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Dining Experts Name Their Restaurant Standbys

Where did the pros find themselves returning to again and again this year?

Donburi.
Donburi.
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As per tradition, we've asked a group of journalists, bloggers and friends of Eater to weigh in on the year in food. First up, experts share their restaurant standbys during 2014.

Michael Birchenall, editor of Food Service Monthly: Casa Luca ... for me it was the year of what might be called comfort food. I guess I forgot to follow the "trends" but Casa Luca is solid from front of the house to the kitchen. What's nice is that it doesn't require the Trabocchi presence to make the experience special. Erin Clarke is quietly making a name for herself running the kitchen for Fabio.

Svetlana Legetic, Brightest Young Things founder: Ghibellina for Happy Hour, Le Diplomate for out-of-towners, Bombay Club for any occasion I could think of, Compass Rose, El Chucho, Duke's Grocery, Hank's and Saint-ex for ongoing hanging out. I also live on 16th and Q and am apparently pretty lazy.

Nevin Martell, freelance food writer: I will always feel like I'm spending some time in my happy place when I have a chance to enjoy a meal at Rose's Luxury, cocktails and indulgent small bites at Barmini, breakfast sandwiches at Red Apron in Penn Quarter, brunch at Ovvio Osteria, breakfast or lunch at Red Truck Bakery, a quick bite at Cava Grill, ramen at Toki Underground or a sandwich at G. Also, any opportunity I have to eat desserts made by Eva Stafford (Food, Wine & Co.), Beverly Bates (Vidalia), Ashley Soto (Farmers Fishers Bakers, Founding Farmers), Alex Levin (Osteria Morini) and Naomi Gallego (Blue Duck Tavern).

Holley Simmons, Washington Post Express Dining Editor: Mintwood Place can do no wrong in my eyes. Whenever someone asks for a recommendation to take their parents or celebrate a birthday/anniversary/kitten graduation, etc., I try to steer them there because it works for every occasion. Daikaya's izakaya is my go-to place for out of towners, because there is nothing like it anywhere else.

I think Menomale's pizza is some of the best in the city, and it just keeps getting better.

And I fell in love with Donburi this year. The menu is small but everything on it is amazing and the price is right. I just wish they could work out some of the service kinks. Instead of a kitchen, sometimes it can feel more like a food auction. "Karaage!? Who ordered the karaage?! Sold to the hungry lady in the glasses."

Jeff Dufour, editor of UrbanDaddy: Pearl Dive, Range, Tico

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: If I wasn't chasing new restaurants all the time, I'd be inclined to hang out more at Iron Gate, Ocopa, Chez Billy Sud, Toki Underground and Rasika.

Alicia Mazzara, DCist dining editor: Red Apron, Donburi, Bar Pilar, Bar Charley, Le Diplomate, Sakuramen.

Stefanie Gans, food critic for Northern Virginia Magazine: I love the fun, funky food and casual vibes at Mokomandy in Sterling and Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna.

Jessica Sidman, Washington City Paper food editor: Bar Pilar doesn't get enough credit anymore, but honestly, it's better than it's ever been. I love the banh mi with coconut milk shoulder and pho dip, and happy hour is a steal for 14th Street. Donburi is also one of my go-tos; I always splurge for the barbecued eel bowl. I'm also obsessed with Cava Mezze Grill for a casual meal.

Michael Martinez, producer of The Kojo Nnamdi Show: I work down the street from a Pho 14 on Connecticut Avenue. They get a lot of business from their public radio neighbors at WAMU. It's remarkably consistent. It's delicious. It's affordable. And I can't say enough good things about it.

Kate Gibbs, Destination DC: Looking back, I eat like Max Fisher: Annie's for weekend breakfast (Alfred is the best waiter in town); Etto for cocktails and pizza;  Red Apron's ficelle sandwich with salami, or tigelles; Taqueria Nacional on S Street, Cava Grill for grab and go lunch; Mintwood for dates, Quill for celebrations.

Maura Judkis, Going Out Guide: Compass Rose is one of my favorite neighborhood spots — it makes me happy to see a first-timer can thrive on 14th Street, where everything is starting to feel rather moneyed and corporate. I never say no to Daikaya. I adore Donburi.

Rina Rapuano, Zagat DC: Crane & Turtle, Daikaya, Blue Duck Tavern, Kapnos.

Carole Sugarman, food critic for Bethesda Magazine: Terasol, Blue 44, Sub*Urban Trading, Himalayan Heritage, Old Angler's Inn, Jaleo Bethesda

David Nellis, "Foodie & the Beast": Birch & Barley, Proof, The Source, Red Hen, 5 Guys

-Birch & Barley for the reliably awesome, comfort foods and all the brews.

-Proof for Haidar's cooking  - especially the sablefish

-The Source for dim sum,  pork belly dumplings and sucking pig (even though I've tried to swear off pork - Drewno's cooking is like a drug

-Red Hen - Name it - plus, along with Iron Gate, it's DC's coziest restaurant!

-5 Guys - Burgers the size of tasty softballs and a bag ‘o fries that never quits

Rebecca Cooper, hospitality reporter for The Washington Business Journal: Heavy Seas Ale House took a lot of my money when it opened in my neighborhood. Galaxy Hut continues to be the place where I always want to meet for drinks in Clarendon. Boqueria is a go-to for everything from a large group dinner to a bottomless brunch to post-event snacks. They just always get it right. Rasika West End has also been a regular spot.

Tim Carman, Washington Post food writer and $20 Diner columnist: This is a tough question. I explore the region almost daily for The $20 Diner, but if I have a free day and don't want to spend it at my favorite bar (The Classics, where Nick and Elliott know how to take care of regulars), I often dream about places such as Donburi or Passage to India (still one of the best subcontinental restaurants) or DCity Smokehouse or Rose's Luxury or Red Hen or Taqueria Habanero now. I don't often visit them, but I dream about them.

Eun Yang, NBC4 anchor: My standbys are 2 Amys and Mintwood Place. Same as last year.

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