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Best Restaurants in Washington DC

by Dara Bunjon

1226 36th Street NW - Georgetown
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 965-1789
At 1789 you'll find modern American food that gives a nod toward the long tradition of the federal city. The atmosphere is tranquil and sophisticated. The Georgetown townhouse has several "inn-like" dining rooms as well as a comfortable pub.

Bistro Francais
3128 M Street NW - Georgetown
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 338-3830
Comfortable and elegant, Bistro Francais is what you think of when you're in the mood for good traditional French food. Appetizers include an avocado stuffed with crab and a liver mousse. From the long list of specials, choose broiled salmon with spinach mousse and beurre blanc. Stop here after the theater. They are open until 3 a.m. week nights and 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. 
2340 Wisconsin Ave NW - Glover Park (Upper Georgetown)
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 337-2340
Busara's striking decor and excellent Thai menu is a good bet for lunch or dinner. In nice weather, eat outside in the garden patio. Among the appetizers, there is a crispy fried calamari with a mildly spicy honey sauce and a nice light spring roll. Entrees include panang gai (chicken with peanut sauce) and soka lamb curry.  They offer a nice selection of vegetarian dishes. Thai iced tea is a cooling accompaniment to the spicier dishes.  Busara has 2 other locations in Tysons Corners and Reston Town Center.

Cafe Atlantico
405 Eighth St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812
Hip, vibrant, and pulsating. The colorful Caribbean decor and new Latin cuisine brings a spark to downtown. Both the ambiance and food are just plain fun. Seafood shines in the appetizer selections, which include: tuna ceviche with coconut milk; Ecuadorian seared scallops with crispy coconut black rice and fresh squid, and smoked salmon pastel (terrine of smoked salmon and coconut with mango/lime oil). For entrees look for the pescado estilo Veracruz (seared fish of the day with a Mexican sauce of tomatoes, olives, capers, and onions); or the pork chop with mole negro; or the duck leg confit which is truly uniquely done and tasty --complete with an allspice/brown sugar crust, passion fruit sauce, and fried platanitos on the side.
Cashions Eat Place
1819 Columbia Road NW - Adams Morgan
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 797-1819
Cashions is hip and casual, with enough nice touches to make this neighborhood restaurant feel special. Eat at the bar with the locals, or in good weather at one of the front tables where the glass walls open up to the sidewalk. The modern American menu changes daily and has many French touches. For weekend revelry, stop by for a late night bite up to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday or join them Sunday for brunch.

City Lights of China
1731 Connecticut Avenue NW - Dupont Circle
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 265-6688
Although you may have to wait to get a table at this popular restaurant, it's a testament to its history of quality cooking. Walking down a flight of stairs to the front door and into a bustling modern interior can make you feel like you're in New York. Try the Peking duck, carved table side, or the tofu curl, assorted stir fried bean curds served over bean sprouts with lettuce leaves in which to wrap it.  They offer delivery in a limited area and you can find a sister location in Bethesda.
Coppi's Organic Restaurant
1414 U Street NW - U Street Corridor
Washington, D.C.
(202) 319-7773
Washington's U Street Corridor is seeing new life with the renovation of the Lincoln Theater and several new restaurants, including this great organic restaurant known for their pizza.  Out of the wood burning oven come crispy, chewy pizzas with a wide variety of toppings. Here you'll also find interesting salads like seared tuna on a bed of fresh greens, basil and mint leaves, and cauliflower and salami slices in a creamy mustard dressing.   In a dash, they have curbside service.

Gerard's Panguard Bistro
915 15th St., N.W.
Washington, DC
(202) 737-4445
After obtaining two Michelin stars in France, Gerard Pangaud has brought his modern interpretation of French classics to Washington, DC. Chef Panguad's philosophy of distilling a dish's element down to the essence of that flavor has won him a loyal following. Signature dishes include: poached lobster with a ginger, lime and sauternes sauce; and loin of lamb wrapped in eggplant with Napoleon of zucchini and tomato tarragon jus. Tasting menus are available.

480 7th Street NW - south of Chinatown
Washington, D.C. 20004
(202) 628-7949
Jaleo is tapas downtown, convenient for a small meal or refreshment after theater. Hot and cold tapas are served all day, with lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner starting at 5:30 p.m.  Cold tapas are small salads, cheeses and olives, interesting breads. Hot tapas include traditional cod and shrimp croquettes, grilled pork tenderloin with orange sauce and sweet Spanish peppers stuffed with goat cheese and mushrooms. Also now open in Bethesda and Crystal City.

Lebanese Taverna
2641 Connecticut Avenue NW - Woodley Park
Washington, D.C. 20008
(202) 265-8681
Middle Eastern meze, a meal of appetizer size dishes, in the courtyard like dining room of Lebanese Taverna, is at once relaxing and adventurous. So many things to choose from: stuffed pastries, salads of vegetables and grains, even Lebanese pizza! Go with a group so you can sample a variety of dishes.  Since opening, Lebanese Taverna has expanded to multiple cafes and restaurants – check their website for all locations.

2434 18th Street N.W. - Adams Morgan
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 462-4100
At Meskerem, dining is a communal experience. Seated on the floor at basket tables, you are served a platter covered with ingera, Ethiopian flat bread. Small mounds of spicy tasty vegetable and meat dishes cover the bread; these you eat using ingera as your utensil. A melting stew of lentils, potatoes with jalapeño, tender shredded beef all imbue the ingera platter with their flavors and make the last ingera the best.

Michel Richard's Citronelle
3000 M. St, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 625-2150
Originally opened as an outpost of the famous LA Citrus, James Beard, Chef of theYear, Michel Richard moved from LA to Washington, DC and is firmly "in residence" here. His presence is felt in the newly remodeled dining room (complete with "mood wall"). The menu is studded with opulent ingredients; including first course offerings such as seared foie gras with black bean sauce, crunchy langoustine with pearl pasta and red pepper, and fresh Louisiana crayfish and lobster crab cake. Entree options include: rabbit cannelloni and sauteed loin in rosemary sauce, squab with French peas, pearl onions, roasted veal with roasted chestnuts and sweet vinegar jus.

Miss Saigon
3057 M St., N.W. - Georgetown
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 333-5545

Among the Vietnamese specialties at Miss Saigon is the Golden Pancake, a crisp rice crepe filled with chicken, shrimp and bean sprouts, which intensifies the crunch. The wonton soup has a flavorful broth and a satisfying wonton. Caramel chicken and grilled entrees are also good bets. These are served in a pretty garden-like setting, where potted plants with vines twine along the glass and pink painted walls.
2029 P St., N.W.
Washington, DC
(202) 872-1180
A quiet, respite from the hubbub just outside the door. Chef/Owner Peter Pastan has created an elegant 30 seat Italian trattoria where precise cooking shines through. The prix-fixe menu changes daily, but always includes an antipasto/starter, pasta/soup course, and meat or fish course and dessert. Everything is made in-house (including bread and pastas) with attention to detail. Open Tuesday through Saturday – Dinner service only.  Reserve well in advance.

Oodles Noodles
1120 19th Street NW - Downtown
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 293-3138
Asian noodle dishes -- Thai, Chinese, and Japanese -- it's all here. Find them in soups, stir frys, some familiar, some new adventures. Appetizers arrive quickly and are cost effective. Try delicate Japanese dumplings or spring onion cake. Then scan three pages of menu or get help from the waitstaff to choose your noodle. Drunken noodles are wide and flat and come with minced chicken and Thai basil. Hokkien shrimp noodle soup has egg and rice noodles in a spicy shrimp broth.

Palena & Palena Cafe
3529 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 537-9250
Executive Chef Frank Ruta was named a "rising star" by Food and Wine Magazine for good reason --- the food at Palena is just exquisite. Whether you start with the Sea Scallops with a salad of Arugula, Lemons and Olives or the Chicken Liver Parfait (with Fennel and Apple Salad) or Boudin Blanc Roasted with Verjus you just can't go wrong. Main dishes feature inventive combinations --- such as Turbot, roasted with Fennel, Periwinkles and Cannellini Beans, or Casco Bay Cod Stuffed with Olives, Braised with Endive and Manila Clams or Loin of Veal, Pan Roasted with Lentils and Cockscomb. And you MUST save room for dessert.

Pesce Bistro
2016 P Street NW - Dupont Circle
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 466 -3474
Expect the freshest fish from this restaurant, where the menu changes twice a day. Tables are close together, and from most you can see the fish displayed in a butcher case for retail sale. Dishes are well prepared and in great variety; among the almost two dozen menu items you can try fish in any course with flavors from one of many cuisines.

Pizzeria Paradiso
2029 P Street NW- Dupont Circle
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 223-1245
Go early to this popular pizzeria where a wood burning oven produces crackly crusted pies with toppings like fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella and some unusual combinations including mussels or eggs. Sit at the bar to get a close up view of the pizzas being prepared and baked in the oven. The fresh salads and sandwiches on house-made focaccia round out the menu.  Check out their 2nd location in Georgetown.

Restaurant Nora
2132 Florida Avenue NW - Dupont Circle
Washington, D.C. 20008
(202) 462-5143
Restaurant Nora excels in both food and atmosphere. Nora Pouillon, a pioneer in the organic food scene, has created a serene dining room with white walls hung with spotlighted quilts, which feels special yet not too formal. The seasonal, organic menu changes daily. Among the seven appetizers find inventive salads of in-season ingredients and tastes from around the world. Entrees include beautiful treatments of the freshest fish and shellfish, as well as steaks, lamb, liver and veal. Try grilled Maine salmon with fava bean-morel-sweet corn chutney, parsnip puree and greens. Nora always serves one vegetarian entree.

2009 R Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-3827
A hip tea house, in a serene setting, showcasing a full line of teas and breakfast, lunch and snack-type fare. Over 25 types of teas served (black, oolong, green, white, and tisanes). Breakfast dishes are available until 2:30 p.m. on weekends (11:30 a.m. weekdays). During the afternoon & evening hours, the Bento Boxes are particularly good (an Asian Box Meal). There are two other locations, each with their own hours – check out their website for details.

1990 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 659-1990
Walk one flight below street level to find a surprisingly open feeling and pretty restaurant space. Expect a skillfully prepared, well composed, satisfying meal, with the accent on southern ingredients. House-made biscuits and cornbread arrive at the table with a crock of onion marmalade.

Maryland Restaurants

11120 Rockville Pike
Rockville, Maryland 20854
(301) 881-0081
Chef Jeff Black has created an eclectic restaurant in an old bungalow style house. The decor is fun (primary-yellow walls, funky clocks here and there) and his menu features straightforward cooking with a seasonal American emphasis.

7750 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 652-6278
Barbara and Jeff Black have done it again. The upscale big sister of Addie's is Blacks --- and when you are in search for some of the freshest seafood --- this is the place to come. The 'gulf coast style' cooking is pristine. The oyster bar is a local favorite.  

Cesco Trattoria
4871 Cordell Avenue
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
(301) 654-8333
The powerhouse combination of Roberto Donna and Francesco Ricchi (formally i Ricchi) have teamed up to create a superb Trattoria. Chef Ricchi is in-residence behind the stove, which is evident by the loving care displayed in each dish. Join them for lunch Monday through Friday and Dinner service nightly.  Check out their large assortment of daily specials and don’t miss ordering their fabulous pastas.

Mannequin Pis
18064 Georgia Avenue
Olney, MD 20832
(301) 570-4800
Tucked away in a hard-to-find strip center is a hidden gem --- Mannequin Pis --- a Belgian restaurant that features Mussels and Frites. Both are worth the trip! Mussels are by the kilo, steamed five different ways (i.e with white wine and tarragon, etc, or for the more adventurous --- a 'ala Bruxelles ­ with leeks, goat cheese, parsley, bacon and Belgian beer). The Frites come with lemon aioli, of course! Other main courses featuring Belgian beer pop up as well --- salmon medallions with braised fennel and gueze beer, roast filet of pork stuffed with figs and spinach with Chimay beer sauce and the like. And yes, a statute of the namesake is standing in foyer !  Dinner service only along with a Sunday Brunch.

Persimmon­ an American Bistro
7003 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20815
The glowing persimmon interior and pretty little dining room invites you inside. Once into the white table cloth restaurant, Chef Damian Salvatore will "razzle-dazzle" you with "modern American" creations. Stop in for lunch during the week, brunch on Saturday and Sunday and dinner service nightly.

Udupi Palace
1329 University Boulevard East
Langley Park, Maryland 20783
(301) 434-1531
Come here for an Indian vegetarian adventure! Dosai, enormous rice and lentil crepes filled with a choice of chutneys and vegetable fillings, perch with ends extending off the plate. Curries are a standout with well balanced spices, just the right amount of heat and interesting combinations. Especially good is Channa Batura, chickpea curry with a large puffed fry bread.

Virginia Restaurants

Majestic Café
911 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
The menu offers simple, American classics.  And Sundays are a return to family with ‘Nanas'’ Sunday Dinner,’ an evening featuring beloved time-honored dishes that change each month - served family style to share, including a whole pie.  This is one of three of award-winning Chef Cathal Armstrong’s endeavors in Alexandria along with his Restaurant Eve and Eammon’s.  Overseeing the stove is Chef Shannon Overmiller. 

Peking Gourmet Inn
6029 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
(703) 671-8088
This popular restaurant's claim to fame is Peking Duck. Carved tableside, and served with green onions grown by the restaurant's farm, it is the perfect pairing of moist breast and crispy skin. You wrap it in delicate pancakes and flavor it with hoisin sauce. Peking Gourmet Inn was one of George H. W. Bush's favorite haunts while he was a local resident.


Dara Bunjon is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance food writer and publicist.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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