1. All-Star Chefs in Washington D.C.
Celebrity chefs have set up spots all over the district; emerging gourmands -- from food-truck drivers to neighborhood restaurant owners -- are putting their distinct regional spin on farm-to-table menus; and once-homogenous ethnic areas are filled with foodies ready to travel via their taste buds.
Read on for four great reasons visit the nation's capital this summer. Who knows -- you might even be seated next to the first family!
The most prolific restaurateur in town is James Beard Award -- winning chef José Andrés, who has opened seven trailblazing eateries in 11 years -- including Mediterranean ZAYTINYA, a Rachael favorite; pop-up spot AMERICA EATS TAVERN; and the six-seat, avant-garde MINIBAR BY JOSÉ ANDRÉS one of the hardest reservations to get in town.
After a complete renovation, Andrés's JALEO is the one of the city's hottest tapas designation. The Penn Quarter restaurant offers Spanish comfort food and reasonable prices -- most items are under $15. Variety is the key here: The menu boasts offers over 70 options, including spicy chorizo wrapped in crispy potatoes, and "paella" made with fried pasta and shrimp, so no two visits may ever be the same.
In the city's Chinatown neighborhood, GRAFFIATO draws crowds hoping to snap a picture with owner and Top Chef alum Mike Isabella and sample his Italian-inspired small plates, pastas and pizzas. The two-story industrial space features a ham bar, prosecco on tap and chalkboard walls listing local farm sources. Guests and cooks chat over platters of hand-cut spaghetti with olive oil-poached tomatoes, garlic and basil, and braised chicken thighs with spicy pepperoni sauce -- a dish that received rave reviews from judge Tom Colicchio on Top Chef. "Even before looking at the menu, diners will ask for the pepperoni sauce from the show," Isabella says. "I don't think I'll ever stop serving it."
On Capitol Hill, Top Chef All-Stars competitor Spike Mendelsohn whips up juicy, hand- crafted burgers at GOOD STUFF EATERY. Spike's Sunnyside comes with a fried egg and bacon; the Michelle Melt, a free-range turkey burger, honors the health-minded first lady, who has visited.
Next door, fresh-from-the-oven slices are served at his WE, THE PIZZA parlor. Order the BBQ pie, topped with a mound of slow-roasted pulled pork, barbecue sauce, cheddar and crispy onions. Don't forget to grab one of the house-made sodas for the road.
"Everyone thinks of D.C. as being the political capital of the world, but it is so much more than that," Andrés says. "New chefs are coming to open burger joints and high-end restaurants, so we are in the right place at the right time."
Prices and other details were accurate when published in July 2012.Continued on page 2: