Indulge in the most travel-worthy culinary experiences at these restaurants with Michelin stars throughout DC.
For roving gastronomes and travelers who revel in experiences centered on food, it’s time to reserve a table in the nation’s capital. The 2021 Washington, DC Michelin Guide is out, and it’s brimming with Michelin-starred restaurants, affordable hot spots and essential eating insights covering nearly 130 restaurants in and around the District.
The Michelin selections are in, and DC’s dining scene is as hot as it’s ever been. So why all the buzz? The District is home to a distinct landscape of diverse cuisines and perfectly cooked dishes, all of which are waiting to be devoured. Don’t just take our word for it. Check out these Michelin Guide highlights and make sure to book your tables early.
Restaurants with Michelin Stars
There are 23 restaurants in Washington, DC that have earned highly coveted Michelin stars. The three-star system is represented as follows: one star: “a very good restaurant in its category;” two stars: “excellent cuisine, worth a detour;” and three stars: “cooking worth a special journey.” Chef Patrick O’Connell's The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia remains the region's only three-star restaurant.
Four newcomers received one Michelin star this year: Pepe Moncayo’s Cranes, Danny Lledó‘s Xiquet DL, Juan Manuel’s El Cielo Washington and Yuan and Carey Tang’s Rooster & Owl. In addition, Ryan Ratino’s Jônt joined the two other restaurants honored with two Michelin stars, José Andrés’ minibar and Aaron Silverman’s Pineapple and Pearls. Other popular one-star restaurants include Kinship from chef Eric Ziebold, Plume in downtown DC and Masseria by Nicholas Stefanelli in the NoMa neighborhood.
Restaurants with Three Michelin Stars
The Inn at Little Washington
Locals in need of a lavish getaway reserve a room at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia – if nothing but to relish one of the most elegant dining experiences in the area from chef Patrick O’Connell. The region’s first three-star restaurant is known for its diverse tasting menus featuring O’Connell’s mouthwatering culinary creations.
Restaurants with Two Michelin Stars
Chef Ryan Ratino, the chef behind fellow Michelin restaurant Bresca, has gathered a lineup of inspired chefs and creatives to bring Jônt to DC. The restaurant, which joins Pineapple and Pearls and minibar as the only two-star restaurants within city limits, offers a tasting menu that is a voyage through dynamic flavors, showcasing a playful technique that leads to dishes you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Think Dungeness crab with donabe rice, truffle and maitake, or sea urchin with custard and English peas. The robust beverage menu means you’re also likely to find the perfect drink to pair with your meal.
minibar by José Andrés
Take a multi-course journey through the world of molecular gastronomy from renowned chef José Andrés. Located in Penn Quarter, this restaurant is regularly booked months in advance. Good to know: José’s four other area restaurants are all Bib Gourmand selections.
Pineapple and Pearls
Chef Aaron Silverman’s tasting menu is the stuff of perfection. Venture into Barracks Row on Capitol Hill for a night filled with meticulously crafted courses – each paired with a drink. Tip: You can belly up to the bar for the same tasting menu sans drinks and save $100.
Restaurants with One Michelin Star
Spanish and Japanese cuisine collide at this restaurant and sake lounge that now has a Michelin star to its name. Chef Pepe Moncayo’s menu brings delight with each dish, combining seasonal tapas and desserts with bento omakase to create an experience he calls “Spanish Kaiseki.” An extensive wine and sake list round out this boundless culinary excursion.
Dive into the flavors of Colombia at Elcielo D.C., located inside La Cosecha in NOMA and helmed by chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, who mixes the avant-garde with traditional Colombian cuisine to create a flavor-packed adventure that incorporates all five senses. Two tasting menus, The Experience and The Journey, can be enjoyed in a reserved room next to the open kitchen. The a la carte menu, served in the great hall, features signature dishes like The Tree of Life, which offers oven-baked Yucca bread on a bonsai tree, representing the Amazon rainforest.
Chef Danny Lledó has built a menu that reflects the climate, agriculture and sea bounty of Valencia at Xiquet. Featuring a stunning wood-fired kitchen enclosed in glass, the Embassy Row restaurant offers both tasting and a la carte experiences that are sure to leave you breathless. Standout dishes include the Red Prawn of Denia and either of the two paellas, including a vegetarian version with artichoke, asparagus, lima beans and eggplant, or the seafood version with lobster, red prawn, scallop and cuttlefish ($40 caviar optional).
Rooster & Owl
After honing his skills at Michelin-starred kitchens around New York City, chef Yuan Tang teamed up with wife Carey Tang to open Rooster & Owl in DC. The couple’s 14th Street NW restaurant serves contemporary American fare, offering diners a four-course, prix-fixe menu where seasonal ingredients and vegetarian dishes shine. Diners can expect something unique from the jump with takes like the Carolina-style barbecue carrots with a cornbread ice cream, meatless larb made with lime-kissed shiitake mushrooms, and grilled cobia fish served with broccoli mole and turnips dressed in fish sauce vinaigrette. The restaurant is welcoming diners in person (book in advance), but it also features a to-go menu where you can order a la carte, including wine and cocktails.
Chef Matt Baker has turned a former tomato cannery in Ivy City into Gravitas, a farm-to-table restaurant highlighting the delicious bounty of the Chesapeake in a modern space with plenty of exposed brick. You can choose your own culinary adventure with the flexible five- or seven-course tasting menu options, allowing you to sample a range of Baker’s popular dishes (think yellowfin sashimi and an exceptional chocolate ganache that snakes across your plate). Green thumbs can get their kicks sipping on cocktails upstairs at the Conservatory, which includes a greenhouse and garden alive with flowers, fruits and vegetables.
If a menu-less, 20-course dining experience suits your taste, look no further than Sushi Nakazawa. This New York import that turns eating into an adventure comes from chef Daisuke Nakazawa. The restaurant serves fresh-caught fruits of the sea in the style of omakase, a Japanese phrase that roughly translates to “I'll leave it up to you.” The delight and intrigue of Sushi Nakazawa can be found inside the ornate Trump International Hotel.
At Rose Previte's Maydan, everything from the fiery flavors to the eclectic decor tells the story of the restaurant team’s travels across the Middle East and North Africa. Set in the back alley of a 19th century brick building just off 14th Street and marked only by a heavy wooden door, diners are greeted by the sizzling of turmeric-spiced whole chicken, lamb shoulder dressed in Syrian seven spice and chermoula sauce-marinated sardines roasting over the crackling oak-fired hearth. The two-story Maydan, which means “town square,” provides a unique communal dining experience, with some tables shared between multiple parties. In addition to a Michelin star, this DC dining darling was named 2018's second-best new restaurant in America by Bon Appétit.
Little Pearl allows you to enjoy Aaron Silverman’s award-winning culinary creations without waiting in line at Rose’s Luxury or shelling out for Pineapple and Pearls. This Capitol Hill cafe-by-day and wine-bar-by-night has taken over as the casual spot in Silverman’s dining empire. Choose from gourmet java, potato donuts and a delightfully crispy fried chicken sandwich (served fried or Japanese-style) during a daytime visit. You can also wash down one of the inventive snacks with a glass of vino from an extensive by-the-glass list or choose the affordable prix-fixe dinner menu.
At chef Ryan Ratino’s Bresca, an inventive menu melds tantalizing flavors and the chef’s one-of-a-kind vision: pastrami beets are served with whipped feta and dill on rye, foie gras is made into a “PB&J” and sea urchin linguini with truffles and chili delivers a deliciously rich umami bomb. To top it off, many of the herbs and floral garnishes for dishes are grown on the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
After cutting his teeth at The French Laundry, a Michelin three-star restaurant, chef Eric Ziebold moved to DC and came into his own when he opened Kinship to rave reviews. The menu features dishes that focus on technique, history, ingredient or communal preparations. It’s a special place, and perfect for a celebratory meal.
Located beneath Kinship, an even more indulgent experience awaits at Métier, chef Eric Ziebold's ambitious 36-seat restaurant with a $200 seven-course tasting menu. The French-themed restaurant is has become a city favorite, and diners take note: advanced reservations are recommended and jackets are required for gentlemen.
Located near the foodie wonderland of Union Market, Nicholas Stefanelli’s restaurant harkens back to his rustic Italian roots. Savor coastal cuisine cooked to perfection, aided by a well-manicured wine list.
Plume's German-born toque, Ralf Schlegel, isn't the first master chef in his family to earn a Michelin star, but he's the first to do so on American soil. The classically trained Schlegel executes his European-inspired dishes to perfection, something best experienced off the prix-fixe menu. The restaurant is located inside The Jefferson Hotel.
Chef Johnny Monis' Greek-inflected Komi serves up a tasting menu highlighted by Mediterranean seafood inside intimate and simplistic environs. A visit to this Dupont Circle favorite is $150 per person.
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne added to the Shaw neighborhood's transformation into one of the city’s hottest dining neighborhoods with his Blagden Alley venture. Come here to discover what his signature Mid-Atlantic fare is all about.
Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s Penn Quarter outpost sates wine and negroni lovers, as well as connoisseurs of house-made pastas and Italian-inspired seafood. Head to his other spots, including downtown DC pasta house Sfoglina, for an array of delectable dining experiences.
Neighborhood dining doesn't get any better than this Barracks Row establishment, named the best new restaurant in America in 2014 by Bon Appétit. Eaters line up hours in advance to get a table, but now you can score same-day reservations as well.
Tail Up Goat
Bib Gourmand, Under $25's & Others
There’s much more to incredible dining than stars, which is where the Bib Gourmand designation comes in. Named for the fluffy Michelin Man (Bibendum), Bib Gourmand restaurants must offer two courses and a dessert or glass of wine for $40 or less. In total, 44 DC restaurants received the honor, and we’ve picked out Bib Gourmand restaurants that you should plan to visit.
The entire guide features a full range of more than 30 different types of cuisine, which is evident in many of the Under $25 picks. Among those that are featured in the guide: chef Katsuya Fukushima's ramen shop Daikaya, Ethiopian restaurant Chercher, late-night standby The Diner and Filipino restaurant Purple Patch. Rounding out the reviews are dozens of other notable eateries, including Marcel's (make sure to try the boudin blanc), Petworth pizza purveyors Timber Pizza Company and Lapis for Afghan cuisine.
How a Tire Company Became an Authority on Fine Dining
Founded in France by two brothers in 1888, the Michelin tire company published its first guide in 1900 with the intent to inspire car owners to spin their wheels. In addition to covering accommodations, the red guide also rated restaurants with affordable selections and the now-famous three-star system. Over time, the guide grew to include cities across Western Europe and eventually around the globe, and the prestige of being selected as a starred restaurant rose into a life pursuit for chefs.
The Inspectors and the Selection Process
Made up of food experts, hospitality industry alumni and former chefs, Michelin inspectors are the ultimate arbiters of culinary excellence. The inspectors never tip off restaurants about their identity. They dine anonymously, paying their bills in full like any other unsuspecting patron. Just like locals, they make return visits to continue the inspection process.
Inspectors judge each restaurant based on five criteria: product quality, preparation and flavors, the chef's personality as revealed through his or her cuisine, value for money, and consistency over time and across the entire menu.
Now that restaurants are operating within a Michelin Guide city, chefs throughout the DC metro area must remain on their toes – because in order to earn the highest praise, kitchens have to deliver a winning dish with each order.
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