When we moved to D.C. over thirteen years ago, we weren’t overly impressed with its food culture. I had moved from the Philadelphia area and T from New York–both cities renowned and revered for their cutting-edge and creative culinary realms. Sure, we ate at some great restaurants during our first several years of living in D.C. (we still grieve the closing of the almighty Citronelle), but very few ever compared to our experiences in our northern neighboring cities. It’s safe to say that we were pretty underwhelmed with D.C.’s restaurant scene. To be fair to our capital city, we were both in our mid-twenties and consequently, in a very different financial situation than we are now, so that obviously affected our dining choices. But still.
So no-one has been more thrilled to experience D.C.’s burgeoning dining scene over the last several year than us. D.C.’s culinary scene has exploded, so much that soon it will be recognized by the Michelin guide, joining the esteemed club of culinary giants, including New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. As if that wasn’t enough, Bon Appetit magazine recently awarded D.C. the prestigious title of “Restaurant City of the Year”. You guys…this is a big deal. HUGE. Like ginormous. What a great time to be a foodie in D.C.
The restaurants featured below are not necessarily our favorites of D.C. (but come to think of it, that would be a great post). No, the places listed are our most favorite recent dining experiences across the District. I like to think of this as my personal D.C. summer dining diary.
*Nazca Mochica: A fabulous new(ish) Peruvian restaurant in the Dupont Circle neighborhood where the Pisco sours are just as delicious as the ones we remember while traveling throughout Peru over ten years ago. I had high expectations for this restaurant and it did not disappoint. While the dining area is minimalist and the menu is short, the flavors are robust and complex. Everything was fantastic–highly recommend the octopus, cebiche, and pescado a lo macho. Very worthy of the hype.
*Kyirisan: Are all the hot new restaurants coming to the Shaw neighborhood? Yep, pretty much. Asian cuisine with a French flair…my friend Nancy and I really loved this place. The deep fried tofu smothered in black pepper sauce is one of the best tofu dishes I’ve ever had. Good Lord, I could bathe in that sauce. Other standouts include the foraged mushrooms and soft shell crab. Oh and if the almond cake with ginger gelato happens to be on the menu when you go, order it.
*All Purpose: Oh Shaw, you are just brimming with so much goodness. The only thing that can make this pizza place any better is the fact that another location is opening soon (but not soon enough!) to our Navy Yard neighborhood. The mushroom and truffle pizza is as good, if not better, than my favorite Forest Shroomin’ pie at We, The Pizza. So delicious.
*The Dabney: Okay Shaw, now you’re just showing off (but clearly no-one’s complaining). Have you guys been to the Dabney?! O. M. G. Without question my favorite on this list of deliciousness. Our friend Kelby and I loved everything about the Dabney. And I mean everything. From the service, to the decor, to the food–this restaurant has totally earned its spot on Bon Appetit’s America’s 50 Best New Restaurants nominees list. I had been trying to nab a reservation here for over a month with no luck–I finally decided to take a chance on a 6:30 walk-in on a Tuesday night and voila, success! So if you can’t get a reservation, just know that there’s hope! Top recommendations include: the smoked catfish dip with house-made corn chips (so nice we ordered it twice), hearth-roasted vegetables and farro salad, the mushrooms (oh that hoisin sauce!), and the ember-roasted beets. This place is pure gold and I’m counting down the days until I can go back with T.
*Momofuku CCDC: I was so excited (read: euphoric) when I heard that David Chang was opening a Momofuku location in D.C. We love Saam Bar in New York and have been eagerly (read: obsessively) awaiting Chang’s arrival. I finally went for lunch this summer with my friend Rachel and it certainly met my extremely high expectations. I think I could eat their shitake buns every day for the rest of my life. Oh. My. Mushroom. Are you noticing that the majority of my favorite dishes happen to involve mushrooms? I can assure you that’s not a coincidence. The bitter Korean salad and momo bap were also delicious. And by the way, this (large) restaurant was packed on a Tuesday at 1pm. Was everyone there a teacher too or do the majority of Washingtonians have better work/lunch schedules than me?! I mean, seriously. What kind of jobs do these people have that they can spend two+ leisurely hours at lunch on a Tuesday? (Says the teacher who hasn’t worked a summer since 2003–when she bartended a whopping three nights a week). Okay, I guess I should be quiet now. Moving on!
*Mango Tree: Not sure why this fabulous Thai restaurant in City Center wasn’t busier on a Saturday night, but it ain’t no thang. We, along with our friends, loved every single thing that we ate. What’s that? You’ve been dreaming of eating a life-changing lobster Pad Thai draped in egg? Well search no more…it’s here and it’s fantastic. For you meat-eaters, T loved the duck curry, and for you cocktail lovers, the khing wiski is absolute perfection.
Other Summer Eats Worth Mentioning:
*Whaley’s: A great addition to our Navy Yard neighborhood where oysters and seafood are the main attractions. But compared to similar oyster spots like Hank’s and Senart’s, it’s pretty expensive for what you get. Not the best choice in terms of value, but a good restaurant nevertheless and happy it’s joined our hood.
*Hip City Veg: Yay! This Philadelphia vegan transplant has arrived in Chinatown and it’s absolutely delicious! Trust me. Even meat-lovers will love this awesome fast-food-like joint, promise!
*Espita Mezcaleria: Oh I had such high hopes for this hot new (you guessed it, Shaw) restaurant. But unlike Nazca, this restaurant did disappoint a bit. I’m not saying to not check it out, but it certainly did not live up to all of the hype surrounding it. If you’re a Mezcal fan, then it’s definitely worth visiting. But the food in my and T’s opinion was pretty underwhelming.
Cooking is Like Love. It Should Be Entered Into With Abandon or Not At All — Julia Child
The Dabney–I wish the link was good as good as the food! Can’t get it to work…sorry!
Espita Mezcaleria: Not only was the food disappointing but the link won’t work either. Boooooooo.