Spicy-sour soup with pork spare ribs at Baan Thai. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

When people say Washington has finally become a restaurant town, what they really mean is that it’s finally become a chef-driven restaurant town. For years, the area has had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to mom-and-pop eateries founded by immigrants or by locals hungry for something cheap and good. Here are my favorites, in descending order:

1. Baan Thai

Located in an upstairs space that once hawked only Americanized sushi, Baan Thai has evolved into a destination for those who crave the authentic, clear-channel flavors of Thailand. 1326 14th St. NW. 202-588-5889. baanthaidc.com.


El Sol's cueritos tacos. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

2. El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria

Siblings Alfredo and Jessica Solis, vets of Passion Food Hospitality kitchens, have combined the technical obsessiveness of a chef-driven restaurant with the unadorned charms of a family-run taqueria. 1227 11th St. NW. 202-815-4789. elsol-dc.com.


Karaagedon at Donburi. (Joseph Victor Stefanchik/For The Washington Post)

3. Donburi

When Donburi opened in 2013, it introduced a serious counter-service Japanese restaurant to a neighborhood once known mostly for its cheap thrills. 2438 18th St. NW. 202-629-1047. facebook.com/donburidc.


The Moto white pizza at Pizza CS. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

4. Pizza CS

A certified member of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani America, Ankur Rajpara keeps a tight focus on the pies at this five-year-old Rockville pizzeria. 1596-B Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. 240-833-8090. pizzacs.com.


Spicy potato noodles at Northwest Chinese Food. (Farrah Skeiky/For The Washington Post)

5. Northwest Chinese Food

Go for the spicy potato noodles — a glistening pile of strands ignited with chili oil, garlic and aged Shaanxi vinegar — and stay for everything else at this rare spot for Liaoning Province cooking. 7313 Baltimore Ave., College Park, Md. 240-714-4473. No website.


Yassa chicken at Chez Dior. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

6. Chez Dior

The owners behind this suburban restaurant have made Senegalese cooking — a complex cuisine that draws from French, North African and Vietnamese cultures — at once approachable and irresistible. 5124 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville, Md. 240-696-5907. chezdior.com.


The Spicy ’Shroom Taco at Taco Bamba. (Marge Ely/For The Washington Post)

7. Taco Bamba

Chef Victor Albisu recently opened a second location in Vienna with more space and a full bar, but I still love the Falls Church original for its agenda: delivering creative tacos to an area dominated by chains. It’s not a mom-and-pop, but it tastes just as vibrant. 2190 Pimmit Dr., Falls Church, Va. 703-639-0505. tacobambarestaurant.com.


Pan-fried soup dumplings from Shanghai Taste. (Farrah Skeiky/For The Washington Post)

8. Shanghai Taste

The wait can be interminable on weekends as diners line up for Wei Sun’s pan-fried soup dumplings, but I prefer the chef’s steamed variety, with their impossibly thin wrappers that somehow hold back a rush of stock enriched with pork skin. 1121 Nelson St., Rockville, Md. 301-279-0806. No website.


Pork belly and lemongrass tofu banh mi sandwiches at Banh Ta Deli. (Farrah Skeiky/For The Washington Post)

9. Banh Ta Deli

The Eden Center’s best banh mi shop was expected, as of press time, to reopen in early October with an expanded menu, similar to the one the owners used to execute at Green Papaya, the painfully underrated restaurant in Bethesda. 6783 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, Va. 703-532-1069. No website.

10. Queen of Sheba

Increasingly overshadowed by its trendy Shaw neighbors, this unassuming spot has been producing some of the finest Ethiopian fare in the District for more than a decade. 1503 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-7272. No website.