Our Favorite Bites and Drinks From the 2023 Best of Washington Party

Photograph by Dan Swartz.

Washingtonian‘s Best of Washington party made its big comeback at the Anthem last night. There was a disco dance floor, giveaways, entertainers on sparkly stilts, tarot card readings, and soooo much more. But of course, we’re all about the food and drinks. The event featured bites and sips from more than 60 of our favorite restaurants. Naturally, our food team had to weigh in on the top tastes of the night:

Best summery dish: Rooster & Owl chef Yuan Tang was behind one of the top-tier dishes of the night: a creamy corn salad with lime and cotija cheese. Another hyper-seasonal winner: Chevy Chase restaurant Opal’s heirloom tomato garnished with a vinaigrette that got its briny quality from littleneck clams and capers.

Best full-on feast: We could have just made an entire meal solely out of the spread from Afghan favorite Bistro Aracosia. The buffet included kabuli pulao (a rice dish with caramelized carrots and raisins) and lamb, but we can’t get enough of their dumplings stuffed with minced beef or butternut squash.

Spicy oyster shooters from Hank’s Oyster Bar. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Best palate wake-up: Fiery bloody mary shooters with either mezcal or sake from Hank’s Oyster Bar. Bonus: an oyster hiding at the bottom.

Best boozy drink: Over at the Causa/Bar Amazonia table, co-owner Glendon Hartley (also behind Service Bar) was pouring a dangerously good, magenta-hued, and full-size cocktail called the Aji-Mora Tonica. The Peruvian restaurant in Blagden Alley specializes in Pisco, so of course the drink had that spirit, but also gin, aji amarillo, blackberry, and muna, the Andean herb.

Best spirit-free, or “free-spirited” drink: Maydan’s tart, Grimace-shake-colored soda made with blackberry, hibiscus, and orange blossom was an appealing take on the vinegar-based shrub.

Sumac let guests garnish their own dishes with sachets of onion ash. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Coolest garnish: Sumac, the foraging-obsessed, tasting menu spot (with a trailer kitchen!) in Sperryville, served  oatmeal porridge with smoked-trout, onion butter, and pickled onions. On the side? Branches turned into sachets holding onion ash, which guests could sprinkle as they wished.

Best single-bite snack: Skewers of pork-belly burnt ends with a cube of pineapple from Riverdale barbecue destination 2Fifty. Maybe even better? The smoked brisket that came out later in the night.

Kogiya served bulgogi-kimchi doughnuts. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Best street food riff: Kogiya, one of the region’s best Korean barbecue restaurants, surprised us with its hot-from-the-fryer bulgogi-kimchi doughnuts. The riff on tteokbokki, a popular Korean street food of spicy rice cakes, incorporated a sweet rice flour dough and spicy-sweet sauce.

Best fried snack: Penn Quarter restaurant Dirty Habit pulled off an unexpectedly tasty combo: perfectly crispy arancini over doro wat, the Ethiopian chicken stew.

Le Mont Royal’s duck hear with watermelon-tomato salad. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Most adventurous bite: Le Mont Royal is definitely the first to bring duck heart to the event! The French-Canadian disco-themed Adams Morgan bar served it with a colorful watermelon-tomato salad, peanuts, and a maple vinaigrette.

Best one-and-done dish: Griddled-to-order full-size cheeseburgers topped with pickles, onions, American cheese, and special sauce from Shaw pop-up-turned-restaurant Ghostburger.

Best spice: Queen’s English, the modern Hong Kong-inspired restaurant in Columbia Heights, calls its shrimp “mouth watering” because of the Szechuan peppercorns and array of other peppercorns that go into its fragrant oil. But it’s also “mouth watering” because we’re licking our lips just thinking about it.

Jaleo sliced up jamon Iberico. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.

Best simple bites: Two ingredients—Cantabrian anchovy and cultured butter—on focaccia from All-Purpose/Red Hen/Aventino created a memorable, umami bite. From Jaleo, an expertly-carved, paper-thin slice of jamon Iberico, wrapped around a pico breadstick, left absolutely nothing to be desired.

Best pasta: Thompson Italian, the Falls Church Italian restaurant, served an elegant summer squash tortelloni with chives and aleppo pepper. We’ll take a whole bowl next time.

Best new (to us) dish: Banosh, a Ukrainian highland dish of polenta-like cornmeal cakes with slab bacon lardons and goat cheese, from Ruta, Capitol Hill’s new Ukrainian restaurant. We already knew and loved the Yemeni restaurant Marib’s distinctive cold appetizer shafout, made from lahoh (injera-like Yemeni bread), buttermilk, and herbs, but since few other restaurants serve it, it was surely new to many.

Best raw fish: Nama Ko’s Hamachi sashimi with yuzu ponzu and chili crunch, was one of the earliest things to sell out. But Anafre’s traditional ceviche with blue corn chips was a contender too.

Quickest bite: The crunchy, one-bite dahi puri with pomegranate seeds from Pappe were the perfect size for this event, and we had to eat them quickly: dahi puri’s yogurt filling quickly softens the hollow disc-shaped cracker, causing the ephemeral chaat to disintegrate.

Most convenient dessert: There was a lot to eat last night, so we appreciated that Agora packaged individual slices of syrupy pistachio baklava in to-go containers so we easily save them for later! 

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

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 Petworth.

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor