Food is Essential to Life. Therefore, Make it Good. — S. Truett Cathy
We ate. We drank. We ate and drank some more. And we sure did make it good. Below are some of our D.C. favorites over the past several months.
Pineapples & Pearls
This restaurant lived up to all of the hype and is absolutely worth every penny. How many pennies, you ask? 25,000 pennies per person (for all of you struggling mathematicians, that’s $250/person). But before you roll your eyes and completely dismiss this restaurant, remember that this includes everything: all drink pairings, tax, gratuity, and 12+ sublime courses. Is it cheap? Of course not. Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. But for foodies and an unforgettable experience, it is so worth it. This past summer we had a good, but by no means great, meal at Whaley’s for not much less money, and let me tell you, these two restaurants aren’t even in the same stratosphere. From the exquisite attention to every detail, the attentive (but not pretentious) service, and the innovative and delectable cuisine, this is one of our all-time best D.C. dining experiences. We loved our entire tasting menu, but my favorites include the mustard green agnolotti, sturgeon rose with white beet and matsutake, and the black bass with steakhouse sides. And the drinks! The Paleokerisio sparking wine from Greece was outstanding, as was the Grenache blend from France. If you are someone who loves and appreciates food and are willing to pay for it, making the effort to score a reservation (thank you, Abby!) is absolutely worth it. Two Michelin Stars
Thing to Know: Reservations are required and are taken four weeks prior to the reservation date. 50% of the total dining experience is charged upon booking and the remaining 50% is charged the morning of your reservation.
District Distilling Co.
Admittedly, we had low expectations for the food here. So why did we bother going here? Well for the killer cocktails, of course, that’s why. Why else do people go to distilleries? Typically not for their high-end stellar cuisine! So we were pleasantly surprised by how good the food here actually was. As a group, we probably ordered around 6-8 different dishes and everything was delicious. The potato gnocchi was heavenly and included some of my favorite foods: butternut squash, mushrooms, and ricotta. Other favorites include the grilled calamari, vegetable lasagna (soooo good!), the braised short ribs (according to the men at our table), and the bourbon pecan pie. As if we didn’t like this place enough, they offer tours of the distillery where you can sample various spirits. An awesome addition to U Street.
Blue Duck Tavern
BDT used to be a perennial favorite of ours until several years ago, when we took friends visiting from out of town and everything we had was meh. It was so meh that I think deep down our friends were beginning to judge our level of foodieism (totally a word). Maybe it was an off-night, but we were so disappointed in our meal that we never returned until recently for a friend’s birthday dinner. So yes, we hold food grudges–there is just too much great food in this city to return somewhere that is mediocre, particularly if that place is on the pricier side. So I am thrilled to say that our love for this restaurant has been rekindled. WOW.
Because we were there for a birthday dinner, we were seated at the chef’s table, a private seating area that accommodates up to 20 guests. The set menu offered a large variety of courses and all dishes were served family-style. If you are hosting a large group, the chef’s table is the way to go–the service was outstanding, the food was sublime, and the space was warm and intimate. So happy to have returned here after abandoning it! I think the lesson to be learned here is don’t mess with us Hills, clearly we’re not very forgiving when it comes to our food.
Oh, and p.s., since we were here with a large group, and didn’t know everyone at the table, I didn’t want to be that girl who takes photos of food. I mean, it’s totally fine being that girl among family and friends. But among strangers? Not so much. One Michelin Star
I CAN’T STOP STALKING SHAW
I have written about both of the following two restaurants so I will keep my continued praise brief.
If you haven’t been to the Dabney, seriously, what are you waiting for? I returned with a friend on a whim and the entire menu had changed since my first time there in August. The second time was equally as fantastic. Seems like going on a Tuesday night around 6:00-6:30 works like a charm-both times I was able to walk in with no reservation and was instantly seated. So so good. One Michelin Star
I visited Hazel twice in almost as many weeks, both times with girlfriends, so I will most likely need to return for at minimal a third time with my husband (I can assure you I am not complaining!), so he can experience the joy that is Hazel, too. The chickpea tofu and cauliflower dish are both incredible–yes, their tofu is so life-changing that it may just transform non-tofu eaters into tofu believers. Trust me.
There are few things in this life that are as satisfying on a cold winter night than a comforting bowl of ramen. Lucky for us, Haikan has come to D.C. Haikan is the second ramen restaurant from the owner who brought us delicious Daikaya Izakaya (see below for link). Located right across the street from Hazel, it’s also adjacent to our favorite movie theater in the District, Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema (see link before). Movie + ramen = perfect night out. Their noodles are custom-made in Sapporo, Japan and there are four types of ramen to choose from: Shio, Miso, Shoyu (T’s choice), and Vegetable (my choice) with a plethora of optional toppings to add on. Oh, and why not add to your joy by ordering one of their many Japanese whiskeys? I loved my vegetable ramen with Wakame so much that I think I could have bathed in it. In fact, the next morning when I woke up and I was miserable and exhausted (this is nothing new–I am really not a morning person), the simple thought of eating my leftover ramen during lunch was enough to put me out of my misery and at that moment, I just knew my day was going to be great. Not. Even. Remotely. Kidding.
Barrel is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots on Capitol Hill. A cozy whiskey lounge with soul-satisfying comfort food, Barrel is truly a neighborhood gem. My only, and I mean only, gripe with Barrel is that the menu is very meat-heavy (not surprising considering they specialize in southern comfort food). If I didn’t eat fish, I would’ve been pretty limited to sides (although their sides are delicious, so I wouldn’t necessarily be complaining). Love this place.
Thing to know: Barrel isn’t a place that requires a reservation–every time I’ve been there, a table has opened up within 10-15 minutes. They also have a long bar, so if you can’t get a table, there are plenty of seats there.
Rappahannock Oyster Co.
We’re kind of obsessed with Union Market, and you know you are, too. Our favorite spot here is Rappahannock Oyster Co. During our most recent visit, I had the most amazing Moroccan carrot soup and broccoli Caesar salad. T loved the special that day, a pasta dish with shrimp and lobster, and of course, their oysters are always a huge hit. True deliciousness here.
And yes, I ate half of my soup before remembering to take a photo. What of it?
Thanks, D.C., for continuing to make so much of your food good.
*This post highlights D.C. dining experiences of Winter 2016/2017.