100 Best Restaurants 2011: Blue Duck Tavern

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

Picture a Vermont farmhouse. Now replace the log walls with glass, the creaky floorboards with buffed wood, the rustic kitchen with gleaming appliances, and the farmer with blue-suited attendants. Leave in the rocking chairs, thick walnut tables, and jars of preserved produce. That’s Blue Duck Tavern—proof of how polished the farm-to-table movement can be.

Every item on chef Brian McBride’s menu has its provenance listed, and dishes are stripped of fuss—a simple roast chicken, whole roasted fish—to allow the main ingredient to shine. Entrées are designed to be shared. Sides are extra—servers suggest one per person, but these dishes tend to be heavy; a table of four usually will be happy with one or two.

Also good: House-smoked-sturgeon rillettes topped with hackleback caviar; seared Nantucket bay scallops with root vegetables, chestnuts, and date purée; braised beef with house-made steak sauce; slices of crispy-skinned duck breast with duck-leg ragoût and huckleberry dressing; roasted beets with preserved orange peel and salty Marcona almonds; apricot sorbet. Brunch is one of the best in the area—highlights include baked eggs with tomato; short-rib hash with horseradish sauce and poached egg; and house-made croissants.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 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 Petworth.