There are some fantastic places to eat in Northern Virginia, and our critics have found the best of the best. From long-time favorites to hot newcomers on the NoVA food scene, these restaurants set the bar high with their service, atmosphere, and, most importantly, delicious food. These are the top 10 restaurants in NoVA this year.
Price Key: Entrées = $ 15 and under | $$ 16–25 | $$$ 26–40 | $$$$ 41 and over | * = prix fixe only
By Olga Boikess, Dawn Klavon, Alyssa Langer, Alice Levitt, and Renee Sklarew
No. 1: 2941
Falls Church | Modern American | $$$$
The 2941 odyssey — a delicious marriage of nature and art — begins on a winding, tree-lined road that leads to a modern building with a sculptured view of a koi pond and an artificial lake. Inside the soaring space, a talented contemporary American kitchen staff transforms top-flight ingredients into culinary art.
The five-course tasting menu shows off that kitchen in top form. A dramatic presentation makes the fish course a standout. Pearly white sea bass is presented in a black pottery bowl with a vivid red yuzu kosho sauce that provides a subtly spicy contrast. A surf-and-turf course of filet mignon and braised monkfish likewise offers a sophisticated, yet hearty, spin on tradition.
There is a vegetarian option for each course. So while one diner savors foie gras with roasted cherries, their partner finds ricotta gnocchi with crisped summer truffles, hazelnuts, and goat cheese a happy choice. Both find common ground in the baba au rhum.
À la carte options such as grilled rib-eye with crisped potatoes or wild black cod with clams and Australian prawns can be just as captivating. A three-course prix fixe menu ($65) with a fish, a meat, or vegetarian choice offers an accessible taste of this dining destination’s artful luxury.
See This: A dramatic space with wraparound windows showcases parkland while the inside provides a cosmopolitan vibe.
Eat This: Five-course tasting or three-course prix fixe menus — or à la carte choices like rib-eye, pastas, cod, and duck
Service: Well-drilled servers are professional and knowledgeable.
When to Dine Here: Your party is looking for a thoughtful meal in one-of-a-kind surroundings.
Lovettsville | Modern American | $$$$*
Most of the restaurants on this list will provide a filling repast that will live on only in photos and reminiscences at best. A dinner at Patowmack Farm is an unforgettable experience, and one that follows you home.
Under newly minted executive chef Colby Janowitz, an alum of Sonoma County’s famed farm and restaurant, SingleThread, the eight-course Progression Menu begins with a bloom-festooned basket packed with goodies. On a given day, it might include a collection of amuses-bouches such as charred, pickled mushrooms that taste like bulgogi; earthy housemade seed crackers; peaches wrapped in ham; and crumbly biscuits with soft, salted butter. The term “gift from the kitchen,” does it no justice, though it does feel a bit like unwrapping a birthday present.
From a corn custard served over tastebud-slapping pesto, to olive oil–poached striped bass with a vast collection of preparations of squash, to pâte à choux filled with chocolate mousse and surrounded by blueberries, each plate will remain fresh in your mind long after it’s been digested.
The kitchen sends guests home with a treat for the next day, not that they will need a smidgen of help remembering such an event.
See This: In the warm months, your dining room is all of the outdoors, with a view of the hills surrounding the Potomac. When it’s cold, settle into the greenhouse.
Eat This: The working farm supplies what’s on plates, so be ready for a surprise each visit.
Service: Be prepared for an event that fills the whole evening, spent with a staff of food lovers who aren’t just earning a paycheck.
When to Dine Here: That special someone is planning a memorable night.
Middleburg | Modern American | $$$$
An artful blending of nature and tradition defines the dining experience at this luxurious destination. Strolling through the surrounding park’s natural beauty is a delightful prelude to an impressive culinary event. The lofty main dining room offers a contrast between the clubby feel of polished wood and leather-lined booth seating and the wraparound windows that bring the surrounding greenery’s charm indoors.
The Salamander Resort’s must-visit garden comes to the table in appealing ways. A baby-corn and artichoke appetizer — spiked with leeks, pickled snap peas, and grated Parmesan — is a crisp sampler. Vegan mushroom ravioli is anything but Spartan. Flavor-packed mushrooms — some sliced, some whole, some chopped — shine through a decadent sauce. Its creamy mouthfeel would satisfy the most stubborn skeptic.
True to the upscale vibe, high-quality meat and seafood options range from steaks to lamb loin, braised short ribs, duck, and lobster. A focus on local and regional sourcing refreshes the traditional dishes. Seared Hudson Valley foie gras offers a rich counterpoint to a honeyed tangerine purée. Grilled octopus is bedded on black-eyed peas sparked with the contrast of chorizo.
One dessert blends house-grown lavender and berries with pistachio ice cream and a dense chocolate cake. Garden meets tradition in every bite at this restaurant.
See This: You know you’re in horse country with the stable-style entry into a country club–like dining room with landscaped views.
Eat This: Mushroom ravioli, foie gras, wagyu filet
Service: The staff manages to be both friendly and highly accomplished.
When to Dine Here: The big round booths are perfect for special occasions, but why not simply cap a country drive with an elegant meal?
No. 4: Field & Main
Marshall | Modern American | $$$$*
The field comes to the table in compelling ways at this charming destination.
Sitting in a dining room decorated with ephemera unearthed from nearby meadows, a five-course tasting menu celebrates the area’s bounty. A dish of roasted red beets on goat cheese mousse, dotted with pickled mustard seeds, is followed by an equally visually appealing plate of smoky morels and asparagus over a pea purée. Succulent grilled cauliflower follows.
Blistered tomatoes and squash accompany a main course of grilled fish. On one visit, chewy, full-flavored beef kabobs with a carrot purée are subbed in for the fish for one diner. On another visit, we can’t stop forking up the juicy roast chicken with savory sea island peas. Delicate frozen yogurt mousse in a refreshing rhubarb and strawberry consommé completes our edible foray into the countryside.
Composing a meal from the main menu requires hard choices. Locally sourced vegetables such as blistered wax beans, crispy potatoes, and hearth-roasted carrots are offered in innovative ways. Shrimp and grits, bison strip steak, and the popular OooMami smash burger showcase nature’s bounty brought to life on your table.
See This: Rustic indoor and outdoor settings take full advantage of a charmingly preserved centuries-old building and its lovely gardens.
Eat This: Morel mushrooms, grilled swordfish, chicken leg confit
Service: Staff could not be more accommodating or adept.
When to Dine Here: Destination dining that brings the field to the table deserves to be visited as often as you can.
No. 5: Ellie Bird
Falls Church | Modern American | $$$
Co-owner and managing director of Ellie Bird, Carey Tang, isn’t sure that the new Falls Church restaurant she owns with chef-husband Yuan Tang should be categorized as Modern American. Though the menu includes dishes such as an Amish chicken piccata, most plates mesh the disparate influences of Yuan’s diverse kitchen staff. Even the drinks use ingredients like gochujang and pandan. But we would argue that this is exactly what modern America is.
The housemade pastas, for example, might include a seasonal spaghetti dish that combines cheesy Italian cacio e pepe with Mexican elote. Peppery corn cream sauce isn’t yet a tradition, but it tastes like it could join that pantheon. The same goes for Vietnamese French onion soup, which adds the colonized country’s aromatics to its colonizer’s well-known comfort food. Another French classic gets an Asian remake in the form of kimchi-flavored bouillabaisse.
There’s no question that the food and drinks at Ellie Bird are a representation of what America is today and where it is headed. We’ll raise a glass of rye-spiked ube bubble tea to that.
See This: The bird is the word here, where avian-shaped LEDs share space with tables contained in birdcage-style bars.
Eat This: Vietnamese French onion soup, cacio elote, Rachel’s Chocolate Cake
Service: The friendly staff is always ready to fulfill your needs. It’s no surprise that the owners’ first restaurant, Rooster & Owl, earned a Michelin star.
When to Dine Here: Your family is ready for a taste of America’s future.
No. 6: Nostos
Vienna | Greek | $$$
The white tablecloths are a good indicator — this is not the place for a gyro. Nostos proves that there is so much more to Greek cuisine.
To start, you can’t go wrong with spanakopita; two large, perfectly crisped phyllo triangles are stuffed with spinach, feta, and scallions. The dips with pita are made to be shared, so opt for the combination of three, including tzatziki, tyrokafteri, and taramosalata, and spread the love.
You’d be remiss to not experience the arni youvetsi, a generous, fall-off-the-bone-tender portion of lamb shank that’s braised in a wine-tomato sauce and served with orzo. Meat lovers also will appreciate the moussaka, a rich, layered dish of baby eggplant, potatoes, ground beef, and béchamel.
Seafood’s key role in Greek fare isn’t overlooked here. The garides saganaki — sautéed shrimp served in a tomato-based sauce with feta, onions, and raisins — and lavraki (branzino) are both winners.
It will be a challenge to save room for dessert, but three different baklava variations beckon. These interpretations are the kind of upscale sweet you’d have to go to a fine restaurant to try, even in Greece.
See This: The subtle nods to Cycladic architecture, such as curved, white-washed walls, are an ideal backdrop to saganaki flamed tableside.
Eat This: Combination of dips, arni youvetsi, traditional baklava
Service: Knowledgeable, welcoming, and attentive
When to Dine Here: You want a traditional-yet-elevated meal that will show you the finer things in Greek life.
No. 7: NUE
Falls Church | Modern Vietnamese | $$$
There are restaurants that serve an exciting menu. There are spots that beckon with visual beauty. Then there is NUE, where the art-filled dining room sets the scene for the fireworks on plates.
The first true modern Vietnamese restaurant in NoVA comes from the team at Happy Endings Hospitality, best known for casual restaurants Chasin’ Tails and Roll Play. But don’t expect mere crawfish or banh mi here. Instead, co-owner Tuyet Nhi Le took her mother’s recipes and worked with executive chef Daniel Le to bring them into the 21st century.
To taste exactly what this means, diners need only order the short ribs. Based on Le’s mother’s bo kho, a spicy beef stew usually served with crusty bread, here it’s served over al dente pappardelle. Think of the best Italian beef ragú you’ve tasted, then amplify it with spice, acid, and the love of a Vietnamese mom. Even better, an eye toward luxury allows you to add freshly shaved truffles to the pasta — or anything else on the menu. Guests can’t lose.
See This: Impressionistic flowers decorate the walls of the airy main dining room, while blooms tumble from the ceilings, all a tribute to Vietnamese artist Le Pho.
Eat This: Pho pâté, short ribs pappardelle, coconut curry risotto
Service: The team earns the 20 percent service fee that’s included in the check.
When to Dine Here: The dining room is unabashedly romantic — bring your other half who’s as passionate about up-to-date flavors as you are.
No. 8: L’Auberge Chez François
Great Falls | French | $$$$*
When it comes to bucket-list dining in Nova, this dyllic French country escape is a stalwart. Diners here savor masterful cuisine and enjoy exquisite service. Every detail is meticulously curated, from superb bread service to sommelier-paired wine to stunning presentation.
The five-course prix fixe menu includes chef Jacques Haeringer’s amuse-bouche, which might be an elegant sampling of creamy leek soup, sprinkled with fresh herbs. Maine rope mussels and a chive crêpe that encases wild mushrooms are two of many delectable appetizers, each portioned to satisfy without filling up.
Fresh salad options all originate from the vibrant onsite garden and choosing one main course proves to be a challenge since every entrée sounds exceptional. Whether a diner orders veal scallopini, grilled duck breast, rainbow trout, or rack of lamb, the 48-year-old landmark consistently offers timeless classics.
Chateaubriand arrives with a perfect pink hue, tender and tastefully enhanced with a tiny pot of Béarnaise. Lobster appears out-of-shell, accompanied by jumbo lump crabmeat, all bathed in a dynamic citrus wine sauce.
Soufflés impress here, and each dessert tastes as good as it looks. L’Auberge Chez François lives up to its reputation, making every visit worthy of your bucket list.
See This: A gazebo offers deluxe outdoor dining with a view of the garden.
Eat This: Homard du Maine, chateaubriand, tarte au chocolat
Service: The flawless service sets the gold standard.
When to Dine Here: Visit this captivating destination for celebrating life’s special moments.
No. 9: Trummer’s
Clifton | Modern American | $$$
Trummer’s is a tale of two culinary traditions. The modern American bistro food nods to co-owner Stefan Trummer’s Austrian roots and chef Zack Ridenhour’s southern Virginia heritage. Farm-fresh ingredients are at the center of the plate. Austrian-inspired dishes get low country Southern twists. Exhibit A is a schnitzel where pork subs in for veal and the potato salad has a creamy base.
Moist, flaky halibut offers a foil for Southern-inspired sides. Flavor-packed Sea Island red peas and braised collard greens are bathed in a deeply flavored gravy. Heirloom Carolina rice anchors the entrée. Another night finds okra and succotash in the fish’s supporting cast. Rotisserie-roasted, succulent duck breast, a bit gamy in a good way, is accompanied by duck-fat-roasted potatoes. The dish bridges culinary traditions.
An apple strudel, based on cranberry apple cake, is burnished with caramelized apples, a toffee sauce, Chantilly cream, and candied walnuts. Succulent roasted peaches with just a hint of bourbon are bedded on homey pound cake, along with soft ice cream and the crunchy contrast of oat crumbles. It’s a sweet ending that tastes of home, no matter where you came from.
See This: A welcoming and graceful space encourages diners to dress up or come casual; you’ll see a variety of choices at the same table.
Eat This: Pork schnitzel, halibut with Southern sides, rotisserie-roasted duck breast
Service: Relaxed, yet attentive and professional; servers do a first-rate job in an unintimidating way.
When to Dine Here: Celebrate anything or nothing at all with skillful treatments that draw from Austrian and regional American traditions.
No. 10: TRIO Grill
Falls Church | Modern American | $$$$
Diners peer across a white tablecloth, basking in the soft glow of golden lighting. They might be co-workers bonding over cocktails, folks treating themselves to a fancy (but not stuffy) dinner, or twosomes on a blind date. No matter the occasion, it’s easy to feel relaxed and pampered at this sophisticated restaurant.
TRIO Grill is a classic steak and seafood restaurant that sources from regional farms and purveyors. The extensive selection of wines and spirits is stocked in floor-to-ceiling glass cases.
Among the appetizers, housemade gnocchi is a standout. The pillowy potato puffs are sautéed in brown butter and piled atop a mélange of spinach, asparagus, and punchy sundried tomatoes. Also stellar: Oysters Rockefeller, featuring locally sourced bivalves topped with foamy hollandaise.
Omnivores will not be disappointed, especially with the bison New York strip from New Frontier Farms in Madison County, Virginia, with its bed of potato hash and drizzle of habanero mustard.
Whether diners choose a seat by the outdoor fireplace, banquette, or long maple bar, they’re in for a night of fine food and camaraderie.
See This: Architectural elements in shades of orange and brown, with bold fixtures casting pools of light onto white tablecloths
Eat This: Housemade gnocchi, Oysters Rockefeller, New Frontier bison
Service: Servers are well-informed, gracious, and responsive.
When to Dine Here: This neighborhood restaurant cultivates conversation and celebration.
Feature image of 2941 by Shannon Ayres
This story originally ran in our November issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.