Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates all of the critics' picks for best restaurants in DC.

About a month ago, we unveiled our latest Google map, which highlighted all of the top-rated restaurants in the area as determined by the critics at the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper and Washingtonian Magazine.  Judging by the response, it was an idea whose time had come.  But it wasn’t complete.

One of the first comments we received when we posted the map was “Where’s Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best list?”  The regional monthly has been serving NoVA since February 2006, and they publish an annual list of best restaurants in the area compiled by Dining Editor Warren Rojas.

We posted our map just as the issue with the 2009 list in it hit newstands.  It should have been perfect timing for inclusion, right?  Wrong. 

Find out what caused the delay after the jump.

Magazines like Northern Virginia and Washingtonian need to hold onto some of their premium content to drive off-the-rack purchases and to reward loyal subscribers.  If everything they wrote were immediately available for free online, what would be the point of buying the print edition?   A one-issue lag time solves that problem nicely.

So we promised to let you know (and to update our map accordingly) as soon as Warren Rojas’ picks were available on the internet.

That day has come.  Click on the image at the top of this post to go to the new and improved Capital Spice “Best Restaurants” Map and check out the best of Northern Virginia.

As I was making the additions (30 new restaurants tagged in yellow and 20 restaurants that had already been tagged by at least one of the other critics), I found myself developing a real appreciation for Warren Rojas and his job as Dining Editor for a regional magazine like Northern Virginia.  His list combined some of the no-brainers (2941, Ray’s the Steaks, Restaurant Eve) with a number of NoVA gems that went overlooked by the other critics in their broad focus on the District and its surrounding area.

And it’s that latter category that reflects the real value of Rojas’ list – and the real challenge that Rojas faces.

The value: Rojas draws attention to local favorites that probably fell just short of the Washingtonian Top 100.  He spends the time and money checking these less-hyped locales so that you don’t have to go in blind.  His list includes plenty of places like Bazin’s on Church, the Grille at the Morrison House and Willow, reliably good establishments who tend to fade into the background as more and more exciting new places open up.  When you’re looking for an evening out and didn’t think far enough ahead to score a reservation at Komi, these are your hidden gems.

The challenge: Rojas’ territory roams further afield than any of the other reviewers (even Sietsema) and those local favorites aren’t going to review themselves.  Because his Top 50 goes into much greater depth within the NoVA dining scene than the others, it’s a big deal for a restaurant to make (or miss) the Top 50.  Add that burden to the fact that Rojas has to pay multiple visits to each establishment to make sure he’s gotten an accurate picture of the place.  Now tack on all those off-the-beaten-path tips he chases down and tries once only to know right away that it’s not gonna happen.  You’re looking at a schedule that demands multiple lunches and stacked dinners on more than a few evenings if you’re going to do the job right and be true to Northern Virginia’s culinary offerings.

So take a look at our updated Best Restaurants map and pay special attention to those new yellow tags.  That’s Rojas pointing you toward something you didn’t even know you needed to check out in Northern Virginia.

And if you have any additional suggestions for Washington area “best of” lists, we’re happy to keep updating.