Kyle Bailey works with what he loves. His passion for both beer and seasonal ingredients come together seamlessly at his restaurant Birch & Barley, one of DC’s best, and he gets to work with his wife, Tiffany MacIsaac, who puts together the restaurants fantastic desserts. Voted by the people as Food & Wine’s The People’s Best New Chef in 2011, it’s a combo that is clearly working for Bailey. The duo (along with their beer master Greg Engert) also opened Churchkey, a similarly local-loved DC eatery offering comfort food and, of course, great beer.
So we knew exactly who to turn to when it came to finding the perfect insider to guide us through the best spots in DC. Here, he gives us everything from coffee shops to boozy spots and late night eats.
Need more insider information? We’ve got guides to Nashville, Portland, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Whistler, Cabo San Lucas, Telluride, Colorado, California wine country, and Chicago from some top-notch locals, with plenty more on the way.
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Best Coffee Shop: Peregrine Espresso has delicious coffee. Of their three locations, my favorite is the one on 14th street because it’s a great place to spot local chefs on their way to work. They will also deliver fresh roasted coffee beans via bicycle to your doorstep if you live in the neighborhood.
Best Lunch Spot: Red Apron at Union Market is my favorite spot for lunch. Nate Anda’s got killer sandwiches. Don’t miss the pork-strami or the meatballs! Plus, they’ve got a sweet beer bar with beers chosen by the great Greg Engert.
Best Hidden Gem: Honey Pig Izakaya in Annandale offers some Loud K-Pop (Korean pop music) and killer okonomiyaki. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t worry the menu has pictures, so you can just point at what you want. Be sure to take advantage of their private karaoke rooms.
Best Dinner Spot: Little Serow. You should definitely wait in line for this no reservations Northern Thai place under Komi. They have exceptional service with unpretentious and unfussy food. They only accept tables for four or less and do not allow pictures or videos in the restaurant.
Best Wine Bar: Cork is my favorite wine bar. They have an awesome list, friendly service, great food. It’s a great space to stop in for a few small plates and a couple glasses of wine; the people watching on 14th Street is a good backdrop to your meal.
Best Cocktail Bar: The bar at Restaurant Eve. Located just 10 minutes outside of DC in Alexandria, VA, Dublin native Chef Cathal Armstrong, his wife Meshelle, and truly one of the most talented cocktail makers I’ve ever met, Todd Thrasher have got what you need at this cozy restaurant bar. The food is also amazing.
Best Late Night Bite: Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan is inspired by the many falafel shops throughout Amsterdam. I love this place for so many reasons—their late night hours, quick preparation, and cheap eats.
Best Park: Mt. Vernon Trail is a great place to take a good long walk or bike ride. I like to start in DC and end up past Fort Hunt in Virginia. When the weather is nice, I like to ride my motorcycle past this park after service.
Best Culture Spot: When I’m not in the kitchen I try and spend my time outdoors. There’s just so much great stuff to see outside for free! Start your day at the National Mall, go to Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Capital Building, etc. It’s Washington DC, there’s all this amazing stuff that people built outside.
Photo credits: Red Apron courtesy of Red Apron/Facebook; Restaurant Eve courtesy of Restaurant Eve/Facebook; National Mall via Shutterstock; Kyle Bailey portrait courtesy of Kyle Bailey