Sometimes, when the craving strikes, you just need to head out on the open road. There, you will find out why foodies flock outside on winter mornings in Manhattan for a Dominique Ansel cronut, why they endure the sticky heat of Austin for a tray of ribs from Franklin Barbecue, or brave the sun-drenched sidewalks of L.A. for a Hollywood hot dog at Pink’s. Yes, Baltimore has become a culinary haven, but we still love the thrill of the chase. So get out of Dodge and heed your hankerings—and wanderlust. These dining destinations—listed from nearest to farthest—won’t disappoint.
Washington, D.C., 37 miles // The Lowdown: Despite its rabid fans, long waits, and endlessly Instagrammed food, Toki Underground has managed to keep its cool. From the skate-shop vibe to the inspired take on Asian comfort food, this postage-stamp-sized hot spot is even better than the hype. Kitchen Cred: Remember this hip young chef’s name: Erik Bruner-Yang. The one-time Sticky Rice alum turned 2015 James Beard Rising Star Chef finalist is joining the ranks of trend-setting dining deities such as Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese) and David Chang (Momofuku). Food For Thought: The lineup is approachable (and affordable) but no need to mull the menu: Head straight for a steaming bowl of noodle soup. The rich tonkotsu broth comes in simple, yet complex, arrangements, from classic pulled pork with soft-boiled egg to inspired kimchi infusions. Make it your own with add-ons like melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and house-made “endorphin sauce,” made with five different chilies. However you bedazzle your bowl, sip slowly. And don’t be ashamed to tip it back: There’s a reason Bruner-Yang moves over 200 orders a night. Trip Tip: For good kitchen karma, order the Xie Xie, a round of beers that go to the ramen-making masters in the kitchen. 1234 H St. NE, Washington, D.C., 202-388-3086
Washington, D.C., 39 miles // The Lowdown: The “Rose” in question is chef Aaron Silverman’s grandmother, so it’s only fitting that every element of this charming eatery—mix-and-match plates, antique touches, fresh flowers—is reminiscent of the little luxuries in your own nana’s house. It might take a few hours to get a table (no reservations accepted), but if awards alone are any indication (James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2014 and GQ’s Most Outstanding Restaurant of 2015), it’s well worth the wait. Kitchen Cred: Silverman has worked with the crème de la crème including David Chang, Sean Brock, and George Mendes. Now at the helm of his own spot, he wraps past into present—melding the French, Asian, Italian, and Southern influences of his former haunts into something completely original. Food For Thought: Despite the hype, Silverman keeps it real with his eclectic blend of flavors, marrying homespun comfort food with high-end gourmet. Start with the fan-favorite pork sausage, habañero, and lychee salad, which is anything but a bowl of boring greens. Don’t miss the crispy Chesapeake soft-shell crab or spicy strawberry spaghetti, topped with house-made ricotta. Trip Tip: If you’re eating at a table for one, at least one dish will be gratis. 717 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C., 202-580-8889
Washington, D.C., 41 miles // The Lowdown: One of the most trusted names in Washington, D.C., isn’t a Capitol Hill congressman or POTUS appointee. Instead, it’s a restaurant in the Penn Quarter (with a second location in the West End), where a luminary cast of VIPs from the Clintons and Obamas to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg choose to break bread. (Or should we say garlic naan?) For the past decade, Rasika has remained a tried-and-true stalwart for its modern take on classic Indian cuisine, but this isn’t your common curry. Rasika continues to top best lists for its intricate, inventive meals. Kitchen Cred: Props to the power duo of Bombay-born, James Beard Award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam and New Delhi-native and veteran restaurateur and James Beard semi-finalist Ashok Bajaj. Also of note: Penn Quarter chef de cuisine Neraj Govil spent 18 years at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. No biggie. Food For Thought: Given Sunderam’s ability to amaze the palate, Rasika—derived from “flavors” in Sanskrit—is aptly named. Start with small plates like the famous palak chaat, or signature flash-fried spinach, before moving onto classics like chicken tikka masala, swaddled in a swoon-worthy tomato sauce. Trip Tip: While you’re in the ’hood, saunter down the street to beloved landmarks like the Newseum, National Gallery, and National Mall. 633 D St. NW, Washington, D.C. 202-637-1222
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
Lovettsville, VA, 63 miles // The Lowdown: To beat the heat, head south to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and pastoral Patowmack Farm. Opened in 1998 as one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in America, the organic eatery is locavore to the core, with locally grown goods plucked and plated the very same day. Kitchen Cred: Foraging farmer-chef Tarver King might focus on back-to-basics, but his culinary education—from Philadelphia’s Le Bec-Fin to Napa Valley’s The French Laundry—was anything but. A James Beard semi-finalist, King uses the land’s bounty to create cuisine that’s artistic and avant-garde. Each plate is a little masterpiece, adorned with fresh flowers and herbs, as inspiring as a walk through the nearby woods. Food For Thought: Three menus are broken up by mode of source—“raised,” “grown,” and “found”—rotating regularly based on King’s finds. Taste the seasons as you move through your courses, like the summer cherry gazpacho with pistachio, cucumber, and cardamom cream. Trip Tip: Don’t forget to order one of Loudon County’s award-winning bottles of wine. 42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville, VA, 540-822-9017