At Caviar and DoorDash, we pride ourselves on bringing you the top restaurants no other app can. In Washington, D.C., these esteemed establishments range from traditional cornerstones of the capital’s dining scene (like Le Diplomate) to hot newcomers making bold culinary moves and big waves (like Muchas Gracias). Get to know some of D.C.’s most popular places — and get the insider scoop on their best dishes.
A sister to the flagship Osteria Morini in New York City, this Navy Yards restaurant specializes in the cuisine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region and is a veritable pasta lover’s paradise. There are several offerings here, from a simple spaghetti with pomodoro and basil to the hearty tagliatelle with ragu antica, sofrito, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Charcuterie is available, and there is also a full roster of meat-centric entrees and vegetable-forward sides.
No matter the party affiliation, the politicos in D.C. all agree that Stephen Starr’s Le Diplomate is among the city’s best restaurants. Serving fine-yet-not-too-fussy French fare, like French onion soup, "Le Dip" is also known for its Burger Américain. Two expertly charred patties are layered with cheese, onion, dill pickle chips, and a special burger sauce (made with mayo, pickles, chile sauce, and onion powder).
Timber Pizza Co.
In just a few short years, Timber Pizza Co. has earned the respect and admiration of the city’s pizza fans. Neophyte pizzaiolos Andrew Dana and Chris Brady started Timber in 2014, first as a mobile operation offering wood-fired-oven pies around town before bringing on chef Dani Moreira and expanding operations. It serves 10 pies, including an elegant Margherita and the Penelope, with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, bacon, mushrooms, and paprika.
If you like sweets, you’ve no doubt heard of Milk Bar, from award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi. Milk Bar has branches across the U.S., including this one in Bethesda, and it has won acclaim and fame for Tosi’s offbeat creations. The signature Milk Bar Pie — sweet, salty, and sticky — is buttery goodness in a hearty toasted oat cookie crust. And it doesn’t have to be your (or anyone’s) birthday to get the supermarket-inspired, three-layer birthday cake, with vanilla cake layers and rainbow sprinkles.
In business for more than a decade, this unassuming restaurant tucked into a Days Inn serves dishes from Shaanxi province and Sichuan fare. Chef Joseph Huang and his team spend days simmering pork for the Rouga Mo Chinese Burger (slang for rou jia mo, a Chinese street food sandwich) using nearly 200 ingredients to get the popular dish perfect. There are Chinese American favorites, such as General Tso’s chicken, alongside other straight-outta-Shaanxi items, like the cold liang pi noodles.
The team behind Surfside caught the wave of the D.C. taco craze early — way back in 2008. Since then, the spot has been serving some of the city’s tastiest tacos, like the braised beef birria tacos and the blackened mahi mahi Negril tacos, as well as other Mexican fare. It has expanded to multiple locations including Tenleytown and The Wharf, and this Dupont location is open nearly around the clock because, let’s face it, anytime is taco time.
Experience the best of Nantucket seafood by way of Millie’s in Spring Valley. Opened in the fall of 2017, this is an outpost of the popular Massachusetts restaurant from owner Bo Blair that’s been in business since 2010. The menu is casual, with a well-rounded selection of salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, and tacos, along with, of course, clam chowder. The frosé is a fun way to add another touch of summer to any spread.
Can’t decide among burgers, tacos, and pizza? You don’t have to with The Roost. It has it all — and then some. This “dining and drinking consortium” features fare from several different chefs and concepts. Red Apron, from chef Nathan Anda, provides burgers, fries, and poutine, while his Hi/Fi Taco serves flavor-bomb tacos. Roberta’s alum Rachael Marie rounds things out with Slice Joint, serving New York-style and square pies.
Tatte Bakery & Café
Breakfast is on the menu all day at Tatte Bakery & Café. The owner and self-taught pastry chef, Israeli native Tzurit Or, opened her first cafe in the Boston area, and its explosive popularity launched more than a dozen locations throughout Massachusetts. In Bethesda, as well as at the bakeries in Capitol Crossing, Dupont Circle, and West End, there are pastries, salads, sandwiches, and soups in addition to a variety of shakshukas and Mediterranean-influenced plates.
It started as a bar that became as admired for its food — in particular, the fried chicken — as its cocktail program. Owners Chad Spangler and Glendon Hartley launched Service Bar in 2016. The late-night bites here include the aforementioned fried chicken (available as thighs with fries, wings, nugs, and in a few sando formats). You’ll find a smash burger forged from locally raised beef, as well as an Impossible Burger and plenty of small plates, like honey eggplant and crispy chickpeas.
In 1995, Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald founded Levain Bakery in New York City, and the brand has since expanded nationwide. The D.C. area is fortunate to have this spot as well as one in Bethesda. It is renowned for its cookies, in particular the chocolate chip walnut cookie and the nut-free Two Chip. Both are crispy on the outside and chewy in the center and are guaranteed to give you a boost when you’re low on energy. On the non-cookie side, there are also pastries and savory breads.
Billed as a contemporary Hong Kong kitchen, Tiger Fork in Shaw has been on the radar of local media like The Washingtonian as well as the fine diners behind the Michelin Guide. Its doors opened in 2017, and nearly six years later it continues to dazzle with chicken dan dan noodles and its dumplings, stuffed with veggies and topped with vermicelli noodles and chile-soy sauce.
Sammies are all glammed up at this local chain, thanks to chef David Scribner’s expertise. Over the past 15 years, appetites have only increased for creations like the Thanksgiving-any-day Nobadeer, featuring roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo on sourdough. There are nearly two dozen other hot and cold sandwich selections on the menu, including a build-your-own option. Here, in Bethesda, and at Fairmont, Foxhall Road, I Street, and Macomb Street, you can also order salads, soups, and chili.
The feel-good poke bowls here are the main draw at this Chinatown spot. Poke Papa offers Hawaiian-inspired fish-and-rice bowls with nine custom versions — including the Volcano, with spicy tuna, jalapeño, cilantro, scallions, cucumber, a signature molten lava sauce, and sesame seeds. The build-your-own bowl is also a popular option and allows diners to customize by size, poke type, sauce, and toppings. There’s even a proteinless Poke Free Bowl.
SUNdeVICH made a splash when it opened its first location; soon after, it was named D.C.’s best sandwich maker by The Washington Post in 2011. Owner Ali Bagheri has upheld that reputation at this Capitol Hill shop, landing almost a decade later on Thrillist’s list of the 33 Best Sandwich Shops in America. The nearly two dozen sandwiches are named for and inspired by cities around the world. The Kingston, with spicy jerk chicken, pineapple salsa, spicy slaw, greens, and garlic mayo, remains a popular pick.
Chef Ali Mesghali hails from Iran and was raised in Los Angeles, but he started building his string of Persian restaurants in Georgia in 2006. He now has four restaurants, including this one in D.C., which he opened in 2020 and has received a Michelin designation. Not feeling super-hungry? Opt for a few dishes off the Taste menu, such as creamy hummus and a kale and grapefruit salad. The large-format Feast items include 10 varieties of kabobs and several plates, such as the lamb shank with Persian lime, turmeric, fava beans, and dill rice.
This pit barbecue joint was founded in Christiansburg in 2007 by South Carolina natives seeking to share a taste of home with their new community. This is bona fide Southern barbecue, with the team taking time and care to prepare every bite, including slow-smoking pork butts over hickory for 12 to 14 hours. The Pitmaster’s Platter is a great value and includes a taste of (almost!) everything, like baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork, smoked jalapeño cheddar sausage, coleslaw, mac and cheese, Yukon Gold potato salad, bacon-braised collard greens, a corn muffin, and all the sauces.
El Papi Real Street Tacos
El Papi is so real about serving real street tacos that the menu states it won’t Tex-Mex up the offerings. In other words, forget the sour cream, but don’t worry because you won’t miss it. The street tacos come in pairs and can be filled with steak, beef tongue, carnitas, lamb, and more. There are Tijuana-style birria tacos as well as costra, or grilled cheese, tacos alongside hefty tortas packed with jam, eggs, pinto beans, cheese, onion, tomato, jalapeño, avocado, romaine lettuce, and your choice of meat.
Married couple Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm founded the first Lebanese Taverna in 1979, just three years after fleeing war-torn Beirut. With multiple locations in the D.C. metro area, including Connecticut Avenue, Rockville Pike, Gibbs Street, 17th Street, and this one in Silver Spring, the restaurant group remains a family affair, operated by the Abi-Najm's five children. We recommend starting with one of the platters, which can include hummus, grape leaves, shawarma, baba ganoush, and more. There are generously portioned salads as well as economical meals for two and four.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Before almost everything was available in bowl form, there was Ben’s Chili Bowl. A landmark D.C. institution that’s been in business since 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl specializes in not just chili (available con carne, turkey, or veggie), but also half-smokes (a grilled half-pork and half-beef hot dog) topped with the famous chili. While the recipes haven’t changed, Ben’s has updated its offerings by embracing trendy salads and rice bowls. And if you didn’t know, now you know: You can order chili by the gallon if you’re feeding a crowd.
A trio of friends — Ike Grigoropoulos, Ted Xenohristos, and chef Dimitri Moshovitis, all offspring of Greek immigrants — dreamed up Cava Mezze in 2006 to bring fresh Greek fare to the D.C. area. Dishes span the spectrum from casual Greek — like falafel, gyros, and salads — to sit-down-with-some-wine plates like scallop risotto and lamb Bolognese. You can order from Rockville or the location in Onley.
Buck’s Fishing & Camping
The culinary pros at Buck’s fry a lot of food. Like, a lot. And it always comes out perfectly golden-colored and crisp, like the Famous Fried Onion Rings, Gordy’s Fried Pickled Jalapeños, and Buck’s Fish and Chips. Perfection doesn’t stop there: The non-fried options, including the green salad and the wood-grilled small steak with frites, are coveted by critics and crowds alike. The chocolate cake is beloved by WaPo critic Tom Sietsema.
The Hill Cafe
This is the jolt of goodness your morning or midday needs. The Hill Cafe is a neighborhood gem that is open for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast sandwiches, burritos, platters, and omelets are available only until 11:45 a.m., but don’t fret if you’re late: The classic Reuben, teeming with sauerkraut, corned beef brisket, Swiss, and Russian dressing, makes a fine lunch (with potential for leftovers, depending on your appetite). The extensive beverage program includes freshly brewed caffeinated drinks, smoothies, and lemonades.
It’s debatable how much good came out of the pandemic, but here’s one thing: Muchas Gracias began life as a pop-up to help Latin American immigrants with both employment and good food during that difficult time. Now open six days a week, Muchas Gracias continues to give back — and to put out top-notch fare, like the chicken tinga tacos, composed of a puebla-inspired stew of tomatoes, chiles, poached and pulled chicken, potatoes, roasted tomatillos, and Hatch and serrano chiles.
Some restaurants start with a concept. Others, like Little Sesame in the Golden Triangle, are born out of a single dish. In this case, that dish is hummus. Around it blossomed others, all crafted with an eye toward being good shepherds of the planet via sustainable ingredients. There are plant-based offerings aplenty, like the majority of the hummus bowls. But this spot also serves consciously sourced chicken and beef, such as the harissa-braised beef pita with cucumber salad and tahini.
I Egg You
The food at this weekend-only spot from The Fried Rice Collective chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno is as fun as the names of the dishes. It serves coffee drinks, boozy breakfast drinks, and sides like Basic Breakfast Potatoes (although with Old Bay aioli and parsley, the "basic" part is debatable). But the stars here are the deservedly hyped breakfast sandwiches. The You Bacon Me Crazy, with “lots o’ bacon,” fontina cheese, griddled milk bread, and a brown-butter-fried egg, has become the best way to get us out of bed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Mezcalero Cocina Mexicano
Brother and sister chefs Alfredo and Jessica Solis opened this tacos-and-more restaurant in Columbia Heights in 2017. Natives of Mexico City, the pair serves street-style tacos (18 different kinds!) in addition to tortas, sopas, enchiladas, and huaraches. The guacamole and queso fundido with chorizo and both Oaxacan and Chihuahuan cheese make for terrific, snacky starters.
Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe
Feeling like something frosty? Jason Mandler brought the gourmet ices of his South Jersey childhood to D.C. in 2001 when he started Carmen’s Italian Ice. He expanded the menu over time, and it now includes Jersey-style custard and mocha, ice pops, gelati, milkshakes, and special sodas. If you need to raise the temp, there are hot lattes, a cappuccino, and an Americano, along with warm baked goods like funnel cake fries and churros from the Rockville location and the Olney spot.
Hank’s Oyster Bar
With nods from the Michelin Guide, The Infatuation, and the RAMMY Awards, Hank’s Oyster Bar has been dishing up “urban beach food” from chef-restaurateur Jamie Leeds since 2005. Named for Leeds’ father Hank, the restaurant offers the flavors of summer year-round. The Maine-style lobster roll comes with Old Bay fries and is available here on Q Street or from the restaurant on The Wharf to serve one, or in kit form for two or four people. The proprietary local Salty Wolfe oysters are served on the half shell with cocktail sauce and lemon, but because of their briny creaminess, you may not need either.
Blue Bottle Coffee
To say Blue Bottle fanned the flames of serious interest in coffee beginning in the early aughts is no exaggeration. Pour-over coffee became (and remains) all the rage, but Blue Bottle has expanded its repertoire to serve lattes, cold brew, NOLA-style iced coffee, and tea lattes, including matcha. There are healthful overnight oats and baked goods, both sweet and savory, for an extra boost. The Georgetown, Union Market, and Union Station locations are all ready to brew up your order.
James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Cashion and her business partner John Fulchino of Taqueria Nacional have brought their creations to this Adams Morgan restaurant, along with a few nods to their now-defunct restaurant Johnny’s Half Shell, which occupied the same building. Seafood aficionados will find joy in the Crab Cake Veracruz, the fish tacos, and the Mexican seafood soup, packed with Gulf shrimp, fish, and crab. There are pork, fish, and chicken tacos, along with Yucatan chicken thighs marinated in red wine vinegar, garlic, and herbs and grilled low and slow.
Grabbing a pint takes on a different meaning at Dolci Gelati in Shaw. Established by chef Gianluigi Dellaccio, a Naples native who studied culinary arts and gelato in Milan, and his wife, Anastasia, Dolci has 12 offerings available to order by pint, including espresso gelato, vegan chocolate almond milk, and lemon sorbetto. The place also serves an assortment of pastries like cannoli and tiramisu. If you want the best of both worlds, order the gelato cookie sandwich, available in four flavors.
Nicoletta Italian Kitchen
Opened in spring 2019, Nicoletta Italian Kitchen is part of the Altamarea restaurant group, the same team behind Osteria Morini. Yes, there's pasta, like rigatoni with shrimp pesto, as well as salads and entrees, including an excellent grilled branzino. The pizza, however, is in a class by itself, with a three-day dough that is a testament to the power of time and patience. There are traditional pizzas, such as the Parmigiana, with crispy eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta, marinated tomatoes, pomodoro, and basil, alongside 10-inch Neapolitan pies.
Some days you just feel a bit fancy. When that mood strikes, Ocean Prime’s menu awaits. Known for its seafood and steak, Ocean Prime serves dishes that each have a hint of next-level culinary indulgence to them. The black truffle mac and cheese, the lobster bisque, and the broiled-to-perfection New York strip steak are just a few examples. The decadence continues into dessert with a 10-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and pineapple syrup.
A winner of the 2021 Honorary Milestone RAMMY Award, this Georgetown restaurant was established in 1986 and continues to live up to its reputation for exemplary Italian fare. There’s a full range of beloved dishes on the menu, including 14 pasta dishes for those looking to get their carbs on, about half of which feature housemade, hand-rolled fresh pasta. Look for mainstays like the vitello piccata, milk-fed veal scaloppine topped with a garlicky lemon-caper sauce, and the freshly filleted and simply prepared grilled salmon.
There’s something to be said for doing one thing and doing it well. That’s largely the case at Crumbl Cookies in Rockville. The cookies here are practically the size of one’s hand and are almost a meal in themselves. The milk chocolate chip is a mainstay and a fine take on a classic. With cookies available to mix and match, though, expand your palate with the chocolate covered strawberry or New York cheesecake options.
A sister restaurant to chef Alfredo Solis’ Mezcalero, this 14th Street spot, which opened in 2019, focuses on seafood cooked on a charcoal grill. The method (and the name) are a nod to Solis’ mother, who grew up cooking in a clay pot, or anafre. Many of the dishes contain crab, lobster, or shrimp — or a combination of the three, such as in the Acapulco Seafood Nachos. If you’re not vibing with fish, however, there are skirt steak, pork, and chicken dishes as well as inventive pizzas.
DeliClub’s roots lie just outside Buenos Aires, at the deli/cafe that opened there in 2010. The Kensington outpost here is run by Soledad Ivaldi, who wanted to bring her kin’s recipes to the states. There are salads and sandwiches in abundance, all with a nod to global cuisines and ingredients. The roasted pumpkin salad, with prosciutto, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, mixed greens, basil, croutons, and balsamic cumin vinaigrette, is a riot of flavors, as is the Milonguita Sandwich, with chicken, blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula.
Money Muscle BBQ
Just a few miles outside of D.C. proper, the husband and wife behind Money Muscle BBQ, Edward Reavis and Jennifer Meltzer, made a name for themselves in the barbecue world with their food truck. Growing up a stone’s throw from the North Carolina border, chef Reavis brings the experience gained from his regional roots to the slow-smoked meats and sauces. The barbecue ribs and Texas-style brisket are perennially in high demand. For vegans or vegetarians, the smoked mushroom sandwich, with three kinds of ’shrooms, zucchini pickles, chipotle coleslaw, fried shallots, and North Carolina barbecue sauce, will make you feel like you’re part of the ’cue crew.
Despite being well known as one of Dupont Circle’s buzziest bars, The Admiral is also a restaurant that serves up a cornucopia of American-ish comfort foods. A little more than three years young, The Admiral has a menu of straightforward eats to begin — or end — your evening, like The Basic Quesadilla (the restaurant's words, not ours) and the All-American Burger. Dig a tiny bit deeper and you’ll find tacos, like the beef barbacoa with tart pickled onions and a habanero-tomatillo salsa, and the roasted cauliflower taco with romesco sauce, smoky cabbage slaw, and spiced pepitas.
Flight Wine Bar
Flight Wine Bar was launched in 2014 by owners and sommeliers Kabir Amir and Swati Bose. They sought to elevate the wine experience with a thoughtfully stocked cellar and dishes that would make every selection shine. Pick a Champagne, red or white wine, or a beer or cider, and build a charcuterie and cheese tray. If you’re feeling an entree, try the seared scallops with succotash and citrus sauce or the fried chicken with shaved carrot salad and hot sauce.
The All American Steakhouse
The steaks at All American are hand-cut by an in-house butcher and carefully wet- and dry-aged for maximum flavor and tenderness. And you should absolutely try one — maybe the center-cut USDA sirloin? However, this family-friendly menu has much more to it than red meat. There’s blackened chicken pasta, pork chops, fish and chips, and fajitas, as well as an array of salads, including the ahi tuna salad with a teriyaki glaze, roasted sesame seeds, cucumber-wasabi dressing, sriracha, and zingy, crunchy wasabi peas.
Olney Station Burgers & Brews
This locally owned, casual eatery has a menu that’s downright inspirational — as in, you will be inspired to add ALL THE THINGS to your cart. After all, who can pass up crab poutine, Korean-style chicken wings, and deviled eggs? (Truth: We can’t.) There are signature burgers, including The Dip, with caramelized onions, Gruyere, and an espresso aioli, along with a bison burger and a turkey burger for when you want to switch up your burger game.
Nestled inside the Hotel Madera in Dupont Circle, Firefly offers breakfasts to fuel your day, as well as the usual caffeinated options. The restaurant dates back more than 20 years, but the dishes are fresh. Alongside avocado toast served on rustic bread with creamy avo mousse, pickled onions, Fresno chile, and Cotija cheese, you’ll find a Western omelet, a traditional American breakfast, and a generously sized, fluffy waffle topped with fresh seasonal berries.
Mid Atlantic Seafood
What you read is what you get at Mid Atlantic Seafood. The menu at this New Carrollton spot offers nearly every imaginable variety of oceanic delight, like fried black bass, baked salmon, crab legs, steamed shrimp, and much more. But there are also choices for landlubbers, like ribs, turkey wings, pork chops (fried or smothered), Salisbury steak, and even a veggie plate.
There’s more to Z Burger than hamburgers alone. Located in the Michigan Park neighborhood, Z’s has kosher hot dogs with toppings like bacon and cheese, Philly cheesesteaks, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Any of these dishes or the seven burger options are complemented by one of the nearly 80 (Yep, you read that right — 80!) hand-spun shakes and malts.
This casual District Heights seafood eatery has crab every which way. King crab. Dungeness crab. Snow crab. Crab cakes. But, wait — there’s more. Scallops, oysters, and lobster are also on hand. Crafty Crab is well-known for its seafood boils; choose one of about 10, with shellfish like clam, black mussels, and crawfish. You can find all this at the Bowie location too.
Anthony’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
There’s a wide-ranging menu at Anthony’s, which is always a winner when we’re ordering for a crowd of people. Sandwiches, subs, soups, salads, and entrees like chicken Parm abound. You’ll also find classic New York-style hand-tossed pizzas here, alongside Sicilian and grandma styles as well crusty calzones.
Kobe Bar & Grill
This Saint Charles sushi spot also serves popular Japanese and pan-Asian specialties like gyoza, tempura, and lo mein. Sushi and sashimi are available by the piece or in combination platters that come with miso soup and a salad. The roll offerings number near 60, meaning you can likely find a familiar fave or discover a new one.
The Great Cookie
It may seem like cookies are suddenly everywhere, but The Great Cookie is one of the OG cookie makers: It started in Maryland in 1979. The Silver Hill branch serves the cookies that have delighted generations in any number of quantities, from small batches to large platters. There's more than cookies too, with cookie cupcakes and Danish, but be sure to sample the cookie that kickstarted it all for TGC: the Snickerdoodle.
Firefly by Viktoriia Mintian
Rumi’s Kitchen by Jennifer Chase
Courtesy of Due South
Courtesy of Millie’s
Lebanese Taverna by Deb Lindsey
Nicoletta Italian Kitchen by Altamarea Group
Courtesy of Surfside DC
Scott Suchman for Little Sesame
Little Sesame by Scott Suchman
Money Muscle BBQ by Scott Suchman