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Seek out these 5 unique restaurants in Washington, D.C.

Restaurants in Washington, D.C. aren’t just places to grab quick meals. They’re culinary hotspots that transform seasonal ingredients. They present lesser-known dishes from all corners of the globe. And they lay the groundwork for game-changing, sustainable initiatives, all while serving as worthy backdrops for power meals—this is the nation’s capital, after all.

Dig into inventive Chifa fare (a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese food) at a snug U Street hideout. Check out a reimagined Southern barbecue smokehouse in Arlington, complete with a custom wood-burning smoker.

These innovative Washington, D.C. area restaurants urge people to rethink their definitions of dining out. Read on for a list of some of the District’s most cutting-edge spots.

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OpenTable team
5 Restaurants
Updated December 21, 2022
Restaurants:Tabard Inn, Juniper Restaurant, El Secreto de Rosita
Price Range:$$ - $$$
Cuisines:Contemporary American, Unspecified, Latin American
Neighborhoods:Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Downtown
A photo of Tabard Inn restaurant

Tabard Inn

Contemporary American
Dupont Circle
3051 reviews
The Tabard Inn, first established in 1922, became an industry gamechanger after adopting an employee-ownership model in 1993. Employee-owners at this century-old Dupont Circle stalwart can still learn all aspects of the restaurant business, whether its understanding how the Tabard Inn costs out food or how its creative minds conceive menu favorites such as the kale and frisée salad and the veal porterhouse. That’s not where the creativity ends: executive chef Cliff Wharton began incorporating his Filipino heritage into the Tabard Inn’s menu—highly unusual for a restaurant that’s so historic—when he took the helm in 2019. Top choices include quail adobo with ginger scallion rice and banana ketchup, as well as pancit, a classic noodle dish with vermicelli, shrimp, chicken, pork, vegetables, lemon, and soy sauce.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Juniper Restaurant restaurant

Juniper Restaurant

678 reviews
This modern American brasserie inside the storied [Fairmont Washington, D.C.](https://www.fairmont.com/washington/) stands out for relying on a fleet of winged insects to champion sustainability in its kitchen. Housed in hives on the hotel rooftop, 105,000 Italian bees provide the honey for dishes such as honey granola and salad lyonnaise. The bees also pollinate the hotel’s interior courtyard garden, which provides many herbs and edible flowers for its culinary program. A meal at Juniper isn’t complete without a honeycomb-garnished beetini, the hotel’s signature cocktail, made with vodka, elderflower liqueur, rooftop honey syrup, bitters, and citrus blossom essence.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of El Secreto de Rosita restaurant

El Secreto de Rosita

Latin American
426 reviews

El Secreto de Rosita is a comprehensive and groundbreaking ode to Peruvian cuisine, highlighting both the country’s ancient Incan roots and newer immigrant imprints—a concept not easily found in Washington, D.C. The romantic U Street lair, designed to resemble a rainforest, recently landed a spot in MICHELIN’s D.C. dining guide. Indigenous Peruvian ingredients, such as purple corn and yellow pepper, distinguish the imaginative menu. Expect an entire section dedicated to ceviche, plus plenty of Nikkei and Chifa cuisine; the latter was brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants. It’s all whipped up by Eugene Perret, a Peru native who has cooked at MICHELIN-starred spots including Siren and Komi. Must-tries include arroz chaufa, a Peruvian-Chinese fried rice, and kam lu wantan, a sweet and sour stir-fry served with crispy wontons, shrimp tempura, pineapple, and snow peas.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Ruthie's All-Day restaurant

Ruthie's All-Day

2129 reviews
Helmed by James Beard Award semifinalist Matt Hill, Ruthie’s All Day redefines what it means to be a Southern barbecue smokehouse. A custom wood-burning smoker—oak and hickory are the fuel of choice—flavors the restaurant’s signature meat-and-three dishes, such as brisket that’s perfectly seasoned with garlic, onion, and paprika and smoked overnight. The true standouts, though, are the poultry options. The smoked duck, brined, oak-smoked, and wood-grilled to order, takes its inspiration from an unlikely source: Sichuan cuisine. The half-chicken dish with white barbecue sauce is marinated in soy, lemon, and lime juice for two days. Pair it with a side of dirty rice with charred kimchi, and crispy brussels sprouts tossed in a fish vinaigrette for a truly inimitable take on barbecue.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of dLeña restaurant


Latin American
Mount Vernon Square
1089 reviews

After feasting on contemporary Oaxacan fare at acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval’s beloved restaurant, dLeña, head downstairs to Roja. This rustic-chic, subterranean lounge features a prolific selection of 300 agave spirits, one of D.C.’s largest, including 250 tequilas. Sit at the leather-lined bar or one of the moody, candlelit tables along the walnut tambour-paneled walls and sip on craft cocktails such as the tamarind paloma—it’s an especially creative spin on the tequila drink, rimmed with chamoy chile salt. Agave spirit aficionados who store mezcal bottles in one of the bar’s 44 exclusive private tequila lockers receive it served in bespoke crystal decanters on every visit, along with a personalized membership card that guarantees a table at this unrivaled, walk-in only haunt.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

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