Food & Drink
Best Restaurant (TIE)
Like so many of our area’s top toques, The Liberty Tavern’s executive chef Liam LaCivita believes that quality cooking starts with quality ingredients. He buys from local farms and oversees a team that makes pasta, bread, sausages and desserts (including ice cream) in-house. This attention to detail has kept Liberty consistently buzzing with happy diners since its opening in spring 2007. “We continue to work on sourcing. That’s the cost of entry for a serious restaurant,” says co-owner Stephen Fedorchak, who, with his brother Mark and fellow partner Brian Normile, also owns Lyon Hall and Northside Social.
Housed in a former Masonic lodge overlooking one end of Clarendon Central Park, the restaurant has a casual, unfussy atmosphere, with dark wood décor. Notable guests include President Barack Obama, who dined here with campaign supporters in the fall of 2011. Although best-known for his rustic, Italian-influenced cooking, LaCivita has recently dotted the menu with a few Southern-inspired dishes, including peanut soup, pork with fried green tomatoes, and scallops paired with cornmeal johnnycakes.
Pastry chef Bridie McCulla gathers raves for her bittersweet chocolate mousse cake. –W.N.
3195 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-465-9360, thelibertytavern.com
Best Restaurant (TIE)
Tracy O’Grady and Kate Jansen have been known to whip up tasty samplers, ranging from asparagus crepes with ricotta mousse to homemade doughnuts, at local street fairs and farmers markets. But to savor the full force of this culinary duo’s talents, it’s worth a visit to Willow, where O’Grady, who previously ran the kitchen at the erstwhile Kinkead’s in D.C., serves as executive chef; and Jansen, a co-founder of Firehook Bakery, is head pastry chef. Their European-styled, white-table-cloth dining room opened eight years ago and appeals to a varied clientele, from young couples on dates to the business expense-account crowd.
Two of the most-requested items on the “modern continental” dinner menu are O’Grady’s crisp, rice paper-wrapped crab cakes and Jansen’s “Almond Joy” chocolate layer cake. Beverage director Chris Cunningham pours 21 wines by the glass and changes the selections weekly. The bar area—which the owners have separately branded as Nosh—has its own extensive menu of sliders, flatbreads and artful small plates.
“I’m in love with the Nosh menu, getting as much or as little as I like, trying different things and sharing with my husband or gal pals,” says Susan Jung, a retired IT professional, who lives in Waverly Hills. “They are inexpensive and I’m on a budget,” she says. “That appeals to me.” –W.N.
4301 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, 703-465-8800, www.willowva.com
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