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.
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.
Whether you’re wining and dining friends or a potential love interest, this modern spot can set the mood. Enjoy views of the Potomac River—not to mention a three-story waterfall—as you dive into thoughtful entrees, such as the Angus filet dripping in sake butter, or nibble from a shareable plate of salt and pepper chicken wings.
A friendly staff serves up generously sized portions at this family-friendly Italian eatery. Children dine on kids'-menu selections as adults choose from a menu of classic pizzas, seafood, and pastas. Chefs' Southern Italian cooking can be enjoyed beneath the stucco archways of the casual dining area or amid well-kept shrubbery on the patio.
A product of longtime best friends and entrepreneurs Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin, whose The Dolce Group has launched successful eateries across the globe, Ketchup reinterprets childhood favorites in a sleek, contemporary atmosphere. Diners saunter through a space alive with a red, white, and black color scheme, relaxing in curvy, red banquettes or futuristic-looking chairs designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The tabletops and slatted room dividers boast comic-book-style pop art, ready to transfer onto any on hand Silly Putty, and the walls talk with whimsical portraits of ketchup and mustard bottles holding hands and Heinz bottles fading into clouds of pointillism.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, chefs spin memories of Shake ’n Bake and macaroni washed down with Kool-Aid, creating gourmet masterpieces. Lobster finds its way into mac ‘n’ cheese, and hot dogs benefit from Kobe beef—both in the dog itself and in the chili on top. And there are plenty of options when it comes time for french fry dipping. Ketchup flavors such as root beer, ranch, and chipotle pay homage to the restaurant’s moniker, livening up Angus burgers topped with market-fresh heirloom tomatoes and Irish cheddar cheese. Moore and Malin's jazzed-up comfort food has even caught on at a sister location in Saudi Arabia, and the duo is opening another site in Istanbul, Turkey.
Growing up, Chakra Café’s owner Monisha lived two different lives. At school, she was known by her given name and spent lunch hours twirling spaghetti on a fork. But at home, Monisha’s Bengali parents only referred to her by her nickname, Hashi–or laughter–and mealtimes meant scooping up lamb curry with a piece of luchi. The duality of Monisha’s two worlds–and the food she was exposed to–left a lasting impression and is the driving force behind the Café’s menu.
Inside Chakra Café’s kitchen, chefs marry Indian flavors with culinary traditions from around the world, using recipes adapted from Monisha’s mother, according to a Patch.com article. Traditional Bengali dishes such as begun bhartha–roasted eggplant flavored with green mango–are served solo or stuffed inside quesadillas with smoked fontina cheese, roasted pine nuts, and raitha yogurt sauce. Other Indian staples are also Americanized, from the tandoori chicken that tops flatbread pizzas to spaghetti paired with lamb meatballs and a whisper of ghee. Each item on the menu is clearly marked as halal, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, making it easy to decipher the dishes without meat and the ones that require each bite to be chewed 32 times.