It’s that time of year again, when we look back and reflect on which restaurants made an impact on Washington’s rapidly burgeoning dining scene. And we had a big year, no doubt — from being named Zagat’s and Bon Appétit’s top food city in the country to gaining a slew of Michelin stars, DC reveled in much-deserved recognition in 2016. Here are 10 newcomers that stand out for their contributions to the DC culinary landscape, either by challenging our views of fine dining or pushing the boundaries — literally — by moving into less sexy (but undoubtedly up-and-coming) neighborhoods.
This Northend Shaw standout features the fantastical creations of chef Rob Rubba, who says he’s often inspired by the mash-up of ingredients found in the pantry he shares with his Korean-American wife. One such experiment includes gnocchi sauced with a porky riff on Korean bokki. His drive to bend culinary traditions is a great example of what’s happening in DC kitchens right now.
Must-order: Grandma’s zucchini bread with foie gras mousse; steak tartare; sticky-crunchy ribs
808 V St. NW; 202-847-4980
Pineapple & Pearls
Chef-owner Aaron Silverman turned fine dining on its head with the February opening of Pineapple & Pearls next door to Rose’s Luxury. This jewel box of a restaurant housed behind his daytime coffee shop of the same name offers an ever-changing tasting menu of 10–12 courses (some with more than one dish), with a pay-before-you-dine price tag that includes food, drinks, tax and tip. Bar seating (covering everything but à la carte pours) is also available.
Must-order: Just show up and prepare to be dazzled.
715 Eighth St. SE; 202-595-7375
Tail Up Goat
When three alums from Komi and Little Serow teamed up to open Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan, there were a few dishes that raised our eyebrows. Seaweed sourdough? Octopus ragù? Charred chocolate rye with salt-crusted sardines? But once the dining room opened in February, we went from intrigued to fully converted. Serious kudos to partners Jon Sybert, who is also the chef; service manager Jill Tyler; and Bill Jensen, who curated a killer wine list.
Must-order: Seaweed sourdough; lamb ribs for two; cavatelli with spicy pork ragù
1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW; 202-986-9600
Former CityZen chef Eric Ziebold brought pomp and circumstance back to fine dining at this cozy yet formal den below its street-level sib, Kinship. Diners descend into the space via elevator, creating some drama as the doors open to reveal a salon where hors d’oeuvres are served, before moving into the intimate, 36-seat dining room for a seven-course meal. Adding to the special-occasion feel, there’s a jacket requirement for men.
Must-order: It’s a tasting menu, so prepare to put your evening in the hands of a master.
1015 Seventh St. NW; 202-737-7500
Anxo Cidery & Pintxos Bar
Not only did a team of cider enthusiasts bring traditional Basque dining and drinking to DC — a trend we’re sure will catch on like wildfire — they did it in the newly flourishing Truxton Circle neighborhood. You’ll find pintxos — the Basque version of tapas, often skewered and intended to pair well with cider — lining the bar, and diners waiting for a table can select a few to nibble on for $1.50–$5 each. You’ll also find larger plates and a bevy of ciders from around the globe, including Spain, France and the States. The restaurant (pronounced AHN-cho) also has cachet as the city’s first licensed winery since Prohibition.
Must-order: Montadito topped with eggplant, roasted pepper and anchovy; stuffed squid; fried pig ears
300 Florida Ave. NW; 202-986-3795
Sweet Home Café
It’s more important than ever to reflect on our nation’s past and ruminate on where we’re going — and there’s no tastier way to do just that than a visit to Sweet Home Café inside the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture. The cafe dishes up homestyle plates representative of four regions rich with African American culture and cuisine — Agricultural South, Creole Coast, North States and Western Range. Every dish here tells a story, such as an outstanding oyster pan roast that references a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Must-order: Fried chicken platter; oyster pan roast; shrimp and grits
1400 Constitution Ave. NW; 202-633-4751
The Shaw Bijou
After a few years cooking on Top Chef, at the James Beard House and in the White House, chef Kwame Onwuachi opened his first restaurant, an ambitious bar and kitchen in Shaw. The fine-dining experience follows the new trend of ticketed reservations, available through the restaurant’s website for a 13-course extravaganza (not including tax, tip or drinks).
Must-order: From the opening menu, we most enjoyed the black clams on the half shell smothered in caviar and served with a rice cracker dabbed with complementary sauces.
1544 Ninth St. NW; 202-800-0640
Let’s be real — vegan food is a tough sell for most meat eaters, mainly because it’s not as easy to tease flavor and satisfaction from a plant-based meal. That said, locally owned Shouk shows it’s far from impossible to make soulful vegan fare. The Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern–inspired spot is also an excellent example of how Washingtonians continue to innovate and play with the fast-casual model of serving great food.
Must-order: Cauliflower-stuffed pita; fennel and potato stuffed pita; beet tahini with pita
655 K St. NW; 202-652-1464
Local restaurant royalty Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, the team that brought us the ever-popular Fiola, Fiola Mare and Casa Luca, very recently opened this pasta-focused venture in Van Ness. With few exceptions, the neighborhood lacked quality food options, and Sfoglina might signal that Bread Furst, found just across the street, kicked off a renaissance on an otherwise sad stretch of Connecticut Avenue Northwest. Look for the namesake sfoglina — Italian for “pasta maker” — at work in the open pasta kitchen to the left of the entrance.
Must-order: Wagyu bresaola over parsnip purée; beef agnolotti del plin; caramelized white chocolate custard
4445 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-450-1312
The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse
You’re going to be hearing a lot about Ivy City over the next few years, and that’s due in large part to the Hecht Building development and an influx of cool food and drink options like One Eight Distilling, Cotton & Reed and Ari’s Diner. But it was the opening of Ivy City Smokehouse that had everyone buzzing about this industrial area earlier this year. The first-floor market sells edibles from longtime Ivy City denizens ProFish Seafood, while the second-floor restaurant serves smoked, fried and grilled seafood and other bar-friendly bites.
Must-order: Salmon candy; smokehouse bagel platter; raw oysters
1356 Okie St. NE; 202-529-3300