In the three years that we've compiled Washingtonians' favorite dishes, we've described burgers, tacos and Pop-Tarts with all sorts of flowery adjectives. "Funky" has never been among them.

This year, several chefs reached for that word to describe the unique sour, salty and sweet mashups that filled the list. Take, for example, Rose's Luxury's pork and litchi salad, with its bits of chewy fruit, bitter garlic and foamy coconut; the salt-brined beef at Duke's Grocery, topped with house-made mustard so pungent you taste it with all five senses; or Astro's crème brûlée doughnut, with its whiff of burnt sugar.

Readers pointed the way, via e-mail and Twitter, to these weird little gems of the District's dining scene, as they have since we began this evolving project. Also weighing in this year were some of the city's notable food lovers and, for the first time, Post staffers including food critic Tom Sietsema.

In 2014, readers and staff gave the most nominations to restaurants within the District's borders, not surprising considering the explosion of the dining scene on 14th Street, in Shaw and in Northeast. (Nearly three-quarters of the dishes come from restaurants that opened in the past two years.) Korean, Italian and even Balkan plates populated what could be the most diverse list we've ever created. Bacon and burgers seemed to have lost some of their greasy luster, as cauliflower and tofu enjoy their day in the sun. Inventive desserts also won more nominations this year, a sure sign that the pastry chef is ascendant.

But mostly, this year's list of 40 essential dishes, presented here in no particular order, is funky, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

See 2013's Essential Eats


See 2012's Essential Eats