The Hit List: New DC Restaurants To Try Right Now

Your guide to the best new restaurants in Chocolate City.
nigiri with garnish

photo credit: Omakase @ Barracks Row

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like Kamala Harris at a pantsuit sale. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List. 

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in DC. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy new restaurant with caviar priced by the bump. Or it might be an under-the-radar lunch counter where a few dollars will get something that’ll rattle around in your brain like a loose penny in a dryer.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to the Hit List (5/17): Mecha Noodle Bar


photo credit: Mecha Noodle Bar


Union Market

$$$$Perfect For:LunchWalk-InsCasual Weeknight Dinner

The Connecticut-based chain brings their pho vs. ramen battle to Union Market, and trying to decide between the two soups is the best dining problem you’ll have in the city. There are two bars with plenty of seating, but when you walk in for either lunch or dinner, opt for a table so you can spread out a little more. A mix of hip-hop from the last 20 years plays at the perfect volume so you can sing along to your favorites without disturbing other diners. The crunchy general tso’s shrimp with a sweet sticky rice is a must order, as are any spiked boba like the creamy thai iced tea (you can also order nonalcoholic boba drinks). With small plates so good, you could fill up on those and never even get to a bowl of the spicy beef ramen—but that would be a mistake.

photo credit: David Madison

$$$$Perfect For:Outdoor Seating


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When you’re looking for a spot to drink on sunny days, head to Rooftop Kitchen in Tenleytown. The neighborhood spot, from the same team as Bourbon Steak, is basically a patio in the sky. And like any good patio, you’re here to soak up the sun and drink good cocktails, like the smoky mezcal Wahakan Hat Trick. Grab a seat on the giant patio furniture where you can hang out with the homies when you’ve all decided to skate out of work a little early.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

When you’re looking for cheesy, crispy pizza that you will not want to share, head to Alfreda. The small Dupont Circle spot is great for gossip with coworkers or catching up with friends over a bottle of wine plucked right from the main wall of the dining room. The menu is short and to the point—there are four pizzas, three salads, and a couple appetizers. Get the Alfreda pizza, topped with a slightly sweet granna padano, cracked pepper, and oregano you smell the minute you walk through the door. If you’re in the mood for a bit more than cheese, you can add whatever topppings you’d like (you can never go wrong with pepperoni and basil).

This tiny corner spot brings a Jewish-style deli to Navy Yard with thick sandwiches like Marc’s Mash Up that's stuffed with juicy chicken, creamy avocado, and thick slabs of country bacon. Most folks grab and go at the counter service spot, but there are a dozen stools—mostly overlooking Half St.—where you can enjoy knishes and bagels, too. This is a particularly welcome addition for Nats fans looking for a last-minute bite to bring into the stadium and avoid paying twice as much for a meal that’s half as good.

This casual Italian spot is in the old Nicoletta Italian Kitchen space, and has greatly improved on the Italian food you can get. There’s an all day Happy Hour in the bar area during the week, where you can get $7 martinis. If that’s not reason enough to stop by (it is for us), the taglioni neri, a soft squid ink noodle in a nice spicy sauce, and the cheesy, comforting gramigna are. You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parm on this menu—Cucina Morini specializes in southern Italian dishes that include lots of seafood, like the polpo that has a smoky char. Slide into a cozy nook seat with your favorite dinner date as the neo-soul soundtrack and delicious pasta soothe you after a long day.

photo credit: Kimberly Kong

La Bonne Vache puts a fun French twist on the classic American burger. It’s in the old Booeymonger space in Georgetown, and it still holds that low-key sandwich shop charm, just with a little more je ne sais quoi. Bistro style two-tops are squeezed into every nook and corner of the space, and there’s a small bar crammed in the corner where you can eavesdrop on your neighbor’s conversation without much effort. It’s packed with families, coworkers downing champagne, and anyone who can appreciate a juicy burger topped with melty gruyere and cognac aioli. You can order from the dedicated takeout counter, but we recommend coming during off hours to make sure you can find a seat.

Grab a laid-back seafood dinner at Pesce, where the fresh cuts of tuna and branzino are served alongside mole and salsa verde. The tiny Latin seafood restaurant in Dupont Circle looks like a maze—small dining rooms and tables zigzag throughout the space. The light walls are covered in mini mirrors and murals of fish, and each room feels like you’re sitting in a little tank, which can feel like betrayal as you sip your creamy lobster bisque. Come here for a low-lift dinner with parents or just to enjoy really good seafood with your homies on a weeknight. Get the tender octopus, served with a creamy polenta.

Your Only Friend, a sandwich shop in Mt. Vernon Triangle, is our favorite place to sit down and spill secrets over lunch. While there’s a counter-service carryout, walk past there and grab a seat at the bar. Or plop down on one of the nook-like tables where TLC’s “Creep” plays just loud enough to make your emergency lunch meet-up feel like a closed-door meeting. The menu is full of thick-stuffed sandwiches like our personal favorite, Chicky Pep No 2, a breaded chicken sandwich smothered in melted cheese and roasted peppers on a soft roll. With a stuffed mouth, your jaw is less likely to  fall open over the juicy details of today’s gossip session.

DC is no stranger to faux French bistros, but Union Market’s Pastis (of NYC and Miami fame) is a welcome addition to the ever-growing list. The menu mixes well-made classics with French-adjacent food, like a juicy cheeseburger with caramelized onions that taste like they came fresh out of a soup. But most importantly, Pastis doesn’t take itself too seriously. The soundtrack jumps from Rihanna to Lou Reed to Don Omar—no ”La Vie En Rose” here. Come for a casual date night or a group dinner with friends who haven’t pounded shots together in at least a decade.

After eating at Omakase @ Barracks Row, you’ll never look at sushi the same way, again. The Japanese spot’s 21-course meal combines fatty buttery yellowtail that melts the moment it touches your tongue, impeccably tempered sardines, and did-you-catch-this–this-morning bluefin tuna that'll leave you incredibly full yet secretly wishing for another 21 rounds. Everyone dines together (the room seats just 14 people all at the bar) as the staff and chef guide you through each dish—with lots and lots of specialty sake at your disposal. It’s a great spot to dress up and ooh and ahh your way through the night with someone special.

photo credit: Tristiaña Hinton

$$$$Perfect For:Quick EatsLunch

Union Market’s pizza game is a lot stronger thanks to Parachute Pizza. The stall’s crispy Sicilian pizza comes in seven different combinations, but our favorite is the Spicy Boii, which is covered in pepperoni, pickled chilis, and hot honey. Our New York friends would still roll their eyes, but it’s pretty good pizza for DC standards. While the whole pies are pricey—they range from $36-46—they’re gooey, the fresh crust is buttery and crunchy, and they’re better than the slices which can be dry. Grab a box, post up at their long, shared tables or bar, and take your sweet time to eat all eight of your thick slices.

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