415 Seventh St., NW
Rasika restaurateur Ashok Bajaj and chef Vikram Sunderam debuted their most casual Indian venture yet: a counter-order version of the street-food concept Bindaas. There are tasty, quick-grab kati rolls stuffed with paneer; bottled spiced cocktails; and tamarind soda. Your best bets are the bowls. Our favorite: chili salmon atop lemony rice noodles in a creamy coconut moilee sauce.
2. Boogy & Peel
1 Dupont Cir., NW
This Dupont Circle pizza joint’s space is improbable—owner Rachael Jennings shares it with her brother’s gym. But Jennings’s over-the-top pies are about as far from açai-smoothie culture as you can get. Take her glorious Italian sub in pizza form, heaped with tangy peppers, cold cuts, and iceberg lettuce. (It works!) Or the Macha ’Roni, which amps up everyday pepperoni with nutty salsa macha and honey. One motivational phrase we can get behind is neon-lit on the wall: “Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.”
2029 P St., NW
This white-hot lunch spot—which started as a pandemic pop-up in Logan Circle—comes courtesy of sandwich artist Pete Sitcov, whose subs developed a following at DC’s Yang Market. Besides a bigger space, Sitcov now has access to an oven, which lets him produce masterpieces like the Vesuvio II (a.k.a. the best meatball sub in town). His specialty, though, is ginormous Italian subs. We’re partial to the Hot Pants, with pepperoni, salami, capicola, and hot-sauce mayo.
1633 P St., NW
What’s a cheesesteak without the steak and cheese? Delicious—at least in the hands of Michael Moon and Leah Curran Moon. The duo, who run a two-story catering business, deli, and bar—all plant-based—stick to the flavors of their Italian American roots. We like perching on the patio with crispy trumpet-mushroom “calamari,” fried artichokes, and subs on toasty rolls. That famous Philly sub gets its meatiness from braised jackfruit, mushrooms, peppers, and cheese-like cashew cream. Save room for a cannoli or a housemade limoncello.
5. Hen & Fin
4532 Georgia Ave., NW
Realtor/restaurateur Torie McDonald plumbs a trove of family recipes for this fry-centric Petworth joint. This is where to go when you’re craving DC classics: expert filets of crisp whiting or croaker with hot sauce, or perfect, meaty wings with mumbo sauce. Don’t sleep on the sides, including vinegary collards and terrific mac and cheese.
6. Kaiju Ramen
525 Eighth St., SE
Sure, this monster-themed izakaya serves $66 Wagyu ramen. But budget-watchers can feast like Godzilla, starting with small plates such as savory mochi with molten-cheese centers or an octopus “corn dog.” Chef Junzo Miyajima may buck tradition when it comes to ramen—take the squid-inky bowl with Parmesan—but noodles and broths are housemade in the Japanese manner.
1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington
Reverie chef Johnny Spero trades tasting menus for tavern-style pizza at this ’90s-focused collaboration with Aslin Brewery. How ’90s? There’s Nirvana on the speakers, vintage arcade games at the ready, and thin, crunchy pies inspired by Totino’s, the afterschool snack of choice for elder millennials. You’ll definitely want to share a pizza—whether pepperoni with pickled peppers and honey, or sausage with provolone—but make table space for the smoky onion dip and tater-tot nachos.
785 Rockville Pike, Rockville
Traditionalists, be warned—these aren’t your mama’s pupusas or the kind that chef/owner Elsy Claros’s late mother sold in El Salvador. Claros, who started a chainlet of traditional pupuserias with her sisters after moving to the States, experiments freely at her spinoff venture. Masa cakes come stuffed with more than 25 combinations. We’re fans of the cheesy garlic variety; the chicharrón with loroco, an edible flower; and a Hawaiian riff with ham and pineapple.
3809 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood
Lagos feels closer to Brentwood these days, thanks to this West African street-food stall inside Mixt Food Hall. Suya—skewered meats and seafood dusted with owner Olumide Shokubi’s secret spice blend—is the specialty, hot off the grill. Combinations (we like beef and shrimp) are matched with sides such as jollof rice, plantains, and spinach cooked in a pepper-onion stew that also makes a tasty dip for meats.
1111 Nelson St., Rockville
This family-run bakery specializes in Palestinian-style flatbreads called manoushe. They’re the rightful centerpiece of the menu, but just as attention-getting is the aromatic spice blend za’atar—the owners run a spice company—that accents them. One olive-oil-slicked flatbread is paved only with the stuff, and it’s a marvel of delicious simplicity. Others are jazzed up with labneh, cucumbers, and mint or coins of sujuk sausage with honey and Aleppo pepper.