Best-of Guides Washington

Washington, DC Restaurants With The Best Desserts

8 Restaurants
At these DC restaurants, the finale is every bit as delicious as the main event. Save room for desserts like a grown-up take on rocky road (think chocolate semifreddo, fried candied almonds, dehydrated marshmallow), cupcakes, and grilled kumquat with honey brown butter madeleines.
Updated on 08 September 2022
855 E St. NW, 20004 Washington
$$$$ · Contemporary

A single door, manned by a suited host, marks the entrance to this culinary haven that extends well beyond its diminutive name. The team is unabashedly passionate, turning out a menu that's complete with whimsy. "Ramen en papillote" showcases how much fun they are having, but one may also look to the chalkboard for such specials as soy chicharrón with wakasabi (think guacamole sparked by wasabi); or Wagyu topped with pearls of caviar and petals of sunflower. Desserts, like a fried hojicha donut and cherry pâte de fruit atop miso "sable," make for an unorthodox finale.

1906 14th St. NW, 20009 Washington
$$$$ · Contemporary

Dining at Ryan Ratino's daring offshoot of sister restaurant Bresca, which sits just above, is an intimate, immersive experience, replete with surprises. That tone is set as soon as you walk through its wooden doors to arrive at an upbeat dining room, revealing a gleaming white kitchen and chef's counter. The heart of this menu however lies in its carefully handled top-shelf ingredients. Think of a sliver of melting Spanish turbot set in caviar-almond sauce, followed by dry-aged pork on a bed of soft leeks. Rohan duck may be familiar, but soars to new heights, thanks to the decadent sauce Royale that accompanies it. Diners can count on this regal repast never letting up. A treasure box of mignardise is a sweet sendoff and will have you swooning for more.

601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20004 Washington
$$$$ · Italian

Yake your time to peruse the menu here, where classic and modern elements come together in regional Italian food. An aperitivo course, featuring the likes of crackers with merluzzo alla Veneziana or gnocco fritto cacio e pepe, is a sublime way to get going. Then it's on to the main event—grilled New Zealand langoustine, ever so alluring with a subtle charcoal smoke. For dessert, strawberries & cream—vanilla panna cotta, with strawberry, and elderflower, or perhaps tiramisu with a piece of black truffle brioche for wiping up every last bit.

3221 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, 20010 Washington
$$ · Contemporary

The café offering sandwiches and pastries by day—chocolate financiers, guava turovers—is beloved, but it's at dinner when this kitchen truly comes to life, turning out quirky food with enticing flavor profiles. Beautiful orange carrots dusted with shio-koji is coupled with rye miso for a crowning kickoff; then Nashville hot duck matched with a buttermilk biscuit is all heart and soul. Desserts, like the Thai iced tea-tres leches and pea shoot panna cotta with lemon mousse, strawberries, and crispy rice are bona fide works of art.

1401 Okie St. NE, 20002 Washington
$$$$ · Contemporary

Chef Matt Baker is luring diners to Ivy City with this gorgeous spot, which transforms local products into modern, deeply complex items. Myriad choices are offered in the multi-course meal, but large appetites should give over and let the chef prepare a tasting, whereby sustainable ingredients are utilized to prepare dishes that are creative, precise, and enjoyable. Highlights include a chestnut velouté poured over a date cake with vanilla-pear marmalade and foie gras terrine for a rich, well-rounded dish. Yuzu crémeux with pineapple ganache or Baker's take on Rocky Road—chocolate semifreddo, fried candied almonds, dehydrated marshmallow—make for a sweet, refined denouement.

Tail Up Goat
1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW, 20009 Washington
$$ · Contemporary

When three forward-thinking restaurateurs combine their talents, the result is bound to be an easygoing haven, where the food, drinks, and hospitality mesh effortlessly. Start with a unique selection of "breads"—composed plates of clever baked goods, like a lightly toasted zucchini slice topped with winter squash yogurt, rings of jalapeño, and puffed sorghum. Roasted pork loin may then be served lean yet tender, juicy, and enticingly dressed with the season's best. For an ingenious ending, tuck into a soft and smooth rainwater Madeira custard topped with semolina crumble or grilled kumquat with whipped cream, almond, and honey brown butter madeleines.

Rooster & Owl
2436 14th St. NW, 20009 Washington
$$$ · Contemporary

A talented wife-and-husband duo is behind this appealingly contemporary, hipster hot spot. There is unabashed creativity unleashed in such dishes as fried oyster mushrooms with mushroom powder serving as tempura batter. Barbecue carrots may then be given the North Carolina treatment, dabbed with vinegar, grilled to smoky perfection, and served with savory cornbread ice cream. In closing, a seemingly simple brie custard is in fact ultra-inventive, thanks to a trickle of red cherry mostarda and honeycomb; so too is the coconut croquette with rice pudding, pickled mango, and lime sorbet. Since you get to mix and match menu items, the bar follows suit and tailors wine options to guests' selections.

2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 20007 Washington
$$$$ · Spanish

Chef Danny Lledó is the visionary behind this focused Valencian culinary machine and his dishes are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat. This is confident cooking that results in inventions like tonyina tartare with citrus "caviar" and a creamy coconut milk-mustard-sauce. "Bossa de Captaire", or beggar's purse, with suckling pig and foie gras in apple confit and brown butter may then be trailed by lobster, prawn, and cuttlefish all of which garnish the paella de la duquessa de denia. For dessert, the "Bresquilla del segle XXI" is a pastry cream-filled doughnut posed atop a sauce of finely diced peaches; while Xocolat, also dubbed the chocolate temptation, certainly lives up to its moniker.