Washingtonian 2020 Top 100 – Part Three: Where Washingtonian Is The Outlier

Image: Agnes Moorehead with Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947). via We Had Faces Then.

We have been breaking down the 2020 edition of the Washingtonian Top 100 Very Best Restaurants.  In the first post we identified the places all the critics generally agree on.  In Part Two, we looked at places where Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post is the outlier from other critics.  For Part Three, we look at where the Washingtonian staff come in notably higher or lower than everyone else.  There are 13 places where they come in higher and 4 where they come in lower (including one that didn’t make the list at all).  Maybe more interesting than the critic comparisons is the two newcomers that they ranked very high in the Top 10 (Anju and Cane) and the two they ranked pretty low (Seven Reasons and Rooster & Owl).

A refresher on the shorthand used below:  “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 key to our ratings can be found the bottom of the post.

With that out of the way, here are the places where Washingtonian is an outlier from other critics:

Places Washingtonian Rates Higher than Other Critics:

(In order of Washingtonian Rankings)

Anju – Washingtonian #1; Tom: 3; 17D: Worth Paying for Cab

  • All agree it is excellent, but Washingtonian fell in love.

Nina May – Washingtonian #32; Tom: Positive First Bite; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • We are hopeful that Nina May is here to stay in a location that has much turnover, Washingtonian rates it a notch higher than everyone else.

Lucky Buns – Washingtonian #48; Carman’s positive take; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • Great burgers and chicken sandwiches. We agree that it stands above most other burger places, not sure it stand above so many other restaurants.

Osteria Morini – Washingtonian #59; Tom: 2.5; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • There is not much difference here, but Washingtonian is just 20-30 spots higher on it.

Bantam King/Daikaya/Haikan/Hatoba – Washingtonian #65; Tom: 2-ish; 17Degrees: Bantam King, Daikaya: Worth Taking a Walk; Haikan: Worth Trying Out; Hatoba: Unreviewed.

  • We don’t dispute these places are good to very good and on Daikaya and maybe Bantam King we are with them.  We have yet to try Hatoba. Overall Washingtonian is a bigger fan than the rest.

Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse – Washingtonian #66; Tom: 2; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • Washingtonian seems to have a soft spot for Ivy City Smokehouse that others are more clear-eyed about.  But clear eyes are a good thing when it comes to fish.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar (Union Market; Wharf)– Washingtonian #68; Tom: 2; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • On this one there is a range from Tom’s low-ball to Washingtonian’s pretty generous ranking.  We are somewhere in between, but a notch below Washingtonian.

Punjab Grill – Washingtonian #69; Tom: 2.5; 17Degrees: Worth Trying Out

  • Washingtonian is higher, but not by much.  Our initial impression was that Punjab Grill is not meeting the standard it set for itself.  It should be noted that many think more highly of it than we do, and we should probably revisit.

ABC Pony – Washingtonian #71; Tom: unrated, but mostly positive First Bite from Emily Heil; 17Degrees: Worth Trying Out

  • This new place is still sorting some things out.  It shows promise and Washingtonian is buying in early.

Tsehay – Washingtonian #73; Tom: unreviewed; 17Degrees: unreviewed

  • Washingtonian is less an outlier on this than a strong advocate.  There are probably about three or four Ethiopian spots that could have made the list.

Bistro Aracosia – Washingtonian #74; Tom: 2; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • We are closer to Washingtonian than to Tom, but they are still a notch higher.

The Imperial – Washingtonian #77; Tom 2.5; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • There is not much difference on this one, and over the next year I suspect there will be some convergence.  For now, like ABC Pony, Washingtonian is higher out of the gate.

Spoken English – Washingtonian #79; Tom: 2.5; 17Degrees: Worth Taking a Walk

  • Like The Imperial above, there is not much difference, but Washingtonian is coming in a little higher.

Joe’s Seafood and Steak – Washingtonian #86; Tom: 2; 17Degrees: unrated

  • We are not big fans of these old-school places and haven’t tried Joe’s.  This feels like Washingtonian throwing the masses a bone.


Places Washingtonian Rates Lower than Other Critics:

Obelisk – Washingtonian #80; Tom: 3; 17Degrees: Splurge Worthy

  • Obelisk is a local treasure and should be in the top half regardless of yearly fluctuations.

Seven Reasons – Washingtonian #87; Tom: 3; 17Degrees: Worth Paying the Cab

Rooster & Owl – Washingtonian #95; Tom: 3; 17Degrees: Worth Paying the Cab

  • Early on there was near consensus that both these places were stunning right from the start.   Seven Reasons developed a group of dissenters to which we can now add Washingtonian.  The low rating for Rooster & Owl is more surprising considering the 3.0 star review last May.  To be fair, our last visit did not match the transcendent memories of our first visit either, but it was still very good.

Sfoglina – Washingtonian: unranked; Tom: 3; 17Degrees: Worth Paying the Cab

  • It last made the list in 2018.  Hasn’t fallen off since then in our view, but maybe there is room for only so many Fabio places.  Or, like us, Washingtonian misses Casa Luca.

Here is the key to our rankings:

Splurge Worthy: An exceptional and probably very expensive experience that is worth the splurge.
Worth Paying for Cab: An excellent restaurant doing well across the board. Someplace so good I would pay money to get there.
Worth Taking a Walk: A very good restaurant worth time and effort to walk a few blocks out of the way to get there.
Worth Trying Out: A noteworthy restaurant. Someplace that you should consider trying, even if the recommendation comes with caveats. guide 4 categories.

Next up, the places where we are the outlier, including 20 or so that didn’t even make the Washingtonian list.


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