D.C.'s Homegrown Talent

When in the capital, don't miss these restaurants

The capital is finally getting the food scene it deserves: small, independent, ambitious restaurants with a decidedly D.C. DNA. Here are the restaurants not to miss next time you're in the city. —Todd Kliman

Crane & Turtle
Crane & Turtle
This new 25-seater is the latest cool, quirky mainstay from restaurateur Paul Ruppert, whose family's D.C. roots go back to the 1890s. For Ruppert's French-Asian menu, chef Makoto Hamamura creates carefully composed plates with surprising combinations of components—like a tuna tataki dressed not with ponzu, but with tuna sauce (à la the Piedmontese classic vitello tonnato). A crisp-skinned fan of duck breast is served with a deliciously bitter tahini sauce and yuba. Crane & Turtle
828 Upshur Street, NW
Todd Kliman
Little Serow
Little Serow
Johnny Monis' Komi restaurant was among the first places in the city to expose the divide between the city's old ways (expense accounts, cavernous steakhouses) and new (smaller rooms, more adventurous cusine). Here, at this 28-seat northern Thai joint in an electric green-colored English basement next door to Komi, Monis marinates his pork ribs in Mekhong whiskey, and his seven courses for $45 are as pungent as they ought to be. If this isn't the best Thai restaurant in the country, then it's certainly the most inspired, and, with its doting staff of winsome servers in hipster nerd glasses, perhaps the most fun. Little Serow
1511 17th Street, NW
Todd Kliman
Mintwood Place
Mintwood Place
Iranian-born Saied Azali opened his first D.C. restaurant 30 years ago—Perry's, a pan-Asian spot that distinguished itself with its drag brunch. His new, moodily lit bistro combines two of Azali's abiding loves: plaintive Appalachian music (he went to college in West Virginia) and French cooking. The chef, Cedric Maupillier, apprenticed under local legend Michel Richard, and his approach at the stove is as exacting as it is playful. He reinvigorates the ubiquitous bistro combo beets and goat cheese by slicing the beets to razor thinness, aggressively peppering them, and combining them with the tangy cheese as a filling for savory Pop-Tart-like pastries fashioned from Wonder Bread—huh?—and fried until golden. Mintwood Place
1813 Columbia Road, NW
Todd Kliman
Mockingbird Hill
Eat the Rich, Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency
A mixologist with encyclopedic knowledge of the pre-Prohibition canon, Derek Brown displays his art at this trio of ventures. Eat the Rich braids together a cocktail bar, a raw bar, and a biker bar (there's thrash metal on the sound system); Mockingbird Hill exists solely to pair sherries with hams; and Southern Efficiency, a reference to JFK's crack about Washington—"a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm"—combines Brown's fondness for whiskeys with contemporary country fare like smoked North Carolina trout with deviled eggs, chilled tomato soup, and trout roe. _Eat the Rich
1839 7th Street, NW Mockingbird Hill
1843 7th Street, NW Southern Efficiency
1841 7th Street, NW_
Todd Kliman
The Red Hen
The Red Hen
Chef Michael Friedman and GM/sommelier Sebastian Zutant both grew up in Rockville, a nearby Maryland suburb, and Zutant recently moved a few doors down from the restaurant in the still restaurant-light northeast section of town. Nothing feels forced or rushed here: The cocktails are brilliant without trying too hard, and Friedman's regional Italian cooking, like his mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragù and pecorino, effects the appearance of being thrown together but is built on a foundation of careful detail. The Red Hen
1822 1st Street, NW
Todd Kliman