From humble beginnings, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s biannual Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week has mushroomed into a delish, Washington-area dining experience. And while this month is generally a calm time in the region’s dining scene, Restaurant Week, Jan. 22-28, manages to heat it up.
This year, diners have options at 250 participating restaurants in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Prix-fixe prices keep the check-splitting stress to a minimum: three-course lunches run $22 and three-course dinners are $35 (many places also offer an additional wine pairing). Reservations at the hotter eateries go pretty quickly, so get those in now before you’re stuck with a 5:45 p.m. dinner.
More than 25 restaurants are joining the festivities for the first time this year. The include new hot spots like District Winery, Unconventional Diner and Fish by Jose Andres, as well as three Matchbox locations (14th Street, Capitol Hill and Chinatown).
In a coup for the millennial set, many restaurants are offering a brunch option (introduced last year) for $22. More than 80 spots will offer these prix-fixe menus on Jan. 27-28, allowing diners to make sure they still get their fill of their favorite meal of the weekend or entire week. Favorites serving on Saturday and Sunday include Ankara, Commissary, Espita Mezcaleria and the Riggsby.
The Association also has an awards program for eager diners, as long as you make reservations via the Restaurant Week website. Prizes include tickets to local food events, gift cards and cookbooks authored by local chefs and from local restaurants.
Beyond thriving new neighborhoods like the Wharf and Ivy City, there are plenty of options around the entire region, from 14th Street and Adams Morgan to Shaw, Navy Yard and even Tyson’s.
Of course there’s no way to hit all 250, but try to mix up the neighborhood, cuisine and mealtime, and you’ll be set. Though difficult decisions must be made, it’s important to make reservations early. We’ve culled through the list in our top areas and narrowed it down to help you in your search.
In the heart of 17th Street, Agora (1527 17th St., N.W.) is famous for its shareable small plates based on the cuisines of Turkey, Lebanon and Greece. There’s an extensive international wine list, as well as the region’s famous liquor, raki.
Right across the street, snug inside a classic D.C. rowhouse is Floriana (1602 17th St., N.W.) and its upscale, white-tablecloth Italian. Classy, cozy, romantic, it’s pretty much what a special Restaurant Week dining experience is all about.
Rounding out our 17th Street recommendations is Sushi Taro (1503 17th St., N.W.), a Japanese treasure. Though somewhat incongruous located adjacent to the CVS, it’s entirely made up for on the strength of Chef Nobu Yamazaki’s dishes — certainly meriting a Restaurant Week reservation, especially since reservations are already hard to come by.
The first outfit to make its own wine in Washington, District Winery (385 Water St., S.E.) also has a seasonal American restaurant, Ana, named for the river that flows just outside the establishment’s enormous, two-story windows. Dining here is like a two-for-one: get a tour of the massive winemaking operation along with a new dining experience.
Open a mere month ago, Unconventional Diner (1207 9th St., N.W.), is a funky outpost in located inside the Convention Center. With bespoke furnishings and a brightly lit space, it offers a modern take on classic diner dishes like chicken noodle soup, meatloaf, and yes, kale lasagna. Go with a big group and snag one of the booths seemingly stolen right from an 1950s corner soda shop.
Another shooting Shaw star that opened recently, Arroz (901 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.) comes from top chef Mike Isabella (Graffiato, Kapnos), set inside the Marriott Marquis. Lots of white and blue, even in this chilly month, bring whispers of the Mediterranean. Jamon serrano and manchego are just the beginning, and the seafood is to die for. While you’re coming for the food, it’d be a mistake to miss the sangria (in red, white and rose), as well as the creative cocktails.
Celebrity chef phenom David Chang opened Momofuku D.C. (1090 I St., N.W.), a full-service restaurant in the glam of City Center, serving his somewhat avant garde, high-end and creative street food, starting with the ramen, buns and pork rinds. It’ll be open for brunch, lunch and dinner. Reservations here are already notoriously difficult, so it’s a good idea to act fast on this one.
Even though Washington’s Restaurant Week is just one week, many restaurants offer extensions and other locales are getting in on the act: Bethesda, Fairfax and National Harbor all have upcoming restaurant weeks as well.