Washington, D.C.: a walkable city embodying neighborhoods with pockets of history, shops and restaurants. And this particular stretch of 14th Street, NW, from Logan Circle to Columbia Heights, is no exception.
The next time you’re in the nation’s capital on a weekend holiday, take a stroll up 14th Street, NW—and make a really good grub crawl out of it.
What Our Inspectors Say: “It may be located on bustling 14th Street, but beautiful Bresca far from blends in with the crowd. Instead, this inviting restaurant mixes the warmth of a neighborhood treasure with the talent of a special occasion spot. Inside, whitewashed brick, a living wall crafted of moss and quirky decorative elements create a contemporary ambience, while an amiable staff tends to every detail. The cooking here is at once casual and ambitious, thanks to chef Ryan Ratino’s time spent in some cutting-edge kitchens—think minibar, for example. Here, his menu is divided into three categories, including snacks, medium plates and large plates intended for sharing. Find a clear sense of artistry and whimsy in such dishes as the foie gras Negroni, which is topped with Campari gelée and accompanied by warm madeleines. Squab and lobster united by a rich sauce Américaine turns classic surf and turf on its head; while simple yet impressively executed dishes like pappardelle with lamb ragù dazzle palates with wow-worthy flavor and agreeable prices. Strawberries and cream, where cake batter frozen in liquid nitrogen is unveiled with a dramatic cascade of cool smoke, is a dreamy way to seal this deal.”
What Our Inspectors Say: “Tucked into a buzzing corner, this sunny little Southeast Asian spot packs a big flavor punch. Guests can grab a seat at the counter facing the exhibition kitchen, or in one of two dining areas decked out with sleek tables and blonde wood chairs. Weather permitting, there’s outdoor sidewalk seating as well. Chef/owner Johanna Hellrigl turns out bold, spicy fare with a strong Thai bent. Imagine a banana blossom salad with coconut-poached chicken; fluffy basil fried rice; and a fragrant short rib jungle curry with eggplant and tender shredded pork. Save room for the delicious khao tom madt, a dessert of red bananas wrapped with coconut sticky rice, then rolled and steamed in banana leaves. Breakfast is served at Birds Eye, which is also located within.”
What Our Inspectors Say: “The neighborhood is hopping with a crowded, convivial vibe and Lupo Verde dances to that same beat. This two-storied restaurant has an osteria feel to its downstairs level, where a Carrara marble bar and communal wood tables welcome diners, while upstairs has a rustic appeal. The kitchen too boasts some unique offerings—polpo e burrata starts things off on the right foot—but it’s really all about the homemade pasta and spot-on affetati here. Spaghettata is gloriously thick and chewy, while the cheese and charcuterie boards, crammed with delicious imported salumi, cheeses, olives and giardiniera, could very well be the best in D.C. Finish with a classic affogato, in which a shot of hot espresso is poured over a dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream.”
What Our Inspectors Say: “It may be an offshoot of the Boston original, but Tico stands on its own two feet. Pulsing with energy, it fits right in with this lively U Street neighborhood. The spacious dining room’s dark wood furnishings and vibrant murals create the sense of relaxing in a Latin American courtyard—and once those hibiscus margaritas arrive, stress has no chance. Lunch is mainly tacos, but come dinner, the small plates menu offers plenty to choose from, including ceviche (snapper is especially good); guacamole with an inventive sprinkle of black olive powder; and cauliflower roasted and covered in crunchy fava beans and cotija cheese. From Spanish octopus with panca vinaigrette to Brussels sprouts with aji lime honey, the items cooked a la plancha are always a hit.”
What Our Inspectors Say: “Ghibellina’s marble bar is a favorite hangout, but don’t let the cocktail-swilling patrons steer you away, since this kitchen gives its bar a serious run. Dark wood floors, iron accents and exposed brick lend sophistication, while the front sidewalk patio is a top people-watching spot. The Italian-leaning menu showcases antipasti, pastas (bucatini alle vongole), and mains (like pollo al mattone, or chicken under a brick), but it's the knockout pizzas that are always a hit. Order the Napoli, topped with anchovies, capers and peperoncino, which two can handily put away, especially when a set of shears is delivered for slicing any way you want. It's a linger-a-little-longer kind of place, so order the gelato affogato al caffè with robust espresso.”
What Our Inspectors Say: “Myriad restaurants boast of their live fire and grilling prowess, but few are as brazen as Maydān, whose roaring hearth verges on wildfire and is a veritable showstopper. Of course, the chefs tasked with taming it—and practically cooking in it—are nothing short of culinary zealots. The heat is brutal and cooking method raw and elemental, but the results are pure bliss. Rolled and fresh-baked pita arrives first and is accompanied by condiments like spicy harissa and garlicky tuom. While this can make for a feast on its own, be patient, as they take on a whole new life when wrapped inside the likes of smoked duck breast or roast chicken. Carnivores can't seem to get enough of the hulking lamb shoulder—dark and charred as volcanic rock but so deliciously tender that it can almost be spread like butter. Piled into the fluffy pita with mint and onions, it's a triumph. Guests, many of whom line up well before opening hours, are spared from the heat—seated comfortably in a rustic, bi-level space with patterned wood, exposed brick, and lofty ceilings. Solo diners are welcome, but it's not advised as even the most timid of appetites will want to sample the full breadth and talent of this gutsy kitchen.”
Hero image courtesy of Doi Moi.