Michelin released its 2022 DC dining guide, which includes four new starred restaurants. We’re big fans of a fancy-ish afternoon meal—plus there’s often better reservation availability, and sometimes a gentler tab.
Bresca (one star)
1906 14th St., NW
Chef Ryan Ratino serves a luxurious, European-style Sunday lunch at his gastro-bistro. The special menu ($84 to $96), available in the dining room or the private greenhouses, includes three to four courses with add-ons like caviar service. Forget mimosas—a roving Champagne cart is stocked with Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon, and Dom Perignon.
Cranes (one star)
724 Ninth St., NW
Chef Pepe Moncayo’s innovative Spanish-Japanese restaurant in Penn Quarter is a rare option that’s open daily for lunch. The dining room and sake lounge opens at noon, and you’ll find elaborate bento boxes (weekdays) or an a la carte menu of tapas and share plates like oysters with ponzu, duck- rillettes gyoza, and unagi paella. On weekdays, diners can also go for an “executive omakase” tasting ($60) with an optional beverage pairing ($30)—more wallet-friendly than the $118 dinner option.
El Cielo (one star)
1280 Fourth St., NE
On Saturdays, chef Juan Manuel Barrientos offers his modern Colombian tasting menus at noon or 4 PM, before the dinner rush. Guests can pick between the 14-16 course “journey” ($198 per person) or 22-course “experience” ($228 per person). There’s also a plant-filled bar and small patio.
Sushi Nakazawa (one star)
1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Your best bet for a coveted seat at chef Masaaki Uchino’s omakase counter may be at lunch, offered daily from 11:45 AM to 1:45 PM. There (versus in the dining room), you can watch the master chef at work over the course of the 20-piece nigiri meal ($180), which includes the option to add luxe bites of wagyu and caviar.
Only a few DC Michelin-starred restaurants offer afternoon dining, so it’s worth mentioning lunch and brunch spinoff options from the chefs.
Chef Patrick O’Connell of the three-star Inn at Little Washington recently opened Patty O’s, a lovely full-service cafe that serves lunch and dinner and sits steps from the Inn. On a recent afternoon visit, we savored the escargots, French onion soup, and curried chicken salad with ultra-crunchy frites (go for a spot near the wood-burning fireplace on cold days, and the patio on warm ones). There’s an adjacent coffee and pastry shop where you can buy wonderful breads and sweets.
Imperfecto: the Chef’s Table just received one star, but Imperfecto, the a la carte restaurant, serves a special occasion-worthy weekend brunch in its airy dining room and on the patio. Diners can still splurge on plates like ora king salmon carpaccio with caviar sauce, or the “Spanish sandwich” with prized mangalitsa ham, foie gras torchon, and truffle butter.
New one-star addition Albi in Navy Yard adjoins Yellow, a wonderful breakfast and lunch destination. If you adore Michael Rafidi’s homemade pitas, dips, and kebabs, you’ll crave the pita sandwiches and bright salads here (note: there’s patio seating, but not much inside). Meanwhile, Gravitas chef Matt Baker operates Baker’s Daughter, a trio of cafes in DC—including a location near his one-star Ivy City tasting room. All serve delicious breakfast and and lunch sandwiches and offer lots of takeout meals, catering, and pantry options. And if you’re just craving a nice espresso and soft-serve, head to Pineapple & Pearls on Capitol Hill—the two-star restaurant, which will reopen soon, is serving “Nothing Fancy” for now.