New York City and Washington, DC both boast impressive restaurant scenes that even the most seasoned gastronomes may find difficult to navigate. And while it might seem like the two cities have wildly different restaurant cultures—with New York venues catering to media and tech power lunchers and DC eateries priming themselves for political wheelers and dealers—these culinary capitals share more in common than one might suspect.
In fact, each of these top-notch DC eateries has a kindred spirit in New York (and vice versa), which makes narrowing down your favorites a cinch.
New York: EN Japanese Brasserie
Exuding a serene energy, this upscale West Village refuge is a great destination for winding down with colleagues. The spacious dining room, adorned with a granite fountain, large wooden tables, and delicate floral decorations, feels distinctly Japanese. The expansive space is accentuated by the high ceilings and peripheral seating arrangement.
Going solo or in a small group? Grab a spot at one of the communal dining counters, where you can watch the industrious kitchen staff create small plates like fresh tofu and heartier dishes like clay rice pots with salmon and crispy fried chicken.
Washington, DC: Kushi
The vast, minimalist setting at this Mt. Vernon Square sushi and izakaya spot allows for the scrumptious fare to take center stage. Have a seat at one of the reclaimed-wood communal tables and witness the dexterous chefs in the open kitchen whipping up small plates like seaweed salad and ginger-soy fried chicken, plus grilled meat, seafood, and veggie skewers. The casual hangout is a favorite among Japanese expats and trendy young professionals who show up in droves post work for the sake-fueled happy hour.
New York: Mary’s Fish Camp
No wonder it’s a challenge to nab a seat at this adorable, beachy shack nestled on the corner of Charles Street: The seating is sparse, reservations aren’t accepted, and the super-fresh seafood is delivered six days a week. Chomp on satisfying entrees like whole market fish and lobster rolls among other eager West Village seafood seekers, and experience what the buzz is all about. While you’ll want to bring all your co-workers to taste the delicious food, the small space doesn’t really accommodate groups. Opt instead for an easy tête-a-tête to feast on the tasty fish without the fine-dining frills.
Washington, DC: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
This cavernous, urban-chic "palace" with exposed brick walls and mismatched stools lures in Logan Circle diners with out-of-this-world oysters paired with delicious dipping sauces. Seafood lovers return time and again for a constantly changing selection of oysters and entrees like wood-grilled fish, crab cakes, and catfish po' boys. Even the non-seafood selections like the Amish chicken dinner are delish. Come for happy hour to indulge in $5 wine and two-for-one oysters, or visit Black Jack, the upstairs sister bar, for a nightcap.
New York: Gramercy Tavern
Locally sourced ingredients and sophisticated preparations set this upscale, urban-meets-rustic Gramercy stalwart apart from the average tavern. Don’t be fooled by casual elements such as the textured wooden floors and chalkboards where the day’s drink specials are displayed; this is haute cuisine at its finest. Classics like tender pork loin and fresh lobster salad have been refined and modernized all the way to their deconstructed plating. Another perk is its versatility: Expect the same mindful preparations whether you’re getting a quick, after-work bite with colleagues or sitting down for a leisurely weekday lunch with clients.
Washington, DC: Tabard Inn
This cozy new American gem tucked into the historic Tabard Inn hotel in Dupont Circle is legendary for its brunches of egg dishes, Bloody Marys, and to-die-for homemade donuts. In nice weather, the leafy brick patio is a perfect brunch perch, but inside, the dining room with its checkerboard floors and refined black-and-white color scheme is a warm setting for a hearty dinner, which might include innovative options like soy sake-braised short ribs and the jumbo lump crab cake. If jazz is your jam, swing by for live music on Saturday and Sunday evenings (and on Mondays, starting in November).
New York: Bar Pitti
Sure, countless celebrities have been spotted at this West Village Tuscan cafe-bar, but what everyone’s really raving about is the stellar polpettine di vitello (veal meatballs)! Enjoy these savory treats—in addition to the ever-changing menu of sumptuous, steamy pasta dishes—on the sidewalk patio (weather permitting) or in the Euro-style dining room (complete with hanging mirrors and vintage wooden chairs) among a casual-chic crowd of young business types, romantic duos, homesick Europeans, and the occasional famous face. The bustling, sceney atmosphere is high energy, but you can chill things out with a perfectly paired wine or beer.
Washington, DC: Pasta Mia
Classic Italian favorites like gnocchi and capellini pomodoro are only a couple of examples of the timeless pasta dishes offered at this "just like grandma used to make it” dinner spot in Adams Morgan. The red checkered tablecloths and substantial wine list call Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” to mind, while the large portions of perfectly al dente pasta and casual, congenial vibe prove just as comforting. Carb counters, beware: The irresistible chocolatey desserts will put you over the top. With a no-reservations policy, it's no wonder patrons start lining up half an hour opening.
Photo of restaurant courtesy of Tony Takitani.
The Purple Passport is a web-based collection of chic, one-stop-shop guides to experiencing the world's cities in style. The site provides the full range of urban travel planning needs, from researching a trip start to finish, to reserving hotels, to creating an itinerary to be shared with travel companions. The Purple Passport team personally visits every spot that it reviews and never accepts compensation for featuring a venue on the site. First-person accounts of the team's travel experiences can be found on the companion blog, The Diary of The Purple Passport.More from this Author