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The Needle: What’s Hot, What’s Not

Each month, we drop in on three restaurants to see how they’re doing.


This Frederick restaurant is red-hot, thanks in part to chef Bryan Voltaggio’s recent appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef. But on this visit, presentation and pricing ran far ahead of the flavors on the plate. Soy “air” can’t make a bland yellowfin tuna taste more like tuna, and a gorgeous plating of duck liver (a whopping $19 for a first course) was too rich and sweet to finish. Still, the expansive windows, funky art, indie tunes, and brown-Converse-clad waiters make for a fun dining room.

228 N. Market St., Frederick; 301-696-8658.

The Majestic

If a big, fluffy slice of coconut cake is what comes to mind when you think about this retro-minded Old Town standby, think again. The cake is as good as ever, but there are many more draws, starting with Todd Thrasher’s fabulous cocktails, which include a pink Hemingway Daiquiri that looks like it was plucked off the Mad Men set. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes, a reminder of the place’s Southern roots, is messy and wonderful; a chicken-liver mousse is creamy and refined. And the “devil’s style” chicken—not as incendiary as it sounds—has a nice lemony tang. If there was a misstep, it was the pasty Key-lime pie.

911 King St., Alexandria; 703-837-9117.

Bistro Bis

In the now-it’s-open, now-it’s-closed world of local restaurants, this Gallic veteran, now in its 11th year, seems almost an institution. Few restaurants convey a better sense of stability, and even fewer come close to Bis’s quality and consistency. If there aren’t many surprises, that’s a kind of comfort in an age of lots of rampant experimentation—and rampant unevenness. Count on expertly prepared quenelles, a textbook steak tartare, classically sauced preparations of game and fish, and one of the best cheese carts around.

15 E St., NW; 202-661-2700.

This appeared in the December, 2009 issue of The Washingtonian.  

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