NFT Washington DC Restaurants

Washington DC / Restaurants

Thanks to its unwavering economy, DC has grown into a farm of culinary delights with world renowned chefs setting up shop and über-trendy spots (with price tags to match) on every corner. It was even the setting for Top Chef Season 7 and for the subsequent restaurants opened by former contestants. But there are still plenty of eateries to patronize if you are on a tight intern-like budget, need an outdoor patio, or just want some good international comestibles. In order to provide the skinny on restaurant recommendations for every type of DC bank account, we've listed some of our favorite places under four different categories: Eating Posh, Eating Cheap, Eating Hip, and Eating Ethnic.

Eating Posh
No matter who's in office, there are still bound to be plenty of "posh" restaurants for lobbyists, lawyers, congressmen and all those transients who want the full Beltway experience. Posh in DC often means old and mahogany paneling -- with C-SPAN on the bar televisions. Washington fat cats are known to chew the fat (literally) at any of a few dozen steakhouses around town, but the local favorites include BLT Steak (Map 1), Smith and Wollensky (Map 9), The Palm (Map 9), Prime Rib (Map 9), and Charlie Palmer (Map 2). For French decadence, look no further than Bistro Bis (Map 2), and Marcel's (Map 9). If Italian is your indulgence, then mangia bene at Ristorante Tosca (Map 1), or Obelisk (Map 9). DC institutions Old Ebbitt Grill (Map 1), 1789 (Map 8), Blue Duck Tavern (Map 9), and Brasserie Beck (Map 10) are all spots to see and be seen. Finally, Komi (Map 9) and CityZen (Map 6) consistently make it onto every food critic and lay foodie's Top 10.

Eating Cheap
Cheap food is plentiful in DC -- after all, nobody comes here to get rich, just controversial. The food truck craze has hit the area with all sort of gourmet delights rolling around town, but if you're looking for a restaurant that doesn't drive away, there are plenty from which to select. Two of DC's most famous joints, El Pollo Rico (Map 37) and Ben's Chili Bowl (Map 10), will cost you between $5 and $10 a meal, and New York's burger buzz, Shake Shack (Map 9) has set up shop in Dupont Circle. Right down the street, hop over to Henry's Soul Café (Map 9) for the best soul food in the city. If pizza is your poison, the mix of thin crust/ deep dish and St. Louis flatbread style at District of Pi (Map 1) gives a nice representation of pizza across the country. For a unique atmosphere, check out Mexicali Blues (Map 35) and the Dupont institution Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café (Map 9). Rounding out the cheap eats list are cod supreme joint Eamonn's: A Dublin Chipper (Map 46), Greek greasy spoon Zorba's Cafe (Map 9), and out-of-this-world chili machine Hard Times Café (Maps 46, 35). Tortilla Coast (Map 5) will cure your hangover and for quick and cheap sushi head over to Dupont's Nooshi (Map 9) or Kotobuki (Map 18) in the Palisades.

Eating Hip
Everyone in DC tries to be hip, and those who can actually pull it off are flocking to the now-arrived 14th Street Corridor in Logan Circle. There, places like Pearl Dive Oyster Bar (Map 10) have become the newest cool kids on the block. Top Chef Mike Isabella worked at the Zaytinya (Map 1), before opening his own goth-like Mexican restaurant, Bandolero (Map 8) in Georgetown. Zaytinya's sister restaurant Jaleo (Maps 2, 29) offers more fashionable eats in town. Chinatown has long lines waiting to get into Matchbox (Map 2, 5). Proof (Map 1) and Cork (Map 10) have thousands of wine bottles to choose from between them. And Sette Osteria (Map 9) and Lauriol Plaza (Map 9) make up for the food with social cache. Busboys & Poets is the spot for great people-watching and pleasantly left-wing conversation. Lima (Map 10) and Cashion's Eat Place (Map 16) have always been in vogue among the downtown set, and Tryst (Map 16) is the ultimate coffeehouse to have an indecent affair with your neighbor. If you want to be annoying organic and "responsible" in the farm-to-table trend, there's Founding Farmers (Map 7) with delectable Italian-leaning platters. For two of Old Town's most fabulous dining experiences, check out Vermilion (Map 46) and Majestic (Map 46).

Eating Ethnic
All who cross our borders can find authentic international eats. In DC, the rule of thumb is that the quality of ethnic food increases proportionally to one's distance from the city's center, but there are some notable exceptions in the metro area. Check out Indian goodness at Rasika (Map 2), Indique (Map 20), and Heritage India (Map 18). Fiesta margaritas and homemade taquitos keep em' coming back to Haydee's (Map 16) in Mount Pleasant. The less-common Asian cuisine represented at Burma (Map 2) is also worthy of your hunger and attention. The most popular Thai restaurant around is Thai Tanic (Map 10, 15). For Mediterranean, savvy diners head to Lebanese Taverna (Map 17, 25, 33) and Cava (Map 5). Tony Cheng's Seafood Restaurant (Map 2) and Eat First (Map 2) are the cream of the Chinatown crop -- or at least the last men standing. For the best sushi this side of the Pacific, Makoto Restaurant (Map 18) and Sushi Taro (Map 9) are all you'll need. Experience the Middle East at Mama Ayesha's (Map 16) and Morocco at Marrakesh Palace (Map 9). The Mexican Mixtec (Map 16) and the pan-Asian Spices (Map 17) each also get an A-plus in our not-so-humble opinion. And don't miss out on Roger Miller Restaurant (Map 25), a gem of a purveyor of West African curry goat in suburban Silver Spring.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz

Le Diplomate
Acclaimed Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr has brought a taste of France to Washington, DC. In only a few months, "Le Diplomate" has established itself as the newest "it" restaurant. The wait for a reservation is long, but worth it. At Le Diplomate, one is transported to a Parisian café through an ambiance that is classic, avoiding cheesy Parisian stereotypes. There was no more festive day than Bastille Day to try out the restaurant's brunch for the first time. Mimosas and rich French brewed coffees were a given. The strawberry-elderflower French toast was fresh, light and airy, with just the right amount of butter and flavoring. The bacon was crispy, if a bit overdone. Also receiving strong reviews were the omelets and the side potatoes which were salty, cooked and flavored to perfection. Le Diplomate has been receiving rave reviews from critics throughout the city. Since an establishment can't be judged on its brunch alone, I will certainly have to make a return visit. You know, for the sake of NFT readers, but of course.

Posted By:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz

Tash, a new Persian-Middle Eastern restaurant on Barracks Row, recently opened to rave reviews. It's easy to see why everyone loves Tash and to understand the long lines that formed at 8 p.m. on a recent Friday night. The chef certainly does not suffer from the learning curve that comes with many new restaurants. The menu boasts a variety of unique meat and vegetable dishes and dressed up appetizers at a very reasonable price. Happy hour is excellent, with half off virtually everything, including specialty cocktails, until 6:30 p.m.. As for dinner, the pita bread was thin, hot, and crispy, perfect for dipping in a smooth and smoky baba ganoush, adorned with pomegranate seeds. The saffron lemon chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, with a yogurt sauce and tabouleh on the side -- a meal that is filling, but leaves you wanting more only because it's just that good. There's always time for a return visit, but make sure to call in for reservations. This place is, without a doubt, catching on quick.

Posted By:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz

Olazzo is a classic Italian restaurant, featuring all the staple dishes of a traditional Italian meal. The meal starts with hot and crusty bread. The waiter shows off his flair in pouring olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dip. Salad is included as a starter to the meals. From fettucini alfredo to lasagna bolognese to eggplant parmesan, Olazzo offers familiar favorites in this cozy downtown Bethesda location, as well as at another location in Silver Spring. Owned by two Italian-American brothers, Olazzo offers quality ethnic food at an affordable price, making it a stand out choice.

Posted By:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz

Cava Mezze
Cava Mezze opened in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington to much fanfare over the summer. There are still long waits on the weekends to dine at this tapas establishment, which also has locations in Capitol Hill and Rockville. With new restaurants and bars opening up in Clarendon on what feels like a weekly basis, a mature, ethic restaurant was still sorely needed. Unfortunately, the lure of Cava Mezze is its trendiness more than the taste. The roasted eggplant dip had a thick mayonnaise consistency, the Spanakopita was overly fried and the Chickpeas 3 Ways were uninspired. The spicy meatballs were hot and flavorful, if overly seasoned. The dim lighting and candles lent to a romantic ambiance, if not for the acoustics which overpower any intimate conversation. Cava Mezze doesn't make much of an impression with its mediocre mezze. For a more satisfying and memorable experience, Zaytinya in Chinatown still remains the far better choice.

Posted By:  Kara Deniz
Photo:  Kara Deniz

Cafe Istanbul
Cafe Istanbul is easy to miss, mixed in with office buildings in the city's Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The restaurant serves up lunch and take-out customers with heaping portions of traditional Turkish and Mediterranean specialties. From beef kabobs to falafel and kofte (grilled lamb meatballs), Cafe Istanbul offers a filling and delicious meal, although the doner platter was a tad too dry. The restaurant is casual and ordinary, except for the vintage blown-up photographs of Istanbul and its denizens that adorn the walls. Bon appetit, or as the Turks would say, Afiyet olsun.

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