Last week, the Washingtonian put online its list of the Top 100 Very Best Restaurants for 2019. This annual list is a valuable reference point and a conversation starter. In this and coming posts, I will add my two cents to that conversation. Over the past few days, I had a chance to compare the Washingtonian list with our website, 17degreesdc.com (Shameless Plug: we have over 200 recommended restaurants in D.C. in LIST or MAP format). Our list has just under 80 restaurants in the District rated in the top two categories. If you drop the places in Maryland and Virginia from the Washingtonian list (to match our geographic coverage) you get 77 restaurants (actually you get 76, but I’ve included the Inn at Little Washington, because it is the exception to many rules). Helpfully, that means we both have roughly the same pool size to compare when it comes to rating restaurants in the city limits.
I also compared the Washingtonian list to the most recent review by the Washington Post – usually by their chief critic Tom Sietsema. Tom only has about 40 places he rates as three to four stars, so a comparable list of top 80 restaurants includes many places with 2.5 stars. In the coming days I’ll post breakdowns of Washingtonian list compared to our list and the Post list in various ways.
For this first installment of analysis of the Washingtonian list, we dig into the places that we all rate highly and all agree roughly on how high we rate them. These are the restaurants where you can feel confident following our guidance because there is consensus across the board.
Below you will see the Washingtonian ranking, Tom’s rating (like Cher or Bono he qualifies for single name status), and the rating for this site (“17degrees”). 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 get 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.
So, with the preliminaries out of the way, here is the alphabetical list of the places we all agree on:
2 Amy’s – Washingtonian #38. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
On its face, Tom’s rating is lower, but based on a recent article (the rating is from 2016) I think he is moving our way. 2 Amy’s is still terrific and not just for the pizza.
A Rake’s Progress – Washingtonian #57. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
We all agree it is very good, and I would argue a little better than that.
All Purpose – Washingtonian #25. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Bad Saint – Washingtonian #15. Tom: 3.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab (and waiting in line)
Bistro Aracosia – Washingtonian #95. Tom: 2.0. 17degrees: unrated.
Washingtonian is a little higher than Tom. But Tom’s review reads better than his rating. I have not been, but heard very good things from trusted sources about this place. Wouldn’t be surprised if it moved a little higher next year.
Bindaas – Washingtonian #49. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Washingtonian may be most positive, but this is a very good place and makes everyone’s cut.
Call Your Mother – Washingtonian #76. Post: Unrated. 17degrees: unrated.
I haven’t been yet, but no one has a bad thing to say about this place (other than the lines). No reason to doubt the Washingtonian ranking.
Centrolina – Washingtonian #15. Tom: 3.0 (up from 2.5). 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
It is sinking in just how good this place is and how talented Chef Brandwein is. (Review).
Chiko – Washingtonian #51. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Despite the fast-casual wrapping, there is an argument that Washingtonian’s rank is not generous enough.
Compass Rose – Washingtonian: #85. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
No one says it is in the top tier, and it is not pretending to be. All agree it is very good. Sometimes it can be more enjoyable than its packed sibling Maydan.
Convivial – Washingtonian: #45. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
We all like it and #45 is a great ranking, but like Tom, I’d be inclined to nudge it even higher.
The Dabney – Washingtonian #2. Tom: 3.0 (up from 2.5). 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Once the hype died down a little, it turned out The Dabney was still an excellent restaurant.
Daikaya Ramen/Haikan/Bantam King – Washingtonian did a group rating for this collection of ramen spots and ranked them collectively #63. The Post has rated them in the 2.0 to 2.5 range. I’ve yet to go to Bantam King, but I think Haikan is good and Daikaya is very good. We all agree that it great to have these additions to the city.
Ellē – Washingtonian #7. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
This place is extraordinary. It is a bit funky, so it may be a place critics love more than the average diner. In which case there are tons of non-average diners going every night.
Etto – Washingtonian #43. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
The antipasti are as good as the pizza. And the pizza is very good.
Fiola – Washingtonian #28. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
If anything, I think both Washingtonian and Tom underrate Fiola. I think it is rightfully the crown jewel in the Trabocchi empire.
Fiola Mare – Washingtonian: #33. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
The accomplishment is all the more impressive when you realize the scale (no pun intended) of the operation.
Himitsu – Washingtonian #17. Tom: 3.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
A top 20 place without question. A sui generis place, but D.C. has more than a few suis generating these kinds of places in the past few years.
Inn at Little Washington – Washingtonian #3. Tom: 4.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
Michelin also gave it the first 3 Star rating in the area. I do not dispute its greatness, but there is an air of valedictory praise in all-time high ratings across the board.
Iron Gate – Washingtonian #44. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Iron Gate is probably the well-regarded restaurant you do not think about enough.
Izakaya Seki – Washingtonian #32. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying the Cab.
It is amazing that being one block off of U Street lowers its profile so much.
Lapis – Washingtonian #82. Carman: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
On the objective-restaurant-critic scale Lapis comes in around #82. But on a scale of how enjoyable the place is, it rates much higher.
Little Pearl – Washingtonian #54. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
There is a chance putting it at #54 is lowballing by a few spots.
Little Serow – Washingtonian #10. Tom: 4.0!!!. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
It would be considered “Splurge Worthy” but it is not a splurge! To quote Don Rockwell: “If you haven’t yet been to Little Serow, it remains one of the most important restaurants in all of Washington, DC, given its regional emphasis, its almost-humorously low price-point, its impeccable service, and its consistently superior quality.” Strangely the line is no longer insane. Go while you can!
Lucky Buns – Washingtonian #84. Unrated by the Post, but Carman said nice things. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Masseria – Washingtonian #21. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
I rate Masseria a little higher than the others, but we all agree is a great place.
Maydan – Washingtonian #30. Tom: 3.0 (up from 2.5). 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
I think we are all in the exact same place on Maydan.
Métier – Washingtonian #13. Tom: 3.5 (down from 4.0). 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
We all agree it Métier is top tier. Michelin also gave them a star. Maybe they fell off a little in the year since I went, but I think that is unlikely. Métier is closer to two Michelin stars than one.
minibar – Washingtonian #1. Tom: 4.0. 17degrees: unrated.
I have not been yet (my last splurge place to try), but have heard good things from trusted sources. Note: rare instance when Tom’s rating is a higher number than Washingtonian’s ranking (sorry – I’ve been looking at these numbers too long).
Osteria Morini – Washingtonian #67. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Washingtonian’s relatively high rating is consistent with my last visit and rumors that this place is doing well again.
Pineapple & Pearls – Washingtonian #6. Tom: 4.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
Poca Madre – Washingtonian #34. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Tom is lagging a little behind the pack on Poca Madre, but we all seem to sense this place has a lot of potential and heading in the right direction.
Rose’s Luxury – Washingtonian #42. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab
Washingtonian may be lowballing it a little.
St. Anselm – Washingtonian #26. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
Believe the Hype.
Sushi Nakazawa – Washingtonian #4. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: unrated
Location makes this place controversial. On the food there is consensus: both reviewers loved it. But they also noted how empty it was. If you’re interested, I’d go sooner rather than later, not sure how long it will last. I haven’t been.
Sushi Taro – Washingtonian #19. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy.
Michelin also gave them a star. Despite being in an odd spot, it is well worth it.
Tail Up Goat – Washingtonian #5. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab (my review here).
Tiger Fork – Washingtonian #77. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
All agree it is very good to excellent, but Washingtonian is a little less impressed.
Unconventional Diner – Washingtonian #39. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.
That is 39 places three different outlets agree are great and roughly agree how great. There are a few more places that we agree are great, but there was not consensus on how high to rate them. Because we all agree they are Top 100 candidates I want to make sure they are flagged for your attention:
Bresca – Washingtonian #22. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab. (Tom rates lower).
Chloe – Washingtonian #20. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab. (Tom rates lower).
Estadio – Washingtonian #24. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk. (Washingtonian rates higher).
Jaleo – Washingtonian #86. Tom: 3.0. (and Hall of Fame). 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk. (Tom rates higher).
Kaliwa – Washingtonian #31. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab. (Washingtonian rates higher).
Kinship – Washingtonian #9. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy. (Tom a notch down).
Kith and Kin – Washingtonian #75. Tom: 2.5 (up from 1.5). 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab. (17degrees rates higher).
Marcel’s – Washingtonian #36. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy. (17degrees rates higher)
Mintwood Place – Washingtonian #91. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab. (17degrees rates higher).
Obelisk – Washingtonian #48. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Splurge Worthy. (17degrees rates higher).
Rasika – Washingtonian #27. Tom: 4.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab. (Tom rates one notch higher).
There are seven more restaurants that would be consensus winners, but 17degrees was the holdout. In six cases we rated lower. One place did not make the cut in my opinion. If you want to exclude the amateur voice, the seven additional places where there is consensus between Washingtonian and the Washington Post (but not us) are:
Blue Duck Tavern – Washingtonian #18. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Not listed.
Bombay Club: Washingtonian #66. Tom: 3 (in 2012). 17degrees: Worth Trying Out. (I probably need to revisit this place and rating).
Fancy Radish – Washingtonian #69. Tom: 3.0. 17d: Worth Taking a Walk.
Del Mar – Washingtonian #14. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Le Diplomate – Washingtonian #23. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Momofuku CCDC – Washingtonian #29. Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.
Out of the 77 places on the Washingtonian Top 100 analyzed for this post, about 50 of them are consensus highly recommended restaurants (the numbers don’t add up exactly because Washingtonian lumped some places under a single rating like Daikaya Ramen, Haikan, Bantam King and Rasika West End). There is agreement on how to rate two-thirds of the list. It reminds us there is a margin of subjectivity. Even this breakdown has some subjectivity to it. More importantly, 50 consensus recommended restaurants for D.C. is a really strong number and 66% agreement is a solid consensus. One more reference point: Michelin gave 16 places stars (15 now that Siren closed), 39 places Bib Gourmand (38 with Spark closing), and 75 additional places otherwise listed as recommended.
In coming posts, I will break down the restaurants where the Washingtonian, The Post and 17degrees are outliers – restaurants that one of us rates much higher or lower than the other two. One post will also cover the 14 places where the three of us are all over the map and there is no consensus. The final post will be places that we all may be underestimating.
Thanks for reading this far and stay tuned!