Picture: Lamb Shoulder at Reverie.
For those few, hearty souls that have read to the very end, this is the last post breaking down the Washingtonian’s annual list of Top 100 Very Best Restaurants in Washington. In previous posts, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE, we looked at the list of places everyone agrees on. By everyone in this case we mean the Washingtonian staff, The Washington Post (primarily Tom Sietsema), and our plucky little website 17° Cork by Northwest. In the three next posts we looked at where one of those outlets stood apart – either ranking much higher or lower – than the other two. Today we have the least helpful list. It makes up for that by being the most interesting because these are the places where the critics are all over the map.
Many of these places are new or have gone through recent changes, so the lack of consensus in those cases reflects the fresh or unsettled nature of the restaurant itself. A couple of these places are old standards that have either slipped over the years or we are taking them for granted. A reminder when reading the list: “Washingtonian” is the 2019 ranking. “Tom” is Tom Sietsema, chief restaurant critic for the Post. “17degrees” is our site. See below the list for help deciphering our quirky rating.
Here are 14 places where none of the critics agree:
- Bombay Club – Washingtonian #66. Tom: 3 (in 2012). 17degrees: Worth Trying Out.
If the Post has a more recent review, I couldn’t find it. I think there is a rough consensus this place is good, but not sure it is at the same level it was years ago, especially relative to the competition. Maybe some of us are taking it for granted.
- Chez Billy Sud – Washingtonian #80. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
I’d put this place around Top 50 or 60. Washingtonian has it lower. Tom drops it out of Top 100 consideration. Maybe I am lagging in seeing a downward decline, but the last meal I had there was recent and very good. Also be sure to check out delightful Le Bar à Vin next door.
- China Chilcano – Washingtonian #67. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
I am between the other two on this. Unlike Tom, I think China Chilcano is a very good restaurant and deserves attention. But not sure I’d rank it as high as #67.
- Doi Moi – Washingtonian #69. Tom: 2.5 (in 2014). 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
I agree that this place is pretty good and seems to be improving after some business turmoil (its sibling restaurants Proof closed and Estadio went its own way). It has potential to solidify at a Top 100 spot, but right now that ranking seems tenuous. There is some divergence between the three of us, but not that much.
- Hazel – Washingtonian: Unranked. Tom: unreviewed with new chef/concept. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Recent turnover in the kitchen and change in cuisine, from Asian influenced to Mediterranean, means no one has a bead on it yet. I’ve kept it highly-rated based on track record and would not be surprised to see it in the Top 100 next year.
- Johnny’s Half Shell – Washingtonian #97. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Trying Out.
For me Johnny’s is good, but outside the Top 100. For Washingtonian it just makes the cut. For Tom it is Top 40 material. But I totally recommend you try for yourself, because we all agree it is good!
- Plume – Washingtonian #55. Tom: no recent rating, but says the Michelin star is unwarranted. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
I have not been in a while, and Plume has had some rumored swings. I would not be surprised if it has fallen off a little. That said, the kitchen is aspiring to top tier, the space is grand and the wine list is great. I have no doubt it remains an excellent restaurant and look forward to returning.
- Rappahannock Oyster Bar – Washingtonian #41. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk
Caveat: I have not tried out the new location. Washingtonian thinks it’s Top 50. I would say Top 100. Tom seems outside that range.
I may be the most positive about this place (and a recent visit made me think it should be rated even higher). It is a cool space (with outdoor seating coming!). Spero is a great chef doing some mad genius stuff. The service is friendly and hustling. I think it took time for this place to get its sea legs, but is on an upward trend.
- Riggsby – Washingtonian #56. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Tom’s review is a little dated. Riggsby has gone up and down and is now on an upward swing. I would not go as high as #56, but it is better than merely “good.”
- Sally’s Middle Name – Washingtonian #53. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Washingtonian rates it pretty high. Tom doesn’t. I’m somewhere in between.
- Sfoglina – Washingtonian: unranked (#76 last year). Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
I’m still where the Washingtonian was last year. This is a very good, solid Top 100 place. Tom thinks its Top 40. That is justifiable, but probably a little generous. I will also add that recently shuttered Casa Luca was underappreciated.
- Spoken English – Washingtonian: #12. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Unrated.
I haven’t gone yet. That is a big gap though between Tom and Washingtonian.
- Timber Pizza – Washingtonian #100. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: unrated
They are not that far apart, and I cannot mediate because I haven’t been yet. Keep in mind it is a neighborhood pizza spot punching above its weight class to even be in this conversation.
For reference, the scale we use on our site from highest to lowest is:
- Splurge Worthy (Outstanding)
- Worth Paying for Cab (Excellent) someplace so good I would pay extra to eat there
- Worth Taking a Walk (Very Good) someplace worth the extra effort to get to
- Worth Trying Out (Good) someplace I like and you might too, even if there are caveats.
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