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Here Are Washington, D.C.’s Michelin Stars for 2019

The Inn at Little Washington becomes the D.C. area’s first three-Michelin-starred restaurant

Patrick O’Connell, chef at The Inn at Little Washington
Patrick O’Connell, chef at The Inn at Little Washington
R. Lopez

The larger Washington, D.C., area can finally boast of a culinary status symbol held by Chicago, San Francisco, and New York: the presence of a three-Michelin-starred restaurant. The Red Guide’s famously anonymous inspectors have awarded the 40-year-old the Inn at Little Washington with its highest accolade, signifying “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”

Chef Patrick O’Connell’s chateau-style venue offers guests lodging — for $650-$1400 per night — in what the restaurant website describes as one of the country’s “last unspoiled colonial communities.” The location is Washington, Virginia, a rural town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Unless you have Sprint as your provider, you will not have a cell phone signal,” according to the Inn.

For Michelin’s first two guides in D.C., the Inn’s rating stayed steady at two stars. But that’s changed in the past year.

“We saw great improvement, from our perspective,” says outgoing Michelin Guide director Michael Ellis. “[O’Connell’s] ability to interpret classic French dishes in a modern way is amazing.”

The Inn has amassed a huge D.C. clientele over its 40-year run, with some 80 percent of its customers making the 90-minute drive from D.C. for O’Connell’s cooking, according to Ellis.

This also means that the nation’s capital still technically lacks a three-starred restaurant. And for a third straight year, every single Michelin-starred head chef in D.C. is a man. With the exception of Sushi Taro, the list remains exclusively European and American in focus, with none of the capital’s excellent Ethiopian, Filipino, Laotian, or Middle Eastern venues having been deemed worthy of a star.

Minibar by Jose Andres and Pineapple & Pearls by Aaron Silverman both retained their two-star status, while two restaurants were elevated to one star: Ryan Ratino’s bistronomie-focused Bresca, and Robert Wiedmaier’s seafood-centric spot in Logan Circle, Siren. Two stars mean “excellent cooking, worth a detour,” while one star means “high quality cooking, worth a stop.”

There are just over 120 restaurants worldwide with three stars. The San Francisco Bay area currently leads the U.S. count with seven, followed by five in New York and one in Chicago and D.C.

Here are some observations about this year’s list, followed by the full list itself:

  • One of the Year’s Best New Restaurants? Maydan was perhaps the most high-profile new restaurant to be overlooked by the starred selections. Rose Previte’s eclectic fire-focused restaurant, which tips its hat to the cuisines of Lebanon, Iran, Morocco, and the Caucuses, was named one of the year’s best new restaurants by both Eater’s Bill Addison and Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton. But Michelin only awarded it a “Bib Gourmand,” signifying a venue that offers “excellent food at a reasonable price.”
  • “I think they were certainly close to a star,” Ellis said of Maydan. He added that cooking with fire is “quite difficult,” and that there were “some inconsistencies.” Ellis said Michelin would “follow them closely.”
  • Southeast Asia Snubbed Again: Tom Cunanan’s Filipino Bad Saint, as well as Seng Luangrath’s Laotian Thip Khao, were both snubbed from the starred selections for yet another year, having been relegated to the Bib Gourmands — Michelin’s list of more affordable restaurants that “offer excellent food at a reasonable price.” Ellis notes that D.C. had a record amount of Bib Gourmand additions this year, nearly doubling its count from 22 to 39 inclusions.
  • Here’s Ellis, on Little Washington: “When we first had the idea of the D.C. guide, we had some internal discussions on how far it would go,” geographically, that is. He added that he was able to “convince the team” to include Little Washington. Ellis also said that Michelin had “a number of discussions” of what inspectors found at the restaurant over the years, and that O’Connell took that feedback “to heart.”
  • The Long Tasting-Menu Dilemma: When asked about Minibar, Ellis spoke about the “challenge of small-bite tasting menu,” noting that “everything has to be at a three-star level” for restaurants of that caliber. Venues whose courses constitute one or two bites present a “unique challenge” when compared to a venue serving shorter menus. He cited, however, the example of Pierre Gagnaire as a risk-taking chef who has been able to keep three stars even while doing things that “quite simply don’t work.”
  • Marcel’s Was Also Considered: Ellis notes that while Marcel’s — Robert Wiedmaier’s nearly 20-year-old, Rammy Award-winning restaurant — has been a “pillar” in the French fine dining community (and “there has always been expectation” it would get a star), it was Wiedmaier’s newest restaurant that stuck out as being star-worthy this year. Ellis hails the “perfection and preparation” of the seafood, “freshness and quality” of the product, and masterful cooking techniques at Siren, which opened inside the Darcy Hotel over a year ago with a caviar bar. Ellis calls Weidmaier an “extremely gifted chef.”
  • On Prices: Michelin’s top restaurants remain some of the D.C. area’s most expensive options. Little Washington runs $228-$238 before tax and tip; Minibar is $275; Pineapple & Pearls is $325, all inclusive (with beverages).

Michelin Washington D.C.’s 2019 Starred Selections

Three Stars

Two Stars

One Star