100 Best Restaurants 2010: Blue Duck Tavern

No. 25: Blue Duck Tavern

Cuisine: Perhaps nowhere is provenance made more of than at chef Brian McBride’s hearth-like hotel kitchen, where the menu lists every farm, city, or town that the main ingredients in his seasonal and regional dishes come from. Top-notch raw materials are the foundation for what might be termed upscale downscale cooking—think glazed carrots or hand-cut fries served in copper vessels and portioned to share.

Mood: The multi-room space with glass walls, slate floors, and Shaker furniture can feel austere in daylight, but it glows pleasantly after the sun sets. The restaurant has become a hot spot for power players—including the President and First Lady—and it’s not uncommon to see Secret Service agents.

Best for: Brunch (one of the best in town) or an impressive dinner, with equally impressive people-watching, for finicky out-of-towners.

Best dishes: The menu changes frequently, but standouts have included soft-shell crab; crispy sweetbreads; warm Swiss-chard pie; sturgeon rillettes with caviar; roasted chicken; pork weisswurst with red cabbage; short-rib hash and cinnamon-bun French toast (breakfast and brunch); house-made ice creams.

Insider tips: Desserts are as large and shareable as the entrées. Pacing can be a problem, but the servers are excellent and willing to help chart your courses—and maybe throw in a free glass of wine for the pleasure of doing so.

Service: ••½

Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Expensive.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants

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.