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Best Restaurants in Washington, D.C.


Washington, D.C. reviewed by Janis McLean

Asia Nora
2213 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
(202) 797-4860

Deep green-painted walls, low lighting, lacquered tables, and interesting carvings and sculptures on the walls give this dining room a sense of mystery that mellows to one of intimacy once you've started your cocktail. Vegetables and fish are the stars of the Asian inspired menu. Start with shrimp and tofu gnocchi in clear soup with wood ear mushrooms, spinach and wasabi. The lemongrass cod in rice paper is served with stir-fried spring vegetables, beet chips and ginger sauce. After dinner, sample tea chosen from a menu that reads like a wine list.

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 night.

2340 Wisconsin Ave NW - Glover Park (Upper Georgetown)
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 337-1364

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. Thai iced tea is a cooling accompaniment to the spicier dishes.

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.

Casa Fiesta
4910 Wisconsin Avenue N.W. - Tenley Circle
Washington, D.C. 20016
(202) 244-8888

At this Salvadoran restaurant in upper Northwest you'll see locals grabbing a bite, tourists getting a good inexpensive meal and native Spanish speakers coming in for some authentic fare. Look to the Spanish section of the menu for the best yuca con chicharron (deep fried yuca and pork) in town. Don't skip on the curdito (a spicy, tangy slaw) and the homey pupusas (pork- or cheese-stuffed corn pancakes). Formerly called El Tamarindo, the name has changed, but the owners and menu are the same.

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. Chef Ann Cashion developed her own bread which she has made by a local bakery. You'll need it to sop up her great sauces. The modern American menu changes regularly and has many French touches.

2424 18th Street NW - Adams Morgan
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 328-7194

This restaurant spends one year bringing you the flavors of its signature city, currently Paris, France. The space gets a makeover with each destination change. Hors d'oeuvers offer both traditional selections: Escargots � la Cities, Steak Tartare; and updated versions of classics: such as Saut�ed Foie Gras with Blood Orange and Port Reduction. Entrees include Sauteed Salmon with Choron Sauce, Bouillabaisse, and Tourneados on Toast with Truffle Essence.

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.

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 pizza place. Out of the wood burning oven comes 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.

Georgia Brown's
950 15th Street NW - McPherson Square
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 393-4499

Georgia Brown's is Southern cooking with a updated hand. The entrees emphasize shellfish and pork and include Carolina shrimp and grits with spicy sausage and garlic, and grilled smothered pork chop with collard greens, black-eyed peas, candied yams and spicy sausage gravy. They serve a wonderful Sunday brunch here as well.

Gerard's Place
915 15th St., N.W.
Washington, DC
(202) 737-4445

After obtaining two Michelen 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.

Greenwood at Cleveland Park
3529 Connecticut Ave., N.W
Washington, D.C. 20008
(202) 833-6572

Chef Carole Greenwood has moved her restaurant from downtown to the "homey" neighborhood of Cleveland Park. She has also expanded the menu to include meat dishes (originally offerings were just vegetarian and some seafood selections). Courses are distinguished by the terms "small dishes" and "large dishes" so there is lots of opportunity to create a meal to match your mood. Grilled calamari with fried lemon slices and a spinach and frisee salad is listed as a "small dish," but it's a big serving at a bargain price. The parchment pouch of salmon, leeks, morels and spinach is fragrant with marjoram. The chocolate espresso bar, a wedge served upended with whipped cream and miniature cookies is a very dark flourless torte that is extremely smooth without a hint of bitterness.

Hunan Chinatown
624 H Street NW - Chinatown
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 783-5858

Just under the elaborately decorated Chinese gate you'll find Hunan Chinatown, where you can duck in from the noise of the street and dine in a comfortable setting. Start with fried dumplings. These have a satisfying gingery filling enclosed in a perfectly textured wrapper. Tea smoked duck has a crispy skin and smoky flavor. Vegetables are done well here; the Hot Spicy Eggplant is a standout.

I Matti
2436 18th Street - Adams-Morgan
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 462-8844

Roberto Donna's moderately priced trattoria, I Matti combines an open and casual dining room with authentic regional Italian dishes. The menu changes frequently, and there is a long list of daily specials. The pastas are fresh, entrees encompass a variety of meats, fowls, organ meats and fish. A polenta with gorgonzola was memorably creamy. Aim for weekday or early dining as service on the weekend can be haphazard.

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.

2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW - Foggy Bottom
Washington, D.C. 20006
(202) 296-7700

Kinkead's can suit your mood. The downstairs cafe-bar is casual and noisy, the upstairs restaurant formal and modern. Either way you'll find a terrific seafood restaurant. The fried clam appetizer is served with intensely flavored fried lemon slices. The pepita crusted salmon, with shrimp, chilies and corn is a wonderful mixture of succulent fish, crunchy coating and spicy accompaniment. But fish selections can be served simply to your order as well. Dessert should not be missed. Some favorites: a trio of creme brulees and a chocolate daquoise.

Lebanese Taverna
2641 Connecticut Avenue NW - Woodley Park
Washington, D.C. 20008
(202) 265-8681

Middle Eastern mezza, 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.

Les Halles
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW - Federal Triangle
Washington, D.C. 20004
(202) 347-6848

High ceilings, wood floors, swift-footed staff and rousing conversation bring the feel of Paris to Pennsylvania Avenue. Les Halles is know for its' French style steaks and great French fries. Classics are the strong suit here, and favorites include: pat�, onion soup, escargot and salmon tartare. Late hours make this an after theater spot.

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 jalepeno, tender shredded beef all imbue the ingera platter with their flavors and make the last ingera the best.

Michel Richard's Citronelle at the Lantham Hotel
3000 M. St, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 625-2150

Originally opened as an outpost of the famous LA Citrus, Michel Richard has now 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. Pastry chef Ann Amernick's desserts are not to be missed.

Miss Saigon
3057 M St., N.W. - Georgetown
Washington, D.C. 20007
(202) 667-1900

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.

Morrison Clark Inn
1015 L Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 898-1200

Chef Susan Lindeborg pairs the refined ambiance of this Georgian style dining room with a menu that draws inspiration from an array of cuisines. Her plates are beautifully full but never fussy. On the spring menu find appetizers that range from spring English pea soup to an artichoke heart in a phyllo roll with spinach and fontina cheese. The grilled rabbit is accompanied by fava beans, Virginia country ham, and spinach; the rabbit is cooked skillfully and the carefully prepared vegetables play an equal role to the meat. Desserts take advantage of seasonal fruits and never fail to satisfy. Lemon chess pie is a classic. Sunday brunch is not to be missed.

2029 P St., N.W.
Washington, DC
(202) 872-1180

A quiet, respite from the hubbub just outside the door. Chef Peter Pastan has created an elegant Italian trattoria where precise cooking shines through. The prix-fixe menu changes daily, but always includes a 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. Prices change with the menu, but generally run in the $35 - $40 range.

Oodles Noodles
1120 19th Street NW - Downtown
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 293-3138

Asian noodle dishes -- Thai, Chinese, Japanese -- it's all here. Find them in soups, stir frys, some familiar, some new adventures. Appetizers arrive quickly and all are under $3. 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 wideand flat and come with minced chicken and Thai basil. Hokkien shrimp noodle soup has egg and rice noodles in a spicy shrimp broth. A second outpost is now open in Bethesda, Maryland.

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. Fresh salads and sandwiches on house-made focaccia round out the menu.

Restaurant Nora
2132 Florida Avenue NW - Dupont Circle
Washington, D.C. 20008
(202) 462-5143

Restaurant Nora excels in both food and atmosphere. Nora Poullion, 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.

1017 7th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 783-0699

Rupperts is unassuming, spare and casually elegant. Baby artichokes adorn the tabled, and a huge vase of informally arranged lilacs brighten the bar. The staff is extremely well-informed and earnestly interested in sharing their knowledge. And the food is simply wonderful. The bread is house made and not to be missed. You can make a meal of the vegetable side dishes: garlic mashed potatoes, fava beans dressed in oil and roasted red pepper, quickly sauted pea shoots, and grilled ramps, also known as wild Appalachian leeks. You will also find the freshest of fish, game, and vegetarian entrees on this daily changing menu.

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. Try Chef Ris Lacoste's roasted rack of lamb with feta potatoes and merlot sauce, as well as roasted swordfish in a pepita crust with black beans, posole and sweet potato tamale. The atmosphere is tranquil and sophisticated. The Georgetown townhouse has several "inn-like" dining rooms as well as a comfortable pub.

2815 M. Street, NW - Georgetown
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5380

Tahoga -- is the namesake of the original Native American village which later became Georgetown (Tahoga stands for "sassafras" in the language of the Anacostia Indian tribe). The "Modern American" menu features an eclectic mix across a broad spectrum of cuisines. Starters include: pan seared crayfish cakes with peppered coleslaw and roasted tomato vinaigrette, BBQ rabbit "nachos," and quail with toasted corn rusk, Virginia country ham, and blackberry-ancho chili sauce. For entrees look for the roasted fillet of farm-raised catfish, and the seared Georgetown Farms Buffalo Ribeye steak.

2009 R Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

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) -- especially the Chilled Teriyaki Salmon with Cucumber-Pickled Ginger Salad, Jasmine Rice and Fruit. Don't forget to save room for the ginger scones.

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. Fried grit cakes topped with goat cheese and portabello mushrooms, served with a fennel salad is an outstanding appetizer. A recent dinner special, veal chop with grilled onion slices and garlic mashed potatoes was a thick portion of masterfully prepared veal, and the potatoes left us wanting more.

2809 M. St., N.W. - Georgetown
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 625-0077

Gerard Pangaud's second DC restaurant -- a bistro and wine bar offering French classics in a casual setting (see also, listing for Gerard's Place). Authentic bistro style fare, includes: onion soup gratinee; roquefort terrine with frisee and poached pear; cassoulet castelnaudary (stew of white beans, pork, lamb and duck confit); choucroute alscienne (sauerkraut with smoked pork chop, bacon, and sausage), and marinated hanger steak with beaujolais shallot sauce. And don't forget to save room for pommes frites.

West 24
1250 24th St. N.W.- Washington at M Street
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 331-1100

This foggy bottom west end restaurant owned by Republican Mary Matalin & Democrat James Carville is very, very "DC" ... very few places in this town have the equal mix of Dems/Reps that this one does. The decor is "DC hip" which is to say that it is modern and stylish in a conservative way with medium dark woods and fabric covered chairs. There is a steady stream of mid 20 and 30-something's with cellphones and suspenders lined up at the bar. There's enough to admire on chef James Reppuhn's contemporary menu. Reppuhn, who previously toiled at Red Sage downtown and Tahoga in Georgetown, offers cajun/ Creole and southern/Louisiana flair to the food.



Zuki Moon Noodles
824 New Hampshire Avenue, NW --Foggy Bottom
Washington, DC 20037

An Asian noodle-and-grill cafe opened by Chef Mary Richter was inspired by the traditional noodle shops long popular in Japan. Comfortable setting to enjoy satisfying, healthy, quick and reasonably priced noodle soups and grills. Typical offerings include: noodle soups, made with soba, somen, or ramen noodles with fresh fish, meat and vegetables in a flavorful broth; crisp tempura of vegetables with a spicy wasabi dipping sauce, and grilled toppings (noodle soups topped with grilled salmon, steak, etc). Zuki Moon is walking distance to the Kennedy Center -- so a perfect choice for pre- and post-theater dining.

Maryland Restaurants

Celito Lindo
4305 Kenilworth Avenue
Bladensburg, Maryland 20710
(301) 699-5787

You'll have to go a bit off the beaten track to find Celito Lindo, but it's well worth it. Authentic Mexican chili rellenos are your reward. Then try Alambres, beef marinated in pineapple juice and wine, mixed with bacon, green peppers and Oaxaca cheese served over flour tortillas. Better yet, let Ricardo Vargas, owner and gracious host, order for you.

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. For starters, look for the Prince Edward Island Mussels steamed with shallots, garlic and tomato. In season, the oyster stew with smoked bacon is a knock-out. For main courses, try the hardwood grilled angus ribeye steak served with a Cabernet sauce, or the shrimp taco salad.

Cesco Trattoria
4871 Cordell Avenue
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
(301) 654-8874

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. Don't miss the Gamberoni Piccanti Con Passato Di Ceci (saut�ed spicy shrimp on chickpea puree), the papparadelle (wide housemade noodles, often served with a rabbit or duck sauce), and the Roasted Pork Chip with Balsamic Vinegar, Raisins and Pinenuts served over Soft Polenta.

Oodles Noodles
4907 Cordell Ave.
Bethesda, Maryland 20814

Asian noodle dishes -- Thai, Chinese, Japanese -- it's all here. Find them in soups, stir frys, some familiar, some new adventures. Appetizers arrive quickly and all are under $3. 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. Original branch in Downtown, DC (see DC listing).

7071 Carroll Avenue
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912
(301) 270-2233

Takoma Park has a new neighborhood restaurant. Inside neighbors are buzzing, meetings are taking place, strollers are being rocked, and students have books spread out on couches. Diners choose their food from the glass case and either take it home or have it delivered to them at a table. Savory serves homey but modern American food, and caters to the area's vegans as well. It is also a popular stop for dessert and coffee. Chase one of those students off the couch and enjoy apple dumpling with vanilla sauce with your cappuccino.

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

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 Bush's favorite haunts while he was a local resident.

Janis McLean is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance food writer & chef.

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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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