From food trucks to fine dining: Washingtonian’s 100 very best restaurants

The Dabney topped Washingtonian’s new best restaurants list. (Courtesy Washingtonian/Scott Suchman)

In years past, many lists of best restaurants in D.C. were composed of sit-down restaurants, including expensive, special-occasion experiences.

Then the pandemic happened.

Washingtonian’s “The 100 Very Best Restaurants in Washington” is its first compilation of “we’ve gotta try this place” restaurants since the early days of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, and dampened diners’ interest in sitting in a dining room with strangers.

“The pandemic totally changed the way we all eat out,” said Jessica Sidman, food editor at Washingtonian, who compiled the list with colleagues Ann Limpert and Anna Spiegel.  “So many more places started doing carryout, with more outdoor eating in streeteries, various ghost kitchens and pop-ups.”

Washingtonian’s new list includes carry-outs and food trucks.

“We want to highlight places that are the best at what they do,” said Sidman. “Even if that’s not a $200 tasting menu — maybe it’s a no-frills taqueria.”

In prior years, Washingtonian’s list ranked the top 100 restaurants, said Sidman: “This year we’re ranking just the top 25, but highlighting 100 of the best places to eat in our region.”

And, the No. 1 restaurant? Drumroll …

“It’s The Dabney,” Sidman said.

For those are aren’t familiar, The Dabney is a restaurant in Shaw’s Blagden Alley. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne really highlights mid-Atlantic ingredients — he has this gorgeous hearth in the center of the open kitchen, doing live fire cooking.”

With a six-course, $170-per-person tasting menu, Sidman said she and her co-editors love The Dabney.

“This is just a special, special place,” said Sidman. “This is the place we want to go for our birthdays and anniversaries.”

Fourth on the list is Happy Gyro, in Dupont Circle. What was a fine-dining establishment before the pandemic is now a Greek-deli-inspired carryout, offering sourdough pizza slices, pita-wrapped sandwiches, falafel and mozzarella sticks.

As restaurants struggled to stay in business during the pandemic, with supply chain issues and staffing shortages, many had to add fees and requirements — such as reservation cancellation fees — to stay afloat.

“They can’t afford to have a lot of no-shows, so you do have these reservation fees, where if you cancel at the last minute, or don’t show up, you still have to pay,” said Sidman. “And then you have some restaurants where you pay for the whole thing in advance — like a theater ticket, almost.”

As a result, eating out costs a lot more than it used to before the pandemic: “Everything is way more expensive.”

Sidman said the new list reflects the new post-pandemic reality for people looking for good food, whether they eat in the restaurant, take it home or eat standing up at a food truck.

“These are all things that are here to stay.”

And according to Sidman, that’s where Washingtonian’s list comes in handy: “We tried all these places, and we want to tell you where it’s worth spending your money.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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