Allllll the restaurants you need to visit in Washington DC (according to me, expert restaurant visitor)
DND Edition Ten: Goodbye, Washington DC!
Hello lovely people,
It’s the start of the new year, and you may have noted that everyone and their mother has done a “Best so-and-so of 2022” list in the past few weeks. (What’s up with the human impulse to rank?) I hate bandwagoning, but I love being judgmental, so I really struggled with whether or not to participate in our culture’s collective action of opinion round ups. You can probably guess what my decision was based on the fact that I’m in your inbox again.
However, still a contrarian at heart, I’m thinking of this as not just another 2022-in-review list, but also a goodbye-to-DC list. I’m moving back to the city (THE city) this weekend, so compiling this newsletter was an excuse for me to go back to some of my favorite places for a series of Last Suppers. Instead of ranking them all, I’m classifying each of these places as the best for a specific vibe. Here we go…
Best food: Gypsy Kitchen. (Okay, yes, this is a ranking.) This restaurant review is inspired by Annie Hamilton’s recent genius/psychotic review of a new no-needle lip filler for the Strategist, which I believe is a masterclass in the art of the personal essay. Click for an account of one of the worst dates I’ve ever been on.
Best family-style meal: Elfegne. My friend Ruby happened across this Ethiopian restaurant shortly after we moved here in August, back when it was under different management and called Zenebech, and refused to go anywhere else for months. At the time, I was like, “Ruby, we just moved here, there are other restaurants to try,” but after all these months, this place remains the cheapest, most reliable, and most delicious Ethiopian restaurant I’ve visited in DC. Ruby, you were right!
Best bar for a deranged night out: Madam’s Organ. This is one of my most-read articles, which I’m a little embarrassed by, but I still stand by the fact that Madam’s Organ is the best place to go when you want to have something surprising and/or sinister happen to you.
Best date night bar: Sun’s Cinema. Sun’s Cinema is a 15-seat movie theater that exclusively shows bizarre cult movies. Beneath the viewing room, there’s a tiny bar where you can slowly nurse one of the 15 bitters they have on offer while you eye the other pretentious weirdos who have stuck around to critique the film. Perhaps the only cool place in DC?
Best happy hour: Doi Moi. I say this not just because I found it hilarious when they switched their promo from offering $7 daiquiris until 7pm 7 days of the week to $8 daiquiris until 8pm 8 days of the week with the tagline “because 7 days wasn’t enough”—I also think their drinks are really fun and summery, and the space is great to host a large group. (In DC, people love moving around in large groups.)
Best bagels in DC: Still Pearl’s Bagels (by a long shot).
Best cafe: Three Fifty Bakery. This is the category I agonize over most, as you can probably infer from how much I write about cafes. After a demoralizing 24 hours wherein I considered listing one of the several Tatte locations as my favorite cafe, I have made the brave decision to lie and say it’s Three Fifty. Three Fifty ultimately beat out Tatte because their prices are so reasonable—yesterday, I got a MASSIVE latte and a pain au chocolat straight out of the oven for eight dollars—and they make really, really good pastries. Still wish they had seating, though.
Best AFFORDABLE sushi: Isshin. Emphasis on affordable, because in this city it is far too easy to end up paying $25+ for two maki rolls. Isshin makes really high quality sushi and it won’t absolutely slaughter your savings… Delivery or pick up only.
Best meal for a real celebration: Causa/Amazonia. This hot new Peruvian restaurant needs no extra publicity from me, since it’s swimming in good reviews—so suffice it to say that this was the best meal I’ve eaten in a LONG, long time.
At my going away party this past weekend, my roommate Gabi brought out two freshly-baked cookies with birthday candles in them and had the crowd sing “For she’s a jolly good fellow.” (Singing seemed appropriate given the candles, I guess, but obviously the happy birthday song was out). Looking down at those cookies and reflecting on my time in DC, I was struck by the way in which food has governed my life in this city. In DC, I finally learned how to cook, COVID-positive with Gabi by my side; I cheffed up glorious meals during Zoom class to escape the havoc of my everyday life as a teacher; I used this newsletter as an excuse to force people to hit new restaurants with me, and became friends with them in the process. Now, I have a life that centers around food, from creating it, to eating it, to writing about it—and so many friends who have helped me get to this point. It may be corny, but I’m feeling thankful—emphasis on “ful”. (You’re allowed to groan at that one.)
In the spirit of thankfulness, I also wanted to say thank you and welcome to everyone who subscribes to this Substack. There are so many more of you now!!! As always, you can read all my articles to date at this link; I was feeling fancy and figured out how to classify them by the city they’re in, so the site looks different now.
Sending love (and an invitation to go to dinner some time in 2023) to each and every one of you…