Join us this morning at 11 AM to chat with Ann Limpert. Have questions about the just-dropped 2019 Michelin rankings? Where to eat on a gloomy-skied, rainy weekend? Leave a question below, and Ann will get to as many as she can.
Ann: The big news this week was the 2019 Michelin Guide rankings, which dropped yesterday. For everyone but the chefs included, I think it was largely anti-climatic. The Inn at Little Washington was awarded three stars—that’s a big deal (the three-stars club includes Le Bernardin in New York and Benu in San Francisco), and very well-deserved for a restaurant that’s been running at top speed for four decades. I loved the video of Patrick O’Connell and his staff jumping with glee.
Can now officially say I work at the ONLY 3 Michelin Starred Restaurant in the DC area. I am so incredibly happy to be apart of this day and this hard working team!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️ pic.twitter.com/lTC7nc7Hkg
— Alyssa 🔅 (@alyssaahummel) September 13, 2018
But as someone who has covered the DC dining scene for more than a decade, I find a lot of the list confounding. It’s clear (as it always has been) that Michelin favors a certain type of restaurant—one that is more starched linen than bistro napkin. How else to explain the absence of some of our most thrilling restaurants, like Elle or Himitsu?
And that’s especially true when it comes to the list of starred restaurants, where stars seem to only be given (with the one exception of Sushi Taro) to restaurants that skew European or American. This year, the seafood-focused hotel restaurant Siren and the eclectic and forward-thinking Bresca were the only new restaurants added to the list—each awarded one star. Meanwhile, stronger but more laid back places like Maydan, Bad Saint, and Spoken English were relegated to the less prestigious Bib Gourmand list (making them ineligible for a star). The Thai Little Serow and Indian Rasika and Bindaas didn’t make the cut for either list.
Nonetheless, there are some worthy picks among the starred list, even if I quibble with the star ratings a little bit (just one star for Metier, which we deemed the number one restaurant in Washington this year? Or for Komi?). I’m happy to see Tail Up Goat, the Dabney, and Pineapple and Pearls get their due.
The Bib Gourmand list, which celebrates value-driven restaurants, is more befuddling. This year there were 19 adds, which Michelin international director Michael Ellis told me he thinks is a record for any city. The idea is that these are places where you can get two courses or small plates and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. That’s a real stretch at a spot like the Italian Sfoglina (home of $26 pastas and $14 glasses of wine) or the vegan Fancy Radish—fine restaurants, but not exactly bargain dining. Thip Khao and Timber Pizza are on there. Great. But why not reward some of DC’s other true value spots, like say, Lucky Buns or Baan Thai or Bantam King or El Sol, instead of making the list feel full of honorable mentions for places that didn’t achieve stars?
Look, having Michelin here is a good thing. In a city that has long been on the defensive about its food scene, it’s nice to have the validation. And it’s a great honor for chefs who grew up dreaming of a star. But it also feels like a certain type of guide for a certain type of diner. And in today’s wonderfully varied dining scene, that makes it feel about as relevant as, well, a white tablecloth.
Now that that’s off my chest, onto your questions!