The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s semi-annual Restaurant Week will soon be upon us—it runs from Monday, August 15 to Sunday, August 21. And this year, there are scores of good options for $25 three-course lunches and brunches, and $40-$55 three-course dinners. Here are my picks. But before you book a table, a few tips:
*Lunch—and brunch—are often the best deal. While the cost of RW dinner menus has risen (it used to be around $35), the daytime menu’s pricing remains gentler. Plus, a three-course lunch feels innately luxurious! And there’s usually lots of overlap with the more expensive dinner menus.
*Watch out for drinks. If you’ve got budget front and center on your mind, know that in this era of $17 cocktails, a couple bevs can double your bill. A few places have drinking deals, marked on the RAMW site (yay for $8 glasses of wine).
*Also watch out for surcharges and supplements. They happen, sure. But some restaurants sprinkle them onto menus far more liberally than others.
*Do the math. This mostly applies to that $55 dinner “deal.” Many restaurants are cribbing dishes from their regular menus (or offering full run of those menus). Would your three courses ordinarily add up to $55? Depending on what you order, the answer might be no—or you may just be getting a free dessert.
Now that you’re ready to conquer RW2K22, here’s what’s on my list:
When Adam Howard was the chef at Blue Duck Tavern, it landed in the top 20 of our 100 Best Restaurants list. Now, he’s quietly taken over the kitchen at this Georgetown fine-dining institution. The $55 dinner menu offers lots of choices, like rabbit roulade with black-locust gastrique, New Bedford scallops with trout roe and English peas, roasted Rohan duck breast, and Meyer-lemon cremeux. If you’re feeling fancy—and are cool with traditional, granny-chic decor—this is a really good bet. 1226 36th St., NW.
Both the Navy Yard and Shaw locations of this pizzeria are offering $40 dinners, plus 15 percent off select bottles of wine. Bookend one of the deck-oven pies (I’m partial to the zesty Enzo the Baker and the honey-drizzed Buona) with a house salad, which is basically an Italian sub in bowl form, or the super-rich garlic knots, then end with a slice of almond-scented rainbow cake. Plus, you’re all but guaranteed to bring home leftover pizza. 1250 Ninth St., NW; 79 Potomac Ave., SE.
Michael Schlow’s Italian-American spots in Mount Vernon Triangle and the Mosaic District are offering a big chunk of the regular dinner menu for their $40 promotion, which is also available for takeout. Go for checkered-tablecloth classics like fried calamari, penne alla vodka, and chicken parm. Desserts include a vanilla-cheesecake brownie, ricotta doughnuts, and cannoli. 465 K St., NW; 2911 District Ave., Fairfax.
Veteran chef Frank Ruta (formerly of Palena and the White House) is offering a lovely-sounding late summer $55 menu for both dine-in and curbside pickup at this Dupont dining room. Two things he’s known for: soups and gnocchi. Both are options, along with Eastern Shore-inspired grilled rainbow trout with sauteed crab and Old Bay potatoes; pork-leg Milanese; and peach upside-down cake. There’s also quiet street patio seating. 2132 Florida Ave., NW.
The Georgetown French hangout is notable for its sheer variety: there are brunch, lunch, and $40 dinner menus with lots of bistro standards: onion soup, escargots with garlic butter, coq au vin, and steak frites (which you can upgrade from a coulotte to either New York strip or filet mignon for an upcharge). To drink, there are a few $8 glass/$30 bottle wine specials.
The bad news: most tables and all takeout orders for Ryan Ratino’s whimsical dinner menu are already sold out. The good news: the 14th Street restaurant is extending the promotion to 5:30 tables on Wednesdays and Thursdays through the end of the month. There is just a single option for each course—Coho salmon with buttermilk, sorrel, and raspberry; brioche-stuffed chicken; and strawberry ambrosia—but that very same menu (with a few other options) would ordinarily run you $84. 1906 14th St., NW.
Jose Andres’s color-splashed Penn Quarter dining room is an ode to Peruvian cuisine—and its Chinese and Japanese influences. Dumplings are the way to go here, and you can choose from a couple of them on the $40 four-course menu, along with salmon tiradito, chicken stew with aji amarillo, and fried rice with a rainbow of veggies. Wine specials include glasses for $8 or $13 and bottles for $30 or $52. 418 Seventh St., NW.
Cedric Maupillier, a Michel Richard acolyte, is low-key one of the best chefs in the city. His longtime Shaw bistro embraces his French roots. There are a ton of choices on the $55 dinner menu—I’m partial to the pate en croute (a stunner), roast chicken with vinegar/tarragon sauce, trout amandine, and a poached pear with vanilla mousse. 801 O St., NW.
Japanese TV show Midnight Diner is the inspiration behind this Penn Quarter izakaya’s themed $40 dinner menu, which features dishes favored by some of the characters. Points for creativity! 705 Sixth St., NW.
I’d visit this pretty New Orleans-style dining room at brunch, where the $25 menu includes lemon-poppyseed scones, fried-fish and grits, and beignets. There’s a $55 dinner menu too, with a shortlist of choices like dressed oysters, cochon de lait, and blackened bluefish. 1100 15th St., NW.
Todd and Ellen Gray’s 23 year-old dining room near the White House is serving up $40 three-course and $55 four-course dinners, with $20 and $30 wine pairings. Todd Gray’s hyper-seasonal menu offers several plant-based choices, along with seafood dishes like grilled Delaware swordfish with squash, or barbecue salmon with succotash. I recommend springing for the $15 side of truffled mac’ and cheese. 818 Connecticut Ave., NW.
Thai, Filipino, and Korean flavors converge at this Wharf dining room. The $55 dinner menu is heavily Thai and doesn’t skimp on prime ingredients, such as Maryland crab in red curry and an eight-ounce ribeye with sweet/sour/spicy sauce. 751 Wharf St., SW.
Chef Matt Baker’s forward-thinking French/Louisiana dining room at the Eaton Hotel pulls highlights from its regular menu for its $55 three-courser, like the smoked-potato/truffle tarte flambee and buttery crawfish linguine. Not on a budget? You can always pre-game with $24 trout roe with chips and ranch dip—or a $140 round of ossetra with beignets. 1201 K St., NW.
Kevin Tien—one of the city’s most exciting talents—showcases modern Vietnamese cooking at his Wharf dining room. On the $55 dinner menu: shrimp toast on brioche, a peppery riff on shaky beef, and brown-butter cake with miso buttercream. 801 Wharf St., SW.
There’s a wide range of seafood-focused dishes on this Reston Town Center spot’s dinner ($55) and lunch/Sunday brunch ($25) menus. Among the choices: crab-and-shrimp spring rolls, spicy salmon maki, a blackened fish sandwich with key-lime aioli, and the signature red curry lobster (which carries a $12 upcharge). 11960 Democracy Dr., Reston.
Cheffy comfort food is the draw at this cute Mount Rainier dining room. The $40 offering from chef Jesse Miller gives diners full run of the dinner menu (aside from the shareable platters). There’s rabbit jambalaya, a vegan take on potpie, and the fantastic brisket-and-bone-marrow mac’ and cheese. 3310 Rhode Island Ave., Mount Rainier.
What was once the glittery Indian restaurant Punjab Grill is now the glittery Indian restaurant Rania. Three-course dinner menus are typically $75 at the Penn Quarter dining room; next week’s $25 lunch and $55 dinner versions offer some of the same dishes. My top picks: the shiso-leaf chaat and the monkfish with turmeric moilee (a $5 surcharge). There’s a brunch deal, too. 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
Ashok Bajaj’s Penn Quarter and West End Indian destinations are each doing lunch and dinner promotions. For lunch, prelude an order of chicken tikka masala with a truffled dosa, sweet potato samosa, or palak chaat. The $55 dinner menu offers a longer list of choices, including halibut curry, mango shrimp, and lamb biryani. 1190 New Hampshire Ave., NW; 633 D St., NW.
Longtime chef Ris Lacoste’s neighborhood-y West End dining room is offering its entire menu for both lunch ($25) and dinner ($40 or $55). If you’ve yet to try Lacoste’s scallop margarita (or pepita-crusted salmon, an homage to mentor Bob Kinkead) here’s your excuse to get over there. Nice touch: swap out any of the courses for a glass of wine or beer. 2275 L St., NW.
This longtime Japanese favorite in Dupont hasn’t released its RW menu yet, but if the past is an indicator, it’ll be one of the city’s best (and most in-demand). 1503 17th St., NW.
If, like me, you have a hard time choosing between pasta or pizza at this Japanese/Italian place, the $55 four-course dinner menu is a great solution. There’s a briny tangle of tagliolini with cod roe and creme fraiche, and a straightforward take on Marcella Hazan’s justly famous spaghetti with tomato/butter sauce. Pillowy-crusted pizzas are topped with tuna and corn, shiitake and yuzu kosho, and more. 707 Sixth St., NW.
There’s plenty to like about David DeShaies’s quirky French-American menu, with its plentiful vegan and gluten-free options, but also several eff-dietary-restrictions indulgences. What’s extra-nice about it during Restaurant Week is that you can supersize: get a $40 dinner for one, a $70 dinner for two, or a $140 dinner for four. 1207 Ninth St., NW.