The 15 Best Restaurants In Washington DC, 2023 Edition

The capital of the U.S. features many attractions that make it a renowned tourist destination. But one of the reasons why this city remains so popular is due to its bustling food scene. Washington, D.C., features several diverse types of cuisine that some might be surprised to find, including staples and hidden favorites that residents all know and love. Locals are familiar with the wide variety of assorted styles, and still, more pop up as new places open. There are restaurants that boast Ethiopian, Mexican, Cuban, Chinese, American, and many more cuisines for foodies to enjoy. 

This list looks at the top fifteen restaurants in Washington, D.C., picking out those that stand out for menu options, cuisine, cocktails, aesthetics, and much more. Whether you're a DMV native, resident, or someone visiting the area, make it a point to check out these locations when it is time to sit down for a great meal.

1. Maiz 64

Maiz 64, with a name that plays off the Spanish translation of corn, offers a menu built around traditional authentic Mexican dishes from start to finish. Located on 14th Street in Northwest D.C., Maiz 64 is within a popular entertainment area of Washington, D.C. The location is perfect for those starting a night out on the town, as many clubs and bars are within walking distance. 

Dinner and brunch menus are available with similar options on both. Appetizers begin with standard items such as tacos with fish, broccoli, or asada, and other small options are available, such as potatoes, flautas, and guacamole. The entrée portion of the menu features a variety of options that can please nearly any customer, such as the yellow mole soup for vegetarians, a "Catch of the Day" selection for seafood lovers, and a variety of meats such as duck, chicken, and pork dishes. The Maiz 64 menu also features a rotating selection of unique cocktails, along with a full bar to order other mixed drinks to your liking. 

2. Rasika

Rasika boasts modern Indian cuisine at its two locations in Washington, D.C., both within the Northwest Corridor. Both locations have won accolades, such as OpenTable listing it as one of the best 100 restaurants in the United States, and entrance into the D.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Both locations are meant for more "upscale" dining, featuring low lighting and tables covered in white cloth, and there's even a section where you can watch the chefs make your food. Even though Rasika is considered an upscale restaurant, it does not require a dress code, making it more accessible for last-minute diners.

The menus vary slightly between the two locations, but both are based on the practice of shared plates. The West End location's menu begins with a variety of kebabs, before moving on to items like fish chili garlic, halibut and red snapper, chicken tikka, Kolkata chicken, and much more. Entrées over at the Penn Quarter location include lamb chops, black cod, and chicken green marsala. If you're struggling to pick out the right meal, check out the tasting menu available at both spots, where you can try out a variety of portions from the kitchen. Both locations have full bars that include unique drinks and mixed cocktails.

3. Makan

Under head chef James Wozniuk, Makan's appeal is the offering of three different venues under one roof. If you're looking to watch the big game in a sports bar, grab a sit-down meal, or take your food to go, this is the place to visit.

First, there's the restaurant itself, Makan, where the menu is based on Malaysian cuisine and culture. The meals are based on sharable items, such as mixed rice dishes and noodles; options like Chinese pork jerky, fried yuca, and mango salad stand out as openers. The mixed rice dishes include fried chicken, dry beef curry, and skate wing curry. Then, there's Spicebird, a delivery-only restaurant, with an entire menu based on spice-rubbed chicken and sides. And finally, there's Thirsty Crow, a neighborhood sports bar that features small bites based on an East-Asian menu. Here the food options are simple, such as shrimp chips, berempah potatoes, and spring rolls, along with bigger options like the chef's bowl, dan dan mian, and the ganja hot chicken sandwich. If you're looking for a spot to watch big sports events like the UFC without a cover, Thirsty Crow is the place to be.

Makan is a great starting point if you're heading out for an evening of fun, located near several popular nightlife locations in Northwest D.C. near the U-Street Corridor. The variety of offerings at Makan gives you plenty of reasons to try it — you can visit this restaurant and have a different taste experience each time.

4. Thip Khao

Thip Khao can easily be missed in one of the city's busiest sections. Here, Lao cuisine is the focus, and meals are available both for dine-in and take-out.

The menu features an array of selections from appetizers, salads, soups, noodles, entrees, and the "Jungle Menu." For example, the sai oua is an appetizer featuring spicy pork sausage and charred green chili sauce. Then there are options like the kua mee noodle soup, which includes wok-tossed thin rice noodles, fish sauce caramel, and egg omelet. The entrees are bigger dishes that can be enjoyed alone or shared, but the jungle menu is quite unique: Take the laab e kae, starring alligator meat with toasted rice, or the hu muu todd, a dish with crispy pig ears in tamarind salt. Thip Khao also has unique cocktails available like the Vientiane paradise, bai toey old fashion, as well as more conventional beverages.

Even with such a unique menu, Thip Khao is an inexpensive restaurant, but that doesn't take away from the quality of food., and this low-key venue doesn't demand reservations or a dress code. Thip Khao can become crowded, though, even with its outdoor patio, which is frequently packed during the warmer months. As one of only two restaurants in the city featuring Lao cuisine, it is a must-visit location to try new dishes. 

5. L' Ardente

If you're in Washington, D.C., and looking for Italian cuisine, L' Ardente is the perfect spot. This is a big location best suited for small groups or couples, and while the setup can give way to crowded evenings that can get loud, the menu makes up for it.

The apps begin with options such as the duck hunt ravioli, arancini, and la perla. Five different styles of pizza are available, including the Margherita, Americana, funghi, bianca, and fuoco. Antipasti dishes include gamberi, polpo, verdure grigliate, and carote. The pasta portion of the menu is extremely popular, with selections like the rigatoni alla carbonara, linguine ai frutti di mare, and classics like ravioli, spaghetti al pomodoro fresco, and lasagna. The seafood offerings are also strong, with dishes like lobster thermidor and grilled branzino. There's a full cocktail menu, and you can also request mixed drinks directly from the bar. 

L'Ardente has won several awards in recent years, highlighting that it's a must-visit D.C. restaurant. For example, Eater awarded the location the 2022 D.C Restaurant of the Year, and The RAMMY Awards recognized it as the Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year in 2023. This is an excellent option if you enjoy eating at finer restaurants. 

6. Oyamel

Oyamel is a popular Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. It was brought to the city by well-known celebrity chef, Jose Andres, and boasts a menu filled with traditional dishes and drinks. 

Oyamel is known for the variety of tacos served in hand-made corn tortillas made fresh daily. They include flavorful options like the taco de lengua, which features braised beef tongue with salsa, white onion, and cilantro. Other creative choices range from the pescado baja California, which contains seasonal fish, and cabbage, to the vegetarian hongos en molito, with wild mushrooms and poblano peppers. The drink menu at Oyamel also stands out as it features more than 100 options for tequila and mezcal, allowing you to try out some tastes you won't experience elsewhere. 

Oyamel is featured on this list because of the sheer diversity of the menu. There's something for everyone who enjoys Mexican food and drink. Its location is right near Chinatown, within walking distance to many popular bars, clubs, and the Capital One Arena, if you're looking for a meal before or drinks after a game. This location gets crowded and loud, making it perfect for a night out with friends or a date.

7. Albi

Chef Michael Rafidi opened Albi in February 2020, featuring a menu based on Palestinian cuisine. There aren't many restaurants in Washington, D.C., that offer authentic meals from Palestine, and those looking to taste more options from around the world, or immigrants from that part of the world, can get a taste of home here.

The offerings include meals such as the Maryland crab hummus and smoked goat shawarma, a Mezze section of the menu that features dishes like rockfish charred in grape leaves, and Mashawi options such as bbq lamb kebob and branzino grilled over coals. If you're interested in being surprised with your dish, check out the Sofra menu, which translates to "a table set for you," where the chefs prepare a unique meal based on the best ingredients available from that season. Albi has several unique cocktails on the menu. For example, there is the jaffa crush, which is a vodka-based drink, the "tales of the spice trader" is a rye whiskey cocktail, and the za'atar-tini, another cocktail built around vodka and vermouth. 

Albi is on this list because it features such a unique cuisine, but the decor of Albi is also beautiful, making it a sight to see — and perfect for those who love to flood their social media feeds while out dining. 

8. Chang Chang

Chang Chang offers two restaurants with Chinese cuisine in one. Chang-In is a full-service dine-in restaurant, while Chang-Out is a traditional carryout option. Chang Chang offers the more popular Chinese options, but also some that many may not have experienced.

Chang-In offers a series of appetizers, sharable items based on meat, rice, noodles, and vegetarian options. That list includes options like the mala beef jerky, garlic cucumber salad, and the four-flavor cold platter, which brings out all four of the appetizers for those looking to taste a bit of everything. There's a small plate selection with dishes that can be shared, like the three seafood hot pot, walnut prawns, sesame beef, and more. 

Chang-Out is for those looking for delivery or takeout. The menu features many of the options available on the Chang-In menu, with some differences. For example, the hot pepper pig feet, Mongolian beef, and dry pot baby potatoes are three items exclusive to the dine-out menu. Chang-Out also has some variety in the appetizer section, including hot options to go along with the four cold dishes. Poultry and seafood are also available for those looking to get their meal to go.

9. Opal

Opal focuses on traditional American dishes, opened by chefs Colin McClimans and Danilo Simic, and features meals made with fresh items from the American coastline. Located on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest, this is a terrific location for someone looking to take a distinctive look at traditional American cuisine.

Opal's menu is based on set courses. For example, the simple supper selection is a tasting menu where you select your main course, and the chefs build the rest of your meal around it with shareable options for the table. The main courses include additional items like the dry-aged roseda beef striploin, East Coast halibut filet, and coppa ham steak. There's also a full bar for mixed drinks and unique cocktails, like triple b or Marcus's caipirinha.

Opal features many American dishes that customers will likely recognize, but its unique touches allow them to stand out over other restaurants, making it a great place for a date night or brunch with several friends. The bar is also another attraction for this venue, with a menu that changes frequently, focusing on unique cocktail tastes.

10. Perry's Restaurant

Perry's Restaurant is the location to hit for sushi lovers in Washington, D.C. Located in the popular Adams Morgan, Japanese chef Masako Morishita leads everything from the kitchen. 

The menu features many classic sushi and raw items for dinner or brunch. The starters begin with options like pork gyoza dumplings, garlic edamame dumplings, and okonomiyaki. The sushi section has a decent variety, such as salmon poke, Perry's ceviche, and spicy shiromi grudo, while entrées star garlic fried rice, Wagyu taco rice bowl, and miso butter clams. If you're still not sure what to order, there's an option to have the chef do all the work for you, including picking out 15 pieces of assorted fresh fish on top of sushi rice with vegetables and a sweet omelet. Perry's also has a selection of beverages, including Japanese-inspired cocktails, like the geisha girl, dragonfly, and Japanese twist, as well as more traditional drinks.

Perry's Restaurant features a low-cost menu and doesn't require reservations, or a dress code, making it more accessible to those that frequent this area of the city. With several bars and clubs in the area, Perry's Restaurant is a great starting point for a night out, or brunch if you are visiting more places after your meal.

11. Rooster & Owl

Located in Northwest D.C., Rooster & Owl is an interesting addition to the list of top restaurants in Washington, D.C. This restaurant isn't about a menu packed with multiple options to choose from. Instead, the chef takes that responsibility out of your hands, creating a four-course menu for you to enjoy.

For $95 per patron, the meal starts with appetizer options that include tzatziki salad, heirloom tomatoes, tuna tartare, and scallop crudo. From there, the next course comprises squid salad, "banh mi," scallion naan, or blistered shishitos. Then comes the next course, which includes cacio e-lote, striped bass, pan-roasted quail, and dry-aged strip. The final course of desserts features hummingbird cake, panna cotta, cheesecake, and chocolate cremeux. Upgrades are available, which include adding wine pairings or going with caviar and champagne. The menu changes during seasonal adjustments, meaning the courses will switch up from time to time. 

In 2021, Rooster & Owl was recognized for its greatness with one star from "The Michelin Guide." This location is featured on this list because of the can't-miss menu, with so many different meals that most would not experience otherwise. 

12. Bresca

Bresca is a D.C. restaurant that brings cuisine flare from France and mixes in some local flavoring. The unique take found throughout the menu has helped Bresca be included in the Michelin guide four years in a row.

The Chef's Tasting and Prix Fixe menus are the main event offerings. Starting at $158 per person, the Chef's Tasting features an assortment of items, including the Maryland peach, English snow pea tart, short rib cavatelli, and Australian wagyu, all presented in courses for each person in the party. High rollers can add caviar, foie gras, and duck a la presse. Alternatively, the Prix Fixe menu allows customers to choose how many courses they want at varying costs, all lower than the Chef's Tasting, ranging from two to four courses, with items mostly the same as those on the Chef's Tasting menu, though not as extensive. Wine pairings are of course available, at varying prices, and unique cocktails and mixed drinks are also on offer. 

Bresca is featured on this list because of its beautiful decor that fits well for anyone looking to take pictures along with their meal. While expensive, the setup of the menu makes it easy to pick out a meal you'd enjoy from a diverse set of options. 

13. Anju

Anju brings a unique take on Korean cuisine and mixes it in with the traditional bar setting in Northwest Washington, D.C. There are several smaller dishes on the menu for those looking to pick up a smaller bite. Those options include mandu, with pork and kimchi dumplings, or the chikin, a half-fried chicken, spicy gochujang glaze, and white bbq drizzle.

The main courses bring out the larger items for an increased cost. Take the honghap tang, which includes mussels, dashima broth, and noodles. The kale bokkeumbap is for seafood lovers, comprising wok-fried rice, shrimp, scallops, squid, curry, egg, mushroom, and potato. The brunch menu is an assortment of items found both on the dinner menu and others, like the kimchi burger, grilled kalbi and eggs, and crawfish juk. Phil's Lemonade Stand is the feature of the brunch menu, with several unique drinks on the menu. 

Anju is a great location to take a date and begin the night out. The uniqueness of the menu is a big plus, but even if you're just looking to grab a different type of drink, Anju is a spot that should be on your list.

14. Lutece

Lutece is another location in Washington, D.C., that brings French cuisine to the city. Located in Northwest D.C., Lutece offers dinner during the week and brunch on the weekends. The menu changes frequently, so be sure to check the menu online for recent additions. 

As of mid-2023, the menu features classic items such as dry-aged steak tartare, grilled squid, Amish chicken, and black bass. There are options priced to fit most wallets, ranging from $7 for the marinated olives to $52 for the golden osetra caviar. The Chef's Table is the main event at Lutece: Two to four guests are sat in front of the kitchen where they are offered a four-course meal, with a wine pairing is available upon request, and the chefs select the best available items to prepare based on the freshest ingredients. Lutece also offers unique cocktails, such as the mystery in swing, containing scotch, the tequila-based isla del encanto, suze & soda, and the ginny it's not easy being o-vert. There are also beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks available.

Lutece is an attraction for the Georgetown area of the city, making it a great place to eat if you enjoy fancy dining along with shopping. The Chef's Table menu makes fine dining easy, without the stress of knowing what to pick. This is also a good place for those looking for healthier, natural ingredients in their meals. 

15. St. Anselm

St. Anselm brings American cuisine back to the forefront in Northeast DC. St. Anselm features a lunch, midday, and dinner menu — with a wide assortment across each. 

The midday menu is the smallest of the three, featuring salads, snacks, and smaller meals like the cheeseburger and crispy chicken sandwich. Things pick up with the lunch menu, as more options are added to each section. This is when the grill comes out to play, with the prime N.Y. strip, salmon collar, dorade, and butcher's steak all on offer. Dinner breaks out the full menu: Along with the appetizers, there are several small items from the grill, such as the monster prawn, salmon collar, thick-cut heritage bacon, and mushroom toast. The larger items on the grill include all the steaks available during lunch, plus the addition of signature dishes like the 18-ounce prime t-bone, charred bobo chicken, and ax-handle ribeye. The beverage list features a big set of classic and unique cocktails, while bottled and canned beer, along with wine by the glass, are also available for pairing with your meal.

If you are a steak lover, St. Anselm is a great place for you. The offerings from the grill and the diversity of cuts would be a big attraction for anyone who loves steak, chicken, or other meat-based meals.