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 

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.