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The 50 Finest!

Culinary capital, indeed! From star-powered brasseries and elegant neighborhood bistros to extraordinary fare from the Balkans to Belgium and points beyond, introducing 50 of our favorite reasons to celebrate the almighty dish in DC. Consider yourself served.

Greg McCarty leads the culinary charge at Penn Quarter’s Nopa Kitchen + Bar, across from the National Portrait Gallery. 

Chef Bojan Bocvarov’s spinach risotto with baked shrimp at Ambar


Nopa Kitchen + Bar
Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj makes a stellar addition to his stable of winners, tapping Jean-Georges Vongerichten acolyte Greg McCarty to helm the kitchen of this American brasserie across from the National Portrait Gallery. Rice-floured soft-shell crab with avocado puree is heavenly, as is hamachi tartare with wasabi pea puree and pork and beef meatballs. The bright, refreshing radish salad with pineapple mint and feta is a summer’s dream. 800 F St. NW, 202.347.4667

Le Diplomate
Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr enters the DC market with a stunning French brasserie that looks, feels and tastes like it magically appeared from a Parisian sidewalk. Outsiders rarely get it right in DC, but Starr did. Not to miss: the divine bread, lush foie gras parfait, bay leaf-infused mussels and grand plateau seafood platter—arguably the best in town. 1601 14th St. NW, 202.332.3333

The Red Hen
Chef Mike Friedman, wine maven Sebastian Zutant from Proof and buddy Michael O’Malley teamed up to open this charming, quintessential neighborhood eatery in Bloomingdale. The place is richly casual, and Friedman’s take on provincial Italian food is subtly sophisticated. You’ll love the clams casino update, Tuscan chicken liver crostini and black linguine with clams. Take note of Zutant’s lovingly curated wine list. 1822 First St. NW, 202.525.3021

Bryan Voltaggio’s show-stopping 14,000-square-foot restaurant/market/confiserie opened last winter to a town full of skeptics who wondered how the chef could fill an enormous space so far from downtown. Well, guess what? He’s doing it—successfully. Owen Thomson cocktails and solid cooking keeps patrons coming back. 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202.803.8020

Owner Ivan Iricanin and chef Bojan Bocvarov make a splendid team at this contemporary Capitol Hill restaurant that presents foods of the Balkan Peninsula. Washingtonians instantly found this style of cooking to be a refreshing change of pace, willingly giving up mussels and charcuterie—at least for one night—for white veal soup, pork roulade, cevapi (beef and pork kebab) and pickled cabbage-stuffed sarma, and finishing their meals with rakia, a fermented fruit spirit that packs a wallop. 523 Eighth St. SE, 202.813.3039

People line up in the rain to await a coveted seat in this tiny Penn Quarter space owned by Daisuke Utagawa. Chef Katsuya Fukushima and his crew ladle up four kinds of Sapporo-style ramen in flavorful broth (the aged noodles are imported from Japan): shio, shoyu, mugi miso and vegetarian shio (salt, soy, barley miso). Upstairs, visit the izakaya, where the dishes are revelatory. Grilled avocado with ponzu and fresh wasabi thrills, and cucumber salad with fried garlic chips and rayu is an ode to the brilliance of restraint. 705 Sixth St. NW, 202.589.1600

B Too
Top Chef contestant Bart Vandaele’s 14th Street eatery—a sibling of Belga Café on Capitol Hill—features contemporary Belgian cooking in a sleek, modern setting. The downstairs is cozy and sexy, while the main floor is bright and bustling. Belgian specialties reign: moules-frites, Flemish beef stew with red cabbage and braised rabbit with prunes. Waffle options include savory (mussel, celery, green herb) and sweet (chocolate waffle with ice cream). 1324 14th St. NW, 202.627.2800

Chef Barry Koslow, and owners Nick and David Wiseman flip the delicatessen concept on its head by reimagining it as a bona fide restaurant with a top-notch beverage program (curated by Brian Zipin) and knee-weakening pastrami (cured by Koslow). 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202.293.4400

Welcome to the Little Serow of 14th Street—tiny, fabulous and sometimes impossible to get into. The culinary team mills the flour they use for the bread and pasta in the back of the restaurant. Shouldn’t that just say it all? You’ll adore the wood-burning pizza oven, delightful small plates and a buzzworthy Negroni. You can you tell that creator Tad Curtz used to work for Peter Pastan—his touches abound on this sparkler of a menu. 1541 14th St. NW, 202.232.0920

It’s challenging not to be single-mindedly obsessed with the brilliant Fiorentina steak by chef Jonathan Copeland, but don’t overlook other menu standouts, including roasted veal top round and cacciucco—fish and shellfish stew with white beans, escarole, saffron, tomato and red wine. Molto deliziosa! 1610 14th St. NW, 202.803.2389

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