100 Best Restaurants 2011: Vermilion

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

Between the special-occasion destination and that joint around the corner lies the midlevel restaurant. The genre often delivers neither gastronomic excitement nor value. But this Old Town charmer from restaurateur Michael Babin is an exception.

Much of its success is owed to kitchen veteran Tony Chittum, who, like a good character actor, understands that his role is to sublimate his ego and serve the operation. Eschewing the cleverness and high jinks of more celebrated kitchens, Chittum builds sturdy, soulful plates around locally grown meats and produce. Good ideas and good technique result in dishes of immense satisfaction, whether it’s his superb charcuterie board or a breast of Amish chicken with fresh-ground chicken sausage.

He gets plenty of support. Service is unusually fine for a midrange restaurant, and the setting—exposed brick, flickering gas lamps, deeply colored walls—makes for one of the area’s most romantic spots.

Also good: Fried oysters; Waldorf salad; goat-cheese mezzaluna; wild salmon with horseradish cream; cider-roasted pear with caramelized-maple ice cream.

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch 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 Logan Circle.