With your work event tomorrow, your brother visiting this weekend, and that super moving memoir you promised you’d really read for book club this time, you don’t have time to check out every new restaurant in DC. That’s ok - not all of them deserve your attention. That’s why we have the Hit List. It’s our regularly-updated guide to all the new spots that are actually worth your time.
And you can be assured it’s a reliable resource, because we’ve actually eaten at all these spots and like how the food tastes . Nothing is on this list just because Veep filmed there once. (But if you do know where Julia Louis-Dreyfus eats, hit us up.)
Himitsu only has around 25 seats (each of which has a kitchen view), and you want to be in one of them. This Japanese spot, on the increasingly cool Upshur Street in Petworth, changes its menu daily - but there’s always a mix of raw options, seasonal vegetables, and grilled fish. Everything we’ve had so far has impressed us, and the Kobe beef - a fall special - is one of the best pieces of meat we’ve had in DC. They don’t take reservations, but you can get drink at Timber or Hank’s Cocktail Bar while you wait.
DC doesn’t always feel Southern, but the excellent barbecue here is a good reminder that it’s a city below the Mason-Dixon line. We’re skeptical about newcomers to the scene, but so far, Federalist Pig (from the same guy behind DCitySmokehouse) has passed our tests. You have your choice of platters, sandwiches, and sides like mac and cheese and brussels sprouts, and there’s a nice patio for you to eat them on. If you’re in Adams Morgan and need a casual lunch or dinner, come here and get the Texas Ranger sandwich. It comes with smoked brisket, crispy onions, pickles, and barbecue sauce, all on Texas toast. Just know it will probably put you out for a couple of hours.
In Blagden Alley, there’s a restaurant with a wood-burning hearth in the middle of it, and a bar with an $80 cocktail tasting menu. We like those places, but the less serious Tiger Fork was a welcome addition to the area. The Hong Kong-style food is great, and it’s a perfect place to either start or end a night out - it’s open until midnight Tuesday through Saturday, and has long communal tables that work great for groups. If you happen to love going out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those are the two days they have a late night menu with fried chicken and noodles starting at 10pm, for some reason. We haven’t gotten to the dim sum brunch yet, but we’ll report back when we do.
Navy Yard has become a lot more than the home of Nats Park, and the Salt Line is another reason to get there during the off season. The patio, which is right on the water, is a good place to spend an afternoon with a craft beer and the fried clam bellies, and the dining room is the right amount of nice for a date - as long as it’s with someone who likes seafood. The burger is good, but you’re here to pretend you’re in a beachside lobster shack in Nantucket. Just please leave your seersucker at home.
Sfoglina is a bit out of the way in Van Ness, but you won’t regret your Uber fare once you’ve eaten the food here. In fact, you’ll probably want to repeat the whole experience, Uber included, very soon. They have the basics like rigatoni and gnocchi, but also basil-infused tortellini and a squid ink and paprika cannelloni. Go with one other person and get the $65 tasting, so you can sample three pastas. The space is nice but not stuffy, and the patio is a great option for an early date.
Next time you’re stuck planning the “let’s all catch up” group dinner, and every restaurant in DC tells you they can probably try to fit you in at 10pm, turn to Ambar Clarendon. The third location of this Balkan restaurant (the second is in Capitol Hill, the first is in Serbia) has crowd-pleasing but not boring options like flatbreads, croquettes and kebabs, and there’s also impressive hanging plants, and a patio on the main strip of Wilson Blvd. Convince the table to go for the “Balkan Experience,” which gets you unlimited small plates for $35 per person.
Arlington has plenty of good spots for a casual weeknight dinner, but Bistro 1521 is another one you should add to your Wednesday-night rotation. The space is plain - the most exciting piece of decor is a caricature of boxer Manny Pacquiao on the wall - but the Filipino food is not. The menu is traditional rather than fusion-y, and most of the very tasty entrees are less than $20. We’re fans of the chicken adobo and the crispy bata (pork leg). If you work in the area, it’s also a good option for lunch.