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Unpacking NoVa Magazine's 50 Best Restaurants List

It's now online: Northern Virginia Magazine's 50 Best Restaurants list. This year, the roundup comes from a new author: dining critic Stefanie Gans, who took over for Warren Rojas almost a year ago, and has been eating her way through the state ever since.

On my travels to find 50 restaurants worthy of your dollars, I busted a tire, found myself smashed in the middle of a five-car pile-up on 66, typed notes on my iPad from coffee shops in Culpeper, Middleburg, Fredericksburg and Purcellville, succumbed to line dancing with a co-worker at Mahalo Cove after dinner at Mokomandy, ate two lunches and three dinners in nine hours, and planned a wedding. I am the food critic bride. (Great movie title, huh?)

Let's take a closer look at the restaurants Gans has rounded up for review.

What's New: 16 restaurants appear on the list that weren't there back in 2011. Here they are: The Curious Grape, Evening Star Cafe, Ford's Fish Shack, Girasole, Grandale, Green Pig Bistro, Magnolias at the Mill, Mala Tang, Meaza, Pizzeria Orso, Poppy Hill, Present, Ray's 3, Rice Paper, Society Fair, Vinifera

Who's out: That means, of course, that 16 restaurants from last year didn't make the cut. Those include: The Bavarian Chef, Bazin's On Church, Carlyle, Duangrat's, Eventide, Evo Bistro, Fire Works, Foti's, The Grille At Morrison House, Lebanese Taverna, Liberty Tavern, Lightfoot, Michel, Rangoli, Ray's the Steaks, Villa Mozart

The Top 5: The restaurants at the top of the list this year, in order: Restaurant Eve, Vermillion, The Ashby Inn, 2941, Brabo

Cliff's Notes: Gans notes a couple things to keep in mind when perusing the list, such as the fact that Vermillion's chef Anthony Chittum will only be around until January, and that Society Fair lost its chef right before the issue went to press.

Don't Miss These Dishes: Each review is accompanied by a dish that diners shouldn't pass up, including pork belly at Restaurant Eve, fried pig trotter sandwich at the Ashby Inn and short rib hot dogs at Lyon Hall.

Trendspotting: Gans makes note of a few trends she saw in NoVa restaurants along the way: dish towel napkins, menus made up of snacks, and microgreens everywhere.

Worth the Trek: The guide is helpful when planning road trips, as it singles out several restaurants in further flung locations, including Girasole in the Plains, Poppy Hill in Fredericksburg, Iron Bridge Wine Company in Warrenton and The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville.

Read the Whole Thing: Particularly if you want to know what makes a cucumber salad worth $6 or how fish can be made to taste like ribs.

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