After a week of reader voting, today we announce the winners of the annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past twelve months.
Here now are the people and the places — from a repurposed neighborhood bakery in Mount Pleasant that fuses global flavors on its dinner menu to a hearth-driven Middle Eastern haven found in an alley steps away from a bustling street in Northwest — that have taken the D.C. food world by storm. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Editor’s choice winners will receive a custom tomato can trophy — an Eater tradition — in the mail and will get the feature treatment from Eater in the coming year.
For last year’s winners, go here.
Restaurant of the Year
Rare is the jack of all trades that masters them all, but that’s exactly what Ellē does. Depending on a customer’s needs, the Mount Pleasant venue seamlessly pivots from bakery to coffee shop to take-out window to bar to far-out dinner spot. Nick Pimentel, an owner at Bad Saint and Room 11, and Lizzy Evelyn — whose Paisley Fig bakery runs a wholesale business out of Ellē — have smartly stockpiled talent. Chef Brad Deboy steers a kitchen that dispenses American comfort food like a house-smoked brisket sandwich by day, then gets more experimental after sunset. The grilled kimchi toast, featuring a thick slice of country loaf from head bread baker Dan Fogg, is a revelation. Combining fermented Korean cabbage and a sausage XO sauce with cooling, creamy labneh is a blissfully unorthodox marriage. Pastry chef Alison O’Brien’s work commands attention at all hours, waking up sleepwalking breakfast goers with super-buttery guava turnovers and sending them to bed talking about the goat cheese cheesecake. A take-out window alternately offers meatball subs, fried chicken, and soft-serve to-go. Named in part as a tribute to Evelyn’s grandmother and in part as a wise use of four middle letters in the old Heller’s Bakery sign out front, Ellē exudes soul all day long.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Kith and Kin
Chef of the Year
Tasked with lending a local perspective to an established Brooklyn brand, Marjorie Meek-Bradley pulled off a major feat. At the St. Anselm tavern that opened in Northeast D.C. in September, Meek-Bradley has flipped the stuffy D.C. steakhouse stereotype on its head, deploying a fun, fresh menu full of salads and sides that draw attention away from a full complement of animal proteins. Her grilled winter squash salad with hazelnuts and beets sounds simple enough, but a precise injection of grapefruit purée whisks its to a higher place. Dusting crispy beef fat potatoes and Parmesan with lemon zest makes the steakhouse side taste like a light tuber salad. Handpicked by heavyweight restaurateur Stephen Starr (Le Diplomate) and St. Anselm New York founder Joe Carroll, Meek-Bradley draws from a deep well of experience in D.C. She had led kitchens at the now-shuttered Ripple in Cleveland Park and at Roofer’s Union before striking out in 2016 to start up her pastrami-centered passion project, Smoked at Stacked in Shaw (she retains a stake). The Top Chef finalist has also cooked at Zaytinya and Graffiato.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Tae Strain (Momofuku CCDC)
Design of the Year
White oak logs crackle in the middle of Maydan, fueling a roaring open fire that serves as the focal point of the North African and Middle Eastern hideaway just steps away from the bustling U Street NW corridor. Commissioning and building the two-story fire pit is a massive accomplishment for owner Rose Previte, who could not get the city to approve such a project at her first restaurant, Compass Rose. Previte enlisted Martina Crivella, a Brooklyn-based artist and designer, and Michelle Bove of designCASE to help her create the welcoming feeling throughout the restaurant named for a word that means “town square.” The teal, round-topped wooden door at the end of an alley on Florida Avenue NW is a portal to a transportive space that starts with a dim, narrow entryway and opens up to the site of flames flanked by tables and a bar. Stairs lead up to another dining area on the perimeter of the second story, allowing diners to steal glances at the heat source responsible for cooking flatbread in Georgian ovens and roasting whole chickens, lamb shoulders, and ribeyes. After former Eater roving critic Bill Addison reviewed Maydan in May, he picked it as one of the 18 best new restaurants in America.
Design of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Mi Vida
Dining Neighborhood of the Year
When Brothers and Sisters opened in the final days of 2017, the lobby-level restaurant in the Line hotel did more than just give D.C. a place to eat octopus hot dogs. The first of two Erik Bruner-Yang restaurants in the converted church on Euclid Street NW announced Adams Morgan as a destination for some of the city’s most creative cooking. The Line subsequently added A Rake’s Progress, the first D.C. restaurant from James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Spike Gjerde, and Spoken English, Bruner-Yang’s standing-room-only Asian Grill. That trio of restaurants furthered the maturation of a neighborhood known to attract rowdy, inebriated college students. Tail Up Goat, a former Eater Award winner nearby, just rolled out its first brunch service. Down on the main drag on 18th Street NW, the Green Zone opened with Lebanese street food and Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails. Essential Ethiopian restaurant Zenebech enjoyed a comeback after a fire forced a months-long closure. Barbecue stalwart Federalist Pig was recognized by Texas Monthly before getting a shoutout for its pork ribs on Netflix’s House of Cards.
Dining Neighborhood of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Shaw
Brunch of the Year
The merits of pizza for breakfast are undeniable. Now hot brunch pizzas pulled from the New Jersey daydreams of longtime D.C. chef Mike Friedman have become equally indispensable. An offshoot of the first All-Purpose in Shaw, the Capitol Riverfront location opened on the banks of the Anacostia River near Nationals Park in the spring and began serving a dedicated brunch menu that found ways to fit farm eggs into the lineup of old-school pies. Bottomless cocktails, a must for an official D.C. brunch, and specialties such as Sicilian disco fires and warm polenta muffins grabbed customers’ attention. Although AP’s Shaw location doesn’t have a brunch menu, a lunch-only Meadowlands pizza brimming with Buffalo chicken is reason enough to go there midday and call it whatever meal you want.
Brunch of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: The Smith