Washington’s best restaurants, according to the James Beard Awards

The dining room at Causa features an open kitchen. (Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)
13 min

The James Beard Awards have long been considered the Oscars of the culinary world, celebrating America’s best chefs and restaurants. Winning an award, or just being a finalist for a top honor, can extend a nominee’s reputation far beyond their hometown. The D.C. area has just three finalists in 2023, a year after the area boasted eight finalists in major categories without bringing home a major trophy. (The awards weren’t held in 2021, and no winners were announced in 2020, due to the pandemic and then a reckoning about racism and unacceptable behavior within the restaurant industry.)

But with Washingtonians in the running for honors including outstanding chef (Rob Rubba of Oyster Oyster) and best new restaurant (Causa), we decided to look back at local Beard winners and nominees from recent years. This isn’t a comprehensive list — D.C.’s last two winners, both in 2019, were Kwame Onwuachi, named rising star chef for his work at Kith and Kin, and Tom Cunanan for Bad Saint, who won best chef for the Mid-Atlantic. Both those restaurants are closed, and the chefs are no longer in D.C. But if you’re wondering where to eat now, or planning a trip and deciding where to eat a month from now, the restaurants below are a great place to start.


Nominated: Michael Rafidi, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2023.

This Levantine destination in Navy Yard had been open just three weeks before the pandemic shuttered D.C. restaurants. After a temporary pivot to takeout, Michael Rafidi is back cooking over Albi’s wood-burning hearth, which he uses to smoke beets and chicken and grill octopus or lamb for the mouthwatering kebabs — and don’t miss the “coal-fired mushroom hummus,” one of the numerous dips and spreads served with airy pita. 1346 Fourth St. SE. albidc.com.


Nominated: Angel Barreto, emerging chef, 2022, and best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2022.

Angel Barreto developed a love of Korean food from his Army parents, and nurtured it while working under chef Scott Drewno at the Source. Barreto joined Drewno at subsequent projects, including fast-casual Chiko and, most recently, the engaging Anju, where he serves as chef de cuisine, making kimchi, interpreting the classic recipes of Yesoon “Mama” Lee, and crafting his own playful dishes, such as double-fried chicken dressed with gochujang and Alabama-style white barbecue. Barreto, named “a talent to watch” in Tom Sietsema’s 2019 Dining Guide, had a breakout year in 2022 with two nominations. 1805 18th St. NW. anjurestaurant.com.

Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse

Winner: America’s classics honoree, 2019.

Birdbath-size martinis, open-faced turkey sandwiches, platters of pasta big enough to share: Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse is a place out of time. More than the food, though, Annie’s — celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023 — is remarkable for its survival. Long a haven for LGBTQ customers, Annie’s draws fun, inclusive crowds to a noisy, comfortable dining room where regulars and newcomers are warmly welcomed. 1609 17th St. NW. anniesparamountdc.com.


Nominated: Outstanding bar program, 2022.

A pisco sour that gets its soft, smooth texture from liquid nitrogen and is capped with a warm foam? A Japanese-inspired cocktail that shifts colors from blue to purple thanks to butterfly pea powder? Barmini, José Andrés’s wildly inventive cocktail lab, is equal parts molecular gastronomy and magic show, with some of the most talented bartenders in town showing their skills. Reservations here are harder to get than at some of Andrés’s flagship restaurants. 855 E St. NW. minibarbyjoseandres.com.

Bread Furst

Winner: Mark Furstenberg, outstanding baker, 2017.

Nominated: Furstenberg, outstanding baker, 2016, 2015.

After Mark Furstenberg was named outstanding baker at the James Beard Awards in 2017 — his third nomination in a category created three years earlier — he found the honor “embarrassing,” he confessed to The Post. “I think I’m a good baker, and I’m very proud of Bread Furst,” Furstenburg said. “What I’m proudest of at Bread Furst is not national recognition, but the incredible recognition of the neighborhood. I set out to do a neighborhood bakery, and it’s turned out wonderfully.” Bread Furst, located in the Van Ness neighborhood on an unremarkable stretch of Connecticut Avenue NW, remains a remarkable place to get bread in all its forms — rustic baguettes, brioche, challah, loaves stuffed with ancient grains — but also a place to visit for pastries and doughnuts with coffee, or to enjoy a sandwich that demonstrates how much the bread really matters. 4434 Connecticut Ave. NW. breadfurst.com.


Nominated: Best new restaurant, 2023.

There are two Peruvian menus to explore at this surprising Blagden Alley restaurant, the culmination of almost five years of dreaming for chef Carlos Delgado. The ground floor is home to Causa, a six-course tasting tour of Peru with a focus on seafood, such as aged yellowtail with crushed corn and leche de tigre, stirred into ceviche, and calamari over bomba rices with garlic and culantro. Upstairs, the more casual Amazonia is appropriately named, with green plants, a sun-dappled patio, and a focus on small bites (skewers of duck tongues or salmon belly, bright ceviche) and a wide-ranging selection of piscos and classic cocktails. 920 Blagden Alley NW. causadc.com.


Nominated: Amy Brandwein, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017.

“No chef turns out more intriguing pasta than Amy Brandwein” — that’s how Tom Sietsema began his 2018 dining guide review of Centrolina, which he ranked No. 3 on his list of Top 10 restaurants that year. Another three-star rating followed in 2019. Brandwein’s deftness with Italian cuisine is no surprise, considering she was previously a chef de cuisine at the famed Galileo, and as delicious and rustic as the pasta can be, don’t overlook scallops and octopus that spend just the right amount of time on the wood-fired grill. Brandwein opened her restaurant in CityCenterDC in 2015 and became a fixture among the Beard nominations not long after. 974 Palmer Alley NW. centrolinadc.com.

The Dabney

Winner: Jeremiah Langhorne, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2016.

Jeremiah Langhorne’s 2013 decision to leave his role as chef de cuisine at McCrady’s — Sean Brock’s award-winning farm-to-table restaurant in Charleston, S.C. — and return home to D.C. to open the Dabney, his own place focused on Mid-Atlantic cuisine, was a big deal for the local food scene. Thankfully, the promise has been fulfilled: The Dabney’s regional tasting menu, which draws seasonal ingredients from local farms, waters and its own rooftop garden, focuses on the elements of each dish — think Chesapeake Bay rockfish with apples and sunchoke, or pork over Carolina Gold rice grits with spring garlic sausage. Beginning last fall, the dining room offers a six-course tasting menu; the only way to order a la carte is to show up early and claim a bar stool or a seat on the patio. 122 Blagden Alley NW. thedabney.com.

The Inn at Little Washington

Winner: Patrick O’Connell, lifetime achievement award, 2019.

The Inn at Little Washington has been collecting James Beard Awards since the early 1990s — outstanding restaurant, outstanding service, outstanding wine service, outstanding chef for owner and founder Patrick O’Connell back in 2001 — and it continues to delight guests who make the trek to the Blue Ridge Mountains, as evidenced by its place in Tom Sietsema’s Restaurant Hall of Fame. (It’s worth mentioning that the Inn remains the only restaurant in the region with three Michelin stars.) For putting the other, smaller Washington on the map, and keeping standards impeccable for more than four decades, O’Connell received the Beard Foundation’s annual lifetime achievement award. Middle and Main streets, Washington, Va. theinnatlittlewashington.com.


Nominated: Outstanding restaurant, 2020, 2019.

Winner: José Andrés, humanitarian of the year, 2018.

Chef, culinary ambassador and conscience of the kitchen: José Andrés is more than just a restaurateur. He runs multiple acclaimed concepts throughout the D.C. area — Barmini is also featured on this list — but the original Jaleo, which introduced Washington to the concept of small plates three decades ago — still merits attention. Order the tried and true, such as gambas al ajillo (shrimp sauteed in garlic, which made our list of the 24 dishes that shaped Washington) or sausages made from acorn-fed pigs, accompanied by glasses of sherry or pitchers of sangria. Andrés may be busy feeding the world with World Central Kitchen, but Jaleo makes dining feel like a party. 480 Seventh Street NW. jaleo.com.


Nominated: Outstanding wine program, 2022.

Maydan has earned pages of praise from restaurant critics for its Middle Eastern-inspired entrees cooked over a flaming hearth in the middle of the restaurant and the lavish spread of condiments, such as harissa and toum, served with flatbreads baked in clay ovens. But the lively restaurant’s sole James Beard nomination came not for its food, but for its wine program, which bypasses the usual French and California offerings in favor of fruity reds from Lebanon, unfiltered yellow muscat from Slovenia and a minerally white from the Palestinian city of Ramallah. 1346 Florida Ave. NW. maydandc.com.

Oyster Oyster

Nominated: Rob Rubba, outstanding chef, 2023; best new restaurant, 2022.

“Few chefs have more fun getting us to eat our vegetables than Rob Rubba,” says Tom Sietsema, who awarded the Shaw restaurant the top spot in his 2021 Dining Guide. The cozy dining room’s tasting menu can be served vegetarian, “Oystertarian” — vegetarian with Chesapeake Bay oysters — or vegan, with wine or spirit-free pairings. The menu changes seasonally, but previous versions have included foraged mushrooms, in keeping with Oyster Oyster’s name; corn on the cob with a glaze of dried chilis and fermented mushrooms; and watermelon topped with spiced peanuts, shiso and (what else) a local oyster. 1440 Eighth St. NW. oysteroysterdc.com.

Peter Chang

Nominated: Peter Chang, outstanding chef, 2022; best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2016.

A master of Sichuan cooking, Peter Chang came to the United States to be the chef at the Chinese Embassy and left the embassy to spread the gospel of authentic Chinese cuisine — first at a series of Northern Virginia storefront restaurants, then at restaurants bearing his name. (The cloak-and-dagger departure from the embassy is one of the highlights of this stunning Tim Carman feature.) Chang now operates more than a dozen restaurants, including the recently opened Chang Chang in Dupont Circle, but it’s the locations under his own name in Arlington and Rockville that earned nominations for such delights as airy scallion bubble pancakes and dry-fried eggplant with fragrant, numbing Sichuan chilis and peppercorns. 20-A Maryland Ave., Rockville, and 2503 N. Harrison St., Arlington. peterchangrestaurant.com.


Winner: Vikram Sunderam, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2014. Ashok Bajaj, outstanding restaurateur, 2022.

Nominated: Vikram Sunderam, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2013, 2012, 2009.

What is there left to say about Rasika and its sister restaurant, Rasika West End? Four-star reviews and a place in The Post’s Restaurant Hall of Fame were earned thanks to the oft-imitated crispy palak chat; lamb chops marinated in spiced yogurt; and the fragrant lamb or vegetable biryanis, for which chef Vikram Sunderam claimed his first award nine years after Rasika originally opened. The restaurant — one of numerous D.C. dining rooms owned by the gregarious Ashok Bajaj — remains worth repeated visits. 633 D St. NW. rasikarestaurant.com.

Rose’s Luxury

Winner: Aaron Silverman, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2016.

Gone are the days when customers would show up hours before opening to wait in line on Barracks Row, hoping to score a table at the no-reservations dining room Bon Appétit named the best new restaurant in America in 2014. Aaron Silverman’s warm-but-casual Rose’s Luxury began offering limited same-day reservations in 2018; post-pandemic, diners can now book a month in advance through Resy, making it easier to plan for date night. A la carte is also out the window: Diners each pick two dishes from the “choose your own adventure” prix fixe menu, including miso-glazed short ribs and the famous pork and litchi salad, then an oversized dessert for every two people at the table. 717 Eighth St. SE. rosesluxury.com.

Tail Up Goat

Nominated: Jon Sybert, best chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2020.

Like many restaurants, Tail Up Goat switched its dining room from an a la carte experience to a four-course tasting menu during the pandemic, though Tom Sietsema, who ranked the Adams Morgan charmer as his No. 3 restaurant in the 2022 Fall Dining Guide, says not to worry: “Tail Up Goat gives diners three choices per course and doesn’t hold you hostage,” starting with an array of snacks for the table and moving to choices that might include Rohan duck breast with orange and peppercorns, or a root vegetable rosti. (If you don’t want to splurge, a selection of dishes is available at the bar, alongside well-chosen wines, zero-proof cocktails and dueling dark and stormies.) 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW. (entrance on Lanier Place). tailupgoat.com.

Pineapple and Pearls

Nominated: Best new restaurant, 2017.

Before relaunching Pineapple and Pearls after an extended pandemic closure, chef-owner Aaron Silverman told Tom Sietsema he wanted to “smash” fine dining “to the ground” — which, at Pineapple and Pearls, meant epic but whimsical tasting menus that earned Michelin stars and four-star reviews. Diners can expect a five-course dinner, studded with edible “gifts,” that might include caviar-filled crepes to be eaten without using your hands, or silken Japanese custard delivered in a bamboo stalk. A soft-serve ice cream machine for dessert, a wagyu burger in a doggy bag — more proof that Silverman, a James Beard winner at the neighboring Rose’s Luxury, is on a mission to delight. 715 Eighth St. SE. pineappleandpearls.com.