Washington DC Restaurants – The Top Places to Eat in the Capital

Washington DC Restaurants – The Top Places to Eat in the Capital

Washington, DC, has a vibrant, diverse, and exciting food scene. As the nation's capital, it brings together flavours and cultures worldwide. From elegant Michelin-starred establishments to cosy neighbourhood gems, Washington DC fine dining has something to satisfy every palate.

This comprehensive guide will take you on a culinary journey through DC, spotlighting the top 10 must-visit restaurants according to reputable sources. Whether you're a local looking to spice up your usual rotation or a visitor seeking a memorable dining experience, this guide will help you discover DC's best culinary delights.

How We Chose DC's Top 10 Restaurants

With the myriad dining options available in DC, narrowing it down to 10 restaurants took a lot of work. To create this definitive guide, we relied on the expert opinions of reputable publications that are authorities on DC's food scene, including:

  • Washingtonian – Their annual ranking of the "100 Very Best Restaurants in Washington DC" is widely considered the region's most comprehensive and authoritative restaurant guide.
  • Michelin Guide – The Michelin star rating system is a hallmark of fine dining quality. Michelin-rated restaurants in DC were given extra consideration.
  • OpenTable – This restaurant reservation site aggregates millions of verified diner reviews to find the highest-rated and most popular restaurants.
  • Eater DC – The DC chapter of this respected food blog provides insider knowledge on the most buzzworthy dining destinations.
  • Washington Post – The critic reviews, and food section of the leading DC newspaper highlight top new openings.

By synthesising the recommendations from these trusted sources, we narrowed down the top restaurants that represent the pinnacle of DC's dining scene. From critically acclaimed fine dining to beloved neighbourhood gems, these are the 10 establishments food lovers must experience when visiting Washington, DC.

Location: 122 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001

Cuisine: American

What Makes It Special: Chef Jeremiah Langhorne blends refined technique with the flavours of the Mid-Atlantic region and his Southern roots. The Dabney changes its tasting menu seasonally to highlight the best local ingredients.

Signature Dishes: Grilled oysters with bone marrow butter, Agnolotti pasta stuffed with chicken mousse, Dry aged duck with sunchoke.

Insider Tip: Opt for the 5-course or 7-course tasting menu to fully experience Chef Langhorne's culinary talents. Reservations open 30 days in advance.

The Dabney is DC's premier fine dining establishment, earning the #1 spot on Washingtonian's latest rankings. Helmed by critically acclaimed Mid-Atlantic chef Jeremiah Langhorne, The Dabney wows diners with elevated dishes that celebrate regional cuisine. The thoughtful tasting menus change based on seasonal ingredients. With its intimate yet elegant setting and impeccable service, The Dabney provides an exceptional fine dining experience befitting its Michelin star status. Food lovers visiting DC should treat themselves to the culinary artistry on display at The Dabney.

2. Pineapple and Pearls – Progressive American Tasting Menus

Location: 715 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Cuisine: American, Contemporary

What Makes It Special: Chef Aaron Silverman crafts artistic 20+ course tasting menus using seasonal ingredients and cutting-edge techniques. The kitchen is centred around a large wood-burning hearth.

Signature Dishes: Butter-poached lobster with wheat berry porridge, Dry aged duck with sunchokes, Charred cabbage with XO sauce and cured egg yolk.

Insider Tip: Make reservations as soon as possible – Pineapple and Pearls book up months in advance. There's a slightly more affordable bar menu available without reservations.

Led by Michelin-starred chef Aaron Silverman, Pineapple and Pearls epitomises contemporary fine dining. It captures the #2 spot on Washingtonian's latest rankings thanks to its groundbreaking 20+ course tasting menus. With dishes featuring unique ingredients and impeccably plated preparations, Pineapple and Pearls provide an artistic culinary experience unlike any other in DC. Everything comes together, from the intimate dining room to the phenomenal service to create a dazzling evening for the senses. Foodies visiting Washington, DC, should plan well in advance to secure a coveted reservation at this nationally acclaimed bastion of modern American cuisine.

3. Fiola Mare – Upscale Italian Seafood

Location: 3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Cuisine: Italian Seafood

What Makes It Special: Stunning riverfront location with sweeping views of the Potomac, upscale seafood-focused Italian dishes using high-quality ingredients.

Signature Dishes: Ricciola crudo, Grilled octopus with chickpeas, Whole roasted fish.

Insider Tip: Arrive in time to enjoy a drink at the elegant bar area during golden hour when the sunset views over the Potomac are spectacular.

Fiola Mare's airy, elegant dining room makes it one of DC's most scenic restaurants, overlooking the Potomac River from its perch on the Georgetown waterfront. Chef Fabio Trabocchi highlights seasonal seafood in upscale Italian dishes like crudos, pasta, and whole-roasted fish. With fresh high-quality ingredients, attentive service, and a stunning setting, Fiola Mare provides a complete upscale Italian dining experience. It lands #3 on Washingtonian's latest rankings and earns a Michelin star. Whether enjoying a special occasion dinner or soaking in the atmosphere at the bar with a cocktail, Fiola Mare is a DC dining destination not to miss.

4. Maydan – Innovative Middle Eastern Cuisine

Location: 1346 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

What Makes It Special: The centrepiece is a large open-flame grill and spit for authentic wood-fired dishes. The menu showcases flavorful vegetarian options alongside meat and seafood.

Signature Dishes: Smoked eggplant with walnuts and herbs, Charcoal-grilled short rib skewers, Zaatar roasted chicken.

Insider Tip: Maydan's lively late-night happy hour from 10pm-midnight on weekends is perfect for sampling Mediterranean mezze on a budget.

Maydan brings a taste of the Middle East to DC through creative, shareable small plates and protein skewers fired in the open-flame grill and wood-burning oven. Chef Gerald Addison masterfully blends Arabic spices and cooking techniques with seasonal American ingredients. The result is dished, bursting with flavour in a laid-back, energetic setting. Maydan is #4 on Washingtonian's latest rankings, offering an accessible yet memorable culinary adventure. Foodies will especially appreciate the extensive vegetarian options creatively showcasing produce and herbs. For an immersive and delicious taste of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, Maydan is a must-visit.

5. Little Serow – Northern Thai Cuisine

Location: 1511 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Cuisine: Northern Thai

What Makes It Special: Little Serow serves an elevated family-style Northern Thai set menu in an intimate setting. Traditional techniques and heirloom recipes create an exceptionally authentic experience.

Signature Dishes: Nam prik noom – roasted green chilli dip, Sai ua – Northern Thai sausage, Pork shoulder curry

Insider Tip: Little Serow does not take reservations, so arrive before opening to get in line for first seating.

Led by James Beard Award nominee chef Johnny Monis, Little Serow transports diners to the Thai north through set menus featuring rustic peasant recipes and complex spice blends. Focusing on shared dishes such as spicy dips, curries, and pork sausage, the family-style meal fosters a convivial atmosphere in the cosy dining room. Little Serow stands out for its authenticity – many ingredients are sourced directly from Thailand or made in-house, including the northern Thai sausage, fermented chilli pastes, and pickled vegetables. The quality and complexity of flavours are unmatched in DC. While reservations are not accepted, the quality and uniqueness of the food make it well worth the wait.

6. The Red Hen – Italian-Inspired Cuisine

Location: 1822 1st St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Cuisine: Italian-inspired

What Makes It Special: The seasonal Italian-influenced dishes, comfortable rustic ambience, and excellent service make it a Bloomingdale favourite. Perfect handmade pasta and wood-fired pizzas round out the menu.

Signature dishes: Strozzapreti pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe, Wood-grilled trout with cauliflower and capers, Pork chop with polenta and greens

Insider Tip: Try to make reservations in advance, but limited walk-ins are accepted at the bar if you get there when they open for dinner at 5:30 p.m.

The Red Hen offers a contemporary take on Italian cuisine in a cosy Bloomingdale setting, led by Michelin-starred chef Michael Friedman. Creative wood-grilled entrees complement seasonal pasta and pizza dishes. With dishes bursting with flavour and top-notch service in an inviting environment, it's easy to see why The Red Hen has become a neighbourhood favourite. While reservations are recommended, The Red Hen retains some space for walk-ins, unlike many other popular DC restaurants. Foodies on a DC visit looking for a quality Italian meal in a relaxed atmosphere should add The Red Hen to their itinerary.

7. Roses's Luxury – Inventive Small Plates

Location: 717 8th St SE Washington, DC 20003

Cuisine: New American small plates

What Makes It Special: Chef Aaron Silverman churns out creative and delicious small plates meant for sharing in a laid-back setting. Dishes change regularly based on what is in season.

Signature Dishes: Pork sausage, habanero, lychee salad, Burrata with blood orange, Chicken liver mousse with brioche

Insider Tip: Show up right as the restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m. to get your name on the waitlist for a table. Reservations are not accepted.

Rose's Luxury is the more casual counterpart to Chef Aaron Silverman's fine dining venue, Pineapple and Pearls. Perched in the lively Barracks Row neighbourhood, Rose's delights diners with inventive small plates celebrating seasonal ingredients. Constantly changing dishes range from raw seafood preparations to charcuterie boards and pasta. The laid-back vibes, friendly service and tasty bites keep diners returning repeatedly, cementing its place as one of DC's best restaurants. While securing a table often involves a wait, passing the time at the bar sipping natural wine makes enjoying Rose's top-notch food worth it.

8. Komi – Mediterranean-Inspired Fine Dining

Location: 1509 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

Cuisine: Mediterranean-inspired

What Makes It Special: James Beard Award-winning chef Johnny Monis prepares multi-course seasonal tasting menus highlighting the Mediterranean flavours he grew up with in Greece. The atmosphere is upscale yet unfussy.

Signature Dishes: Tomato and cucumber salad with dill ice cream, Spice-crusted striped bass with sunchokes, Duck with freekeh and plums.

Insider Tip: Ask if the chef's counter seats are available for a front-row view of the action in Komi's animated open kitchen.

Komi showcases the culinary prowess of chef Johnny Monis through refined multicourse Mediterranean-inspired tasting menus rotating with the seasons. Dishes blend classic techniques and flavours from Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey with modern twists. The cosy yet polished dining room provides an intimate environment suited to the thoughtfully paced meal. Meticulous service complements the overall experience at this perennial DC dining destination. Food lovers visiting the capital must secure reservations at Komi well in advance for a world-class yet elegant fine dining experience.

9. Masseria – Seasonal Italian Cuisine

Location: 1330 4th St NE, Washington, DC 20002

Cuisine: Italian

What Makes It Special: The airy, modern space contrasts beautifully with the traditional cooked-to-order dishes spotlighting pasta, seafood, and seasonal ingredients. The patio is ideal for outdoor dining.

Signature Dishes: Ricotta cavatelli with lamb ragu, Grilled octopus with chickpeas, Whole roasted fish or meat with seasonal accoutrements

Insider Tip: Enjoy an aperitif at the bar while you wait for your table. Masseria has an extensive selection of Amari and Italian wines.

Masseria brings a taste of coastal Italy to DC through its seasonal menu, celebrating ingredients at their peak. Dishes like house-made cavatelli pasta and wood-fired seafood shine thanks to high-quality components and an emphasis on simplicity. The elegant yet relaxed Union Market-area space, complete with a patio, makes Masseria equally perfect for everyday dining or special occasions. Under the direction of chef Nicholas Stefanelli, Masseria encapsulates contemporary Roman cuisine with an approachable and welcoming vibe. Visitors looking for an upscale yet comfortable Italian meal should add Masseria to their DC itinerary.

10. Bad Saint – Filipino Cuisine

Location: 3226 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

Cuisine: Filipino

What Makes It Special: Bad Saint focuses on masterfully executed Filipino cuisine in a laid-back setting. Traditional dishes shine thanks to technique and process-focused cooking.

Signature Dishes: Lumpia Shanghai (pork and shrimp spring rolls), Sinigang (tamarind soup), Inasal chicken.

Insider Tip: Arrive when Bad Saint opens at 5:30 p.m. to get in line for first seating. Order food and drinks at the walk-up window while you wait.

Led by James Beard Award nominee chef Tom Cunanan, Bad Saint in Columbia Heights pays homage to the vibrant flavours of Filipino cuisine through familiar dishes like lumpia, adobo, and sinigang. Traditional cooking techniques combined with high-quality local ingredients keep diners returning repeatedly. The laid-back atmosphere and excellent service make Bad Saint an accessible yet memorable dining experience. Despite its no-reservations policy, Bad Saint is worth waiting for its top-notch Filipino fare. Every visit to DC is complete with a meal at this exceptional neighbourhood eatery.

Final Words 

Dining at DC's premier restaurants allows you to experience the city's cultural diversity through cuisine. With these tips in mind, visitors and locals alike can eat their way through the best of Washington's dynamic food scene. Happy exploring!

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