A cross between a gastropub and a chic art bar, Black Bottle has stayed hot for three years by keeping things simple. The narrow space doesn’t contain much apart from wooden tables and chairs, a bit of exposed brick, and a few exposed bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The tapas-style menu takes a few more chances—Thai staples like laab gai (a spicy chicken salad) and Korean dishes like pork belly with kimchi are some of the unusual choices—but many plates remain recognizable (steamed clams, flatbreads with various toppings, cumin-rubbed pork tenderloin), and everything is reasonably priced (nothing over $11). The wine list is great, with a well-edited selection of Washington reds to sample. Though the place can get crowded and even loud, it’s mercifully free of the meat-market vibe that plagues the rest of the neighborhood.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.