The Definitive It List For Food & Drink In DC

By Michael McCarthy | January 20, 2020 | Food & Drink

From chic Italian to a mixology master, here are the city’s leaders in good taste.


Tuna tartare and avocado at regal dining spot Punjab Grill

Fiola Mare
(3050 K St. NW, 202.525.1402)

Fabio Trabocchi’s gem on the Potomac delivers some of the best dining experiences in DC. Start with the Sea Me in the Fog cocktail (oyster shell-infused vodka, dry vermouth, manzanilla sherry), and roll down a menu that includes Oscetra Imperial Golden caviar, gragnano spaghetti alla chitarra (razor, surf and Manila clams, San Marzano tomatoes, parsley controne chile), and the 2-pound salt-crusted branzino.

Insider’s Tip Reserve the Aston Martin Room for an intimate private party of 14. The space boasts a private chef’s table, wine “cellar” and wine-service area.



From top: Each of Officina’s tasting menus feature a different Italian region; the light-filled cafe bar at Officina.

(1120 Maine Ave. SW, 202.747.5222)

When Michelin-starred chef Nick Stefanelli opened this dreamy spot at The Wharf last year, it was an instant success. The trilevel space features a vibrant trattoria, market and rooftop bar. Trattoria hits include the heavenly flash-fried calamari, crisp-skinned chicken with a lemony punch, and a lobster pasta—Stefanelli’s homage to his culinary mentor, the legendary Roberto Donna.

Insider’s Tip The rooftop getaway feels like a Tuscany villa, and Stefannelli’s 135-bottle collection of rare amaros (don’t miss the 1930s-era Montenegro) is enough of an enticement to spend a long, beautiful night on high.


Each menu at Three Blacksmiths in Sperryville, Va., is crafted for the week—all based on sourcing local products.

Three Blacksmiths
(20 Main St., Sperryville, Va., 540.987.5105)

The small town a short drive from hiking Valhalla White Oak Canyon isn’t just for carbo-loading any longer. It’s now home to the best tiny restaurant in the region. Local producers in the Shenandoah Valley supply ingredients for dishes like Meadow Creek Dairy alpine tortelloni and ember-butter-poached Chesapeake rockfish. With 20 seats and one seating time (7pm), the $128 per-person experience is a dining treasure to behold.

Insider’s Tip You’ll never get the same meal twice here, nor the same dessert; Diane and John MacPherson learn about local farm buys on Sunday and use those ingredients to create wild confections like a black-walnut custard tart with smoke yogurt and compressed Shenandoah apples.

(950 New York Ave. NW, 202.844.5895)

The Voltaggio Brothers have another hit on their hands by showing off their whimsical flair. An open kitchen with a custom Molteni range—facing a chic dining room and communal table—produces such mini miracles as the Chatham cod with spaghetti squash cacio e pepe, pea tendril and pumpkin-seed pesto.

Insider’s Tip Choose the five-course tasting menu ($95) with an equal number of wine pairings ($45) for a night of surprises; courses include short rib, capped with a long-stem of broccoli and puffed beef tendon atop sunflower-seed risotto.

Punjab Grill
(427 11th St. NW, 202.813.3004)

Owner and aviation executive Karan Singh has ensured nothing but lavishness for the brand’s first foray outside of Singapore and The Ritz-Carltons in Abu Dhabi and New Delhi. Indulgences populate the menu, including tandoori phool (cauliflower florets, aloo shimla mirch, mint chutney) and malabar machhi (Chilean sea bass, jaggery cumin glaze, Brussels sprout thoran, kokum coconut sauce).

Insider’s Tip Hermès plates greet you in the private dining room known as Sheesh Mahal ($3,000 per booking); Caymus is also poured by the glass, and, you guessed it, caviar service awaits.


Capellini and clams from Occasions

(655 Taylor St. NE, 202.546.7400)

The talented crew at Occasions continues to impress with the only catering R&D team in the area. For The Kennedy Center’s Reach launch party, the team created an over-the-top oyster-and-Champagne pairing station; and for the Correspondents Dinner afterparty at the Italian Embassy for NBC News, it created capellini and clams—another hit.

Insider’s Tip Private party? Use Protocol, Occasions’ in-house hospitality firm, complete with butler, bartender or mixologist.


The Watergate Sour by mixologist Kal Lemma at Kingbird at the Watergate Hotel

(2650 Virginia Ave. NW, 202.827.1600)

We’re head over heels with mixologist Kal Lemma, a native of Ethiopia. Lemma, who used to accompany his father to fresh markets in Addis Ababa, says cooking has always been central to his life—and it shows with the evocative cocktail tastes he’s conjured to match Sébastien Giannini’s Mediterranean-centered menu.

Insider’s Tip Lemma crafts his own syrups and bitters in house. He also frequently employs French Armagnac—and, yes, French wines—in his cocktails.

Photography by: from top: greg powers | scott suchman | greg powers | Occasions| kingbird