There are plenty of great eats in the areas surrounding Washington, DC. Thankfully, many of them are Metro accessible — making it that much easier to eat your way through the hinterlands. But what about the many places that aren’t convenient to a Metro station? Whether you’re a Washingtonian looking to flee the city or a visitor looking for a fun day trip, we’ve got some delicious favorites that are well worth the drive — no matter which way your mood (and the highway) takes you.
On a date? Have a seat in the dining room and treat yourself to chef Bertrand Chemel’s seasonal tasting menu, a decadent lobster option or one of his outstanding pasta dishes. Wearing shorts? Grab a barstool and order one of three types of burgers and other upscale bar bites. Whether you’re a beer drinker, wine lover or cocktail fan, you will drink well here. And whatever you do, don’t skip dessert.
2941 Fairview Park Dr., West Falls Church; 703-270-1500
Asian cuisine fiends know that you get your Vietnamese food in Falls Church, Korean dishes in Annandale and real-deal Chinese not in Chinatown but in Rockville. You can go mild with something like the scallion pancake or pork buns, or go wild with a dish featuring pig ears, intestines or pork blood. No matter how daring you’re feeling, try the soup dumplings since it’s one of the few places in the area that makes them.
305 N. Washington St., Rockville; 301-251-6652
This no-reservations casual Italian spot has been around for 25 years — and still managed to make it into the top five Maryland restaurants in our most recent Zagat survey. Customer favorites include the shrimp and scallops “alla Kiara” and the ravioli filled with mushrooms and draped in a pistachio-cream sauce. A weeklong anniversary celebration kicks off today and includes a raffle for a trip to Italy with proceeds benefiting the Literacy Council of Montgomery County, plus a 25% discount for lunch and dinner checks June 4.
15209 N. Frederick Rd., Rockville; 301-309-0610
Chef-owner Patrick O’Connell’s luxurious take on American fare has kept Washington’s rapt attention for more than 20 years. Arrive early for drinks on the patio, settle into the opulent dining room for a tasting-menu extravaganza, then tell your server you’d like a tour of the kitchen after the meal. While this isn’t exactly the type of place you can pop in to on a road trip, rumor has it that O’Connell has plans for a more casual spot called Black Swan Tavern set to open later this year.
309 Middle St., Washington; 540-675-3800
Chef-owner Tim Ma has been making waves both here and at his newer Arlington restaurant, Water & Wall, for a few years now. Go check out what all the fuss is about while exploring Ma’s eclectic seasonal menus at lunch, dinner or brunch, when diners can opt for a six-course brunch tasting menu for two. A $20 lunch and a $35 dinner option sweeten the deal.
147 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-319-2177
At this off-the-beaten-path farm-to-table experience, chef Tarver King serves seasonal, organic dishes that are straight from the farm on which it sits — and every bit as stunning as the views. It's only open Thursday through Saturday for dinner, for brunch Saturdays and Sundays and for a monthly Sunday supper.
42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville; 540-822-9017
Chef Austin Fausett continues to wow diners in this small-town restaurant decorated with a breezy California feel. The menu changes seasonally, but do start with the bourbon-glazed sweetbreads and oysters on the half shell, if available. This is also a great place to stop if you have kids in tow — there’s a really fun $38 tasting menu of six courses designed for children 14 and younger.
7134 Main St., Clifton; 703-266-1623
This beautiful wine bar wins raves for its outstanding wine list and such seasonal American dishes as Chesapeake clams with pumpkin curry, brick-oven pizzas topped with wild-boar meatballs, and cheese and charcuterie boards. They don't take reservations, so you might want to call ahead to be sure there are tables available.
909 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis; 410-990-1846
This fine-dining room set in a gorgeous 1890s mansion was chef-owner Bryan Voltaggio's first restaurant, which he decided to open in his hometown back in 2008 following nearly a decade working for big-time chef Charlie Palmer. Carefully composed dishes here are a playground of color and texture, showing the masterful hand of an artist at work.
228 N. Market St., Frederick; 301-696-8658
Chef-owner Spike Gjerde, a regular James Beard Foundation nominee, has a Midas touch — often making national headlines with his cadre of successful restaurants in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood. This flagship remains a favorite with devotees, along with its siblings: Artifact Coffee, Shoo-Fly and Parts & Labor.
2010 Clipper Park Rd., Baltimore; 410-464-8000