A Playful Cafe in Washington D.C. is One of America’s Best Restaurants

There are plenty of delicious reasons to visit Yellow again and again.

<p>Scott Suchman</p>

Scott Suchman

As a travel writer with an adventurous palate and often a far-too-tight schedule, I rarely return to the same restaurant twice in a trip. I usually rock up in a city with far too many pins on my Google Map to actually be able to fit them all in, let alone find time for a repeat. But a single, flaky bite of a soujek-and-cheese croissant on a balmy summer morning in Washington D.C. made one thing abundantly clear: There would be lots of visits to Yellow in my future.

A playful Levantine café from Palestinian-American chef Michael Rafidi, who also masterminds D.C.’s Michelin-starred Albi and is a James Beard Award semifinalist this year, Yellow’s menu marries Middle Eastern flavors with French pastry techniques in a cheery space punched up with pops of, well, yellow. The resulting confections — baklava croissants, halva chocolate chip cookies, Palestinian olive oil basbousas, cherry-lemon-sumac kouign amanns — left me plastering my nose to the pastry case in despair, knowing I’d never find a way to try them all.

The inevitable solution was to keep coming back. So the next morning, my husband and I dutifully lined up once again next to a sign that instructed, “This way, habibis,” but with a savvy strategy in play: We’d arrive by 10 a.m. in order to make the end of the breakfast push — to score a harissa egg croissant before it sold out and split the Urfathing scrambled egg bagel with kashkaval cheese with an order of batata tots, crispy shards of potato dusted in shawarma spices — then, comfortably settled in at one of the few coveted tables, we’d line up in the sun for a second round once the (yellow-tiled) oven began firing up chicken shawarma and roast cauliflower pitas for lunch service.

A few days later, when my husband found himself back in D.C. for a quick business trip, he returned home with a bounty of blueberry labneh coffee cakes and za’atar and labneh croissants as souvenirs. And a quick visit later in the fall yielded a za’atar egg croissant with smoked peppers, wood-fired shakshuka, and a lamb sfeeha, washed down with a labneh soft serve drizzled with pomegranate molasses, and a few date and orange maamoul cookies and Turkish coffee caramel brownies for the road trip home.

I’ve still barely made a dent in the menu: I have yet to make my way through the range of hummus (there are five on offer) or to try the recently introduced (not) pizzas slung after 4 p.m. each day and crowned with toppings like burnt eggplant and soujek. There’s a good reason there’s a permanent queue snaking out onto the Georgetown sidewalk, and it's why you’ll find me in it every time I’m back in the capital. Now if only Rafidi and team would heed my plea to open in New York to spare me the commute. Yalla, Yellow!

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