100 Best Restaurants 2009: Mannequin Pis

No. 67: Mannequin Pis

Cuisine: One of the area’s first mussel bars—and also in the vanguard of Belgian beer lists—Mannequin Pis has a loyal following, for both its kilo pots of shellfish and its sausages. But with the departure of founding chef Bernard Dehaene a few years back, some of the spark seems to have gone out of the cooking. The frites are ordinary, and side dishes of earthy delights such as Brussels sprouts and endive have been overcooked.

Mood: Belgian brickskeller meets Parisian bordello: claret-red walls and racks of bottles, Piaf on the audio, abstracts on the walls.

Best for: A night of hearty indulgence.

Best dishes: Sausages (black, white, spicy, or gamey), which with a side make for a rib-sticking meal; mussels in any of 17 preparations, including alcoholic broths (white wine, beer, brandy, Pernod), herbs, hot spices, cream, coconut cream, and malt-and-vinegar; bacon-wrapped trout; homey carbonnade (Flemish beer-braised beef stew); rump steak and fries; roast chicken; seasonal game specials.

Insider tips: On Monday night, the three-course prix fixe offers a choice of appetizers, including grilled sausages with white beans and a potato-chicken timbale; a choice of three or four of the mussel preparations plus salmon or shoulder-blade steak for those who don’t like shellfish; and the dessert du jour, all for $30. If you’re new to the beer list, consult the servers; they’re well versed.

Service: ••½

Open Monday through Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurant 

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.