January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants
Ann Cashion's Southern-accented seafood house lands on the Hill.
Reviewed By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli
Comments () | Published January 24, 2007
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Johnny's Half Shell
Address: 400 N. Capitol St., NW, Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-737-0400
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Cuisines: An example of a traditional Southern meal is deep fried chicken, field peas, turnip greens, cornbread, sweet tea and a dessert that could be a pie (sweet potato, pecan and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry or mixed berry are traditional cobblers)., Seafood, Modern, American
Opening Hours: Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 to 10 PM. Closed on Sunday.
Nearby Metro Stops: Union Station
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Upscale Casual
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes Roasted-beet-and-cucumber salad with smoked sturgeon and a caviar parfait; charbroiled Chesapeake oysters; made-to-order oyster stew; gumbo; Maryland crabcakes; lobster with drawn butter and fresh shell beans; coconut cream pie.
Price Details: Entrees, $17.95 to $27.95.

No. 74: Johnny's Half Shell

When it moved from Dupont Circle to the Fox News building on Capitol Hill this fall, Johnny’s didn’t just change its address—it altered its identity. What was once a neighborhoody seafood bar beloved by regulars is now a banquet-hall-size dining room for the get-down-to-business crowd. It was a little like watching a laid-back friend suddenly ditch the faded jeans for tailored suits.

If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat at the marble bar, you can almost convince yourself that nothing about Ann Cashion and Johnny Fulchino’s original vision is any different. The beer is cold, the Kumamotos are fresh and beautifully shucked, and the jumping big-band soundtrack takes you back. The staid offshoot dining rooms are another story.

Save for some terrific new desserts, courtesy of Majestic Cafe veteran Valerie Hill (her marvelous coconut cake rivals what you’d find in the South), the menu is gratifyingly familiar. The kitchen still turns out robust gumbo, crisply fried oysters, and glistening, tequila-cured gravlax. And the guilty pleasures—a bleu-cheese-and-onion-topped hot dog, a trio of footlong po’ boys, a simple dish of butter-pecan ice cream—are often great. Change, it turns out, doesn’t have to be unpalatable.

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Posted at 11:43 AM/ET, 01/24/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews