Over the years, I have shared where my DC Dinner Club has eaten throughout many of the posts in my ‘DC Dinner Club’ blog series. (FYI – within those posts, I shared DC area restaurants I dined at in addition to the ones we visited for dinner club.) But I have never had a centralized place where I keep a running list of restaurants we visit as a dinner club — which is why I am excited to share this comprehensive restaurant directory of all the delicious spots we’ve dined at as a dinner club.
As our dinner club dines at a new restaurant each month, I will be sure to add it to this post in addition to sharing over on Instagram Stories. I will also add this post to the right sidebar so that it’s easy for you to refer back to it later when you’re looking for a delicious restaurant to try.
For those of you unfamiliar, I wanted to provide a quick recap of my dinner club, which started organically in December 2018. My friends Julie, Taylor, and I went to dinner one month and said “we should do this again next month” and never really stopped. It’s truly been such a blessing in my life — I get to dine on wonderful food across Washington, DC with great company. As a young twenty-something, I always wanted to have a pulse on the dining scene in this city — and now, because of dinner club, coworkers, friends, and family often come to me for restaurant recommendations and I love being able to help them pick the perfect spot!
With dinner club, we take turns picking the restaurant and share everything family style, even if it’s not a tapas-style restaurant. It allows us to try more of the menu and since we typically like the same things, it works really well. The other key to making dinner club work is scheduling — we pick a date for the following month while we are at dinner so it’s on the calendar well in advance. We typically try to dine on Fridays, but during some crazier times of year — like summer or the holidays — we sometimes pivot to a Thursday or Saturday. From time to time, we do a pre-dinner drink nearby or one of us will host a little happy hour.
One note of housekeeping is that given I dined at some of these restaurants nearly four years ago — and before the pandemic — the menu or details may have changed. I highly recommend checking out the restaurant’s website before you dine — they will have more accurate information than I do!
DINNER CLUB DIRECTORY — & you can find full restaurant descriptions + menu recommendations below this list
2018 & 2019 —
- The Smith
- Iron Gate
- Maydan — top spot of the year
- The Dabney
- Red Hen
- Seven Reasons
- The Pembroke
- Mi Vida
- Albi — top spot of the year
- Thompson Italian
- Caruso’s Grocery
- Little Pearl
- Dolce Vita
- L’ardente — top spot of the year
- The Point
- Del Mar
- San Lorenzo
- Shilling Canning Company
2018 & 2019 —
The Smith | Penn Quarter
We went to The Smith right after Thanksgiving so all of their Christmas decor was up — it was really magical. We had a reservation, which I highly recommend since this place can get busy. We started with the burrata that was served with slow roasted tomatoes, baby arugula, and grilled ciabatta — it was delicious, and there was more than enough to go around for three people. For my main course, I opted for the tagliatelle bolognese, which was good, but not great. (Editor’s Note: this was before we shared everything family style!)
Overall though, I really enjoyed The Smith and would definitely go back. It’s solid, upscale-ish American food and is the type of place where everyone can find something they like. Though I’ve never been, I’ve also heard they have a great brunch!
Officina | The Wharf
For our first dinner club of 2019, qwe had pre-dinner drinks at Rappahannock Oyster Bar and then did restaurant week at Officina. Both places are at DC’s The Wharf development and are conveniently located right next to each other, making it the perfect one-two combo for a night out.
After a pre-dinner glass of wine, we then headed over to Officina for DC restaurant week, which was offering a special of three courses for $35. We were seated in their third floor dining room, right next to their terrace bar. In the winter, they tent the terrace and bring out plenty of heaters, so it would be the perfect spot for a night cap!
We each ordered a different appetizers and shared them — we ordered the burrata, the calamari, and the arancini. They also brought out wonderful bread and olive oil. The burrata was my favorite, but I am sucker for burrata anywhere! For dinner, I opted for the cheese tortellini and closed out the meal with a cannoli.
Iron Gate | Dupont Circle
Located on a quiet street right near Dupont Circle, Iron Gate is an upscale Mediterranean tapas restaurant that has the warmest, most welcoming atmosphere. I didn’t snap that many photos since it was dark and wanted to enjoy my time with friends, but when you walk into the restaurant, the first room is a gorgeous bar that feels extremely spacious since it has a super high ceiling. To access the main dining room, you pass through a beautiful garden patio. I can only imagine how amazing the garden patio is in the summer — it’d be such a nice space to enjoy a weekend brunch al fresco.
Because we went to Iron Gate in the dead of winter, we (obviously!) ate inside. The main dining room had a wonderful roaring fire and the kitchen is partially open, so it felt super cozy. The service was great and we always had what we needed.
The menu at Iron Gate changes based on the season, but everything we had was amazing — so whatever you order is bound to be delicious. We started with the batter fried halloumi and, as you guessed, fried cheese is always a winner. We then ordered a bunch of dishes to share family-style: spiced baby carrots, caramelized ricotta gnocchi, mushroom risotto, caciocavallo stuffed meatballs, and grilled dayboat scallops. What I loved about this meal is that we all left satisfied, but no one was stuffed. Everything we ate was so good — I would order all these exact items again.
We finished off the night with dessert — we ordered the chocolate mousse, carrot cake sundae, and the crispy yeast doughnuts with an orange glaze. The latter were above and away the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. They were small doughnut holes, so we were given a bowl of them, and they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
I can’t wait to get back to Iron Gate — I’m already strategizing all the occasions on my calendar this year I can suggest it as the perfect restaurant!
Primrose | Brookland
Primrose had been on my list for a while since their millennial pink chandeliers have made quite the splash on Instagram. Located in the Brookland neighborhood, it’s a French-inspired wine bar with a great atmosphere. The decor is whimsical and cutes-y and the vibe is cozy. We (obviously!) went for dinner, and although you can’t really tell since I brightened these photos, it was pretty dark in the restaurant, with dim lighting and candles setting the tone. The service was also great — our waiter was attentive without being overbearing, which I think is the best balance.
The menu at Primrose is somewhat limited — it’s one of those places where they choose to do a few things really well rather than taking the Cheesecake Factory approach where they offer you tons of options. Taylor ordered the steak frites, Julie opted for the French onion soup and the mushrooms, and I ordered the burger, which was “Shake Shack style” with two thin patties.
Maydan | Columbia Heights
Since our reservation for Maydan wasn’t until 9:45pm, we started the night off with a few pre-dinner drinks at Bar Pilar and Provision 14, both a short walking distance from Maydan if you also have a later reservation. When it was close to our reservation time, we walked over. Maydan is down an alley — you would have no idea it’s there unless you were looking for it! But, it’s hard to miss it because of the big, beautiful door marking its entrance. Once you walk through that door, you’re transported to another world, one far away from DC.
At the center of the restaurant is a large open fire where they cook many of their dishes. It’s not too smoky at all, but your clothes will pick up a campfire smell, so I definitely recommend wearing clothes that are easy to wash.
We were seated upstairs, and found the service at Maydan to be unbeatable. Our waitress spent a solid 10 minutes going over the menu with us, and even sent up a few dishes en gratis. Whatever you eat at Maydan, you’re in for a treat — but I would definitely make sure you order a wide variety of condiments for the table. They are $1/each and really where Maydan shines. We tried the harissa, tahina, ezme, and toum, and the toum was by far our favorite. It tasted like a garlic butter, and was amazing to eat with the fresh pita bread they kept sending to our table.
We probably over-ordered, but we wanted to try so many things! We ordered the halloumi cheese, Beiruti hummus, carrots, asparagus, and shrimp to start, and then went with the saffron lamb kebabs and tenderloin kebabs as our main meal. We paired all the dishes with the various condiments we had on our table and so there were so many flavor profiles to be enjoyed. Prior to this dinner at Maydan, I had never really enjoyed North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, but it was so amazing and a good reminder I need to be an adventurous eater more often.
Maketto | H Street
In May 2019, we went to Maketto on H Street here in DC. I always joke with my friends that Maketto is an upscale Cracker Barrel because there’s a retail shop upfront and a restaurant concept in the back. We went on a beautiful May night and sat in the courtyard between their front building where the store, bar, cafe, and some seating is and the back building, which is where additional seating and the kitchen are. Maketto offers delicious Southeast Asian food and this was my third or fourth time eating there — it’s consistently good!
We ordered a ton of food, and our waiter even commented we may have over-ordered. The spicy cauliflower and the spring rolls were by far my favorite dishes so if you go, definitely make sure the are on your list. We also ordered the Maketto fried chicken, the pork steamed bao, spicy lamb noodles, and fried cheese. While we were enjoying our food, the chef stopped by and chatted with us for over five minutes — he was so gracious and we enjoyed hearing about local chef culture from him and trading DC restaurant recs. A few minutes later, he swung by our table with dumplings on the house and, later, a delicious ice cream matcha + strawberry dessert!
Every time I’ve been to Maketto, they have gone above and beyond to make sure we have an awesome experience and this time was no different. Definitely add this one to your DC restaurant bucket list — especially if you love Asian food.
The Dabney | Blagden Alley
I had long wanted to go to The Dabney ever since my coworker started raving about it several years ago. While I thought the ambiance was awesome, I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be — and that might partially be because The Dabney is just so hyped. That being said, I would definitely go back again, but more for the ambiance than the food.
The Dabney is located right off Blagden Alley, so if you’re looking for a pre-dinner drink, Calico would be a great spot. When you walk into the door to the restaurant, you step onto the cutest little patio with a few two-tops and a stack of firewood I’m sure comes in handy in the winter. Once you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted by a beautiful bar. Unlike most places, at peak time, bar seating is controlled by the hostess stand. When we were there on a Friday night at 8:30pm, the wait for a bar stool was 45 minutes — but when we left around 10:45pm, there was no wait at all. So if you’re gambling on getting a bar stool, I’d recommend going for a nightcap.
Our table was right near The Dabney’s open kitchen, which was bustling with activity on this busy Friday night. The service we had was great, as our waitress was attentive, but not overbearing. The Dabney’s menu changes every night based on what fresh ingredients they are able to source that day. On the recommendation of so many, we ordered the fried catfish sliders and they were my favorite dish the whole night — I wish I had saved room for more. From my understanding, those are always off menu and they have a limited number each night, but our waitress told us they had them. We also kicked the night off with more carbs, including their delicious bread and hush puppies.
We shared everything family style, and ordered the scallop crudo, broccoli + crab, hearth roasted veggies, grilled quail, flank steak, and soft-shell crab. Of everything we ordered as these “main dishes,” the flank steak was my favorite. For dessert, we split a slice of peach pie — nothing says summertime like peaches to me!
Himitsu | Petworth (NOW CLOSED)
Located in Petworth here in Washington, DC, Himitsu has the best atmosphere — it’s got a ton of natural light (we were lucky enough to sit in the booth right at the window!) and it only seats about 25, meaning it feels really cozy — but in a good way, not in the way where you feel like you’re sitting on top of your neighbor.
A James Beard Foundation Award nominee, Himitsu is a Japanese-inspired restaurant that combines fresh foods, acidity, herbs, and Southeast Asian and Latin American flavor profiles when creating their dishes. Their wine and drink list is amazing, because as you’ll see in the picture below, it features only woman-produced wines and woman-inspired cocktails.
At Himitsu, everything for the most part is small-plates and meant to be shared family-style. Julie and I started with Panko Fried Oysters, and they were so good. Even if you’re usually not the biggest fan of oysters, I think you’d like these since some of the texture is neutralized by the frying. We then shared the Hamachi Crudo, Brussels Sprouts (they had quite the kick!), zucchini, curry scallops, and tuna tartare. Our waitress was great at helping us figure out the exact right amount of food so we didn’t over- or under-order.
My favorite thing we ordered all night were the Szechuan x Nashville Sandos — they reminded a lot of the Fried Catfish Sliders we loved at The Dabney. The entree comes with 5 pieces of fried catfish, a spicy comeback sauce, pickles, coleslaw, and toasted bread. They were delicious, and a great crossover of Asian flavors with Nashville hot chicken. If you go to Himitsu, make sure you order this!
Red Hen | Bloomingdale
Our reservation at Red Hen was on the later side, around 9pm, so we wanted to grab a glass of wine beforehand. Since none of us are super familiar with Bloomingdale, we looked on the map and saw Tyber Creek Wine Bar & Kitchen was just around the corner from Red Hen. We were easily able to grab seats at the bar since the patio was poppin’ the night we went and really enjoyed it — the restaurant smelled so good! It’s on my list to go back and eat there sometime soon. We also drove by Big Bear Cafe and it looked so cute — that’s definitely on my list, too!
But anyway, back to Red Hen — if you haven’t been, add it to your list ASAP, and definitely get a reservation. The restaurant is on the smaller side, and both times I’ve been, it’s at full capacity. The bar and a semi-open kitchen are the centerpiece of the restaurant, and the vibe is both rustic and cozy. There’s no outdoor seating at Red Hen, so if you’re looking to dine al fresco, this won’t be the spot. However, if you’re looking for the perfect spot on a cold winter night — this is your place.
Both times I’ve been to Red Hen, I’ve started with the whipped ricotta crostini that’s served with balsamic brown butter and truffle honey and the Arancini ‘Cacio e Pepe,’ which is fried risotto, pecorino, black pepper, herb aioli, and chili honey. Both are so good — I’d order both again in the heartbeat. At dinner club, we also ordered the burrata, which came with grilled bread and charred tomato ‘salsa.’ Burrata is my favorite cheese and this one didn’t disappoint!
For dinner, we split two pastas — the rigatoni and the mafalde from their summer menu, which is made with sweet corn crema, spring onion, roasted corn, and pecorino tartufo. The rigatoni at Red Hen is the best I’ve ever had, and I would highly, highly recommend — I’ve gotten it both times I’ve been to Red Hen now. The mafalde was also delicious, and I hope they bring it back next summer! We also split the caramelized scallops, which were served with English pea cremosa, bacon, fingerling potatoes, and a mustard vinaigrette. To top it all off, we split the panna cotta and it was just the sweet treat we needed at the end of the meal.
Seven Reasons | 14th Street
For October 2019, Julie picked Seven Reasons, which we were all thrilled about since Tom Sietsema from The Washington Postnamed it as the number one restaurant in his fall dining guide.
Located on 14th Street NW just below where it insects with Florida Avenue, Chef Enrique Limardo creates Latin-inspired dishes that are super unique and offer all sorts of unexpected flavor and texture pairings. If you’re looking for familiar food, this is definitely not your place — but if you’re willing to eat adventurously, I think you’ll really love it. I would definitely recommend grabbing a reservation before heading in. We went at 8:30pm on a Friday night and it was packed — even the bar was at capacity. The atmosphere of the restaurant was great — diners were sat across three levels, and they had Spanish music playing all night.
Like we do at most dinner clubs, we ate family style so we could try more dishes. Their menu is here, though they do change it frequently, so it might be different when you go. To start, we ordered the yuca fries and cheese arepitas, we followed with the tuna tartare, tostada, and butternut squash cacao tart. We didn’t stop there, though, and ordered the royal sea bass ceviche, potato fondant, octopus & mondongo, and wagyu carpaccio. Everything was delicious, but the two dishes I’d recommend you must get are the wagyu carpaccio and the potato fondant. Both were out of this world good!
The table next to us ordered a dessert that they poured liquid nitrogen on top of and it was stunning — what’s better marketing than that?! — so, of course, we had to order it, too. And y’all it was delicious! It’s the coconut delirious, and made with coconut custard, coconut ice cream, lemon jelly, chocolate sphere, and white chocolate truffle.
The Pembroke | Dupont Circle
In November 2019, it was my month to pick the restaurant for dinner club, and I picked The Pembroke — it’s in my neighborhood, so I walk by it often, but had never eaten there. Now, I’m kicking myself for not going sooner, and next time, I want to have a pre- or post-dinner drink at Doyle, too! Both are located inside The Dupont Circle Hotel, which recently invested a lot in redesigning those spaces.
I loved the aesthetic of The Pembroke—white, airy spaces, with lots of greenery, pink bar stools, and mid-century modern lighting. I want to go back for brunch, partially for the food, and partially so I can snap a few pictures of this gorgeous space in natural light. The service was also impeccable, from the time we sat down to the time we left, our waiter was great.
We started off the evening with burrata, my favorite cheese, and the amazing fresh baked bread they brought out. The latter was so good we asked for another basket! For my entree, I opted for the steak frites — I thought the steak was a little hard to cut, but the french fries were great, and overall, it was still a delicious meal.
Julie and Taylor told the restaurant it was my birthday, and in addition to giving me a free glass of wine (so nice!), they also brought out a beautiful piece of vanilla cake and snag me happy birthday. It was such a nice way to cap off my birthday celebrations this year.
Filomena | Georgetown
December is actually the one-year anniversary of the club, and we decided back in July where we were going to go to celebrate the holidays — Filomena in Georgetown! For those of you unfamiliar, Filomena is an institution and famed Italian restaurant in DC, and they are known for their holiday decorations (not just at Christmas, but at every holiday!). It’s long been on my bucket list to eat at Filomena at Christmastime since they go all-out with the decor, and now having been, I want it to be an annual tradition. It put me in such a festive mood We went on a Friday night and booked our reservation in early November — so if you want to go in December, definitely plan ahead!
Our reservation was at 9pm, so we had a drink at The Sovereign first and then headed over. Once we arrived at Filomena, we did have to wait about 30 minutes for our table — so I’d recommend planning for a wait even if you have a reservation, but I promise it’s worth it! When you walk in, you are instantly transported to a holiday winter wonderland. There are decorations everywhere you look, including a huge Christmas tree in the dining room, and an extremely festive playlist going. I’ve never been to Rolf’s in NYC, but I’ve heard it compared to Filomena often.
While we were waiting for our table, we decided to get champagne to celebrate. when we asked them to bring the rest of the bottle to our table when we were seated, they had lost it — so we got an entirely new bottle for free!
Sometimes when you go to a restaurant that is as decked out as Filomena, the food is subpar, but that is not the case as Filomena. As soon as we sat down, we were handed a big basket of fresh baked bread, and then we ordered the meatballs and arancini. For my entree, I ordered the gnocchi della mamma, but opted for rigatoni instead of the gnocchi. It was so good and the portion size was huge — I was able to get four meals out of the leftovers! I so wish we had saved room for dessert, but we were absolutely stuffed.
At the end of every meal at Filomena, they bring you complimentary amaretto and sambucca that you pour for yourself at the table. Such a nice tradition that really makes you feel like a welcome guest of the family at Filomena! It was such an amazing way to celebrate our one year of dinner club.
Bad Saint | Columbia Heights
To kick off dinner club in 2022, went to Bad Saint in Columbia Heights, which serves up Filipino food! It’s a small, cozy restaurant that has the best ambiance, and I would not try to go unless you have a reservation as even the bar seats are saved for those with reservations. Everything is meant to be served family-style, which is our favorite way to eat at dinner club so we can all try a little bit of everything. I hadn’t had Filipino food before so this was a fun culinary adventure for me. The menu changes often, but on the night we went, our favorite dishes were the Vigan Empandas, which were stuffed with beef and served with spicy tomatoes, and a Tofu Stir Fry with Mushrooms — two ingredients I don’t normally gravitate towards. Our waitress was so helpful when we were looking at the menu and trying to pick out dishes, and the kitchen is open, so you can get a visual sneak peek of everything you might eat, which is super helpful!
Tail Up Goat | Adams Morgan
Tail Up Goat is definitely one of the best restaurants in DC! If you haven’t been, drop what you’re doing and stalk their restorations immediately. Their restaurant is one big, simple room, but it feels so cozy and approachable. The service is great and they’ll bring the beverage director over to walk you through the wine and cocktail menu.
I went this month with my dinner club, so you know we went big and tried a lot of dishes. I’d been once before, back in November, and I loved it just as much this time, too. While I am normally a wine gal, I started the night off with a cocktail — the Pamchenko Twist VII, or what they like to call a “slammable vodka cocktail.” It’s vodka, homemade pomegranate juice, and soda water — so delicious! The menu at Tail Up Goat changes often, but we ordered the crispy salt cod (which have been on the menu since day one and are so good!), seared scallops, fluke crudo, carrot cappelletti, and a parsnip pasta that was on special.
We also ordered two of the focaccia “spanakopita” because we loved it SO much. When I went back in November, the focaccia was also my favorite dish — it was some sort of Italian number back then. So, regardless of what focaccia is on the menu, I’d highly recommend ordering it.
One thing I do want to flag is that when I went in November, I think the portions were larger, especially on the pasta. When I went with dinner club this past Friday, we were a little disappointed in the size of the pasta dishes, especially for the price. So I would recommend asking the server what the portion size of each one is so you can make the most informed choice. For dessert, our waitress brought us this delicious chocolate mousse with sea salt that wasn’t on the menu and it was so delicious — so I’d definitely ask about that, too!
Anju | Dupont Circle
Obviously, COVID-19 really impacted dinner club, and once we realized this sheltering-in-place might last a while yet, we decided to take our club virtual. So, we all ordered takeout from the same restaurant — we picked Anju since it had been on our dinner club list! — and then enjoyed it together via FaceTime along with some nice wine.
I ordered the mandu, which was my favorite dish, the fried chicken (the white BBQ sauce was amazing!), and the fried rice. Everything was delicious and I would totally order from them again — the portions were huge, it was packed well, and they were prompt with bringing my food out.
We’re definitely going to do another virtual dinner club soon, and if you’re looking for a way to mix up things with your own friends or family, I’d definitely recommend taking out from the same restaurant!
Millie’s | Spring Valley
During quarantine, my dinner club met once virtually, which was SO fun! We all got takeout from Anju and then Facetimed while we ate our meal. It almost felt like we were back in person.
Last month, in July, we felt ready to resume our in-person meetings on a patio and picked one of the best in town—Millie’s! Despite being a DC (and Nantucket!) fan favorite, I had never been before. I loved Millie’s and will definitely be back. They have such a spacious patio that we really weren’t close to any other patrons. We started with the queso, which I’d highly recommend, and then all got quesadillas. You can’t go wrong, though—all of their food looked so good! And, if you’re into ice cream, they have the cutest walk-up window where you can order a cone or a cup. I’d definitely recommend a reservation, especially if you’re aiming to go on a weekend, as this place is really popular.
(And before you go to Millie’s, definitely read this for a laugh!)
Lulu’s Wine Garden | U Street
OMG I am obsessed with Lulu’s Winegarden, it might be my new favorite spot in DC! This was our dinner club spot for August, and Julie and Taylor loved it so much, they convinced a friend to go back for brunch the next day.
We sat on their back patio and I truly felt like we had left DC and ended up in some tropical location. Their ordering system is completely contactless — you scan a QR code on your table and then place all your food and drink orders right in the Tab app it opens up. I actually really liked this because it was easy to order another round of drinks or more food without having to track down our server. I would also get a reservation here and seriously would recommend anything on the menu; we ordered half of it, and it was all so delicious.
Chloe | Navy Yard
Chloe was dinner club’s September 2020 meeting spot. We went here the night that RBG died and it was the first chilly night of the fall—we sat on the patio and definitely wish we had brought an extra layer! That being said, the food was delicious. We did the grilled bread, hamachi crudo, cauliflower, broccolini, smashed potatoes, penned, and roast chicken and everything was delicious. One thing that was a little weird is our waiter left during the middle of our meal and we didn’t get assigned to a new server, so it was hard to get drink refills or order more food—but we understand it’s a tough time for restaurants right now, so in the grand scheme of things, pretty minor!
Rooster & Owl | Columbia Heights
For our October 2020 dinner club, and we went to Rooster & Owl — it’s been on our list for a year now and it was such a treat to check it off! They’re doing a “phase two opening” feast for $75/person and you get to pick your own starter, side, main, and dessert. We also did the mixed media drink pairing for $35/person, which included either a cocktail or wine with each course.
To start, I did the pig ears — I’m normally not that adventurous with food, but the waiter sold me on them and he didn’t steer me wrong. This course was paired with a brut sparkling apple cider that was delicious. For my main, I did the tortellini and we each ordered a different side and split them — the mashed potatoes, the brussels sprouts, and the broccoli. The mashed potatoes were definitely my favorite! The drink pairing for this course was a great glass of red wine. Then, to wrap up this very indulgent meal, I opted for the cheesecake, which was such a treat. The drink pairing was their take on an old fashioned and I just can’t do whiskey — so my advice would be if you also don’t like whiskey, to split a bottle of wine with your group instead of doing the drink pairings.
St. Anselm | Eastern Market
November’s dinner club was my pick—and it was also coincidentally my birthday month! St. Anslem is one of my favorite restaurants in DC; the vibe is rustic and western and Americana—which is unlike a lot of other DC places—and the food is just so dang good. It was also a really fun night because my cousin, Kara Marie, just so happened to be dining at St. Anslem with her friends the same night!
At dinner club, we pretty much always share family style, even if it’s not a tapas-style restaurant. We did the buttermilk biscuits + pimento cheese, the NY strip, half chicken, crispy smashed potatoes, and broccoli. I loved that our steak was served on a plate with the Kennedy’s on it—there are touches like that throughout the restaurant. Can’t recommend St. Anslem enough!
Le Diplomate | 14th Street
Located on 14th Street, one thing that’s really striking about Le Diplomate is that it’s one of, if not the only, one-story structure on the street. The building is historic, so a developer couldn’t tear it down and build housing or office space over the ground-floor retail. Both the inside and outside invoke a Parisian brasserie, and the atmosphere is welcoming and warm, despite the level of sophistication the restaurant espouses.
I’ve never had a bad meal at Le Dip — it’s one of those places where the food and service is reliably great. It’s also one of those restaurants that is perfect for any occasion — a birthday, a holiday, a goodbye dinner, or just because. But regardless of when you go, I’d recommend having a reservation — this spot is popular for good reason.
Everything I’ve ever had at Le Dip is great — including the bread basket they bring to your table right when you sit down. My go-to for my entree is usually — okay, almost always — is the burger. It’s two thin patties with an amazing sauce, cheese, onions, and pickles. The fries are amazing, too! Over the years, I’ve also ordered the steak frites, the French onion soup, and the mussels — all of which are equally amazing.
Oh, and don’t forget to grab a matchbook on your way out! x
Nostos | Tyson’s Corner
Nostos was our first dinner club restaurant of 2021, and it was a great way to kick off the year! Also located in Tyson’s near my office, it’s definitely worth the trip out that way. Everything we ate, we shared family style–pita and all sorts of hummus, feta, tzatziki dipping sauces, fried zucchini, spanakopita, chicken skewers, octopus.
I also may or may not have cheated on Dry January during this meal…it was worth it!
Mi Vida | The Wharf
My dinner club had planned to go to Mi Vida in February 2021 — it was my month to pick and despite being down at the Wharf several times a year, I had never actually made it to this Mexican spot. The day we were supposed to go, it snowed and the roads were pretty bad, so we ended up doing a wine night closer to home and ordering Courthaus Social takeout. It was such a great night!
Fast forward to March and we decided to try hitting Mi Vida again and went on an unseasonably warm day — quite the opposite weather from our first attempt. Mi Vida is huge — they’ve got three stories inside and a sprawling patio outside. It’s right on the water, so the views are gorgeous. We kicked things off with a pitcher of margs, queso, and guac. I was in heaven! For my main meal, I did the carnitas tacos and we split a few sides of rice and beans. I can see why it’s always so hard to get a table at Mi Vida on nice warm days — it’s such a fun spot with great food.
Albi | Navy Yard
I don’t have enough good things to say about Albi — it was SO GOOD. Get yourself a reservation as soon as possible. I think it was my favorite dinner club spot since Maydan.
Like Maydan, Albi specializes in traditional Levantine food. Everything we ate was delicious and we had leftovers for days. We started with the lamb hummus and the mushroom hummus. Both come with this amazing fresh pita. We liked the lamb hummus more, but both were great. We also did the sfeehas to start, which are lamb meat pies.
For our next course, which was my favorite, we did the carrots, the tuna tartare, and the batata harra, which was this amazing potato dish. We fell in love with toum at Maydan — it’s a garlic condiment popular in the Levant region — and we ordered extra pita to eat all the toum that this course offered. (And then I even took some home to eat for breakfast the next day — hah!)
For our meat course, we did the lamb kebobs an the smoked chicken. We were so full by this course, but we somehow found room for dessert. Usually I am not a huge dessert person and skip it, but at Albi, I highly recommend it. We did one of the soft serve ice creams, which was so good, and the kanafeh, which is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert.
Imperfecto | Foggy Bottom
Imperfecto was dinner club’s May 2021 spot and the architecture of the restaurant itself is absolutely stunning and the service was incredible. It’s done by the same chef as Seven Reasons, which was a dinner club spot a couple of years ago. The food at Imperfecto was delicious, but it was very pricey for relatively small portions — which is probably my biggest complaint with super fine dining in general. By contrast, our April dinner club spot, Albi, was slightly less expensive and the portions were huge and we had leftovers for days. So I guess personal preference would state I’m probably more of a three $ dining gal than a four $ dining gal — but I do think Imperfecto would be a great celebratory spot, it probably just wouldn’t be my first recommendation for girls’ night or date night.
One big way Imperfecto scored points with me was that they have brut rosé on the menu — it’s my obsession as of late and not everyone has it! To start, we did the moussaka and burrata. For our vegetable + fish course, we did the Egyptian KFC, which was this amazing crispy cauliflower and my favorite dish of the night, steak tartare, ricotta ravioli, and spinach risotto. To finish out our feast, we did the chicken + mole and braised lamb. Taylor and Julie split an eclair for dessert, but I skipped out in favor of another glass of sparkling!
Supra | Logan Circle
Supra was my dinner club’s June 2021 restaurant. It serves up Georgian food, and we went on a chillier, rainy night and it was the coziest atmosphere — so I definitely think this would be a great spot to head to once the temperature drops! I wasn’t all that familiar with Georgian food, but it was all really good — lots of meat and potatoes, so definitely come hungry. The ajaruli was my favorite — it was a big piece of bread shaped like a boat with cheese and an egg mixed into it. We also really liked the Khinkali Qvelit, which were soup dumplings.
Makan | Columbia Heights
Makan was our July 2021 dinner club spot — and like June when we tried Georgian food for the first time, July was the first time we tried Malaysian food. The vibe at Makan was really fun — it was lively, with a partially open kitchen and a really good playlist. We sat inside, but they also had a really fun looking patio.
We split some really amazing food here. We did the sate yam, which was chicken sate with peanut sauce, kerabu mango, which was mango salad and so good, char kway teow, which were street noodles (this was my favorite dish!), kl cii pan see, which were spicy hakka noodles, and beef rending. For condiments we did sambal and acar nenas.
Thompson Italian | Falls Church
Our August 2021 dinner club was at Thompson Italian, which was GREAT! Definitely make a reservation here and go as soon as you can — it is so good, and you almost wouldn’t expect it given it’s on a small strip mall near downtown Falls Church. My family ate here once for Mother’s Day several years ago and I forgot just how amazing the food was.
We started with burrata and peaches, meatballs, and garlic bread, and then split four pastas — the rigatoni, ricotta cavatelli, eggplant ravioli, and a truffle mushroom special. They were all so good, I’m honestly not sure which one was my favorite! For dessert, we did the cheesecake, which was definitely my favorite, the chocolate mousse, and a piece of chocolate cake.
I usually am not one that thinks restaurants are cold, but it was freezing in Thompson Italian, so definitely bring a jacket or wear something with sleeves!
Jackie | Navy Yard
In September 2021, my dinner club went to Jackie, which had been on my list for forever. Truthfully, I wasn’t a huge fan and would probably skip doing a full sit-down meal here and just go for a drink or an appetizer if you want to check it out. The food was okay, but the vibe felt really off — we were there on a Friday night and it was basically empty! We did the burger — which was my favorite thing we ordered, burrata and watermelon salad, scallop crudo — which was also great, pimento cheese croquettes, duck pb & j, and roasted sweet potato.
ilili | The Wharf
This meal at ilili is probably one of the best ones I had all year — the entire dinner club loved it. Sometimes when you go to a restaurant that is as beautifully decorated as this one, the food is subpar, but that is not the case here. I usually hate going down to The Wharf, but I would go there any day of the week for another meal at ilili. There’s also a location in New York City!
ilili is Lebanese food, which has become one of my favorites over the years. We loved the fresh pita + toum — a garlic condiment that is so good, beef tartare, chankleesh (feta cheese dip), hamachi crudo, hummus, Brussels sprouts, the mixed grill, and the roasted cauliflower.
Centrolina | City Center
I had been to Centrolina once before, but it had been years, so I was really excited that this was our November dinner club pick! Their menu changes daily, but when we were in, we started with an amazing crab cake and Asian pear, truffle honey, and walnut. We split three pastas, which were my favorite part of the meal — mushroom risotto, burrata ravioli, and white bolognese fettuccini — if they have white bolognese on the menu when you go, definitely get it! We finished off the meal with the beef ribeye, which came with roasted baby carrots, potato, and salsa verde.
Crane’s | Penn Quarter
For our December 2021 dinner club, we decided to get pre-dinner drinks to celebrate the holiday. Taylor found Silver Lyan, a new-ish bar located in the basement of the Riggs Hotel in an old bank vault. We are obsessed with this place! Definitely add it to your list — it would be the perfect pre- or post-dinner drink spot, and since it’s so close to Capital One Arena, could be a fun place to head after a Caps game. They take reservations, too! I did the cosmo and loved it, but they have a cocktail for everyone on the menu.
After a little happy hour at Silver Lyan, we went over to Crane’s for dinner. They have a Michelin Star, but truthfully, I think there are better restaurants in DC — it just felt a little overpriced for the portion size. We did the tuna tartare, duck rillette gyozas, jamon iberico, bao buns, mushroom rice, unagi paella, and my absolute favorite, the waygu beef. That last one was melt-in-your-mouth good. For dessert, we did the calamansi cheesecake and smoky apple crema catalana — I definitely preferred the cheesecake, it was great.
CARUSO’S GROCERY | HILL EAST
It was my turn to pick our dinner club spot in January and I went with Caruso’s Grocery! It’s located in a place called The Roost, which is a luxury food hall — we just walked through quickly, but it seemed like a really cool spot and would be a fun place for a pre-dinner drink or a standalone meal.
We started with the garlic bread and burrata and then split three pastas — Ravioli alla Genovese, Caruso’s Alfredo, Spicy Neapolitan Ragu — and the Chicken Parmesan. The food was delicious and Caruso’s Grocery offered a really cozy atmosphere — it felt a lot like a New York City old school Italian restaurant.
LITTLE PEARL | CAPITOL HILL
Y’all — February’s dinner club was a treat! We decided to splurge and head to Little Pearl, which has a prix fixe offering at $85 per person. (There’s also a wine pairing available for an additional fee, but we decided to order a la carte off the menu.)
We did a pre-dinner drink at Ophelia’s Fish House — I don’t personally think this spot is anything to write home about, but after trying a few other spots on Barracks Row, we opted for it because they had four open seats at the bar. It definitely did the trick!
Then, we headed over to the main event. Little Pearl is set up like a dinner party every night — so they welcome you at the bar for a round of drinks on the house and a couple of snacks, and then they move you into their glass-enclosed conservatory for the seven course dinner experience. They started us off with a non-alcoholic drink to cleanse our palette, and then it was onto the bubbles for me. (They also had two cocktails and variety of non-alcoholic options!) For snacks, they did their amazing air-whipped “angel eggs” and a sweet bread.
The menu at Little Pearl changes often, so I can only speak to what we had, but some of my favorites were the vegetable crudo, the white fish with truffle, their take on chicken and potatoes, and the dessert. They send a chef out with each course to give you an overview of the dish.
My only complaint was there was sometimes a lot of down time between each course — it’s nice to have a leisurely meal, but this felt a little stretched out at times. The glass conservatory was such a cool spot to eat dinner, and it felt very cozy on the cold winter night we went.They send you home with a warm chocolate chip cookie and a jar of milk, which was such a nice touch! Little Pearl would a great spot for a special occasion or a fun night with any foodies in your life.
PS — if you go, definitely check out the restroom!
NOBU | WEST END
Nobu is a very popular and well-known restaurant with multiple locations across the US — but our March dinner club was my first time dining at one and it was so good. The Washington, DC location is located in West End, and it feels very much like a NY or LA restaurant — it’s almost like you’ve stepped out of town for the night.
We did the yellowtail jalapeño, shishito peppers, lobster tacos, waygu dumplings, crispy rice with avocado and spicy tuna (my absolute favorite thing we ordered!), and split four rolls — the house roll, spicy tuna, yellowtail jalapeño, and salmon avocado.
We had a plan going into the meal about what we wanted to order, and I was glad we did because our waiter definitely tried to upsell us at any opportunity — but other than that, it was an awesome experience. I would go back to Nobu any night of the week!
DOLCE VITA | 14TH STREET
Dolce Vita was our April dinner club spot and we went one of those first sweet, really warm days of spring— it was just great. We started our night with a pre-dinner drink at Estadio, which is known for their Spanish tapas. I hadn’t been there in years and it reminded me that I need to dine there again soon. We sat at the bar and enjoyed sangria before heading over for our dinner reservation at Dolce Vita, which offers Coastal Mediterranean food.
We really loved this spot, which is in the old Ghilbellina space. The atmosphere is very European with lots of club music playing — if you want a quieter dinner, I recommend asking to sit upstairs. Their menu is a variety of tapas meant to be shared family-style, which is how we like to eat.
We started with the bomba de papa, the hamachi crudo, keftes, Brussels sprouts, and the provocative caprese. Then we did a pasta course of the gnocchi and the orzo risotto — which was my favorite! To cap things off, we did the beef souvlaki and the lamb. Everything we ate was delicious and I would recommend this spot to anyone.
L’ARDENTE | JUDICIARY SQUARE
Our May dinner club spot was L’ardente and it was fantastic! So fantastic that it ended up being our unanimous number one dinner club spot of 2022!
We started with the focaccia, meatballs, and arancini — everything was so good. Then we did a caesar salad and carrots, before moving onto pastas. If you go, get the lasagna! We normally opt for more inventive dishes, but their lasagna came highly recommended and lived up to the hype. We also did the ravioli, pappardelle, and squid ink pasta. To cap things off, we did the flambe tiramisu.
The service was also great — they were super attentive without being overbearing. This would be a great special occasion or birthday dinner spot.
THE POINT | BUZZARD POINT
I was lucky enough to be invited into The Point last year when it opened and had been dying to go back ever since! They have a great patio right on the water and just such a lovely ambiance. I would recommend trying to schedule your dinner here on a night when there’s not a Nats game or something going on at Audi Field — otherwise, prepare for extra traffic!
Truthfully, I didn’t think the food was as good as I did when I went last year, especially given how out of the way it is for me, but I still would recommend it for a fun happy hour on the back patio. We split some calamari and tostadas to start and then did the burger as my main — but I always love their sushi and pizza as well.
DEL MAR | THE WHARF
The Friday in July that we dined at Del Mar as a dinner club, it was unseasonably cool and rainy, and this restaurant felt like the perfect place to eat that night as it was so cozy and warm. (I think it’s the beautiful deep green paint they have on the walls!)
We split an array of their tapas — pan con tomate, patatas bravas, beef tenderloin, cauliflower, and paella. Everything was great, but for some reason, Del Mar doesn’t stand out in hindsight. It’s tapas are pretty on par with other Spanish style restaurants in the city, and I always find getting to The Wharf a little bit painful. So all that to say, I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here again, but I also wouldn’t be disappointed if I dined here again.
They also have a beautiful bar if you just want to drop in and check out the space before committing to a full meal.
VERMILLION | OLD TOWN
Vermillion reopened in August after being closed during the pandemic, and we as a dinner club dined there on one of their first nights back! I loved it — the food was great and the atmosphere felt really romantic and warm. It would be the perfect date spot.
We did the beef carpaccio, crab croquette, scallop crudo, milk bread, ravioli, risotto, and chicken ballotine — Vermillion coursed out the meal beautifully and the food was great. I especially enjoyed the scallop crudo!
RASIKA | WEST END
Rasika was our September spot — and it was my pick! It is a very popular Indian restaurant with two locations in Washington, DC, one in West End, where we dined, and their original location in Penn Quarter. It’s one of those classic DC spots that every Washingtonian has to get to at some point — and I figured going with my dinner club would be a great way to try it out. We grabbed at drink at Quadrant at the Ritz beforehand — such a great hotel bar.
I didn’t grow up eating Indian food and am candidly, not super familiar with it — so it’s always a little intimidating to go to an Indian restaurant because I don’t always know what to order. Luckily, Taylor, one of my fellow dinner club gals, is a huge Indian food fan and didn’t steer us wrong — everything we ate was so good. (Our waiter was also super helpful, so even if you don’t have an Indian food aficionado with you, you’ll be in good hands!)
We did the cauliflower bezule — my favorite dish, palak chaat, sweet potato samosa, truffle dosa, garlic naan, chicken tikka masala — another favorite!, dal dhungaree, and lamb biryani.
SAN LORENZO | MOUNT VERNON SQUARE
Prior to dinner, we met up for a couple of glasses of wine at Maxwell — it was the day that the new Taylor Swift album came out and they had it playing throughout the restaurant, which was such a fun touch!
After, we walked the two doors down to San Lorenzo. I had eaten there a few times before, but candidly, am not sure I would recommend it anymore after the horrible experience we had as a dinner club. We had an 8pm reservation, and given it is a small restaurant, they let us know it would be a few minutes before our table was ready. No problem! We grabbed a seat at the bar and kept our conversation going. However, ten minutes turned into twenty which turned into thirty which turned into three very hangry people forty minutes later. The management was doing nothing to move the people occupying our table along after they paid their bill. We finally were seated and the manager did bring over some appetizers on the house, which was a nice touch — we thought everything would be smooth sailing from there. Until about an hour into our meal when the manager comes over and let us know we will need to vacate our table because the party behind us had checked in for their reservation. Y’all, I was livid — your poor table management of the previous table is not my problem!
So needless to say, even though the food at San Lorenzo is delicious, I am not in a rush to get back anytime soon.
SHILLING CANNING COMPANY | NAVY YARD
Our November dinner club spot was Shilling Canning Company down in the Navy Yard. Prior to dinner, we met up for a couple of glasses of wine at Maxwell — the same way we started off our October dinner club, just in a different neighborhood.
We really enjoyed it and the service was outstanding. It’s done by a former sous chef of The Dabney and a great take on Mid Atlantic cuisine. We started with the deviled eggs and the fall harvest salad, and then shared the wagyu and chicken ballotine. The wagyu was so, so good — I definitely recommend ordering that if you go.
1789 | GEORGETOWN
To kick off our December dinner club, we started our night at Fitzgerald’s. It had been on my list for a while and I am glad I recently was able to check it out! Located right next door to 1789 and upstairs from The Tombs, Fitzgerald’s is a good balance between the high-end 1789 and the college haunt that Tombs is. It truly was the perfect place for a pre-dinner drink! It was quiet, there was ample comfortable seating at the bar, and the bartenders were super friendly and helpful. I would love to go back for a proper meal soon.
Following Fitzgerald’s, we concluded another great year of dinner club at 1789! It was my month to pick and this DC institution had been on my bucket list for years. We so enjoyed it and it would be a great place to celebrate a special occasion or take your parents!
We started with some delicious bread, scallops, and ravioli, and then rounded out the meal with the lamb, braised wagyu short ribs, Brussels sprouts, and pomme rosti. Instead of doing dessert, we opted for another round of drinks — I capped the night off with a glass of bubbles and Julie + Taylor did espresso martinis. We toasted to another great year of dinner club!
Irregardless | H Street
Owned by two UVA alumni, we were super thrilled to kick off our fifth year of dinner club by supporting this new spot on H Street! Focusing on cuisine from the Mid-Atlantic region, they also have an amazing wine program and offer both an omnivore and a vegetarian tasting menu. We did the former and it didn’t disappoint.
They change up the menu frequently, but when we dined, we were served the following courses as a starter: a grilled oyster, grilled octopus with saffron aioli and potato, a scallop schnitzel and salad, and lamb ragu pappardelle. It was such a generous amount of food that I could have easily stopped there! For my main, however, I did the short ribs, which were served with mashed potatoes and carrots. There was also an option of shrimp and grits and chicken with farro. For dessert, I did the cheesecake, which came with a pomegranate glaze.
This would be a great spot for a special date night or a birthday dinner — and the tasting menu was delicious and such a great value.