100 Best Restaurants 2010: Liberty Tavern

No. 75: Liberty Tavern

Cuisine: Robust American comfort cooking with Italian accents. Much is made in-house, from the sweet rolls in the bread basket to the egg noodles on the pasta menu to the marshmallow atop an upscale take on s’mores. Note to the waist-conscious: Nearly every dish celebrates duck fat, bacon, butter, or cheese, and portions are hearty.

Mood: The walk-in-friendly Clarendon restaurant has a split personality. The loud downstairs bar swarms with young people noshing on grilled cheeses and drinking up a storm. The second-floor dining room, with its cozy striped banquettes and open kitchen, feels more civilized.

Best for: A casual date or pizza with friends downstairs, a quieter meal upstairs.

Best dishes: Arctic char, smoked in-house and folded over johnnycakes; apple-and-endive salad, heavy on the blue cheese and bacon; fiery fra diavolo macaroni with fresh lobster; autumnal gnocchi with celery root and blue cheese; Vermont pizza with white cheddar and apples; skirt steak covered in tangy steak sauce; schnitzel-style skate, its richness cut with lingonberry sauce; homey roasted half chicken with lemon marmalade; light but decadent Black Forest cake; s’mores pot de crème; Masonic cocktail, a citrusy take on a mint julep.

Insider tips: Liberty is among the better takeout options in the area, particularly for a fine-dining establishment—a dedicated window in the back of the restaurant makes it convenient.

Service: ••½

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