Image: Adolfo Celi and Sean Connery, Thunderball, 1965
In our first post breaking down the Washingtonian Top 100 Very Best Restaurants we identified the places all the critics generally agree on. In Part Two, we looked at places where Tom Sietsema of the Post is the outlier from other critics. For Part Three, we looked at where the Washingtonian staff come in notably higher or lower than everyone else. Now, in Part Four, we look at where our dining guide is the outlier. There are three places that we rate lower, but they are big names that can fend for themselves. There are three places on the 2020 list that we rate higher than Washingtonian. Then there are another 24 that we rate higher than Tom or Washingtonian that did not make the Washingtonian list this year. That could be because we are more generous, but we like to think it is because we don’t limit ourselves to a round number in an era when great food choices are blooming like cherry blossoms.
A refresher on the shorthand: “Washingtonian” is the 2020 Top 100 ranking; “Tom” is Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post; 17Degrees is our dining guide – 17Degreesdc.com; Rick is Rick Chessen of Rick Eats DC Top 25. A refresher on our ratings is at the bottom of this post.
Here are the places where our dining guide is an outlier from other critics:
Places 17 Degrees Rates Lower than Other Critics:
(In order of Washingtonian Rankings)
Le Diplomate – Washingtonian #29; Tom: 3.0; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk
- Everyone loves Le Diplomate, but we merely like it. The heavy hand with butter, salt, and cream can be off-putting.
Del Mar – Washingtonian #30; Tom: 3.0; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk
- Price point knocks it down a notch for us.
Momofuku CCDC – Washingtonian #90; Tom: 3.0; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk; Rick #5
- Many like the menu reboot of a couple years ago, but we liked the old menu. It should also be noted that it fell from #29 last year, so maybe we and Washingtonian are not that far apart. Note that the Chef who installed the new menu recently left.
Places 17 Degrees Rates Higher than Other Critics:
(In order of Washingtonian Rankings)
Fiola – Washingtonian #38; Tom: 3.0; 17Degrees: Splurge Worthy
- In contrast to Del Mar above, we do think Fiola is worth the money
Marcel’s – Washingtonian #41; Tom: 3.0; 17Degrees: Splurge Worthy
- We are a notch higher than everyone else. This is also the most embarrassing absentee from the Michelin star list – highlighting Michelin obtuseness. They also do not list Le Diplomate in their guide. We work hard to be the 3rd best dining guide, but sometimes the competition makes it easy.
Masseria – Washingtonian #52; Tom: 3.0; 17Degrees: Splurge Worthy
- We are a full notch up from everyone else on this one, but all agree it is excellent.
Places at the Top of Our List that Aren’t on Washingtonian or Tom’s:
There are 24 places that we rate as Exceptional or Excellent that did not make the Washingtonian List at all. One of those is Sfoglina, Tom thinks highly of as well as we noted in Part Three. Somewhere I saw one of the Washingtonian team say they had about 150 places under consideration (can’t find the cite now!). I would hope many of those close-calls overlap with a big chunk of this list. Here are the others where we are big fans (alphabetically listed):
1789 – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: 2.0
- Made the 2017 list under the previous chef. It may lack the excitement of other places, but it is still excellent – if pretty expensive.
Beuchert’s – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: 1.5
Bistro Lepic – 17Degrees: Worth Paying the Cab; Tom: 2.5.
- It’s out of the way and a little sleepy. But it is still really good! Last take from Washingtonian seems to be about 12 years ago – but it was positive!
- They listed Tsehay as the best Ethiopian spot. Chercher made the cut in 2018, and has also shown up on the Cheap Eats list. We also like Dukem.
Chez Billy Sud – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: 2.0; Rick: Honorable Mention
- It made the list three years running, but fell off this year. I would chalk that up more to competition than to Chez Billy falling off dramatically. The attached Bar à Vin is also great.
Corduroy – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: 2.5 and unreviewed in 6 years.
- There are a few places that we cannot explain or fathom why they are not given the acknowledgement that they deserve. Corduroy is one of those places. It is a gorgeous space, superior cooking, great wine list, and charming service. Tom said some off-point things about it recently. It is probably not exciting enough for Washingtonian, which dropped it off the list in 2016. But we will keep beating the drum for it.
- There are probably only so many spots for casual dining establishments. Sidman was kind when it opened.
- Critics might be afraid to fall for the hype. It did have some kinks to work out when it opened. If the Brothers Voltaggio remain focused, this place could catapult to the top half of the list next year, maybe top 20.
- BBQ gets short shrift on the Top 100, but the team put it on a BBQ-only list of best places.
Karma Modern Indian – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: 2.5
- Tom put it on his Spring 2018 Dining Guide after a tepid First Bite. Washingtonian seems to have overlooked it. We think it goes toe-to-toe with Rasika and Punjab Grill.
Maxwell Park – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: Unreviewed
- It’s a wine bar mostly, but the food has finally caught up to the rest of the place. Look for the new Navy Yard location to sneak in jointly with Albi next year.
Mirabelle – 17Degrees: Splurge Worthy; Tom: 2.0; Washingtonian gave it 3 stars in 2018
- It was #35 last year, and if anything it has settled down (in a good way) since then. Another one we will beat the drum for.
- It’s predecessor Bibiana was #61 last year. We think Modena is a welcome refresher to the space, including talented chef John Melfi. Would be surprised if it had not been part of the discussion.
- It did make a Washingtonian neighborhood guide in 2018, but hasn’t broken through the big time. Easier for us to get a spot!
- Chef Moscatello is doing some great work and flying under the radar at a conspicuous location.
Plume – 17Degrees: Splurge Worthy; Tom: Unreviewed since 2014
- We have not been back in a while and may need to revisit our rating, but for now we stick to our guns.
Primrose – 17Degrees: Worth Paying for Cab; Tom: 2.0 Stars; Rick #15
- Tom’s 2 star rating drove us crazy. Primrose does not need more customers – but it does deserve more respect.
- This place wears its hear on its sleeve, making it more painful to see it be overlooked.
- Off the beaten path in Kalorama, Chef Ogawa does great work.
- If critics have a hard time agreeing on pizza places, they have an even more difficult time recognizing great taco spots. Finally D.C. has more than a handful.
- See Taco Bamba entry above.
- Downscale setting may be the reason for the ding, but the food is great.
- Another old school place we have not revisited in a while, but will hold firm until we get a chance to revist.
- Considering the positive buzz when it opened it is surprising that it has fallen off.
Pom Pom – 17Degrees: We have not written up our visit, but it was very impressive; Tom gave it a solid First Bite, but then a less than full-throated 2.0 stars. Washingtonian gave it a generally positive write-up, but it didn’t make the list.
- Our trip was after the critics had their say and the menu reflected the input. It was a stunningly good meal. We’d bet it would be about #62 next year. If you can’t be a cheerleader for a place called Pom Pom then when can you?
Also Keep in Mind:
Finally, here are 5 more places that made Rick’s Top 25 or were Honorable Mentions that are not on the Top 100. We think they are all pretty good and you might want to keep them in mind.
Pappe – Rick’s #22; Tom: 2 stars; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk
Doi Moi – Rick Honorable Mention; Tom: No recent review; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk (note that Chef Johanna Hellrigl left and this place is getting a make-over)
Pearl Oyster Bar – Rick Honorable Mention; Tom: 2.5 in 2011 (review no longer online); 17Degrees: Worth Trying Out
Oyamel – Rick Honorable Mention; Tom: 2.5 in 2014; 17Degrees: Worth Trying Out
Thanks for reading, especially if you got through all four parts! After going through this exercise we continue to believe our dining guide is a (arguably the most) valuable tool for find a great place to eat in D.C. We have over 250 recommended restaurants. It is updated every week. You can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and/or rating! In both MAP or LIST format. What more could you want!