Food

100 Best Restaurants 2009: Johnny’s Half Shell

No. 39: Johnny's Half Shell

Cuisine: The Big Easy and the Chesapeake both get their due at this classics-with-a-twist fishhouse/saloon, the creation of James Beard Award–winning chef Ann Cashion. So do fine dining and humble plates, from one of the better caviar deals in town—$19 for a jar of red and black with blini and crème fraîche—to a roast-beef po’ boy on a Leidenheimer roll evoking the famed sandwich at Mother’s in New Orleans.

Mood: A couple of years after moving from its quirky Dupont Circle digs to larger, less personal quarters on Capitol Hill, Johnny’s has the look of a place that’s been around forever. The bar, with retro floor tiles and boisterous talk, impersonates a New Orleans watering hole. A jazz trio plays weekend nights, and a piano player holds forth at lunchtime during the week.

Best for: A seafood fix or a respite from the experimental cooking at many of the city’s new dining rooms.

Best dishes: Fried oysters with tart relish; crunchy fritto misto with fried green tomatoes; barbecue crabs (in season); crab cake with slaw and French fries; lobster with drawn butter; at lunch, fried-seafood po’ boy, roast-beef po’ boy, and hot dog with bleu cheese and pickled onions; burger sliders with zippy pimiento cheese at the bar.

Insider tips: Some of the best eating and values are at breakfast (grillades and grits), lunch, and at the bar—happy hour from 4:30 to 7:30 weekdays is big with the congressional crowd.

Service: ••

Open Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Moderate.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurants

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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 Logan Circle.