100 Best Restaurants 2010: Central Michel Richard

No. 13: Central Michel Richard

Cuisine: Celebrated French chef Michel Richard—the genius behind the whimsically haute Citronelle—puts his spin on American and French comfort food. Where else can you find divine gougères alongside a killer corned-beef sandwich? Or Budweiser and Chassagne-Montrachet?

Mood: The loud, blond-wood dining room, complete with a Warholian portrait of Richard, is as fizzy as a bottle of Veuve. It’s the antithesis of a stuffy power spot, but the Hill crowd likes it anyway.

Best for: Celebrating anything; fans of burgers (there are five kinds on the menu); taking out-of-towners.

Best dishes: Perfectly shucked oysters; mussel chowder; “faux gras” terrine; Gruyère gougères; corned-beef sandwich; an ultra-rich, duxelles-slathered grilled-cheese with a three-cheese béchamel for dipping; light and crisp fried chicken; cheeseburger with cheddar and bacon; macaroni and cheese; a messy but wonderful coconut Pavlova; Richard’s famed, hazelnut-backed riff on a Kit Kat bar.

Insider tips: Just because the fried chicken is inspired by KFC doesn’t mean you can stroll right in—this is one of the town’s toughest reservations.

Service: ••

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner (closed Sunday in summer). Expensive.

See all of 2010'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.