The best everything of 2013

December 24, 2013

Just when you’re tempted to remark on how quickly 2013 seemed to fly by, remember: All that inauguration stuff was earlier this year, though it seems like an administration-and-a-half-ago by now. We sifted through 52 issues of Weekend and more than 1,500 Going Out Guide Blog posts (Jan. 2, 2013: “Cause offers ‘RG3 Dollar’ drinks for Sunday’s Redskins playoff game.” Sigh.) to pick some of our favorite items from the very long year that was.

Best new restaurant on 14th Street
Nine months in, Le Diplomate remains one of the most sought-after reservations in the city. Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr spent $6.5 million converting a former dry-cleaning site into a nearly 300-seat French bistro, and none of the dozen or so restaurants that have opened in the neighborhood since have surpassed it in flavor or charm. — Maura Judkis

Best new restaurant not on 14th Street
Rose’s Luxury is the kind of place where you eat with your mind, not just your mouth. Chef Aaron Silverman’s inventive dishes inevitably will teach you something about food that you’ve never had a chance to experience elsewhere. Take the flavors in the pork lychee salad, an ungodly good combination of creamy, sweet, spicy and savory. Rose’s Luxury provides an attention to detail that is impeccable, from the artfully mismatched china to the inclusion of mint chocolate meringues presented with the check, a stylish way to end a meal. — M.J.

Dacha Beer Garden
(Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Best new mural
A 50-foot portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Byron Peck, the artist who painted the famous (but currently mothballed) Duke Ellington mural above U Street. The Taylor mural overlooks the new Dacha Beer Garden in Shaw, which will reopen in the spring. — Alex Baldinger

Artiest cocktail menu
Adam Bernbach’s cocktails at 2 Birds 1 Stone are works of art; so too are the cocktail menus, which Bernbach spends hours illustrating each week. You might get so engrossed in the drawings that you forget which drink you want to order. — Fritz Hahn

Best new jukebox
Paul Vivari — a.k.a. DJ Soul Call Paul — lovingly curated the 100 CDs that fill the jukebox in his Bloomingdale dive bar, Showtime. From Duke Ellington’s “Anatomy of a Murder” to rare D.C. R&B cuts by Link Wray, it’s the perfect soundtrack to a night out. Even better: It’s free. — F.H.

Best concert
Kanye West’s brilliant new album, “Yeezus,” was an aggressive purge of sound and fury that took huge risks and obliterated expectations. Ambivalence was not an option. And when West arrived at Verizon Center on Nov. 21, those brash new songs sounded as if they were specifically designed to scorch everything between the stage and the cheap seats. This was stadium hip-hop — an assault on the ears and the eyes. The stage was shaped like a giant volcano. A circular video screen hung from the ceiling like a hole in the sky. There was a cameo from a man dressed as Jesus Christ. The most baffling sight: Dozens of empty seats on the 400 level. Next time West comes to town, don’t miss out. — Chris Richards

Weirdest concert
Nineties grunge heroes Soundgarden playing “Rusty Cage” for President Obama at January’s official inaugural ball. It happened. “It was totally crazy, and we were totally fish out of water in terms of the kind of music we play,” Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell told The Post in November. — A.B.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. Dec. 20: The Torta Bamba at Taco Bamba in Falls Church is the most intimidating sandwich of 2013.
FALLS CHURCH, Va. Dec. 20: The Torta Bamba at Taco Bamba in Falls Church is the most intimidating sandwich of 2013.

Most intimidating sandwich
The Torta Bamba at Victor Albisu’s Taco Bamba, which opened in June. It’s loaded with ham, hot dogs, carne asada, chorizo, Oaxaca cheese, breaded chicken and beef milanesa, pineapple and mayo. That’s one $14 sandwich. — A.B.

Best new ice-rink-as-think piece
Mia Feuer’s “Rink” isn’t ice, and the black synethic surface, which evokes the crude oil that inspired Feuer’s “An Unkindness” exhibition at the Corcoran through Feb. 24, isn’t cold. Nevertheless, you can skate on it, one skater at a time. “Maybe it’s like the Winnipeg version of going for a walk,” the Canadian-born Feuer said, explaining why she chose to have the 16-by-27-foot rink assembled in the gallery’s rotunda. Free with museum admission, $8-$10. — A.B.


Mia Feuer, "An Unkindness." (Paul Bothwell)

Best comeback
Graffiti artist Danny Hogg, a.k.a. Cool “Disco” Dan, whose iconic tags faded into folklore as the city was scrubbed by gentrification. Dan came back in a big way in 2013 with filmmaker Roger Gastman’s documentary “The Legend of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan,” a companion to the Corcoran’s “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s” exhibition, which included some of Cool “Disco” Dan’s work. — M.J.

Best meal for less than $20
Panda Gourmet, on the ground floor of a Days Inn along New York Avenue NE. Since opening in February, the speciality here has been the spicy, numbing ma la cooking from China’s Sichuan and Shaanxi cuisines, infused with a chili oil of exquisite complexity. Some dishes, including the Dan Dan noodles, are almost too pretty to eat. — Tim Carman

Best couch that costs more than a car
Barmini’s cactus couch looks spiny, like a barrel cactus, but it’s (obviously) soft. And texture-wise, it looks like it would be squishy like a beanbag chair, but it’s actually quite firm. It was designed by Italian designer Cerruti Baleri and can be yours for the low, low price of $29,000. But it’s free to sit on when you settle in with a drink at Barmini. — M.J.


(Maura Judkis/The Post)

Most interesting cocktail ingredient
Smoke. At Del Campo, the Limonada Sucia features charred fruit, which adds a full, savory flavor to the vodka cocktail. For Bar Charley’s Stepdad cocktail, bartenders attack a plank of cedar wood with butane torches, capture the pleasing smoky scent in the glass and then add cognac, pipe tobacco bitters and a cube of frozen black tea. — F.H.

Best takeover
Seth Hurwitz’s I.M.P. began booking shows at U Street’s historic Lincoln Theatre in September, giving the underused venue its most steady work in years. Unanswered for 2014: How the Lincoln will differentiate itself among the city’s other midsize, theatre-style venues, including the nearby Howard Theatre and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. — A.B.

Best pop-up
No backyard? No problem, thanks to Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue at the National Building Museum, which brought Texas-style smoked meats, frozen margaritas and a soundtrack of live roots and bluegrass to the museum’s lawn all summer. Condo dwellers everywhere are hoping for a return in 2014. — A.B.


(Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Post)

Best reason to hang out outside Union Market
Suburbia, a bar made from a vintage Airstream trailer, which sat in the market’s parking lot last summer. Bartenders poured boozy frozen drinks while customers played cornhole or relaxed on Adirondack chairs. Founder Gina Chersevani says Suburbia will return in the spring. — F.H.

Best reason to hang out inside Union Market
Toki Underground’s pop-up, which will serve “street food breakfasts,” such as Chinese doughnuts, bao buns and Cambodian noodle soup, in the morning Tuesday through Saturday, through January. — F.H.

Best reason to go to a bar on Tuesday
Weekend crowds at Bluejacket are enough to drive a person to drink, except he or she might give up before reaching the bartender. Try the Navy Yard bar early in the week and have your pick of barstools, communal tables and booths, not to mention 25 house-made beers. — F.H.


(Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Best Cockneyjacking
Duke’s Grocery
, which boasts of “bringing East London to East Dupont.” No one will compare Duke’s salt beef to Brick Lane’s famous Beigel Bake, but the sandwiches — sorry, sarnies — at Duke’s are well ahead of most competitors. — F.H.

Best Broadway tryout
If/Then,” which attracted “Wicked” fans in droves with star Idina Menzel. The complicated musical follows its star through dual plotlines to explore how one choice can lead a person down entirely different paths in life. “Charming and ungainly” as it was in the words of Post theater critic Peter Marks, the play debuts March 5 in New York.
"The Velocity of Autumn,” Eric Coble’s two-character play about an elderly woman willing to take drastic measures to maintain her personal independence, opens April 21 in New York after a September-October run at Arena Stage. — M.J.

Best utensils (tie)
Pizza scissors
at Ghibellina. The restaurant serves its pizzas uncut because, like a good cut of meat, they need a few minutes to rest after coming out of the oven. But try cutting a heavily topped pizza with a serrated knife and there’s a good chance some of those toppings end up all over the table. Shortly after opening, Ghibellina added easy to use pizza shears to help diners cut the perfect slice.
The Chork at Newton’s Noodles. Can’t decide whether you want to use chopsticks or a fork? Now you don’t have to. — M.J.


(Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

Best reason to go to the movies
The plush recliners at AMC Courthouse in Arlington, which are more comfortable than anything in your living room. The theater, along with Landmark’s renovated Bethesda Row Cinema, began issuing reserved seating tickets, which means no more showing up 30 minutes early to secure your spot.  — A.B.

Best reason to avoid movie theaters
Video on demand
. With the sudden ubiquity of home media devices like Roku, Apple TV and Google’s $35 Chromecast, Post critics began reviewing the Internet’s treasure trove of offerings in 2013. Quantity doesn’t always mean quality in the VOD world, but some highlights you can watch right now include “Medora” (Amazon Instant, iTunes), “Gayby” (Amazon Instant, Netflix, iTunes) and “Almost in Love” (Amazon Instant, iTunes). — A.B.

Lamest invasion
Cicadas
, the bandied-about threat of which inspired more cicada-related specialty drinks and food recipes than actual locust sightings inside the Beltway. Maybe we’ll have better luck when Brood X returns in 2021. — A.B.

Cutest invasion
The 100-or-so “eco-goats” that helped spruce up Congressional Cemetery in August by gnawing away like hairy lawnmowers at vines, bushes and other invasive species. Thank a goat next time you walk your dog through the cemetery. — A.B.


(Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Most overused fancy word for restaurant
Osteria
. The Italian term for a casual, homey eatery was deployed at least four times in 2013 — and there might be a fifth before the new year:
• March: Enzo Fargione simplifies the menu at Elisir and renames it Osteria Elisir.
• June:
Osteria Marzano opens in Alexandria.
• August:
Ovvio Osteria opens in Vienna.
• November:
Osteria Morini, from New York chef Michael White, opens near the Navy Yard.
• December:
Alba Osteria, from longtime D.C. chef Roberto Donna, is expected to open Dec. 30.  — M.J.

Best de(con)struction of a topic
Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950,” open through May 26 at the Hirshhorn, explores the physical undoing of things, from the purely demonstrative (Ai Weiwei’s smashing of a Han Dynasty urn) to the utterly terrifying (Harold Edgerton’s unsettlingly beautiful slow-mo films of nuclear detonations). — A.B.

Most ill-conceived novelty food of the year
It’s the ramen burger, and in a year that produced the Cronut, that’s really saying something. The trend hit Washington in November at the Ritz Carlton’s Degrees lounge; the $12 sliders were better imagined than eaten. There’s a good reason no one had used noodles for a bun before: They’re noodles. They fall apart and you’re left with a squishy fisftul of them as you try to salvage what’s left of the burger. — M.J.

Best pre-show countdown
Low
’s June performance at Sixth & I Synagogue was preceded by a countdown clock projected on the backdrop of the stage, telling the audience when the band’s set would begin. The countdown was all Low frontman Alan Sparhawk’s doing. Note to local music venues: You’ll sell more drinks in 2014 if I know there’s enough time to get another beer before the lights dim. — A.B.


Best all-you-can-eat experience from a “Top Chef” alum
At Graffiato’s monthly Industry Takeover Night, Mike Isabella invites a rotating cast of chef-friends to craft food and cocktails for the gourmet masses. Eat all you want for just $10 on the first Monday of each month; half of the cover is donated to charity. The next event is Jan. 6. — F.H.

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Fritz Hahn · December 24, 2013