WASHINGTON — It’s been a good year for D.C. foodies and adventurous eaters. The District, recently ranked as one of the top 10 foodie cities in America, entertains bigger, better and more diverse food options every year, and this year was no different.
Boutique hotspots, such as artisanal coffee pop-ups and whiskey bars, are being channeled into the mainstream of D.C.’s food culture, much to the pleasure of city residents.
WTOP sat down with Laura Hayes, editor of Dining Bisnow, to talk about the hottest dining trends in the District.
If there’s one way to summarize D.C.’s new food trends, it’d be the embrace of experimentation — new cultural fusions and new ways to eat are becoming more popular.
One of the hottest trends on the rise is alternate eating spaces, such as living rooms. Hayes points to Mathew Ramsey — famed local chef best known for his almost criminally delicious website Pornburger — and his supper clubs, where he invites four customers to dine at his home for a $300-per-table intimate meal, featuring his famous burgers, of course.
Whiskey bars, such as Rebellion and Southern Efficiency, have also become more popular. Five brown liquor bars have opened this past year, Hayes says. Meat-lovers will appreciate that charcuterie platters have spread throughout the District as well, while Latin steakhouses are increasingly in demand.
“A big trend is also the education that is coming with all our dining experiences,” Hayes says. “At the restaurant, the server will usually explain how each charcuterie is made; that I think is as much fun as eating it.”
Chefs and restaurants are also more creative with their use of space. Restaurant Eve uses backyard gardens for fresh produce, and others, such as Black Whiskey, sell clothing and other items alongside their meals.
“Restaurants are branching out and being a one-stop shop for goods, clothing and food-to-go,” Hayes says. “It’s great; it’s another way for chefs and restaurateurs to express themselves.”
The District’s food scene is also speeding up. The rise of fast-casual dining experiences, or establishments that offer quick service with higher quality meals, speaks to the fast-paced culture of D.C. Places such as Cava Grill and the grilled-cheese bar GCDC offer tastier meals at a reasonable cost.
“Fast-casual is replacing the three-course, steak lunch with a glass of pinot on the side. We just don’t have time for that anymore,” Hayes says. “If we’re not sitting in traffic, we’re at work at our demanding jobs, and then at night we’re packed with our social calendar.”
And artisanal coffee shops — such as the Wydown Coffee Bar on 14 Street and La Colombe in Shaw — offer exotic pour-over brews and coffees that make “D.C. super caffeinated,” as Hayes puts it.
Hayes also addressed the rise of small-plate and tapas restaurants, such as Toro Toro and Zaytinya.
“If you think back 10, 15, 20 years ago, D.C. didn’t even know what tapas were,” she says. “It took chef Jose Andres to come here and start opening places.”
Whether it’s small plates, coffee or the desire to buy clothes while you wait for a table, the District has more options than ever for diners.