The 5 Best Restaurants That Opened in DC This Spring
Crab-dip doughnuts, puffy tacos, and all those stretchy pants can handle
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.
The time has come: to stop vacuously staring into the abyss that is your fridge, to deactivate your Seamless account, to put on some real (if possibly elastic-waistband) pants, and to go out to eat! Restaurateurs have been hard at work bringing new, exciting dining experiences to D.C., with options for every palate, budget, and-social distancing comfort level. We shall consider it a privilege, a duty, and a delight to eat as much of it as possible.
Below: a collection of the best restaurants to open around the city over the last couple months, along with our notes on what to order at each.
You’re here because … You want to eat seafood with a view — and who could blame you? This highly anticipated grill opened in April on the former site of Coast Guard headquarters, with a 140-seat patio overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia. And since the restaurant is backed in part by sustainable seafood purveyor ProFish, you know the ingredients are of the utmost quality.
You’re dining on … Executive Chef Benjamin Lambert’s innovative seafood wonders, like roasted oysters with miso-crab compound butter, savory doughnuts filled with crab dip and dusted in Old Bay, or PEI mussels in a rich, cilantro-scented coconut kimchi broth. Lambert’s experience with organic cooking pioneer Nora Poullion and at Wit & Wisdom’s wood-fired grill converge to make his sustainable plant-based offerings on-point, too: whole heads of cauliflower are pickled, char-grilled and served with tahini sauce and pink lentil hummus.
2100 Second Street SW
Mijitas Tex Mex
You’re here because … You know that Tex-Mex has been unfairly denigrated, and you’re ready to unironically dig in to flour tortilla tacos and Frito pie from none other than pastry whiz Naomi Gallego, perhaps best known for bringing Detroit-style pizza to D.C. via Red Light. Her new spot inside mini-food hall Ghostline — now rebranded as Social Beast — is sure to do the same for the border cuisine of her native San Antonio.
You’re dining on … Tex-Mex creations served on house-made flour tortillas and a San Antonio staple: “puffy” tacos, so dubbed due to the texture gleaned by frying the corn-and-flour hybrid tortillas. Fillings include Señor Puerco, topped with carnitas, bacon and chicharrones for a triple threat of pork jazzed up with beans and jack cheese; Corpus Christi, meanwhile, features fried shrimp and cilantro-lime slaw. Pair your choices with a frozen Paloma and one of Gallego’s fried bunuelos for dessert.
2340 Wisconsin Ave NW
Green Almond Pantry
You’re here because … You’ve been eagerly awaiting Chef Cagla Onal-Urel’s return to the D.C. dining scene ever since a devastating fire destroyed her Mediterranean lunch counter just before Christmas. Now based in Georgetown, the Turkish native’s 15-seat spot at the micro-food hall Grace Street Collective also boasts a communal courtyard (hello, social distancing!), and while she doesn’t serve in the evenings, she does offer dinner specials to-go.
You’re dining on … Mediterranean small plates like Turkish stuffed eggplant with sweet onion and peppers or local beets marinated in balsamic and EVOO. Thick squares of hand-made focaccia are topped with either classic marinara or slices of green tomatoes, while seasonal tarts — available by the slice — are proof positive of the precision Onal-Urel picked up during her fine-dining stint at Italian Obelisk. Before you leave, pick up pantry items like local eggs, Greek oregano or unfiltered Ligurian olive oil, and snag some house-made spreads like hummus and romesco.
3210 Grace Street NW
You’re here because … You want to try something new… but you still crave that old-school vibe. And nothing says old-school quite like a red sauce joint. This new Italian-American spot is the only stand-alone restaurant at food hall the Roost, boasting red booths, black and white photos of paunchy Italians, and a pervasive aroma of tomato and garlic.
You’re dining on … Dishes gleaned almost entirely from the menu at Chef Matt Adler’s dad’s Scoozi in NYC. Think fried calamari, spaghetti with tomato-braised meatballs and chicken parm. While Adler has put in time at fine dining spots like Osteria Morini and Alain Ducasse’s Essex House (and boasts the technique and attention to detail to prove it), the food here is pleasantly no-frills, with prices to match. We love fun house cocktails like the antipasti martini with Italian tomato gin, olive brine and mozzarella garnish.
1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE
El Secreto de Rosita
You’re here because … You want to travel, but you’re not ready to board a plane just yet, and Lima native Chef Eugene Perret’s Peruvian-Asian fusion spot is the perfect place to tide you over. The dining room boasts a lovely juxtaposition of simplicity and sophistication, with chandeliers suspended side-by-side with hanging plants and deep blue-and-green chairs standing out against the exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood tables.
You’re dining on … Criollo comfort food like braised short ribs and arroz con pollo; Asian-influenced Nikkei and Chifa classics like teriyaki wings or fried rice with soy-orange reduction — dishes that joined the Peruvian foodscape following 20th-century migration from Japan and China. Plus: no fewer than five types of ceviche prepared by Perret, formerly of Michelin-starred Komi and Kinship. Paired with drinks from Alan Cabrera — like a chicha morada sour with purple corn, pineapple and cinnamon, or a passionfruit pisco cocktail — it’s the perfect way to explore new horizons while still remaining close to home.
1624 U Street NW
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