The Hot List

These D.C.-Area Spots Live Up to the Hype

Get your food and drink on in the nation’s capital.

11 min read
7/14/2022
Immigrant Food

In the city where politics reigns, the dining scene has often been overshadowed by the gossip coming from the Hill. But don’t undervalue the D.C. food buzz. Diners are clamoring for reservations all over the city, at established restaurants and newcomers alike. They’re lining up for barbecue and egg sandwiches, for upscale Indian and “glam” rustic Italian. Take a look at the 25 buzziest D.C.-area restaurants that are available for delivery on Caviar. 

Zenebech Restaurant

An Adams Morgan stalwart and a nearly 30-year-old restaurant, Zenebech has long been the standard-bearer in the city when it comes to Ethiopian food. Iconic dishes include the lega tibs (cubes of lamb or beef cooked with onions, jalapeños, tomatoes, and herbs), the various types of wot (a slow-cooked stew that has been infused with clarified butter and other spices), and the kitfo (minced lean beef that is marinated in bird’s eye chiles and spiced clarified butter). 

Appioo African Bar & Grill

This Ghanaian restaurant opened in Shaw in 2014 and has remained popular ever since. Dishes like egusi — ground melon seeds cooked with spinach and palm oil and served vegetarian or with your choice of meat — and nkati nkwan — peanut butter soup made with chicken stock and served with a choice of croaker fish, chicken, or oxtail — are local favorites. 

Anju

In 2019, Danny Lee, the visionary behind D.C. restaurants Chiko and Mandu (which operated in the same location until a fire destroyed it in 2017) opened Korean gastropub Anju in Dupont Circle. The casual, tasty food is full of zeitgeisty flavor. Don’t skip the juk, a play on a traditional Korean rice porridge, made with roasted carrots, walnuts, and charred dae pa, or large green onions. Equally delicious is the jjamppong, a spicy noodle soup filled with shrimp, mussels, squid, and scallops. 

Mélange

Burger pop-up Mélange made things official in the fall of 2020 when it opened its brick-and-mortar space near Mt. Vernon Square. Since then, chef Elias Taddesse has been busy indeed, producing some of the city's best — and most buzzworthy — burgers around. The picture-perfect Classic Burger features American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, and a brown butter aioli. But the piece de resistance is the Big Mac-esque Double Decker, with American cheese, pickles, onions, shredded lettuce, and, naturally, special sauce, all on a sesame-seeded bun. 

Maketto

Maketto

Part retail, part restaurant, and part café, Maketto, which opened on the H Street Corridor in 2015, offers a little bit of everything. Food might best be described as Asian fusion, and it handles that category deftly. Pan-seared leek and mushroom bao are also filled with glass noodles and come with an umami-rich hoisin sauce. It’s impossible to resist the virtues of the num pang sandwich, served on homemade bread with your choice of protein (chicken, tofu, pork shoulder), daikon, and jalapeño. The café’s broad range of coffees and teas are also available for delivery, though you’ll have to do the rest of your shopping in person.

Honeymoon Chicken

Petworth welcomed this barbecue chicken joint to much acclaim at the beginning of this year, and the buzz has not worn off. Rob Sonderman, of equally buzzy Federalist Pig, is the pitmaster behind Honeymoon, where the crispy, honey-dusted fried chicken sandwich is the must-order item (although the chicken bucket and seasoned wedge fries come in close behind). 

Jaleo

Before he was a world-renowned chef, José Andrés was a chef serving mysterious “cheesesteaks” at his iconic D.C. spot minibar. At Jaleo, which opened in 1993, Andrés leans into the flavors of his native Spain with a menu full of traditional tapas (the gambas al ajillo, shrimp cooked in garlicky hot oil, practically transports you to the streets of Spain). It’s hard to go wrong with Jaleo’s broad menu, but don’t scroll past Andrés’ pride and joy, the jamón serrano Fermín, a 20-month-cured Spanish serrano ham from Salamanca, which practically melts in the mouth. 

Fancy Radish

Opened in 2018 by James Beard-nominated chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby in the H Street Corridor of Northeast D.C., Fancy Radish offers upscale dining at its buzziest — minus the meat. Dan dan noodles, glazed with a spicy sesame sauce made with Sichuan peppercorn and topped with five-spice-glazed mushrooms, leave nothing lacking. An outrageously rich rutabaga fondue, served with a baked soft pretzel and house pickles for additional dipping, elevates the humble-if-oft-overlooked root vegetable. It’s no wonder this vegetarian spot remains in high demand. 

1137914 Grilled Vietnamese Steak

Doi Moi

Opened since 2013, this 14th street restaurant enjoyed a 2020 refresh, tacking fully toward Vietnamese cuisine. Some of the restaurant’s more notable dishes fall into the “street plates” category. Try the pork steamed dumplings, which are tucked away under a cascade of julienned daikon and watermelon radish, and served alongside a piquant herb and peanut sauce. The tooth-shatteringly crisp cha giò, or fried spring rolls, are filled with pork, shrimp, mushrooms, noodles, onion, and fish sauce, and are served with the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce, nuoc cham. 

Immigrant Food

In 2019, the Union Market District welcomed Immigrant Food, a so-called “cause-casual restaurant” from Venezuelan chef Enrique Limardo. The restaurant’s mission is to represent diverse cultures and to advocate on behalf of immigrants (partners include CAIR Coalition, Ayuda, AsylumWorks, APALRC, CARECEN, and One For All). The global menu includes the Old Saigon sandwich — an adobo-rubbed take on a banh mi — and the West African gumbo, made with shrimp, chicken, and alloco, or traditional plantains. 

L’Ardente

Mount Vernon Triangle’s rustic Italian hot spot L’Ardente opened in 2021 to much critical acclaim. Pizzas and pastas shine at L’Ardente (in person, the pizza bar can only be reserved for single diners, but don’t let that stop you from ordering a perfectly charred Margherita pie with Sicilian oregano straight to your home). The gamberi, grilled prawns with black garlic, pomegranate molasses, and lemon, is a standout appetizer, as is the 40-layer lasagna, made with a short rib sugo and a truffle Mornay sauce. 

Purple Patch

Purple Patch

Patrice Cleary opened Purple Patch, a Filipino-inflected restaurant, in Mount Pleasant in 2015. Traditional dishes have an opportunity to shine here. Opt for the crisp lumpia, stuffed with beef and pork and served with banana ketchup. The sisig, made from sautéed pork belly and shoulder, amplified with onion, vinegar, bird’s eye chiles, and lemon juice, and topped with a fried egg, comes with a hearty serving of garlic fried rice. 

Zaytinya

Open since 2002, José André’s acclaimed Mediterranean restaurant in Penn Quarter remains one of the most talked-about restaurants in D.C. Stunning dishes like the crispy Brussels afelia — Brussels sprouts with coriander seed, barberries, and garlic yogurt — and the lamb baharat — spice-rubbed lamb leg kebab with tabbouleh, charred tomatoes, and tahini — are the reason why. 

Mandu

Mandu

Danny Lee’s 2006 restaurant Mandu made waves when it opened with just a few appetizers and 10 main dishes. Over a decade later, the restaurant in Mount Vernon Triangle continues to astound diners with dishes like the signature mandu, or Korean dumplings; yukgaejang, a spicy beef noodle stew studded with brisket, shiitake mushrooms, and mung bean sprouts; and gamjatang, pork spare ribs braised in dashi and stewed with collard greens, onions, scallions, potatoes, perilla seeds, and sweet potato miso. 

Federalist Pig

Chef Rob Sonderman opened Federalist Pig in 2016 in Adams Morgan, and since then the barbecue spot has risen to extreme heights as a three-time Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand winner. The sampler platter is the way to go here: Meats on offer include sliced brisket, pork belly, pulled pork, rib bones, rib tips, turkey breast, and sausage, and they’re served with your choice of two sides. The Brussels sprouts, mac & cheese, and BBQ beans are top notch, and don’t forget an extra order of sauce.

Cracked Eggery

Cleveland Park’s most buzzworthy restaurant might be Cracked Eggery, which opened its brick-and-mortar space in 2021. You can get an egg sandwich any time of day at Cracked Eggery. The Animal is a version served with bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, a hash brown patty, American and cheddar cheeses, and the “Cracked” sauce. But the Southern Charm is its own kind of endearing. It comes with a fried green tomato, fried egg, bacon, pimiento cheese, arugula, and a lemon aioli. 

I’m Eddie Cano!

Chevy Chase welcomed Italian American restaurant I’m Eddie Cano! in 2018, and reservations (and takeout demands) have hardly slowed. Cacio e pepe, made with a heavy helping of cracked black pepper, is one flawless way to go here. Another is the superlative chicken Parm, which even comes with a side of spaghetti al pomodoro. 

Kusshi Sushi

Bethesda residents are in the know about Kusshi, which opened in 2018. Enjoy some of the area’s best and buzziest sushi: The 15-piece sushi sampler, for instance, features a chef-selected nigiri assortment, while the 18-piece sashimi sampler highlights the restaurant’s freshest fish. Hot entrées, like katsu curry, are also available and represent the breadth of this restaurant. 

Hank's Oyster Bar

Hank’s Oyster Bar

Open since 2011 in Dupont Circle, Hank’s Oyster Bar is the go-to for the bivalve-loving crowd (so much so that owner Jamie Leeds has opened other outposts since). Seafood is the name of the game here, and dishes like the lobster roll, featuring chilled meat lightly dressed in mayo, is a must. A comprehensive raw bar serves everything from ceviche to middleneck clams to the bar’s proprietary Salty Wolfe oysters on the half shell. 

Daikaya Ramen

Daikaya, which opened in 2013 in Chinatown, is technically two restaurants: a ramen joint on the main floor and an izakaya restaurant upstairs, although the restaurant only delivers its soups (not hot, it notes; you do the heating part yourself to preserve the integrity of the ramen). The shoyu ramen, with its rich soy base, is an umami-rich soup that speaks to the restaurant’s best qualities. Add extra noodles, butter, corn, wakame, pork belly, an egg — pretty much whatever else tickles your fancy — and order a side of the excellent pan-fried pork-and-cabbage-filled gyoza, for good measure. 

Rasika

Rasika is not exactly an Indian newcomer. This 2005-era restaurant in D.C.’s Penn Quarter has been making diners drool (and clamor for reservations) for nearly two decades. But you can order the petite bundles of joy known as the sweet potato samosas — filled with ginger and green chiles and served with a cranberry chutney — with no reservation required. The lamb biryani, made extra delectable with the addition of saffron, comes with basmati rice and raita. 

Lupo Verde Osteria

The Palisades welcomed this popular Italian restaurant in 2018, and the restaurant remains worth writing home about. Fried artichokes — carciofi — served with a bagna cauda sauce make for a compelling appetizer, while a host of pastas, from homemade lasagna to paccheri Bolognese, will not disappoint in the entrée category. 

Officina

Officina

In 2018, Officina opened in the District Wharf development, a buzzy retail, dining, and residential space that skirts the Potomac on the Southwest Waterfront. Headed by chef Nicholas Stefanelli of Michelin-starred Masseria, Officina is an Italian restaurant with verve. A salad here is more than just a salad; the insalata mista combines Little Gem lettuce, radicchio, and chicory with earthy beets and crunchy pistachios. For a more robust appetizer, the polpette is a savory dish of braised meatballs with pomodoro, Parmigiano, and breadcrumbs.

Author

Hannah Selinger

Use the code SPOTLIGHT10 for $10 off your first order of $30 or more.