Image: Lamb shank, cauliflower, eggplant and rice under the moonlight.
Last Updated: October 2021
Current Status: Open for sit-down with ample outdoor (uncovered) seating. Take-out and delivery also available.
Overview: A few years back, the Popal family took the casual neighborhood French spot they owned and converted it into Lapis to serve the food of their native Afghanistan. It was an inspired move, and Lapis has pleased those who flock here ever since. The first couple years after the roll-over people would ask in a conspiratorial tone, “have you been to Lapis?” as if it was a secret they should not share widely.
There are multiple types of food across the menu (starters, salads, dumplings, stewed veggies and meats, things from the grill, and sides!). The best approach is to share family style – regardless whether your group is as big as a family. Hearty dumplings are a staple from the region. (One side note to those who question the D.C. food scene, you can now get dumplings from cuisines that stretch from the Caucusus to the lands of the Uyghur, and of course the more recognizable Chinese versions and other styles). There are lots of vegetable options and, as Tim Carman pointed out, it is not difficult to eat a large and very good vegetarian meal here. There are of course grilled meats and fish and kebabs. But it is the deeply flavored lamb shank rising from the sauce it was cooked in that we return to over and over. In short, there is something good to fit just about any appetite.
The cocktail list carries forward the dedication the old place had to slinging drinks, albeit with more sophistication currently. The wine list is not that long, but has a few interesting things mixed in. There are a small number of drafts on tap, often local, but they mix in some of the European brews the family serves at The Berliner in Georgetown.
The mood is still neighborhood; not fussy but serious about taking care of its customers. It is just a few blocks from the Hilton on Connecticut and an ideal place to take visiting guests for something both uncommon and comforting. For a period, they were operating a day café out of the basement , but that seems to be a victim of the pandemic. More recently, the basement was used for collecting donations to help Afghan refugees (check their IG for current status of those efforts).
In addition to The Berliner, the family also owns Lutèce in Georgetown, which they also rolled over from a simple French spot to something much more impressive, but still French. If you have read this far, you are now in on the secret (though it is far from an overlooked gem anymore). We suggest you share it widely.
Cuisine: Other Asian (Afghan)
Neighborhood: Adams Morgan
Address: 1847 Columbia Rd NW, Washington DC
Washington Post: Carman gave it 2.5 in 2016. Maura Judkis did an early first impression.
Washingtonian: #81 in 2020; #82 in 2019; #73 in 2018. Also made a list of great take-out spots in 2020.
Tyler: No coverage – Huh?
Michelin: Bib Gourmand