100 Best Restaurants 2008: Liberty Tavern

No. 62: Liberty Tavern

Cuisine: Upscale comfort food enlivened by smart, distinguishing details—a good bread basket, a crock of butter topped with fleur de sel, house-made tartar sauce and malt vinegar for the fish and chips, and appetizers and entrées dressed up with local produce.

Mood: The bar scene downstairs at this restored Masonic lodge can get raucous, but up the cherry-wood staircase is a handsome dining room where a cross-section of Clarendon enjoys a neighborhood restaurant that consistently exceeds expectations.

Best for: Its versatility. You can come for a drink, a nibble, and conversation at the bar, a light and simple meal of salad and pizza, or a three-course repast.

Best dishes: Watercress salad with fresh figs, bleu cheese, and bacon; gnocchi so tiny and light they resemble spaetzle, with a succotash of fava beans, corn, pear tomatoes, and shiitakes; a well-cooked Arctic char with salsa verde and heirloom tomatoes; juicy Amish roast chicken and mashed potatoes.

Insider tips: You can skip the desserts, but don’t miss the coffee service—a French-press pot of coffee from nearby Murky Coffee, complete with a timer that tells you when your brew is ready.

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.