D.C.’s Hottest Tables
Our nation’s capital has become a culinary powerhouse. Need proof? Just check out this list of the city's buzziest restaurants, from an authentic Thai spot to a French-inspired bistro that feels like Paris itself.
The Grill Room
Capella hotel's The Grill Room is making culinary waves, thanks to new chef and James Beard Award winner, Frank Ruta, who took over the kitchen earlier this year. Along with a full burger menu (from duck-egg to mortadella), you can expect hearty Italian-influenced dishes, including a standout beef oxtails braised with celery, tomatoes, and raisins.
This Greek hotspot run by Chef Mike Isabella is technically in Arlington, Virginia, but no matter—D.C. locals are flocking here in droves. Kapnos Taverna is all about traditional approaches to mezze like spit-roasted lamb with ancient grain salad and tzatziki, and roasted cauliflower with golden raisins, fenugreek (a Mediterranean herb), and spiced almonds. Don't miss the show-stopping $125 seafood tower, which comes with an abundance of condiments like tomato-ouzo, lemon yogurt, and fresh horseradish.
The Bangkok-based Mango Tree Group chose Washington, D.C. for its first foray into the U.S., setting up shop in the shiny new CityCenterDC development. The prices may seem higher than your average Thai food joint, but they're worth it, especially if you take a family-style approach. To wit: their version of pad Thai is made with a whole Maine lobster and big enough to share.
José Andrés has done it again, this time with a fast-casual concept called Beefsteak, which highlights vegetables and grains—variations of which are combined to create one-meal bowls. Veggies (whatever is freshest that day) are prepared on the spot, and mixed with bulgur, quinoa, or rice. You can then add a sauce, a protein, a dressing, fresh toppings (from kimchi to radishes), and some crunch for texture (think corn nuts and pumpkin seeds). Too many choices? Opt for one of the chef-designed bowls instead.
Wunderkind Erik Bruner-Yang finally has a follow-up to his cult-favorite ramen spot Toki Underground. But Maketto, set in a 6,000-square-foot space, is more than just a noodle restaurant. On the second floor, you'll find a coffee bar from Vigilante Coffee Company and an all-day bakery counter. Downstairs, Durkl streetwear runs a retail space selling stylish men's clothes and accessories. Bruner-Yang also works his magic on the bottom level, serving a counter-service menu during the day and a more formal meal at night (with seating both indoors and in the courtyard). On the menu: sharable Cambodian and Taiwanese like whole fried fish and pork steam bao.
A light and airy Italian market-restaurant combo, Centrolina opened in May in CityCenterDC. Chef Amy Brandwein presides over the kitchen, which has already earned a following for its freshly-made pastas, wood-fired meats, and antipasti like scallop crudo with pluot, pickled ramps, and lemon. For dessert, don't miss the olive oil cake topped with raspberry sauce from the former Le Diplomate pastry chef Jennifer Costa. On your way out, give in to temptation and pick up the ingredients to recreate your meal back home.
Iron Gate, located in a century-old Italianate building in Dupont Circle, first opened as a tearoom in the 1920's. (When it shuttered in 2010, it was the city's oldest continuously operating restaurant.) A few years ago, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group along with chef Tony Chittuma 2015 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic—came along and reinvented the spot as a champion of locavore cuisine, serving a Mediterranean-inspired menu.
Since opening two years ago, the Parisian brasserie Le Diplomate from restaurateur Stephen Starr has attracted a who's who of D.C. big wigs, from National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Senator Charles Schumer to Vice President Biden and even the First Lady herself. The traditional bistro menu has all the favorites you would expect, including steak frites, trout almandine, and ratatouille.
This is a carnivore’s dream come true. The Partisan is a restaurant offshoot of Red Apron Butchery's Penn Quarter location, and as such, diners can choose from up to 60 types of cured and aged meats (like with sushi, just mark your choices on the charcuterie menu). There's also a selection of small, medium, and large meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes. We dare any meat-lover to turn down the duck French toast panini or the shareable bacon plate, served with four types of everyone's favorite breakfast food.
Fabio Trabocchi is the brainchild behind Fiola Mare, a Georgetown restaurant set in on Potomac waterfront. The chef, a 2015 James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Chef, is a master of seafood, turning out dishes like olive-oil-poached halibut and whole fish carved tableside. All of the pastas are available in half portions; don't miss the lobster ravioli. Want to sample the menu without breaking the bank? Check out the $28 healthy Maria Menu at lunch (available Tuesday through Friday), which includes three low-cal—but still delicious—dishes.