The 9 DC restaurants we loved the most in 2021

Usually, this section is reserved for the best restaurants of the year. As we close 2021, instead we wanted to celebrate the restaurants that have weathered the storm – those that, through a combination of hard work, innovation, and tremendous help from dedicated diners, have managed to survive. repeated closures. and closures to continue bringing great food to the capital.

Anyone who currently runs a restaurant these days deserves a standing ovation. As we say goodbye (good riddance? A cry for help?) To 2021, these are the places we’re most thrilled that they are still going strong.


You are here because … you’re a loyal locavore and it’s hard to find more local than Jeremiah Langhorne’s Mid-Atlantic cuisine. This spot in the once maligned Blagden Alley has become known for its eclectic prix fixe showcasing local produce and produce, many of which are cooked in a wood-fired oven. It’s no wonder that when the Dabney first launched take-out during the lockdown, so many people clamored to bring this Michelin-starred fare home.

You dine on … seasonal local dishes with an international twist, such as winter radish with fried oysters and aji dulce or Chesapeake redfish with clam velouté. Many choices are influenced not only by the local terroir, but also by local tradition, such as the homemade apple butter served with Fat Cat cheese from Birchrun Hills or the whiskey-glazed Autumn Olive Farm pork. And while there’s a lot more of a gourmet vibe to the offerings now like there was when Langhorne turned to sandwiches and donuts for breakfast to go during the lockdown, the ice cream at the Bourbon butter with toasted marshmallow is an equally cozy and comforting option.

122 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001 (card)

Rooster and Owl

You are here because … Fortunately, Rooster & Owl has so far fulfilled the mission, featured prominently on its website – “surviving the pandemic with our business intact” – and that is in large part thanks to community support, according to the co-owner. and Managing Director Carey Tang. “So much during the shutdown was beyond our control, so we focused internally on what we know best: the kitchen.” In adapting to take out and delivery, Tang and his team have shown determination and adaptability – and the result is that this restaurant remains ready to serve the locals today.

You dine on … a hybrid of shared platters and a tasting menu with plenty of plant-based and gluten-free options and lots of international touches. Think octopus ceviche with passion fruit vinaigrette, pistachio Jerusalem artichokes, Asian pears and Buffalo sauce, or duck breast with red kuri squash and curry. Enjoy it in the dining room or on the new covered and heated terrace.

2436 14e NW Street (map)



You are here because … you want the abundance and conviviality evoked by the name of this Michelin-starred place: Maydan, or “rendez-vous”. The menu here is known for marrying North African and Middle Eastern dishes, much of which is prepared on its magnificent open hearth, one of the restaurant’s focal points. The other? The bar, which co-owner Rose Previte calls the restaurant’s “centerpiece,” noting that although the restaurant never closed its doors completely during the pandemic, its vibe suffered when it switched to al fresco dining. “It was empty without the bar,” she said. “I cry regularly when I see the bar full or, you know, people around the fire again.”

You dine on … Hot homemade flatbread with dips ranging from hummus and baba ganoush with Syrian red pepper muhammara to whipped toum with garlic and lemon. Bread is always served fresh from the oven on site, and you can easily prepare a meal from it. But of course, that would deprive you of the pleasure of following this smorgasbord with a kebab of beef tenderloin with Eritrean spices, a halloumi with dukkah and honey, or a shoulder of Syrian lamb flavored with seven spices.

1346 Florida Avenue NW (card)

The red hen

The red hen

You are here because … you missed that so cozy feeling and the rustic charm of an Italian joint with exposed brick walls and exposed wood beams on the ceiling. “This is an amazing little restaurant,” says chef Mike Friedman. “A glowing fire beams through the brick-lined dining room and the restaurant comes alive when patrons are there. My favorite thing about being around is hearing all the joy – the clinking of glasses, the last spoonful of rigatoni coming out of a bowl, the bustle of the bar – it’s an incredible experience. Hope it stays that way. “

You dine on … Campanelle with wild mushroom and porcini cream, garganelli verde with duck leg bolognese… The excellence of Friedman’s pasta shines through in its seasonal and creative combinations. While Friedman has kept busy throughout the pandemic, including with pop-up menus greeting different regions of Italy, including Emilia Romagna, Friuli, Tuscany and Piedmont, it is especially enjoyable to eat these dishes such as ‘they were designed to be eaten.

1822 1st St NW (card)

Garden district

You are here because … eating indoors always makes you a little nervous, and the Garden District Beer Garden was designed for outdoor dining all year round.

You dine on … burgers, beef brisket, four-cheese grilled cheese, fried chicken… in other words, the comfort food you’ve been craving, paired with plenty of German and American craft beers on tap. Granted, the new QR code-based ordering system “lacks a bit of the personal interaction of yesteryear,” says pitmaster James Waterhouse, “but allows us to run the restaurant with a smaller staff, which, along with current labor shortages, restaurants are dealing with, is very helpful.

Oyster Oyster

You are here because … you have been waiting for it for so long! Chef Rob Rubba’s plant-based tasting menu, set to appear on the DC culinary scene in 2020, was put on hold in favor of simpler take-out options when the pandemic first struck. Now, having captured the hearts of locals with a hastily-designed take-out menu, Rubba is serving the menu he always intended – with great success.

You dine on … ultra-local produce and Chesapeake oysters (the only non-vegetal offering from this oyster establishment apart from, sometimes, a hint of butter). On any given day, the prix fixe menu may feature a savory pecan mousse with broccoli and Asian pear, winter squash cooked in a cedar sauce, or cider-baked apples with black walnut granola and fig leaf.

1440 8th Street NW (card)



Circle of Dupont

You are here because … Contemporary Korean is not just for LA! Danny Lee and Scott Drewno cultivated a modern yet warm Korean place in Anju which notably turned out to be Rose Previte’s first stop once she was able to catch her breath from her job in Maydan. “It was really just a total joy,” she says.

You dine on … a range of dishes that are both traditional and innovative, from impossible mandu meatballs to rice porridge with curry butternut to a classic jjigae kimchi. At brunch, enjoy grilled kalbi and eggs or, for a sweeter bite, peaches and French toast with cream.

1805 18th St. NO (card) W



You are here because … no matter how successful you were trying new recipes at home during the pandemic, you probably haven’t hit level 2Fifty. (And if you did… can I come?) Seriously, though, 2Fifty has landed on so many better barbecue lists for good reason – it really is. this Well. The proof is in the pudding: This summer, 2Fifty opened a new booth at Union, which means you no longer have to go out to Riverdale to dig.

You dine on … Texas powerhouse BBQ classics: brisket, yes, but also whole ribs and pulled pork. Opt for the Texas Trinity Platter for a bit of everything, and don’t miss the classic sides like the brisket beans, macaroni and cheese, or cornbread.

1309 5th Street North-East (card)

Bad saint

You are here because … you have to taste the food of this Filipino place to believe it. After being named one of Bon Appétit’s best new restaurants of 2016 (and years of Michelin guide rebuffs), Bad Saint remains a favorite among locals (including District Garden’s Waterhouse). After shutting down during much of the pandemic, the restaurant switched to take-out in June of last year, following the departure of chef Tom Cunanan. Today, this place still impresses with outdoor dining and take-out options, and it also offers weekly and bi-weekly product subscriptions, with pickup on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

You dine on … Filipino classics from bringhe – a paella-like dish with crayfish and andouille – with grilled and marinated shrimp. A Filipino fried chicken sandwich is a great option for a lunch to go. And many options, like the adobo (a Bad Saints classic) are vegan, and a nice wine list ensures there’s something for everyone.

3226 11th St NW (card)

The fluke crudo at Tail Up Goat

Fluke crudo

Goat’s Tail / Instagram

Adams morgan

You are here because … the Washington Post nailed it by calling this restaurant “the neighborhood restaurant that more neighborhoods wish they had.” This friendly place is known for the avant-garde cuisine of Chef Jon Sybert, co-owner of the restaurant with his wife and service manager Jill Tyler and beverage manager Bill Jensen. Part of the pleasure of dining here has always been the attentive and friendly service, so it’s nice to be able to come back.

You dine on … an assortment of small, medium and large plates to share, many of which are plant-based and have a Mediterranean flair. Think carrot and chickpea breadcrumbs with Aleppo pepper or mini butternut squash with dill yogurt, black garlic and chili crumbs.

1827 Adams Mill Road NW (card)

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