So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.
The past twelve months boasted the most varied and vibrant series of restaurant openings in the modern history of this city. The new additions happened everywhere. 14th Street is not just the hottest strip in town, it’s one of the most vivacious scenes in the country; Capitol Hill started blowing up with several notable newcomers; Bloomingdale began coming into its own; and Takoma Park finally got a restaurant that will attract more than just neighbors. This wonderful wealth made this year’s Best New Restaurants list a particularly difficult task, but we’ve finally arrived at a lineup that makes us smile and our stomachs sing every time we look at it.
It seemed like chef-owner Aaron Silverman appeared out of thin air. Despite a sterling résumé that boasts stints at Momofuku, McCrady’s Restaurant and 2941, he had never helmed a project, much less one in the District. When his Barrack’s Row restaurant materialized in early October it justifiably became the hottest new restaurant in town overnight. One bite of the frothy buttered popcorn soup hiding luscious lumps of lobster at the bottom and you’ll know why.
After a star making turn at BLT Steak, chef-owner Victor Albisu was ready to strike out on his own. So he forged the restaurant of his dreams, a South American steakhouse with a grill fetish. Some of our favorite dishes are his standout street food interpretations – from empanadas mendocinas packed with tender bits of skirt steak, olive slivers, hard boiled eggs and sautéed onions to a heartstoppingly awesome chivito sandwich.
Mike Isabella has created some of the best sandwiches in the city. Some are traditional turns with cheffy flourishes, such as the winning chicken parm dressed up with Thai basil. Others are more unexpected, like harissa pepped baby goat accompanied by a brigade of lemony potatoes.
This crew takes the farm-to-table philosophy super seriously. The restaurant is substantially supplied with produce and livestock raised on co-owner Brendan McMahon’s family-owned East Oaks Organics Farm out in Poolesville, Maryland. As a result, chef Andrew Markert keeps his dishes hyper-seasonal. This is especially true in the Markert’s Market section of the menu, which features fresh vegetables presented with creative twists (think roasted squash dressed with smoked maple crema).
Though the atmosphere here is slightly more casual than at sister restaurant Fiola, the food is equally elegant. Chef-owner Fabio Trabocchi dresses his plates to impress. The snow-white burrata is dappled with a solitary pansy petal to draw the eye. Skin-on branzino arrives with the tail intact – but the innards removed and replaced with herbaceous crumb stuffing – the halves bound together with lightly charred twine. One of our favorite bites was the first of the evening: bacon butter kissed crescia flatbread. Its thinness and featherweight profile were deceptive – it was rich, flavorful and absolutely unforgettable.
Stephen Starr’s DC debut lives up to all the endless praise that has been heaped upon it. We aren’t going to argue with the hype, since we would take down anyone who got between us and the foie gras parfait, duck confit or steak au poivre. Long live Le Dip!
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
The best doughnuts in town and darn fine fried chicken to boot. Everyone seems to fall hard for the crème brûlée, but we’re addicted to the childishly delightful PB&J. That and a cup of coffee will cure a case of the Mondays in five seconds flat.
The Red Hen
Proof alums chef Mike Friedman and sommelier Sebastian Zutant stepped out with longtime industry vet Mike O’Malley to create this winning Bloomingdale eatery. The menu boasts American roots and an Italian accent. We’re particularly partial to the pastas, but the crostini varieties are equally satisfying.
Southern Indian cuisine done right. The flavors here are big and bold, and several dishes pack serious spiciness. Save room for dessert, specifically the Shahi Tukra – an Indian interpretation of bread pudding soaked with a rich mixture of slightly caramelized condensed milk.
For years, Takoma Park, Maryland has been a veritable food desert. That makes this new venture from Jeff Black an oasis for hungry souls. The veteran restaurateur doesn’t disappoint, serving up stellar seafood, plenty of vegetarian options for crunchy granola types, excellent cocktails, and memorable small plates, like crostini topped with smoky, slightly spicy chorizo, blue cheese and sweet onion marmalade.
Is your favorite missing? Disagree with one (or more) of my choices? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @nevinmartell.