Let’s face it — if a restaurant is worth a couple of hours’ drive (quite possibly in traffic because this is DC), you’ve probably heard of it. So consider this list of travel-worthy restaurants a reminder of where you should go when you’re feeling a bit restless or looking for a special place to celebrate an occasion. Why not make a reservation and make a day of it? These dining standouts are definitely worth the drive.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
At this off-the-beaten-path farm-to-table experience, chef Tarver King serves seasonal, organic dishes that are straight from the farm on which it sits — and every bit as stunning as the views. It’s only open Thursday through Saturday for dinner, for brunch Saturdays and Sundays and for a monthly Sunday supper. While there, make plans to poke around the antique shops, sip locally made rye at Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. and nibble on crêpes and pastries for lunch at Petite Loulou in nearby Purcellville.
42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville; 540-822-9017
Chef-owner Spike Gjerde, a regular nominee for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic from the James Beard Foundation, always makes national headlines with his cadre of successful restaurants in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood. But it’s Gjerde's flagship Woodberry Kitchen that provides the most compelling reason to hop on a MARC train or hit the road to Baltimore for the day. Be sure to stop in at its sibling coffeehouse, Artifact Coffee, for some fuel before heading back to the DC area.
2010 Clipper Park Rd., Baltimore; 410-464-8000
Inn at Little Washington
Chef-owner Patrick O’Connell’s luxurious take on American fare has kept Washington’s rapt attention for more than 30 years. Arrive early for drinks on the patio, settle into the opulent dining room for a tasting menu extravaganza, then tell your server you’d like a tour of the kitchen after the meal. While this isn’t exactly the type of place you can wander into on a road trip, the gorgeous drive out there offers plenty of opportunities to explore Virginia’s wine country and quaint towns like Sperryville.
309 Middle St., Washington; 540-675-3800
This fine-dining room set in a gorgeous 1890s mansion was chef-owner Bryan Voltaggio’s first restaurant, which he decided to open in his hometown back in 2008 following nearly a decade working for big-time chef Charlie Palmer. Carefully composed dishes here are a playground of color and texture, showing the masterful hand of an artist at work. While in charming Frederick, shop on Market Street, check out the art galleries, take in the historic sites and see if something cool is going on at the Weinberg Center, which runs retro films and hosts live performers.
228 N. Market St., Frederick; 301-696-8658
Trummer’s on Main
When chef Austin Fausett made the move to Proof in Chinatown, we were skeptical that the owners could score another chef so worthy of a drive to Clifton. That doubt dissipated entirely when we sampled the food of new chef Jon Cropf and pastry chef Meagan Tighe, who both joined the team last fall from Charleston and New York, respectively. Stroll around Clifton and pop into this small-town restaurant decorated with a breezy California feel for dinner. This is also a great place to stop if you have kids in tow — there’s a really fun six-course tasting menu for children 14 and younger priced at $38 per person.
7134 Main St., Clifton; 703-266-1623
Annapolis may be a picture-perfect seaside town, but the dining scene hasn’t historically been the top reason to hop in the car and head eastbound on Route 50. Enter Preserve, an ode to canning, pickling, fermenting and conserving farm-fresh produce from Restaurant Eve alums chef Jeremy Hoffman and wife Michelle. The menu features daily specials and dishes like chicken pot pie and griddled sauerkraut cakes with ham hock rillettes that reflect the toque’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots.
164 Main St., Annapolis; 443-598-6920