New Restaurant

Le Diplomate
Earlier this year, the vacant laundromat on the corner of 14th and Q streets NW got a $6 million makeover, emerging as Le Diplomate. The Parisian-inspired bistro marks Philadelphia-based restaurant mogul Steven Starr’s first foray into the D.C. food scene (and probably a dramatic uptick in the city’s butter consumption). Coupled with a wrap-around patio and waiters in white, starched aprons, Le Diplomate’s menu brings European charm to the heart of the District. H.S.
1601 14th St. NW; 202-332-3333,
2nd: Farmers Fishers Bakers, 3000 K St. NW; 202-298-8783,
3rd: Ghibellina, 1610 14th St. NW; 202-803-2389,


Hill Country Barbecue
Hill Country does one thing and one thing only, and that’s Central Texas-style barbecue. Says Jim Foss, director of operations: “You’re never going to find pulled pork on the menu.” (That’s North Carolina ’cue.) “We truly honor the barbecue from the Hill Country region.” The restaurant even ships in post oak wood from Texas for its smoker. Now that’s honor. R.K.
410 Seventh St. NW; 202-556-2050, (Archives)
2nd: Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Co., multiple locations;
3rd: Smoke and Barrel, 2471 18th St. NW; 202-319-9353,



Thai Tanic
This family-friendly Logan Circle spot has been a 14th Street NW favorite for more than a decade, and its Columbia Heights sister location, which opened in 2009, is well on its way to equal status. Diners like the speedy, friendly service and the prices (less than $12 for basic curries of all colors, for example). Manager Thitawat Poksubchong says his restaurant passes the true “Thai test”: “Even Thai people who work in other Thai restaurants come to eat here,” he says. E.B.
1326-A 14th St. NW; 202-588-1795 and 3462 14th St. NW; 202-387-0882 (Columbia Heights);
2nd: Thai X-ing, 515 Florida Ave. NW; 202-332-4322, (Shaw-Howard U)
3rd: Little Serow, 1511 17th St. NW; (Dupont Circle)

Middle Eastern

Even hardened mezze-haters have a soft spot for small plates by celebrity chef Jose Andres. Be sure to try the Mediterranean classics, including the freshest-tasting tzatziki around, seared halloumi and an array of meat pies. If you manage to save room for dessert, finish up with the Turkish-delight sundae: walnut ice-cream topped with orange-caramel sauce and caramelized pine nuts. S.D.
701 ninth St. NW; 202-638-0800,
2nd: Cava Mezze Grill, multiple locations;
3rd: Lebanese Taverna, multiple locations;


South/Central American

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
Little-known fact: “Oyamel” means “Get your hands off my taco!” in Spanish. OK, maybe not, but it may as well at Jose Andres’ renowned Penn Quarter restaurant, where you won’t want to share even a bite. The menu is composed of elevated Mexican street food, such as grilled hanger steak served with chiles and fingerling tomatoes, braised duck leg with Oaxacan mole and ancho chiles, and — for the strong-willed — sauteed grasshopper tacos with shallots. H.S.
401 Seventh St. NW; 202-628-1005, (Archives)
2nd: El Chucho, 3313 11th St. NW; 202-290-3313. (Columbia Heights)
3rd: Las Placitas Restaurant, 517 Eighth St. SE; 202-543-3700, (Eastern Market)


Hank’s Oyster Bar
For its first six years, Hank’s in Dupont Circle didn’t have a freezer. It didn’t need one: Its fresh seafood was used that day and that day only. Hank’s has freezers now, but only for ice cubes and cocktail ingredients. So you can be sure the griddled crab cake or pan-roasted rainbow trout will be fresh from the water and the house-made church lady punch will be chilled to perfection. R.K.
Multiple locations;
2nd: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 1612 14th St. NW; 202-319-1612,
3rd: BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant, 4883 MacArthur Blvd.; 202-342-9101,



Sushi Taro
One of D.C.’s most innovative sushi joints was not always on the cutting edge. When chef Nobu Yamazaki revamped the restaurant, formerly his father’s, in 2009, teriyaki chicken went away and spicy tuna rolls took a backseat to salmon belly, wild snapper and live abalone. Try one of the kaiseki tasting menus or make a reservation to spring for the omakase sushi menu, where Yamazaki personally serves fish he prepares. R.K.
1503 17th St. NW; 202-462-8999, (Dupont Circle)
2nd: Nooshi, 1120 19th St. NW; 202-293-3138 (Dupont Circle) and 524 Eighth St. SE; 202-827-8832 (Eastern Market);
3rd: Kaz Sushi Bistro, 1915 I St. NW; 202-530-5500, (Farragut West)


Founding Farmers
Vegetarians aren’t used to making tough decisions at restaurants: There are usually only a few dishes they can order. So dining at Founding Farmers might be a little overwhelming for them at first. Options for vegetarians and vegans appear all over the menu, not just in the “Meatless” section, where the faux meatloaf, mushroom Reuben and grilled cauliflower steak are among the choices. And no matter what your dietary preference, you will mop up the vegan bacon burger. R.S.
1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-822-8783 (Foggy Bottom) and 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, Md.; 301-340-8783,
2nd: Busboys and Poets, multiple locations;
3rd: Sticky Fingers, 1370 Park Road NW; 202-299-9700, (Columbia Heights)



Founding Farmers
To some Washingtonians, brunching is a sport. And for them, eating at Founding Farmers is the epicurean equivalent of the Olympics, only everyone’s a winner. The impressive menu challenges diners to choose from four varieties of eggs Benedict or waffles served three ways, perhaps while quaffing Bellinis made with freshly pureed peaches. H.S.
1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-822-8783 (Foggy Bottom) and 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, Md.; 301-340-8783,
2nd: Level One, 1639 R St. NW;202-745-0025, (Dupont Circle)
3rd: Tabard Inn, 1739 N St. NW; 202-785-1277, (Dupont Circle)


Michelle Obama and Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema number among Rasika’s many fans — and for good reason. Creative and flavorful dishes dominate the modern Indian menu. Vegetarians, in particular, have much to choose from, including the restaurant’s signature appetizer: palak chaat, a crispy spinach salad with sweet yogurt and tamarind. Don’t fret, meat-heads. Chef Vikram Sunderam has plenty for you, including superlative-inciting chicken masala and a variety of innovative seafood dishes. S.D.
633 D St. NW; 202-637-1222 (Archives) and 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-466-2500 (Foggy Bottom);
2nd: Spice 6, 5501 Baltimore Ave. No. 107, Hyattsville, Md.; 301-209-0080,
3rd: Indique, 3512-3514 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-244-6600, (Cleveland Park)



There’s a lot to love about Sweetgreen. The restaurant chain uses locally sourced ingredients, does outreach for schools and sponsors the annual Sweetlife music festival. Even if all Sweetgreen did was make salad, though, that would be enough for us. Try the Santorini, a riff on a Greek salad with grapes, shrimp and a lemon squeeze, or the Kale Caesar, which combines a favorite superfood with a favorite steakhouse classic. The brainchild of three Georgetown University business students now has 16 locations in the Washington area, and it just opened shops in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. E.M.M.
Multiple locations;
2nd: Chop’t Creative Salad Co., multiple locations;
3rd: Whole Foods Market, multiple locations;


Five Guys
The locally launched chain also earned Express’ coveted Best Burger award in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Spokeswoman Molly Catalano says the Lorton, Va.-based behemoth’s numerous victories can be chalked up to consistency: “We strive to continue to serve people the same burger in the same environment. We are fanatically focused on that.” Craving change anyway? There are more than 250,000 topping combinations possible at a Five Guys. Catalano likes her burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and A-1 sauce. R.K.
Multiple locations;
2nd: Good Stuff Eatery, multiple locations;
3rd: Shake Shack, multiple locations;



Taylor Gourmet
When President Barack Obama — and sidekick Joe — showed up at Taylor Gourmet to grab some Philly-style hoagies a few days into the government shutdown, the speaker of the House’s spokesman tweeted: “Common ground: John Boehner really likes Taylor Gourmet.” The rapidly expanding chain has won over fans across the aisles (and across D.C.) with such fillings as spicy meatballs, sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. When it comes to sandwich diplomacy (or just lunch), in Taylor we trust. V.H.
Multiple locations;
2nd: Potbelly, multiple locations;
3rd: Stachowski Market and Deli, 1425 28th St. NW; 202-506-3125,


If the perpetual line outside its Chinatown location is any indication, Matchbox makes one hell of a pizza. Now with five locations in the D.C. area (plus one in Palm Springs, Calif.), the come-as-you-are chain feeds the masses oven-charred, thin-crust pies such as the piquant Fire & Smoke (roasted red peppers, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic puree and smoked gouda). You can even get one loaded with mascarpone icing and fruit for dessert. H.S.
Multiple locations;
2nd: 2Amys, 3715 Macomb St. NW; 202-885-5700,
3rd: &Pizza, multiple locations;



Ted’s Bulletin
It’s true: Ted’s has filled the doughnut hole in its pastry offerings, if only at its new spot on 14th Street NW. Long adored for its handmade pop tarts, the 1930s-themed diner now serves fluffy cake and yeast doughnuts in such flavors as lemon sugar and chocolate pecan. Pastry chef Rebecca Albright prepares the fried treats before your eyes in the open bakery. H.S.
1818 14th St. NW; 202-265-8337, (U Street)
2nd: Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, 1308 G St. NW; 202-809-5565, (Metro Center)
3rd: GBD, 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-524-5210, (Dupont Circle)


Baked & Wired
In a crowded field, Baked & Wired stands out with its large, dense cupcakes piled high with frosting. “Someone called us ‘a man’s cupcake,’ ” owner Teresa Velazquez says. “We like to call it a cakecup, actually, because all the recipes were originally cake recipes.” Customer favorites include the strawberry cupcake and the dulce de leche cupcake that Teresa named “Tessita” after her daughter. “There’s kind of a war going on between those two right now,” she says. S.D.
1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, 202-333-2500,
2nd: Georgetown Cupcake, multiple locations;
3rd: Sticky Fingers, 1370 Park Road NW; 202-299-9700, (Columbia Heights)


Frozen Treat

At this self-serve frozen yogurt establishment, you control what goes into your cup. Mint chocolate chip yogurt with gummy bears? Go for it. There’s no one behind the counter judging you or measuring out five measly raspberries and six pieces of mochi. Just choose from an almost bewildering number of yogurt flavors (16 of which are on tap daily) and march over to the topping bar for as much — or as little — embellishment as you like. Ah, yogurt nirvana. R.S.
Multiple locations;
2nd: Pitango Gelato, multiple locations;
3rd: Pleasant Pops, 1781 Florida Ave. NW; 202-558-5224,

Food Truck

Just when you thought the concept of a taco couldn’t get any better, the TaKorean food truck rolls along and puts an Asian spin on the Mexican classic. Rib-eye steak, chicken or tofu come topped with your chosen combination of Sriracha, lime crema, sesame seeds and two kinds of slaw. The succulent, crispy meats are grilled at a high temperature, Korean barbecue-style. Though TaKorean opened a permanent outpost in Union Market (1309 Fifth St. NE), the truck is as busy and beloved as ever. H.S. and @takorean. 
2nd: Red Hook Lobster Pound; 202-341-6263, and @lobstertruckdc.
3rd: Captain Cookie and the Milkman; 202-556-3396, and @captaincookiedc.

Indie Coffee Shop

If you’re lucky enough to beat out the competition to get a table at Tryst or, better yet, one of the sofas or armchairs, you’ve got Wi-Fi and a menu of coffee, booze and food at your disposal. Try a novelty concoction like the chaippuccino — chai with an espresso shot — or up the ante with a Tryst toddy, a mix of Earl Grey tea, bourbon, lemon and honey. Whatever your beverage, it’ll be expertly made. H.J.M.
2459 18th St. NW; 202-232-5500,
2nd: Peregrine Espresso, multiple locations;
3rd: Qualia Coffee, 3917 Georgia Ave. NW; 202-248-6423, (Petworth)


Water. Butter. Flour. The makings of a pie crust seem straightforward. Still, Jenna Huntsberger of Whisked! manages to weave magic into every pie and quiche she whips up. “We work really hard to make a quality product,” says Huntsberger, who admits she stands over new employees while teaching them how to prepare the crust for the first time. Whisked! doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store; buy Huntsberger’s goodies at farmers markets, online or via CSA subscription. (Yes, a pie subscription!) H.S.
2nd: Baked & Wired, 1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW; 202-333-2500,
3rd: Sticky Fingers, 1370 Park Road NW; 202-299-9700, (Columbia Heights)

Late-Night Dining

Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s has stayed open until 4 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m. on weekdays for most of its 55 years, says Nizam Ali, whose parents founded the business. These days, the most popular wee-hour order is chili cheese fries and a shake. “It’s a good thing to sober up with,” he says. “If you’ve had too much to drink, putting this stuff in your belly — it’ll get you home.” S.D.
1213 U St. NW; 202-667-0909, (U Street)
2nd: Amsterdam Falafelshop, 2425 18th St. NW; 202-234-1969,
3rd: Jumbo Slice, 2341 18th St. NW; 202-234-2200.


Jose Andres
Jose Andres has charmed his way into D.C.’s heart for the second year in a row. And, apparently, we’ve charmed his, as well. The native of Spain is set to become a U.S. citizen as soon as the government shutdown ends. Andres is a busy guy: This year, he opened the cocktail lab barmini, reopened the avant-garde minibar, and, of course, continued to run Washington favorites Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel and a food truck called Pepe. He’s planning to reopen America Eats Tavern in Tysons Corner this November, too. Somehow, he also found time to give a lecture at Georgetown University on ethics. M.P.
2nd: Stephanie Wilson
3rd: Mike Isabella

Place to Go to Impress Someone

Now in its 10th year, Jose Andres’ Penn Quarter culinary playground still elicits “wows” from those fortunate enough to secure a coveted reservation — and flush enough to afford the $225-a-head price tag. The rotating menu has included such logic-defying dishes as liquefied Marcona almonds and foie gras ice cream served in a meringue shaped to resemble a rubber ducky. H.S.
855 E St. NW; 202-393-0812, (Gallery Place)
2nd: Le Diplomate, 1601 14th St. NW; 202-332-3333,
3rd: Komi, 1509 17th St. NW; 202-332-9200, (Dupont Circle)

Place to Go if Someone Else Is Paying

Plunk down $135 and you’ll dine on a dozen or more courses created by Johnny Monis, the 2013 James Beard award winner for best Mid-Atlantic chef. Komi’s modern-Greek menu changes regularly, but the one-bite spanakopita usually makes an appearance. Another staple, mascarpone-filled dates drizzled in honey, would cause a riot if they disappeared from the menu for long, according to one waiter. Though the courses may be picture-perfect, don’t try taking a snapshot: Cellphones and cameras are strictly apagorevmenos. (That’s Greek for “forbidden.”) S.D.
1509 17th St. NW; 202-332-9200, (Dupont Circle)
2nd: Minibar, 855 E St. NW; 202-393-0812, 
3rd: Blue Duck Tavern, 1201 24th St. NW; 202-419-6755, (Foggy Bottom)

Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Ted’s Bulletin  
Ted’s doubled its capacity to please families this August, when a spanking-new location opened on 14th Street NW. It serves the same uncomplicated dishes (lasagna, ribs, country fried steak) as the original Capitol Hill restaurant, so picky kids can find something they’ll eat without Mom torturing the waitstaff with substitutions. Keep Junior from misbehaving with a bribe: an ice cream sandwich made with Ted’s homemade pop tarts. (Ask for it — it’s an off-menu item.) H.J.M.
505 Eighth St. SE; 202-544-8337, (EasternMarket) and 1818 14th St. NW; 202-265-8337, Street)
2nd: Matchbox, multiple locations;
3rd: Hill Country Barbecue, 410 Seventh St. NW; 202-556-2050, (Archives)

Sadie Dingfelder, Holley Simmons, Rachel Sadon, Beth Marlowe, Vicky Hallett, Marissa Payne, Holly J. Morris (Express) and Rachel Kaufman and Erin Bylander (For Express)