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What are Tom Sietsema’s favorite restaurants?

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Over the past dozen years around this time and in this space, I’ve told you where I’d spend my own dining dollars, which restaurants were making Washington a great place to dine, where to find food to suit a mood and how to be a restaurant insider. One year, I even spilled the contents of my little black (restaurant) book.

For my 13th Fall Dining Guide (Time flies! And waists expand!) I’m returning to a theme you tell me you’re hungry for, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked:

“So, what’s your favorite restaurant?”

Impossible to say. There’s no single answer to a question that always begs another question: Favorite restaurant for ... what? The place I choose to toast an anniversary is not the one I’d pick for a rare night off. As much as I love a proper seviche or steak frites or banh mi, I couldn’t see myself eating Peruvian, French or Vietnamese at every opportunity. My first choice for Sunday afternoon is not the same as Saturday night. Sometimes I want to splurge; other times I’m dipping into the change jar.

Truly, there’s no one-size-fits-all restaurant for me.

Yet I’m a fan of dozens of dining rooms.

The process of winnowing more than 100 potential loves down to a highly personal Top 40 began in May and ended just last month. That’s how much time I needed to revisit so many contenders. I was shocked at how far some candidates have slid. And I was thrilled by the impact of others, some of them appearing for the first time in the Magazine.

The next time someone asks me about a favorite place to eat, I’ll point him in one of 40 directions.

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