If you’re in town for a weekend or conference, here are our current favorite places to eat in DC.
Chris and I are born and raised northern Virginians. Every field trip our school classes took was to DC to see the monuments or museums. We love this region so much we chose to move back here after college. But with that said, we don’t ‘do’ DC things often or without planning. It’s the suburban side of us. Mostly, it relates to traffic and parking (just kidding- all of it). But within the past few years, we’ve really been drawn into the food scene in DC. Too many good things are opening to ignore.
While I read Eater daily, and we do specifically schedule times to go into the city to eat, I would never call myself a city food scene expert. I don’t eat there enough to even begin to step near that turf.
I also want to add that food preferences are very subjective. You might like very upscale prix fixe menus (I eat them, I go there…I just typically find it disappointing) whereas I prefer unusual flavor pairings and more shareable plates (some people hate this-I totally get it).
There are so many neighborhoods within DC, and so many new places mixed with pop-ups I consider this guide blog post relatively temporary. Things change quickly but after sharing some of our excursion on Instagram Stories, I had lots of requests to turn this into a post for reference. I’m including options beyond what we did during this trip, and yes, I’m omitting one of the places we went because while it was solidly good, I wouldn’t go back and stand in line for an hour and a half to eat there for a while.
The Line: ‘Brothers and Sisters’, ‘A Rakes Progress’
During this weekend we stayed at The Line hotel. We had a great experience and they’re definitely a high priority stay as a pet friendly location. When I booked the weekend, we hadn’t rescued the bottle fed kitten from the Costco parking lot, so we were VERY thankful that The Line did end up being pet friendly, at no cost! One of the reasons we picked The Line besides the obvious cool aesthetic, was because it housed several tempting restaurants that got mentions in Bon Appétit. More specifically, you could get one of the menus on room service 24 hours a day. You’ll see I only mention two of the three restaurants inside The Line- we did not manage to hit Spoken English (but I want to).
If you’re going to pick one place in The Line, I cannot say enough about A Rake’s Progress. Everything we ate and drank was truly memorable, creative and delicious. In fact, our plan was just to have a drink and a snack before a dinner reservation we had elsewhere…but it was so good we ended up coming BACK for dessert and drinks after that dinner! And I fully intend to go again ASAP.
Brothers and Sisters has great bartenders (shout out to bartender Chris who was on his third day at this bar but gave us a great experience) but I can’t speak to their dinner menu. For breakfast, we had a pleasant, different kind of breakfast of a potato salmon rosti and matcha chocolate marble pound cake with truly great coffee. We also had a take out croissant another morning which was excellent. And the kitten agreed. We’ve created a monster. We love gouda, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, pastries, kettle corn and adult cat food.
If you go to ANY of the places I mention, please go to Compass Rose. They have a nice Georgian wine menu if you’re into that, but most importantly the style of food is our FAVORITE. Everything is a sharable plate and it’s all menu items from different countries. We ordered the special (a congee-like dish with egg and lots of green onions) and something called “The Spice Bag” from Ireland and both were fantastic. Perfectly executed and seasoned. In fact, we were so disbelieving Compass Rose could be THIS GOOD that we ordered more food, despite the fact we were full, to confirm everything was so delightful. It was. You have to go here- it’s in our top 10 restaurants ever. A friend of ours went the day after us and agreed that it was their new favorite in DC at the very least.
Maydan just made the number two ranking of Bon Appétit and reservations are hard to get (you have to go on the website at midnight a specific number of days before). We enjoyed it and you should go if you get the chance. With the giant flame fueled cooking area it has a cool vibe for Middle Eastern/North African food. We had lamb and beef, carrots, haloumi and a ton of other small dishes that are fun to mix and match. With that said, Chris and I think this place would be even better with a large group of people vs a table for two. You can try more things and order more dishes since everything is shareable with lots of sauces. Maydan is actually the sister restaurant to Compass Rose so if you liked Compass Rose, you’ll also like Maydan.
This is not new, nor did we go here during this trip , but Chris and I constantly talk about the last time we ate at Rose’s Luxury. Rose’s Luxury is nowhere near the other restaurants I mentioned but it left such an impression on us it feels wrong to leave it out. Like some other places in DC (and other cities), you cannot get a reservation here. It’s first come first served (with a minor exception you can read about on their website). Is standing in line fun? No. But it’s worth it here in my opinion. Rose’s Luxury is playful with their menu items (ask anyone who had the chance to eat the strawberry spaghetti), but your must order is the lychee salad.
Another standby from a previous evening: inspired by French bistro dining and a solid choice for someone who loves food but is not particularly adventurous. Great atmosphere and the perfect place for a glass of wine with French dinner standards.
Restaurants ‘on my list’ that have been recommended to me, that I’ve read about and am intrigued by with great reviews from places I trust.
METIER: Intimate, creative and contemporary American cuisine with a 7 course tasting menu. Beautifully designed interior by Darryl Carter.
TAIL UP GOAT: with a name that’s a nod to the US Virgin islands, it is often described as a ‘hip bistro’ where it’s acceptable to grab a quick bite or have a more leisurely dinner that’s Mediterranean and Caribbean inspired. Bread and pasta made in house.
BRESCA: “Unexpected flavors foraged from nature and mingled with flourish”. Fresh, responsibly sourced ingredients. One Michelin Star: “Find a clear sense of artistry and whimsy in such dishes as the foie gras negroni, which is topped with Campari gelée and accompanied by warm madeleines.”
THE DABNEY: I have reservations here later in October but this is another one with hard to get seating for a Saturday night. Reservations open 2 weeks ahead of time at noon and basically book immediately except for the 5 PM and 10 PM slots. The Dabney focuses on the ‘regional treasures’ of the Mid-Atlantic food scene. Think oysters and crab, cornbread and produce. If you’re looking to give an out of town friend a refined ‘what is food from this area of the country?’ dinner, this is it.
DOI MOI: If you like a variety of dishes from Southeast Asian cuisines (especially Vietnamese and Thai dishes), Doi Moi should be on your list.
AMERICAN SON: The newest of the bunch (very, very new), American Son is housed in Eaton. It’s a ‘morning though late night” spot that focuses on why American cuisine is the way it is- immigrant culture. With a focus on vegetable based cuisine and local, seasonal sourced ingredients the menu is filled with simple but poignant American comfort food built by the cuisine point of view of a second generation American.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.