Food

The Hottest Summer Bar and Restaurant Openings Around DC, Ranked

Exciting new spots for crabs, barbecue, tacos, and dim sum.
Centrolina chef/owner Amy Brandwein is opening Piccolina, a fast-casual Italian in City Center DC. Photograph courtesy of Wagstaff Worldwide

Restaurant and bar openings have arrived rapid fire since June 21—with more on the way. Here are the places—ranked!—that we’re most excited to check out for wood-fired Italian, crabs, dim sum, tacos, and more.

1) Piccolina
963 Palmer Alley, NW
Centrolina chef/owner Amy Brandwein runs one of the best Italian restaurants in DC, which is why we can’t wait to try her soon-to-open casual spinoff in CityCenterDC. Brandwein packs a lot in to the bright, cozy space, including a wood-fired oven that will turn out parms, panuzzo sandwiches, scaccia (Sicilian flatbreads stuffed with the likes of homemade lamb sausage), and all-day breakfast items such as omelets cooked in cast-iron skillets. Piccolina is designed to be a quick-service compliment to its sister restaurant across the alley, but that doesn’t meant you can’t linger over a spritz.

2) Shilling Canning Company
360 Water St., SE
Chef Reid Shilling, an alum of The Dabney, struck out with his own modern Mid-Atlantic restaurant in Navy Yard. The airy space, over two years in the making, contains everything a young, locally minded chef could ask for: a Chesapeake raw bar, charcuterie curing room, two wine caves, a garden patio for fresh herbs and produce, and a wood-fired oven that turns out flatbreads, game, and seafood.  

Rockfish in spicy tomato broth with potato rouille at Shilling Canning Company. Photograph courtesy of Shilling Canning Company.

3) Aslin
847 S Pickett St., Alexandria
Few local breweries get the beer nerds buzzing like Aslin. Credit its limited production and distribution (retail is currently limited to the brewery itself), big Instagram presence, edgy modern design, and interesting releases like Vapid Dipa double-dry hopped IPA or raspberry-lime gose. The new Alexandria brewery boasts 24 taps and a food truck stationed outside. Look for the original Herndon taproom, closed for over two years, to be revived this year.

4) Republic Cantina
43 N St., NW
Tex-Mex finally gets its due at this colorful spot in Truxton Circle from Republic Kolache founder Chris Svetlik. Eventually the restaurant will run morning to night. For now, it’s open for breakfast tacos, kolaches, and coffees. “Preview dinners” run Thursday through Sunday, where you might get a taste of classics like sizzling fajitas and enchiladas from chef Antonio Burrel.

Republic Cantina
Republic Cantina, currently serving breakfast tacos, launches dinner previews this week. Photograph by Chris Svetlik.

5) Dos Mamis
819 Upshur St., NW
Himitsu bar maven Carlie Steiner and Taqueria Del Barrio‘s Anna Bran-Leis are the powerhouse duo behind Petworth’s female-driven neighborhood cocktail bar. The menu, as Steiner describes it, is “no proof, low proof, and a whole lotta proof”—think boozy frozen rum drinks alongside a non-alcoholic riff on a negroni. For sustenance: cheeses, meats, and sherry soft-serve. The backyard “bubbles garden” is your spot in nice weather.

6) Sloppy Mama’s Arlington
5731 Lee Hwy., Arlington
One of DC’s top barbecue purveyors has finally landed a stand-alone restaurant. (You may have tasted owner Joe Neuman’s pulled pork or prime brisket at his food hall stalls in Union Market or Ballston Quarter.)  The 54-seat space, a former Pizza Hut, serves an expanded menu—we’re excited to try homemade sausages—as well as beer and wine, coming soon.

Sloppy Mama’s smoked brisket. Photo by Conduit Studios.

7) China Garden
11333 Woodglen Dr., Rockville 
Come for pan-fried chive dumplings, steamed shrimp rolls, and pork buns at this 400-seat dim sum restaurant,  which just opened in Rockville. A daily dim sum menu is served at lunch, while weekends bring traditional pushcarts. Also look for Cantonese specialties, like peking duck, at any hour. 

8) Tiki on 18th
2411 18th St., NW
A team of bar industry vets are behind this tropical hideaway in Adams Morgan. Order a frosty “Missionary’s Downfall” blended with rum, pineapple, and mint alongside Mexican eats from The Game below like fish tacos, fatty beef brisket tostadas, and elote. The palm-printed place is only open Thursday through Sunday, when tiki brunch runs all afternoon (noon until 8 PM).

A mai tai at Tiki on 18th. Photograph by Surpass Visuals.

9) Capital Crab & Seafood
5534 Connecticut Ave., NW
There’s a new spot to crack crabs in Chevy Chase DC thanks to Tim Walsh, who transformed stalwart Italian restaurant Arucola into a brick-and-mortar home for his crab catering operation. A roomy front patio is the place to post up over steamed crustaceans and cold beer, and you can also order carryout for a backyard feast (though note prices are steeper in the city than your average Chesapeake seafood carryout). 

10) Oak Steakhouse
901 N St Asaph St., Alexandria
A Charleston steakhouse chain just landed in Old Town—and there’s a lot more than meat on the menu. Chef Joseph Conrad, a former Bourbon Steak sous chef, turns out cheffy vegetarian and pescatarian plates like fresh Hawaiian hearts of palm salad with nam prik vinaigrette or Portuguese octopus with homemade merges and harissa. For the carnivores, Angus beef cuts abound alongside sauces and sides. We have our indulgent eye on a fried and loaded potato with all the fixings.

Oak Steakhouse in Alexandria (pictured: a small shellfish plateau). Photograph by Rey Lopez.

11) The Garden
1503 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria
Del Ray’s long-awaited beer garden is finally here. The owners of Charlie’s on the Avenue expanded into their adjacent lot, opening a colorful outdoor drinking and dining spot which, unlike many beer gardens, is open daily starting at 11 AM (and 9 AM on Saturdays for coffee and beignets). Patrons can pick between 15 largely local drafts (think Port City, Old Ox, Pale Fire, and 3 Stars). Chef/co-owner Justus Frank‘s menu goes beyond your average pretzels—think crispy soft shell crab sandwiches, peel-and-eat shrimp, fish tacos, and brats with sauerkraut and beer mustard. Fitting for the neighborhood, dogs and kids are welcome. There’s even a kid’s menu and play area.

12) Riverside Taco Company
105 N. Union St., Alexandria
Tacos, frozen margaritas, and water views come courtesy of Alexandria Restaurant Partners and chef Santiago Lopez, who set up an airstream taco trailer and large patio neighboring sister seafood spot, Vola’s Dockside Grill. An all-day menu includes $4 corn tortillas stuffed with fillings like chorizo-and-potatoes or pork belly al pastor (add an egg to any to make a breakfast tacos). Snacks like chips and guacamole and local draft beers round out the offerings.

Agora opens in Tysons Corner with Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese mezze. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

13) Agora Tysons
7911 Westpark Dr., Tysons Corner
Dupont’s nearly decade-old Mediterranean restaurant expands for the first time with a Tysons Corner restaurant with Lebanese chef Ghassan Jarrouj is at the helm. Guests can graze on mezze in the large dining room or 12-seat chef’s counter, trying dips and spreads with warm pita, kibbeh nayeh (Lebanese steak tartare), pide flatbreads, and dumplings with yoghurt and mint. In addition to Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese flavors on the food menu you’ll find them in the drinks, including raki (an anise-flavored spirit) and rose liqueur.

14) Mr. Braxton
3632 Georgia Ave., NW
Park View’s newest bar/restaurant is designed to deliver a little something for everyone: burgers, holistic CBD cocktails, Taco Tuesdays, Sunday grill sessions on the outdoor patio, and occasional live music. Brick Lane chef Alex Cantos oversees the kitchen.

The Lot in Arlington features an “adult beach” with games and two bars. Photograph courtesy of The Lot

15) Retrobottega
2435 18th St., NW
Negronis and cicchetti (Italian snacks) are on the menu at this new Italian bar and restaurant from partners behind growing pasta empire Al Volo. You won’t find noodles here—instead, graze on small plates like fried artichokes, arancini, and baked polenta. A handful of entrees round out the early offerings such as a tasty rabbit cacciatore.

16) The Lot
3217 N 10th St., Arlington
Clarendon’s newest outdoor drinking destination is this massive, 900-person beer garden from Social Restaurant Group co-founder Mike Bramson (La Vie, Pamplona). Grab a picnic table with friends (and pups, the place is dog-friendly) for an international lineup of beers, frosé, and eats from food trucks like Rebel Taco and The Tailgater. For fun: an “adult sand pit” with games like corn hole and jumbo bucket pong). 

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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.