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Readers Pick Their Favorite Restaurants of 2011
The results are in for Washingtonian readers' favorite restaurants of the year, from the best service to best restaurant desserts. By Ann Limpert
Comments () | Published December 9, 2011

French favorite Marcel's makes lobster bisque even more decadent by capping it with butter pastry. Photographs by Scott Suchman

Washingtonian readers like to eat. And for the 34th year, here are their favorite restaurants as voted on in our online survey. The top choice? Make that two: It was a tie between Komi, the small, menuless restaurant that won the title last year—and topped our most recent list of 100 Very Best Restaurants—and Dino, another chef-owned (if less expensive) place in DC’s Cleveland Park.

In Virginia, Michael Landrum rules with his Ray’s Hell-Burger and Ray’s the Steaks.

Maryland picks include Volt, the Frederick restaurant run by Top Chef-er Bryan Voltaggio, and Taylor Gourmet, the Philly-style hoagie shop in Bethesda.


1. Tie: Dino, Cleveland Park, and Komi, Dupont Circle. Great weeknight specials, house-made pastas, and innovations such as a ten-course all-duck dinner have brought the Italian spot Dino loads of regulars. Inside an unassuming rowhouse, Komi chef Johnny Monis eschews a menu and sends out a surprise lineup of masterful dishes. For the past three years, our critics have named Komi the best restaurant in Washington.

2. Rasika, Penn Quarter. Refined takes on curries share the menu with brightly flavored dishes that bear only a hint of an Indian accent at this hard-to-get-into hot spot.

3. Jaleo, Penn Quarter, Bethesda, and Crystal City. Long before José Andrés was playing with cantaloupe ravioli at Minibar, he was crafting classic tapas like croquetas and patatas bravas at these homages to his native Spain.


1. Graffiato, Penn Quarter. Top Chef All-Stars runner-up Mike Isabella’s Italian-American place features Jersey-inspired pizzas, lovely pastas, and Prosecco on tap.

2. Fiola, Penn Quarter. Chef Fabio Trabocchi—along with his famed lobster ravioli—is back in DC after four years in New York.

3. Cava, Clarendon. This modern mezze house features the same winning dishes—haloumi sliders, Opa Opa Shrimp, feta-jalapeño dip—as the Capitol Hill and Rockville originals.


Wood-fired octopus at Graffiato, winner for top new restaurant.


1. Komi, Dupont Circle. An intimate dining room and stellar service with zero pretension create a relaxing backdrop for a memorable dinner.

2. Restaurant Eve, Old Town Alexandria. Celebrate with Champagne cocktails, butter-poached lobster, and the miniature birthday-cake dessert. You’ll even be given a bag of scone mix for the morning.

3. Volt, Frederick. You can let owner and Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio cook for you at Table 21—just make a reservation far in advance. The clean-lined main dining room feels special, too.


1. Komi, Dupont Circle. The smart servers exude a warm, familial vibe—many have been there for years.

2. Volt, Frederick. The waitstaff might wear Converse sneakers, but they’re serious about making guests feel comfortable.

3. Restaurant Eve, Old Town Alexandria. Genial servers are passionate about the food, from the way it tastes to where the ingredients are grown.


1. Ray’s the Steaks, Courthouse. Thick cuts of high-quality beef are served for well below what the expense-account steakhouses charge.

2. Dino, Cleveland Park. There are deals aplenty here, from the 33-percent-off wine nights to the generous daily happy hour.

3. Jaleo, Penn Quarter, Crystal City, and Bethesda. José Andrés’s tapas let you sample a range of flavors without facing an over-the-top check.


1. Ray’s Hell-Burger, Courthouse. Michael Landrum’s justifiably popular spot features such toppings as foie gras and roasted bone marrow (plus excellent mac and cheese).

2. BGR the Burger Joint, multiple area locations. This fast-growing franchise—you’ll now find outlets in Alabama and Connecticut—specializes in messy-in-a-good-way burgers and thick shakes.

3. Five Guys, multiple area locations. These customizable, griddled-to-order burgers got their start with an Arlington carryout and are now sold in nearly every state.


1. Hank’s Oyster Bar, Dupont Circle and Old Town Alexandria. The area’s best lobster roll plus six varieties of oysters on the blackboard.

2. BlackSalt, Palisades. Jeff Black is passionate about getting the best fish he can, and it shows at his fish market and dining room.

3. PassionFish, Reston. The menu at the best restaurant in Reston Town Center ranges from red-curry lobster to sushi rolls to gumbo.


BGR's grilled cheeseburgers are a hit all over the area.


1. Bistrot du Coin, Dupont Circle. This late-night chef hangout specializes in Julia Child–era classics: duck confit, blanquette de veau, boeuf bourguignon, and more.

2. Marcel’s, West End. Robert Wiedmaier’s elegantly robust food is served in a velvet-draped dining room.

3. L’Auberge Chez François, Great Falls. This colorful 35-year-old cottage restaurant still has its classic prix fixe menu, but it now features the more casual Jacques’ Brasserie, too.


1. Dino, Cleveland Park. For his antipasti, pastas, and roasts, chef/owner Dean Gold puts a premium on ingredients, so you’ll see Bev Eggleston’s Virginia pork alongside goat cheese from the Cuneo province in Italy.

2. Tosca, Penn Quarter. This plushly minimalist business-dinner favorite is known for delicately sauced, freshly made pastas.

3. Bibiana, Penn Quarter. Executive chef Nick Stefanelli skillfully slips a few surprises onto his seasonally minded menu. If there’s a place to try smoked sweetbreads, it’s here.


1. 2 Amys, Cleveland Park. This bustling, family-packed pizzeria sticks to the Neapolitan method of pie making.

2. Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza, Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, and Clarendon. Not too thick and not too thin, the 18-inch pizzas here—also available by the slice—are inspired by the crisp-crusted creations of New Haven.

3. Matchbox, Capitol Hill, Penn Quarter, and Rockville. Its sliders get much of the attention, but this fast-growing chainlet—another location is in the works for DC’s 14th Street corridor—makes good use of its wood-fired ovens, too.


1. Kushi, Penn Quarter. This Vampire Weekend–blaring industrial dining room specializes in izakaya-style skewers, sushi, and cocktails made with shochu and sake.

2. Sushiko, Glover Park and Chevy Chase. This 35-year-old sushi house and its flashier spinoff in Montgomery County turn out precisely cut fish along with a raft of small plates.

3. Sushi Taro, Dupont Circle. It’s not uncommon to see men with Secret Service wires at this favorite of dignitaries, which specializes in traditional multi-course kaiseki tasting menus and high-end sushi.

Next: Winners for best Indian, fro-yo, desserts, and more


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Posted at 10:20 AM/ET, 12/09/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles