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The 10 Best Restaurants in Washington DC

The city boasts 24 Michelin-starred eateries.

By Elite Traveler

Politics and governance may be the first thing that comes to mind, but if anyone who has done their fair share of admin knows: bureaucracy can make for a very hungry belly. The reality is that Washnton’s dining scene is about as diverse and eclectic as America itself. From its iconic street food – have you tried the capital’s trademark half-smoke? That’s an extra spicy hot dog made with half pork and half beef to non-Washingtonian – to steak houses and power lunches, Washington DC’s best restaurants have so much more to offer.

Home to 24 Michelin-starred restaurants – including 21 with one star, three with two stars and one with the coveted three-star accolade – the city boasts an array of incredible fine dining eateries spanning every type of cuisine from tapas to sushi. These aren’t stuffy restaurants reserved for Washington’s political elite, either. Helmed by some of the planet’s most talented chefs these are dining spots for real foodies.

With such a variety on offer, selecting your chosen spot is no mean feat. As always, we recommend planning and booking ahead, as reservations at the best restaurants in Washington DC don’t tend to stick around for long (but do make sure you set some stomach room aside for one of those half-smokes).

[See also: The 13 Best Restaurants in London]


dish at Jônt restaurant
Jônt’s dishes are playful and perfectly plated / ©Jont

Playfully French-ifying the word “jaunt”, Jônt restaurant pleasurably transports you to the fineries of Japanese cuisine without the hassle of long journeying. Despite opening at the peak of the pandemic, Ryan Ratino’s gastronomical mastery was immediately recognized, earning the restaurant two Michelin stars.

As you enter through Jônt’s sister restaurant Bresca, a dimly lit staircase guides you away from distracting color and toward sleek minimalism. A 14-seat counter envelopes the kitchen which, flawlessly clean, leaves the eye with nothing to fixate on but the spotted vibrancy that illuminates from plates of culinary craft.

Though the tasting menu moves with seasonal availability, dishes such as the deep emerald and pale green of a courgette Trio of Canapés, rose-pink of dry-aged rohan duck a la presse and opulent orange of the Homard à la presse is stripped with jade leek and apple slivers paint both your visual and tasting palette.

[See also: Michelin Announces 2023 Florida Guide]

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Pineapple and Pearls

You did not come to a two-Michelin-star restaurant expecting to be served chips and dip but you are pleasantly surprised when a large wooden box unravels three smaller boxes of colourfully loaded circles of chips in Russian doll style. Aaron Silverman and the crafty team behind Rose’s Luxury have provided creatively creamy plates of Panna Cotta, Sea Bass glazed with grape slithers and a 150-layer lobster and octopus lasagne as part of an ostentatious tasting menu that continues to evolve innovatively.

Fuelling its festive atmosphere, an elaborate choice of drinks eases both the mood and mind. A sparkling glass of white wine opens the evening, paving the way for an array of boozy and juicy cocktails. Located only moments from the Capitol Riverfront, Pineapple and Pearl is the place to party.

minibar by José Andrés

interiors at minibar washington DC
minibar’s inventive interior features a gold dome dangling above tables that encircle an open kitchen / ©minibar

Neighbouring the National Portrait Gallery, minibar continues to uphold the area’s artistry by showcasing José Andrés’ culinary capabilities. The interior itself is inventive; a gold dome dangles from the ceiling above seated tables that encircle an open kitchen and yellow lights set the room aglow. Although the rest of the restaurant space is equally lustrous, this seat, where diners are privy to Andrés’ chef-d’oeuvre first-hand, is the most coveted in DC.

From almond cups with Spanish blue cheese to a coconut steam bun or feta ravioli with Turkish tomatoes, Andrés’ inter-continental mingling grants this cuisine contemporary excellence that transcends boundaries of culture and taste. As suggested by its name, minibar also astounds diners with an alchemy brew of fruity and alcoholic mixtures that steam, bubble and bite with a zesty sting.

El Cielo

elcielo restaurant
Presenting you experimentally sensual Colombian cuisine is El Cielo / ©El Cielo

Although it may seem counterintuitive to wash your hands in chocolate, whimsical experiences define the sensuality of this bold take on Colombian cuisine. Food is not designed simply for eating, but for living, as you consume food whose story is narrated by eloquent staff.

As well as these vocalised tales, the artistry of dishes speak for themselves. The Tree of Life, a loaf of fresh Yucca bread served on a wire bonsai tree representing the lung of the word – the Amazon rainforest – functions to this very end, profoundly resonating at a time of deforestation and climate change.

The menu comprising of 22 courses guides you through many such journeys. One is transported to the golden beaches of Cartagena and through the depths of the Amazon jungle using orality and physical immersion alone. The airily simplistic and vegetative interior of the restaurant further reflects the liberal naturalness that Colombia beholds.

[See also: A Guide to All Green Michelin Star Restaurants in the US]


pasta dish at masseria washington dc
Masseria’s lip-smacking, swirled linguine with XO sauce / ©Masseria

The finest of Italian cuisine is delivered by Nicholas Stefanelli at one of Washington DC’s best restaurants, Masseria. Secretly enclosed behind a large wooden fence, entering the restaurant reveals a warm outdoor lounge with firepits and fairy lights that prelude magical dining. Inside the dining room, enchantment continues as bubbled chandeliers float from the ceiling and exposed, industrial walls are fancified by veined marble counters.

Comfort is at the forefront of the restaurant’s ambiance as diners are invited to “vestiti per soddisfare gli altri, ma mangia per soddisfare te stesso”: Dress to Satisfy Others, but Eat to Satisfy Yourself. Yet satiety is far from the only purpose of indulging in this finery. Plates are playfully presented in treasure chests and metal cans, adding an amusingly interactive element to your meal. For the meals that are plated traditionally, their colors prove unconventional, blending purples with browns and oranges with greens to create strikingly edible art. The swirled linguine with XO sauce, a popular diner’s dish, is slurping lip-smacking, adding new depth to our conception of pasta.


As well as bringing you the best of Middle Eastern grills, Maydān hopes to bring together diners through a ‘Tawle‘ menu option (meaning table in Arabic), which places clay-oven-baked bread as the centerpiece of every table. Diners are encouraged to break bread together and immerse themselves in Middle Eastern culture by making bread their utensil. As you tactilely navigate your way through flavourful condiments, garlic, parsley, saffron and smoked paprika not only simmer on your tongue but fill your nose with familiarly mingled aromas to create a sense of home-cooked comfort.

Complimenting this smoky savoring experience are the rich browns of exposed red brick, hardwood floors and mahogany tables whose glass covers refract light from the open fire. Fresh from the fire, classic dishes are given a spicy twist to showcase the prowess of Middle-Eastern cuisine. Chicken shish taouk is sweetened by piquant pomegranate molasses, halloumi seasoned with nutty dukkar and enhanced by wildflower honey and a selection of hearty hearth-roasted vegetables that are both succulent and savory.

[See also: Hot Stone Review: Authentic Japanese Omakase in London]


xiquet restaurant in washington dc
Sample the tenderest turbot at one of the best restaurants in Washington DC / ©Xiquet

Serving Spanish cuisine with heartfelt, Mediterranean hospitality, Xiquet caters to both appetite and comfort at the opening of Washington’s Observatory Circle. Diners are able to experience a seat at the Chef’s Counter where they sample canapés and aperitivos, peruse the evening’s tasting menu and prepare to ascend to the top floor dining room.

Seeping with sunlight during the day and warmly sky-lit in the evening, the dining room lined with sofa seats and auburn cushions invites leisure, whilst the simplicity of décor directs your gaze to the glass-enclosed kitchen.

The anticipation built-up in the watch of Xiquet’s world-class culinary team climaxes at taste. Espàrrecus Blancs served with Kristal Kaviari caviar and drizzled in smooth walnut sauce, Australian wagyu strip lion with meaty porcini and a zingy Meyer lemon tart with earthy lemon sage sorbet are a few top picks from an elaborate tasting menu.

[See also: A Guide to All Three-Michelin-Star Restaurants in Spain]

Imperfecto: The Chef’s Table

imperfecto restaurant washington dc
Imperfecto is naturally lit with minimalistic, modern furnishing to create a homely dining atmosphere / @Imperfecto

A step up from Seven Reasons, the interior of this restaurant provides a seventh heaven. Located at the heart of the West End, Imperfecto invites you to leave the paths more trodden and step into naturally lit, minimalistic modern furnishing for a reversion to calm that juxtaposes the busy streets of Washington. Low ceiling lights and intimately long dining tables further invite conversation and enjoyment.

Like the lover who believes their partner’s imperfections make them perfect, you will be besotted by Enrique Limardo’s unapologetic platters of Imperfecto. Smoked eggplant, ground lamb, pine nuts and goat-manchego cheese cream pack a phyllo dough to construct a moussaka cigar, cardamom explodes with fruity sumac in a fluffy falafel and the finest salmon tartare is imbued with Latin toum and trout caviar to present dishes of improbable equilibrium.

Tail Up Goat

Based in the historic Adams Morgan enclave of Washington DC, it is a beautiful and worthwhile commute to dine in Tale Up Goat. The wood-furnished restaurant, run by husband and wife duo Jill and Jon and their friend Bill, radiates the feel of togetherness and friendship that establishes this restaurant as one of the best in Washington DC. Intimate tables are circled by four chairs and cushioned booths line the walls whose nautical lighting compliments the emerald blues of sea-horizon wallpaper.

With an entire course devoted to bread, the simple heartiness of this dining experience is pleasingly evident. From breakfast favorites with a fishy twist, like seaweed sourdough with pickled fennel, to sophisticated dandelion greens with Sicilian almond brittle and anchovy, this restaurant nourishes both stomach and soul. A customer favorite is the goat lasagne, so flavourful and intricately layered that your tail would be up and wagging with glee.

The Inn at Little Washington

the inn at little washington
The facade may be typical of an American inn, but The Inn at Little Washington is far from ordinary/ ©The Inn At Little Washington

Perhaps we’re stretching what we consider as the Washington metropolitan area, but we had to make an exception for The Inn at Little Washington – and considering it boasts three Michelin stars and an additional green star, it far to say its worth crossing into the Virginian border. Although its façade seems typical of an American inn or private country house, the interior is far from ordinary. Richly carpeted and wallpapered with an intricate design that is illuminated by shimmery accents and lighting, the grandeur of the dining room is spectacularly romantic.

For those hoping for an intimate front-row feast, two Kitchen Tables cushion a baronial fireplace and can accommodate up to 12 guests. Alternatively, springy sofas and velvet chairs await you at white-clothed tables in the main dining room.

Starting the meal off with a glass of wine is never a bad idea when there are over 14,000 in the in-house cellar to choose from. Yet, just a glass is rarely enough, a dedicated sommelier is able to be of service for those who order three bottles or more, helping to guide and cultivate a prime tasting experience.

At the heart of this experience are of course the beautifully crafted dishes of chef Patrick O’Connell. Ranging from the highest-grade hamachi crudo atop golden beet “pasta” with a mélange of citrus and beet tartare, to a wonderfully wobbly vanilla panna cotta with strawberry consommé, the profundity of sweet, savory and sour are poised to perfection.

[Read more: The Best Spas in Washington DC]

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