Best bread basket
In the D.C. restaurant wars, the pre-meal bread basket is the latest battleground on which chefs can stand out. Le Diplomate’s basket sets the stage for a classic French meal with selections straight out of a boulangerie: slices of crusty French baguette, rye wheat boule and sweet cranberry walnut loaf. “It gives a different spectrum of flavors and textures,” executive chef Michael Abt says. B.M. 1601 14th St. NW; 202-332-3333.
2nd: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 1612 14th St. NW; 202-319-1612.
3rd: Birch & Barley, 1337 14th St. NW; 202-567-2576.
Best place to eat grown-up food and keep your kids happy
This friendly, lunch counter-style restaurant knows that adults and kids really want the same things, just with a few twists. For kids, there’s PB&J, pasta with sauce or butter, and shakes in flavors like s’mores, peppermint and Oreo. And for grown-ups, Ted’s offers a peanut butter bacon burger, cheesy chicken parmesan and creamy shakes — with booze added — in flavors such as white Russian, Irish caramel coffee and grasshopper. L.M. Multiple locations.
2nd: &pizza, various locations.
3rd: Matchbox, various locations.
Best trendy desserts
If by “trendy desserts” you mean time-tested recipes and wholesome ingredients, then yes, Whisked! deserves its victory. Jenna Huntsberger’s confections may not come in unorthodox flavor combinations, but you’ll be more than satisfied with her creative-yet-classic pies (salted caramel apple, Mexican chocolate cream) and cookies (milk chocolate Nutella, brown butter snickerdoodle). H.S. 202-656-4890.
2nd: Baked and Wired, 1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW; 202-333-2500.
3rd: Dangerously Delicious Pies, 1339 H St. NE; 202-398-7437 and 675 I St. NW; 202-450-1292.
Best place to get a frozen treat
Many dessert spots are more flash than foundation, but Dolcezza’s gelato — made daily in their factory near Union Market and served in eight D.C.-area shops — starts with great basics: dairy, fruits and herbs from farms in Pennsylvania and Virginia. The simple ingredients don’t mean boring flavors, though. Their rotation of gelato options includes crookneck pumpkin, black sesame and peanut butter stracciatella, while dairy-free sorbettos come in flavors like white nectarine, Champagne mango and orange honey cardamom. S.M.D. Multiple locations.
2nd: Ice Cream Jubilee, 301 Water St. SE; 202-863-0727.
3rd: Pitango Gelato, multiple locations.
Best restaurant bathroom
Busboys and Poets
Lots of restaurants and bars are getting fancy with their bathrooms these days by adding themed wallpaper, ironically kitschy knick-knacks and toe-tapping music. But clean and easily accessible are still the gold standard where potties are concerned. Busboys and Poets’ six restaurants have that part down. Plus, three of their locations (14th and V, Takoma and Brookland) have a Politics and Prose bookstore embedded within. Please, though: Do everyone a favor and buy the book before taking it into the loo with you. B.M. Multiple locations.
2nd: 2 Birds 1 Stone, 1800 14th St. NW.
3rd: The Coupe, 3415 11th St. NW; 202-290-3342.
Restaurant that lives up to its hype
More than 2,400 smitten Yelpers can’t be wrong, right? Just to be safe, we looked at this year’s fall dining guide from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema: Rasika took the No. 2 spot (its two locations — in Penn Quarter and West End — shared the honor). Following a nearly half-million dollar interior design refresh at the original Penn Quarter location (new furniture and better soundproofing, plus other improvements), Ashok Bajaj’s lauded upscale Indian restaurants are likely to keep pulling in the praise. H.S. 633 D St. NW; 202-637-1222 and 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-466-2500.
2nd: Rose’s Luxury, 717 Eighth St. SE; 202-580-8889, .
3rd: Le Diplomate, 1601 14th St. NW; 202-332-3333.
Best place to discover sushi is an art form
Has anyone checked that chefs Nobu Yamazaki and Masaya Kitayama are working with chopsticks in the kitchen, and not a set of paintbrushes? It’s hard to tell when every complex, richly textured sushi dish they send out is an edible masterpiece. Much like a work of art, quality doesn’t come cheap. But Sushi Taro offers a reasonably priced lunch menu and hosts happy hour specials on weeknights at the bar if you want to get your sushi fix at a discount. H.S. 1503 17th St. NW; 202-462-8999.
2nd: Sushiko, 5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, Md.; 301-961-1644.
3rd: KAZ Sushi Bistro, 1915 I St. NW; 202-530-5500.
Best place to exercise your rights as a carnivore
Fogo de Chao
This Brazil-born, family-owned chain takes its meat mobile. Every diner at Fogo de Chao gets a card that’s used to signal the waiters, who wander the room eager to carve slices of beef, pork and chicken from the giant hunks of meat they carry. One side of the card is green (more meat, please!) and the other’s red (I can’t eat another bite … yet). H.S. 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-347-4668, .
2nd: Ray’s the Steaks, 2300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-841-7297, .
3rd: Medium Rare, 3500 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-237-1432 and 515 Eighth St. SE; 202-601-7136.
Best place to eat outside
Barcelona seemed to have popped up overnight when it opened on 14th Street in 2013 (there are now three locations in the area). Now, diners who prefer to eat by the light of the moon can’t imagine what they did before it existed. The spacious patio at this Spanish restaurant is the spot for catch-ups, people watching and sherry shots — served in a bone luge if you know to ask for it. With a fire pit and heat lamps, Barcelona keeps the al fresco party going year round. H.S. Multiple locations.
2nd: Brookland’s Finest Bar & Kitchen, 3126 12th St. NE; 202-636-0050, brooklandsfinest.com.
3rd: Roofers Union, 2446 18th St. NW; 202-232-7663, roofersuniondc.com.
Best pho (no matter how you pronounce it)
The hardest part about eating Vietnamese pho is deciding how you’ll take it: with fatty tendon, raw flank steak, salty brisket or a little bit of everything. But it starts with the salty, complex broth at this humble pho spot, which they’ve crafted by simmering beef or chicken bones and marrow, ginger and a secret collection of spices for hours, for a rich broth served with hearty noodles. Top with your personal blend of sriracha, hoisin and basil and dig in. L.M. Multiple locations.
2nd: Pho 14, various locations; dcpho14.com.
3rd: Pho Viet, 3513 14th St. NW; 202-629-2839, phovietwdc.com.
This B.Y.O.B. (bring your own beret) French restaurant turns brunch into a European vacation on the weekends, when D.C. dwellers linger over pastries and play Parisian. “The restaurant was designed to transport you to a different part of the world,” executive chef Michael Abt says. In keeping with French tradition, dishes are on the heavy side. “There’s a big focus on eggs and pastries in French cuisine,” Abt says. “It translates well to brunch.” H.S. 1601 14th St. NW; 202-332-3333.
2nd: Ted’s Bulletin, multiple locations.
3rd: Open City, 2331 Calvert St. NW; 202-332-2331 and 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-965-7670.
Best place to get food to share
Small plates have long been the trendy answer when we wish we could order a little of everything. And at this upscale Mediterranean spot from D.C. dining czar Jose Andres, that means you can enjoy a few bites of Middle Eastern classics like stuffed eggplant and expertly spiced lamb kebab, along with modern interpretations like crispy ouzo-battered catfish and veal tartare, all in the same meal. L.M. 701 Ninth St. NW; 202-638-0800.
2nd: Jaleo, multiple locations.
3rd: Cava Mezze, multiple locations.
Best restaurant for spice lovers
If a Doritos delivery truck crashed into a soy sauce factory, the flavor explosion would still pale in comparison to a meal at Rasika. Traditional Indian dishes like its famed palak chaat (fried spinach), black cod and tandoori chicken tikka are loaded with fresh herbs, spices and sauces that draw out bold flavors deep within the main ingredients. Don’t expect blinding heat, though: James Beard award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam’s menu focuses on flavorful ingredients with minimal firepower, such as mango chutney, mustard oil and cinnamon. H.S. 633 D St. NW; 202-637-1222 and 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-466-2500.
2nd: Little Serow, 1511 17th St. NW.
3rd: Thai X-ing, 515 Florida Ave. NW and 2020 Ninth St. NW; 202-332-4322.
In his seven years of business, Casey Patten has learned not to fiddle with people’s sandwiches. “When we originally started changing the menu, people would go crazy, like you stole their child,” says the co-founder of this local chain, now with 10 locations serving up monstrous Philly-style hoagies. This consistency, combined with ingredients like roasted pork and sauces made in-house, keep people coming
back to Taylor — including President Barack Obama, who’s been twice since taking office. H.S. Multiple locations.
2nd: SUNdeVICH, 1314 Ninth St. NW; 202-319-1086.
3rd: Bub and Pop’s, 1815 M St. NW; 202-457-1111.
If you close your eyes and bite into a chewy New York-style bagel from this shop, you can almost hear taxi horns and hollers of “I’m walkin’ here!” “We trained in New York,” explains owner Danny Fleishman, whose family has been making bagels professionally for more than 30 years. Both locations offer 20 bagel flavors daily plus a weekly special, such as raspberry and cranberry or lemon and
poppy seed. H.S. 4819 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-8990 and 1718 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-299-9399.
2nd: Bullfrog Bagels, 1341 H St. NE; 202-494-2609.
3rd: Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, 2055 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-4442.
Best fried food
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Bread? How boring. Astro makes its sandwiches on freshly made doughnuts. The fry shack
(and its food truck) serves fried chicken in an Old Bay-dusted doughnut and, earlier this year,
it introduced another hit: a breakfast doughnut sandwich with fried chicken, honey butter and hot sauce. Astro also sells doughnuts in gourmet flavors like creme brulee (their most popular) and PB&J. H.S. 1308 G St. NW; 202-809-5565 and 7511 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church; 703-356-0800.
2nd: Bonchon, multiple locations.
3rd: Amsterdam Falafelshop, multiple locations.
What started as a modest food truck has since grown into a chain of six brick-and-mortar operations across D.C. and Virginia. The secret to District Taco’s success? Offering a concise menu that allows these taco experts to give every ingredient the time and attention it needs. Case in point: The tilapia for the restaurant’s famed fish tacos (available Tuesdays, Fridays and weekends) are marinated for more than 12 hours before they’re grilled and served with homemade chipotle mayo. H.S. Multiple locations.
2nd: TaKorean, multiple locations.
3rd: El Camino, 108 Rhode Island Ave. NW; 202-847-0419.
Best place to grab a quick lunchBest place to go if you want to bring home leftoversBest place to eat lower on the food chain (vegetarian)Best place to eat when you’re drunk
Why is D.C. so obsessed with &pizza, winner of four categories this year? It could be all the options, ideal for those with dietary restrictions: You can choose from three kinds of dough, eight sauces and three cheeses, including a vegan one. Then you’re faced with a bar of 36 toppings, 28 of which are meat-free. If you’re totally overwhelmed, try one of the seven signature pizzas. Four are vegetarian, like the Moonstruck, with marinated mushrooms, salty goat cheese and sweet fig marsala sauce. “We’ve always been vegetarian- and vegan-friendly,” says founder Michael Lastoria, who himself is vegetarian. But maybe D.C. loves &pizza because itís fast: At the E Street location, the speediest of all, you can expect to wait in line for about 3.5 minutes, Lastoria says. Like magic, you’re presented with a piping hot, oval-shaped pie just for you ó but good luck finishing it in one go. “When our guests canít finish their pizza, we donít look at that as an opportunity to make a smaller pizza,” Lastoria says. Those giant pies might explain why the late-night crowd is so smitten. “Unlimited toppings for one price,” Lastoria says. ìWho doesn’t want that when you have a few beers in the tank?” S.M.D. Multiple locations.
2nd: Maggiano’s, multiple locations.
3rd: Ted’s Bulletin, multiple locations.
2nd: Busboys and Poets, multiple locations.
3rd: Rasika, 633 D St. NW; 202-637-1222 and 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-466-2500.
2nd: Amsterdam Falafelshop, multiple locations.
3rd: Ben’s Chili Bowl, multiple locations; benschilibowl.com.
2nd: Cava Grill, multiple locations.
3rd: Bub and Pop’s, 1815 M St. NW; 202-457-1111.
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