100 Best Restaurants 2012: Bar Pilar

From soulful bistros to high-gloss steakhouses, there's lots of good eating in DC, Maryland, and Virginia


This is the neighborhood bar of our dreams, with marvelous cocktails, a lived-in patina, genial bartenders, and Justin Bittner’s ever-changing seasonal small plates. One caveat: Now that this once-hidden gem has gotten the attention it deserves, it’s tougher to get a seat. Neighborhood residents (many in plaid shirts) nurse Victory ales after work, cheer the Skins on Sundays, and generally avoid Saturday nights, when the place feels more frat party than saloon. On the plate, Bittner is skilled with vegetables–he’s not afraid of big hits of vinegar or lemon–and with anything porcine, from fried pigs’ ears with lime to a brunch pancake-and-bacon sandwich. Tuesday nights, he turns out a satisfying family-style dinner ($45 to $65).

What to get: Two plates always on the menu: roasted potatoes with malt aïoli and fried chicken; beet-and-goat-cheese salad; frisée salad with a runny egg; black radishes with lemon; corn with chanterelles (summer); sautéed shrimp with garlic and lemon; pappardelle with Bolognese sauce; a mound of sweet pork shoulder as big as an entrée; Dark and Stormy cocktail; buttermilk pie.

Open Monday through Friday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate.

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.