Food

Our Food Critic’s Top Picks for DC Summer Restaurant Week 2020

10 great places to check out for dine-in and carryout deals.

Stelinas cacio e pepe slice. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Summer Restaurant Week is nearly upon us (yes, it’s still happening). The promotion is two weeks this year, August 17 through 30, and you’ll still find $35 three-course dinner menus and $22 lunches all over the city. This year, though, restaurants are adding more deals to entice diners back out: there are family-style offerings, takeout packages with food and alcohol, and wine and cocktail pairings. 

This isn’t a normal year (spoiler alert!) so I’m throwing my usual Restaurant Week strategies out the window (i.e. focus mostly on high-end spots, as opposed to places that offer good deals year-round; go for lunch over dinner). The menus are generally wider-ranging and far more varied than years past. A few things I will always appreciate: lots of menu choices, a sense of effort and enthusiasm, and a dash of creative thinking. 

Here, the top places on my list, plus a few I’m keeping an eye on.

Al Dente
3201 New Mexico Ave., NW
Roberto Donna was one of DC’s starriest chefs in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now, he’s got a quieter presence at this neighborhood trattoria in AU Park. On the $35 dinner menu, I’d go for the ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, the eggplant Parmesan, and lemon chicken, but there are a ton of choices.

Annabelle
2132 Florida Ave., NW
Ashok Bajaj’s $6 million revamp of the Nora space had only been open a couple months when the pandemic hit. One of the city’s top chefs, Frank Ruta (formerly of Palena and Mirabelle and the White House), is still behind the stoves. He’s offering two options—a $55 dine-in menu (there’s a small outdoor patio too) and a more casual $35 takeout dinner. Both are super-seasonal, so if height-of-summer produce is your jam, this would be a good bet. I’ve got my eye on the poached peaches with sweet corn semifreddo. 

Baan Siam
425 I St., NW
The team from now-closed Baan Thai is behind this Mount Vernon Square newcomer. It’s Restaurant Week deal is a takeout/delivery-only $60 meal for two: two drinks (beer or frozen cocktails), appetizers, and entrees, plus one dessert. There are plenty of old Baan Thai favorites like khao soi, vermicelli in fiery peanut sauce, and chicken-stuffed tapioca dumplings, plus some new Southern and Central Thai offerings, too.

Bar Charley
1825 18th St., NW
If you’re not looking to do takeout, the string light-filled patio at this reliable Dupont steakhouse is lovely —and very well-spaced. The $35 dinner menu is pretty varied—there’s a buttered lobster roll, Korean-style chicken wings, and jerk pork tenderloin. If you feel like a steak, upgrade to the $55 version.

A springtime burrata at Bresca. Photograph courtesy of Bresca

Bistro Bis
15 E St., NW
Veteran chef/restaurateur Jeff Buben has always nailed Restaurant Week by offering plenty of choices while not dumbing down his French cooking. This year, the lunch menu offers the best range, and includes longtime hits like the onion soup, steak tartare, citrusy beet salad, steak frites, and creme brulee. Feeling extra fancy? Go for the Grand Marnier souffle. 

Bresca
1906 14th St., NW
The fine-dining spot is offering a $35 three-course prix fixe in its new salon and a $35 four-course spread to-go. Ryan Ratino’s cooking is often far more complex than it sounds—check out his standard-setting tomato-and-burrata salad—so if you’re looking for the kind of food you can’t whip up at home, this is a good option. I’m most interested in trying out Ratino’s steakhouse menu ($130 for four people), with that same tomato salad, plus a wedge salad, short rib (which has spent two days in the sous vide), shrimp cocktail, and extra-indulgent Robuchon potatoes, among other things. 

Gravitas
1401 Okie St., NE
This Ivy City restaurant specializes in luxe DIY tasting menus, so this is a good chance to try it out. There are three-course menus for dine-in and to-go, with dishes like corn veloute, seared snapper with summer bean salad, and an upscale s’more. 

New outdoor seating outside Rasika Penn Quarter. Photograph courtesy of Rasika

Rasika
633 D St., NW; 1190 New Hampshire Ave., NW
There are plenty of choices on both the dine-in and carryout lunch ($22) and dinner ($35 and $55) menus at these Indian destinations. You probably already know about the palak chaat; also go for the fragrant cauliflower bezule; the minced-lamb kebabs, and the vegetarian thali platter. Both locations now also offer outside seating.

Stellina
399 Morse St., NE
The excellent Union Market-adjacent pizza shop is doing a $55 four-course dinner that can be expanded to feed two ($100) or four ($210). The pies are worthy of attention—especially the amatriciana and cacio e pepe versions—but the pastas are just as delicious. Don’t miss the paccheri with meat ragu. Or the ethereal fried artichokes. 

Unconventional Diner
1207 Ninth St., NW
David DeShaies’s French/American Shaw dining room is wisely offering some of the menu’s biggest hits, including the double cheeseburger, crab hush puppies, miso salmon, and the best chicken parm’ you’ll find in all of DC. The in-restaurant dinner is $35; takeout is $60 for two, or $130 for four.

Other things worth considering: The lunchtime bento box at Cranes; a rooftop sushi dinner at Perrys; takeout from Sushiko; brunches at All-Purpose Riverfront and Punjab Grill; the Italian-American takeout dinners-for-two at Bub & Pop’s; the desserts at Bastille; steaks at Randy’s; the lunch burger at Hummingbird; and the TBD menus at Red Hen, Laos in Town, Kaliwa, and Daikaya Izakaya.

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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 Logan Circle.