January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 69: Mannequin Pis

A Belgian chef opens a mussel-centric bistro deep in the Maryland suburbs that becomes a hit. Years later he sells the place to a young woman from Bangladesh (her family owns Bombay Gaylord in Silver Spring) who hangs on to the second and third in command, brothers from Peru.

Devotees were right to wonder whether the new trio was capable of turning out the heartfelt Belgian fare that made the place worth the trip. So far, so good. The dining room still exudes a beer-kitsch-gone-mod feel, and on Olney Theatre nights, it’s packed.

Mussels (15 versions) with frites and beer (60 varieties) still rule—the classic mussels marinière and the poulette with cream should be your targets. The greatest hits of Belgian cuisine—from carbonnade, a beer-infused beef stew, to creamy seafood waterzooi—are as intensely flavorful and rich as ever. If anything’s changed, it may be the plating, which at times seems haphazard, and the quality of the desserts: A pot-au-chocolat eats more like a ganache than the silky custard of years past.

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.