These Are the 10 Best Things Our Food Critic Ate This Summer

Corn, peaches, and of course, a fried-chicken sandwich

Prawn-and-tomato curry at Thamee. Photograph courtesy of Scott Suchman

As summer winds down, and corn and peaches give way to squash and honeycrisps, I’m still thinking about highlights from the season. Best part: you can still get many of them! Here are my 10 favorite dishes of the summer:

Prawn curry at Thamee: I have so much love for this bright, mother/daughter-run Burmese newcomer on H Street, and the dish I keep coming back to is this fairly simple plate of fat prawns draped in tangy tomato curry. The secret to its greatness: A little cushion of coconut confit, which imparts a subtle richness. 

Ricotta gnudi with corn at Bresca. Photograph courtesy of the restaurant.

Ricotta gnudi at Bresca: Few things are as simple as they seem when it comes to chef Ryan Ratino’s kitchen. These light puffs of dough—which have been submerged in semolina flour for three days—are served with corn puree, chanterelles, pickled kohlrabi, and grated truffle. 

Steak fajitas at Republic Cantina: I haven’t been this excited about a Tex-Mex spot since peak Austin Grill (meaning, the Ann Cashion days). Republic Kolache owner Chris Svetlik does it all his way—decorating the place with wishbone chairs, serving frozen avocado margs, and marinating tender slices of steak in spicy Korean gochujang for these fantastic DIY wraps. 

Peach panzanella at Piccolina. Photograph courtesy of the restaurant.

Peach panzanella at Piccolina: This gorgeous salad is a nice way to balance out the inevitable dessert-fest you’ll wind up indulging in at Amy Brandwein’s great little CityCenterDC cafe. The super-juicy fruit is tossed with English cucumbers, red onion, and basil, with small hunks of peasant-style bread from the wood-burning hearth to soak up all the liquid deliciousness. 

Ocean City pizza at All Purpose: Chef Mike Friedman upends the New Haven clam pie by adding corn crema, ultra-sweet kernels, white cheddar, and a heavy sprinkle of Old Bay. A new classic.

Charred cabbage at Poca Madre. Photograph courtesy of the restaurant.

Charred cabbage at Poca Madre: Okay, so cabbage isn’t particularly summery. But in the last couple years it has transitioned from bit player to star on many menus. At Victor Albisu’s upcale Mexican spot, the cabbage is charred in a cast-iron pan, glazed with habanero honey, served over a green mole, and dabbed with oxtail marmalade. Wrapping the leaves in flour tortillas led to the best taco I’ve had in ages. 

Hot chicken sandwich at Hot Lola’s: Even before this whole Popeyes thing blew up, this was the summer of fried-chicken sandwiches. It was hard to pick a favorite—I loved the massive, messy hot chicken at Wooboi and the sweetly sauced katsu sando at Katsu Go—but Kevin Tien’s aggressively spiced OG Hot sandwich wins in my book. Slaw and creamy comeback sauce mellow the burn, which is considerable (the dry hot and “shy hot” versions are great, too). 

Doubles and jerk chicken wings at Cane. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Jerk wings at Cane: Chef/owner Peter Prime’s Trinidadian spot on H Street excels at many things, but chief among them might be his jerk chicken (he’s been tweaking his recipe since college). The wings are smoked slowly with pimiento wood, marinated in a dry rub, then finished on the grill. On the side: A mayo-based sauce perked up with tamarind, lime, hot sauce, and chopped pickles.

Creme fraiche tart at Rose’s Luxury: This is a straight-ahead homage to famed LA chef/baker Nancy Silverton, who famously made Julia Child cry (with joy) when she served her this tart. I’m with Julia. And you will be too, especially if you’re a fan of not-too-sweet desserts. The brioche crust gives it a breakfast-pastry quality, and it’s elevated with eggy crème fraîche custard and lightly poached peaches and plums.

Olive oil cake at Thompson Italian: I can remember digging into this exact same cake many years ago at L’Artusi in New York, thanks to pastry chef Katherine Thompson. Now she’s brought it here, to her and husband Gabe’s new Falls Church hotspot. The cake, unlike so many other versions, isn’t bitter or heavy, and it’s perfectly set off with golden raisin marmellata, crème fraîche mousse, and a sprinkling of Maldon salt. 


Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.