Best for a Splurge: I’ve got two suggestions for you, as different as night and day. Dupont Circle’s Komi is a sparely appointed town-house dining room with just 12 tables. The young genius chef, Johnny Monis, sends out 15 or so little gastronomic masterpieces that often hint of Greek tastes, like the mascarpone-stuffed dates; the cost is $135 per person. Georgetown’s waterfront Fiola Mare is as splashy as Komi is serene, and offers a stunning view of the Potomac. Like its sister Fiola in the Penn Quarter, its fare is sophisticated Italian, the decor and clientele head-turning.
Best for Romance: If a trendy, sexy scene and exotic tastes appeal, consider the Penn Quarter’s softly lit Rasika, whose hot Indian food spices up the night
Best for Families: Beyond the usual burger and pizza (Pizzeria Paradiso) why not introduce your kids to international cuisine at the Lebanese Taverna.
Best for Regional Cuisine: Johnny’s Half Shell is the place to go for superb Eastern Shore delicacies: crab cakes, crab imperial, and soft-shell crab. While Washington doesn’t have its own cuisine per se, its central location within the Mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay region gives it license to lay claim to these local favorite foods. And nobody does ‘em better than Johnny’s.
Best All-Around for Fun and Food: Unstoppable José Andrés is behind the always-crowded Oyamel, where everyone’s slurping foam-topped margaritas and savoring small plates of authentic Mexican food. A few blocks away, Central Michel Richard makes everybody happy with its convivial atmosphere and chef Richard’s take on French bistro and American classics, from mussels in white wine to fried chicken.
Best for a “Taste of Washington” Experience: Eat lunch at the Monocle and you’re bound to see a Supreme Court justice, congressman, or senator dining here, too. For some down-home fare, sit at the counter at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and chat with the owners and your neighbor over a chili dog or a plate of blueberry pancakes. The place is an institution, and you can stop by anytime—it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Best for Vegetarians: Amsterdam Falafelshop draws lovers of its mashed chickpea falafels and 21 possible toppings, plus the twice-cooked Dutch-style fried potatoes; Zaytinya offers a most diverse selection of sweet and savory veggie tapas, including a Brussels sprouts dish that vegetarians and carnivores alike go crazy for. FYI: Zaytinya’s, another José Andrés restaurant, is also recommended for all-around food and fun; bring a crowd to share the mezze.
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