Food

Minibar Is the Best Restaurant in Washington

Here's a peek at the top 25 restaurants on Washingtonian's 100 Very Best list for 2019
Welcome to Minibar. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Our 2019 Very Best Restaurants list hits newsstands this week, and we’re so excited for you to check it out. The list is a culmination of nearly a year of research (and by that I mean eating and drinking), hundreds of miles of driving, and a whole lot of careful consideration and debate. We visited over 300 restaurants in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. 

As in the past, we’ve ranked all 100 of the restaurants (the “we” in this case refers to me, Anna Spiegel, Jessica Sidman, and Cynthia Hacinli). So who’s number one? That honor goes to Minibar, Jose Andres’s wildly creative (and yes, wildly expensive) tasting room/lab in Penn Quarter. The place has been around for 15 years, but we were stunned at the mastery of every bite, which each brought together creativity and deliciousness—two things that don’t always go hand in hand. 

Our top ten boasts both tried-and-true destinations (the Inn at Little Washington) and stunning newcomers (the omakase-only Sushi Nakazawa), plus plenty of places that don’t command blowout-dinner prices (have you tried that kimchee toast at Elle?).  

In truth, we had about 120 places we were passionate and excited about. Narrowing the field was incredibly difficult, even given the fact that several closures—including Garrison, which shuttered just days before we went to press—left a slew of open slots. But with the help of a bunch of index cards, hours of energetic discussion, and an All-Purpose buffalo-chicken pizza, we pulled through. 

Look for the issue on newsstands this week. Got questions/comments/beefs/rants? Join me for my weekly food chat this Friday at 11. 

Onward to the top 25!

1. Minibar At José Andrés’s newly redone tasting room, chef Jorge Hernandez leads a 28-odd-dish progression that is surprising, thrilling, and above all, very delicious. 

2. The Dabney Jeremiah Langhorne uses mid-Atlantic and Southern flavors as a springboard, then makes magic in his Shaw restaurant’s giant hearth. 

3. The Inn at Little Washington For lovers of luxe mod-American dining and whimsical touches—a four-star popsicle, truffle-laden popcorn—there is no better place to celebrate than Patrick O’Connells Rappahannock County hideaway.

4. Sushi Nakazawa Its Trump Hotel location might deter some, but they’re missing out on the city’s best sushi experience, an all-nigiri omakase.  

5. Tail Up Goat We’ve never had a dull meal in this cozy Adams Morgan dining room run by three Komi vets. 

6. Pineapple and Pearls Tasting menus can sometimes feel like Sunday mass. Aaron Silverman’s Capitol Hill prix fixe place is the opposite—unfussy and fun. 

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7. Elle It’s our favorite breakfast and lunch spot by day. By night, it turns out dreamy cocktails and plates both creative and comforting. 

8. Komi Johnny Monis and Anne Marler’s menu-free tasting room in a Dupont Circle rowhouse is wonderfully unpretentious.

9. Kinship At the more casual of their two Shaw restaurants, Eric Ziebold and Celia Laurent serve luxe dishes with a range of influences, from the midwest to Japan.

10. Little Serow Johnny Monis and Anne Marler’s $54-a-person Thai spot is one of the best values in the city.

11. Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana These Neapolitan pies are the best in the area, thanks to chef Tony Conte.

12. Spoken English The standing-only, communal-table spot in Adams Morgan’s Line hotel turns out thrilling kushiyaki and whole roast duck.

13. Metier Chef Eric Ziebold leans French at this subtly elegant Shaw tasting room, and Celia Laurent is the most gracious of hosts.   

14. Del Mar Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s glittering Spanish dining room at the Wharf continues to wow us with opulent paellas and small plates. 

15. Centrolina Simple Italian dishes call for high quality ingredients and an assured chef. This CityCenterDC osteria has both. 

16. Bad Saint The Filipino cooking at this tiny spot is electric—and hallelujah, it’s just started taking reservations.

17. Himitsu Kevin Tien’s Japanese-ish dishes are often brilliant, and the snug, macrame-hung space is a charmer. 

18. Blue Duck Tavern New chef Adam Howard has reinvigorated this Shaker-chic hotel dining room.

19. Sushi Taro Washington has seen a boom in Japanese restaurants, but we can’t stay away from this 32 year-old institution’s sought-after omakase counter—or its half-price sushi happy hour.

20. Chloe It’s a testament to Haidar Karoum’s finesse and skill that he can make a Bavarian sausage work on the same table as a delicate crudo and Lebanese hummus.

21. Masseria Nick Stefanelli’s Italian tasting room near Union Market feels like a luxurious little world of its own, where you can sip Campari cocktails around fire pits and dig into a cannoli stuffed with foie gras.

22. Bresca Our current favorite attraction at Ryan Ratino’s inventive 14th Street gem: the 19th century duck press.

23. Le Diplomate Brunch with kids, a celebratory dinner, a late night cheeseburger, day-drinking rose on the patio—Stephen Starr’s 14th Street hotspot is the rare restaurant that’s suited to most any occasion.

24. Estadio The cooking and cocktails are as strong as ever at this remarkably consistent Logan Circle Spanish place.

25. All-Purpose Mike Friedman’s more-is-more Italian-American plates and pizzas are balanced by lovely salads and inventive vegetable plates.

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.