The 5 Best Restaurants That Opened in DC This Summer
From “Indian-ish” (with cocktails) to a bit of Paris here at home
To keep tabs on every D.C. restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Let’s eat.
It’s hard to tell who’s more excited to be back in restaurants: the diners or the hardworking people behind the scenes. This summer, the city has welcomed several new spots, ranging from white-linened French bistro tables to innovative, Indian-inspired fusion fare. As summer slowly marches towards a close, here’s where we’re most excited to be dining.
You’re here because… you’re a fan of both spice and spirits, so the idea of pairing expertly crafted “Indian-ish” food and cocktails is just your cup of chai. Nepalese chef Suresh Sundas offers a welcome departure from traditional curry house fare, inspired in part by his work with chef Vikram Sunderam. Local ingredients are a cornerstone of this menu, which is positively filled with international twists and turns.
You’re dining on… Indian classics with a twist. Naan is sprinkled with za’atar; chicken reshmi kebab gets a dose of funky blue cheese and a bright sour cherry sauce. Paneer is bathed in pesto before taking a trip through the tandoori oven, while pomegranate aloo is spiked with tingling Sichuan pepper and bright sumac. Even burrata appears atop buttery black dal, and a halwa dessert is rich with earthy beetroot. Whatever dishes you choose, you’re pairing them with one of six ever-changing cocktails from drinks expert Dante Datta and bar manager Tom Martinez: A green chutney-scented kefir daiquiri is bright and herbaceous, while a cashew butter-washed whiskey Old Fashioned boasts a spiced undertone with ginger and saffron.
1451 Maryland Avenue NE
You’re here because… you’re a pizza fan who thinks you’ve seen it all, and you’re ready to stand corrected. And oh, how corrected you’ll stand, in this bright dining room with Mediterranean-hued seats and a long tile-and-marble bar. Lupo Verde stans, beware: there’s no pasta here, but we think you’ll be just as impressed with this offshoot.
You’re dining on… pizzas ranging from the kinda-classic Margherita Rivisitata with passata and two kinds of mozz to a carbonara pie with pecorino cream and guanciale. More adventurous diners can feast both eyes and palate on the Lupo Marino: a squid ink-infused base topped with dashi tomato sauce, calamari, prawns and mussels. Or opt for the Manzo e Formaggio, an Irish-Italian fusion pie (yeah, you read that right) made with corned beef, fontina, peppers, onions and Dijonnaise. The menu also features some intriguing small plates and panuozzo sandwiches. For dessert, dig into a pizza bedecked with Nutella, berries and baby marshmallows.
1908 14th Street, NW
You’re here because… you’re a pasta fan who wants to see a Michelin-star-dusted approach to this pantry staple in a gilded, dramatic space fit for royalty. The prix-fixe menu from the Neapolitan team boasts modernist touches at a fairly reasonable price, considering the technicity on display ($50 gets you three courses; $75 gets you five). Or you can always order à la carte.
You’re dining on… alternative Italian with a contemporary flair: Shrimp carpaccio is bedecked with stracciatella straight from Puglia and Japanese hints like yuzu gelatin and wasabi mayo. Lobster risotto is sprinkled with citrus ash; tortelli are topped with a smoked mozzarella foam, braised beef ragu, and rapini purée. For dessert, indulge in a deconstructed cannoli or tiramisu served in an espresso pot.
You’re here because… grandmillennial is your style go-to, and vegan comfort food is your jam. This all-day spot decorated by Pixie Windsor boasts the bright, glitzy, slightly off-the-wall energy of the eponymous Helen. The dining room is bedecked in bright colors, complete with massive portraits of Elvis, Jackie O. and more. As for the menu, it offers something for everyone, from carnivores to vegans.
You’re dining on… Everything from braised brisket to gruyere mac and cheese to burgers. Many dishes lean to the South thanks to owner Shane Mayson’s Charleston roots: Think deviled egg salad, fried green tomato sandwiches, and Cajun shrimp with Brie-infused creamed corn and okra. Vegan options include the veggie-based “gatherer’s” pie for a play on shepherd’s or cottage, as well as vegan “fab” cakes made with soy and mushrooms and a vegan remoulade. Brunch offerings run the gamut from eggs benedict to cinnamon roll pancakes to shrimp and grits. Cocktails from Jo-Jo Valenzuela include allusions to grandma’s candy dish like a vodka lemon drop or a sassafras-scented pisco drink, all made with local spirits. The upstairs area will soon be used for standup, cabaret, and more.
713 8th Street, SE
You’re here because… you miss France. (Don’t we all?) La Bise is seriously a story of making lemonade, as restaurateur Ashok Bajaj’s Oval Room, destroyed during last summer’s protests, has been revamped as a French brasserie. The dining room boasts classic white tablecloths and contemporary décor with shades of teal and gold and 1,000 little mirrors, creating glints of light throughout the space.
You’re dining on… hyper-seasonal classics with slightly modern touches from chef Tyler Stout. Think gougères with 36-month-aged Comté foam; foie gras with local peaches and basil; Berkshire pork belly with peanuts, local watermelon and cilantro sauce vierge; or duck confit with summer corn and local blueberries and huckleberries. True-blue classics like steak-frites, steak tartare and ratatouille feature, too.
800 Connecticut Ave., NW.
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