Washington DC

DC's Best New Restaurants of 2019

April Greer/Thrillist
April Greer/Thrillist
April Greer/Thrillist

Between the heightened level of political drama and recent sports triumphs, the District has seen a lot of national attention in the past year. Luckily, there’s never been a better time for curious visitors to land in the nation’s capital, thanks to the continued diversity of DC’s restaurant renaissance. We’ve seen new restaurants from nearly every corner of the globe — from Korea to the Caribbean and Burma to Venezuela. The newcomers also span the spectrum from fine casual at Piccolina and street food at Cane to pure luxury at Punjab Grill and coiffed plates at Rooster & Owl. Vegan or carnivore, picky or adventurous, Washington has some excellent new choices when it comes to dining out.
MORE: Check out the 12 new restaurants we named best in the nation this year.

Courtesy of LeadingDC
Courtesy of LeadingDC
Courtesy of LeadingDC

Anju

Dupont Circle
Contemporary Korean from the Fried Rice Collective

Dream team Danny Lee and Scott Drewno are at it again with a Korean restaurant and pub in the original Mandu space. Anju is inspired by tradition, from street markets to pub fare to dynasty-era cuisine, but it’s not afraid to bring the unexpected, as we’ve seen with CHIKO. Think fried snacks and flavor-packed panchan along with refined classics. Early highlights from the kitchen (led by executive chef Angel Barreto) include the tornado potato, pan-fried pork and kimchi dumplings, bibimbap, 100-day kimchi, and jjamppong — thick noodles and wok-roasted shellfish in a spicy seafood broth. The bar focuses on Korean spirits like soju and makgeolli.

Abby Greenawalt | Thrillist
Abby Greenawalt | Thrillist
Abby Greenawalt | Thrillist

Cane

H Street
Caribbean cuisine that doesn’t hold back

Trinidadian chef Peter Prime, who you probably remember from Spark at Engine Company 12, struck out on his own to open a Caribbean street food restaurant with his younger sister. You’ll find favorites from Spark like jerk wings and a whole fried snapper, as well as new specials like an oxtail pepperpot and paratha tiffin boxes, which are stacked stainless steel tins filled with assorted curries and flatbread. Don’t miss the doubles — an ideal street snack consisting of bread topped with cumin-spiced chickpeas. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the cow heel souse. The drink menu is all about rum, as well as fresh Caribbean juices and ingredients like coconut orgeat, sorrel-basil syrup, and pineapple-habanero shrub.

Courtesy of Rey Lopez
Courtesy of Rey Lopez
Courtesy of Rey Lopez

Mama Chang

Fairfax, Virginia
A homestyle salute to the Chang women

The latest restaurant in chef Peter Chang’s empire honors the women in the family — his grandmother, mother, wife and pastry chef Lisa Chang, and daughter Lydia Chang. It’s all about homestyle cooking, with comforting, traditional cuisine from the provinces of Hunan, Szechuan, and Hubei. Many of the dishes are ones that the Changs frequently enjoy at home and that have been passed down through generations. Signatures include fish ball soup, dry-fried cauliflower, farmer’s stir fry, sesame shaobing, and braised HK pork belly with lotus root.

April Greer/Thrillist
April Greer/Thrillist
April Greer/Thrillist

Thamee

H Street Corridor
Burmese cuisine rooted in family and storytelling

The mother-daughter team behind the former Toli Moli is continuing their mission to share Burmese food and culture at their new restaurant. Thamee, which translates to daughter, is Jocelyn Law-Yone and Simone Jacobson’s second project, expanding the “Falooda Nation” they started with their Union Market bodega to include a full-service concept serving brunch and dinner. The food and service is built around the stories from Law-Yone’s childhood in Burma, as well as Jacobson’s upbringing as part of a Burmese family living in America. The menu includes specialties like pickled tea leaf salad, white flower mushroom salad, mohinga catfish curry, and drinks made with the color-changing butterfly pea flower. The restaurant is so stellar, in fact, that it made our list of one of the best new restaurants in the country.

Courtesy of Kelli Scott
Courtesy of Kelli Scott
Courtesy of Kelli Scott

Thompson Italian

Falls Church, Virginia
Elevated pasta in a family-friendly setting

In search of a place where they could enjoy a nice meal with their kids in tow, chef Gabe Thompson and pastry chef Katherine Thompson decided to take matters into their own hands. The husband-and-wife duo worked together in New York institutions (Le Bernadin and Per Se) and ran four popular Italian eateries in Manhattan. Now, they’ve returned to Katherine’s roots in Northern Virginia to open their eponymous restaurant. The star of the show at Thompson Italian is Gabe’s scratch-made pastas, which are also available on the kids menu. Don’t leave without a slice of Katherine’s famous olive oil cake, topped with creme fraiche mousse, raisin marmellata, and Maldon salt.

Courtesy of Scott Schulman
Courtesy of Scott Schulman
Courtesy of Scott Schulman

Piccolina

CityCenter
Wood-fired fare across the alley from Centrolina

Chef Amy Brandwein welcomed a new “little one” with the opening of Piccolina. Just steps away from her restaurant and market, this all-day cafe offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the wood-burning oven. The Italian bread program is robust, with 10 rotating varieties including brioche for breakfast sandwiches. The early-morning menu has coffee, pastries, crepes, and omelets, while the daytime menu has salads, stuffed flatbreads, panuozzo sandwiches, roasted vegetables, cheese, and charcuterie. There’s also a selection of to-go items, like chicken salad, caponata, and the eggplant Parm that became a favorite at Centrolina.

Punjab Grill
Punjab Grill
Punjab Grill

Punjab Grill

Penn Quarter
Haute cuisine and opulent surrounds fit for royalty

At Punjab Grill, the service philosophy is simple: “guest is god.” Everything about the experience reinforces those three words, from the lavish decor to the elevated Indian fare. The restaurant itself was handcrafted in India — think floor-to-ceiling carved wood screens, a 12,000-pound sandstone wall, and intricate gemstone inlays in marble tabletops — and then taken apart and shipped around the world to get here. The food is international as well as Punjabi, with dishes like burrata badal jam juxtaposed with a classic chicken tikka. If you’re ready to shell out for a night of luxury, book the private dining room lined in thousands of mirrors, appropriately dubbed the Sheesh Mahal, or Mirror Palace.

Courtesy of Greg Powers
Courtesy of Greg Powers
Courtesy of Greg Powers

Rooster & Owl

Columbia Heights
Shared plates meet tasting menus at this market-driven restaurant

This restaurant’s whimsical name is a nod to its co-founders’ dynamic. Carey and Yuan Tang operate on opposite schedules, but they always come together around the table. Carey, the Rooster, is the general manager and works in non-profit development during the day. Yuan, the Owl, keeps late hours as the executive chef. In their restaurant, they invite others to join them for a social dining experience that’s part shared plates and part tasting menu. Guests customize their four-course meal from a selection of vegetable-forward dishes and then everything is shared with the table. The menu relies heavily on the local market, which means it changes seasonally and lets quality ingredients shine.

Seven Reasons
Seven Reasons
Seven Reasons

Seven Reasons

14th Street
Venezuelan chef who made waves in Baltimore moves to DC 

After being named the best chef in Baltimore for his cooking at Alma Cocina Latina, chef Enrique Limardo officially moved to DC as the co-owner and chef of Seven Reasons. (His first foray here was as the consulting chef for Chicken + Whiskey.) This restaurant showcases the flavors and culinary traditions of Latin and South America, including unexpected dishes from Peru, the Amazon, and the Caribbean. The name is based on numerology, where the number seven symbolizes searching for new experiences. Limardo aims to take his guests on a surprising journey of texture, technique, flavor, and plating in an ivy-draped space inspired by the jungles of South America.

Courtesy of Meghan Webster
Courtesy of Meghan Webster
Courtesy of Meghan Webster

Stellina Pizzeria

Union Market District
Upscale fast-casual Southern Italian street food

You’ve had Neapolitan pizza, but have you tried neo-Neapolitan pizza? That’s what chef Matteo Venini has dubbed his lighter, crispier pies at Stellina. Venini and his co-owner Antonio Matarazzo worked together at Lupo Verde, but now they’re honoring Matarazzo’s roots in southern Italy where street food is a way of life. Whether you want takeout, delivery, or a sit-down meal, both the menu and experience are thoughtful and contemporary. Find fried seafood in paper cones, unique pizza creations (like cacio e pepe in pie form), stacked oven-fired panini, and handmade pastas. For the true Naples to-go experience, fold your pizza (a portafoglio) into a portable package. If dining in, enjoy a spritz in the window-lined interior space accented by colorful hand-painted tiles and the playful portrait of an Italian comedian in Dolce & Gabbana.Sign up here for our daily DC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Lani Furbank is a freelance food writer who’s always looking for a new restaurant to christen “the best meal she ever ate.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lanifurbank or read her work at LanisCupOfTea.com.

Washington DC

15 Totally Free Things to Do in DC

A full itinerary, completely free of charge.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Washington DC is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and for those of us who call the District home, it’s easy to see why. With dozens of world-class museums, murals that transform streets into galleries, and sites brimming with history, DC offers a full agenda-completely free of charge. Whether you want to try a new farmer’s market, explore a new hike, or polish off your roller skating or canoeing skills, here are some of our favourite free things to do in the District.

Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco

Hike, bike, or stroll along the C&O Canal

The historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is one of the most accessible nature escapes from the District. Thanks to a multi-year restoration project, the first mile of the canal is an idyllic walk that’s easy to access in Georgetown. Stick to a short stroll there, or grab a bike or lace up your hiking shoes for a longer adventure along the 184.5-mile canal.

Jump on the pickleball craze

Pickleball is working its way up the ladder past kickball and softball as one of America’s favourite games. Jump on the craze and practice your paddling at one of the District’s pickleball courts in Takoma Park, the Palisades, and more. Plus, Washington DC Pickleball invites guests to drop in to beginner sessions to try their hand at the sport before signing up for a $30 annual membership.

Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion

Bike the Mount Vernon Trail

DC is incredibly bike-friendly, and luckily that applies to the land immediately outside of the city as well. Start in the city and bike along the Mount Vernon Trail, a scenic route that hugs the water and cuts through the woods. It’s about a 10-mile trip from DC to Mount Vernon, but you can cut the trip slightly short and end at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront-just make sure to factor in time for ice cream before pedalling home.

Explore a sculpture park

While not located in the District proper, Glenstone, an expansive sculpture park in Maryland, is worth the 45-minute drive. Tickets to the park are free (just be sure to reserve several weeks in advance), and the 300-acre space offers stunning art, architecture, and open land. In addition to its indoor gallery spaces, you can spend hours walking on paths that wind through sculptures, meadows, and forests.

Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston

See the monuments at night

When the sun goes down-and the summer humidity somewhat dissipates-head to the National Mall for the rare chance to see the monuments without busloads of tourists. Moonlight will give you a different perspective as you traverse the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial or gaze up at the Washington Monument set aglow with lights.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Museum hop the day away

One of DC’s greatest strengths is its world-class Smithsonian museums that are open to the public free of charge. There is no shortage of options, from the intimate Renwick Gallery, to the sprawling National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonians offer something for everyone. Pro tip: Some of the museums are open late in the evenings, making for an ideal date night.

muralsdc
muralsdc
muralsdc

Explore the city’s murals

Washington is home to hundreds of murals that are becoming as much a part of the city’s landscape as the monuments on the National Mall. Take a self-guided tour of these colourful creations no matter which neighbourhood you happen to be in. MuralsDC, the organization behind 150 of the District’s public artworks, is a great resource for mapping out a route to explore the city’s street art.

Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington

Take in a birds-eye view of the city

Washington looks pretty stunning from up high, and there are few spots within the city that make for phenomenal vantage points. Rooftop bars and restaurants offer epic views for the price of a drink or two, but there’s no more iconic sight than seeing the city from the top of the Washington Monument, which is completely free. Book a ticket ahead of time and ride an elevator all the way to the top of the monument and step out on the 500-foot observation deck.

Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond

Wander through a garden

DC is home to some of the most beautiful urban gardens in the country, and many of them are open to the public for free. There is nothing like an afternoon spent strolling through, or picnicking, at the expansive 446-acre United States Arboretum or wandering through the Botanic Garden on the edge of the Mall. For something a bit smaller, explore the grounds at Tudor Place or Dumbarton Oaks (free in the winter), both of which are in Georgetown.

Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien

Hike the Billy Goat Trail

You can catch one of the District’s most popular hiking trails, the Billy Goat Trail, from the C&O canal. The full trail is 4.7 miles and ranges from easy to strenuous, so hike a section in and back or make the full loop for the variety.

Pay your respect at Arlington National Cemetery

Just across the Potomac from DC, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 veterans. The cemetery is an expanse of 639 hallowed acres and the ANC Explorer allows visitors to locate graves, notable sites, and take self-guided walking tours to spots including the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy.

Lace up your roller skates

When was the last time you went roller skating? Chances are it’s been too long. So get back into this nostalgic activity at the Anacostia Park roller skating pavilion. You can rent skates for free, just show proof of a government-issued ID, and the skating pavilion is open from 9 to 5 every day.

Help clean up the Anacostia River

We all know there’s a lot of work to be done to keep our waterways clean. Do your part, and have some fun, by participating in the city’s Green Boat initiative. On select weekends, DCers can join a two-hour guided paddle along the Anacostia River to collect trash and monitor the river’s progress.

Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market

Stroll your local farmer’s market

DC’s close proximity to the farms of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond mean that the city’s farmers’ markets always have something to offer. Check out the year-round markets like Eastern Market in Capitol Hill and the Sunday market in Dupont Circle or head to seasonal markets like the pop-up in front of the White House that draws vendors like Cucina al Volo and Call Your Mother Deli.

The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress

Play tourist all around the city

It’s easy to forget that all those traditionally touristy activities can be fun for locals too. If you haven’t been on a tour of the White House, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or the Capitol, this is your sign. All are free with advanced reservations. Plus, tucked in the northern quadrant of NW, the Washington National Cathedral is free and open to all. Tour the cathedral’s impressive architecture, 215 stained glass windows, 112 Gothically-inspired gargoyles, and enormous pipe organ. See if you can spot the sculpture of Darth Vader.

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Madeline Weinfield is a Thrillist contributor.

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