DCGuide

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 (2/9): Your Only Friend

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Clarissa Villondo

Sandwiches

Mt. Vernon Triangle

$$$$Perfect For:LunchSerious Take-Out Operation
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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.

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsDate Night

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.

You’re no Prince Akeem, but you’ll feel a little like ‘80s royalty eating at Mélange Burger. This Shaw carryout-only spot is in the same location as Doro Soul Food and has a short but sweet menu: four smashburgers with thin, crispy patties that will satisfy any fast food craving you’re having, plus a side of fries. The McDowell, based off of the restaurant in Coming To America, is the best of the bunch and is full-on special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun, but better than McDonald’s ever could. It doesn’t come with two patties, but get it that way, otherwise the toppings can be overpowering. And order ahead so you're not crammed in the tiny waiting area with everyone else who isn’t in the know.

This Greek restaurant is one of the most romantic spots we’ve ever been to, mostly thanks to the dozens of large candles lining the dimly lit front hall and bar. And with shareable small plates like the must-order melizanosalata and tirokafteri, you and your date will be swooning over each other (and the food) before the end of the bread course. But Philotimo is also a great space for a girls night out or family dinner where you can split bottles of Greek wines or order a round of craft cocktails including the Graydon Carter, which tastes like an elevated mimosa. Grab the octopodi and the mantia, which are stuffed veal dumplings served with a brown butter sauce that you’ll want to pass around the table for everyone to smell.

You don’t expect to find steak frites and tenderly braised duck confit at your neighborhood cafe, but at Hiraya that’s what you get. The H Street counter-service coffee bar offers an assortment of drinks and pastries with a Filipino twist like adobo chocolate chip cookies and caramelized banana lattes. But it's the cafe's food platters that will have you glued to their wicker basket seats. While the smell of black garlic and mango wafting through the restaurant’s garage-style doors, a remote work crowd can be seen nodding off to never-ending Zoom calls while plotting on lunch.

The Le Diplomate empire has gotten a little bigger, and El Presidente in Union Market is proof that everyone has room to grow. The Mexican spot is full of animated sharks, crustaceans, and peculiar one-eyed creatures set against red and blue walls. It’s so over the top, it feels like you’re on the set of Guillermo del Toro's next blockbuster film (with more color and less spooky). Like Le Dip, it’s the kind of place you meet up with friends for lunch or dinner or use to impress your out of town guests. But the food here, like the blue-crab guacamole and tuna tostada made with creamy cuts of yellowfin, is better.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

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Kyojin Sushi in Georgetown is one of those restaurants where the food is so perfect, you won't care what’s going on around you. The dimly lit spot is full of concrete and exposed brick offset by extravagant murals of Japanese art. And it’s so packed that you might struggle to have a conversation over the loud laugh of the freshly spray-tanned "date" of the man next to you. Luckily, the DJ drowns everyone out on the weekends (it’ll still be hard to hear, though). Get the Kyojin roll, lobster tempura served alongside popcorn lobster all covered in a tangy mustard sauce, which is delicious. And The Winner, a bluefin tuna and BBQ eel dish, has a bold depth of flavor thanks to the pink ginger sauce.

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