You’ll find good eats and inventive drinks at Espita Mezcaleria. (Photo: Courtesy of Espita Mezcaleria)
The capital city’s dining scene is on fire right now. Long gone are the days when D.C. was limited to steakhouses and power-lunch spots. In fact, Michelin recently released its first guide to the area. Two of the restaurants awarded with stars happen to be in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, named for nearby Mount Vernon Square.
Its location, wedged between downtown office buildings and historic row houses, has made it the go-to neighborhood for hip chefs opening new restaurants.
Besides upscale dining, the neighborhood’s restaurants offer a range of styles, prices and cuisines like Italian, Turkish, Mexican and plenty more. Here are five suggestions for eating in Mount Vernon Triangle.
This restaurant and bar is the brainchild of master mezcalier Josh Phillips and his wife Kelly. It’s the first of its kind in the D.C. area and specializes in mezcal, the smoky agave spirit from Mexico. Try it in a cocktail with roasted pineapple and caramelized sugar or order a flight of three varieties and savor their subtle flavor differences.
The kitchen grinds heirloom corn from Mexico to form into masa-based street-food items like lamb barbacoa tacos or sopes topped with smoked eggplant and queso fresco. Or explore other specialties from southern Mexico (particularly the state of Oaxaca) like trout cooked in yellow mole or a classic black mole with cured lamb belly.
It may look like an Italian trattoria from the street, but Conosci is actually a separate restaurant-inside-a-restaurant. The intimate crudo bar is tucked in the back of Alta Strada. (Both Alta Strada and Conosci are owned by chef Michael Schlow.)
Check in with Alta Strada’s host, who will escort you past the blue velvet drapes and into this sexy space decked out in blue tufted banquettes and illuminated by candlelight.
Choose from three tasting menus that all highlight the joys of fresh seafood. Dishes change daily, but there might be items like tuna poke with chiles, furikake, cilantro and yuzu. Cocktails are mixed table-side from a bar cart.
Beloved local chef Eric Ziebold opened his first restaurant, Kinship, last year to critical acclaim. It even earned one star in Michelin’s inaugural D.C. guide. Feast on elevated new-American fare at one of the luxurious booths inside a sleek dining room decorated in a sophisticated white and black color palette.
The lobster French toast is a must, and entrees like the perfectly bronzed whole roast chicken flavored with garlic and lemon come with freshly-baked Parker House rolls.
Located inside the Colonel Building on 9th Street, this casual but perpetually packed Italian restaurant focuses on New Jersey–style pizza with a thick and bready crust that’s baked in a deck oven.
Start your meal with a bottle of Italian or domestic wine to pair with antipasti like mozzarella and ricotta-stuffed meatballs or fried Brussels sprouts flavored with togarashi and Parmesan cheese. Round it out with one of their signature pies topped with tomato, pepperoni, mozzarella, chili honey, basil and Grana Padano cheese.
It would also be a crime to leave without trying a slice of their signature rainbow cookie cake, a spin on the Italian-American bakery favorite.
The neighborhood’s other Michelin-starred restaurant specializes in the food of the Mid-Atlantic region. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne changes the menu daily based on the availability of his obsessively-sourced ingredients from Virginia, Maryland and other nearby states.
The beverage list offers regional beers and ciders, and entrees might include whole grilled trout with grits, smoked onion, greens and hot sauce. The restaurant, housed in a historic row house in the pedestrian-only Blagden Alley, even has a wood-burning hearth on display for preparing dishes like ember-roasted carrots with whipped ricotta, sumac and fried garlic.