All eyes are on Washington, D.C., right now, and not just because we’ve inaugurated our 45th president. No, friends, foodies are looking at the nation’s capital as one of the country’s buzziest fine-dining cities, thanks to big-name chefs and local celebrities rolling out the red carpet with wow-worthy, tasting-menu-focused restaurants. These options are pricey but memorable — and perfect for date night.
Can’t decide where to head next? We’ve profiled nine of our new favorites, plus old standbys that still hold up.
Located in an unassuming strip of warehouse-style shops in Union Market, Masseria offers up what just might be our favorite Italian fare in the city. Rustic yet modern, diners can cozy up to intimate tables in the restaurant or garden, or sit in a great spot at the chef’s counter to watch chef/owner Nick Stefanelli plate an elegant and ever-changing array of pastas, seafood, in-season vegetables and inventive meats into three- to six-course tasting menus ($69 to $125) with optional wine pairings ($54 to $98). For an ultra-luxe option, try the truffle tasting menu ($210 per person; $130 to add wine pairings).
Fans of chef Eric Ziebold were excited to try his latest offering, a contemporary American restaurant called Kinship before it even opened last year. Luckily for them, in a culinary one-two punch, Ziebold also premiered Métier, its sister restaurant in the basement of the same building.
The subterranean space offers a seven-course tasting menu with pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres nightly. Named after the French word describing expertise in one’s field of work, Métier promises a seasonal selection of mostly American-influenced dishes for $200 per person, gratuity included. Note: there is a “jackets requested” dress code.
Pineapple and Pearls
The upscale outpost of one of the city’s favorite restaurants, Rose’s Luxury, the modern yet playful Pineapple and Pearls is where chef Aaron Silverman has fun with presentation and flavor. Expect roughly a dozen courses — most just a single bite, such as an absinthe “bon bon” or a tiny take on chicken wings.
The $250 per person price tag includes tip and beverage pairings, but expect to pay a deposit on your spot up front through the online reservations system. If you can’t score a reservation for dinner (Tuesdays through Fridays), the front coffee bar is open weekdays and on Saturday morning to churn out delectable coffee, pastries and savory sandwiches (get the chicken).
Romantic Georgetown staple 1789 has undergone a recent rebirth, taking a cue from the city’s new slew of prix-fixe-focused restaurants and revamping with a tasting-menu-encouraged concept of its own. The menus start at $85 for a four-course meal. There’s a six-section menu offering everything from hot and cold apps to a cheese course as well.
Choose four, five or six courses ($85 to $109) and four options from each category with one exception — your selections cannot exceed a max of two courses from the “meat” and “fish” sections. If you prefer to order à la carte, that’s allowed as well.
The Inn at Little Washington
Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Inn at Little Washington may be nearly two hours from D.C. with traffic, but chef Patrick O’Connell’s establishment is still one of the area’s most popular special-occasion restaurants. The eatery offers a mix of American- and French-influenced cuisine, with many items sourced from local farms and the resort’s garden.
Expect traditional delicacies like lobster, foie gras and caviar in many of the courses, as well as one of our favorite features of all time — a cheese cart designed to look like a cow that moos as it is rolled across the restaurant.
Despite the Old World vibe (heavy on the antiques and white tablecloths), we love that the Inn avoids taking itself too seriously. Dinner is priced at $218 per person, not including drinks or gratuity.
Chef Johnny Monis is one of the city’s original superstar chefs, and that’s why, even after more than a decade, it’s still difficult to score a reservation at the intimate Komi, which offers a Mediterranean-inspired and seafood-heavy tasting menu of approximately 12 dishes for $150 per person, with an optional $75 wine pairing.
Popular with couples, the restaurant won’t take parties larger than four and offers an elegant, intimate atmosphere that accommodates just over a dozen tables.
Want to go somewhere more casual? Monis’ second concept, the Thai-focused Little Serow, doesn’t take advance bookings, but you can enjoy a rotating array of favorites served nightly for just $49 per person. It’s well worth the nightly wait.
Recently renovated to offer a more contemporary look, D.C. staple Marcel’s still wows diners with its French- and Belgian-inspired tasting menus nightly. Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s most upscale concept boasts a playful presentation of dishes, like the signature “Magic Box” of seafood that features lobster, salmon and grilled octopus presented in (you guessed it) a box topped with avocado, crème fraiche and pickled ginger, as well as decadent boudin blanc, risotto and more. Marcel’s offers you a choice of four to seven courses ($95 to $155) and optional wine pairings.
Just outside of Washington, D.C., in Old Town Alexandria, chef Cathal Armstrong offers up a unique mix of French and Irish flair with his five- and seven-course tasting menus ($105 to $140; $75 to $105 extra for wine pairings).
For a memorable yet wallet-friendly alternative, there are shorter three-course menus with different themes available in the bar and lounge for $50. A lighter prixe-fixe menu is also offered at lunch.
Chef José Andrés may be Washington’s most famous chef, and his molecular gastronomy restaurant, Minibar, is also one of the city’s most expensive. Expect to shell out $275 per person for a dining experience that approaches 20 courses. You’ll nibble on at least a few bites made with gelatin, liquid nitrogen and scented foams.
For an equally creative (but more flexible option), an á la carte menu and creative drinks are available at the reservations-only Barmini next door.