100 Best Restaurants 2011: Vidalia

No. 13

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

The risk in upscaling Southern cooking is that refinement can rob it of its soulful appeal. So proprietor Jeffrey Buben would seem to be flirting with danger at this stylish, subterranean venue by employing labor-intensive French techniques to produce such rib-sticking classics as shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese, and Frogmore stew. But Vidalia proves the genre’s worth.

The high prices are justified by dishes built on first-rate, locally sourced meats, fish, and produce and with cleaner and more intense flavors than you’d encounter at a lovable roadside diner. Few restaurants stage a better beginning—the bar mixes a glorious mint julep, and the bread basket, with onion focaccia and cornbread, is the best in the area—or a better ending: You’d have to journey far to find lemon chess and pecan pies as good as the ones here.

A $19.90 three-course lunch menu is one of the great steals in DC, and the weekday happy hour, from 5 to 7, presents discounted selections from one of the best wine lists around.

Also good: Five-onion soup; Carolina mountain trout; foie-gras-stuffed quail; crispy sweetbreads.

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Very expensive.

>> See all of 2011's 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.