100 Best Restaurants 2010: Cork

No. 49: Cork

Cuisine: What makes this bustling boîte the best wine bar in Washington? It has the best food. Chef Ron Tanaka, a Citronelle and CityZen alum, seldom employs more than five ingredients, creating complex but unfussy small plates that change with the season and are remarkable for their consistency. Owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts maintain the carefully curated list of Old World–only wines, many of which come from small producers.

Mood: Since it opened, this founding member of the newly hot 14th Street corridor has felt like a favorite pair of jeans. There’s an intimacy in the narrow space, framed by exposed brick and a pressed-tin ceiling, that draws a regular rotation of neighborhood twenty- and thirtysomethings, who squeeze in around the bar while waiting upward of an hour for a table.

Best for: A group of friends looking to catch up over dinner; oenophiles in search of new thrills.

Best dishes: Braised mustard greens with big bites of pork tenderloin and rings of tempura-fried lemon; long-roasted Brussels sprouts, their nutty flavor accentuated with fresh thyme; a croque madame by way of Italy with prosciutto and fontina; a Moroccan-inspired stew of chickpeas with saffron; garlic-and-lemon-kissed French fries with house-made ketchup; a densely creamy trio of crustless goat-cheese-cake quenelles.

Insider tips: If you show up for dinner when the crowds start congregating just before 7, you can forget about trying to make a movie or show. But you can make reservations from 5:30 to 6:30. And on Sundays there’s rarely a wait.

Service: •••

Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner. Moderate.

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 Logan Circle.