great excuse to warm up your liver at a new happy hour. Derek Brown—just named among this year's James Beard semifinalists for Outstanding Beverage Professional—launches his first-ever happy hour at Eat the Rich centered on local spirits, wine, and beer ($5 to $7), plus $1 Rappahannock River oysters (Monday through Friday, 5 to 7). Other newcomers include "social hour" at City Perch ($4 to $7 drinks and food; 4 to 7), and a hot cocktail happy hour at Nopa through February with hot toddies, mulled wine, and spiked cocoa (4 to 7).

Find a drink by the fire.

The only one thing better than hot drinks on a cold night: said cocktails by the fire. We found eight awesome spots to sip by live flames, including happy hour deals to keep things extra toasty (or toasted).

Get cooking.

Don't feel like leaving the house? Crank up the heat, turn on the oven, and pick from one of the many hearty dishes from Washington eateries. We love the spaghetti squash and zucchini Parmesan from True Food Kitchen (a healthier alternative to chicken Parm), Mike Isabella's lamb chili, Thai chicken curry from the Source, Vidalia's classic mac 'n' cheese, and a staple on all of chef Jeff Black's menus: Addie's mussels with garlic, tomato, and a touch of butter.

Posted at 12:21 PM/ET, 02/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A (possibly) definitive list of what's in and what's out for the new year. By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Anna Spiegel, Cynthia Hacinli
Illustrations by Dennis Eriksson.

In:

Indian lime pickle

Ranch-dressing seasoning

Happy-hour fried chicken skins

Vegetable “marrow”

Togarashi spice

Free filtered water

Tallow

White-chocolate desserts

Gimlets

Barnacles

Haute scrambled eggs

Meticulously crafted piña coladas

Sipping broths

Custom murals

Amaro “programs”

Doughnut holes

Gummy bears

Filipino skewers

Crowd-funding your dream restaurant

Coravin (A contraption that extracts wine without uncorking the bottle)

Out:

Pickled watermelon rind

Everything-bagel seasoning

Happy-hour tater tots

Cauliflower “steaks”

Pink peppercorns

$8 bottles of Pellegrino

Duck fat

Beet and chocolate desserts

Aviations

Whelks

63-degree eggs

Dogging on piña coladas

Sipping vinegars

Living walls of herbs

Barrel-aging programs

Fancified candy bars

Marshmallows

Scandinavian twigs

Starting a food truck

Wine on tap


This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:04 PM/ET, 12/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Our favorite casual joints, celebration spots, and unexpected surprises. By Anna Spiegel
Lime-marinated shrimp adrak at Ananda, one of the best new restaurants of the year. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Washington welcomed a bounty of new restaurants this year, representing the full dining spectrum: casual neighborhood joints and fine dining destinations, celebrity chef-driven concepts and ethnic eateries. These 14 newcomers are just as varied, and each claimed spots on this year’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list. We’re looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings.

Aggio

5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s dressy Italian within Range came as a surprise—the team only gave a few hints about its Valentine’s Day debut. The menu proved exciting as well, with creative spins on traditional dishes. Nonna never made calamari Bolognese or mortadella whip with fresh focaccia, but we’re happy to eat it here.

Ananda

7421 Maple Lawn Blvd., Fulton

One of the most transportive culinary experiences can be found in this palatial Indian restaurant in Howard County, equipped with matching fireplaces on the veranda and a stately library in which to dine. The kitchen does its part equally well, serving refined dishes such as almond-crusted lamb chops and chickpea stew.

Compass Rose

1346 T St., NW

You’ve likely heard about Rose’s khachupuri, the rich and buttery Georgian cheese bread that has food lovers talking (or rather silently stuffing their faces). Still, this eclectic neighborhood restaurant is anything but a one-dish wonder, with a global range of hits like Korean pork ribs and grilled duck hearts.

Crane & Turtle

828 Upshur St., NW

Great things can come in small packages, as evidenced by this cozy 25-seat spot from restaurateur Paul Ruppert and former CityZen chef Makoto Hamamura. The French-Japanese menu pushes boundaries—hay-smoked tuna tataki, scallops with chorizo dumplings—but the vibe remains that of a relaxed neighborhood eatery.

DBGB Kitchen & Bar

931 H St., NW

The biggest celebrity-chef arrival of 2014 was Daniel Boulud’s CityCenterDC brasserie, and as our critics discovered, the opening months didn’t live up to the hype. Still, there’s a buzz in the dining room, and reason to believe the kitchen is on the upswing with plates like a superb coq au vin and crispy, pancetta-wrapped trout.

The Fainting Goat

1330 U St., NW

One of the most exciting culinary trends in Washington over past couple of years has been the increasing number of top-quality neighborhood restaurants. Chef Nathan Beauchamp, formerly of 1789, pairs seasonal ingredients and classic technique with a casual vibe at this gastropub, where a laid-back crowd tucks into mussels with pumpkin and lemongrass, or terrific goat Bolognese.

Fiola Mare

3050 K St., NW

The highest-rated newcomer on our 100 Best Restaurants list took the fourth slot, and still boasts the hottest tables in town nearly a year after opening. Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s seafood is unparalleled in Washington—if not much of the culinary landscape—both in creativity (try “under the sea” with shellfish and foie gras) and freshness.

Gypsy Soul

8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax

Chef RJ Cooper’s Mosaic District eatery isn’t as high-minded as sister venture Rogue 24, but offers enough inventive riffs from both the kitchen and bar to keep guests on their toes—and coming back for more. Many of the soulful dishes come by way of the South, such as chicken-fried quail and oyster stew with artichokes.

Lupo Verde

1401 T St. NW

An entire room devoted to Italian charcuterie and cheeses is one of the many draws at this charming 14th Street newcomer. Drop by the warmly lit bar for a board of salumi e formaggi and excellent cocktails made with Italian liqueurs, or head upstairs to the brick-walled dining room for craveable cacio e pepe pasta.

Ocopa

1324 H St., NE

Chef Carlos Delgado’s Atlas District Peruvian didn’t open with the fanfare of some others on this list, but the 24-seat eatery is one of the better arrivals of the year. Start with a deftly crafted rum cocktail and make a meal of small plates, such as pristine ceviche or potatoes topped with crab and avocado.

Partisan

709 D St., NW

The market-restaurant hybrid trend saw a number of additions this year, and this hotspot attached to Red Apron Butchery in Penn Quarter is among the best. Drinkers and carnivores do equally well, with meaty dishes like a roasted pig’s head for two, inventive cocktails, and an impressive selection of wines.

Saba

3900 Pickett Rd., Fairfax

This strip-mall Yemeni restaurant is a testament to how eclectic and exciting Washington’s dining scene has become. Chef/owner Tahia Alhoraivi concocts rich, aromatic rice dishes such as haneeth, made with braised lamb, and ethereal fresh breads.

Thai Taste by Kob

11315 Fern St., Wheaton

Don’t want to wait in line at Little Serow (sixth on this year’s list)? You’ll find similarly fresh flavors and bracing heat at this no-frills spot, for almost half the price. If you don’t live near Wheaton, specialties such as crispy whole fish or roasted pork over egg noodles is worth the trip.

Tico

1926 14th St., NW

Boston chef Michael Schlow joined the 14th Street restaurant boom comparatively late—his funky pan-Latin joint opened in June—but that doesn’t stop diners from packing the graffiti-filled dining room. Tequila drinkers find an impressive selection behind the bar, while vegetarians can do surprisingly well; we love the cabbage salad with salsa verde, roasted beets and yogurt, and falafel-esque edamame tacos.

Posted at 11:29 AM/ET, 12/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Some high-profile spots fell off the list this year. Here's why.

A few high-profile restaurants—and regular names among the 100 Best Restaurants—didn't make the list this year. Here's why.

1789 Restaurant

1226 36th St., NW; 202-965-1789

Talented chef Anthony Lombardo recently moved on from this Georgetown institution and 1789’s kitchen is suffering from the change. Prices have escalated (entrées hover around $40), while the level of consistency and execution have declined. One exception: the well-crafted desserts.

The Source

575 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-637-6100

Four years ago, the easygoing brilliance of this pan-Asian Wolfgang Puck restaurant earned it the number-three ranking on this list. Those days seem long gone. The cooking on a recent visit was tired and sometimes careless, and the service was alternatively disengaged and negligent.

Vidalia

1990 M St., NW; 202-659-1990

The staff exudes charm and the bread basket is still a winner at Jeffrey Buben’s Southern dining room. That’s the good news. The bad: Our meal began with too-sugary cocktails, moved on to entrées that were either bland or oversalted (but always heavy), and ended with cloyingly sweet pies.

Blue Duck Tavern

1201 24th St., NW; 202-419-6755

Sebastien Archambault, an enormous talent, exited the kitchen last January, and his replacement, former Eola chef Daniel Singhofen, has since gone, too. The new arrival at this Park Hyatt property is Ryan La Roche, and while there were bright spots on our most recent check-in, the lingering impression was that of generic hotel dining—overpriced and only intermittently exciting.

See this year's top 20 restaurants here, and last year's full list here. To find out this year's 100 Very Best Restaurants, pick up a copy of Washingtonian's January 2015 issue, on newsstands now.

Posted at 03:03 PM/ET, 12/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
For the 37th year, our readers play restaurant critic, weighing in on their best-loved places to eat and drink. By Ann Limpert
Foie gras on French toast? At Rose's Luxury, it works wonderfully. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

A neon "awesome" sign is tacked to the wall of the dining room at Rose’s Luxury—and Washingtonian readers couldn’t agree more. The Capitol Hill insta-hit, which doesn’t take reservations and commands three-hour waits most nights, racked up awards for both best restaurant and best new restaurant in our 37th reader survey.

But not everything’s coming up Rose’s. You also showed affection for under-the-radar spots like Yamas, the wallet-friendly Bethesda Greek place that recently opened a second location near U Street, and 2 Birds 1 Stone, a basement cocktail lounge that serves intricate drinks to the booming sounds of Chrissie Hynde and Cheap Trick.

With a cookie-slinging food truck, a Laotian restaurant within a restaurant, and diner-style burgers, this list proves that awesome comes in many flavors.

New Restaurant

1. Rose’s Luxury, Capitol Hill.

Aaron Silverman’s shareable plates run both Southern (smoked-brisket sandwiches) and Southeast Asian (pork-sausage-and-lychee salad).

2. Fiola Mare, Georgetown.

Trabocchi’s latest dining room marries luxe seafood—spiny lobster, wild turbot—with a sparkling waterfront view.

3. Gypsy Soul, Merrifield.

RJ Cooper turns out slicked-up Southern fare: “red neck” cheesesteaks, chicken-fried quail, and four kinds of mac and cheese.

Favorite Restaurant

What's nearly as tough as getting into the no-reservations Rose's Luxury? Choosing among the many inventive small plates. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. Rose’s Luxury, Capitol Hill.

The most exciting restaurant debut of last year is as hot as ever.

2. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle.

Still one of the city’s buzziest places for seafood plateaux and steak frites.

3. The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia.

Patrick O’Connell’s haute-bucolic cottage serves fanciful treats like a “tin of sin” layered with American caviar and peekytoe crab.

Special Occasion

1. Komi, Dupont Circle.

Johnny Monis’s tasting-menu destination is readers’ celebration spot of choice for the seventh year in a row.

2. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle.

This rollicking French bistro is filled with cozy nooks for sharing sparkling Vouvray and crème brûlée.

3. The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia.

Have a big birthday or anniversary coming up? It’s hard to find a more pampering place than this opulent getaway.

Value

1. Yamas Mediterranean Grill, Bethesda and U Street corridor.

The snug Bethesda taverna recently brought its gyros and souvlaki to DC.

2. Dino’s Grotto, Shaw.

Dean Gold shuttered his Cleveland Park trattoria, Dino, earlier this year, then quickly resurrected it in Shaw with happy-hour specials and a late-night menu.

3. Little Serow, Dupont Circle.

Forty-five bucks gets you seven family-style courses of Johnny Monis’s fiery Thai cooking.

Burger

1. Shake Shack, Dupont Circle, Gallery Place, Nationals Park, and Tysons.

We, too, love the skinny, special-sauce-laden patties at New York hit maker Danny Meyer’s chain.

2. Good Stuff Eatery, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, and Crystal City.

Whimsical burgers (we go for the Prez Obama, topped with Roquefort, bacon, and onion marmalade) share space with ultra-thick milkshakes.

3. Ray’s to the Third, Rosslyn.

The menu from the late, great Ray’s Hell-Burger lives on here, and owner Michael Landrum has added grilled cheeses, too.

American

Founding Farmers serves American classics like cornbread, roasts, and fried chicken. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. Founding Farmers, Foggy Bottom and Potomac.

The sprawling menu rips many pages from the Americana cookbook, including New England-style pot roast, fried chicken and waffles, and shrimp ’n’ grits.

2. Ted’s Bulletin, Capitol Hill, U Street corridor, Merrifield, and Reston.

All-day breakfast channels the diners of yore, while vintage Three Stooges episodes play on TV.

3. Ripple, Cleveland Park.

This narrow restaurant’s menu runs all over the map, but the best finish—warm-from-the-oven chocolate-chip cookies—is as red-white-and-blue as it gets.

Cocktails

At 2 Birds 1 Stone, bar master Adam Bernbach pours beautifully balanced cocktails. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. 2 Birds 1 Stone, Logan Circle.

Fancifully illustrated menus show off Adam Bernbach’s oft-changing lineup of stiff punches and 15-minute cocktails.

2. The Passenger, Shaw.

Throwbacks such as the Blood and Sand mingle with creations like the Banksy, a mix of rye, allspice, and lime.

3. PX, Old Town Alexandria.

Washington’s first speakeasy-style bar is overseen by Todd Thrasher, who has a pharmacy’s worth of dropper bottles holding house-made bitters.

Steakhouse

1. Ray’s the Steaks, Courthouse.

Michael Landrum’s low-key, value-driven restaurant is a respite from all the Wagyu-slinging expense-account dens.

2. Bourbon Steak, Georgetown.

DC’s most ambitious steakhouse specializes in posh comfort food, including truffled dinner rolls and a $68 lobster pot pie.

3. BLT Steak, downtown DC.

Massive hunks of dry-aged beef and a lavish raw bar are the draws at this cushy, classic law-firm favorite.

Wine Bar

1. Cork, Logan Circle.

Come for the rightfully famous avocado toast, stay for the generous flights of Euro wines.

2. Vinoteca, U Street corridor.

A terrific daily happy hour—with 15 wines for $5 each—plus a Mediterranean-inspired patio and bocce court keep the mood high.

3. Screwtop, Clarendon.

Have an afternoon to kill? This wine-and-cheese stop is open all day Tuesday through Sunday.

Thai

1. Little Serow, Dupont Circle.

Lines stretch down the block for Johnny Monis’s chili-laden homage to northern and northeastern Thailand. Prepare to tank down plenty of Riesling to soothe the spice.

2. Thai X-ing, Shaw.

Taw Vigsittaboot is now serving his multi-course prix-fixe menus in a bigger, BYOB space across from the 9:30 Club.

3. Bangkok Golden, Falls Church.

Skip the spring rolls and pad Thai—you can get those anywhere—and turn straight to the Laotian menu. Don’t miss the vividly flavorful crispy-rice salad.

For Kids

Ted's Bulletin pastry chef Kelsey Pitta whips up kid-friendly pop tarts. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. Ted’s Bulletin, Capitol Hill, U Street corridor, Merrifield, and Reston.

Sugar highs run rampant at these retro bakery/restaurants, which serve up rainbow-sprinkled pop tarts and frosted doughnuts.

2. Matchbox, Capitol Hill, U Street corridor, Penn Quarter, Merrifield, and Rockville.

Kid-friendly sliders and pizza—and the industrial spaces are loud enough to drown out any tantrums.

3. 2 Amys, Cleveland Park.

The Lego crowd streams into this busy pizzeria every night around 5:30.

Pizza

1. 2 Amys, Cleveland Park.

High-quality ingredients—buffalo mozzarella, house-made charcuterie—set Peter Pastan’s pies apart from the Neapolitan-style competition.

2. Matchbox, Capitol Hill, U Street corridor, Penn Quarter, Merrifield, and Rockville.

This mini-chain gets creative with many of its wood-fired pies—we like the Fire & Smoke, a zesty mix of roasted peppers, chipotle tomato sauce, and smoked Gouda.

3. Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza, Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, Clarendon, and Silver Spring.

Pizza the New Haven way—not too thin, not too thick, and scattered with toppings like fresh clams and chopped garlic.

Indian

1. Rasika, Penn Quarter and West End.

Chef Vikram Sunderam won the James Beard Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award this year for his complex curries and brightly flavored chaats.

2. Bombay Club, downtown DC.

Starched linens, a tinkling piano, and leafy potted palms imbue restaurateur (and Rasika owner) Ashok Bajaj’s first dining room with Old World elegance.

3. Spice 6, Hyattsville.

You can customize wraps, rice bowls, and naan pizzas with an array of curries and chutneys.

Japanese/Sushi

1. Sushi Taro, Dupont Circle.

This is the place to venture beyond the tuna roll and sample unusual finds like salt-grilled yellowtail jaw and soft-shell turtle.

2. Izakaya Seki, U Street corridor.

Chef/owner Hiroshi Seki’s masterful small plates are paired with an impressive sake collection*.

3. Daikaya, Penn Quarter.

Hunker down over a big bowl of porky ramen or head upstairs to the izakaya for skewers and fusiony small plates.

Italian

1. Fiola, Penn Quarter.

Big-spender ingredients—Alba truffles, seared foie gras—are celebrated at this sleek dining room, but there are dining deals at the bar.

2. Dino’s Grotto, Shaw.

The kitchen puts out DC Brau-braised brisket and a wild-boar chili dog along with more traditional pastas and roasts.

3. Olazzo, Bethesda and Silver Spring.

With its red-sauce spaghetti and vintage family photos cramming the walls, these bring a bit of Little Italy to the Maryland burbs.

Mexican

Getting ready to dig into a round of Mexican small plates at Oyamel. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. Oyamel, Penn Quarter.

José Andrés shrinks chilaquiles, ceviches, and tamales into small plates at his color-splashed dining room.

2. El Centro D.F., Georgetown and U Street corridor.

Richard Sandoval’s darkly lit hangouts have some of the area’s biggest selections of tequila and mezcal.

3. Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, Clarendon.

Spiffed-up versions of cantina classics—chiles rellenos, queso fundido—from the team behind DC Coast and District Commons.

Bakery

1. Baked & Wired, Georgetown.

Oversize cupcakes, lovely fruit pies, and even bacon-flavored dog biscuits draw lines at this snug shop.

2. Bread Furst, Van Ness.

Mark Furstenburg’s airy bread bakery is now hosting dinners featuring former Palena chef Frank Ruta.

3. Firehook Bakery & Coffee House, multiple DC and Virginia locations.

The coffee-slinging bakeries are popular for breakfast runs, while the catering arm turns out office-party-friendly cookie platters and layer cakes.

Food Trucks

Line up for bulgogi tacos at the TaKorean truck. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. TaKorean, @takorean.

This Korean taco truck is still on the road but also has permanent homes in Navy Yard and Union Market.

2. Red Hook Lobster Pound, @lobstertruckdc.

Want your top-split bun stuffed with warm buttered lobster or lemony mayo-bound lobster salad? Always a tough call.

3. Captain Cookie & the Milkman, @captaincookiedc.

The Nutella cookies with milk are our workday pick-me-up of choice, too.

Sandwiches

Italian cold cuts fill a hefty hoagie from Taylor Gourmet. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1. Taylor Gourmet, multiple area locations.

These Philly-inspired hoagie shops are now offering cheesesteaks, too.

2. Sundevich, Shaw.

Baguette sandwiches take inspiration from cities like Seoul, Istanbul, and Kingston.

3. G by Mike Isabella, U Street corridor.

Wood-roasted meats (goat, suckling pig, lamb) from Isabella’s next-door taverna, Kapnos, are showcased in sandwiches here.

Date Spot

1. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle.

Hey, you might even run into Joe and Jill Biden.

2. Compass Rose, U Street corridor.

A brick-lined hideaway with shareable plates inspired by street food from around the world.

3. Jaleo, Penn Quarter, Crystal City, and Bethesda.

While away the night over platters of jamón Ibérico and Spanish cheese alongside carafes of sangría.


This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

*This post has been updated from a previous version.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 12/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A spiffed-up Hawaiian pizza, a killer roast-beef sandwich, and 25 more of the best things we ate in 2014. By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Anna Spiegel
Tofu with cilantro root and peanuts at Little Serow. Photographs by Scott Suchman.

Tofu with cilantro root and peanuts at Little Serow

About halfway through the seven-course Thai menu at Johnny Monis’s tiny, no-reservations destination, your mouth will likely be searing from chili overload. Then this dish arrives, a fairly straightforward preparation with lime, cilantro, red onion, and peanuts. As with many of the dishes here, those flavors seem like they’re in Technicolor—but then you taste the richly creamy, crunchy tofu, a gift that (finally) soothes your palate.

Little Serow, 1511 17th St., NW.

Causita cangrejo at Ocopa

It’s a measure of chef Carlos Delgado’s talent that crab is only a character actor in this picture-perfect arrangement of canapés. Top billing ought to go to the potatoes, whipped to a fluff with lime and the Peruvian yellow-pepper paste known as aji amarillo. Though they could easily stand alone as a side dish, they provide a perfect platform for thin-sliced avocado, delicate crab, and the tiniest, sweetest peppers you’ve ever seen.

Ocopa, 1324 H St., NE; 202-396-1814.

Faux rib eye and fries at Baby Wale

This charcoal-grilled “faux” rib eye, fashioned from two different cuts of shoulder meat, is one of the best steaks you’ll find in Washington for less than $30—and one of the best steaks, period. Points for the rich, shallot-flecked wine reduction. And for crispy fries that actually taste like potato.

Baby Wale, 1124 Ninth St., NW; 202-450-3311.

Frisée salad with duck gizzards at Bastille Restaurant & Wine Bar

For this sly twist on the French salad of frisée aux lardons—frisée tossed with bacon and a coddled egg—chef Christophe Poteaux substitutes duck gizzards cooked in their own fat. There’s obviously nothing wrong with rendered bacon, but the gizzards, with their gamy intensity and meat-like heft, elevate the familiar to the memorable.

1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria; 703-519-3776.

Fried quail with grits at Gypsy Soul

In these parts, there may be no finer expression of Southern comfort than chef RJ Cooper’s exuberant riff on chicken-fried steak. The accompaniments are just as good as the tender brined and battered bird: creamy grits, a rich gizzard gravy, and tangy collards.

Gyspsy Soul, 8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax; 703-992-0933.

Fruits de mer plateau at Le Diplomate

In a town now swimming with decadent shellfish platters, this bistro rendition stands above the rest with bracingly fresh, meaty shellfish—thick king crab legs, citrus-marinated fluke, briny Belon oysters—plus superb house-made sauces such as horseradish-packed cocktail, rémoulade, and mignonette for dipping.

Le Diplomate, 1601 14th St., NW; 202-332-3333.

Chicken himmapan at Thai Taste by Kob

If you’ve grown bored with too many mail-it-in preparations of Kung Pao chicken, think of this dish—a long-ago Thai-Chinese mash-up—as a thrilling alternative. It’s rare to find a stir-fry as addictive as the grease-free toss of crunchy battered chicken, toasted cashews, and chili paste.

Kob, 11315 Fern St., Wheaton; 301-942-0288.

Lamb-brain karahi at Khan Kabob

If you’re squeamish, don’t think of them as brains. Think of them as curds, or scrambled eggs, sizzled in a fragrantly zesty sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies, and ginger. With fabulous, sesame-seeded naan for scooping.

Khan Kabob, 4229 Lafayette Center Dr., Chantilly; 703-817-1200.

Uni panini at Barmini

In truth, this small sandwich at José Andrés’s whimsical cocktail lounge (adjoining Minibar) amounts to about three bites. But what bites! The meringue-like bread, so light as to be insubstantial, is simply there to hold together the lobes of uni, or sea urchin; thin slices of avocado; and crushed corn nuts.

Barmini, 855 E St., NW; 202-393-4451.

Charcuterie pizza at Vin 909 Winecafé

This Craftsman-style bungalow slings the best pizzas in the area, and of all those we feasted on here this past year, this is the one that made us want to pick up the phone and invite everyone we know to come over and taste. Topping a pie with soppresatta, mortadella, and wild boar might have spelled doom for other pizza makers, but this is miraculously not overly rich. And the glorious crust—thin, crunchy, and salty—is never lost amid all the meat.

Vin 909 Winecafé, 909 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis; 410-990-1846.

Butterfish three ways at Sushi Sono

The plate of flayed fish arrives with a skewer through its midsection. On either side of it are nigiri—with (yes, buttery) white fish layered atop a pad of rice and garnished with ginger and green onion—and sashimi. When you’re done, the server will take away the carcass, returning it five minutes later hot from the deep fryer. Salt the bones and munch ’em like popcorn.

Sushi Sono, 10215 Wincopin Cir., Columbia; 410-997-6131.

Gnocchi with crab, fenugreek, and snap peas at Komi

It’s hard to best the tasting menu’s most climactic course—a platter of roasted goat or suckling pig—but these velvety gnocchi manage to do it (chef Johnny Monis played with the pasta formula for seven years before putting it on the menu). Although the sweet blue-crab topping is available only during crustacean season, the ethereal pasta often makes a showing with different accompaniments.

Komi, 1509 17th St., NW; 202-332-9200.

Malt sundae at BLT Steak

Gratis popovers and gargantuan portions make saving room for dessert difficult at this power steakhouse. Still, you don’t want to miss the playful old-fashioned sundae with malted ice cream, crunchy cocoa nibs, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.

BLT Steak, 1625 I St., NW; 202-689-8999.

Beef-and-cheddar sandwich at Red Apron Butcher

Banish all thoughts of gray cold-cut roast beef and picture instead juicy, crimson slices of steak. Now add a riff on Cheez Whiz that actually tastes like aged cheddar and a slathering of ranch-dressing-seasoned mayo. There you have it: the stuff of frat boys’ (and our) dreams.

Red Apron Butcher, Union Market, 1309 Fifth St., NE, 202-524-6807; 709 D St., NW, 202-524-5244; 8298 Glass Alley, Fairfax, 703-676-3550.

Basque stew at Restaurant Eve

Imagine a bouillabaisse—a dish, by the way, that chef Cathal Armstrong has mastered in his decade in the kitchen here. Now make it heartier and lustier, with a richer stock and more garlic, and punchier with the addition of espelette peppers. On a cold winter’s day, there are few dishes we crave more.

Restaurant Eve, 110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450.

Fish and chips at the District Fishwife

For her take on the pub staple, Fiona Lewis often eschews the usual cod and goes for the more flavorful blue catfish from the Chesapeake. Like the rest of the fish sold at her seafood counter, it’s supremely fresh. And its sheath—a beer batter fried to a golden-brown crackle—accentuates rather than obscures it.

District Fishwife, Union Market, 1309 Fifth St., NE; 202-543-2592.

Garlic and shiso fried rice at Izakaya Seki

Just as it’s customary to end a Japanese kaiseki tasting with rice, we can’t leave a freeform parade of chef Hiroshi Seki’s stellar small plates without an earthy bowl of grains sprinkled with toasted garlic and bright slivers of citrusy shiso.

Izakaya Seki, 1117 V St., NW; 202-588-5841.

Mushroom tacos at Chaia

Some of the best tacos in Washington are coming from this farmers-market stand, where fresh corn tortillas are griddled to or-der, then stuffed with a kaleidoscope of vegetables. Our favorite is the mix of local mushrooms, tangy feta, and salsa roja.Thursdays at the White House Fresh Farm Market (810 Vermont Ave., NW) and Sundays at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market (20th St. and Massachusetts Ave., NW).

Crabs at Wild Country Seafood

This Eastport seafood shack serves the best crabs in the Chesapeake, harvested by the father-and-son watermen owners. Massive, crispy soft-shells come at a bargain $14.95 for two, while pricier hard crabs are the heaviest and sweetest we’ve found.

Wild Country Seafood, 124 Bay Shore Ave., Annapolis; 410-267-6711.

Loukamades at Cashion’s Eat Place

John Manolatos dabbles in a variety of cuisines on this Adams Morgan bistro’s new small-plates menu, but these Mediterranean-style yeast doughnuts—on the menu for eight years—hark back to his childhood, when he cooked at the annual Saint Sophia’s Greek festival. The fried dough is dressed up with cinnamon-spiked yogurt and honey.

Cashion's Eat Place, 1819 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-797-1819.

Haneeth at Saba

This Yemeni standard is a lamb dish, but in this instance in name only. The reason you keep picking at the plate long after you’re full is the rice. The chef, Taha Alhoraivi, makes sure that every grain is fluffy and that the juices of the slow-cooked meat have penetrated them to the core.

Saba, 3900 Pickett Rd., Fairfax; 703-425-1130.

Lobster with citrus and crab at L’Auberge Chez François

Inside this Old World cottage, you’ll find such antique recipes as Châteaubriand, venison with roebuck sauce, and, most memorable of all, this gently poached lobster dish. The plump and sweet crustacean is stuffed with lump crab, then bathed in an elegant vermouth-butter sauce. A scattering of grapefruit and orange segments cuts through the richness.

L'Auberge Chez François, 332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls; 703-759-3800.

Pineapple Express pizza at Graffiato

Mike Isabella’s Italian spot gives the ho-hum Hawaiian pie—typically made with canned pineapple and lackluster meat—a winning makeover using country ham, charred slices of sweet fruit, scallions, mozzarella, and Virginia-made Korean hot sauce.

Graffiato, 707 Sixth St., NW; 202-289-3600.

Corn with Manchego and lime at Estadio

Amazing corn in December? Not gonna happen. Luckily, Haidar Karoum’s deconstructed elote (Mexican street-style corn) comes back every summer. We can’t wait for the mix of super-sweet kernels, cilantro, and grated Manchego bound with aïoli and a good dose of chili powder.

Estadio, 1520 14th St., NW; 202-319-1404.

“Under the Sea” at Fiola Mare

Fiola Mare is the steakhouse of seafood places, and you can think of this big, bountiful bowl of languoustines, clams, mussels, prawns, and fish (with a lobe of foie gras, just to luxe it up a little more) as the piscatory equivalent of the cowboy cut—the big-ticket item on a menu of expensive indulgences. It also happens to be the most fully realized expression of chef Fabio Trabocchi’s globe-spanning ideal, a seamless synthesis of Italy, France, and Japan.

Fiola Mare, 3050 K St., NW; 202-628-0065.

Maple custard at the Red Hen

Picking a favorite on chef Michael Friedman’s rustic Italian menu is tough, so let’s just say the best way to finish is with this silky maple custard topped with roasted hazelnut crumble. Get an order of house-made amaro, the bitter after-dinner sipper, alongside it.

Red Hen, 1822 First St., NW; 202-525-3021.

Duck, Duck Dog at Haute Dogs & Fries

When fusion goes wrong, it goes very wrong. But these whimsical dog joints nail it by marrying two of our favorite things—Peking duck and hot dogs—inside a toasty, buttery bun. The dogs are split and crisped on the griddle, then slicked with hoisin and laid with sliced cucumbers and scallions. The result is a little salty, a little sweet, and ridiculously good.

Haute Dogs & Fries, 610 Montgomery St., Alexandria, 703-548-3891; 609 E. Main St., Purcellville, 540-338-2439.

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 06:20 PM/ET, 12/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Blankets, fire pits, and hot cocktails aplenty. By Anna Spiegel
Grab a beer, snuggle under a blanket, and embrace the wintry weather. Photograph via Photograph via Shutterstock.

Sure it’s cold, but not too cold to sit at an outdoor bar—bundled up under a blanket, of course—and sip spiked cider. A few bars and restaurants embrace the notion, equipping their al fresco spaces with heat lamps, faux furs, fire pits, hot cocktails, and other elements to keep you warm and drinking outdoors through the winter.


Historic sipping at the Iron Gate

1734 N St., NW

Starting Monday, December 8, guests at the historic Dupont restaurant can try out new patio furniture under the century-old wisteria vines, warmed by fire pits, heaters, and creative hot cocktails such as the absinthe-spiked Bourbon Diversion, or the Hot Doctrine with chamomile tea, St. Germain, and honey liqueur. Drop in for a party on opening day from 5 to 7 with canapés and two cocktails ($35 per person). There's also a lovely fireplace inside the dining room.

DIY cider bar at A Bar + Kitchen

2500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

The Avenue Suites’ outdoor bar is outfitted with two fire pits, four area heaters, and blankets. The menu features $5 s’mores kits, a customizable hot cocoa bar, and a DIY cider station where barkeeps can add bourbon or rum ($6).

Winter terrace at the Capella/Rye Bar

1050 31st St., NW

The canal-side terrace of this elegant Georgetown hotel readies for winter with heat lamps, blankets, and a new hot beverage and food menu. Guests can order s’mores, mini soup servings like quail consommé served in a French press, and a rye-ginger toddy fashioned with Darjeeling tea.

Atmospheric toddies at Old Angler’s Inn

10801 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac

Get away from the city at this historic stone restaurant, with an outdoor beer garden warmed by a fire pit and heat lamps Friday through Sunday. Steamy drinks include a ginger toddies and citrus ciders.

Mulled wine at Dacha

1600 Seventh St., NW

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean this popular Shaw beer garden is packing it in. Drinkers and their dogs can hang under gas heaters (fun fact: they’re imported from Australia), grab blankets, and drink spiced mulled wine to stay cozy. Note that hours are shortened to Friday through Sunday.

Reservations by the fire at Bourbon Steak

2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

While you may need to get to other bars early to stake out a space at the fire pit, anyone can call ahead to this Four Seasons Hotel restaurant and reserve a spot by the flames. Faux-fur blankets, lamps, and hot cocktails can turn up the heat for anyone who doesn’t score a rez.

Prost! at Biergarten Haus

1355 H St., NE

Few beer gardens are open year round, but you can clink steins anytime at this H Street spot. In addition to giant beers and Fireball hot cider, heaters and live flames keep things toasty.

Warming fire pits at Westover Beer Garden & Haus

5863 Washington Blvd., Arlington

It’s b.y.o. blanket at this Arlington market’s beer garden, but snagging a spot by the fire should do the heating trick. Another way to warm the limbs: plenty of beer, and you’ll find it here with six draft lines and more by the bottle.

Lounging at Poste

555 Eighth St., NW

The Kimpton Hotel restaurant rolls out the blankets, heaters, and fire pits as long as temperatures stay above 42 degrees, Thursday through Saturday. Look for fun steamy drinks such as bourbon-caramel cider.

Posted at 03:36 PM/ET, 12/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()