100 Best Restaurants 2012: The Inn at Little Washington

No. 2


Patrick O’Connell’s baroque-meets-bucolic inn is 33 years old, and with its playfully luxe cuisine made by perfectionists and a stable of servers who seem to know the second you need something, it delivers one of the nation’s superlative dining experiences. The concept of minimalism doesn’t exist once you enter O’Connell’s world, where ceilings are intricately hand-painted, silk-fringed lamps cast a cozy glow, and on each table is a vase bursting with roses. But this is luxury with a sense of humor: Five-course meals begin with canapés such as “the world’s tiniest baked potato”–a Dutch Peewee potato topped with caviar and crème fraîche–and might end with a visit from a mechanical cow named Faira (otherwise known as the cheese cart) and cheese savant Cameron Smith, who will help you turn a slab of Époisse cheese, toasted pecans, and house-made quince jam into a “three-Michelin-star PB&J.”

What to get: Inn classics such as foie gras two ways with Sauternes jelly, mac and cheese with country ham and truffles, and tuna “pretending to be filet mignon”; perfectly cooked squab marinated in blueberry vinegar and served atop a shredded-zucchini crepe; citrusy lobster salad with cucumber sorbet, avocado, and lightly pickled vegetables; soft-shell-crab tempura with Vietnamese-style dressing; lamb carpaccio with Caesar-salad ice cream; duo of barbecue short rib and chard-wrapped filet mignon; coconut napoleon with lime caramel; butter-pecan ice-cream sandwich; cheesecake with figs.

Open daily for dinner (closed some Tuesdays in fall and winter). Very expensive.

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.