What are Tom Sietsema’s favorite restaurants?

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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