Food

These Are Washingtonian Readers’ Favorite Restaurants in 2019

Rigatoni with fennel sausage at the Red Hen.

For the 42nd year, you voted on your top places to eat.

New Restaurant

1. Rooster & Owl, Columbia Heights

Carey and Yuan Tang pair inventive four-course tasting menus with playful touches such as house-made gummies, which arrive with the check.

2. Hot Lola’s, Ballston

James Beard Award–nominated Kevin Tien, the former Himitsu chef who just opened Emilie’s in DC, puts his spin on the ubiquitous spicy fried-chicken sandwich.

3. El Sapo, Silver Spring

This bright Cuban hangout is always loud and always fun.

Best in DC

1. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle

Six years old—that’s like 60 in restaurant years—and Stephen Starr’s French bistro shows no sign of slowing down.

2. The Dabney, Shaw

Jeremiah Langhorne’s hearth-driven restaurant homes in on Mid-Atlantic ingredients such as pawpaws and sugar toads.

3. Rose’s Luxury, Capitol Hill

This mod-American spot is home to DC’s most famous line. (It finally started taking same-day reservations last year.)

Dinnertime at Rose’s Luxury.
Dinnertime at Rose’s Luxury.

Best in Virginia

1. Ambar, Capitol Hill and Clarendon

These Balkan restaurants—there’s also a location in Belgrade—are best known for their all-you-can-eat brunches.

2. The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia

Patrick O’Connell’s Rappahannock County cottage is the only area restaurant to have earned three Michelin stars.

3. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church

Mahogany-skinned ducks, carved at the table and served with translucent pancakes and spring onions, are the thing here.

Steakhouse

1. St. Anselm, Union Market

The prized cut at this antiestablishment steakhouse is the shareable ax-handle rib eye.

2. Bourbon Steak, Georgetown

Michael Mina’s team serves up A5 Wagyu in the dining room and excellent burgers and fries at the bar.

3. Medium Rare, Cleveland Park, Capitol Hill, Bethesda, and Virginia Square

A $23.95 set menu is composed of bread, salad, fries, culotte steak, and a fabulously rich secret sauce.

Service

1. Rose’s Luxury, Capitol Hill

The friendly servers are known to sometimes throw customers a gratis dish.

2. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle

The staffers tend to stay attentive even when the dining room is full.

3. The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia

Patrick O’Connell once brought in a ballet instructor to help his waitstaff move more gracefully.

Restaurant Desserts

1. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle

Home of the best profiteroles in town.

2. Brothers and Sisters, Adams Morgan

Pichet Ong puts whimsical spins on towering layer cakes.

3. Elle, Mount Pleasant

Lizzy Evelyn’s goat-cheese cheesecake is justifiably famous.

Special Occasion

1. The Dabney, Shaw

This woodsy former carriage house feels especially idyllic in winter.

2. Rose’s Luxury, Capitol Hill

You can book the rooftop table for an all-you-can-eat feast.

3. The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia

A sumptuous experience with antiques and miles of taffeta and silk.

One of the dining rooms at the Inn at Little Washington.
One of the dining rooms at the Inn at Little Washington.

Seafood

1. Fiola Mare, Georgetown

The glittery dining room on the Potomac offers $60 lobster ravioli and the occasional celebrity sighting.

2. The Salt Line, Navy Yard

Golden-fried, New England–style seafood mixes with Kyle Bailey’s cheffier pastas and crudos.

3. Hank’s Oyster Bar, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, the Wharf, Old Town Alexandria

You already know about the killer lobster roll—the sleeper hit is the cocktail roster.

Brunch

1. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle

You might be thinking of ordering French, but our heart lies with the all-American pancakes and the eggs Norwegian.

2 Ambar, Capitol Hill and Clarendon

All the Balkan-style dishes you can eat for $34.

3. Unconventional Diner, Shaw

French chef David Deshaies cooks up vegetarian stews and soups alongside diner classics.

For Kids

1. Ted’s Bulletin, Capitol Hill, 14th Street, Ballston, Reston, Merrifield, and Gaithersburg

Much of the menu—save for the boozy milkshakes—has kid appeal.

2. 2 Amys, Cathedral Heights

Many nights, this pizzeria has the din of a school cafeteria.

3. Comet Ping Pong, Forest Hills, DC

Big booths and a loud room make it especially toddler-friendly.

French

1. Le Diplomate, Logan Circle

Come for textbook onion soup, moules frites, and skate grenobloise.

2. Chez Billy Sud, Georgetown

Bistro standards in a pretty, gilded dining room.

3. L’Auberge Chez François, Great Falls

This cozy cottage—which gets seriously decked out for the holidays—specializes in robust Alsatian fare.

Italian

1. The Red Hen, Bloomingdale

A low-lit, leisurely spot for some of the city’s best rigatoni.

2. Sfoglina, Forest Hills, DC; downtown DC; and Rosslyn

Fabio and Maria Trabocchi recently opened a bigger Arlington version of their upscale pasta house.

3. Filomena, Georgetown

It’s been serving giant portions of osso buco and cheesecake for 36 years.

Mexican

1. Taqueria Habanero, Columbia Heights and College Park

Standout sopes and tacos on freshly made and pressed tortillas.

2. Oyamel, Penn Quarter

José Andrés–approved ceviches and small plates.

3. Taco Bamba, Chinatown, Falls Church, Vienna, Fairfax, and Springfield

Chicken nuggets, Kung Pao shrimp, and ramen noodles make their way into Victor Albisu’s madcap tacos.

Japanese

Chef Handry Tjan, left, at Sushiko.
Chef Handry Tjan, left, at Sushiko.

1. Sushi Taro, Dupont Circle

Spring for the omakase, served in a tiny back room.

2. Daikaya, Penn Quarter

Even the vegan ramen is a draw.

3 Sushiko, Chevy Chase

We love lunchtime bentos and sushi happy hour.

Chinese

1. Tiger Fork, Shaw

A chic Blagden Alley spot for barbecue meats and late-night dan-dan noodles.

2. Panda Gourmet, Gateway, DC

Some of the best hotel eats in the area are at this dining room attached to a Days Inn.

3. Peter Chang, Arlington and Rockville

Snack on balloon-like scallion pancakes, then dig into homey clay-pot stews.

Thai

1. Little Serow, Dupont Circle

This tiny, no-reservations northern Thai spot will set your tongue on fire.

2. Baan Thai, Logan Circle

The chili-laced curries and noodle dishes make you forget all about Americanized pad Thai.

3. Mai Thai, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, and Old Town Alexandria

This trio of places brings together sushi and spring rolls.w

Breakfast

There’s usually a crowd at Call Your Mother.
There’s usually a crowd at Call Your Mother.

1. Call Your Mother, Park View, DC

Home of the city’s best bagels—wood-fired and chewy, with a touch of sweetness.

2. Ted’s Bulletin, Capitol Hill, 14th Street, Ballston, Reston, Merrifield, and Gaithersburg

Cinnamon buns “as big as ya head,” cheesecake pop tarts, breakfast nachos—you get the idea.

3. A Baked Joint, Mount Vernon Square

Scoff at toast “programs” all you want, but this bread bakery sells the best slices in town. Go for the peanut-butter-Sriracha-and-cilantro.

Best in Maryland

1. Bob’s Shanghai 66, Rockville

Bring lots of cash—credit cards aren’t accepted—and fill your table with dumplings as well as Szechuan and Shanghai­nese share plates.

2. Volt, Frederick

Bryan Voltaggio’s home-base dining room offers modernist dishes and a 15-course tasting menu.

3. Q by Peter Chang, Bethesda

Chinese chef Peter Chang’s most upscale restaurant serves numbing stir-fries and gorgeous dim sum.

A shareable feast at Bob’s Shanghai 66.
A shareable feast at Bob’s Shanghai 66.

Bakery

1. Baked & Wired, Georgetown

It’s best known for cupcakes, but the pies are where it’s at.

2. Seylou, Shaw

The meticulously crafted small-batch breads have won national attention.

3. Bakeshop, Clarendon and Falls Church

Retro icebox pies and layer cakes share space with inventions such as the “Oreo in a blanket.”

Gourmet Shop

Sauces and pasta at the Italian Store.
Sauces and pasta at the Italian Store.

1. Glen’s Garden Market, Dupont Circle

Everything from the marshmallows to the Chardonnay is locally produced.

2. Balducci’s, Bethesda, Alexandria, McLean, and Reston

The New York–born store is known for its prepared foods.

3. The Italian Store, Arlington

The Italian subs are worth the inevitable wait. Call ahead to skip the line.

Coolest Decor

1. Maydan, U Street corridor

You can’t get much more dramatic than the giant fiery hearth in the center of Rose Previte’s dining room.

2. Primrose, Brookland

The low-key, French-style wine bar is done up with flouncy marabou chandeliers.

3. Coconut Club, Union Market

An urban tiki extravaganza with plenty of details for the ’gram.

The dining room at Primrose.
The dining room at Primrose.

This article appears in the December 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

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