Washington’s restaurant scene includes much more than just high-priced power broker bistros. From quick bites to refined multi-course meals, DC has it all. Here are a few restaurants worthy of your consideration.
1. Bad Saint, 3226 11th St NW
When Bad Saint opened in 2015, few knew that this restaurant would spend its first two years as one of the most sought-after reservations in America. The tiny restaurant serves up twists on simple traditional Filipino dishes. Squid adobo adds the sea creature’s ink to a seasoning base of soy, vinegar and garlic. Bitter melon becomes a warm salad with fermented black beans and egg. Pancit — a fried noodle dish and one of the national foodstuffs of the Philippines — is transformed into something brand new with the addition of lemon oil and wood ear mushrooms.
2. Izakaya Seki, 1117 V St NW
This simple space is like a two-level temple to Japanese bar food. A sake bar at heart, Izakaya features onigiri — the addictive little rice balls that go well with any drink — hot spring eggs that are flung out of a contraption behind the bar to adorn salads, rice and noodle dishes, and a variety of fried and grilled meats and vegetables.
Much of the menu consists of small component dishes, similar to a sushi menu layout. Feel free to ask the server about suggested portions and make a full meal from the menu’s various treasures. It’s sort of like Japanese tapas.
3. The Bird, 1337 11th St NW
A newcomer on the DC dining scene, this is a poultry-based restaurant where birds of a feather can flock together. More than just a chicken joint, although there is plenty of that on the menu, The Bird features partridge, duck and other winged animals as well. Try their duck meatballs, served with spicy tomato curry and yogurt, or their duck breast served with lentils and cranberries. Chicken wings, of course, are available, but this is not a sports bar. Here, you may find half a quail standing in for a chicken drummette, or wings from a black chicken tossed in their signature Mumbo sauce.
4. Rasika, 633 D St NW
Rasika cooks up a fine-dining spin on Indian cuisine. Alongside tandoori, the restaurant introduces western customers to Sigri and Tawa style barbecue. As with many Indian restaurants, there are plentiful vegetarian options, including kale fritters and avocado banana chaat. But DC food fans flock to Rasika’s chef’s table tasting menu. With this option, the chef takes you through a taste tour of India’s many regional delicacies.
5. Momofuku CCDC, 1090 I St NW
Celebrity chef and restauranteur David Chang built his Momofuku empire out of New York. His first location was a modest ramen eatery in that city a decade ago. It quickly morphed into a worldwide phenomenon. While Chang’s Fuku fried chicken sandwiches are staples at New York’s Citifield, when he expanded his reach to the capital city, he went all out for fine dining.
Similar in concept to his Ko and Ma Peche restaurants, Momofuku CCDC features an entire menu of bing — a type of Chinese bread — served with accompaniments ranging from pimento cheese to roasted oysters. Like his other full-service locations, CCDC has several large-service family style options for the whole table. These include marinated skirt steak ssam — a Korean-influenced wrapped meal — and rotisserie-style chicken for two that comes with chicken fat-steamed basmati rice, olives, yogurt, and fried eggs.
The Washington incarnation does things a little differently than other Momofuku locations you may have tried. The reason is the new Executive Chef, Tae Strain, whose bing bread and dip in particular has shaken things up in the Washington food scene.
6. Cedar, 822 E St NW
Cedar is the kind of hidden space that you’re not likely to hear about; you just stumble into its subterranean space while walking along E Street in Penn Quarter. Once you walk in, you’ll be amazed by Cedar’s exciting country spin on American classics. Pheasant is slowly roasted and lacquered with Berbere spices, while rabbit is baked into a cake topped with parsnips and apple puree. The dishes veer away from the farm occasionally, as well, with a top-notch crab agnolotti served swimming in a lobster vermouth cream sauce that attests to the kitchen’s pasta making skills and deftness with pan sauces.
7. Shouk, 655 K St NW
Touting itself as “modern Israeli street food,” Shouk delivers a broad palette of flavors and textures, with hearty sandwiches, vibrant salads and tasty side dishes, all without using meat or dairy. Shouk, however, is not some scary alternative diet restaurant selling dry and uninspired veggie burgers and tofu bacon. This small and sleek space serves delicious food that just happens to be plant-based. Their rosemary chickpea fries are tasty and decadent, as is the warm pita served with a yogurt dipping sauce that somehow is only made from lemon juice and cashews.
Shouk is decidedly not fancy formal dining; it has been voted Washington’s best fast casual dining.
Washington, D.C. is a tourist draw thanks to its many museums and historical sites, but it also represents the many flavors of the United States. Travelers can find any cuisine, in both formal and street-vendor varieties, and the options continue to evolve. Check out some of these dining destinations on your next visit to the nation’s capital.