Like Washington itself, Vidalia serves up sophisticated city flavors colored by a slight but unmistakable Southern accent. Long lauded as an oenophile's mecca, the restaurant now wins high praise from foodies too, for fancified down-home favorites like gorgeously lumpy crab cakes, five-onion soup with pheasant boudin blanc, and the signature dish of wild-caught shrimp on a mound of creamy, steamy grits. Downstairs from bustling M Street, the high-powered dining room is spacious and hushed, its subterranean location largely irrelevant thanks to warm yellow walls and well-planned lighting. Watch out for buttery cornbread and focaccia served with sweet onion marmalade before the meal; they may well spoil your appetite.
Tip: Reasonably priced tasting menus, uncommon in Washington, provide lots of variety in restrained portions, and at dinner, they're paired with recommendations from Vidalia's famed wine cellar.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.