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DC Restaurant All-Stars: 8 Spots That Have Endured

By Olga Boikess
September 26, 2013
Photo by: Greg Powers and Audrey Crewe

There are some restaurants that seem to stay evergreen forever. Chefs come and go. The decor and even the layout can change. But the dining experience stays enjoyable and delicious. How do these places keep satisfying the public’s fickle tastes and demanding expectations? Read on to find out.

  • Inn at Little Washington

    How does chef-owner Patrick O’Connell deal with more than 30 years of diners with escalating expectations for ultimate pampering at his Virginia Hunt Country New American destination? Over-the-top luxurious decor, creative farm-to-table fare seasoned with whimsy and a staff that he trains to be “keenly observant and sensitive to the guests' words and behavior - especially body language."

    309 Middle St., Washington, VA; 540-675-3800

  • Jaleo

    Small-plate dining was a novelty back in 1993, and no one went to the area that is now the bustling Penn Quarter for fun meals. That’s when Jose Andres pioneered both the concept and the locale of this Spanish tapas joint. It’s been a lively mecca ever since, growing branches in Bethesda and Crystal City. Recently, redos featuring avant-garde Spanish design have transported visitors to the DC and MD locations into the future.

    480 Seventh St. NW; 202-628-7949
    7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, MD; 301-913-0003
    2250 Crystal City, Arlington, VA; 703-413-8181

  • L’Auberge Chez Francois

    Gemütlichkeit has washed over visitors of this French-Alsatian country inn near Great Falls, Virginia, for more than 50 years. Countless celebrations have taken place before its blazing fireplaces at white-clothed tables brimming with hearty fare. The relatively recent addition of a cellar brasserie serving simpler dishes and more casual conviviality has helped keep it evergreen.

    332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls, VA; 703-759-3800

  • New Heights

    Foodies know that this Woodley Heights New American is one of the top culinary talent scouts around. The roster of its past chefs include culinary stars like Cathal Armstrong (Eve), RJ Cooper (Rogue 24) and most recently Ron Tanaka, who just opened Thally in Shaw. After keeping the black bean pâté and the palak paneer on the menu for some years, it recently decided to let its current chef put his own signature dish on the menu. This is yet another way: it fosters a "creative spirit with being trendy or faddish."

    2317 Calvert St. NW; 202-234-4110

  • Photo by: thepurplepassport/flickr

    Obelisk

    Although chef-owner Peter Pastan has kept the same multicourse prix fixe format for his Dupont Circle boutique since it opened in 1987, it certainly hasn’t stagnated. He’s expanded the complexity of its offerings as he followed his passions for wine and Italian food. These led to making his own vinegar, then butter and sausages. Wines, many natural ones, are chosen according to his tastes and his vision of their relationship to the food. The incredibly long, thin and crisp bread sticks, offered at the beginning of the meal, happily never change.

    2029 P St. NW; 202-872-1180

  • Photo by: Earl Lee/Flickr

    Peking Gourmet Inn

    There are few glory walls that can compete with the photos of Republican Presidents, and military and political heavyweight customers that line the dining rooms of this Arlington Chinese. Since 1978, it’s been known for its Peking-style duck and for the jumbo spring onions that were grown for the restaurant long before local sourcing became a trend.

    6029 Leesburg Pike, Arlington, VA; 703-671-8088

  • Pizzeria Paradiso

    Back in 1991, this boutique’s wood-burning-oven-baked crusty pies pioneered the local artisanal pizza movement. It’s since moved into new spaces in Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Old Town, yet there are still lines outside the door. What’s more, it’s also been a pioneer on the craft brew scene, bringing in beers not previously found in the area.

    2003 P St. NW; 202-223-1245
    3282 M St. NW; 202-337-1245
    124 King St., Alexandria, VA; 703-837-1245

  • Photo by: Scott Schuman

    1789

    Set in a Federal-period Georgetown townhouse, this New American’s decor harks back to the past, but its cooking remains contemporary and up-to-date, currently reflecting a farm-to-table ethos. Indeed, there's always been some kind of local lamb on the menu. Lavishly decorated for holidays, it is a premier locale for celebrations.

    1226 36th St. NW; 202-965-1789

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Places Mentioned

Jaleo

Spanish • Arlington

Food24 Decor20 Service21 Cost$39
 
 
 
Pizzeria Paradiso

Georgetown

Food23 Decor17 Service19 Cost$26
 
 
 
L'Auberge Chez Francois

French • Great Falls

Food28 Decor27 Service28 Cost$81
 
 
 
Obelisk

Italian • Dupont Circle

Food28 Decor20 Service26 Cost$98
 
 
 
1789

American • Georgetown

Food26 Decor25 Service26 Cost$70
 
 
 
Jaleo

Spanish • Bethesda

Food24 Decor20 Service21 Cost$39
 
 
 
Jaleo

Spanish • Penn Quarter/Chinatown

Food24 Decor20 Service21 Cost$39
 
 
 
Peking Gourmet Inn

Chinese • Bailey's Crossroads

Food25 Decor17 Service22 Cost$35
 
 
 
Pizzeria Paradiso

Pizza • Alexandria

Food23 Decor17 Service19 Cost$26
 
 
 
New Heights Restaurant

American • Woodley Park

Food22 Decor20 Service20 Cost$59
 
 
 
Pizzeria Paradiso

Pizza • Dupont Circle

Food23 Decor17 Service19 Cost$26
 
 
 
 
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