No city can truly be great without having its share of fantastic restaurants. They are the bedrock of a bustling city, a true cornerstone of a thriving culture and a dynamic people. In DC, we are indeed a lucky bunch. Not only has the nation’s capital become a serious gastronomical center, but it also serves as a major hub for international celebrity chefs and a happy home to experimental, cutting edge cuisine. Here you will find some of the best names in the business, catering to all tastes, backgrounds, and budgets. In a list compiled by Rebekah Pizana, we take a close look at some of DC’s best places to eat, drink, and be merry.
775 G Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001
With eye-catching interiors and an unmatched wine program by Wine Director Sebastian Zutant (formerly of Komi and Rasika), guests can enjoy a memorable experience at Proof in DC’s Gallery Place neighborhood. From Champagne trolleys to an impressive late night menu from Executive Chef Haidar Karoum (also of Estadio), the wine-centric hotspot is dazzling but pricey. From 11pm to 1am Thursday through Saturday nights, indulge in fois gras scrambled eggs served on truffle-buttered toasted brioche, and Chef Karoum’s interpretation of the notorious Philly cheese steak, a tender Wagyu beef creation topped with provolone cheese and garnished with maitake mushrooms and jalapeno mayonnaise. Also on the menu, a classy list of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie offerings. Pair your late night indulgence with one of 40 by-the-glass selections or pick a bottle from over 1,000 choices of Proof’s full wine list. Stored in two visible, climate-controlled wine units, Proof houses over 4,000 bottles with a modern Enomatic (automatic wineserving technology) serving system.
3000 M Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20007
(temporarily closed for repairs) Michel Richard’s Citronelle has been the recipient of numerous accolades by some of the most prestigious culinary publications and top dining awards around the world. Back in 1994, Richard opened his flagship restaurant, Citronelle, a romantic destinationstyle haven in the Latham Hotel just off of Georgetown’s cobblestone streets. Just two years later, Richard would be nominated for James Beard’s Chef of the Year Award and in 2008 he was given the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in the U.S. It would be a crime not to agree with the critics and numerous awards committees. Citronelle has remained consistent throughout the years, a tried and true French restaurant with astonishing dishes and some of the most beautifully executed desserts in town. Be sure to order Richard’s escargot and sweetbread croutons with a parsley shallot sauce. Few restaurants in the area deliver escargot as well as Citronelle. Complete your meal with the Chocolate Degustation and an Espresso Grand Cru. The Lounge menu offers a nice preview of the dinner menu, a notable sazerac, and eye-catching mushroom cigars.
L’AUBERGE CHEZ FRANCOIS
332 Springvale Road
Great Falls, VA 22066
L’Auberge Chez Francois opened back in 1976 by Chef Jacques Haeringer’s father, the late Francois Haeringer. The cozy Alsatian restaurant, housed in a charming countryside cottage with exposed wood and white paint, is situated in the green hills of Great Falls, Virginia. Chef Haeringer and his staff have catered to local, national, and international patrons, including former Presidents, members of Congress, celebrities, foreign dignitaries, and power brokers in Washington, DC. The menu is almost legendary, serving a real Alsatian feast of sauerkraut, sausages, pork sausage, duck confit, and foie gras, along with Beef Bourguignon, spaëtzles, and seasonal vegetables—a dish even Julia Child would be impressed with.
Chez Francois is almost a fixture on the Northern Virginia landscape, and it’s no surprise Chef Haeringer and his staff have been awarded AAA’s Four Diamond Award for quality and service. There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to experience the dining at Chez Francois. Just sitting at one of the white-linen covered tables and staring at the menu is an occasion itself.
1238 H Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002
It’s no wonder Chef Teddy Folkman beat Bobby Flay in a moules-frites throwdown back in 2008, since it took Folkman and his team three months to decide where they would source their mussels from. Granville Moore’s famous, plump mussels are grown by Icy Storm farm on Prince Edward Island. Rope-grown and suspended in water, Folkman chose these particular mussels for a cleaner, less “oceany” taste also resulting in large, meaty flesh. A gastropub with a healthy “Belgian fetish,” Granville’s has been serving upscale bar food on DC’s northeast H Street since 2007 and quickly became a destination restaurant and food-lover escape. The rustic pub also serves a memorable brunch. Enjoy authentic Belgian waffles and a to-die-for Monte Cristo with spicy Old Bay seasoned Bloody Mary’s until 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Beer lovers can choose from a wide selection of Belgian beers and American craft beers. Beverage Director Matt LeBarron maintains a core list of over 40 bottled beers and rotates seven draft beers.
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20006
The 285 seat, Certified Green Restaurant is not just good at conserving energy, but Founding Farmers serves a bodacious brunch on Saturday and Sundays from 9am to 2pm. Early riser? Enjoy an artisanal American breakfast Monday through Friday 7am to 11am. Chief Mixologist Jon Arroyo serves award-winning Prohibition–style cocktails, and thanks to Chef Joe Goetze, Founding Farmers provides one of the few brunches in the area providing a wide array of options that satisfy most diners.
The two-level, casual and eco-friendly Foggy Bottom restaurant seems to be inserted right smack in the middle of the newly renovated professional office fronts in one of DC’s oldest neighborhoods. Designed to feel like a modern farmhouse, the wooden, communal tables, and sleek, open bar stay packed on the weekends. From the chicken and waffles, “red flannel” beet and leek hash browns, to the made-toorder beignets and farm-house iron pressed waffles, you’ll walk out the large glass doors feeling like you should have spent more.
11960 Democracy Drive
Reston, VA 20190
Part of the Passion Food Hospitality group (DC Coast, Acadiana, Ceiba), owner Jeff Tunks’ goal for PassionFish is to celebrate the flavors, natural resources, and traditional techniques of the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The fusion restaurant’s contemporary, ocean-themed interior conveys the perfect setting for seasonal seafood and fresh ingredients. Chef Chris Clime specializes in ceviches and cioppino, lobster rolls and crispy whole fish. The restaurant also showcases an impressive raw bar led by a dedicated sushi chef. Albeit pricey, PassionFish is perfectly located in Reston Town Center, a high-end popular weekend and night spot for locals near the Dulles Corridor.
Although the raw bar is the main attraction, don’t walk away without sampling the whole crispy flounder served with a spicy tamarind chili nam pla (fish sauce) and cucumber sunomono (rice vinegar based) salad.
1100 New York Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20005
It’s not often that you stumble into an Italian restaurant where the bar is a popular component, drawing your attention with bold colors and fashionable design. Small views into the bustling kitchen from the sleek, low-back chairs keep your senses intrigued. Apart from the contemporary bar, lounge, and dining room, Bibiana delivers top-notch service, moderate prices, a $25 multi-course lunch menu and authentic Italian wine list. This is no surprise coming from successful restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, proprietor of renowned dining rendezvous Oval Room and Rasika.
Unlike many restaurants with lengthy menus, there is no need to order a sampling of each dish to discover the Chef’s unique talents. Executive Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s nuanced Italian menu is rich in handmade pasta fresca and local pesci. Whether you order Stefanelli’s 5-course $75 tasting menu, $10 happy hour pizza, or a small plate of smoky patate in crosta (smoked potatoes crushed with extra virgin olive oil), be sure enjoy your meal with one of beverage director Francesco Amodeo’s barrelaged cocktails.
PS 7 RESTAURANT
777 I Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001
Chef/Owner Peter Smith simply can’t stand to be bored. At PS 7 Restaurant in DC’s China Town/Penn Quarter, Smith finds his laboratory for exuberantly creative “American Cultural Cuisine.” Largely known for its unique spin on all-American cuisine and innovative cocktails, be impressed with the simplest of items like tuna sliders, half smokes and a gin or vodka cocktail spruced up with jalapeno tincture or kashmiri chiles. Smith’s award-winning half smokes are not your typical smoked hot dogs. The generous housemade frankfurters are served with a white veal chili, aged cheddar cheese, chives, and spicy dijon mustard.
Desserts are not to be missed. Pastry Chef Lauren Whitledge (formerly of DC Coast) brings wildly creative and dangerously good desserts like the Pull-Apart Pork Sticky Bun and boozy snow cones (think slushy frozen daiquiris).
FOGO DE CHAO
1101 Pennsylvania Avenue NW #1
Washington, DC 20004
Fogo de Chao brings that “gaucho” spirit (i.e. South-American cowboy) to guy’s night. When you hear all-you-can-eatsteak, you may not automatically think of high-quality food and fine-dining level service, but Fogo de Chao stumps its diners in every way. The Brazilian churrascaria in the heart of Penn Quarter is an authentic steakhouse that originated in Brazil over 30 years ago.
With over a dozen locations in the U.S., Fogo de Chao gives off no chain-restaurant vibe but serves up an abundance of food and a welcoming, personal experience. Chefs carve 15 different cuts of meat tableside and make sure their diners don’t walk away hungry or unhappy. The prix-fixe menu includes beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and sausage. Walk away full and happy after plates of juicy sirloin and Brazilian side dishes, not to mention a gourmet salad bar with more than 30 items to choose from.