100 Very Best Restaurants 2015: No. 7 The Red Hen

Grilled octopus with white beans. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

This is the ultimate gestalt restaurant, a place that stands out not for doing any one thing particularly well but for doing them all particularly well. From setting to service to food, there may not be a more seamless experience, at this price level, in all of Washington.

The welcome is warm and genuine, the room comfortable (if only every restaurant had chairs and tables as handsome as these pieces, fashioned from Nicaraguan wood), the wines inexpensive and interesting, the cocktails beautifully mixed.

And that’s all before you’ve put a fork to your plate.

To call the cooking “regional Italian” is fitting but limiting—it doesn’t tell you how unfussy chef Michael Friedman’s plates are, how focused, how satisfying. Friedman shops well, and he looks to showcase his bounty as simply as possible, whether crostini slathered with a silken chicken liver or a plate of bucatini draped with a sauce of Parmesan and black pepper.

Don’t miss:

  • Beet salad with feta and pistachios
  • Grilled octopus
  • Ricotta cavatelli
  • Rigatoni with fennel-sausage ragu
  • Saffron zucca (a shell of pasta) with butternut-squash purée and mushrooms
  • Scallops with kale, bacon, and polenta
  • Tomato-braised short rib
  • Maple custard
  • Autumn ice-cream sundae
  • Apple crumb cake

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