WASHINGTON — It's that time of year again, when deal-loving foodies are obsessively scheduling out their meals and servers are bitterly anticipating a $5 tip on a $48 bill (PSA: tip your servers, people). Yes, it's winter restaurant week, and from Jan. 13-19, D.C. diners can enjoy some of the city's hottest restaurants at a deep discount.
If you're unfamiliar with D.C.'s restaurant week, your options are $22 three-course lunches or brunches, and $35 three-course dinners; some restaurants opt to only open for one of the meals, so plan accordingly.
But with more than 250 restaurants participating, including 25 new-to-restaurant-week locales, choosing a destination can be overwhelming. Our resident restaurant expert pored over the week's offerings, and narrowed it down to seven spots where you can't go wrong. Whether you use it as an excuse to revisit a favorite neighborhood joint, or venture out on date night to a restaurant that's been sitting on your "must try" list for far too long, take advantage of the cheaper pricing, and expand your palate by ordering something new!
Pro tip: As tempting as they may sound, if you're truly trying to dine out on a budget, avoid the supplements or add-ons, or you'll wind up with a $100 bill for two, and that's not much of a deal.
Restaurant: Punjab Grill
Why: Karan Singh's fine dining Indian restaurant was one of the splashier openings of early 2019, but with entrees topping out at $46, it could seem unattainable to the average diner. If you've got champagne taste on a beer budget, experience a bit of the Punjab Grill opulence during restaurant week.
Order: Aloo tikki chaat (crispy potato cake, brussels sprouts, kale and raspberry chutney); chole masala (amritsari kulcha, white chickpea curry, stuffed bread, pickled onion and house spiced butter); dark chocolate pistachio gianduja with a cardamom ganache and chocolate sable. If you're dining at brunch, swap the chole masala for the fried chicken and dosa waffle (mint chutney, tamarind and ginger masala maple syrup).
When: Brunch, Lunch and Dinner (Sunday-Thursday only; not served on Jan. 17 or 18) are served
427 11th St NW
Restaurant: Maialino Mare
Why: Ever heard of a little place called Shake Shack? Maialino Mare is the first full-service restaurant in the District from the genius behind that mouthwatering burger. Restaurateur Danny Meyer is giving seafood a go, at his D.C. riff on Manhattan's Maialino, and it just opened on Jan. 8. You know as well as we do that Washingtonians love "the hottest ticket in town," and this, my friends, is currently it.
Order: If you're an anchovy fan, order the burrata e alci, a crostini topped with burrata and anchovy. But if salty little fish are not your preference, we recommend the chicory salad. For your main, it's a no-brainer: the trenette alla vongole shows off both Meyer's Italian prowess, and explores his foray into seafood. End your meal with a tiramisu, because Meyer has already proven to be a master of the classics.
221 Tingey St SE
Restaurant: Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse
Why: Non-Restaurant Week pricing would put the Hanger Steak alone at $32. Aka, if you've been meaning to try Voltaggio Brothers -- and you should be, as I would argue it's one of the best steakhouses in the DMV -- now is the time to do it. Treat yourself to a show and make a night of it at MGM!
Order: Skip the fried calamari, and opt for either of the salads. If you're a Caesar salad purist, you'll enjoy the artful presentation of this version, while the flavor sticks to the tried and true. But if you're looking for something with a little twist, try the wedge, with tomato jam and Old Bay-spiked ranch dressing. Definitely go for the flavorful and tender hanger steak, with Chimichurri and french fries. And if you're tired of making the tough choices by the time you reach dessert, have no fear -- the strawberry semifreddo is your only option.
101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, MD 20745
Restaurant: Napoli Pasta Bar
Why: We love a RW menu that gives a little something extra, and when the something extra is wine, we are sold! At Napoli, your $35 meal includes one appetizer, one entree, one dessert AND one glass of wine. Or, if you prefer to drink your dessert, you can skip the cakes and go for two glasses of wine for the same price. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Order: The caponata (sautéed eggplant, cherry tomato,fresh burrata and focaccia), fettuccine con gamberi (Fresh tagliolini with shrimps, pistacho, and lemon zest) and the strawberry pannacotta.
2737 Sherman Ave NW
Why: Again, the options at Officina make it the perfect dinner for dining companions with differing priorities. You can choose either an antipasti or pasta, a pasta or meat, and a dessert or cheese course. Hopefully, you're dining with a partner who is willing to share so you can pick one thing from each category and get the truest bang for your buck.
Order: From the appetizer section, go with the mushroom arincini filled with scamorza cheese. You almost can't go wrong in the pasta section, but if we are forced to choose, we're recommending the butternut squash and the mussel linguine. For the meat lovers, the slow braised beef stew with polenta is an excellent hearty winter option. On the sweet side, you absolutely must choose the chocolate gelato-filled beignet, topped with chantilly cream, chocolate sauce and amarena cherries. Pure bliss! Finally, if you like a little element of surprise, opt for the fromage course, and let your waiter delight you with the day's options.
When: Lunch (maybe see if you can work from home after this lunch, as you're almost guaranteed to enter a food coma)
1120 Maine Ave SW
Why: Because everything Ryan Ratino touches turns to culinary gold. Is that a good enough reason for you? If it's not, how about because they are offering you a $35 meal from a Michelin-starred restaurant? With the young chef ramping up to open Jont (a tasting menu food lab) this spring, check out a few of the dishes he's been playing around with the last few months.
Order: Scallop mi-cuit served in buttermilk with turnips and apple; short-rib butterball with potato, mushroom and mustard; and the chocolate bar.
1906 14th St NW
Restaurant: Spoken English
Why: Erik Bruner Yang's standing-room-only, Tachinomiya-style restaurant truly gives you an insider's look at what happens in a kitchen -- because you are dining communal style IN the kitchen. Don't be afraid to put yourself in your server's capable hands here, as the food knowledge and level of service at Spoken English are off the charts.
Order: Sunomono (Japanese cucumber salad); chirashi shake box (uni, hamachi, marinated roe, shrimp, niban dashi, fresh wasabi, red micro shiso, scallion, arare and nori); and pineapple tiramisu
1770 Euclid St NW
Other cities in the area are also hoping you’ll take advantage of the week-long deals. Bethesda Magazine Restaurant Week is January 10 – 19, 2020. Click here for a full list of participating restaurants.
Alexandria Restaurant Week is January 17-26, 2020. Click here for participating restaurants.
Restaurant weeks started in major cities after attacks on 9/11/2001. As you can imagine, people weren’t dining out much. It started as a way to get people back on the scene. It’s also a way to drive a different clientele in.
According to Gallup, the average person spends $150 a week on food. During restaurant week, you can get a full lunch starting at $22. That’s only $110 for five days, which has you spending $40 less than the average American.
Some places will require reservations, Open Table is a recommended app to download.
See all participating Restaurant Week locations here.