Johnny's Half Shell
400 N. Capitol St., NW
Washington, DC 20001
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Cuisines: Southern, Seafood, Modern, American
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.
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Nearby Metro Stops: Union Station
Price Range: Moderate
Noise Level: Chatty
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.
Entrees, $17.95 to $27.95.
Special Features: Wheelchair Accessible, Kid Friendly
Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.
No single thing keeps us coming back to this Capitol Hill haunt—many things do: the tiled floors, reminiscent of an old-time New York oyster bar; the energy of the bar at happy hour, where both sides of the political aisle come to blow off steam; the impromptu party on Friday nights in the summer, when a jazz trio commands the covered patio.
Johnny’s is a reminder of what restaurants used to be before chefs became celebrities. The menu, devoted to seafood dishes from the Chesapeake to the Gulf, rarely changes. The gumbo (chef and co-owner Ann Cashion is a Mississippi native) is dark as night, the crabcakes (small but carefully made) are as good as any in the area, and the roasted lobster amounts to a trip to Maine in summer.
The richness of the food may lead diners to skip dessert, but that would be a mistake. The homestyle pies and cakes are a rebuke to trendy restaurant desserts. The same could be said of this winning throwback.
Also good: Spicy barbecue shrimp with grits; roasted-beet-and-cucumber salad; fried oysters; crab imperial; barbecue crabs (in late summer); banana-coconut cream pie.
Open Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Expensive.