Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
Following Baja Fresh’s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.
Flame-kiss the fresh-ingredientful menu and your fellow diners with a hot, saucy starter of the vegetable spring rolls (with Thai chili sauce, $9), and then dive into the meat of the menu with a full order of steamed pei mussels ($18). A trip to a grill is lacking without a skewer of meaty meat pieces, so have a combo skewer platter with impaled and roasted steak, shrimp, chicken, and vegetables ($28). Celebrate the waterfront views with an order of jumbo lump-crab cakes ($32) and a side of lobster macaroni ($10). All entrees come with a choice of two sauces, which range in intensity from sleepy baby to Al Pacino plays the Devil, including apricot tarragon, sweet Thai chili, blackberry demi, red-pepper aioli, green tomatillo, chipotle-mango chutney, and abominable snowman.
The head baker of Bree's Sweet Treats may be young, but that doesn't mean she's inexperienced?Bree has been baking from scratch since she was 5 years old. Taught by both of her grandmothers, she grew up fueling a passion for crafting sweet treats. In 2011, she and her mom, Charmaine, opened Bree's Sweet Treats, where that passion burns hot and helps to bake made-from-scratch cakes, brownies, and pies.
Bree and the staff concoct more than a dozen cupcake flavors, from cinnamon french toast dolloped with maple-syrup ganache to classics such as her personal favorite, strawberry. They slice four types of brownies and plunge lollipop sticks into cake pops, the latter of which are made in any cupcake flavor to form portable treats that are perfect for a walk home or a sprint away from a sandstorm. The bakery-and-delivery service also has a storefront location to better provision guests with sweet-potato pies and goods to stock cookie jars.
BGR The Burger Joint’s burgers start with high-quality ingredients—most importantly, all-natural beef from grain-fed cattle, free to run in the fields and given zero hormones, fillers, or antibiotics. The prime beef is dry-aged, blended, and ground fresh to form patties that are grilled over an open flame, and then placed atop buttery, locally made brioche buns delivered fresh each day. The menu focuses on the Legendary Burger, which includes gourmet toppings such as avocado, applewood bacon, and grilled jalapenos. For nonbeef eaters, the menu's selection of burgers also includes turkey and veggie varieties, as well as The Greek, a seasoned lamb patty topped with tzatziki and feta. Burgers are also available in a lettuce wrap or on a salad in a healthy salad bowl.
Diners can request all of BGR The Burger Joint's freshly made fries—from thick-cut yukon gold potatoes to asparagus fries—be topped with parmesan, rosemary, roasted garlic, or a tiny tiara. The staff hand-spins shakes with Gifford's or Breyers ice cream to create extra-thick treats for finishing off meals, and some shops curate their own selection of bottled vintage sodas and offer beer and wine.
Situated in a Federal-style mansion, The Grille at Morrison House's historical exterior belies its distinctly modern cuisine. Drawing on produce and meats sourced from Virginia farms, executive chef Brian McPherson and his staff translate classic French dishes into distinct, American iterations. Lavish appetizers feature foie gras pastrami torchon, scottish salmon tartare with american caviar, escargot, and selections of cheeses and charcuterie. Entrees include red-wine-braised short rib beef bourguignon, crispy duck breast in a port reduction, and Pineland Farms ribeye with cashel blue cheese butter. Conscious of diners' varying dietary needs, cooks tailor the menu to vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free specifications on request. Two distinct dining areas give guests a choice of atmosphere. The Dining Room boasts airy windows and summer tones, contrasted with The Grille's rich woods, red leathers, and piano brunches on Sundays. The venue earned accolades from the Washingtonian for its meticulously plotted wedding dinners, which invite brides to toss escargot to the next lucky lady.