Our Tips on Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

In the past decade, the nation’s capital has undergone an astonishing transformation into one of the country’s premier dining destinations. Sure, the endless steakhouses designed to feed on the nearly bottomless expense accounts of lobbyists are still here, but D.C.’s restaurant scene is so much more than that now, brimming with award-winning chefs putting out creative cuisine from around the world.

Make It Quick

You are reading: Our Tips on Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.

Yellow

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Chef Michael Rafidi’s modern-minded Levantine restaurant, Albi, has been taking home trophies since it opened in Navy Yard just before the pandemic lockdown. However, his casual all-day café next door is equally worthy of praise. Start off the day with creative lattes—smoked cinnamon toast, halva honey—and breakfast bites including za’atar dusted croissants plumped up with labneh, morning buns speckled with ras al hanout, and whitefish packed bagel sandwiches. At lunchtime, the menu fills out with puffy pita sandwiches stuffed with crispy falafel balls, smoked lamb shoulder, or chargrilled chicken, as well as smaller mezze and intense labneh-based soft serve dappled with fun fixin’s.

See and Be Seen

Le Diplomate

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Ever since it debuted in 2013, the 14th Street mainstay from superstar restaurateur Stephen Starr has been one of D.C.’s brightest power spots. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris have been spotted there, not to mention Barack and Michelle Obama. Always bustling, the brassy brasserie specializes in indulgent renditions of classic French fare—from epic seafood towers and ethereal foie gras parfait to lobster frites and one of the best cheeseburgers in town. Every dish is Instagram ready, so make sure to snap some pics (and covertly photograph the VIP at the table across the way) before you dig in.

Hold the Meat

Oyster Oyster

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Chef Rob Rubba broke the mold with his intimate plant- and planet-forward tasting menu restaurant nestled in the heart of Shaw. His thoughtful, elevated cuisine highlights hyper-seasonal mid-Atlantic produce, including a bounty of wild mushrooms and other foraged edibles, as well as oysters (the menu can be enjoyed vegetarian or vegan; with oysters or without). Every element of the experience is grounded in an eco-conscious ethos. Meals have the option of being paired with low intervention wines, while the menu is seeded with wildflowers, so you can plant it after your dinner.

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If It Ain’t Broke

2 Amys

D.C.’s OG Neapolitan pizzeria just might be the G.O.A.T. Firing up its oven in 2001 just up the road from the National Cathedral, it immediately earned a diehard following for its pitch-perfect pizzas, the crusts daintily leopard spotted and decorated with just the right amount of artfully combined toppings. Offering no reservations, there’s almost always a wait for a table. Bide your time in back by the bar, where you can order a drink or two, as well as a couple of small bites to tamp down your hunger, perhaps a bowl of marinated olives glistening with olive oil or a plate of briny anchovies.

Munchies

Lucky Buns

Whether it’s the end of a long night or the bleary-eyed next morning, this no-frills, all-thrills Adams Morgan burger joint open Fridays and Saturdays until 3 a.m. is your happy place. Chef Alex McCoy griddles up patties forged from Creekstone beef, double stacks them, and adds flavor-boosting toppings, like bacon-laced XO sauce, hatch green chili relish, and #yolkporn eggs. Crispy chicken thigh sandwiches are equally intense, and everything goes well with a generous bag of thick-cut, skin-on fries with dunking options like curry sauce and perky malt vinegar mayo.

Start Me Up

Unconventional Diner

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A breakfast spot that not only offers something for everyone, but also does everything well is a veritable unicorn. Offering cheffed up takes on classic brunch fare every day until 4 p.m., this poppy, playful eatery in Shaw has perfected that magical balancing act. Think a tall stack of blueberry pancakes decked out with lavender accented blueberries and whipped mascarpone; fried chicken balancing on cheddar-chive cornbread waffles; and biscuits piled high with sausage, hash browns, and fried eggs. Lunch and dinner options are equally beguiling, so don’t pigeonhole this spot just for morning meetups.

The Hot Spot

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L’Ardente

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Billing itself as “glam Italian,” chef David Deshaies’s 180-seat, 9,000 square foot venture in East End’s new Capitol Crossing development lives up to its catchphrase. The stylish, ever-packed dining room has floor-to-ceiling views of Massachusetts Avenue NW on one side and a peek into the energetic open kitchen on the other. Dishes are designed to wow, like foie gras ravioli individually served in charming duck-footed ramekins, 40-layer truffled lasagna, and 32-day aged steak lavished with Armagnac rich mathurini sauce. Make sure to save room for the flambéed tiramisu, the sweet epitome of glam Italian.

Under the Radar

Mangialardo’s

The Capitol Hill mainstay on Pennsylvania Avenue SE slinging subs since 1953 boasts a diehard local following for their G-man. A faultless rendition of a classic Italian hero, it’s overflowing with ham, salami, mortadella, pepperoni, provolone, and fontina. If that’s not your dream hoagie, they craft others brimming with chicken salad, juicy meatballs, and roast beef. There’s no seating, so plan on grabbing and going; don’t worry these sturdy sandos travel well.

Dollar Stretcher

Taqueria Habanero

The Columbia Heights favorite is one of the best taco spots in the District because they focus on the details. The kitchen team at the Puebla-inspired taqueria makes their own masa, then cooks tortillas to order on the griddle. The yellow rounds are packed with your choice of 15 different fillings – from classic options like barbacoa, carnitas, and al pastor to options farther afield, such as grasshoppers, octopus, and salmon. Not in the mood for tacos? The hefty tortas are a glorious gut punch, while the huarache topped the refried black bean and tender grilled cactus is a rare treat.

One for the Feed

Barmini

José Andrés’ head-spinningly inventive bar is part magic show, part world hopping cocktail adventure. Expect fire, fog, and frozen-to-order creations forged from rare spirits and unusual mix-ins. Each comes in unique glassware featuring garnish game that’s straight fire. As the mixologist crafts your drink in front of you, they are happy to share exhaustive liner notes on what they’re making. Even if you don’t have to go, pop into the bathroom, a ’Gram-worthy redoubt with a wall covered in hand sculptures holding rolls of toilet paper.

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