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DC Chefs Magazine: Chefs' Best of Washington

There is a fascinating local magazine which is published once a year and not available for sale. Generally, it is distributed free within the restaurant community to help promote Washington's chefs and their restaurants. The introduction for this, their third publication, is from Michel Richard: "Welcome back to the pages of DC Chefs, our annual gift magazine celebrating the capital's culinary community and its camaraderie." For those who have not seen this magazine it is essentially a collection of short articles with photos about a number of Washington chefs. This issue includes: Cathal Armstrong, Andrew Evans, Dennis Friedman, Tood Gray, Nicolas Legret, Brian McBride, Michel Richard, Laurent Tourondel and Phet Schwader, Bryan Voltaggio, Robert Wiedmaier, Eric Ziebold and Ris Lacoste. Part of each feature includes asking basic questions such as "favorite late night snack" , "most influence on cooking" (Michel "Jean Louis Palladin") and "what restaurant have you never been to that you'd most like to?"

A fascinating feature in this year's issue is entitled "Our Chefs Recommend." There are 37 categories and each includes the top three in order. While the article doesn't say who was polled for their responses my guess is that it would at least include the chefs featured in the issue.

These are some of the more interesting recommendations which I am entitling the "Chefs' Best of Washington." Again, the three choices for each are listed in order.


Five Guys
Central Michel Richard
Elevation Burger

French Fries

Central Michel Richard
Cafe du Parc
Blue Duck Tavern

Mexican/Latin American

The taco truck on Four Mile Run Drive in Shirlington (!)(My exclamation)
Cactus Cantina
Rio Grande Cafe

Hot Dogs

Street vendor at 12th and Independence (!)
Hot dogs from Polyface Farm
Ben's Chili Bowl

Fried Chicken/Rotisserie Chicken

El Pollo Rico
Central Michel Richard

Oyster/Seafood Bar

Hank's Oyster Bar
Old Ebbitt Grill




Carnegie Deli in Manhattan
So's Your Mom (Adams Morgan)




Thai Square
Bua Thai
Bistro, Raku


Kaz Sushi Bistro



Chinese Food

Full Kee
Mark's Duck House
Eat First

Italian-not pizza

Bebo Trattoria


Two Amy's

Midnight Snack

Bistro Francais
The Diner in Adams Morgan
Brasserie Beck

Great Meal at Any Hour

Bistro Francais

Place to Drink a Cold Beer

Brasserie Beck
Old Ebbitt Grill

Breakfast/Brunch Spot

Four Season's Hotel
Grill at the Morrison House
Georgia Brown's

Best Cocktails

Restaurant Eve

Place to Take A Visiting Chef

Restaurant Eve

Business Lunch Restaurant

Charlie Palmer Steak
Blue Duck Tavern

Romantic Restaurant

Inn at Little Washington

Celebration Restaurant


Farmer's Market

Dupont Market
Sunday's market at Takoma Park
Arlington Farmer's Market

Wine Shop

The Vineyard in McLean
MacArthur Beverages
Calvert Woodley


Whole Foods
Bloom (in Herndon)
Trader Joe's

Cheese Shop

Cowgirl Creamery
Mail order-Murray's Cheese Shop in New York

Food Blog



A number of these are very curious: Bloom in Herndon? (Where's Wegmans') The Vineyard in McLean (where's Arrowine?) Zaytinya for celebration restaurant? Several are recommendations that will have me driving to them as soon as possible: the taco truck on Four Mile Run Drive in Arlington, the hot dog vender at 12th and Independence and Rasika as the only unanimous choice of any category. Several also confirm my own personal view of restaurants such as Bebo (whose food justifies the crowds) and Elevation Burger.

I have not listed all of the recommendations. But there is much to discuss about many of these...

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  1. I agree, I'm intrigued by the taco truck. But I have to say -- any list that even mentions Cactus Cantina and (to a lesser extent) Rio Grande (yes, it was once good, but no more), let alone putting CC second in the whole area for Mexican/Latin, is automatically suspect.

    11 Replies
    1. re: MartyL

      Cactus Cantina IS a curious choice, indeed!

      1. re: MartyL

        popeyes for best friend chicken makes me wonder,....

        1. re: jes

          That one I understand. I must admit that when I do the very occasional fast food, that's the one I crave. Sietsema has said the same. I can imagine that top chefs, surrounded by their kitchens day after day, would also get the urge to "slum" now and then, and Popeye's seems just about right to me.

          Five Guys and Cactus Cantina were the ones that raised an eyebrow for me.

          1. re: DanielK

            Popeye's is legitimately good if you can time it so that they will have changed the grease the night before. "Fresh" oil can make a huge difference.

            1. re: Joe H

              Agreed. A Popeye's that does high volume is about as good as deep-fried chicken gets. The best Popeye's I've been to is at a rest area on the Florida Turnpike north of Orlando. There is never less than 100 people lined up for that chicken.

        2. re: MartyL

          This list just illustrates how sad the food choices are in D.C.

          Sure, Old Ebbitt's, Citronelle, and a few others are nice.

          But most of these are just sad. For a place like Wagshal's to even be recognized illustrates that we desperately need a decent deli (as noted elsewhere). The pizza places suck. The burger joints are just standard. And the fact that there even exists a "fried chicken" category is just... sad; if Popeye's is a winner, then the category shouldn't exist.

          And as far as supermarkets go, besides Whole Foods, what else is there? Sure we can go to any of the ghetto Safeways; sure we can purchased expired products at Giant. But to "rank" these things infers that there's a choice of options -- it infers that there's actually competition. Nope, the best you can possibly hope for is a 3-dollar rotting avocado at Whole Foods.

          Bottom line, everything just pretty much sucks. You can't even get a decent smoothie anywhere. So sad.

          1. re: WestCoaster

            i beg to differ. i think this list seriously misrepresents the food scene in d.c., and i find it slightly suspect, especially considering this magazine is free (perhaps big advertising dollars mean better rating on the list.) there ARE great places and choices here...they're just not all out in broad daylight where you can see them. if you think old ebbitt is one of the better choices around maybe you should examine this board more closely...there are a million much better places than that moldy cave.

            1. re: littlew1ng

              suit yourself. I killed myself this summer gathering the responses and, frankly, as a journalist elsewhere, I wouldn't jeopardize my reputation by putting together a suspect list or allow myself to be influenced by advertisers. I had to call some chefs five, six, seven times to get their responses. Maybe it's not the most objective list you've ever seen, but it's what chefs submitted. Feel free to email me directly if you'd like more information: MelissaMcCart@gmail.com

              1. re: MelissaMcCart

                sorry, i did not mean to offend you personally and the advertising idea was not intended as an accusation, merely speculation — many magazines, especially free ones, operate under that pretense (giving coverage to those who purchase ad space).

                I can appreciate that you worked hard and that the responses that you received were published accurately; I was merely defending our fine city from the previous commenter, and stating that the dining available here is indeed part of a diverse and bountiful scene, and i dont think the list reflects that (through no fault of your own). as a journalist, you can only go so far (trust me, i understand this as a writer myself) and print the answers you've been given.

                if you'll reread my comments youll notice i was not one of the commenters slamming or criticizing the publication; i was trying to defend the district. the comment about advertising space, as i said, was speculation coming out of magazines with which i've had experience in the past. i used to work in PR and it was very frustrating at times trying to get your name out there without spending thousands on adspace.

                1. re: MelissaMcCart

                  Melisa, I fear you misread littlew1ng's post.

                  1. re: MelissaMcCart

                    i just got the new issue. the original post is from 2007 -- the year prior to your latest issue. so the list has been updated, folks!

            2. If someone finds the taco truck, please post the nearest cross street!!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: filth

                If it is the one I've seen, I think the nearest cross street is Walter Reed Drive.

              2. I saw that magazine and considered the entire thing to be one great big marketing puff-piece. The "interviews" with the chefs were a joke. My best guess is that two editors made up that entire Best Of list the night before going to print.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Pappy

                  I agree. I saw this last year and I thought it was basically a paid for advertising type thing.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    As a salesman who is given to puffery, self promotion and excess (!) I actually have a great deal of respect for and loudly applaud the effort. I believe that the overall excellence of our restaurants is well worth promoting whether within the metro area or nationally. If it helps bring a customer in, wins an award or gives us national recognition we all benefit. I also believe that many, if not all, of the chefs who contribute (or even just lend their name and photo) have a great deal of pride in it. Michel is very prominent in this. Fabio had four copies of the first issue with him when he came for dinner two years ago! I'm certain that they gave away as many of them as they could.

                    I posted on here five and six years ago that D. C. did little to promote itself nationally. I believe this is a huge step in the right direction.

                    The "best of" is interesting. Some of them are just incredible and could easily have been dreamed up by an editor, even an editor who has never been to D. C.! But there are others that for myself are genuinely interesting, including say for hot dogs the "street vendor at 12th and Independence" and hot dogs from Polyface Farm which I have never heard of. Nor the "Taco Truck" in Shirlington. I also thought Rasika being listed in all three spots was noteworthy. I'm surprised that some haven't comment on some of these. Hasn't anyone been to that Taco Truck? Was it any good?

                    I also believe that they did poll a significant number of chefs. Most, if not all of them, are probably every bit as opinionated as any of us. There must even be one of them who is as opinioned as I am!

                    1. re: Joe H

                      I heard of Polyface Farm in Michal Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma", in which he discusses Polyface in detail as an example of the local food, sustainable agriculture model of food production. It's a good read, but I have yet to sample the results of their methods so I can't judge their hotdogs.

                      1. re: mordacity

                        I've posted on here many times about Polyface and EcoFriendly Farms, which are inter-related efforts. So many times that I'm sure some readers think I'm their shill. Their pork products are outstanding, and their chickens excellent. I have never had either pork or chicken in this country that is as good, except when growing up and had same raised on my grandfather's farm. I do not buy either pork or chicken from anyplace/anyone else. I can speak less to their beef, as I eat it seldom. They also have rabbit and lamb, both of which are very good, too. Restaurant Eve serves some of their products, as do other high-end restaurants in D.C. and New York. Available at Arlington Courthouse and Dupont farmers' markets.

                        1. re: bacchante

                          Before leaving DC, I was getting lamb and chicken from Polyface and I share your enthusiasm. Very good, although the signup/ordering/lack of communication/pickup process for mere mortal individuals is a little confusing at first. But, we're glad we made the effort.

                      2. re: Joe H

                        I do agree, that even considering the "puffery," promotion of DCs restaurant scene is a good thing for everyone.

                        1. re: Joe H

                          If it's like last year's poll, they only asked the 12 chef's who participated in the magazine - not a "significant number of chefs." I haven't gotten this year's yet, but last year's "Our Chef's Recommend" list had much more than the OP gave along with notes about which chefs liked which places and, in some cases, why they liked it. Really entertaining.

                          Some of the choices may well be related to the location of the restaurants and the chefs' homes. E.g. a chef who has a resto in DC and lives nearby isn't going to drive to Vienna, VA for Fabio Trabocchio's favorite chocolate chip cookies at Cenan's Bakery. If you live in DC, you shop at Schneider's, Calvert-Woodley or MacArthur, not Arrowine, and you aren't going to drive to Wegmans.

                    2. I'm glad to see that as many people here like to diss Mark's Duck House, they made the list at #2.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dpan

                        As long as you also realize that the same audience that loves MDH, also said that Five Guys has the best burger in the area. (Better than Central, Palena, Colorado Kitchen? Ha.)

                      2. I was at Citronelle last night, and I received a complimentary copy of this all nicely wrapped in a special white manila envelope-- haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, but I want to after your post.

                        I totally disagree with the "Chinese Food" list (hello, have any of these chefs ever been to Rockville, where the current community of Chinese restaurants thrive?).

                        Although I totally agree with MacArthur Beverages!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: mzaznimpossible

                          While I haven't been in several years Full Kee in Chinatown was an icon on this board for several years. There were a number of CH lunches organized there in part because of this. I actually caught quite a bit of flack several years ago for reporting a negative experience. There was also a following for a chef, Peter?, who moved around quite a bit: from Crystal City to Chantilly and now to Atlanta. I think John B and James G (who is now in China) would have an opinion on all of this.

                          1. re: mzaznimpossible

                            Rockville? No. Most of them work in DC. Full Kee is likely a sentimental favorite. Don't know if it's still the case, but for a long time, there was a sort of chef's round table late at night with people like Jean-Louis Palladin and other top guys who congregated there after their own dinner services concluded. I think they ate off-menu stuff, had a few drinks, gossiped and let off steam before going home. I remember that's one of the reasons that Full Kee became well known.
                            Their experience was probably much different then the normal diner's.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              And the only real restaurants that are open late are the ones like Full Kee and Mark's.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                I think that this is a telling point. These chefs work in DC and when they eat together, they do it in DC. I would not expect them to list restaurants in Rockville or most of NVA.

                            2. Asking chefs where they eat, what a joke. Chefs don't go out trying to find little undiscovered gems like we do or like some of the better critics do, they wave the pompoms for their chef buddies. What was that book -- Chefs Night Out, I think it was called. Same deal. Ask people who eat out a lot, who know what's going on out there, not chefs.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Richard Z.

                                Perhaps Dean can chime in on this because he's had some great recommendations for smaller restaurants---especially of the Asian variety outside of DC.

                                1. re: Elyssa

                                  My specialty these days seems to be Korean. I love Yechon for BBQ and clear soups. Yet Gol in Wheaton for the cold meat plate, Soon Doo Boo, Seafood Pancake, Seoul Long Tang and potato noodles (do not order the Mandoo). Da Rae Won for the shredded dish, the rice cakes with seafood, the Mandoo and the hand pulled noodles (JaJaMein or beef or seafood are all really good! I htink Gom Ba Woo has some of the best stir fry dishes like the squid and octopus stirfrys. They also had a salad with hot mustard sauce that is really good. Il Mee takes the buffet honors. Really good BBQ, great cold noodles, good kim chee and other pickled dishes and enough good stuff on the hot and cold bars to make it well worthwhile.

                                  Non Korean: Bob's Shabu Shabu for the cooked foods including Juicy Pork Buns (Soup Dumplings), great light cold dishes, lion's head, long pepper beef, crispy fried tofu etc. Joe's Noodle House (my current fave dish is non spicy- scrambled egg with shrimp). China Bistro for steamed dumplings. Hollywood East for dim sum. I have not been for a long time but I would go to New Fortune for dim sum or 7 seas for live seafood out of the tanks in a minute. Ruan Thai, Nava Thai and Thai Square are all great. My favorite pupusas are from Sergio in Wheaton along with their incredible soups, guac & ceviche. They also ahve Salvadorean "Enchiladas" which must be pure lard flavored with a bit of beans on fried tortillas. If your cardioligist doesn't know... There is also a place right around the corner from Radial Tire in Silver Spring that makes insane pupusa's and grilled chicken. Can't remember its name.

                                  Congee at Full Key in Wheaton. BBQ platters at Chinatown Express (enough of their garlic and leek purees and anything tastes good! For a while it was our stop before the opera and I am sure there are loads of folk who cringed at our odiferous contributions to their enjoyment of Puccini and Wagner!)

                                  Being from LA and a frequent visitor to SF, there just aren't any Mexican places or hot dogs I would recommend: Ben's? Beanie Weenie? Half Smoke carts? Puleese!!! Ohhh for a Weiner Factory dog without a 5 hour flight being involved! Or a taco from Yucca's Hut or one of the Tacquerias in the Mission (If they haven't been replaced by upscale design shops by now.....).

                              2. I agree with Rasika for Indian -- Yummy! I sampled the spicy calamari, eggplant, melt-in-your-mouth salmon, lamb/seekh kabob, chicken tikka and (very) spicy peppery shrimp. On the $$$ side, but a nice treat. Good wine selection, too.

                                My brother tells me Nirvana is also good, authentic Indian in the city, too. It's not as $$$ and offers lots of well-marked vegan/veg dishes.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: inbox_blues

                                  Your brother is right. Nirvana is very, very good. The entire menu is vegetarian and vegan. As a vegetarian, I support this place 100%.

                                2. Hi, Joe. I was the writer for the whole project and Scott Reitz, who has a piece in tomorrow's Wash Post, tested all the recipes. It was originally supposed to include 12 chefs, but 22 signed on; it was a fairly large project. Regarding the chef's recommend: not every chef in the mag filled out every category. But I also got the sense that many just didn't have the time to explore the best of what DC has to offer, particulary in burbs far from their work or home. If you have any other question about it, feel free to ask.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: MelissaMcCart

                                    It was a good story, good work Melissa. Everyone has their own opinon about the best restaurants in town so dont let them get you down, I hope you do another one like this next year!

                                    1. re: MelissaMcCart

                                      thanks for a nice job, melissa. i was surprised to get one in the mail, but am delighted. very pretty layout, photos, recipes.... i hope i get one again.

                                      ps, as i mention above, the list of top picks in the original post is a year old, and has been updated/changed in melissa's latest edition of dc chefs -- the 2008-2009 edition. if i had time this morning, i would post the new "picks", but maybe i'll do it later.....or someone else can.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        where can i get a personal copy of this? we had one sent to the office but it's like a freakin hot potato — every time i finally get my hands on it somebody snatches it away again

                                        1. re: littlew1ng

                                          i don't know. ask melissa. she gave her email!

                                    2. The best Fried Chicken in DC is BY FAR, NO QUESTION from Hitching Post. I strongly urge you to go there if you haven't been.

                                      The potato salad is life changing and the mac and cheese and collard greens are fantastic.