100 Best Restaurants 2010: Black’s Bar and Kitchen

No. 76 Blacks' Bar and Kitchen

Cuisine: You never quite know what you’ll find at Jeff and Barbara Black’s Zen-slick suburban dining room. Sure, there will always be the solid raw bar and reliable wood-fired steaks and seafood. But beyond that, the ever-changing menu might skitter from fried chicken and waffles to white-bean-and-prosciutto bruschetta to plantain-crusted shrimp with mango salsa.

Mood: With its twinkling pool out front and mood-lit dining room inside, Black’s stands out among its neighboring chain restaurants. It’s the closest Bethesda gets to a Malibu brand of chicness and, not surprisingly, has become a magnet for expensively groomed thirtysomethings with a taste for $10 Dark and Stormys. But it’s not all see-and-be-seen: Look beneath the arty mural of a vineyard and you’ll see plenty of casual families and empty-nesters.

Best for: An oyster craving; happy hour; a date or catch-up with friends; late-night dessert.

Best dishes: Squares of airy cornbread with honey butter; mussels with tomato, lemon, and shallot; well-shucked oysters on the half shell (we lean toward the West Coast varieties); hanger steak with chimichurri or béarnaise; fried chicken with pecans and sweet-potato waffles; a spicy, saffron-scented stew packed with mussels, prawns, and other seafood and served with aïoli-slathered toasts; salty-caramel trio (with a dreamy caramel tart); Key-lime pie.

Insider tips: The blond-wood bar room is an equally comfortable place to sit, especially in the booths for two. Happy-hour specials abound, with early- and late-night deals. Sunday is half-price wine-bottle night.

Service: ••½

Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Expensive.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants

Get Our “Brunches This Weekend” Newsletter

The best breakfasts and brunches to try every weekend, plus our most popular food stories of the week.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
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.