The nation’s capital draws more than 22 million visitors each year. While icons like the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian museums, and the White House are often the main attractions, the city’s monumental restaurant scene is also enticing epicureans from around the world. This list should help you as you eat your way around D.C., from chic downtown dining rooms to quirky neighborhood hangs.
Tail Up Goat
The name of this Michelin-starred Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is quite the talking point—it’s a phrase used to differentiate between goats and sheep in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where one of the co-owners grew up. The menu stars housemade pastas and creative small plates, as well as a bread course than holds its own among other dishes (think farro sourdough with eggplant puree, yogurt, grilled radicchio, hazelnut picada, and farro miso).
This tiny Filipino restaurant attracted the attention of national media soon after its debut, and as a result, a line of eager diners usually forms on the sidewalk before the doors open. Once you get a table, share several flavor-packed plates from an ever-changing menu of curries, fried seafood, artful salads, and more.
D.C. has evolved beyond a steakhouse town, but there are still plenty of spots to indulge in a great piece of beef. Bourbon Steak is dripping with sophistication, from the encyclopedia-like cocktail, spirits, and cigar menu to the top dollar steak selection featuring a wagyu trio and a grass-fed tomahawk rib eye.
With a newly minted Michelin star, this boundary-pushing restaurant is only going to become more popular. They define their style of dining as modern bistronomy, which combines a relaxed bistro atmosphere with experimental cuisine. Their sea urchin linguine, dry-aged meats, and old-fashioned duck press are standouts.
Half market, half restaurant, Centrolina is the place for authentic Italian cuisine any time of day. Grab a quick breakfast sandwich on the go, enjoy a plate of fresh pasta for lunch, or linger over wood-roasted porchetta for dinner. Plus, you can stock up on Italian cheeses, salumi, sauces, meats, and more to whip up a meal in your own kitchen.
CHIKO is blazing a trail in a unique style of dining. They serve up innovative Chinese-Korean small plates at lightning speeds and reasonable prices for dine-in or takeout. Don’t miss the fried rice with blue catfish, the half-a-cado salad, orange-ish chicken, or chopped brisket with a soy-brined soft egg over rice with furikake butter. To try them all, book a seat at the kitchen counter.
One of D.C.’s top pitmasters mans the smoker at this compact, no-frills barbecue joint. Choose from a variety of smoked meats like brisket, pork shoulder, pork spare ribs, or chicken, and prepare for meat sweats and a mess. For a tidier meal, wrap your hands around a signature sandwich like the Carolina On My Mind. Don’t forget about the sides, like crispy Brussels sprouts and smoked mac & cheese.
The Trabocchis are a household name in D.C., and for good reason. Their flagship Italian restaurant earned them a Michelin star and launched their culinary empire, which now includes the seafood-focused Fiola Mare, a homey pasta house with two locations dubbed Sfoglina, and the glitzy Del Mar devoted to coastal Spanish fare. Visit the one that started it all for impeccable service and refined classics.
When two first-time restaurateurs opened this petite no-reservations eatery, they began accruing accolades in no time. Diners and critics fell hard for the Japanese-inspired crudo, karaage, and agedashi tofu paired with unusual wines and cocktails featuring sherry and other Spanish ingredients. While it’s tough to get a seat on the weekends, you can secure a table in advance for the Monday night supper club.
Iron Gate is steeped in history, from the carriageway barroom to the patio draped in wisteria. The building was built in the 1800s and was the oldest continuously running restaurant in D.C. before closing in 2010. A few years later, Neighborhood Restaurant Group revived it as a Mediterranean concept, with bright mezze plates and meats and seafood pulled from the wood-burning hearth. You can order a la carte or enjoy a family-style meal or chef’s tasting menu.
An institution of fine dining in D.C., Komi still hasn’t lost its touch or its laser focus on quality. Their Mediterranean-leaning tasting menu consists of about 12 dishes, each one as intricately thought out and meticulously crafted as the last. The small dining room is simple yet inviting. Their wine list focuses mostly on Old World wines, and they serve beers, but no cocktails.
Named for a word meaning town square, Maydan aims to be a place where people can gather to find common ground over a shared meal. Their cuisine pulls from cities scattered along the ancient Silk Road, like Tangier, Beirut, and Tehran. The center of the two-story restaurant is a copper hearth housing flames that bring warmth to the space and add char to the vegetables, seafood, and kebabs. The grilled dishes are paired with spice-infused spreads and fresh bread from the clay ovens.
José Andrés’ two-Michelin-starred restaurant is a playground for culinary innovation. The tasting menu features dishes that defy expectations and delight the palette with cutting edge techniques. Twelve guests can sit at the communal table and experience an imaginative and progressive tasting menu that often includes clouds of liquid nitrogen, flavors that quite literally burst in your mouth and other feats of science.
Powerhouse restaurateur Ashok Bajaj’s Rasika sets the bar for Indian fine dining with elegant, modern cuisine. Explore cuisine prepared in several styles, from tawa dishes like asparagus uttapam to tandoori grilled proteins like lamb chops. Vegetarians are in good hands here thanks to crave-worthy dishes like crispy spinach, artichoke mushroom korma, and more.
While Aaron Silverman’s original Michelin-starred restaurant still draws lines down the block before opening each day, you can now score same day reservations Monday through Thursday to make your life a little easier. Don’t miss the fan-favorites like lychee salad, oysters and granita, and house made pastas. You also can’t go wrong with the rotating new items and specials. For an even more luxe experience, book a seat at Rose’s two-Michelin-starred sister restaurant, Pineapple & Pearls.
Sushi Taro is one of the finest examples of Japanese cuisine in the city, and they have a Michelin star to prove it. The restaurant is great for any occasion, whether you’re looking for affordable rolls during happy hour, a quick bowl of udon soup for lunch, or a deluxe tasting menu or omakase experience.
This Michelin-starred restaurant truly deserves the moniker farm-to-table, as it is helmed by one of the original champions of Mid-Atlantic cuisine. The ingredients come exclusively from the region, so you won’t find any exotic items on the menu. Small plates like charred lettuce and bacon-wrapped chicken ballotine are cooked over the embers of the from the wood-burning hearth that serves as the centerpiece of the open kitchen.
The Line Hotel
The D.C. location of the Line Hotel is a hub for culinary destinations. Start the day with coffee and whole-grain pastries from The Cup We All Race 4. Enjoy an over-the-top afternoon tea service or share knife-cut noodles and an uni tray at Brothers and Sisters. Have snacks and cocktails at the Tachinomiya-style, standing room only Spoken English. Explore the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic at the hyperlocal A Rake’s Progress.
Thip Khao is the place to expand your taste buds with family-style Lao cuisine. Dishes like spicy green papaya bring the heat, while unusual proteins like sour pork and minced alligator add a sense of adventure. Between small plates, salads, noodles, soups, stews, steamed fish, fried rice, and grilled skewers, there’s a little something for everyone.
Timber Pizza Company
What started as a traveling operation slinging pies at farmers markets is now a brick-and-mortar pizza place that is serious about dough. There’s no lack of variety, with baked empanadas, generous salads, plus red, white and green (pesto) pizzas. The toppings change seasonally, but you can’t go wrong with any of the curated pies.