District Equities' Top 5: Restaurants

It’s Friday night and as usually is the case, a group of friends and I are out to dinner. Our server asks if we’d like to start off with drinks – perhaps a bottle of wine. I look down at the menu and scan for my go-tos. Damn, they’re nowhere to be found. The server, sensing my distress begins to ask a few questions about what I normally like to drink. He helps me select a bottle of red he promises is close to a Barbera. A few minutes later, the cork is popped, and after the ritual tasting – I approved – our glasses are filled with a delicious Vespolina.

For casual wine drinkers like me, the experience of ordering the right bottle of wine can often be anxiety inducing. Do I like earthy or fruity? Do I like dry or sweet? For me, what separates good restaurants from exceptional restaurants is how they handle situations like these. Do they come to my level and help guide my decision-making process or do they expect me to be a mini sommelier?

With great hospitality, delicious food, and consistent level of quality, I can only call tonight’s meal exceptional. And after chatting with my colleagues at District Equities, it’s clear that what DC’s robust restaurant scene really needs, is to refocus on what’s exceptional, rather what’s trendy. To help jumpstart the conversation, we compiled this list of five distinct restaurants that we think are leading the way:

Unique and Exceptional

Restaurant Name: Thip Kao

Neighborhood: Columbia Heights

Cuisine: Laotian

Why we think it’s exceptional:

Home to one of the most adventurous menus in the city, Thip Khao is literally one-of-a-kind –
it’s the first and only Laos food restaurant in DC. We love Chef Seng (who you should definitely follow on Instagram) and recommend that first timers order the laab.

BBQ for the Big Leagues

Restaurant Name: Federalist Pig

Neighborhood: Adams Morgan

Cuisine: BBQ

Why we think it’s exceptional:

For a city once considered part of the South, DC always seemed one step behind its southern brethren when it came to BBQ. That changed when Federalist Pig opened in Adams Morgan in February 2017. Whether you’re craving the pork belly or the brisket, our advice is to arrive early because top dishes have a tendency to sell out.

Fast, Casual, but Elevated

Restaurant: Cava Mezze Grill

Neighborhood: Multiple locations throughout the city

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Why we think it’s exceptional:

Pick a base. Pick a protein. Pick a sauce. Pick toppings. While this formula is common amongst the red-hot fast casual food industry, Cava Mezze Grill (often called simply “Cava”) is anything but formulaic. From exceptional dips like the spicy harissa to incredible finishers like the lemon-herb-tahini sauce, Cava serves up DC’s best grab-and-go lunch.

Happy Hour Heaven

Restaurant: Sushi Taro

Neighborhood: Dupont Circle

Cuisine: Japanese

Why we think it’s exceptional:

While not as trendy as some of the neighborhoods to its east, Dupont Circle’s 17th St continues to be one of the city’s finest restaurant corridors. Sushi Taro, our favorite along the .3 mile stretch between P St and Riggs Place NW, serves a variety of authentic Japanese tasting menus that are perfect for a special occasion. But for those who aren’t looking to spend a month’s rent on dinner, Sushi Taro offers half price sushi and drinks during happy hour at the bar – one of DC’s best kept secrets. 

Quintessentially DC

Restaurant: Old Ebbitt Grill

Neighborhood: Downtown

Cuisine: Southern

Why we think it’s exceptional:

Open since 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill is one of the city’s oldest dining establishments and arguably its most famous. While frequently packed with out-of-towners, the restaurant is also beloved by locals who know that the best times to swing by are between the hours of 11pm and 1am when the seafood towers are 50% off. We often meet our clients there for drinks so we hope to see you around.