100 Best Restaurants 2008: Blue Duck Tavern

No. 12: Blue Duck Tavern

Cuisine: Trendily traditional American cooking bolstered by chef Brian McBride’s sourcing—purveyors are exhaustively listed on the menu—and ability to coax the utmost flavor out of whatever’s in his sauté pan.

Mood: Glass walls, wide-plank wood floors, and handcrafted furnishings make a spare backdrop for the theatrics of the open kitchen, where sous chefs churn the ice cream of the day and fuss over burnished pies from the oven.

Best for: Aesthetes who want it all: austere yet beautiful surroundings and stellar cuisine. It’s close enough to the Kennedy Center to make it a pre- or postshow contender. And the outdoor patio is ideal for one of the best brunches in town in summertime.

Best dishes: Rave-worthy smoked-trout-and-potato rillette with Riesling-mustard gelée; pickled baby beets with a hit of curry; tender long bone of beef; thrice-cooked finger-thick French fries (dip them in the house-made steak sauce that comes with the beef bone); roasted scallops perfumed with lemon and thyme; caramel cheesecake with roasted pears and tart cranberry compote; house-made ice creams.

Insider tips: There are some truly great—and expensive—wines by the glass, so check the price before going with sommelier recommendations or you could end up with a $55 glass of Meritage “Opus One” 2003. The blossoming teas, served in clear glass pots, are another high point—you can see the leaves morph into a flower before your eyes.

Service: •••

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.