The breakout chef of the year is Jeremy Waybright, and if you have to ask “Who?” you haven’t had his first-class fried chicken at Boss Shepherd’s. Or the tender buttermilk biscuits that go with the bird, brought to the table on a plank with whatever vegetable is seasonal and special. Or, well, just about anything on his solid American menu, which you’ll find in a dashing, two-tiered setting next to the Warner Theatre. (Green accents and clever lighting mask the fact you’re eating jumbo lump crab cakes and rib-sticking pork rib roast underground.) Here’s a chef who, while cooking close to tourist haunts, has the confidence to offer grilled trout with its head on and fried pig ears as part of a rockin’ arugula salad. A bite of either dish leads to another, then another. Waybright reveals a playful nature with his snack-size chicken pot pies and an old-fashioned bent with his spiced yellow squash pie (think pumpkin but lighter). The restaurant, from industry veteran Paul Cohn, pays tribute to a community leader from the Gilded Age who helped modernize Washington. Cohn sounds like a trailblazer himself when he says he plans to open more “homemade” restaurants in the city. (Next flavor? Maybe Mexican.) Pausing to appreciate the latest of several memorable meals, I’m tickled that the newcomer’s soundtrack and I are in sync: “I’m in heaven ...”
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