The Five Types of Washington Restaurants

1. The Emerging-Neighborhood Hot Spot

Maketto. Photographs by Scott Suchman

Examples: Maketto, Sally’s Middle Name, the Red Hen, Himitsu, Bad Saint.

Why you might want to go: Former dining deserts such as H Street, Shaw, and Petworth are now home to some of the city’s best eateries. A visit will also prove you’re not one of those stiffs who stick to the city’s well-established territory.

Why you might not: Cool neighborhood spots bring in crowds, and some don’t take reservations—so be prepared to wait. Also, many of them can be quite loud.

Tip: When possible, make reservations. If not, eat early (before 6:30) or late (after 9) to avoid the masses.

2. The New-School Steakhouse

Bourbon Steak

Examples: Del Campo, Bourbon Steak, Rural Society, Mastro’s.

Why you might want to go: Steakhouses are quintessentially old-school Washington, but the newbies have eclectic menus and modern vibes that let diners know they’re part of the cosmopolitan new DC.

Why you might not: The cuisine is still sometimes not that creative—but the check can be as large as ever.

Tip: Happy hour at Del Campo features $6 cocktails, amazing empanadas, and other specials at the bar.

3. The Tasting-Menu Temple


Examples: Métier, Pineapple and Pearls, Minibar, Shaw Bijou.

Why you might want to go: Tasting menus are a chance for stars of the food scene to showcase their most avant-garde or personal cooking.

Why you might not: These meals can be long—and expensive. At Minibar, a dinner for two with drink pairings will set you back nearly $1,000.

Tip: Hazel, Little Serow, and Conosci offer prix fixe meals for $50 a person or less.

4. The International Strip-Mall Joint


Examples: Kogiya, A&J Restaurant, Taqueria el Mexicano, Pho 88.

Why you might want to go: In Washington, immigrants tend to go straight to the burbs. So to find authentic flavors not watered down to American tastes, you need to go spelunking amid 21st-century sprawl.

Why you might not: Many of the area’s most exciting international joints aren’t Metro-accessible (but you shouldn’t let that stop you).

Tip: Eye the tables around you to see what’s popular.

5. Fast-Casual Posing as a “Lifestyle”


Examples: Cava Grill, &Pizza, Sweetgreen, Beefsteak.

Why you might want to go: Fast food has become healthier (and cooler) thanks to a new generation of chains that call Washington home—while also hosting concerts, offering tattoos, and trying to brand their salads or pizzas as a way of life.

Why you might not: Sometimes you just want Five Guys.

Tip: A lot of these chains have mobile apps that let you order in advance, pay from your phone, and earn rewards.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.