The 7 Best Riffs on Fast-Food Staples in Washington

Jumbo Slice at MiniBar is just the beginning.

Krispy Kreme, anyone?

Jumbo Slice. Doughnuts. Late-night shawarma. A post-bar crawl dream? Yes, but also all dishes served at MiniBar, the most expensive tasting room in Washington.

Cheffy takes on fast food can go two ways. Either they tug at our nostalgic and/or baser cravings while besting the original (see above). Or the “elevation” crashes—sorry, but no deconstructed pie is better than a real slice. Here are seven dishes in Washington that fall into the former category.

Chilito at Meats & Foods

2467 Florida Ave., NW

Though Taco Bell’s 1980’s “chilito” was surpassed by more devious creations like the Doritos Locos taco, this chili-cheese snack harks back to the simpler—and more delicious—days. The mini burrito is fashioned from a warm, house-made flour tortilla, meaty beef chili, and plenty of gooey cheddar. A throwback never tasted so good.

Southern-fried chick-filet at Right Proper Brewing Company

624 T St., NW

Love Chick-fil-A but loathe the politics/Sunday non-hours? This fried chicken sandwich makes a great stand-in, gussied up with Boursin cheese, pickles, and a brioche bun. Another crave-worthy riff is the Kim-fil-A at G by Mike Isabella, where the crispy thigh is given an Asian spin with bacon, Muenster, and fermented chili slaw.

Doughnut holes at PassionFish

11960 Democracy Blvd., Reston

Trendy doughnut holes are everywhere, but sadly, many don’t live up to Dunkin’s standards. One notable exception: the warm, sugar-dusted confections at this seafood spot, which have been menu staples long before doughnuts were the dessert du jour. Don’t ignore that side of coffee bavarian cream for dunking.

Le Burger Américain at Le Diplomate

1601 14th St., NW

Yes, we’ve mentioned this burger before, but the list wouldn’t be complete without the Big Mac-inspired indulgence. Just like the song: two all-beef patties, special sauce, cheese, pickles, onions on a s̶e̶s̶a̶m̶e̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶ house-made brioche bun. Well, almost. The burger is also missing lettuce, but the abundance of melty American fromage makes up for it.

Bucket o’ chicken at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

1612 14th St., NW

We ate so much fried chicken for last year’s crispy bird taste test, and this KFC-style “bucket o’ chicken” came out on top. The six braised, deep-fried pieces are far better than the Colonel’s, served alongside jalapeño-studded cornbread muffins, bacony greens, and spicy slaw.

Pumpkin-spiced latte at Tryst

2459 18th St., NW

Skip the saccharine Starbucks venti for this spicier pick-me-up, made with homemade pumpkin spice syrup. The spinach, egg, and Gruyère sandwich is also better than a reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast any day.

Doughnuts at MiniBar

855 E St., NW

A meal from the $250 tasting menu can start and end with fast food inspirations, beginning with a Jumbo Slice-esque pizza cracker served on a faux-paper plate, and ending with the best high-low combo of all: Krispy Kreme-flavored ice cream, fashioned into two mini chocolate-covered doughnuts complete with crunchy sprinkles. If only they sold them by the dozen.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.