As promised, we’ve updated our Critics’ Picks map now that Washingtonian’s 100 Best Restaurants of 2010 is available online. Sure, you’ve probably devoured their list already and mapped out your strategy to eat your way from beginning to end a la From Komi to Marvin. But we don’t update our map until the list becomes available online. That way, we can connect you to all of the write-ups for each named restaurant in one convenient location.
Since this was the first time we were updating one of the critics’ lists (instead of adding a new one), it presented us with the question of how to represent restaurants from the 2009 list that didn’t make the 2010 cut. Take another look at the map above, and you’ll see red pushpins in addition to the markers and the ‘fork and knife’ graphics. Each pushpin represents a restaurant that was only on the map because of its place on Washingtonian’s 2009 list.
And there was a surprisingly healthy turnover rate: twenty-six restaurants made their debut on the new list, replacing four closed locations and twenty-two more (each of whom was clearly the 101st best restaurant…right?). As much as we may have hated to see some of our favorites fall off the list, it’s a testament to the strength of the region’s dining scene that so many legitimate contenders are out there.
After the jump, a list of those coming in and those heading out with some thoughts.
Incoming (2010 ranking in parenthesis)
Et Voila! (#94)
General Store (#64)
Hell Point Seafood (#84)
Heritage India (#91)
J&G Steakhouse (#4)
Patowmack Farm (#37)
Spice Xing (#52)
Sushi Sono (#40)
Sushi Taro (#15)
3 Bar & Grill (#100)
Trummer’s on Main (#54)
We’re definitely excited to see strong showings by newcomers like Eola, Trummer’s and Inox, and it’s great to see restaurants that had fallen off the list come back big (Willow, Sushi Taro, Tallula).
Unfortunately, this year sees the continuation of a trend that we’re less enamored of: especially high ratings for celebrity chefs’ new outposts, sometimes within weeks of their opening. This year, J&G Steakhouse snagged the #4 spot, indicating that they’re outperforming all but three of our local restaurants within 8 months of opening.
While some restaurants prove the prescience of Washingtonian’s team of critics (The Source debuted at #14 in 2008 and has risen from #10 in 2009 to #3 this year), most of these ratings end up looking like wishful thinking soon afterward. In the same year that The Source debuted at #14, Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro grabbed the #15 spot. Since then? #35 last year and #67 this year. Were their earliest dishes really that much better? Bourbon Steak is following a similar trajectory, dropping from #16 in 2009 to #35 this time around.
Time will tell whether J&G Steakhouse will manage to hold onto a top 5 spot, but it seems like the odds are stacked against them.
Outgoing (2009 ranking in parenthesis)
Amici Miei (#91)
Bistro L’Hermitage (#93)
Buck’s Fishing & Camping (#40)
Café Atlántico (#70)
Comet Ping Pong (#81)
DC Coast (#94)
Farrah Olivia (CLOSED)
Founding Farmers (#96)
Hank’s Oyster Bar (#86)
Hollywood East Cafe on the Boulevard (CLOSED, recently reopened in Westfield Wheaton Mall)
Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food (#99)
Kaz Sushi Bistro (#89)
La Chaumière (#82)
Le Paradou (CLOSED)
Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei (#63)
Mannequin Pis (#67)
Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar (#34)
Ravi Kabob House (#87)
Taberna del Alabardero (#44)
Not surprisingly, this list is populated primarily by those restaurants that occupied the lower rankings of last year’s list – only four of the 10 restaurants ranked between 91 and 100 made it back this year. But there are a few big drops, many of which can be attributed to significant changes at the restaurants.
Nicaro changed just about everything, and so it may take a while for them to re-establish themselves as a go-to dinner option in Silver Spring. Carole Greenwood’s departure from Buck’s Fishing & Camping and Comet Ping Pong seems to have dropped both of them for the foreseeable future. And it would appear that the biggest drop of the year is a testament to Barry Koslow’s following at Washingtonian. His departure from Mendocino Grille dropped them more than 66 spots in one year, and his subsequent arrival at Tallula boosted their standing by at least 49 spots (again assuming anyone not on the list is automatically #101).
Some of the other standbys on this list (Hank’s Oyster Bar, Dino, Oyamel and Cafe Atlantico) make me wonder just what happened to cause their demotion. Was it a handful of off nights? A general decline in service, innovation, quality? Or something else altogether?