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2019 Review of Washingtonian's 100 Best Restaurants

Every year, Washingtonian releases its yearly “100 Very Best Restaurants in Washington” list and, as a local food lover, I make it my yearly mission to hit as many spots as possible. Of the 100 listed in 2019, I was able to visit 42.

Let's dig in...

#1 – Minibar

#2 – The Dabney

Food aside, The Dabney excels when it comes to aesthetic. Hidden within Blagden Alley, it is a romantic spot for anyone who is looking to spoil their taste buds. When we went, we were seated directly in front of the open kitchen (which, if you know me at all, you know I love) where the chefs worked away over the open fire and plates, curating everything to perfection. We tried a couple fun dishes, while also making sure to try some of the bites they are famous for (like the chicken & dumplings - yum). Our waiter was extremely attentive - so make sure to ask for recommendations!

#3 – The Inn at Little Washington

#4 – Sushi Nakazawa

I was lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Sushi Nakazawa when their head chef, Nakazawa himself, was there visiting. The experience of sitting there right at the counter, with the sushi being cut and cooked right in front of you, is certainly not one to pass up. I was continually handed more delicious, fresh food to try. Everything from A5 wagyu beef, to caviar, to sake, everything was spectacular. Definitely come with an empty belly and full wallet; it isn’t cheap, but it's definitely worth it.

#5 – Tail Up Goat

#6 – Pineapple and Pearls

#7 – Elle

#8 – Komi

#9 – Kinship

We visited Kinship for a birthday and they made it such a wonderful experience. When we arrived, a Happy Birthday letter from the chef was sitting at our table, our server was phenomenal, and the aesthetic was romantic and comfortable. The menu is broken up in a particularly creative way, based on the inspiration behind each dish on the menu. The categories are Craft, History, Ingredients, Indulgence, and For the Table. We grabbed a dish or two from each category and enjoyed a delicious feast of food!

#10 – Little Serow

#11 – Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

A pizza place that is ranked #11 in Washington? Yes, please. We drove over to Inferno for a nice Sunday dinner and were happy to find an intimate, friendly restaurant. Yes, the line can be long, but it is worth it. You can always opt for the community table or to order out; we were lucky to be seated quickly at a corner table next to the big pizza oven. I highly suggest splitting a few pizzas and splurging on their dessert!

#12 – Spoken English

Loved this spot. When entering The Line Hotel, you will walk right into two other delicious restaurants, Brother & Sisters and A Rake’s Progress (#57). Head past these two spaces and make your way to the back kitchen. You’ll pass through the hotel room-service stations and a curtain, finding yourself inside another smaller kitchen with multiple chefs, staff members, and two tables where you will be standing (yes, the whole meal is standing). Right there, standing in the kitchen, you can enjoy a unique and delicious meal to the sound of whatever music the chefs feel like blasting that night (our playlist was mostly Biggie). I thought this spot was so unique and fun. Standing next to the open charcoal grill where they are cooking your fish, you can watch them plate your next course while you move through the dishes filling up your table.

#13 – Métier

#14 – Del Mar

I was invited to Del Mar for a tasting event, lending me the opportunity to try a variety of foods but in a less typical fashion that you might find yourself in. As far as design, this restaurant is fabulous. It is open and fresh, colorful and romantic. Every dish I tasted left me wanting more. Definitely lived up to the hype!

#15 – Centrolina

I did not know what to expect for Centrolina. Located in City Center, coupled with a small market and cafe, and maintaining a small but aesthetically fresh feel, this restaurant was an Italian delight. I highly suggest this spot for lunch or a sit-down cup of coffee. We sat outside and enjoyed the City Center street decorations while splitting some bread and light Italian pasta dishes.

#16 – Bad Saint

#17 – Himitsu

#18 – Blue Duck Tavern

I am not going to lie, I am always hesitant of restaurants located in hotels. That was the main reason I generally stayed away from this restaurant initially. But do not be fooled, the location did not compromise the aesthetic. Although it is a little difficult to find the entrance (or maybe that was just me), once inside, the simple, modern, wood finish, open kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling windows were anything but stuffy. We started with wine and a charcuterie board, then moved to the bone marrow and (classic) duck dish. As a sucker for some good bone marrow, my mouth is watering right now as I type. Definitely get this dish. The duck was also delicious, as expected. A great stop if you are looking for a high-end work dinner!

#19 – Sushi Taro

#20 – Chloe

One of the few notable restaurants in Navy Yard, I was curious how this stop would be. Right away I was pleasantly surprised by the attentive waitstaff and their recommendations. The wine pairings with the variety of dishes we tried were so fresh and perfect for a friend date on a summer evening.

#21 – Masseria

#22 – Bresca

This is a small space that fills up quickly, with friendly, young waitstaff. If you are looking for a quiet dinner, this might not be the spot. If you are looking for a fun, fresh menu and beautiful display, make sure to visit Bresca. The Tomato and Burrata dish was one of the best I have tried. In addition, even if you aren’t a big drinker, I highly suggest trying a cocktail here. They are creative, sweet, and so delicious.

#23 – Le Diplomate

Tried and true. This restaurant, after years, is still a spot that is recommended by most Washingtonians when asked about great eating in the city. If you love wine, this is also the perfect spot for you. Year after year, they are ranked one of the best for winos. The restaurant is designed like a Parisian cafe, outdoor sidewalk seating and all, and their food is always delicious. Try their classic steak frites and their to-die-for mac appetizer.

#24 – Estadio

#25 – All-Purpose

Best artisan pizza place in the city. With two locations, you can order in or dine-out. One of my favorite things to do is order it for pick up and then hop to Lost & Found, the bar next door, to eat there with some drinks.

#26 – St. Anselm

A great restaurant bordering the newly hip Union Market area. A friend and I visited this spot for brunch. Very reasonable and classic, this spot is a great choice if you want delicious food and a beautiful aesthetic. The whole interior reminds me of an old wooden clubhouse, designed to a T. When I mean classic, I mean, I ate some bacon, eggs, and freshly made toast.

#27 – Rasika

We arrived at Rasika ready to splurge. The menu is vast and broken up into different categories: vegetarian, meat, appetizers, and desserts. Believe me when I say, try the curries and naan. But, above all else, the must-try dish is the Palak Chaat (fried spinach). The waitstaff was wonderful here, giving us delicious suggestions and free dessert. Maybe my favorite restaurant in DC, this restaurant is a must-try.

#28 – Fiola

Upon entry, I was greeted warmly and offered a bar seat while I waited for my mother to arrive. Almost immediately, I was greeted by a bartender who gave excellent suggestions and engaged in a nice conversation as he made my drink. The whole staff was extremely attentive and conversational. The dish to try here is the lobster ravioli -- the sauce is spectacular and filling, making the cost well worth it.

#29 – Momofuku CCDC

Located in City Center, this is a great restaurant if you are looking for a hip spot to go to with friends for casual but creative food. The large windows and eclectic decor create a great vibe. We split multiple dishes and left very full and happy. Definitely try some bing bread! Oh, and stop by Milk Bar next door for a post-dinner treat.

#30 – Maydan

So, when I first went to Maydan, I was hesitant. Walking down the alley to a somewhat inconspicuous door felt a little sketchy, but it unveiled an amazingly open and lively restaurant. With a huge fire stove and grill right in the center, people weaving around tables, a tall ceiling, and beautiful bar, right away you are swept into the atmosphere of Maydan. We arrived with an open mind and a waitress thrilled to bring whatever she thought was best. She brought plate after plate, with a thought out order and eagerness, and each plate proved to be better than the last. Also may be my favorite in DC, definitely stop here.

#31 – Kaliwa

I was very excited to visit this restaurant. Inspired by cuisines from Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand, I was curious about how it would live up to this concept. I was so pleased to have such a genuine experience. It isn’t a chic restaurant exploiting Asian cuisine; the chefs and staff care deeply about cultural pride and making sure all of their guests know what they are eating and why it was selected for their menu. Our waiter had a wide knowledge of the cuisine and its origins, full of suggestions and thoughts. We tried multiple dishes and all were delicious.

#32 – Izakaya Seki

#33 – Fiola Mare

All I can say is: yum. If you are looking for a nice dinner on the Georgetown waterfront for a formal date, celebratory dinner, or simply to treat yourself, this is absolutely the selection. Fiola Mare is traditional and aesthetically beautiful, a spot you would enjoy taking your parents to without it feeling too stuffy. Everyone can find something to enjoy on the menu, but seafood lovers will thrive here. We arrived with a party of 6, and each ordered a different appetizer, a main dish, and dessert. Every dish we shared and tried was excellent. Highly recommend this spot!

#34 – Poca Madre

Hidden in an area of the city that is transforming due to high demand, we found it a little difficult to find, but were so pleased when we entered the space. It is small and intimate, but has a lovely vibe. This spot has a list of snacks, small plates, and plates to share, all which sounded delicious. We were greeted with a complimentary cocktail and signed the check with a complimentary dessert! A little pricey for the serving size, but definitely delicious and a great date spot.

#35 – Mirabelle

#36 – Marcel’s

#37 – Clarity

#38 – 2 Amys

#39 – Unconventional Diner

I stumbled into this restaurant unaware of its reputation, and boy was I surprised. Unconventional, indeed. Everything on the menu is served with a twist from the traditional plate, so come with an open mind and be prepared to leave with a happy stomach. I wouldn't come to this diner for your plain pancakes, but it's a great choice for brunch if you want to mix it up with something creative!

#40 – The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse

#41 – Rappahannock Oyster Bar

Another great spot on the water, this is a great choice of restaurant if you want to have some fresh oysters and seafood for a date night. We sat at a high top table and shared the “Cadillac,” a delicious tower of oysters, shrimp, and more, with some drinks. This is a great summer spot!

#42 – Rose’s Luxury

#43 – Etto

#44 – Iron Gate

It is difficult to pass this restaurant without doing a double take. Hidden in the heart of the city with an entryway of stringed lights, this welcoming restaurant only becomes more beautiful when you enter. Restored from an old city stable, the bar area is the old walkway into the heart of the building. As you move farther into the restaurant, you enter the outdoor seating area with hanging plants and lights. It is truly one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. Although the dinner can be pricey, it is definitely worth the money. If you want to save a few bucks, visit for brunch instead! It won't break the bank as much, and you’ll get to enjoy a beautiful atmosphere and great food.

#45 – Convivial

I am a sucker for some good French food. My mom and I went to dinner at this spot when she was in town and we were so pleased with the menu. Mussels, steak frites, and some cocktails-- it was a great place to go for a nice but comfortable dinner. We ordered escargot and were given a creative take on it: basically the spring roll version. French food made in a modern environment, it is delicious and a great stop!

#46 – Maketto

We were confused when trying to find its location, “is it the place selling the shirts?,” one of us said to the other. Yes, Maketto has a clothing pop-up shop in front with some select seats. But, as you head towards the back of the restaurant, you'll find a bar, traditional seating, an outdoor area, and a full second floor. We sat in the shop seating and schemed what we were going to devour. So many dishes, too little stomach space. I love this restaurant because it is exactly the kind of food I crave. Definitely order as many small plates as possible, maybe add one large plate if you're up to it. Highly recommend the Pork Bao!

#47 – Nasime

#48 – Obelisk

#49 – Bindaas

Bindaas is a sister restaurant to one of my DC favorites, Rasika (#27), but they will tell you that the two are not as similar as you might imagine. While Rasika is more traditional and higher-end, Bindaas serves Indian food with a little more of a creative twist and a little less of the fine dining experience. That being said, it’s still mouth-wateringly delicious. I left this spot stuffed because every time I made a conscious decision to finally put down my spoon, I would give in and pick it up again. It is all of the deliciousness for less of the financial despair.

#50 – Thip Khao/Padaek

The hype isn’t for nothing. I wandered up to Thip Kaho with a friend when we kept hearing about how unique and delicious it was. So authentic and original, you might not always know quite what to expect when you ordering; trust me- whatever you get will be delicious. We tried a couple of the “adventurous” dishes (as they labeled them on their menu) but also grabbed a few that sounded like no-brainers.

Explore the menu and enjoy!

#51 – Chiko

Having lived in Korea, I am always curious to try a new Korean restaurant when it pops up. I trust the restaurants in Annandale, but within the city they can be a little too “chic” to be delicious. This restaurant is a wonderful exception. Chiko is authentic and delicious, a great place to grab a bite for dinner. In addition, look out for their stall at Nat’s Park- their kimchi tater tots are to die for.

#52 – Q by Peter Chang

#53 – Sally’s Middle Name (CLOSED)

#54 – Little Pearl

#55 – Plume

I went to Plume for my birthday and have fondly remembered it ever since. The wait staff was so kind, customizing my menu and dessert to celebrate my special day - not to mention the beautiful interior. Plume is located in the Jefferson Hotel, a historic building with a section specially arranged for the restaurant. Enjoy your Michelin-starred food with an architecturally beautiful interior, especially cozy on a chilly winters date night.

#56 – The Riggsby

Another restaurant located in a notable hotel, this spot has one of my favorite interiors in Washington. The dark green and wooden bar open up into another bright room that reminds me of the 50’s. We split a couple sandwiches and enjoyed our time with attentive staff and great seating. Booths line the walls, so feel free to bring a bigger party and enjoy!

#57 – A Rake’s Progress

#58 – Ananda

#59 – Fancy Radish

I adore this restaurant. When I first moved to DC, I was told by a vegan friend to stop by because of their full vegan-friendly menu. To be honest, I was very hesitant. I love my meats and cheeses. But wow, this spot far exceeded my expectations. Everything here was so delicious, and so fun to be surprised by. I was shocked by how well each dish was made. Even if you aren’t a vegan or vegetarian, definitely give this restaurant a try- you will not be disappointed!

#60 – Flamant

#61 – Bibiana

#62 – Esaan

#63 – Bantam King/Daikaya/Haikan

Yes, yes, yes. All three restaurants top my list of favorites for ramen. Each with a unique spin, but all delicious, these three restaurants are owned by the same ramen masterminds. Bantam King is an excellent choice if you want take out- each dish is a variation of ramen with chicken. Daikaya, across the street, is a great choice is you want a sit-down with a great vibe and more traditional choice of ramen variations.

#64 – China Chilcano

José Andrés is my favorite chef in DC, or maybe even my favorite chef in general. So, I always encourage friends to visit one of his many restaurants. China Chilcano is so fun because it is Peruvian & Spanish foods fused with Chinese & Japanese foods. Last time I went, I visited with girlfriends for DC Restaurant Week and we were able to try a dozen dishes. Each one honored this fusion in such a creative way, providing a fun assortment of tapas and Asian treats for us to share. Definitely try their dim sum!

#65 – El Sapo Cuban Social Club

#66 – The Bombay Club

White tablecloth Indian Food, come here if you are looking for some spice with a high end, formal atmosphere. My critique of this spot is that it sometimes has a little bit of a colonialist vibe to it. I know you can find Indian food around DC that is just as rich and delicious without paying this price. That being said, it was beautifully made and a great selection if you want something fancier with your fellow guests.

#67 – Osteria Morini

Right on the water, Osteria Morini in Navy Yard is a great place to visit with friends and family on a casual evening. The pasta is fresh and the restaurant is lively. I will say, the crab pasta is probably my favorite pasta dish I have had in Washington DC.

Although it is a little pricey, this is such a great spot if you are craving some good Italian food on the water.

#68 – Rice Paper

#69 – Doi Moi

#70 – The Red Hen

#71 – Marib

#72 – L’Auberge Chez François/Jacques’ Brasserie

#73 – Sushiko

#74 – A&J Restaurant

#75 – Kith and Kin

Kith/Kin is another restaurant that I was excited to visit. Executive Chef Kwame Onwuachi has been receiving notoriety for his new book, “Notes from a Young Black Chef,” and statements made about what it means to open a restaurant that explores cuisine typical reviewers aren’t accustomed to. Kith/Kin’s Afro-Caribbean flare and creative menu make it a delicious and fun experience, with a wonderful atmosphere if you are looking for somewhere to lunch on a bright and warm day. The floor-to-ceiling windowed walls open up into the street for fresh air as you enjoy curries, spices, and beyond delicious desserts by the Executive Pastry Chef, Paola Velez.

#76 – Call Your Mother

Believe the hype. Call Your Mother is the perfect weekend morning spot, and they know it. With a main location and pop-ups at almost every farmers market around DC, grabbing some lox became my Saturday morning ritual. I wasn’t even a bagel person until I tried this. Definitely worth a visit (or two or three).

#77 – Tiger Fork

Hidden in Blagden Alley with a beautiful exterior of lanterns, an ornate window, and glowing Chinese characters, this spot not only has a beautiful aesthetic, it has delicious cocktails and food. Definitely visit if your craving some unique, high end Chinese. I absolutely adore their innovative cocktail menu, which is curated with Eastern medicinal intentions, choosing ingredients with purpose. For example, they have a cocktail aimed to relieve anxiety & stress. All so yummy, it definitely makes you want to come back for more!

#78 – Urban Butcher

#79 – Preserve

#80 – Chez Billy Sud

#81 – The Salt Line

Salt Line is my favorite spot to grab a drink when a Nat's game is going on. The outdoor space can fill up, but there is plenty of cushy seating and high top tables to gather around with a group. The Salt Line also happens to be one of my favorite restaurants to grab a bite. If you are hungry for a good burger or seafood, step inside and enjoy some air conditioning.

#82 – Lapis

#83 – Ray’s the Steaks

#84 – Lucky Buns

#85 – Compass Rose

#86 – Jaleo

Jaleo is an old classic stop, tried and true in the DC area. This José Andrés restaurant is great for a group that wants to gather around some Spanish tapas. Its full menu and assortment of dishes allow something for everyone’s tastes, while still bringing some new creations to the table.

#87 – Kogiya

#88 – Ser

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I selected this restaurant for DC’s Restaurant Week. Walking in, the aesthetic wasn’t my favorite. We sat down hesitantly and selected our three course dishes. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The first course was a delicious Huevos Rancheros with a big enough portion to be an entrée. I completely filled up before the main dish, chicken with tomato and spinach. Already having made the decision to take the main entrée to go, I took a quick bite to be polite and try the dish fresh. Honestly, I could not stop myself from continuing to eat. The spinach tomato sauce that the chicken was plated with was one of the best I have tried in DC. So flavorful and cooked wonderfully, I had to cut myself off in order to make sure I had space for dessert. Which, in addition, was a full plate of fruit, an entire poached pear, and ice cream. Wonderfully priced and definitely worth every penny.

#89 – Fava Pot

#90 – Beteseb

#91 – Mintwood Place

#92 – San Lorenzo

#93 – Northwest Chinese Food

#94 – Reverie

#95 – Afghan Bistro/Bistro Aracosia

#96 – Elephant Jumps

#97 – Johnny’s Half Shell

#98 – Royal Nepal

#99 – La Limeña

#100 – Timber Pizza Co.

Another pizza spot. Timber Pizza Co. can be found all over the city, towing their huge portable pizza oven to every farmers market in the district. With some other small pop-up shops and a permanent location north of the city, it is hard to go wrong if you're in the mood for some Neapolitan pizza. I wait in a long line for it every Tuesday at the City Center Farmers Market for lunch (worth it).


What's your favorite restaurant of the year?

Any restaurant you think deserved to make the list?

Let us know!

Written & Photographed by Emi Lungmus

Edited by Anna McCarthy


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