When it comes to food, the nation's capital won’t let you down. Innovative restaurants are opening in areas you never would have set foot in 10 years ago – spots that are worth the time and effort to hunt down.
Ethnic food choices have expanded, leaving global cravings satiated without ever having to go through a TSA pat-down. Union Market is a must. But be forewarned about other hotspots. Many have fewer than 30 seats and don’t accept reservations, resulting in the birth of professional line standers. Yes, it’s a real thing, formerly relegated to snagging a seat at congressional hearings.
Use it to grab seats at no-reservations spots like Little Serow, family-style Northern Thai food from James Beard Award-winner Johnny Monis (of Komi fame); and the Filipino hotspot Bad Saint, both located in Columbia Heights, a formerly downtrodden neighborhood north of the Capital, which is now the place to live and dine.
If you have wheels, check out Falls Church, Virginia, a D.C. suburb about 15 minutes from Reagan National Airport. The Eden Center is the place for anything and everything Vietnamese.
The city not only attracts top chefs with cult followings from other cities, but also boasts its own celebrity chefs in Spike Mendelsohn (Good Stuff Eatery; Bearnaise; We, The Pizza), Fabio Trabocchi (Fiola, Fiola Mare, Casa Luca and Sfoglina) and Eric Ziebold (Kinship and Metier). You’re likely to discover that bipartisanship exists in D.C. It just happens to be in dining.
Wood fire cooking may play a role in one way or another at the latest restaurant openings, but few make it the primary method of cooking. Chef-Owner Jerimiah Langhorne shows us just how far he can take live fire.
The name of this barbecue spot is enough to make you take a second look. Veteran pit master Rod Sonderman has it down, from brisket to pork shoulder, so don’t wait. The menu sells out fast.
Mason Social House
A casual modern American restaurant thriving in an up-and-coming part of Alexandria, Virginia, proves that neighborhood upstarts can find success by catering to the people with bone marrow burgers and pork belly shrimp and grits. The craft cocktails are also impressive.
Check out this new spin on an egg roll, which makes for a quick snack or a meal. It started in a food truck in D.C., but it’s morphed into a brick and mortar restaurant just across the river in Alexandria, Virginia.
Rose’s Luxury/Pineapple and Pearls
Aaron Silverman will school you in what can be accomplished with a small and focused menu at Rose’s Luxury. Go for standouts such as pork sausage with habanero, peanuts and lychee – and take cues from the cocktail list. At Silverman’s Pineapple and Pearls, expect twists on traditional food that will upend your expectations regarding steak, fried chicken and more.
Get more industry intel from US Foods Restaurant Operations Consultant and Washington, D.C., insider Scott Blair at FoodFanatics.com