2015 DC FOOD ROUND-UP – BY THE PROS
BYT at large | lhollers | Dec 28, 2015 | 9:00AM |

2015 tasted good. We ate amazing food, drank amazing cocktails and dined in amazing spaces. But what about the other food writers? How was their year? Based on the following responses, 2015 tasted good for everyone else as well. Some things more than others tho. Obviously.

So, we asked some of our favorite food writers in the area (read: people whose taste buds we TRULY trust) the following questions:

  • The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
  • The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
  • The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
  • Best food event of 2015?
  • What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
  • What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
  • What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
  • Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
  • Favorite food blog, web site or column?

And here is what we heard back:

Jessica Sidman – Food Editor at Washington City Paper

Jessica

The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
The best: I like the trend toward more large-format, family-style dishes. (Big plates are the new small plates!) It always feels massively satisfying when a giant platter of food arrives at your table.

The worst: Why are people still opening “speakeasies.” Really? Also, Diner en Blanc. The amount of money people spend for a dinner that doesn’t even include dinner (or a chair to sit in!) is ridiculous.

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
This was a really strong year for new restaurants: Bad Saint, Convivial, Masseria, China Chicano, The Dabney, Maketto, Garrison, Beefsteak. Nido is a gem that hasn’t gotten as much attention. Maketto was probably the most anticipated and has managed to successfully live up to the hype.

Milk Bar doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s pure sugar. Everything is sickly sweet. Some people love that, but to me, it’s totally uninteresting and underwhelming. I have, however, enjoyed Momofuku CCDC.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
The best: I don’t usually order fried chicken, but I’m obsessed with the fried chicken at Maketto. The Philly waffle at Barmini is another dish I still dream about. More indulgent still: the Smokehouse Bomb (mac and cheese waffle topped with chili and pulled pork) at Wicked Bloom.

The worst: I ate a couple oysters at Page, the new restaurant at Reagan National Airport where you order from an electronic tablet. I started with a glass of wine and the setup all felt so fancy that I decided to indulge with some oysters. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to order oysters in an airport. IT IS NOT. They were more warm than cold, and I had to send the rest back. I sensed immediately they were going to make me sick. Sure enough, I paid for it the next day.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
1. José Andrés pulling his restaurant out of the Trump Hotel.
2. The Fig & Olive salmonella outbreak.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Let’s face it, Pineapple and Pearls from Rose’s Luxury chef Aaron Silverman is definitely going to be THE place to get a reservation. I’m also excited about All Purpose, the pizza joint from the people behind The Red Hen and Boundary Stone, as well as ANXO, D.C.’s first cidery.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?
I’d love to have a Korean barbecue restaurant in D.C. proper. I’ll be curious to see if this place with Erik Bruner-Yang and the Hilton brothers pans out. Also, someone please open up a poke restaurant. They have a bunch of them in LA, but none here.

What you hope stays away?
I’ve already ranted about this endlessly, but please no more more steakhouses from big out of town restaurant groups.

Favorite Restaurant?
I just can’t pick one right now. Probably the place I go most often is Baan Thai, which is partially because of its vicinity to my apartment but also because it has some of the best Thai food in the city. Other evergreen places I love: The Red Hen, Chez Billy Sud, Cava Grill, Daikaya ramen, A&J Restaurant, Sushi Taro. That’s off the top of my head.

Favorite Bar?
For cocktails, Barmini and 2 Birds 1 Stone are at the top of my list. I also like A&D as just a general place to drink.

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
I read every ounce of D.C. food news and have so much respect for all my fellow food writers. They all have their shining moments, but in particular, I’ve been really digging Tim Carman’s $20 Diner column and the attention he’s been bringing to some lesser known spots.

Tim CarmanWashington Post

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Best & Worst food trends of 2015: Best was products fermented in house. Asian cooks have long understood the depth of flavor that fermented products add to food, whether kimchi, fish sauce or some kind of miso. Erik Bruner-Yang, Seng Luangrath, Jeremiah Langhorne. These are just a few chefs who incorporate their own fermented products into dishes. Worst: the fast-casualization of everything. I mean, I understand that people often don’t have time to enjoy a full-service meal, but I’m not thrilled by what this type of restaurant means for dining in general: a loss of long, lingering meals during which friends gather to drink, gossip, eat and exchange ideas big and small. Everyone should find time at some point in the week to sit at a table with loved ones and enjoy a meal that stretches out for one or two or even three hours. Both you and the food get their due respect.

Best new restaurant in DC: for sheer ambition, it’s the Dabney and Jeremiah Langhorne’s efforts to explore and push forward Mid-Atlantic cuisine. For sheer deliciousness, it’s Yona in Ballston, where Jonah Kim can surprise you with something as humble as a “bean sprout salad.”

New restaurant that didn’t live up to the hype: Peter Chang in Arlington. I’ve been twice now, and it’s been underwhelming both times. I don’t want Americanized Peter Chang. I want Peter Chang unadulterated.
Best dish you had in 2015: The yassa chicken at Chez Dior, a Senegalese restaurant in Hyattsville. I can’t stop thinking about the interplay of flavors: the chargrilled chicken, the acidified onion sauce, the Jamaican-pepper condiment. It’s an amazing dish.
Worst dish you had in 2015: the one that had me howling like a wounded coyote for several days in early November. Food poisoning. Believe me, if I knew for certain which dish it was, I’d name it.
Best food event: without a doubt, the Chefs for Equality fundraiser. This is where you see what a tight-knit food community DC is. It gets me every time I walk into the event.
The food story of 2015: the rise of Mike Isabella as a restauratuer. He has become an unexpected powerhouse, in part because he’s savvy as hell and in part because he surrounds himself with talented people.
Opening that I’m most looking forward to: Espita Mezcaleria in Shaw. Josh Phillips has put together a great team, which aims to bring real Oaxacan food and culture to DC.
Food trend to wish for in 2016: I wish developers would be required to set aside a few retail spaces for chefs and restaurateurs with little access to start-up capital. Our dining scene needs more balance. It needs more low-budget options from chefs from other countries. All the best cheap eats should not be in the ‘burbs.
Trend that should stay away: sushi burritos.
Favorite chef, restaurant, bar: too many to include here. But I want to highlight a few: Taqueria Habanero, Baan Thai, Etto, Maketto, Qualia Coffee, Daikaya, the Partisan, 2 Birds, the Classics, Passage to India, Vigilante Coffee, Taco Bamba, Banh Ta Deli, the list is long,
Favorite food blog, web site or column: I love when Jessica Sidman digs deeply into a subject at City Paper. I have enjoyed seeing Laura Hayes, Becky Krystal and Maura Judkis develop unique, personal food-writing voices. Holley Simmons at The Express always comes up with clever ideas and executes them well. I thought Bonnie Benwick wrote an amazing profile of pastry chef Alex Levin. Ditto for Nevin Martell’s profile of Aaron Silverman. I always wish I had more time to cook Joe Yonan’s vegetarian dishes, which week in and week out look delicious. Tom Sietsema did a helluva job delving into the food scenes of 10 different cities. It may have been the most difficult (and thankless) task of any food writer this year.

Susan Able – Editor-in-Chief of Edible DC

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The best food trend in 2015 / the worst?
Best: The proliferation of vegetarian/vegan fast casual–we wrote about it and it just kept going. (Little Beet, Beefsteak, Chaia, Maki Shop) And! Food being made out of what would have been waste–MISFIT Juicery, Fruitcycle–inspirational!

Worst: Well maybe annoying–the creeping up price of cocktails almost everywhere, in every format, in every ‘hood, even in the not fancy-schmancy places. Is $14-$15 really the new normal?

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
Bad Saint–we waited and it didn’t disappoint. We waited for Maketto, and space still is thrilling. Just so much good stuff happened, an embarrassment of riches–Garrison, The Dabney, Masseria, it goes on and we love Preserve in Annapolis. Didn’t live up, that’s tough–the proof will be who stays in the game through 2016 with competition this good. Best reboot has to have been The Source, the new look is great and the food there is really on point.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Our everythings in 2015 were Soft Shell Crab with Sweet Corn & Bloody Mary Vinaigrette @ Roses Luxury, everything we have put in our mouth at Bad Saint, and Tarver King at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is inventing some amazing things, he is like our own Wylie Dufresne doing foraged wd-50 stuff out in VA. He rocked the cocktail party at FRESHFARM Markets Farmland feast with his appetizer display–delicious sci-fi for the mouth.

Best food event of 2015?
Well after our own EDC Drinks Invitational, Chefs for Equality just rocks. On top of having some of the best food, drinks and cake, you get to meet the head chef or bartender behind the brand. For just really really great food and competition, the Cochon events, both 555 and Heritage BBQ were epic, as was this year’s roast for Tom Colicchio.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
It seemed like people could not get enough of NYC coming to DC in the form of Momufuko Milk Bar and Momofuko itself at CityCenter.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Continued innovation–the intense competition will continue to raise the bar–we expect even more vegetable-centric menus, a focus and dedication to local sourcing, more local wines, spirits and beverages on menus. And what we love is the collaborative spirit of many chefs in the community, hope to see even more chefs helping others get their start with cool pop-ups or giving them venues to try things out.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise? / What you hope stays away?
We hope we continue to create success for our local chefs, farmers, and artisans with our city’s food scene and keep our neighborhood real estate continuing to serve as a source of inspiration to to them instead of chain restaurants or others–we love this home grown explosion.

Would love to see some more bakeries in general or combined in the restaurant, like L’Hommage or restaurant/shops like Centrolina and Maketto. So fun, so European.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
It is so hard to pick just one, we really have so many favorites…Zatinya’s Michael Costa always loves to talk about sustainability and sourcing, we love hanging out with Sam Molavi at Compass Rose, he is so passionate about his cooking…Anxo’s Brad Walker loves to talk sourcing with us and share ideas. Our office is in Bloomingdale–so we tend to be like trout–stick close to our pond, so dinner at the bar at Red Hen is the bomb, Bistro Bohem is so neighborhoody and friendly-and underrated, Boundary Road for a good bourbon, any of Derek’s 7th trifecta for drinks and knowledge–so many choices now–it’s hard!

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
Because we do a lot of recipes (testing, development) we love whatever Mrs. Wheelbarrow (Cathy Barrow) is doing, she inspires us to try new things always–Domenica Marchetti makes us want Italian every night, and local blogger phenom Jennifer Farley with Simple Savory, she makes us want to get in the kitchen and stay there!

Nevin Martell – Food Writer / Author

Nevin Martell

The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
I really appreciate that I can now get a good meal at the airport. Thanks Mike Isabella, Carla Hall, Cava Grill and Taylor Gourmet! On the other hand, I’m officially over pork belly.

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015?
There were some great additions to the dining scene, including the Riggsby from Michael Schlow, Brine out in the Mosaic District and Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina. I still need to try the Dabney, Convivial and Yona, all of which I’m guessing would have been strong contenders for this list.

The one that didn’t quite live up?
Momofuku. Not that any restaurant could live up to the amount of hype the restaurant garnered.

The best dish you ate in 2015?
There were a lot of really amazing dishes. Those top of mind are the Shanghai street noodles with braised short rib at the Source, the fried chicken at Maketto, the cronut-style doughnut at Founding Farmers in Tysons Corner, the seared foie with semolina porridge featuring puréed pawpaw at Masseria and the gnocchi with kimchi braised pork Rob Rubba served at a pop up dinner as a preview of Hazel.

The one you wish you hadn’t?
There was a spit-into-the-napkin-bad liver dish at Mango Tree when it first opened. It was practically a clinical study on how to not prepare the oftentimes delicious organ.

Best food event of 2015?
Thanksgiving at my house. There was spit-roasted turkey and pulled pork loin by George Pagonis at Kapnos complemented by a slew of homemade sides — balsamic glazed cipollini onions with crème fraîche and pomegranate seeds, chestnut cornbread stuffing, tart cranberry-orange relish, etc. — plus plenty of pies from yours truly and pints from Ice Cream Jubilee.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
Apparently, David Chang opened a restaurant. Apparently.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
There’s a lot to be excited about, but I’m almost literally salivating over the impending arrival of Rob Rubba’s Hazel, Tim Ma’s Kyirisan, Doron Petersan’s Fare Well, Owen Thomson’s tiki bar Archipelago and Slim’s Diner in Petworth. Not to be forgotten is Tiffany MacIsaac’s Buttercream Bakeshop, which will undoubtedly be an out-of-the-gate winner.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?
No more steakhouses, please. I’m begging.

What you hope stays away?
Guy Fieri.

Favorite Chef?
Right now, I’d say Harper McClure at Brabo, Joe Palma at Bourbon Steak, pastry Alex Levin at Osteria Morini, Amy Brandwein at Centrolina and the Source’s Scott Drewno are all on fire.

Favorite Restaurant?
Thip Khao. Chef Seng’s dishes are so multi-layered that each bite reveals some new flavor and each is more intriguing than the last.

Favorite Bar?
I love Slash Run. The jukebox is stocked with hair metal, the taps boast great beers and the menu has an impressive selection of burgers. Basically, everything I could ever want.

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
There are so many DC-area food writers — both on staff and freelance — who are doing great work. It’s always awesome to see their articles pop up as I scroll through my social media feeds and browse my favorite websites. There are too many to mention here and I wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings by missing anyone, so I’ll just give some shoutouts to my favorite national outlets, including Food Republic, Saveur, Bon Appetit and Garden & Gun.

Missy Frederick – Editor at Eater DC

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
Best: The Virginia suburbs weren’t an afterthought this year, which was terrific, thanks in part to Mike Isabella (Yona, Kapnos Taverna et al) and the wonderfully curated Mosaic District, which added some terrific local restaurants this year (Brine probably being my favorite of the 2015 newcomers).

Worst: I don’t personally get the appeal of juice bars, cat cafes or the crazy proliferation of Fast-Casual Everything, but none of it really bothers me as there are plenty of consumers who enjoy all of these things. I hope this isn’t a trend, but i would say that I experienced far more attempts to upsell at restaurants that I generally respect otherwise this year, so that was a disappointment. There were also quite a few stealthily expensive restaurants (smaller portions requiring more dishes ordered, separate snack and appetizer sections, etc.) Also, can we officially ban the phrase “female-friendly?”

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
Most anticipated was clearly Momofuku, and while I’m sure it’s fashionable to call it overrated, especially as a transplant restaurant, I really enjoyed my one meal there, so I certainly won’t be complaining about it. But some other, notable rock star debuts included Convivial, Bad Saint, Maketto, Masseria and Peter Chang, all of which I’m thrilled to have in D.C.

In terms of disappointments — Fig & Olive is kind of an easy target, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right answer.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
If we’re sticking to D.C., bamboo fish at Peter Chang was my favorite dish of 2015. Beyond that, the items I still find myself thinking about are the ones that pleasantly surprised me, since they didn’t really sound like anything special on paper. I’m thinking spicy cucumbers at Momofuku, stir-fried vegetables at Maketto, the chicken palliard at Le Diplomate, pickles at DCity Smokehouse and brussels sprouts at the Yona pop-up.

I feel like I had more forgettable food items (or under seasoned) than horrific ones. But a piece of less-than-fresh mackerel sushi did make me gag this year (it probably didn’t help that I had it right after returning from Japan, where I had the most amazing sushi of my life).

Best food event of 2015?
In terms of vibe, Chefs for Equality (not to take away from the food there, which was terrific). But I’ve never had better food at an event than I did at The Source’s reopening party.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
A toss-up between Momofuku opening and Maketto finally opening. On a more broader scale, probably Shaw as a dining destination.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Both of the new concepts from the Daikaya team.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
A wider range of Japanese food items and less repetitive restaurant design. As for staying away, hmm. Uncomfortable and snooty coffee shops can stay in LA, thanks.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Some of this year’s favorites: SER, Brine, Maneki Neko, B-Side, Sushiko, Thip Khao, Daikaya, Convivial, Hank’s, Wiseguy, Crane & Turtle, Jack Rose.

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
I truly enjoy reading all my colleagues’ work. I’m a particular huge fan of food Wednesdays on Kojo. Shoutout to Borderstan for its comeback this year. Shoutout to Holley Simmons for being an underrated breaker of news. Love to the PoPville comments section forever and ever.

Tim Ebner – Food Writer

Eater DC, Washington City Paper, Edible DC and Thrillist

photo credit: Brent Combs

photo credit: Brent Combs

Best food trend in 2015?
Basque food. This year restaurants like SER, Nido, and pop-up dinners by Anxo (opening soon) put this culinary tradition in the spotlight. The cuisine offers toothpick snacks (Pintxos); hearty seafood options (Bacalao); and tasty ciders and wines (Txakoli). Basque food brings out the best of Spain, and it’s now available in D.C.

Worst food trend of 2015?
Sushi burritos. This is an assault on the art of sushi making. Please, make it stop.

Most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015?
Maketto probably had the most hype ever for a D.C. restaurant. That’s because they kept pushing back the opening! But, when the doors finally open, boy did it deliver. Erik Bruner-Yang and James Wozniuk are bringing the best of Southeast Asia to H Street. It’s also a new restaurant concept for D.C. A hybrid, marketplace, where you can enjoy a full meal, a drink at the bar, or a coffee and croissant on the balcony.

The one that didn’t quite live up?
Succotash.

Edward Lee had a lot of hype built up around his first restaurant outside Kentucky. National Harbor was a weird place for him to open, and while there are plenty of good dishes, like the dirty fried chicken, there are also some letdowns too, including the baby back ribs and shrimp and grits.

The best dish you ate in 2015?
It wasn’t in D.C. But, Danny Bowien and Angela Dimayuga’s shaved papaya salad at Mission Chinese in New York City was the best dish I ate in 2015. It reminded me of a much-talked-about dish at Rose’s Luxury: the pork lychee salad.

Just like that dish, the papaya salad takes many ingredients and combines them in perfect harmony. You get a peanut-citrus flavor on top of marinated chicken, green papaya, and banana blossoms (there are probably other ingredients that I’m forgetting too). But, what you won’t forget is how bright and tasty the dish is. And, just like the pork lychee salad, the server instructs you to get messy with the dish by mixing before eating.

The one you wish you hadn’t?
The fried chicken dinner at Momufuku CCDC. I was really excited to give this family-style, price-fix dinner a try, but the dish came out all wrong. Both the Old Bay fried chicken and the Korean fried chicken were way too salty. Our table was chugging water the whole time. Also, the side sauces and dishes of moo shu pancakes and a large bowl of leafy vegetables did not do anything to save this meal. Most of the menu at Momufuku is great, but this meal was a miss.

Best food event of 2015?
The Secret Monkey Social Club, hosted at Dolcezza, brought together the best D.C. has in jazz, cocktails, and food trucks.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
Shaw. So hot right now. But, seriously, this was the year of Shaw.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Pineapple and Pearls. Excited to see what Silverman has up his sleeve for 2016.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?
I’m always cheering for the little guy. So I hope more small businesses take the leap and decide to open restaurants in 2016. Also, I’m cheering for the off-the-beaten path neighborhoods. Feed them! They need and want great neighborhood dining.

What you hope stays away?
Steakhouses. The white collar, expense account culture of D.C. partly ruins restaurant creativity and diversity. Jessica Sidman and Tim Carman seem to keep asking the question: Whysteakhouses?

Favorite Chef?
Rob “Colgate” Sonderman. He’s D.C. born and bred original, and he’s giving us a reason to eat barbecue. Also, his latest bar and restaurant concept, Wicked Bloom Social Club, has some great talent working behind the bar and in the kitchen.

Favorite Restaurant?
I am 100% bias because I live in Bloomingdale, but it’s The Red Hen. New restaurants come and go, but consistency in food and service is what matters. Red Hen gets it.

Favorite Bar?
Copycat Co. Devin Gong’s bar program has been going strong since day one. Every time I visit, there’s a drink menu filled with challenging and complex, yet still approachable drinks (and they’re decently priced too).

Favorite Food Blog, Restaurant or Column?
Again, I’m bias because these two are my editors, but if there’s a byline by Missy Fredrick (Eater DC) or Jessica Sidman (Washington City Paper), I’m reading it.

Holley Simmons – Dining Editor at Washington Post

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
Best: I loved seeing veggies take center stage this year. And more eggs on things, please!

Worst: When will pork belly just go. away.

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
Most anticipated: Maketto. And that Cambodian chicken was worth the wait.

Didn’t quite live up: Is it terrible to say Milk Bar? The ice cream is killer, but some of those cookies left me wanting more.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Best dish: Basically anything from Sally’s Middle Name.

Wish I hadn’t: I went to a supper club where one of the courses was served in an ash tray.

Best food event of 2015?
The Bad Saint pop-up at Dolcezza. So many happy people genuinely excited to wait in line.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
God, that’s hard. This was the year that D.C. welcomed in bone broth, fancy toast, and a frigging CAT CAFE. But I’d have to say it was the news that Aaron Silverman was opening another restaurant.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
See previous answer.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
More breakfast spots, please. And steakhouses need not apply.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Alex McCoy. Genuine guy and great talent. Can’t wait to see all of his projects come to fruition. Favorite bar will always be Jimmy Valentine’s. You were expecting something new?

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
Just about anything by Tim Carman. And I’d read a three-page list of ingredients if Jessica Sidman wrote it.

Russell W. Warnick – Food Writer at DistrictBrit

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
I think the Nashville hot chicken made its mark on the city this year, with Due South and Maison-Dixon both showcasing the dish at a top of its menu, and now recently opened Crisp Kitchen + Bar. Not to mention Rose’s Luxury featuring it on the menu, it’s safe to say that the dish has made an impression across the city. I hope to see more of it in the coming year. I’m not sure if it’s a trend but more of a nuisance, I’d like to see people waiting in line for hours on end be a thing of the past, it’s unnecessary and a tad egotistical.

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
The most anticipated, let’s see… The Dabney, Maketto, or was it Momofuku, maybe it was Masseria, no, wait it was Convivial. I think it’s safe to say that the restaurant scene in DC keeps getting better and better as the months pass by. I’m hard pressed to think of one that I would call the best of 2015. Go dine at them all.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Perhaps not the best dish but certainly the one I was most surprised about, the roasted chicken at The Riggsby. I’m not one to order chicken at a restaurant (unless of course it’s fried) but this stood out, it’s perfectly cooked, skin is golden and crisp with the meat juicy and perfectly tender, accompanied by pearl onions and potatoes. I was disappointed in, dare I say it, the compost cookie at Milk Bar, incredibly sweet and not worth the wait.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
I’m excited for Espita Mezcaleria in Shaw to open its doors, rumor has it early January so not long to go.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
David Chang of Momofuku gave an incredible interview with Todd Kliman back in October, giving a few insights in what’s next for him amongst other things. If Chang comes through on his idea of a crumpet sandwich then that will make me very happy, and something I would love to see happen around the city. It’s a British tea-time snack, the closest thing to it in DC would be the tigelle at The Partisan. It’s simple at best, toasted and slathered in butter, but Chang gave other ideas such as a French dip sandwich, I’ll plant a seed for Chang: Welsh rarebit crumpet sandwich. The possibilities are endless. Make it happen!

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Questions that are asked all the time and I never have a consistent answer to, except when it comes to my favorite bar. Bar Pilar always impresses, far from new and unpretentious with a warm and inviting vibe, the bartenders know their shit and the food is top-notch and should inspire other restaurants across the city.

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
WCP’s Young & Hungry continues to be my go-to, Jessica Sidman and her team are doing great work. The cover stories are excellent and I enjoy picking up the actual paper to read them.

Laura Hayes – Freelance Food Writer, DC Writer for Thrillist

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
Best trend: Family-style dinners. Thank god these massive feasts have supplanted small plates. Some of my favorites: the hot pot dinner at The Source, the “beast feast” at Birch & Barley, and the whole lamb shoulder at Kapnos. This is how we eat in our homes, why shouldn’t we do it in restaurants.

Worst trend: The over-use of “home made,” “house made,” and “in-house” on menus. We as diners expect scratch cooking, especially at certain price points. If a restaurant isn’t making guacamole, fries, and salad dressing in house doesn’t that make them more of a grocery store not an eatery?

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
Best/most anticipated: Maketto (take that Momofuku). I can’t get enough of what Erik Bruner-Yang is doing at Maketto. The fried chicken is as comforting as coming home; the fiery mala colada is my favorite cocktail of 2015; and there’s no bad seat in the house. Going there transports you to wherever you want to be instead.

Didn’t quite live up: Oz. Was hoping for a koala holding station.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Best dish: The uni waffle at Yona from Chef Jonah Kim. He tops that bad boy with “ikura, caviar, taramasalata, accoutrements.” It’s a fishplosion I won’t soon forget. Jonah’s a badass.

The one I wish I hadn’t ordered: The halibut at Sally’s Middle Name. They served a 2.5oz portion of fish on a bread plate ladled with what seemed like canned tomato sauce. Wait for it…the dish cost $20.

Best food event of 2015?
Chefs for Equality. Every. Single. Year.  It has the elegance of the RAMMYs, above and beyond food and cocktails, sexy cakes, and best of all, a very important cause.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
Fig & Olive’s foodborne f*ck up. Jessica Sidman’s reporting for Washington City Paper was unrelenting in the best way possible because it revealed that the only thing worse than sickening diners is brushing it under the rug.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Hazel from Rob Rubba. The man knows his way around a duck and has a really impressive resume. Everything I’ve tried at pop-ups has been memorable, and he’s really passionate. So glad Neighborhood Restaurant Group gave him his own spot, and that it’s in Shaw.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
Please, no more “no reservations” restaurants.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Chef: Tarver King of The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Did I pick him last year? Shoot, I picked him last year but don’t care. The guy is a life ninja. He cooks, plates and sources food like no one and then has crazy hobbies like using burnt Virginia wine vines to draw charcoal drawings of Norse mythology.

Restaurant: Too much awesome happening in DC to name just one: Maketto, Osteria Morini, Baan Thai, Sushi Taro, and Bub & Pop’s.

Bar: Iron Gate. I can always find a wine I can’t pronounce to fall in love with; a strong cocktail to melt away a bad day; and killer “snacks” like the rabbit gemelli pasta. Plus, the setting can charm the pants of anyone whether you’re in the carriageway or the patio.

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
Love what every outlet brings to the scene be it snark, insight, breaking news, or bro voice.

Rina Rapuano – Writer at Zagat DC

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
The best: The return of reservations; the continuing trend of tiny restaurants; and the arrival of Filipino food. If I absolutely had to pick one of those, it would be tiny restaurants. Love ’em.

The worst: This is going to make me sound like an 80-year-old, but I would have to say sky-high prices and uncomfortable seating. (At least I’m not complaining about noise yet.)

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
Best opening: Maketto was definitely one of the most anticipated and one of the best. (And I’m still very excited about Kinship, which will hopefully open at the end of December.)

Disappointing opening: Milk Bar. I really don’t get the appeal of the cereal milk soft serve. The crack pie is great, though.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Best dish: This is soooo tough, but probably the burger at The Grill Room. Tied with the wonton soup or duck buns at The Source.

Wish I hadn’t: The carrot “soup” at Beefsteak. Get the beet burger or a Frida Kale salad, instead.

Best food event of 2015?
Chefs for Equality, hands down

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Buttercream Bakeshop, Hazel, Kyirisan, Metier, Bantam King — can’t pick one!

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
Wish for: I wish there were more restaurants like The Royal — counter service and reasonably priced but with outstanding food, cocktails and ambiance.

Stays away: New York writers who really, really don’t get the DC food scene.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
I can’t get enough of Crane & Turtle, The Royal and Mockingbird Hill.

Josh Novikoff – Food Writer DCist

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
Thoughtfulness in those dinner-kit delivery systems. Mark Bittman leaving his plush food writing gig at the New York Times to help stand up a vegan version of one is a pretty big deal. And there’s work going on to make the insulated packaging these companies use more sustainable. The delivery-kit services are sort of a ‘worst trend’ for me; I haven’t found them enticing enough to get me to try them. But Bittman’s got such a great perspective and direction I find inspiring.

The best dish you ate in 2015?
The crunchy, tender, sweet, spicy, Taiwanese fried chicken at Maketto is unreal, from the unexpected flavors, juicy white meat, and the hunks of bread you get to wipe the plate clean with.

Best food event of 2015?
I’ve never seen anything like the mammoth raw bar at The Source’s reopening party. Umpteen thousands worth of shellfish laid out. That’s before you even got upstairs to the dumplings, sushi, hot pot, grilled meats on the patio. That plus the entire chef community of DC out to party with Wolfgang Puck and his executive chef Scott Drewno. Those guys at the Newseum sure know how to throw a party.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
 The World Health Organization declaring processed meats a carcinogen and red meat probably carcinogenic.
What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
 Seoulspice, a Korean fast-casual joint coming into NoMa. Bibimbap and korritos (Korean burritos) and everything is gluten-free, which is crucial in my household. ShopHouse is by far our number one takeout solution with its bold Southeast Asian flavors and absence of the allergen. Thrilled to add to the rotation.
What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?
 I’d like to see more full-service fast causal. It’s an extension of the entrenched ‘Chipotlization’ trend switching out counter for waiter service. That’s the direction of Red, White & Basil, a new fresh pasta place in Adams Morgan. They have the low prices and menu customization that has helped the Rotis and &Pizzas of the world spread like wildfire. It’s a streamlined, affordable dining experience that’s a step up from sitting at Sweetgreen on a Saturday night and bussing your own tray. You may not make it out for $10, but under $20 is possible.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Chef: Barry Koslow, now at Pinea. Great food and really nice guy.

Restaurant: Baan Thai, which has made me pretty much abandon my neighborhood place.

Bar: Downstairs at Dino’s Grotto digging into the pickled vegetable antipasto jars.

Priya Konings – Food Writer at BYT

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
Best: Vegetables!! Vegetable-centric menus, vegetable inspired dishes, vegetarian tasting menus

Worst: Extremely small portions. It’s not enough that we have small plates, now we have small bites too. For $10!! I need more food for less money.  $7 for some nuts is insane.

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
There were several awesome openings in 2015!! Maketto, Centrolina, Nido & Massiera would be my top four. Purple Patch: So bad. So so bad. Also not impressed with the menus at Riggsby and Pennsylvania

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Best dish: I have to pick just one??? 2941 restaurant’s burrata ravioli was pretty epic. Masseria’s burrata appetizer was also unreal. (I love burrata, in case you can’t tell). The carrot funnel cake at 701 is so fun and I loved the leek buns at Maketto. There was also Yona’s veggie ramen, Nido’s sweet potato croquettes, butter ice cream at Del Campo and black truffle congee at Sushiko that blew my mind. All in all a good year for food.

Bad dish: Grilled cheese topped with a poached egg at Bidwell’s. The thought of that uncooked egg still gives me shivers. Noodles at Purple Patch that were brutally salty.

Best food event of 2015?
I love Oyamel’s Day of the Dead party! The Silk Road noodle pop-up by Water n Wall was pretty cool too.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
Probably the salmonella horror at Fig n Olive. Momofuko’s opening was also a big deal.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
The opening of Daisuke Utagawa’s new ramen shop in Shaw! Also the opening of Fare Well.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
I hope we stay veggie-centric. I’m over bad taquerias and Filipino food.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Favorite Chef is hard. I love chef Colin King at Oyamel. I think Chef Aaron Wright at Nido is super talented. And Chef Amy Brandwein makes some of the best food in town over at Centrolina.

Favorite restaurant is hard! Obelisk has had my heart for many years. More recently, I have had great meals Nido, Red Hen, Centrolina. Daiakya is a staple. Thip Khao is a great addition to the DC dining scene.

I like the fancy shit. Barmini. Harold Black. Masseria (shout out to Julien-Pierre Bourgon).

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
I am impartial to BYT, but also The Dining Traveler, Thrillist, DCist, Eater.

Maura Judkis – Food Writer for Washington Post

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The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
I love Miracle on 7th Street. I approach the holidays with the same level of enthusiasm as Buddy the Elf, so getting tipsy on hot chocolate in a snowman mug in a real-life version of Candyland is, to me, pretty much the greatest. It’s too bad the line is so long! Other than that, I was glad that Maketto finally happened after three years of anticipation.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
I can’t pick a favorite dish, but among my greatest culinary regrets of the year are the crumb steak (i.e. breaded chicken and plain lettuce and cucumbers) at Oz and the Thai Me Down cocktail at AG Kitchen (the name was troubling enough).
What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015
I cringed throughout the entire salmonella drama at Fig & Olive.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
I live in Mount Pleasant, so I’m selfishly really excited about Paisley Fig coming to the old Heller’s space. Other than that: I think Twisted Horn will be cool.

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
I’m very interested to see how the whole no-tipping trend plays out here. 

Mary Kong-De Vito – Founder of Girl Meets Food

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
As I predicted in 2013, Filipino food (live long and prosper!) / Something no one saw coming, bone broth (please die.)

The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up?
Unfortunately, Fig & Olive flew too close to the sun and well…you know the rest.

The best dish you ate in 2015?/ The one you wish you hadn’t?
Those chicken biscuits at Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. give me a lady boner.

Best food event of 2015?
I guess I’m supposed to say Capital Food Fight, but I thought the reopening of The Source was pretty spectacular.

What do you think was THE food story of the year in 2015?
Clearly, the opening of Momofuku and how everyone proceeded to lose their minds.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?
ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar. I love, love, love cider, but I think tapas are bullshit, relative to their cost, so I’m hoping these pintxos aren’t pint-sized as well!

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise?/ What you hope stays away?
Again, bone broth. Soup base is not food, especially when I’m being sold an overpriced “spice satchet.”

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Justin Bittner (that man can cook!). Maketto (pretty, oh-so-pretty). Mockingbird Hill (I’m hooked on sherry now.)

Favorite food blog, web site or column?
Why, yours, of course.

Logan Hollers – Food Writer at BYT

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The best food trend on 2015/The worst?
Best: A renewed focus on vegetables and produce, with a concurrent move away from huge slabs of meat. Listen, I grew up in South Dakota – we ate beef damn near every meal. That said, we can’t in good conscience continue to consume enormous quantities of mass-produced animal protein; there’s simply too much at stake: rising global temperatures due in part to excess methane emissions; a world population struggling to feed itself while 70% of U.S. grain production goes to feeding livestock; and the ever-increasing epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in America caused by a meat-heavy diet. It’s both welcome and refreshing to see chefs moving in a new direction; one unencumbered by the “slab of meat and a side” many of us are used to, but instead focused on local, seasonal produce. Vegetables can taste great in the right hands. We need to continue this momentum.

Worst: The continued prevalence of the “small plates” concept. Jose Andres set the bar with Jaleo, and small plates are the hot new thing. Listen, I get it – tapas are fun. There are benefits, of course: you get to try more dishes, you branch outside your comfort zone, and it makes for some great nights out with bigger groups of friends. But come on… Think of how we usually dine – if you’re like me, it’s uncommon to sit down in a party of three; two and four-tops are a restaurant’s wheelhouse. So how come nearly every small plate has three servings on it? And that’s if you’re lucky! Increasingly, I’ve found myself dining in DC with friends; we agree on a dish (after, of course, half an hour of horse-trading to keep everyone happy); it comes out; we dig in. Two chickpeas with some microgreens and a spoonful of corn broth later, I wonder: “Was this even worth it?” I love trying new things, but not at the expense of tasting the smallest bite of a broad swath of the menu. When I love a dish, I want to eat more of it; that’s increasingly harder to do if you’re out with more than one person. And don’t even get me started on the coursing component of small plate…suffice to say, be prepared to order in waves, or risk the rapid elimination of any table space you may have become accustomed to.


The most anticipated or best DC restaurant opening in 2015/The one that didn’t quite live up
?
Most anticipated: Momofuku and Maketto. I’ll be the first to admit I’m heavily biased on both these. Asian cuisine is my jam; my desert island list would absolutely include ramen, curry, Korean fried chicken, crudo, bao, on and on. My roommate is a sous chef at Momofuku. I’m cordial with Erik Bruner-Yang, and am always rooting for the dude to succeed. All that said, both of these restaurants have slayed. Daniel Boulud is a big name; Amy Brandwein, the same. But Momofuku’s place in CityCenter represents DC arriving on the national stage, food-wise. With restaurants all around the world, David Chang could’ve opened a Momofuku anywhere; choosing to come back home to DC for his next venture says a lot about the city’s food scene (as do the lines outside the restaurant on an average night). Similarly, Maketto was a breath of fresh air – a scene DC hadn’t really had before. Head over and tell me that the combination cafe, coffee shop, bakery, upscale clothing boutique, and bomb-ass Cambodian / Taiwanese eatery doesn’t remind you of a super hip spot in Brooklyn. That it’s a few blocks from my house certainly doesn’t hurt.

Didn’t live up: Mango Tree. It’s got the glitz. It’s got the glamour. It’s certainly got the location. But where’s the soul? I’m all for authentic Thai cuisine (see comments above), but not at this price point. And especially not when we have one of the top Northern Thai restaurants in the U.S. in Little Serow. It’s time to stop cooking “ethnic cuisine” for white people. Make it real. I wanted this to be better. Instead we got something more fit for Vegas.

The best dish you ate in 2015?

  • Fegatini (chicken liver mousse) at Ghibellina. This may very well be the best dish in DC. Creamy, rich, a little salinity from anchovies and capers, and a touch of offal-y minerality, this is an outstanding prelude to some of the best pizzas in DC. Also: it’s $6.
  • Pork chop at Room 11. Earlier this year, BYT covered Room 11’s sixth anniversary. The dish of the day (and one of the best things I ate all year) was a simply grilled pork chop with Tongue of Fire beans, red calaloo, sautéed squash, and pickled onions. Simple. Perfect. Too many chefs overcook pork, but when it’s done right, it’s sublime.
  • Hot & Numbing Crispy Quail at The Source. Alright, fine – the setting probably had something to do with this one. We were lucky enough to snag the two chefs-table seats; the quail, tossed in toasted cumin and Szechuan peppercorns and fried, was one of 16 courses served to us by Chef Scott Drewno, and the one that most sticks with me. Thankfully this one’s also on the regular dinner menu. I could eat this every day.
  • Brisket buns at Momofuku. Even though he hates to say it (seriously), David Chang blew up based mainly on his pork buns. They’re cheap, they’re delicious…they’re famous for a reason. Even better are the brisket version he’s pumping out at Momofuku DC. Braised brisket, horseradish, pickled red onion. That’s it. Well, that and a few squirts of his ssam sauce (natch). The sum is so much more than the disparate parts.

Best food event of 2015?
Taste of the Nation. The National Building Museum, easily one of the most beautiful spots in DC. Literally hundreds of bites from some of DC’s best chefs. Unlimited cocktails and beers. A hella dope bar sculpted entirely out of ice. Over $230,000 raised for the Capital Area Food Bank, D.C. Hunger Solutions, and Mary’s Center, each of which is an essential partner in the fight to end childhood hunger. And a damn good time. Easy choice.

What opening are you most looking forward to in 2016?

  • Kinship and Metier. Eric Ziebold is the man. He’s from the Midwest; he worked at Spago; he worked at the French Laundry and at Per Se. And he helmed the kitchen of one of DC’s best fine dining spots, CityZen, until it closed down in late 2014. Now, he’s ready with a new fine dining concept, set to open right beside the old Passenger location in Mt. Vernon. A day after I moved to DC, I celebrated by doing the tasting menu at CityZen; if this is anything close (spoiler alert: it will be), I’m 100% on board.
  • Bantam King. Ramen has boomed in DC(/the world). Thank god. In my humble opinion, Daikaya has the best noodles in town – firm, supple, and with the perfect kansui (that nice alkalinity that gives ramen noodles their color, flavor, and texture). Now, they’re set to open Bantam King, a new ramen-ya in Shaw specializing in chicken ramen and Japanese fried chicken. The lighter chintan broth is something we don’t see a lot in DC, and the Daikaya team’s recon trip to Japan earlier this year bodes well for the final product. Can’t wait.
  • Pineapple and Pearls. Chef/Owner Aaron Silverman struck gold with Rose’s Luxury; the combination of world-class food and a relaxed but professional service staff has justifiably led to its inclusion on numerous “Best Of” lists (including, of course, Bon Appetit magazine naming it 2014’s Best New Restaurant in America). Jumping on the mixed-use bandwagon, Pineapple and Pearls will be a coffeshop / cafe in the mornings, then will transfer over into a fine-dining, prix-fixe concept at night. Oh yeah, this one will also take reservations. Hallelujah!

What you wish for DC in 2016 food trend wise? / What you hope stays away?
I’d love to see a move toward more diverse ethnic cuisines available in the district itself, rather than way out in the suburbs. Does that make me sound like a Capitol Hill homebody? Yep. Do I still want amazing Vietnamese food without trekking out to Eden Center? Yep. Don’t get me wrong – some restaurants killed it this year on this front: Bad Saint and Thip Khao are both outstanding. But where’s our Israeli food? Malaysian / Indonesian? Sri Lankan, gluten-free, strictly vegetarian…all on the outskirts or few and far between. And yes, I know, trolls – there are *some* of these places in and around DC. Let’s make these diverse, and often little-known, cuisines more common.

Favorite Chef? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite Bar?
Favorite chef: Brad Walker, Boundary Road and ANXO. I live two blocks from Boundary Road. I still can’t believe how this place hasn’t gotten more love on the DC food scene. A commitment to local produce, farms, and ranches; a nose to tail mentality; and an amazing beverage program (I mean, ice wines? Awesome.). Chef Walker is always out and about on H, making sure he’s actually a part of the community he serves. I like that. Every Sunday night, a different cheesy movie goes up on a big screen in the restaurant. I like that, too. And now, even more people will get to know him, thanks to his new Truxton Circle venture, ANXO. With a menu focused on Basque cuisine (think Spanish / French) and cider, this place should slay in 2016.

Favorite restaurant: Red Hen. I have many “favorite” restaurants in DC, but Red Hen is always, without fail, the first place I recommend to friends and family that visit. Consistently great service, weird (but delicious) wines I’ve never heard of, and Italian-influenced American cuisine that’s just comfortable and accessible enough not to scare off the South Dakotans. Also, if you find someone that doesn’t love the rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu, tell them to GTFO.

Favorite bar: The Big Board. Cheers had it right all along – sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. Is it the nicest bar on H St.? Definitely not. Is it always my go-to when I want to grab a beer, a damn good burger, and see some familiar faces? Oh yeah. I love this bar.

Favorite food blog, web site or column?

  • Underserved. It seems like Laura Hayes is everywhere – Thrillist; Washington Post; Northern Virginia Magazine… But for me, her best work is highlighting some underordered cocktails around DC for Washington City Paper’s Young & Hungry blog. Want to know what the people who drink for a living drink? Read Underserved.
  • Don Rockwell. One of my favorite parts of DC is the incredibly robust food community. People here love to eat, and they know their stuff. If you think DC isn’t a player on the national scene, food-wise, check out some of the forums on DonRockwell.com. You’d be hard pressed to find a more passionate, knowledgeable base of foodies.
  • Brightest Young Things. Duh. I hear they have some really superb food writers.