The Best Washington, D.C. Restaurant Openings Fall 2016

From The Shaw Bijou to Gravitas, here are the spots that will be heating up our nation's capital

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D.C. has been getting a lot of attention in the culinary world of late—and rightfully so. The nation's capital has evolved from a business lunch hub to a dining destination, with a number of particularly strong and ambitious tasting menus. Joining that group this fall are Kwame Onwauchi's Shaw Bijou and Matt Baker's Gravitas. Here's where you'll want to score a table in D.C. as election season continues to heat up.

The Shaw Bijou: Former Top Chef contestant Kwame Onwauchi's restaurant is one of the city's most anticipated openings of the entire year. The chef, who was born in Nigeria and raised in the Bronx, will offer a 13-course "globally inspired" tasting menu including dishes like a Vietnamese anise brodo, Moroccan flatbread with carrot butter and Onwauchi's version of Butterfinger candy for dessert. The restaurant has only 32 seats, so reservations are likely to go fast when it makes its debut later this fall.

Gravitas: Matt Baker is adding his voice to the tasting menu chorus of D.C. with this 55-seat restaurant that includes a two-seat chef's counter and a bar housed in the restaurant's rooftop greenhouse. Each week, the restaurant will offer two tasting menus—one including meat and fish and another that's vegetarian. Baker says some of the dishes he's been experimenting with include a buttermilk sorbet with melon consommé, Fresno peppers and celery hearts; hay-smoked duck breast with charred summer greens; and a sweet pea flan.

Illustration: Pizza Fingers

Sfoglina: James Beard Award-winning chef Fabio Trabocchi and Maria Trabocchi are opening a restaurant dedicated to all things pasta, offering both fresh pasta and a few extruded ones. (The word sfoglina means a woman who makes pasta from scratch in Italian.) Those pastas will work their way into dishes for the menu but also be available for those who prefer to cook their pasta at home. Antipasti, salads, salumi, and a few meat and fish entrées round out the offerings.

Haikan: The team behind the very well-liked Daikaya is working on a new Sapporo-style ramen spot in Shaw that will also serve small plates (think mapo tofu poutine and smashed cucumber salad) and miso, and shoyu-based soups inside and on an outdoor patio.

Farmers & Distillers: The perennially busy Founding Farmers is expanding with this restaurant and distillery right near the convention center. The menu is broad, ranging from Chinese flatbread and hand-pulled noodles to pork schnitzel, all being placed under the umbrella of D.C.'s various immigrant communities. The distillery, inspired by the one George Washington ran at Mt. Vernon, is fittingly called Founding Spirits.  

Sweet Home Cafe: With the opening of the Smithsonian's African American museum this fall will come a cafeteria that focuses on four food narratives—the Agricultural South, the Creole Coast, the North States and the Western Range. Carla Hall, who logged time on Top Chef and The Chew and opened her first restaurant in Brooklyn this year, is consulting on the project.

MGM National Harbor: José Andrés, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, and Marcus Samuelsson are all slated to open restaurants in this development in early December. Andrés's restaurant is called Fish and will serve blue crabs and more from the Chesapeake, the Voltaggio brothers are opening a steakhouse, and Samuelsson's restaurant is simply called Marcus and will serve American fare with a nod to Maryland ingredients.