100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Johnny’s Half Shell

The bar at Johnny's Half Shell restaurant in Washington, DC. Photograph by Chris Campbell.

Plunk Johnny’s down in New Orleans and it would be a beloved institution—one of those enduring restaurants by which the generations of a family mark time. In DC, the current preoccupation with fashion and buzz—a byproduct of a burgeoning scene—can mean obscurity for those restaurants where a menu changes about as often as an administration. The emphasis in this kitchen is on the cooking of the foodways from which chef and co-owner Ann Cashion hails (the Gulf) and where she’s made her home over the past three decades (the Chesapeake). That means an abundance of seafood, almost always treated simply and with reverence. There are sweet, crunchy soft-shells with a rich spoon bread, lightly bound crabcakes, and the best bowl of gumbo this side of the bayou, dark as night and loaded with shrimp and oysters. It’s a place to linger, with a strong drink to start and a sublime slice of lemon chess pie or apple cake to finish.

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

Don’t Miss: Crab Louis salad; barbecue shrimp; grilled chicken wings with Green Goddess dressing; spicy broiled lobster. 

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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.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.