100 Very Best Restaurants 2013: Vidalia

Vidalia pairs hearty bison short ribs with chanterelles and cornbread purée. Erik Uecke.
Vidalia pairs hearty bison short ribs with chanterelles and cornbread purée. Erik Uecke.

In all their efforts to keep diners interested, restaurateurs sometimes forget the basics. Not Jeff Buben, who has always understood the importance of making a good first impression and a strong closing statement. The complimentary bread basket at his subterranean, Southern-accented restaurant, loaded with buttery cornbread and onion loaf, sets a tone of warm generosity that no amuse-bouche could. And the desserts, with multiple variations on pie and cake, are a welcome sight in an age of airy sweets that seem intended to entice models who are wary of indulging.

The best dishes remain the most identifiably Southern, such as the shrimp and grits, whose precision attests to the boss’s insistence that the “little things” aren’t little. There might not be a better happy hour in DC, with excellent Southern-style cocktails, wine flights from one of the city’s best lists, and an array of $3-to-$5 snacks.

Don’t miss: Foie gras with espresso pound cake; oyster pan roast; crabcakes; Frogmore stew; stuffed roast quail; caramel layer cake; devil’s-food cake.

Open: Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner.

Very expensive.

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