Best of 2013

I know, I know. Another “best of” list. Like there aren’t a million of these that have been published in the last week.

However this one is different. If you want to know the “hottest” new restaurants, go pick up Washingtonian. They have a great “Top 100” list that I don’t disagree with too much. Or if you are seeking the new and trendist trends that will be trending (hashtag trending trends), then look elsewhere. DC will add approximately 100 new restaurants in 2014. Many will only last months, some will become icons in their own right. Trends come and go, but good food is good food (at least in my opinion).

So here are some of my personal favorites from 2013.

Best new neighborhood spot – Duke’s Grocery 
Located off 17th Street NW in an unassuming row house is Duke’s. The downstairs houses a real bar with some great window seats, upstairs more seating and another bar. This isn’t a typical 17th Street spot catering to the “all you can drink mimosa” crowd – Duke’s prides itself on really, really good, unpretentious, and affordable food. They offer a true English Breakfast, huge cinnamon buns, one of the best Bahn Mi sandwiches I’ve ever had, a house made salt-beef sandwich that I still dream about, and great house made desserts. They also may, or may not, have a few bottles of Pappy Van Winkle. Shhhhh, don’t tell Daniel (one of the best GM’s in town, and co-owner) I told you.

Duke’s Grocery
1513 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Best hamburger – Beuchert’s Saloon
Managers August, Brenden and Daniel, along with Chef Andrew Merkert have transformed their little section of Pennsylvania Ave SE with this truly farm-to-table dining experience. It’s not rare that expertly crafted cocktails and farm raised eggs are in the same location in DC these days, but what is rare is that they don’t advertise either. They don’t push the “farm fresh” brand on people, the fact that they make their own sausages and meats for the charcuterie board, or that everything for that matter, sans cheese and bread they either source or make themselves in house. Nor do they ask patrons to pay out the ass for these amazingly fresh and delicious items. That is why Beuchert’s stands out among this particular type of place, and why it has been my top five places in DC ever since they opened. Oh, and they have the best burger in DC. The organic, farm raised beef is mixed with beef fat on site and seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper before it hits the grill. The bun is toasted, and you should order it all the way, which comes with Benton’s bacon (the best) and a fried, over easy, farm fresh egg.

Beuchert’s Saloon
623 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

Best oysters – BlackSalt
Head up to the Palisades for the best oysters in DC. Several custom varieties raised specifically for the restaurant, others from VA, MD, MA, and Canada. I recommend the Canadian oysters in the summer, and the coastal US ones in the winter when they are at their peak. Also a perk, you actually get to leave the city, well, the heart of the city, for a brief moment. With several beers on tap, and great apps – such as the smoked and grilled sardines – I highly recommend this “trip” out of the “city” for the best oysters around.

BlackSalt Restaurant
4883 MacArthur Blvd NW
Washington, DC 20007

Best summertime cocktail – frozen peach bourbon slushy at BlackJack
Off 14th Street is another restaurant owned by the Black Food Group, and that’s Pearl Dive. Sporting some of the same custom oysters as their less urban sister restaurant mentioned above, lies this seafood oasis in the middle of the wild 14th Street corridor. However  step upstairs and you find an indie bar dimly lit, a silent, typically foreign movie playing above the bar, and a hip crowd packed wall to wall. However, head my words – arrive at 6:00pm when they open (never on a Monday as they are closed), and order their bourbon peach frozen slushy. Typically it takes about 15-20 minutes to warm the machine up, so grab a beer while you wait. But trust me, on a warm summer evening, this icy cold bourbon drink is unmistakably manly. The bourbon hits you immediately while the sweet peach undertones wash the strong drinks aside as the icy cold slushy beverage goes easily down your gullet. Your sweat glands will thank you – your head the next morning, may not. Beware, they do pack a sneaky punch.

1612 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

Best “real” cocktails in DC – Room 11
I am remiss to even list this place. Not that I have a million readers or anything, but even if 20 of you go on the same night I want to just sit at the bar and let the masters twist me specialty, hand-crafted cocktails from one of over 20 gins or close to 30 bourbons, oh, and the over 50 bitters on hand, I may be upset. Room 11 has, hands down, the deepest bar, the best gins and small batch bourbons, the most bitters, and the most talented mixologists in my opinion in DC. Just don’t be a dick and ask for a Ramos Gin Fizz…at least wait until after midnight and only if they aren’t busy. Oh, and you have to help shake it as well.

Room 11
3234 11th Street NW
Washington, DC 20010

Best different bar in DC – Hogo
Rum. Bar. That’s about it. Hogo is a sweet rum bar in DC next to the overrated Passenger. So next time you are in the neighborhood and want a delicious cocktail, head into Hogo. Try the rum Old Fashioned or their famous Tiki Drinks. Don’t miss the flaming rum punch bowl served en fuego with floating flowers.

1017 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Best high-end dining experience – The Grill Room, Capella Hotel
Call Capella, ask for Alex, and all your troubles will be taken care of. Capella hotels honestly blows away the competition. Catering to a largely higher end crowd, this five star hotel hosts an amazing restaurant in The Grill Room. From smoked oysters with beer foam, to tuna tartare topped with house made roasted red bell pepper ice cream, to charred octopus and seared rockfish – not to mention the Taittinger champagne partnership that results in tableside cart service – Capella and the Chef at The Grill Room honestly blow it away.

Capella Hotel – The Grill Room
1050 31st Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

Best French cuisine – La Chaumiere
Tucked inside the bustling Georgetown neighborhood is a cozy and quaint French experience mirroring that of an old country house outside of Paris. While the decor may be country-rustic-chic, the food is nothing but. Chef Patrick Orange creates amazing traditional French cuisine. Go in the winter where the center fireplace will be roaring. Start with the baked onion soup, foie gras, or house made pate before moving onto oysters to cleanse the palate. The Saumon Mariné en Croûte is to die for; marinated salmon in puff pastry, champagne and dill sauce. Also the calf’s liver is the best I have ever had, and the veal piccata and lamb rack are equally as delicious. Try a bottle of the Bordeaux blanc priced perfectly at only $38. Dinner for two with wine and dessert can easily happen for less than $120. For food of such quality, it’s not wonder this DC staple has lasted.

La Chaumiere
2813 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

Best breakfast – Ted’s Bulletin
If you want brunch, you can find many options here. But if you want breakfast, then head to Ted’s. Expanding from their Barrack’s Row location to add a 14th Street restaurant, Ted’s  can now cater to your hangover, or hunger, wherever you are. They have lots of great options, from ham steak, to a enormous breakfast sandwich and equally intimidating breakfast burrito. But I always stick to a simple and perfect breakfast. Two eggs over easy, bacon, hashbrowns (Waffle House style) extra crispy, a side of cheese grits and whole wheat toast; coffee, water, and orange juice. It’s plain, it’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s a real breakfast, not brunch, for under $15. Grab a pop tart on your way out.

Ted’s Bulletin
505 8th Street SE – OR – 1818 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20003 – OR – 20009

Best “let’s stop here real quick and have this…” place – The porron at Estadio
You’re walking down 14th Street, you’re coming from one party or bar, heading to the next. You’re a bit early, or waiting on more friends, and you think, “Hey we should stop at BLANK and get BLANK before we head on.” Let me help you fill in these blanks with Estadio and porron. A porron is like a wine decanter but with a spout that you drink from. The goal is to start close to your mouth, hold the porron with one hand, pour into your mouth, extend your arm, and pull the porron as far away from your face as possible, without spilling.  Inside the porron, is typically a combination of Spanish beer, lemon soda, and bitters. Add a vodka floater if you’re feeling brave, and if you’re feeling confident, forget the booze mixture and go straight for red wine.

1520 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

Best old school experience – The Prime Rib
It started in the 1960s in Baltimore, came to DC in 1976, and hasn’t changed since. Waiters are dressed in tuxedos as they hover nearby. A grand piano equipped with piano player sits off to the side. Jackets are a must for men (if you forget yours, they will provide one for you), and the slabs of meat are as massive as the liquor pours for your perfect martini. Offering crab cakes and seafood as well, but you really go for one thing only: the classic signature prime rib. To accompany your meat, you can choose from the vegetable list or the potato list which offers as many potato options as the vegetables. Put on your best “Mad Men” attire, grab a scotch at the bar, a martini as you sit, and a bottle of wine with dinner.

The Prime Rib
2020 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Best “snack” – pork belly strips at B TOO
Top Chef Season 10 contestant Chef Bart Vandaele brings his Belgian flare to 14th Street NW at BTOO. Whether you are waiting at the bar to be seated, or just want a great Belgian beer and a snack before moving on, don’t miss their fried pork belly strips. These are a perfect snack. Perfectly crispy on the outside without being greasy at all, and tender on the inside. Paired with Belgian pickles, mustard seeds, and a light frisee salad, it’s the perfect snack.

1324 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

Best “power lunch” – Sidecar at PJ Clarke’s
DC voted it best “power lunch” spot, and I can’t argue. Inside PJ Clarke’s and down a set of stairs, accessible by a membership card, is the semi-private members only dining area, Sidecar. Manager Emily Hines is almost always there to greet you with a smile as you’re led to your table. The menu differs from the upstairs restaurant just enough to distinguish itself, and the dimly lit atmosphere makes for a perfect lunch meeting, dinner conversation, or mid-afternoon cocktails over sliders.

Sidecar @ PJ Clarke’s
1600 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Best “power breakfast” – Lafayette at The Hay Adams Hotel
The next time you find yourself in a situation where someone suggests you meet over coffee at 9:30am, counter with a 9:00am breakfast at The Hay Adams. Blanketed in white with ornate chandeliers shining down on you, this breakfast experience will not only impress your guests, but also your taste buds as well. From omelets to traditional breakfasts, to bagels, salmon, french toast and more, it really is a perfect way to start the day. Oh, and don’t forget breakfast dessert. As the coffee is coming to an end, order the fresh berries with housemade cream.

The Hay Adams – The Lafayette
800 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Best grilled cheese – Stoney’s
There really isn’t much to say on this one. Stoney’s has, and continues to offer, the best grilled cheese in DC. Get it plain, or add tomatoes, bacon and red onion, or hell, even add a grilled or fried chicken breast. However you get it, wash it down with a ice cold beer and you can’t ever go wrong.

1433 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

Best wings – Clyde’s of Georgetown
It’s hard to find good NY style pizza, authentic BBQ, and wings in DC. Thankfully the later is not impossible. The best wings in DC can be found at Clyde’s. I prefer the Georgetown location for it’s charm and service. Order the wings double dipped (which means they fry them, coat them in sauce, then fry them again) with the sauce on the side and blue cheese. The hot sauce is similar to the Texas Pete wing sauce you can purchase, but there’s a little something extra that I can’t put my finger on, and they won’t tell. Large, meaty wings come out piping hot and super crispy. I suggest posting up at the back bar, grabbing some wings, and watching a game on the TV back there.

Clyde’s of Georgetown
3236 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

Best brunch – Whatever Bitches Who Brunch says
Yeah…brunch isn’t my thing. Some of my favorite bitches already have that covered (and they expanded to NY – a place that certainly needs more bitchiness).

Best tapas – Boqueria
Boqueria is for some reason often overlooked by food authors and critics, but it shouldn’t be. Go early, it’s always packed. They offer a great happy hour, nice sangrias, but their small plates are amazing. I recommend the salt cod fritters and their house made spicy chorizo mini burgers.

Boqueria – Dupont
1837 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

Best pho – Pho Golden Cow
Ok, so it’s not really in DC, but trust me, I wouldn’t leave the District for a bowl of $8.00 pho if it wasn’t the best around. Having recently converted a friend who was born in Vietnam from a Pho 75 enthusiast (there’s is good…but this is better), to a Golden Cow pho lover, I’m still convinced it’s the best. The broth is not oily at all, but packed with so much flavor. The accompaniments are fresh as can be (lime, Thai basil, cilantro, jalapenos, and bean sprouts), and the price is extremely affordable. I go with the sliced rib-eye and beef tendon myself. The ribeye is lean and tender and the tendon is fatty, gelatinous and is packed with beefy flavor.

Pho Golden Cow
3537 South Jefferson Street
Falls Church, VA 22041

Best happy hour – Oceanaire
I have this debate often with my friends in DC. Sure, Oceanaire may not have the best atmosphere. Yes, it is smack in the middle of a downtown scene which dies after 8:00pm on any given night. But none of that matters because they offer $3 16oz draft beers, $4 wines, and $5 cocktails, and $5 appetizers. So that, in my book, makes it one of the best happy hours in DC and sadly often overlooked.

1201 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004

Best and most consistent all around dining experience – Blue Duck Tavern

I continue to stand by my statements, even despite a less than perfect beef dish during my last visit, that Blue Duck Tavern is consistently the best restaurant in DC. Both service and food quality, as well as ambiance and general all around experience. I never fret when bringing newcomers here, or returning with seasoned veterans.

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

Did I miss something? Of course. Tweet me your “best of” experiences at @HungryLobbyist using #DCBest2013.

One Comment

  1. I like your list. It’s a little different than the dozens of others that have been published in the last few days. I like having some things to add to my own “to eat” list.

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