From: On Tap, By Jean Schindler
On the DC restaurant scene, 2015 was the Year of Hype. Celebrity chefs! Crowdfunding! Glamorous dining rooms! In some cases, the hype was undercut with food poisoning. In others, the wild excess of expectations made perfectly good restaurants seem like let-downs. Only a few weathered the storms of confetti and hysteria to emerge with their dignity entirely intact.
When the confetti cleared, the biggest trend of the year wasn’t even edible – it was crowdfunding. Whether to launch a concept or bolster a rapidly shrinking construction budget, restauranteurs turned en masse to small investors to get the show on the road.
In fact, none of the most interesting restaurant trends in 2015 is about food. Everyone knows veg are trendy. Everyone knows kimchi is hot. But what about the remarkably transformative effects of a good restaurant? Whether it was Nido putting still-underserved Woodbridge on the map, or Earls Kitchen + Bar redefining our expectations about chains, restaurants transcended their fork-to-mouth influence and solidified their status as economic engines, aesthetic tastemakers, and culture shifters.
And finally, 2015 was a year of angles – everyone had their take on a niche detail. Whether it was making vermouth in-house, or identifying a menu of regionally-sourced recipes, DC’s restaurateurs took their creativity down into the details.
Of course ultimately, the question this column wants to answer is this: If you strip away the hype, the crowdfunding excitement, the economic potential, the funny homemade liquor on tap – would you still eat at a white-hot restaurant? If no one had ever tweeted about it, if no one ever instagrammed it, and you didn’t know the mixologist’s name – would you still drink at a trendy bar?
Stripping out those tantalizing nothings, this is my very subjective list – in alphabetical order – of DC’s best openings of 2015.