100 Best Restaurants 2009: Liberty Tavern

No. 58: Liberty Tavern

Cuisine: Chef Liam LaCivita’s never-straining sensibility, informed by his Italian heritage and stints in kitchens in New England, drives this likable gastrotavern.

Mood: The downstairs bar is a nightly party. Upstairs, the atmosphere does a 180—the mood in the handsome dining room is low-key and sophisticated, geared to couples and families and right for conversation.

Best for: A rollicking night out; a laid-back dinner with a pal; a family confab.

Best dishes: House-smoked trout with johnnycakes; crisped pork belly au poivre with LaCivita’s offbeat take on “split pea” soup; succulent Amish half-chicken with caramelized-onion gravy; fried smelts with escarole; house-made maccheroni with short-rib gravy; wood-fired pizzas, particularly the Vermont and a version with smoked linguiça; modern-retro beef stroganoff at lunch; meatball sliders on the bar menu.

Insider tips: You can order pizzas, meatball sliders, and other plates to take home from Liberty to Go, a separate operation in the back of the restaurant.

Service: ••

Open Monday for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner; bar menu available daily. Moderate.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurant

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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.