Your guide to the best new restaurants in Chocolate City.Less
Your Only Friend, a sandwich shop in Mt. Vernon Triangle, is our favorite place to sit down and spill secrets over lunch. While there’s a counter-service carryout, walk past and grab a bar seat. Or plop down on one of the nook-like tables where TLC’s “Creep” plays just loud enough to make your emergency lunch meet-up feel like a closed-door meeting. The menu is full of thick-stuffed sandwiches like our personal favorite, Chicky Pep No 2, a breaded chicken sandwich smothered in melted cheese.
DC is no stranger to faux French bistros, but Union Market’s Pastis (of NYC and Miami fame) is a welcome addition to the ever-growing list. The menu mixes well-made classics with French-adjacent food, like a juicy cheeseburger with caramelized onions that taste like they came fresh out of a soup. But most importantly, Pastis doesn’t take itself too seriously. The soundtrack jumps from Rihanna to Lou Reed to Don Omar—no ”La Vie En Rose” here. Come for a casual date night or a dinner with friends.
After eating at Omakase @ Barracks Row, you’ll never look at sushi the same way, again. The Japanese spot’s 21-course meal combines fatty buttery yellowtail that melts the moment it touches your tongue, impeccably tempered sardines, and did-you-catch-this–this-morning bluefin tuna that'll leave you incredibly full yet secretly wishing for another 21 rounds. Everyone dines together (the room seats just 14 people all at the bar) as the staff and chef guide you through each dish.
Union Market’s pizza game is a lot stronger thanks to Parachute Pizza. The stall’s crispy Sicilian pizza comes in seven different combinations, but our favorite is the Spicy Boii, which is covered in pepperoni, pickled chilis, and hot honey. Our New York friends would still roll their eyes, but it’s pretty good pizza for DC standards. While the whole pies are pricey—they range from $36-46—they’re gooey, the fresh crust is buttery and crunchy, and they’re better than the slices which can be dry.
You’re no Prince Akeem, but you’ll feel a little like ‘80s royalty eating at Mélange Burger. This Shaw carryout-only spot is in the same location as Doro Soul Food and has a short but sweet menu: four smashburgers with thin, crispy patties that will satisfy any fast food craving you’re having, plus a side of fries. The McDowell, based off of the restaurant in Coming To America, is the best of the bunch and is full-on special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun.
This Greek restaurant is one of the most romantic spots we’ve ever been to, mostly thanks to the dozens of large candles lining the dimly lit front hall and bar. And with shareable small plates like the must-order melizanosalata and tirokafteri, you and your date will be swooning over each other (and the food) before the end of the bread course. Philotimo is also a great space for a girls night out or family dinner where you can split bottles of Greek wines or order a round of craft cocktails.
You don’t expect to find steak frites and tenderly braised duck confit at your neighborhood cafe, but at Hiraya that’s what you get. The H Street counter-service coffee bar offers an assortment of drinks and pastries with a Filipino twist like adobo chocolate chip cookies and caramelized banana lattes. But it's the cafe's food platters that will have you glued to their wicker basket seats.
The Le Diplomate empire has gotten a little bigger, and El Presidente in Union Market is proof that everyone has room to grow. The Mexican spot is full of animated sharks, crustaceans, and peculiar one-eyed creatures set against red and blue walls. Like Le Dip, it’s the kind of place you meet up with friends for lunch or dinner or use to impress your out of town guests. But the food here, like the blue-crab guacamole and tuna tostada made with creamy cuts of yellowfin, is better.
Kyojin Sushi in Georgetown is one of those restaurants where the food is so perfect, you won't care what’s going on around you. The dimly lit spot is full of concrete and exposed brick offset by extravagant murals of Japanese art. Get the Kyojin roll, lobster tempura served alongside popcorn lobster all covered in a tangy mustard sauce, which is delicious. And The Winner, a bluefin tuna and BBQ eel dish, has a bold depth of flavor thanks to the pink ginger sauce.