2006 100 Very Best Restaurants

THE SCENE. Though not so distinctively Southern after its makeover–whither the lovingly elaborated onion theme?–the subterranean dining room has never looked more cheerful or contemporary–a fitting setting for Jeffrey and Sallie Buben's Modern Southern cuisine, which remains very popular with patrons of all backgrounds and sensibilities.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Smart, careful cooking that goes well beyond fried chicken and grits; gracious service; and a thoughtful, imaginative wine list that's among the top five in the area. And you won't find a better happy hour in town than the one in the bar from 5 to 7 weeknights: 20 wines by the glass under $7 plus a raft of free and bargain-priced nibbles.

WHAT YOU WON'T. The lack of natural light can induce a little claustrophobia. And every so often the cooking slides off track, veering from hearty simplicity into gooey, cheesy indistinction.

BEST DISHES. Shrimp and grits, a model of the genre; the sinfully rich Southern Cassoulet with pork belly, jowl, loin, and sausage; almost any of the sides, particularly the delectable greens with bacon and onions; a wonderfully tart lemon chess pie.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.