Having lived in the DC area now for four years, I’ve been lucky enough to have taken advantage of the awesome food scene here. There are hundreds of restaurants over the metro area, endless food trucks, and wine and food festivals aplenty. To me it was a revelation that occasionally chefs here close a restaurant just because they want they have a different concept in mind they want to try. However, that works out to all of our benefit.
Additionally, DC had the recent honor of hosting the Michelin team, who evaluated the best of our restaurants here. They handed out stars to 12 fabulous restaurants, plus put together another fabulous list, the Bib Gourmand, of other restaurants they loved, but that didn’t quite get a star. I’ve been to only four of the restaurants on that list, but the rest are at the top of my list to try.
Anyway, I know I’m not a Michelin star judge, but here are a few of my favorites places to eat in the DC area, all of which I’d strongly recommend.
Jaleo – Led by renowned chef José Andrés, Jaleo is probably my very favorite restaurant in the DC area. It serves some of the best Spanish tapas you can find anywhere. Whenever I’m in the mood for something with strong, savory, mouth-watering flavors, this is my go-to. Some of my favorites: the patatas bravas, the bacalao, and the bacon-wrapped dates.
Hank’s Oyster Bar – Hank’s Oyster Bar highlights one of my absolute favorite things about DC: the outstanding seafood. There is nothing like stopping by Hank’s after a long day at work for a glass of wine and a plate full of fresh, salty oysters just plucked from the Chesapeake or from off the coast of Virginia. Try the specials of the day; you won’t be disappointed.
Fiola – Fiola is the flagship restaurant of Maria and Fabio Trabocchi. They’ve since opened two other restaurants, including the renowned Fiola Mare, which specializes in seafood. But Fiola itself is worth a visit. If you are looking for a hearty yet sophisticated Italian meal, especially in the fall and winter months, you can’t beat Fiola.
The Partisan – I first tried the Partisan this winter, and it offered everything a restaurant in DC named the Partisan should have: a wide array of meats from its very own butcher shop (perhaps most notable: the boar’s heart), a cozy wood interior, and an outstanding bourbon list. If you want an up and coming restaurant that epitomizes DC, go here.
Garrison – I discovered Garrison only recently, and am already hooked. Their menus vary by season, and, at least in the cooler months, feature hearty, savory flavors. We tried the chicken pate, which was delicious, as well as scallops, and pan-roasted cod. The inside of the restaurant is cozy, casual, and candlelit; and you’ll learn a lot about how each dish is made. Intimate and interesting.
Oyamel – For a fun and exciting meal, I’d recommend (another José Andrés restaurant) Oyamel, which specializes in ‘creative Mexican tapas and street food’. The interior is bright and cheery, the food unique, and the cocktails strong. And you’ll come away having tried delicious Mexican food like you never have before; you can even try chapulines — grasshopper.
Sei – If you are a fan of Asian cuisine, particularly modern Asian cuisine, I’d recommend Sei. A chic downtown restaurant in the heart of Penn Quarter, Sei offers an extensive menu of unique flavors, as well as a themed cocktail menu. Overall, Sei is great for any night out on the town in D.C.
Proof – To me, Proof is the perfect special occasion restaurant, though maybe that’s because I’ve enjoyed a birthday there. Its food is simply divine. At my last visit we enjoyed outstanding wine, cheese, and charceuterie, and resolved immediately to come back again soon.
Did I miss one of your favorite restaurants? Make a recommendation in the comments section.