100 Best Restaurants 2012: The Inn at Little Washington
Chilled Maine lobster with clementine sorbet, shipwrecked in the vegetable garden. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Comments () | Published January 12, 2012
100 Best Restaurants (2011) 100 Best Restaurants 2012 100 Best Restaurants (2010)

The Inn at Little Washington
Address: 309 Middle St., Washington, VA 22747
Phone: 540-675-3800
Neighborhood: Little Washington
Cuisines: Modern, American
Price Range: Very expensive
Dress: Formal
Noise Level: Intimate
Reservations: Required
Best Dishes Tin of Sin; sorrel soup with custards; sashimi; hot and cold foie gras; macaroni and cheese with ham and black truffle; veal sweetbreads; artichoke-filled pasta with braised artichokes; limoncello soufflé with Meyer-lemon ice cream.
Price Details: Prix fixe menu from $138 to $168 per person.


Patrick O'Connell's baroque-meets-bucolic inn is 33 years old, and with its playfully luxe cuisine made by perfectionists and a stable of servers who seem to know the second you need something, it delivers one of the nation's superlative dining experiences. The concept of minimalism doesn't exist once you enter O'Connell's world, where ceilings are intricately hand-painted, silk-fringed lamps cast a cozy glow, and on each table is a vase bursting with roses. But this is luxury with a sense of humor: Five-course meals begin with canapés such as "the world's tiniest baked potato"--a Dutch Peewee potato topped with caviar and crème fraîche--and might end with a visit from a mechanical cow named Faira (otherwise known as the cheese cart) and cheese savant Cameron Smith, who will help you turn a slab of Époisse cheese, toasted pecans, and house-made quince jam into a "three-Michelin-star PB&J."

What to get: Inn classics such as foie gras two ways with Sauternes jelly, mac and cheese with country ham and truffles, and tuna "pretending to be filet mignon"; perfectly cooked squab marinated in blueberry vinegar and served atop a shredded-zucchini crepe; citrusy lobster salad with cucumber sorbet, avocado, and lightly pickled vegetables; soft-shell-crab tempura with Vietnamese-style dressing; lamb carpaccio with Caesar-salad ice cream; duo of barbecue short rib and chard-wrapped filet mignon; coconut napoleon with lime caramel; butter-pecan ice-cream sandwich; cheesecake with figs.

Open daily for dinner (closed some Tuesdays in fall and winter). Very expensive.

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