For the past year, everyone has been talking about Washington, D.C. – but not just because of politics. The city’s dining scene soared to greater heights as a multitude of buzzy restaurants began welcoming diners and delighting locals and travelers alike. Here are 11 of the best new D.C. restaurants of 2017 that need to be at the top of your to-do list for 2018.
The backstory: A chic aquatic endeavor docked inside the newly minted Darcy Hotel on Scott Circle from Robert Wiedmaier (Marcel’s Brasserie Beck). Executive chef John Critchley helms the kitchen, putting out pretty plates that celebrate the ocean’s bounty in creative ways.
The must-order dish: The ingenious cookie platter featuring a playful black and white sporting lemony crème frâiche on one side and caviar on the other, a white chocolate macaron sandwiching a generous cloud of the tiny black pearls, and a linzer cookie with trout roe and sea buckthorn marmalade.
Make a reservation at Siren.
Voltaggio Brothers Steak House
The backstory: Brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio found fame together on Top Chef. Bryan’s successes in the DMV included Volt and Range, while his younger sibling helms Los Angles’ award-winning ink.well. For their first joint project, situated inside the MGM in National Harbor, Maryland, the siblings decided to tackle the classic steakhouse concept, but they added plenty of modernist flairs.
The must-order dish: The Voltaggios’ take on a classic wedge salad features half a head of iceberg face down in a bowl. Tomato jam hides in the folds, while the eye can see pickled red onions, panko-light bacon bits possessing the airy crunch of dehydrated beef, snowy Gorgonzola powder, and Ranch dressing perked with Old Bay.
Make a reservation at Voltaggio Brothers Steak House.
The backstory: Chef Frank Ruta began his tenure as the White House chef in 1979, ultimately cooking for three administrations – Carter, Reagan, and H.W. Bush. A quarter century and a James Beard Award later, he’s back in the neighborhood on the corner of 16th and I with a gorgeously appointed, high-end Parisian-minded restaurant.
The must-order dish: The Belleburger runneth over with French onion soup. The juicy patty is topped with swipe of garlicky mayo, sweet onion jam, and a slab of gooey Gruyere.
Make a reservation at Mirabelle.
Kith / Kin
The backstory: Executive chef Kwame Onwuachi earned breakout fame on Top Chef, but found infamy when his high-end tasting menu restaurant, the Shaw Bijou, quickly shuttered. Unbowed and unbroken, he returns with this rootsy-yet-refined Afro-Caribbean concept inside the InterContinental Hotel at the recently debuted Wharf complex.
The must-order dish: A rectangle of crispy skinned mackerel sits on jollof rice, a West African specialty made by mixing a red stew of tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and habanero with the grains. Pickled onions add pop to the proposition.
Make a reservation at Kith / Kin.
The backstory: James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés’ latest restaurant – moored inside the MGM Grand in National Harbor, Maryland, – is Alice in Wonderland meets Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Swirling schools of fish fixtures and glass buoys float above diners while they dig into artfully arranged plates of hyper-fresh seafood.
The must-order dish: Delicately diced tuna tartare and the traditional components are arrayed around a poached yolk sitting in mustard sauce. Mix it all up and sweep up bites with one of the salt-speckled, perfectly puffy Parker House rolls.
Make a reservation at Fish.
Ana at District Winery
The backstory: The glass-walled jewel box perched on the edge of the Anacostia River in Navy Yard is home to both a winery and a restaurant. Executive chef Michael Gordon and chef de cuisine Ben Lambert craft sophisticated seasonal fare with Instagram-worthy presentations.
The must-order dish: Beignets get the savory treatment. These golden globes feature threads of Maryland crab and come complemented with a fetching Indian-vibed Romesco sauce for dunking.
Make a reservation at Ana at District Winery.
The backstory: The second location of the Southern-minded eatery from acclaimed executive chef Edward Lee makes its home in a century-old, bi-level bank with marble floors, a soaring glass atrium, and mahogany paneling. Expect the classics – fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, a fried catfish sandwich – some featuring nods to Lee’s Korean roots.
The must-order dish: Sweet ‘n’ savory cornbread cakes and crispy shards of cornbread served with sorghum butter and blackberry-thyme jam for the slathering.
Make a reservation at Succotash-Penn Quarter.
The backstory: Top Chef star Mike Isabella’s elegant upscale venture resides inside the Marriott Marquis Mount Vernon Square. With the help of executive chef Mike Rafidi, he melds Spain’s culinary traditions to those of Morocco.
The must-order dish: Foie gras parfait accompanied by fresh-from-the-fryer Ras el hanout-spiced doughnuts, pickled kumquats, and sesame brittle. It’s one of those dishes that hits almost every part of the palate at once: sweet, savory, salty, and uber umami.
Make a reservation at Arroz.
The backstory: This is your grandfather’s steakhouse – and that’s a very good thing. Located just a few blocks from the White House, the power dining spot boasts sharp service, old-school tableside presentations, and classically minded fare from executive chef Marc Hennessy.
The must-order dish: Luges of bone hold blissfully rich marrow and a shitake mostarda to cut through it. Though there are slices of toothsome toasted country bread on the side, it tastes even better spread on the sourdough garlic knots that are the restaurant’s bread service.
Make a reservation at Rare Steakhouse.
The Salt Line
The backstory: Birch and Barley alum Kyle Bailey oversees this New England-inspired seafood spot next to Nationals Park in Navy Yard. Dishes range from the comforting – fried clams, a stellar lobster roll, Maryland crab dip with plenty of Fontina cheese – to the more unexpected, such as creative seafood charcuterie and an outstanding rockfish tartare.
The must-order dish: Yes, you should order some seafood while you’re here, but don’t overlook the New England Smash Burger. The two-patty proposition comes off like a gourmet Big Mac (minus the middle bun), loaded up with American cheese, iceberg lettuce, a hearty tomato round, and pickles.
Make a reservation at The Salt Line.
The backstory: The new effort from the Compass Rose team blends North African, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European influences. Co-executive chefs Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan preside over an epic wood-fired grill to turn out exceptional fare designed for sharing.
The must-order dish: Head-on shrimp marinated in chermoula sauce with all the spreads and sauces – from muhamarra and labneh to harissa and ezme.
Make a reservation at Maydan.
Let us know your picks for the best new D.C. restaurants of 2017 here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.