Washingtonian 2019 Top 100 Thoughts – Part Two: Where the Washingtonian is the Outlier

Picture: Shishito Peppers at Estadio (A restaurant Washingtonian loves).

Every year local food-obsessed folks debate the Washingtonian magazine  Top 100 Very Best Restaurants in Washington list.  There are a range of responses.  Three of the most common are: “Oh, I love that place too!” or “How did they miss the place I love?” or “That place is not THAT good!”  In the first installment of dissecting this year’s list we looked at the places critics agree on.  This second post will cover those places where Washingtonian takes a stand that is different than the consensus rating of the Washington Post and our website, 17degreesdc.com.  For those of you that think the annual Top 100 is full of crazy choices, you may be surprised to learn there are only eight restaurants where the Washingtonian broke from the consensus.

A handful of the Washingtonian outliers are places that fell off the Top 100 from previous years.  Their absences may reflect recent slides that others have not picked up on yet, or just one critic’s favorite getting outvoted this year.  Washingtonian does have the benefit of a larger staff and the forcing function of the annual list to stay on top of things.  This year, Washingtonian rates three restaurants much higher than other critics.  A couple places just seem to be not exciting enough anymore.

As a reminder for reading the entries below, “Tom” is Tom Sietsema, the chief restaurant critic for the Washington Post.  “17degrees” is our website, 17degreesdc.com (Plug: with over 200 recommended restaurants in D.C.  in LIST or MAP format).  Because our website is limited to D.C., we are only breaking down the Washingtonian list as it relates to restaurants in city limits (the Top 100 becomes the Top 77 when VA and MD places are excluded).  If you need a refresher on our quirky ranking system, it can be found below the list.

Here are three places on the 2019 Top 100 Very Best Restaurant list that the Washingtonian staff loved much more than the other critics and five places that didn’t even make the list but get thumbs up from Tom and us:

  • Bistro LepicWashingtonian: unranked. Tom: 2.5.  17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

It is a little weathered, but still very good.  Like Julie Christie and Nick Nolte in Afterglow.

  • Brothers & SistersWashingtonian: unranked. Tom: 2.5. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

I think Spoken English (#12 on the list, same hotel, same chef) may have drawn away the excitement quotient about this place for critics, but it is still really interesting and should not be overlooked.

  • EstadioWashingtonian #24. Tom: 2.5.  17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.

There is no question Estadio is doing great things right now.  The Washingtonian thinks it has bounced into the top 25.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I would not dispute it strongly.

  • KaliwaWashingtonian #31. Tom: 2.5.  17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

Washingtonian is very bullish on this spot.  I agree it is excellent, although probably more Top 80 than Top 40.  Tom also seems to put it outside Top 40 consideration.

  • MakettoWashingtonian #46. Tom: 2.5.  17degrees: Worth Taking a Walk.

While the shine has come off Maketto for some (including me), Washingtonian still maintains affection.

  • Oval RoomWashingtonian: unranked. Tom: 3.0 (but under a previous chef). 17degrees: Worthy Paying for Cab.

Tom’s dated review is useful to highlight that Oval Room has been doing good stuff for a long time.  I think they are still operating at a high level.  My visit last year was better than the one a couple years previous.

  • PrimroseWashingtonian: unranked (#63 in 2018). Tom: 2.017degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

This is the most shocking omission, and one where both Washingtonian and Tom drive me crazy.  (Tom’s most recent review came out after the Top 100 list publication and this analysis). There is no chance that Primrose dropped 40 spots in one year out of the top 100.  Based on this comment from Limpert it seems they think the food fell off a little. I’d dispute that based on my last visit a couple months ago.  Then there is Tom’s rating. Tom, Tom, Tom.  His review reads like a 3 star or at least 2.5, and he seems to have knocked them down to merely “Good” for a couple off dishes.  But then he listed it in his “9 Favorite Places to Eat Right Now this week.”  I’m ignoring the rating and going with his very positive write-up. I don’t think we disagree much about what makes Primrose special.  The food, wine, décor, service and ambiance all are winners.  Primrose is excellent.

  • ToscaWashingtonian: Unranked since 2013? Tom: 3.0. 17degrees: Worth Paying for Cab.

I fear Tosca suffers for boring, consistent excellence.

For the next installment we will look at places where the Washington Post is breaking from the consensus.

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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