Skewered meats on the grill at Spicy Water near Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.
The grill at Spicy Water Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best of D.C. 2023 wraps up with our picks celebrating the District’s diverse and delicious food scene. Whether you’re craving a late-night dessert or a breakfast sandwich (we’ve got takes on simple and fancy varieties, as well as burritos), keep reading and start planning where you’ll eat and drink next.

To see what readers selected in Food & Drink categories, click here.

Chicken kebab sandwich from Spicy Water in Washington, D.C.
Spicy Water’s chicken kebab sandwich Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Eastern Market Lunch

Spicy Water 

After opening a brick-and-mortar near U Street NW, Spicy Water returned to Eastern Market to be its favored grilled meat sandwich slinger in warmer months. Their kabob sandwiches are fresh and flavorful, stuffed full with roasted meat, chipotle sauce, fresh cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and salad, all on crunchy French bread. I recommend opting for the chicken and all the fixings. The huge $16 sandwich is easily split into two meals, plus it’s great for a hot day. Pair it with a limeade from the Fresh Mobile or iced coffee from Cam’s Kettle Coffee Co. and sit on one of the nearby benches while people-watching before shopping at other market vendors. 7th Street and North Carolina Avenue SE and 2019 11th Street NW.  —Emily Martin

Best Way to Bring Italy to You

Don Ciccio & Figli

Amaros have been growing more popular in American bars, but here in D.C., Don Ciccio & Figli has been letting residents in on the secret Italians have known all along: These herbal liqueurs are a delight. Although the original Don Ciccio began his family distillery more than 100 years ago in Italy, his grandson Francesco Amodeo brought the business to D.C. in the fall of 2012. (Figli means “sons” in Italian.) The liqueurs vary in degrees of sweet and bitter. But their concoctions, whether it’s an amaro or aperitivo, vermouth or cordial, are delicious to sip alone or mixed into a cocktail. Need proof? Go for a tasting, stay for a cocktail shaken or stirred at their Bar Sirenis, both located in one convenient and beautifully decorated space—a couple of drinks in and you just might think you’re on the Amalfi Coast, too. 1907 Fairview Ave. NE. —Sarah Marloff

Detroir-style pizza from Side Door in Washington, D.C.
Side Door’s Detroit-style pepperoni pizza Credit: Austin Morgan

Best Detroit-Style Pizza

Side Door Pizza

Brian Schram initially developed Side Door Pizza as a pandemic pivot in 2020. The partner at Scarlet Oak bar and restaurant, where Side Door is currently housed, saw an opportunity to maximize the Navy Yard space that customers were no longer using. Stationed at the base of the massive 909 Apartments, the easy-to-miss single door operation features a serving station and a pizza oven, a golden opportunity to experiment with a takeout concept. Conveniently enough, Schram had never tried Detroit-style pizza until the lockdown happened. At that time, he was in Los Angeles and came across someone making Detroit-style pizza in their apartment. As cliche as it sounds, it was love at first bite. Shortly after that, Schram returned safely to the East Coast, fixated on delivering his perfect version of Detroit-style pizza to customers in D.C. Side Door is the rectangular pizza of your dreams: Seriously heavy in the hand, yet magically light in the mouth. Crispy, cheesy edges enclose a soft and pillowy inside. The sauce is spooned atop the cheese, and the pizzas are cut into eight ideal slices, each with its share of that crunchy crust. Be prepared to fight for the corner pieces. A limited menu allows their staff to focus on the quality of each pizza, which Scarlet Oak recently adopted as part of its full restaurant menu. 909 New Jersey Ave. SE. —Austin Morgan

Best Italian Sub/Bagel/Pop-Tart and Coffee Shop to Work At

St. Elmo’s

Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood has plenty of amazing dining options along its main stretch, but St. Elmo’s is consistently a favorite of residents and visitors alike. The coffee shop not only has plentiful seating options with a great Wi-Fi connection, but also a giant menu with artisan drinks, and a full offering of baked goods, including apple cider donuts in the fall, tons of muffins (including red velvet), and the best part: homemade strawberry rhubarb pop-tarts. If you’re looking for more of a meal, you can order from the full menu at its sandwich counter next door, Market2Market. The Italian sub, named the 116, is a simple sandwich that gets the job done. You can also grab a bagel sandwich made with fresh Bullfrog Bagels. The best part? Their prices are quite cheap compared to coffee shops in D.C. proper. 2300 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. —Emily Martin

A burrito from El Piquin in Washington, D.C.
El Piquin’s burrito and sauces Credit: Austin Morgan

Best Burritos (Breakfast or Otherwise)

El Piquin

When Paulino Gonzalez Perez became discontent working as a chef in Baltimore, he traveled to Mexico to seek inspiration from his family. Committed to starting his own business, he absorbed every lesson his mother and grandmother could teach him about traditional Mexican cuisine. Finally confident he’d mastered their recipes, Gonzalez Perez returned to Baltimore, purchased a few essentials, and set up his first tent at a farmers market; El Piquin was officially in business. That was roughly 13 years ago, and the family-run business has expanded exponentially since. After a few years of steady business in the Baltimore markets, he expanded to Prince George’s County and D.C. You can now find El Piquin on the weekends at Eastern Market and the Monroe Street and Arlington FRESHFARM markets. They are easy to spot, as they usually have the longest line of customers. Don’t worry, their staff moves rapidly, and it’s a joy to watch the skill and harmony of their team at work. While they offer several different items, burritos are the focal point. Breakfast burritos feature eggs, beans, and cheese with your choice of bacon, chorizo, or vegetables. Onions, cilantro, and salsas are added to the sizzling flat top before everything is wrapped in a giant house-made tortilla and pressed to get crispy. Not feeling eggy? At El Piquin, it’s never too early for lunch. Swap the egg for rice and opt for a traditional Mexican burrito. Additional protein options include tender carnitas, juicy al pastor pork, and grilled shrimp. Beyond their multiple pop-up tents, El Piquin now has two sit-down restaurants and one market—Fresh Fresco Market—run by family members in Maryland. North Carolina Avenue and 7th Street SE. —Austin Morgan

A meal from Manna Dosirak in Washington, D.C.
Offerings from Manna Dosirak Credit: Austin Morgan

Best Korean Carryout

Manna Dosirak

Eleven years ago, Pil and Jenny Cho stepped foot inside a modest Kingman Park location to help their son Alex Cho open a prep kitchen plus brick-and-mortar location for Far East Taco Grille, then only a food truck offering its popular Korean/Mexican fusion cuisine. They needed extra elbow room and figured investing in a small building would help boost the truck’s revenue. But in 2016, Far East Taco Grille acquired a more prominent building on Florida Avenue NE, leaving little use for the prep kitchen. Pil admits he’d often contemplate a more efficient use of the space, and when the pandemic struck, it was time to act. Wasting no time, the Chos decided to shut down the food truck and convert Far East’s prep kitchen to Manna Dosirak, a Korean carryout. Imagine the perfect business concept to open during a pandemic: a small carryout where Pil and Jenny serve dosirak (packed or “lunchbox-style” meals) and a few other Korean staples, including bibimbap, haemul pajeon, and soondubu, all of which are loaded with flavor and very affordable. The most expensive option on Manna’s entire menu is the shrimp dosirak at $15.50; it includes your choice of spicy or sweet & sour shrimp, white or brown rice, and four legit sides (banchan). Post-pandemic times mean a maximum of six stools are available for indoor dining. Should you eat there, you’ll have a one-foot ledge to use as a table, but most people take their food to go. Even if you’re not in delivery range, a trip to Manna Dosirak is well worth your time. 409 15th St. NE. —Austin Morgan

Pupusas from El Rinconcito Cafe in Washington, D.C.
El Rinconcito’s pupusas Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best No-Frills Pupuseria

El Rinconcito Café

At El Rinconcito, you’ll find your standard pupusas with crispy cheese and vinegary curtido starting at $3.50 each. Almost everyone in D.C. has that one pupusa spot they’ll go to battle for. We have such a great selection in D.C. that whoever you’re arguing with is usually right. But El Rinconcito has consistently made the top of people’s list of recommendations, and for good reason. Each pupusa contains just the right amount of grease, and for a standard price, you can get nearly any kind—I’m partial to the chicken, pork, or beans with cheese. I’ve brought many visitors here who’ve never tried pupusas and left loving them. My favorites additions include the yuca frita, horchata, and the classic Salvadoran breakfast with chorizo, served all day long. 1129 11th St. NW. —Emily Martin

Diners gather on H Street NE
Credit: Austin Morgan

Best Three-Block Span for Food and Drinks

H Street NE between 11th and 14th streets

For residents in other quadrants of the city, H Street NE might feel like a best friend who moved far away. You don’t see them for a long time, but once you’re reunited, it’s as if you’ve never missed a beat. Their charming characteristics remain, but much has changed, and there’s a lot to talk about. All of this is to say: If you haven’t visited H Street NE in a while, you should, specifically the blocks between 11th and 14th streets NE. Go ahead and plan an entire day trip. For an early-morning breakfast, you might grab a coffee from Maketto and a bagel from Bullfrog Bagels. If you’re feeling brunch-y instead, look across the street to see Mediterranean-based Sospeso, or Swiss-American dining at Stable. The Queen Vic is an underrated spot for English fare, plus there’s Milk & Honey Cafe, so now there’s a real dilemma. We’ve barely touched lunch, and there are plenty of options for your midday meal. If you’re vegan, try Pow Pow or Sticky Rice. For everyone else, affordable lunch options include Tigo’s Peruvian Express, &pizza, and Sol Mexican Grill. There are more pizza and Mexican options for dinner at both Mozzeria and Taqueria Al Lado, where your evening can officially start with a few cocktails. All the aforementioned restaurants offer dinner, but there are more. Try Asian fare at the snug Toki Underground or Granville Moore’s amazing mussels. For fine dining, check out Afrofuturistic Bronze or the seafood at Brine. At the end of the night—when you’re full to your throat–enjoy high-end cocktails at Copycat Co. or visit classic dive bars like Little Miss Whiskey’s and The Pug. It may be difficult to imagine spending an entire day within a three-block span, but on H Street NE, it’s more than doable. —Austin Morgan

Best Casual Breakfast Sandwich

Family Dinette

There’s usually no line at Family Dinette, one of the more under-the-radar carryouts stationed across from Capital One Arena, but there should be. If you’re looking for a cheap and satisfying breakfast (a rare find in D.C.), try their breakfast sandwiches for less than $5. My go-to has greasy sausage, fluffy, buttery eggs, and melted cheese on two lightly toasted slices of white bread. Come back for lunch before they close at 2 p.m. to try the Korean food menu, including bulgogi bowls. Make sure to bring cash for smaller purchases, like that sandwich, since there’s a credit card minimum. 511 G St NW. —Emily Martin

Best Fancy Breakfast Sandwich

Bread Furst

On any weekend when I have no plans and the urge to splurge, I end up at Bread Furst. The messy egg is a strong contender for the best breakfast option in D.C., and I remain shocked it hasn’t received more acclaim. The name is apt. The eggs are truly messy, but super soft and pillowy. The default carb vehicle is a tangy sourdough English muffin, but if they run out, their bagels or croissants serve as a fun variation. Make sure to add the bacon and cheese—they use some of the smokiest bacon and wildly sharp Vermont cheddar. It’s the ideal decadent breakfast to treat yourself to for a lazy, relaxing weekend. Then grab a cookie or two or a loaf of bread for later. You deserve it after waiting in the long line of Bread Furst fans. 4434 Connecticut Ave. NW. —Emily Martin

Ginger limeade from Teaism in Washington, D.C.
Teaism’s ginger limeade Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Refresher

Ginger Limeade at Teaism

Finding a decent cold beverage in D.C. that lacks caffeine or alcohol has felt like a Sisyphean task recently. Soda is too cloyingly sweet, the markup on Spindrift and La Croix makes a seltzer feel like a theft, most cold brew should be categorized as an amphetamine, and an Aperol spritz isn’t always appropriate on a Wednesday at 2 p.m. The ginger limeade from Teaism might as well be a nectar from the gods. Generously poured in a 16 ounce cup over ice, the drink retains the flavors in its name: The lime is bracingly sour and the ginger provides a peppery punch. It’s sweet enough to taste like a treat but never feels viscous. The wide spout on Teaism lids allow you to drink it on the go and not spill a drop. And since it’s available at all three Teaism locations, you can grab one whether you’re wandering around downtown, passing through Dupont Circle, or reporting from the White House. The only thing you might need is a snack to go with it. If that’s the case, add an order of ginger scones, moist enough to nibble on throughout the afternoon and, shockingly, vegan. Multiple locations. —Caroline Jones

Banh mi burger from Little Vietnam in Washington, D.C.
Little Vietnam’s banh mi burger Credit: Nevin Martell

Best Banh Mi That’s a Burger

Little Vietnam

Is a burger a sandwich? Everyone already has big feelings and hot takes on that longtime debate, so consider this new question instead: Can a sandwich be a burger? Before you start screaming at your screen, “What kind of clickbait fuckery is this?” look at what they’re serving at Little Vietnam, the small but mighty neo-Viet spot in Petworth that took over the space once home to Himitsu, Crane & Turtle, and Magpie and the Tiger. The restaurant’s burger takes its cues from a banh mi, the iconic Vietnamese sandwich. Starting with a sizable brisket-based patty and a sesame seed bun, they slip in creamy pâté, mayo, and a tingling array of pickles to evoke all the expected flavors. As if that wasn’t enough, the sando-burg arrives with a golden thicket of pho-spiced fries, which could start a whole new conversation about whether a soup can be French fries. But we will save that discussion for another time. 828 Upshur St. NW. —Nevin Martell

Best Parking Lot Patio

Parkway Deli

The permanence of outdoor dining was an unimpeachable positive to come out of the pandemic. And while it’s easy enough to stick a few patio sets in front of a restaurant on a major thoroughfare and call it good, some spots lacked a convenient location for a patio and still managed to create an enjoyable eating environment. Nowhere is this more evident than at Parkway Deli, operating just over the District line in an unassuming Silver Spring strip mall since 1963. The only place the Parkway team could accommodate outdoor dining was in the strip mall’s back parking lot, amid cars, asphalt, and dumpsters. But they made the most of it. A covered wooden platform fits about a dozen tables and additional counter seats. Because it’s several inches off the ground, diners feel slightly removed from the parking lot while still being able to people-watch if they want to. The natural hubbub of the restaurant, an always crowded neighborhood favorite, extends to the patio, giving even more diners the chance to enjoy its pancakes, pastrami, and perfect matzo ball soup. Should you crave something sour while waiting for your meal, you can still dip inside and visit the pickle bar before returning to your outdoor seat. 8317 Grubb Rd., Silver Spring. —Caroline Jones

The macha-'roni pizza from Boogy & Peel in Washington, D.C.
Boogy & Peel’s macha-’roni pizza Credit: Nevin Martell

Best Salsa Side Hustle

Saul Zelaya’s Salsa Macha

You don’t expect to find salsa macha at a pizzeria. Originating in Veracruz, Mexico, the chunky flavor booster is the region’s version of chili crisp, a glossy oil punctuated with dried chilies, garlic, and peanuts. Saul Zelaya, a sous-chef at Dupont Circle’s wonderfully unconventional pizzeria Boogy & Peel, learned how to make it while staging in Oaxaca at Criollo, a collab between Enrique Olvera (Mexico City’s Pujol; New York City’s Cosme), chef Luis Arellano, and architect Javier Sánchez. When Zelaya returned to the U.S, he recreated the recipe by frying garlic chips, morita and dried pequin chilies, and peanuts, then adding toasted sesame seeds before giving everything a buzz in the blender. Now the spicy-savory-nutty condiment punches up the Macha-’Roni pizza spangled with cup-style pepperoni, micro basil leaves, and amber zigzags of honey. They’ll add it to any other pizza by request. Eight-ounce jars are available for $13 at the restaurant or by DM-ing Zelaya via Instagram @sauuuuuulll, where you can also keep up on his other side hustle, Hijos Del Maiz, a celebration of heirloom corn (i.e., tacos, quesadillas, and “other nixtamal based fare”) that will start regularly popping up at Boogy & Peel beginning in September. 1 Dupont Circle NW, Ste. 115B. —Nevin Martell

Best Liquid Fluffernutter

Peanut Dalgona Iced Latte at Yellow 

Peanut butter and chocolate get all the attention, but let’s not forget about peanut butter and marshmallow cream. The latter is almost always enjoyed in sandwich form as a Fluffernutter (a word finally added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2021), and now there’s a new way to drink up similar vibes at Yellow, Michael Rafidi’s righteously delicious Levantine cafe in Georgetown. Step up to the counter, tear your eyes away from the head-swiveling pastries for a moment—but definitely get back to them, especially the labneh-plumped, za’atar-dusted croissant and halva chocolate chip cookie—and order a peanut dalgona iced latte. Powered by a brace of espresso shots, it’s sweetened with a peanut simple syrup and topped with a thick layer of pillowy coconut cardamom cold foam. The frosty drink works best when made with oat milk, which contributes another layer of roasty, nutty tones. No matter what, it’s absolutely addictive, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself going out of your way to regularly enjoy this liquid Fluffernutter. 1524 Wisconsin Ave. NW. —Nevin Martell

Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman, founders of RASA
Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman of RASA Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Fast Casual Full Circle

RASA Opens in Rockville

When RASA opened in 2017 near Nationals Park, it was met with near unanimous applause, partially because D.C., as a region, is obsessed with fast casual concepts, and partially because local Indian food connoisseurs knew they were getting another place to savor some of the region’s best currys. Founders Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman are second generation restaurateurs and have been friends since childhood—their fathers, K.N. Vinod and Surfy Rahman, founded Rockville’s Bombay Bistro in 1992 and Cleveland Park’s Indique in 2002. Rahul and Sahil brought the flavors of those restaurants to RASA’s D.C. and Northern Virginia locations but things really came full circle when RASA’s fifth location opened on Rockville Pike in April. Located roughly three miles from Bombay Bistro, the Montgomery County natives finally have a hometown spot. They accompanied the launch with stories from the past and a few old photos of the pair in Power Rangers gear, endearing them to their fellow millennials. You can’t go home again, the old adage tells us, but you can give something back to the community in which you were raised. In this case, it comes in the form of jobs and hearty bowls of rice and veggies that fuel your day. (Anyone who has needed a nap after indulging in Bombay Bistro’s lunch buffet knows how important that last part is.) 12033 Rockville Pike, Rockville. —Caroline Jones

Garlic knots from Reveler's Hour in Washington, D.C.
Reveler’s Hour’s garlic knots Credit: Nevin Martell

Best Garlic Knots

Reveler’s Hour

The garlic knot: simple, yet difficult to do well. They can be too tough, too small, and/or not garlicky enough. Thankfully, Reveler’s Hour makes next level knots that hit all the right notes. They originally appeared on the menu at sister spot Tail Up Goat, but never felt right for the restaurant. However, they were a natural fit for the pasta-driven wine bar when it opened around the corner at the end of 2019. A collaboration between chef Jon Sybert and Tail Up’s sous-chef Jared Darby, they’re made with laminated dough (yep, the same stuff used to create croissants) knotted into plump balls. Blanched in the fryer and finished in the oven, they get doused in garlic butter just before being ferried out to the lucky recipient. The results are generously portioned, tender, and garlicky AF—just the way they should be. A plate of knots and a glass of whatever star sommelier Bill Jensen recommends are the perfect panacea for pretty much anything. 1775 Columbia Rd. NW. —Nevin Martell

The exterior of Call Your Mother, a bagel and sandwich shop in Washington, D.C.
Call Your Mother Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Bagel Bickering

Call Your Mother Is/Is Not Good

Some advice: Don’t let a national food publication put your restaurant on a “Best ____” list if you don’t want to hear the backlash of loud and opinionated people in your town. When Bon Appétit praised Call Your Mother’s round rolls that, in their words, “recall New York deli classics, but [are] a little Montreal-sweet as well, filled with toppings you won’t find at a traditional deli,” eaters immediately weighed in. “Might be one of the worst bagels I’ve had,” one person wrote in response to a Tweet announcing the news. “Bon Appétit seems not to know what a bagel even is,” wrote another. The piling on seemed a bit excessive, but then again, so are the lines that spill out of the bagel shop’s multiple locations every weekend. Bagels, in this writer’s mind, should be about texture, convenience, and scallion cream cheese. So while it’s nice to know you can grab a decent bagel from Call Your Mother in many D.C. neighborhoods, it’s also worth acknowledging that greater D.C. is home to many other decent bagels, both from newer places (Pearl’s, Bullfrog) and older ones (Bethesda Bagels, Bagels Etc., Goldberg’s). Enjoy your favorite, and stop fighting—until the next food take drops. Multiple locations. —Caroline Jones

Best Dressing for When You’re Too Lazy to Make Your Own

Dress It Up

I love to cook, but I don’t always love cooking. After a long day, sometimes even the smallest kitchen project can feel overwhelming. If I’m being virtuous (which is not as often as I’d like), I’ll toss together a salad with whatever leafy greens and produce I have lying around, add nuts or Genova Seafood tinned tuna for protein, and crumble up some quality blue cheese or feta. To take my salad up a notch or two, I reach for a bottle of Dress It Up dressing. Founded in 2012 by Sophia Maroon (fun fact: her brother is Paul Maroon, guitarist of the Walkmen), the Chevy Chase company now offers half a dozen options: Champagne vinaigrette, blackberry vinaigrette, red wine vinaigrette, apple cider vinaigrette, sesame tahini dressing, and Caesar dressing. My favorites are the bright, bold red wine vinaigrette and the smooth, savory sesame tahini, which has plenty of punch thanks to a foundation of rice vinegar. Bottles of both are staples in my fridge, allowing me to enjoy big flavors while expending only a little effort and supporting a local business. Sounds like a win-win-win to me. —Nevin Martell

A table at Martha Dear in Washington, D.C.
The set-up at Martha Dear Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Basement

Martha Dear 

I will almost always recommend Martha Dear. Its menu is brimming with standout sourdough pizzas and creative yet accessible dishes, and the service is so pleasant I’d send my own, very picky mother here without thinking twice. But what keeps me frequenting the Mediterranean spot in Mount Pleasant is its basement nestled just under Mt. Desert Ice Cream. Earlier this summer Washingtonian and Axios D.C. both published lists of the best basement bars to escape the summer heat, and both of them are farcical. Neither list includes the best basement in D.C. Martha Dear’s Italian grandmother-chic aesthetic, complete with faux-antique dishware and tomato tins lining the walls; a wood-fired pizza oven, and soft lighting make it the perfect underground space. Paired with its seasonal menu of spritzes, Martha Dear is my subterranean, Rat Girl Summer destination. 3110 Mount Pleasant St. NW. —Camila Bailey

Best Curse 

828 Upshur St. NW

One strip of D.C. that has received a lot of love from notable chefs and restaurateurs in recent years is Upshur Street NW in Petworth, home to D.C. favorites Timber Pizza and Little Food Studio, and the future home of Wake Me, Shake Me. Right across the street lies the highly rated recent addition, Little Vietnam. As contributor Nevin Martell notes in his review of the restaurant, the space at 828 Upshur Street NW that now houses the Vietnamese eatery was once the address of an equally celebrated Korean American concept, Magpie and the Tiger; before that Himitsu, and before that Crane & Turtle. The intimate dining space could be cursed, but my more optimistic self says the brick-and-mortar spot just might be a designated stepping stone for the culinarily inclined. With such tight quarters, there’s certainly limited room for growth in the space. The whole room, afterall, seats just over 20. Since leaving the “cursed” rental, many of the chefs who used the kitchen have taken on new and exciting projects. The Magpie and the Tiger team has pivoted to collaborations, pop-ups, and private dinner parties. Kevin Tien, the former executive chef at Himitsu, is currently hosting a pop-up series with Little Vietnam through the rest of the month. 828 Upshur Street NW may not be for long-term occupancy, but any place that brings us great food like the ones that come out of its kitchen must be blessed with the best curse. —Camila Bailey

The profiterole from Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.
Le Diplomate’s profiterole Credit: James C. Jackson

Best Dessert

Profiterole at Le Diplomate

I have only been to Stephen Starr’s 14th Street NW restaurant once, on a whim, after a nearby comedy show. I am not typically a fan of ordering dessert at fancy restaurants, but a trifecta of influences worked against my better judgment. Perhaps already primed by the comedy show for a lighthearted evening, I could not pass up my all time favorite flavor combination: chocolate and banana. Plus, my dining partner insisted. The profiterole itself is STARR Restaurants Corporate Pastry Chef Fabrice Bendano’s funky twist on the traditional French dessert. He says he came up with the recipe in 2015 by combining two of his favorite flavors: bananas and praline. “This dessert is unique in that we retained the classic elements of the recipe, but enhanced it with an old-fashioned hazelnut and almond praline,” Bendano says via email. After the dish arrives at the table, a server pours hot chocolate sauce over the top, melting the chocolate shaving and drizzling down over the banana-vanilla ice cream. It is rich and light and simply delicious. And it appears I’m in good company: Bendano says the restaurant sold 18,100 profiteroles last year, second only to the créme brûlée. 1601 14th St. NW. Mitch Ryals

A plate from El Sol, a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C.
One of El Sol’s many offerings Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Taco Joint for Last-Minute Guests (and Best Guac)

El Sol

In addition to operating Mezcalero, Anafre, and Mariscos 1133, Chef Alfredo Solis runs El Sol, one of the best taquerias in D.C. The prices aren’t the only appealing part of this chill, unassuming joint: Their long hours every day of the week make it a great spot to pop into after returning from a long trip to avoid cooking, as a weekday lunch on their newly renovated patio, or to bring last minute out-of-towners to let them know that D.C. does, in fact, have good tacos. Get the al pastor, chorizo, or chicken tinga tacos for a classic meal, or one of their gigantic burritos slathered in salsa, cheese, and sour cream. Don’t forget one of the agua frescas and the guacamole—as a former guac hater, El Sol converted me with their perfect blend of avocado chunks and Serrano peppers that add a kick. 1227 11th St. NW. —Emily Martin

Peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream from Peach Cobbler Factory in Washington, D.C.
Peach Cobbler Factory’s namesake dessert with vanilla ice cream Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Place to Get a Late-Night Sweet Treat 

Peach Cobbler Factory

Peach Cobbler Factory, a Black-owned chain founded in Nashville, finally expanded to D.C. to fill the hole for late-night dessert options. If you’re looking for a sweet treat rather than your typical greasy drunk food after a night out, head here. Open until 10 p.m. most nights and midnight on weekends, the shop’s extensive menu includes various cobblers, banana puddings, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and milkshakes. The choices can be a bit overwhelming, so treat yourself to a dessert flight, and try four of the puddings and cobblers at once. You can get creative and add cobbler to cookies and cinnamon rolls (the cinnamon praline peach cobbler inside of a gooey cinnamon roll was heaven), then wash it all down with coffee or iced tea. Sugarholics will do anything to satisfy that sweet tooth, but be prepared to wait in front of the flower wall at this popular late-night joint. 1010 Massachusetts Ave. NW. —Emily Martin

A martini from Marx Cafe in Mount Pleasant
A martini from Marx Cafe Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Best Place to Take Your Pandemic-Stressed Dog to Dinner

Marx Cafe

Dealing with a dog who, due to various circumstances, can no longer be left alone without howling, puts a damper on your day-to-day life, which makes a pet-friendly spot like Marx Cafe essential. The Mount Pleasant restaurant serving “revolutionary cuisine”—a mix of Mediterranean small plates, burgers, and pastas, plus nightly dinner specials—willingly accommodates four-legged friends and even offers them individual water dishes, so they won’t have to share with other visitors. Because the menu is so broad, human diners can find something to eat regardless of their dietary limitations—a Sunday night beef Milanese special and the fish-and-chips are highlights. Drinks are poured heavily and served cold, and the overall environment is welcoming, whether you’re local to Mount Pleasant or visiting from out of town. Better yet, management recently extended the hours, so now, you can take your dog out to breakfast too. 3203 Mount Pleasant St. NW. —Darrow Montgomery, as told to Caroline Jones

This post has been updated to correct the type of food Magpie and the Tiger serves. It offers Korean American cuisine, not Vietnamese.