Is the pace of Washington, D.C. restaurant opening ever going to slow down? That's what comes to my mind first when I think back on this year of dining out at home.
In 2013 and 2014, we watched 14th Street fill up with seemingly weekly openings. As the "hot" neighborhoods proliferate (Shaw seemed to welcome a particular number of promising newcomers this year), now it's like there are multiple interesting openings per week, making us diners very lucky to be have so much selection (while simultaneously feeling like we cannot possibly keep up). One of my first restaurant reviews of next year promises to be a good one--the recently opened Convivial in Shaw, where Mintwood Place chef Cedric Maupillier is cooking some amazing food.
Big-name chefs continue to show interest in D.C., the biggest of which to open an outpost in our city this year was David Chang, the man behind the Momofuku collective. Judging be the lines outside Momofuku CCDC, I wasn't the only one impatiently waiting to see how his creative Asian-inspired cooking translated to our market.
Plus our own Jose Andres continued to expand his gastronomic empire with the one-two punch of the Peruvian-by-way-of-Asia China Chilcano and the vegetable-centric-fast-casual Beefsteak, which I'm happy to hear will be adding a new location in my neighborhood next year. Also coming to my neighborhood in 2016--a new Italian restaurant from Fabio and Maria Trabocchi--the wonderful talent behind Fiola and Casa Luca. After a hard few years where we lost places like Palena and Dino, even stodgy ol' Upper Northwest seems to be getting back in the game.
Outside of D.C., we had our usual jaunts to New York, where we discovered our new favorite Mexican restaurant. We made do with cruise food, but enjoyed some pretty incredible eats in port. And we indulged our love for barbecue, Tex-Mex and good cocktails in Austin, Texas, which was as much a place to spend a long weekend as we'd hoped. Interestingly, a lot of my favorite dishes this year didn't come from the more expensive or buzzy places we visited, but rather the more casual, less flashy places we stumbled upon.
Here then are the best eats we enjoyed outside the home this year (restaurants named are in Washington, D.C. unless otherwise indicated).
|Palak Chaat, Rasika|
|Frida Kale, Beefsteak|
|Sliced Brisket with Beans and Slaw, Fat Pete's|
|Corn Ravioli, Ghibellina|
|Halibut Fish & Chips, Alava's Fish & Chowder|
|Breakfast Tacos, Taco Joint|
|Fried Apple Pie, The Partisan|
Best service: Dos Locos (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware). Maybe I'm getting pickier, but service was an area where few restaurants really excelled this year. Service where we ate was fine, for the most part, but rarely was it a memorable aspect of our dining experiences this year. A notable exception was Dos Locos, our favorite restaurant at the beach, where we are always made to feel welcome no matter if we're sitting down for dinner or just pop in for an afternoon margarita. Even when they are crushed under the busy dinner service, our needs for condiments, refills or just the check are always anticipated and never delayed. Honorable mention: China Chilcano, La Condesa (Austin, Texas).
|Lamb Pot Stickers, China Chilcano|
Best Cocktail (Restaurant): Maybe a Joyful Noise (The Partisan). I'm breaking cocktails into two parts, since it doesn't seem fair to compare cocktails from cocktail bars (where they do little, if anything, else) to those at restaurants. That said, the Maybe a Joyful Noise from The Partisan is a pretty incredible drink that rivals our favorite tipples from the next section. The mixture of bourbon, bitter-sweet Italian digestif, French digestif and chocolate bitters was a perfectly balanced and heady concoction that I would happily drink again. Honorable mentions: Cool Hand Luke (Tico), Cholotini (China Chilcano), Dennis Coles (Hearth, New York), Colonial (DBGB Kitchen & Bar), Honey & Chamomile G&T (Tupelo Honey Cafe, Arlington, Virginia), Devil in Oaxaca (The Black Ant, New York).
|Ready to Depart (left) and Dijahbone (right), Mayahuel|