Capital Eats: Slate-sters Dish on Their Favorite D.C. Restaurants

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June 11 2014 10:14 AM
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Some Capital Eats

Slate-sters dish on their favorite restaurants in Washington, D.C.

DC Watercolor Map.
Washington, D.C.

Illustration by Stamen Design

Let Slate be your guide to the nation’s Capital! Jumping off of the New York office’s round-up of the best restaurants in Brooklyn (those hipsters), we asked D.C.-based Slate-sters to pick the best eats in Washington, D.C. – Jeff Friedrich, Slate Plus editor

Laura Helmuth, science and health editor, recommends:

Glen’s Garden Market (Dupont Circle): This grocery store north of Dupont Circle carries only locally sourced food. When I read about this business plan, I assumed the shop was doomed to failure. Then I read about the bar. They have excellent local brews for $4 a pint, generous charcuterie and cheese boards, humongous warm pretzels with cheese sauce, and plenty of sandwiches, sausages, and pizzas. The best place in D.C. for a low-fuss happy hour.

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Mitsitam Cafe: The café at the Museum of the American Indian is the best place to eat—nothing comes close—on the National Mall. It’s a cafeteria/ food court with five stations representing various regions (Great Plains, Northern Woodlands, etc.). Try the wild rice and watercress salad, the pulled buffalo sandwich, the haunch of javelina when they have it (and let me know if they do so I can dash down there to get some), the three sisters salad (corn, squash, beans), and oh my goodness the venison mincemeat pie. Delicious, and it’s all supposed to be educational!

Rasika (Penn Quarter and West End): If you’re planning to visit D.C., make reservations at Rasika NOW. It’s Indian but unlike any Indian you’ve ever eaten, with absurdly clever, surprising, complex, and delicious dishes. It has a lovely dining room and very solicitous service, but it’s not at all stuffy.

Several other Slate-sters also recommended Rasika:

Founder Ashok Bajaj is more famous for the Bombay Club, the restaurant near the White House that’s become home to many anecdotes. (It’s where Monica Lewinsky confronted Maureen Dowd about the nasty things she’d been writing.) But this restaurant’s even better, with delicious and adventurous takes on a cuisine that’s good even when you do it cheap. —  David Weigel, political reporter

The palak chaat—flash-fried spinach with yogurt and tamarind sauce—is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. —  David Stern, director of product development

Megan Wiegand, copy editor, recommends:

Right Proper Brewing Company (Shaw): Right Proper opened late last year on the coattails of D.C.’s burgeoning beer scene, but it’s quickly established itself as one of the best of the bunch. The gastropub offers a range of beers (alongside wine on tap and a full bar) to appease hop-lovers and Belgian snobs alike, and its Southern-style food can’t be missed.

The Pretzel Bakery (Capitol Hill): This one-window, outside-seating-only gem is tucked away in the eastern reaches of Capitol Hill, but it’s well worth the stop if you’re prowling around Eastern Market or touring the Capitol. Try an everything pretzel with spicy mustard or a sweet pretzel with Nutella. 

ChurchKey (Logan Circle): Do you love craft beer? Good. Go here.

Josh Keating, staff writer, recommends:

Duke’s Grocery (Dupont Circle): This recently opened, supposedly-but-not-really-very-British place on 17th Street has quickly become one of my standbys. The menu is always changing, but the burgers, sandwiches, and salads are always great, the weekend brunch is great, the drink selection is great, the outside patio is great, the service is ... idiosyncratic. It’s often a little unclear which tables are open or which menu items they’re actually serving at any given time, but that’s part of the charm so just roll with it, you uptight D.C. dweeb!

David Stern, director of product development, recommends:

Bub and Pop's (Dupont Circle): Great Philly-style sandwich shop—and this is coming from a vegetarian who only has two options when he goes there.

Room 11 (Columbia Heights): Super small and intimate setting, delicious farm-to-table style American food.

John Dickerson, chief political correspondent, recommends:

Corduroy (Mt. Vernon Square): Creative, but not too creative. Lovely atmosphere.

Table (Mt. Vernon Square): Sit on the roof deck in spring. Fresh food. Grilled Octopus. Yum.

Et Voila (Palisades): Crowded and noisy but the steak au poivre is delicious, mussels too are always good.

James Dasinger, systems administrator, recommends:

Toki Underground (H Street NE): Absurd wait times (I’ve never actually eaten in the restaurant), but they have takeout. This place is a good example of Gordon Ramsay’s maxim that you don’t need tons of things on the menu, you just need a few things done well.

Sweet Mango (Petworth): This place goes to show that terrible wait times, messed up orders, and surly staff don’t matter if you make incredible chicken. Sweet Mango, I wish I knew how to quit you.

Abby McIntyre, copy editor, recommends:

Smoke and Barrel (Adams Morgan): Excellent barbecue and even more excellent beer choices make this a destination spot for weekend brunch or a late-night dinner.

Bethesda Bagels (Dupont Circle): Best bagels in D.C. hands down. A great spot to stop for breakfast or lunch (I recommend the BLT) on your way to the office. Or, if you're sightseeing, enjoy a break in the shade of Dupont Circle while you eat.

Jamelle Bouie, staff writer, recommends:

DCity Smokehouse (Bloomingdale/Eckington): The best barbecue in the city limits.

Heidi Strom Moon, product manager, recommends:

Firefly (Dupont): Lots of places do truffle fries. None are better than here.

David Plotz, editor, recommends:

Teaism (Dupont Circle and other locations): A teashop with unexpectedly delicious, eclectic Asian food. And the salty oat cookies—often imitated, never equaled. 

Black Salt (Palisades): Sit at the bar with wife, eat small plates of fish, bouillabaisse, run into John Dickerson. 

Emily Yoffe, Dear Prudence columnist, recommends:

Lebanese Taverna (Woodley Park and other locations): There are several outposts of this restaurant around the area. I’ve never had a bad dish! I’ve used them to cater parties, and everyone raves about the food.

Range (Friendship Heights): My whole family loved watching local chef Bryan Voltaggio compete on Top Chef. He is a star, and we’ve had wonderful meals at Range. Definitely order the Brussels sprouts.

Ripple (Woodley Park): A delightful, small restaurant with a well-trained staff. The arugula soup, a recent special, was spectacular. 

Estadio (Logan Circle): A couple of years ago we went to Spain and flipped for the food, especially the tapas. Estadio will make you feel like you are there. 

Chad Lorenz, news editor, recommends:

Zaytinya (Chinatown): Wonderful variety of Turkish and Greek small plates, served up flawlessly in a charming space.

Dave Weigel, political reporter, recommends:

Great Wall (Logan Circle): A hole in the wall that looks more and more hole-esque as its surroundings (14th Street) keep improving. The Szechuan menu (you have to ask for it) is as good as Chinese food gets, fish and tofu and pork that swim in delicious spices. Onetime ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has been spotted getting takeout here so that’s worth something.

Hitching Post (Petworth): Of all the stellar soul food places around D.C.­—gentrifiers are in no hurry to push them out—this is the most reliable and the most homey.

Nicole L. Cvetnić, multimedia producer for The Root, recommends:

Restaurant Nora (Dupont Circle): It was the first certified organic restaurant! The food is the epitome of farm-to-table and is different everyday, depending on what is in season and available from local farms. Everything tastes excellent and their wine list is wonderful.

Le Diplomate (Logan Circle): High. Quality. Food. For being as large and as busy as it always is, every dish appears (and tastes) as if it were individually created with a lot of time and thought.

Bistrot du Coin (Dupont Circle): Delightful French food. Again, high quality and extremely authentic.

Ryan Vogt, copy editor, recommends:

Lalibela (Logan Circle): “Comfort food” doesn’t usually put me in mind of African cuisine, but the cabbage and gomen at Lalibela, the restaurant that introduced me to Ethiopian food, would be a fine substitute for a downhome Midwestern dinner.

Further afield:

Megan Wiegand recommends:

Kabob Palace (Crystal City, Virginia). Nothing fancy, just amazingly delicious kabobs and naan. 

James Dasinger recommends:

Mokomandy (Sterling, Virginia): Odd concept, but the roast beef sliders are so good they’ll make you want to slap your mama. Blows away other D.C.-area restaurants (Rasika, Zaytinya, Jaleo, etc.) that people commonly say are great.

Ryan Vogt recommends:

El Paso Cafe (Arlington, Virginia): In the D.C. area, it can be hard to find Mexican food that isn’t just mislabeled Salvadoran food, but El Paso Cafe has the real deal. The sopa de pollo is perfect with a few shakes of Cholula in the broth, and El Paso’s smoky salsa is better than I’ve had at any restaurant in my home state of Texas.

Woodlands (Langley Park, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia): Order the paper dosa, a supersized version of the South Indian staple, and the rolled-up crepe that arrives at your table looks more like an origami canon, or perhaps a Ricola alphorn, than something to eat. But with an assist from Woodlands’ wonderful coconut chutney, you'll bring it down to size in no time.

Emily Yoffe recommends:

Faryab (Bethesda, Maryland): I didn’t know anything about Afghan food until I started coming here. Everything is delicious and fresh, the portions are generous, the prices reasonable, the staff lovely. You will all fight over the chalow kadu—stewed pumpkin.

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