Washington, D.C. is home to one of the nation's hottest restaurant scenes, attracting Michelin-starred and award-winning chefs from around the world to pursue exciting new dining ventures in a variety of cuisines.

Many of its restaurants are known for their intimate dining atmosphere, making them popular spots for first dates and anniversaries alike. These restaurants offer creative decor, clever menus, and extensive wine and cocktail pairing lists, with many serving shareable small plates or specials geared toward dinner for two.

1. Founding Farmers

Founding Farmers
© Founding Farmers

Founding Farmers is a D.C.-based chain of restaurants cooperatively owned by more than 47,000 family farmers throughout the nation, founded as a partnership between the North Dakota Farmers Union and restaurant industry veterans Dan Simons and Mike Vucurevich. The chain operates nine independent restaurants throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed region, including three distinct restaurants and a cocktail bar in the nation's capital. Its flagship Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant, located three blocks west of the White House, is the country's most-reserved restaurant on OpenTable, offering a wide variety of handcrafted farm-to-table fare for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Signature dishes recreate favorite Southern comfort food such as shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and market-fresh crab cakes, with many clever vegetarian options also available. A full menu of from-scratch craft cocktails is also served, along with house-made wines, spirits, fountain sodas, and cold-press juice blends.

1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20006, Phone: 202-822-8783, Map

2. Perry's Japanese Cuisine

Perry's Japanese Cuisine
© Perry's Japanese Cuisine

Perry's Japanese Cuisine is a longtime Adams Morgan favorite, offering inventive Japanese brunch and dinner fare since 1984. The multi-level restaurant is helmed by executive chef Masaru Setsuraku, with additional guidance from head kitchen chef Thomas Park and sushi bar chef Shigehisa Yokote. The restaurant has been featured in international publications and television programs such as The Washington Post, Zagat, the BBC, and the Travel Channel, renowned as the site of D.C.'s longest-running drag brunch. Large and small plates highlight contemporary Japanese favorites such as pork ramen, miso salmon, and mushroom fried rice. Japanese-inspired cocktails are available at the restaurant and its year-round rooftop bar, along with a wide selection of wines, beers, sakes, and Japanese whiskeys.

Perry's Japanese Cuisine, 1811 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009, Phone: 202-234-6218

3. Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken
© Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken has been named as one of the nation's best doughnut shops and fried chicken restaurants by publications such as TimeOut and Thrillist. The chain was opened by childhood friends and former Washington Capitals hockey players Jeff Halpern and Elliot Spaisman, offering a unique twist on the classic Southern favorite chicken and waffles. Its D.C. location is known for gourmet doughnut flavors such as maple bacon, peanut butter and jelly, and crème brûlée, the latter of which has been named as the city's best doughnut by The Washington Post. Fried chicken and chicken tender platters are also available, along with clever sides such as tater tots and kimchi coleslaw. Other locations of the chain are also offered in Los Angeles and Falls Church, Virginia.

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, 1308 G St NW, Washington, DC 20004, Phone: 202-809-5565

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4. Fish Taco

Fish Taco
© Fish Taco

Fish Taco is a neighborhood taqueria offering three locations throughout suburban D.C., including locations in Cabin John, Chevy Chase, and North Bethesda. The casual chain is perfect for couples looking for a quick lunch bite, using locally-sourced seasonal ingredients to craft Baja-inspired dishes ordered at the restaurant's register. Favorite plates include the restaurant's giant burritos, beer-battered tacos, and Chihuahua cheese quesadillas, which may be ordered as vegetarian dishes or filled with adobo steak, chicken, pork carnitas, barbacoa brisket, or blackened fish. Rotating draft beers are also served, along with a variety of wines, frozen margaritas, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Fish Taco, 7945 Macarthur Blvd, Cabin John, MD 20818, Phone: 301-229-0900

5. Duke's Counter

Duke's Counter
© Duke's Counter

Duke's Counter is the second venture from the team behind Dupont Circle's acclaimed Duke's Grocery, located directly across from the National Zoo in D.C.'s Woodley Park neighborhood. The unique concept pub strives to recreate the bustling, eclectic vibe of East London's food scene, serving a menu emphasizing fresh and locally-sourced ingredients for brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night service. All menu items are rotated regularly, creating an ever-changing experience for diners. Frequently featured dishes include the restaurant's Proper Burger, which has been named as one of the city's best burgers by Thrillist and The Washington Post, along with a wide variety of curries, small plates, and globally-influenced sandwiches. Craft beers and cocktails are also available, with extended happy hour specials offered daily.

Duke's Counter, 3000 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite J, Washington, D.C. 20008, Phone: 202-733-4808

6. The Pub and the People

The Pub and the People
© The Pub and the People

The Pub and the People is an up-and-coming Bloomingdale tavern that was voted as D.C.'s best neighborhood bar in 2017 and 2018. The American-style tavern serves a menu of globally-influenced gastropub fare, including five-spice duck breast, black pepper tofu, and sumac and chickpea burgers, with clever dessert options such as bread pudding and pub brownies topped with liquor-infused ice cream. A large local draft beer list is offered, along with a selection of craft cocktails, whiskeys, and fine wines. After the bar's kitchen closes, hot Republic Kolaches are served as bar bites. Happy hour specials are offered on weekdays, and Geeks Who Drink trivia events are presented periodically.

The Pub & The People, 1648 North Capitol St NW, Washington, DC 20001, Phone: 202-796-5820

7. Daikaya and Izakaya

Daikaya and Izakaya
© Daikaya and Izakaya

Daikaya and Izakaya is a bi-level Japanese restaurant in D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood operated by native Tokyo chef Daisuke Utagawa, co-owner of Chevy Chase spot Sushiko. The restaurant's name translates as "house of big cooking pot," with separate entrances offered for its downstairs Sapporo-style ramen joint and upstairs Japanese gastropub. All ramen dishes served downstairs feature high-quality imported custom ramen noodles, with pork and vegetarian options available. Upstairs, the emphasis is on Japanese comfort food snacks such as okonomiyaki-style tater tots, miso-butter-topped enoki mushrooms, and dashi egg custard with truffled shiitake sauce. A full menu of imported whiskies and Japanese-style cocktails are served, along with imported Japanese beer and shochu options.

Daikaya and Izakaya, 705 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, Phone: 202-589-1600

8. Elizabeth's Gone Raw

Elizabeth's Gone Raw
© Elizabeth's Gone Raw

Elizabeth's Gone Raw was founded in 2009 by Elizabeth Petty, who learned about the health benefits of raw eating following her diagnosis with breast cancer. The restaurant is only open once a week on Friday evenings, serving a full seven-course tasting menu of vegan fare kept below temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit during preparation. Unique items served emphasize healthy, clean eating ingredients, with a focus on upscale dishes and small plates such as cauliflower terrine, kelp caviar, and turmeric and yellow pepper sorbet. Organic and biodynamic wine pairings are available with meals, along with a full cocktail program of drinks prepared with house-made organic ingredients and ice prepared from directionally-frozen ionized water.

Elizabeth's Gone Raw, 1341 L St NW, Washington, DC 20005, Phone: 202-347-8349

9. Bresca

© Bresca

Bresca is the newest project from Ripple and Masa 14 chef and owner Ryan Ratino, who began working as an executive chef at the Playboy Mansion and since has carved out a reputation as one of D.C.'s brightest young chefs. The hip 14th Street bistro crafts experimental contemporary American fare infused with French, Italian, and Mediterranean influences, offering unique dishes such as foie gras PB&J, sea urchin linguini, and kohlrabi walleye pike. Its name is a reference to the Spanish word for "honeycomb," a design element incorporated throughout the restaurant's fantastical decor, which also showcases a moss-covered wall and whimsical cocktails served in fish and bee-shaped glasses.

Bresca, 1906 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, Phone: 202-518-7926

10. Songbyrd DC

Songbyrd DC
© Songbyrd DC

Songbyrd DC is an Adams Morgan counterculture complex, serving full coffee shop and restaurant menus in a building that also houses a record store, listening booths, and a concert venue and dance floor. Seasonal food and drink menus highlight clever diner fare such as gourmet beef, chicken, and vegan hot dogs, shareable appetizers, and desserts from Acme Pies, while a weekend brunch menu offers bottomless mimosas and bloody marys paired with inventive dishes such as tofu scrambles and semolina pancakes. A full espresso bar serves Southeastern Roastery coffee beverages, while a record shop carries new, used, and local vinyl across a variety of independent music genres. Live music shows, comedy performances, and guest DJ sets are presented periodically at the restaurant's downstairs Byrd Cage music venue, which offers standing room capacity for up to 200 people.

Songbyrd DC, 2475 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, Phone: 202-450-2917

11. Lupo Verde

Lupo Verde
© Lupo Verde

Lupo Verde was opened in 2013 by executive chef Antonio Matarazzo and was the winner of OpenTable's 2015 Diner's Choice Award. The rustic Italian restaurant occupies two levels of a renovated space along D.C.'s bustling 14th Street corridor, with its main floor offering a 15-seat Carrara marble bar and 25-seat lounge area and its upstairs area offering intimate table seating. Authentic Italian fare is served at lunch and dinner, including charcuterie, antipasti, and tapas service. Five beers and three wines are served on draft at its bar, which also serves an extensive list of craft cocktails using housemade vermouth and barrel-aged fruit infusions.

Lupo Verde, 1401 T St NW, Washington, DC 20009, Phone: 202-827-4752

12. The Salt Line

The Salt Line
© The Salt Line

The Salt Line is a Navy Yard favorite operated by D.C.-based restaurant group Long Shot Hospitality, which is led by founders Gavin Coleman, Kyle Bailey, Paul Holder, and Jeremy Carman. It draws its inspiration from old-fashioned New England oyster houses, serving up creative twists on classic Northeast and Chesapeake seafood dishes. Both fish and shellfish dishes are emphasized, including a full raw bar menu of oyster shooters and seafood towers and charcuterie boards. Entree such as stuffed lobster, Maryland crab bucatini, and salmon Johnny cakes take center stage on the restaurant's dinner menu, with a massive draft beer, wine, and craft cocktail list available. On the weekends, clever brunch items are offered, including lobster omelets, king crab macaroni and cheese, and smoked fish plates.

The Salt Line, 79 Potomac Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003, Phone: 202-506-2368

13. Chez Billy Sud

Chez Billy Sud
© Chez Billy Sud

Chez Billy Sud continues Georgetown's tradition of fine French dancing, offering a Gallic-inspired menu crafted by executive chef Brendan L'Etoile. The restaurant cultivates an elegant Southern French atmosphere, showcasing gilded mirrors throughout its dining room and a charming lamp-lit courtyard offering seasonal seating. Classic French dishes such as confit de canard, crepes suzette, trout grenobloise, and crab a carapace are served at brunch, lunch, and dinner, with beer, wine, cocktails, and Ceremony Coffee also available. Next door, the restaurant's sister wine bar, Bar à Vin, offers fine wines from around Europe and wood-fired appetizers. Reservations are recommended for parties of six or more.

Chez Billy Sud, 1035 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007, Phone: 202-965-2606

14. Iron Gate Restaurant

Iron Gate Restaurant
© Iron Gate Restaurant

Iron Gate Restaurant is renowned as one of D.C.'s most romantic restaurants, operated by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and executive chef Anthony Chittum. The fine dining restaurant offers full menus at brunch, lunch, and dinner, featuring Mediterranean-inspired options such as lamb meatballs and grilled halloumi, alongside Chesapeake seafood favorites such as Maryland soft shell crab, crispy blue catfish, and grilled octopus. Many dishes are available for service for two, with a multi-course family table option available featuring custom dishes created by the restaurant's chefs. A full prix-fixe menu also features wine pairings for dishes such as moussaka ravioli, burnt honey mousse, and Delaware scallops. Greek and Italian wines are served at the restaurant's outdoor fire pit, indoor carriageway bar room, and romantic dining room.

Iron Gate Restaurant, 1734 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036, Phone: 202-524-5202

15. The Fainting Goat

The Fainting Goat
© The Fainting Goat

The Fainting Goat's name is a sly reference to co-owner Greg Algie's childhood nickname, a reference to his lack of confidence in his young dating life. Today, Algie and co-owner Henry Bruce have transformed the hip U Street restaurant into one of the city's top first date spots, offering upscale American and gastropub fare crafted from fresh ingredients sourced from local farms such as Path Valley Farms and Wagon Wheel Ranch. Clever, approachable dishes include duck wings, crispy chicken sandwiches, chilled sesame noodles, and goat and avocado tostadas. A wide variety of draft and bottled beers are available for pairing, along with craft and bottomless brunch cocktails.

The Fainting Goat, 1330 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009, Phone: 202-735-0344

16. Menomale

© Menomale

Menomale is an authentic Italian pizzeria located in D.C.'s rapidly growing Brookland neighborhood, specializing in wood-fire pizzas crafted with ingredients imported from the country's Campania region. Husband and wife team Ettore and Maria Rusciano opened the restaurant in 2012, which is named after the Italian word for "thank goodness." The Ruscianos are certified Pizzaioli by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and take pride in bringing traditional pizza-making to the D.C. region. In addition to its wide selection of pizzas, which can be prepared gluten free for an upcharge, the restaurant serves fresh salads, antipasti dishes, calzones, and wood-fire sandwiches. Its drink menu features Italian wines, craft beers, and cocktails, while its dessert menu offers traditional favorites such as cannoli, tiramisu, and truffles.

Menomale, 2711 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20018, Phone: 202-248-3946

17. Kinship

© Kinship

Kinship is a new American restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Eric Ziebold, located within a historic 1907 building in D.C.'s vibrant Shaw neighborhood. Opened in January of 2016, Kinship highlights antique decor expertly combined with modern details in its intimate dining area. Menu items are arranged into themes that celebrate food and the culinary arts: a craft section focuses on technique, with dishes such as tuna tataki, while an indulgence section allows guests to choose from specialty items such as Maine lobster French toast. The restaurant also features an extensive wine and spirits menu, with custom cocktails available to complement meals. Reservations are taken in the dining room, while the bar area, which features booth seating and access to the full menu, is available for walk-in diners.

Kinship, 1015 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, Phone: 202-737-7700

18. Etto

© Etto

Etto is a pizza and small plates restaurant located in Logan Circle that has been honored in a variety of local and national Best Of lists since its opening in 2013. The restaurant boasts a casual, neighborhood atmosphere, focusing on dishes prepared with fresh ingredients, including house-cured meats and fresh-baked dough. Dining options include a rotating seasonal selection of appetizers, wood-fired pizzas, and charcuterie boards with meats, cheeses, and seafood. The restaurant's full bar features an extensive local wine list, craft cocktails, and draft beer. On weekends, brunch offerings include breakfast pizzas, oven-baked eggs, and a selection of Italian-style cafe beverages.

Etto, 1541 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005, Phone: 202-232-0920

19. Osteria Morini

Osteria Morini
© Osteria Morini

Osteria Morini is an upscale Italian restaurant that was opened in 2013 in the fast-growing Navy Yards neighborhood. The restaurant overlooks the the Anacostia riverfront and aims to bring the cuisine of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region to D.C. Operated by award-winning chef Michael White and the Altamarea Restaurant Group, the restaurant is one of three similar locations following the success of an initial Manhattan location, which was opened in 2010. Its dining room features rustic ambiance and decor and highlights a fully open chef's kitchen, allowing patrons to watch as their meal is prepared. Its lunch and dinner menu offers authentic Italian fare such as house-made pastas, antipasti, and seafood, veal, and chicken dishes paired with an extensive European wine list.

Osteria Morini, 301 Water St SE, Washington, DC 20003, Phone: 202-484-0660

20. Ambar

© Ambar

Ambar blends traditional Balkan dishes and decor with creative, modern flavors and style elements to create one of the city's most-coveted small plates experiences. Since opening in a two-story converted rowhouse in Capitol Hill in 2013, Ambar has been renowned throughout the city for its signature Balkan Experience, allowing brunch, lunch, and dinner diners to pay a fixed price for an unlimited amount of small plates and selected drinks. Menu offerings include fresh-baked breads, spreads, cheese, seafoods, vegetables, and meats, with over 40 small plates to choose from during dinner service. An equally extensive drink menu includes beer, wine, cocktails, and a wide variety of Rakia, a fruit-based Brandy popular in the Balkans.

Ambar, 523 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, Phone: 202-813-3039

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