In 2014, Washington said goodbye to local icons (the Corcoran, which closed in October) as well as establishments that were relative newcomers (the Passenger, which shutters on Thursday) that quickly became part of the new D.C. But the city also welcomed the return of local landmarks (good to see you up and running again, Washington Monument) and witnessed the creation of dining concepts we’re not sure how we lived without. (Butter pizza. Yum.)

We reviewed 12 months of openings, closings, comings, goings and general curiosities to compile this list of 2014’s best, worst and most memorable.

Dish we couldn’t stop writing about

Khachapuri at Compass Rose. (Photo by Greg Powers For The Washington Post)

Before 2014, most of Washington had never heard of the cheesy, eggy, buttery Georgian bread known as khachapuri. Levante’s in Dupont Circle has long made the dish, but it went mainstream when Compass Rose opened in April. We nicknamed the dish butter pizza, a food “so wonderful, it seems as if it only could have come from the mind of Liz Lemon.” Then, Mari Vanna began to serve it, too. If there was dough, cheese, a huge pat of butter and a perfectly runny egg, we were there. Journalism demanded it.

— Maura Judkis

Best ‘Rose’ other than Rose’s Luxury

Compass Rose Bar & Kitchen. (Photo by Joseph Victor Stefanchik for The Washington Post)

Okay, so Compass Rose isn’t notable only for its butter pizza. The international street foods restaurant pleased D.C.’s palates in numerous ways, with its menu of tiny fried fish, bhel puri chaat, orange wine and other dishes from around the globe that seemed to magically go together in any combination, even when mixing Peruvian flavors with Indian and Italian. Best of all, with 14th Street having become dominated by slick, moneyed restaurateurs, Compass Rose has soul. 1346 T St. NW. 202-506-4765 (Metro: U Street).

— Maura Judkis

Best concert

Naomi Punk. (Photo by Drew Reynolds)

Most young bands play their songs too fast onstage, but that universal symptom of rock-and-roll enthusiasm actually did Naomi Punk plenty of favors at the Black Cat on Sept. 7. This trio from Olympia, Wash., punctuates its songs with fleeting dips where everything slows down for a beat or two. It sounds like a fit of dizzy spells, or maybe more like chemical waves lapping on the shores of some toxic beach party. And at the Black Cat, it felt sinister, playful, hypnotic, a little sadistic and totally gorgeous.

— Chris Richards

Most controversial burger

Burgers at Satellite Room. (Photo by Crystal Herman)

The Ian MacKaye burger. When Satellite Room unveiled a new menu of burgers named for notable D.C. figures in September, there was one big problem: The Dischord Records founder and legendary Minor Threat and Fugazi frontman is an outspoken vegan. Music fans were furious: One local band, Jack on Fire, even recorded a diss track inspired by the fracas. In a punk-rock move that MacKaye could surely appreciate, however, the burger remains on the menu at Satellite Room. 2047 Ninth St. NW (Metro U Street). 202-506-2496.

— Maura Judkis

Beverage of the year (non-alcoholic)

Espresso from Vigilante Coffee in Hyattsville, Md. (Eli Meir Kaplan/Vigilante Coffee)

Coffee. District coffee nerds, 2014 was your year: La Colombe drew throngs with its low-key Blagden Alley location and high-tech preparation; the Wydown opened its garage doors along 14th Street with the best flat white in town; Slipstream cupped coffee by day and cocktails by night. D.C. entrepreneurs were roasting their own coffee this year, too: Christopher Vigilante, who had been roasting beans in a Trinidad garage, upgraded to a bigger, brighter space in Hyattsville; and two former Marines — whom The Post chronicled for eight months — opened Compass Coffee in Shaw.

— Maura Judkis

Beverage of the year (alcoholic)

A bourbon tasting flight at Dry 85 in Annapolis. (Photo by Amanda Voisard for the Washington Post)

High-end bourbon. A rush of new bars pouring Kentucky straight bourbon or bottled-in-bond rye opened during the past 13 months, from Shaw’s cozy Southern Efficiency (which premiered in late December 2013) to Dry 85 in Annapolis. Then came Rebellion, Barrel, RiRa’s Whiskey Room, McClellan’s Retreat and the Partisan. Boss Shepherd’s has small barrels of Catoctin Creek behind the bar; even the new Plan B Burger offers almost 100 selections on its bourbon menu. How does a restaurant stand out? By offering whiskeys that no one else can, such as Dry 85’s own Four Roses Single Barrel, or Boundary Stone’s signature Woodford Reserve, pulled from a barrel selected by the owners.

— Fritz Hahn

Worst tourist trap

Bruce Stonerock, 9, of Grand Terrace, Calif., checks out the Capital Wheel and The Awakening at National Harbor. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

It costs $52.50 for a family of four to ride the Capital Wheel. And when they get to the top of the Washington area’s answer to the London Eye, they’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of . . . National Harbor. And Alexandria. And, oh, off there in the distance, the Capitol dome. Your session on the Capital Wheel will last about 15 minutes; a few turns of the wheel and, before you even know it, you’re back on the ground. 174 Waterfront St., National Harbor. 301-842-8650.

— Maura Judkis

Best tourist trap

The Washington Monument in May, after scaffolding was removed. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Sure, you can ride an overpriced Ferris wheel. Or, you can see the sights the old-school way: By taking an elevator to the top of the Washington Monument. The 555-foot obelisk — that’s 380 feet taller than National Harbor’s Capital Wheel, if you’re counting — reopened in May, nearly three years after the August 2011 earthquake caused significant damage. The price is right, too: Free on a first-come, first-served basis for walk-ups and $1.50 per ticket for reservations made online. 15th Street and Madison Drive NW (Metro: Smithsonian or Federal Triangle). 202-426-6841.

— John Taylor

Event most likely to have taken over your social media timeline

Diner en Blanc. (Photo by Kate Patterson for The Washington Post)

Diner en Blanc, in which 1,500 people, dressed all in white, descended upon Navy Yard for a semi-spontaneous meal al fresco. The September event, which was founded in Paris in 1988, “was as much a dinner party as it was the most elaborately staged Instagram backdrop the District has ever seen,” The Post wrote.

— Alex Baldinger

Hottest alley

La Colombe and Rogue 24 in Blagden Alley. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

Three years after chef R.J. Cooper opened his avant-garde Rogue 24 restaurant in the historic, gritty space near Shaw, Blagden Alley started drawing more attention in 2014. La Colombe, a Philadelphia-based coffee roaster, opened a cafe in January, followed by Lost & Found, a neighborhood bar, in November. And two very big names signed on for 2015: Jeremiah Langhorne’s restaurant, the Dabney, is shooting for a spring opening, and Derek Brown’s award-winning cocktail bar, the Columbia Room, should relocate to that same building by the end of next year. Located between M, N, Ninth and 10th streets NW (Metro: Mount Vernon Square).

— John Taylor

Worst-timed exhibition

Bill Cosby, left, and his wife, Camille, discuss "Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue," at the National Museum of African Art. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As part of its 50th-anniversary celebration, the National Museum of African Art arranged to display the vast private collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. — a.k.a. Bill Cosby — beginning in early November. Despite the torrent of sexual-assault accusations against Cosby, the exhibition, “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” remains on view through Jan. 24, 2016. 950 Independence Ave. SW (Metro: Smithsonian). 202-633-4600.

— John Taylor

Best excuse to skip work and drink beer on a Thursday afternoon

Fans celebrate while watching the World Cup in Dupont Circle. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Remember that Thursday in June when you looked around the office and nobody was there? Of course not, because you were one of the thousands of soccer fans jamming downtown bars and crowding Dupont Circle to scream your lungs out as the U.S. men’s national team played Germany in a crucial midday World Cup match. Germany won, but the United States advanced to the next round of the tournament, which made June 26 the rare (unofficial) holiday to mark a national defeat.

— Alex Baldinger

Worst mail-order sandwich

A frozen-n-microwaved In-N-Out Burger. (Photo by Maura Judkis/The Washington Post)

Microwave-ready In-N-Out Burger, which arrived at our doorstep thanks to a one-day-only offer by the food-delivery app OrderAhead. Our conclusion: “No matter how much you Best Coast expatriates think you miss In-N-Out, you do not miss it enough to eat this frozen burger.”

— Alex Baldinger

Best mail-order sandwich

A mail-ordered Primanti Brothers sandwich, after cooking and assembly. (Photo by Maura Judkis/The Washington Post)

Stovetop-ready Primanti Bros. sandwiches, delivered via nationwide food-delivery retailer Goldbely. But this true taste of Pittsburgh doesn’t come cheap: The four-person kit costs $109. You’re better off heading to the grocery store.

— Alex Baldinger

Best unofficial residency by a famous musician

The Foo Fighters played a “surprise” show at the 9:30 Club in May. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson For The Washington Post)

Springfield native Dave Grohl was a constant presence on D.C. stages this year, performing a not-so-secret gig with the Foo Fighters at the 9:30 Club in May and a last-minute, three-hour set at the Black Cat in October; appearing solo during November’s Concert for Valor; directing an episode of HBO’s “Sonic Highways” that expertly explained Washington’s musical traditions and legacy; and announcing plans for a Foo Fighters-fronted festival at RFK Stadium on July 4, 2015.

— Alex Baldinger

Saddest closure that won’t truly be felt until spring training

Duffy's Irish Pub, the best gathering place for Washington Nationals fans. (Photo by Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

Compounding the disappointment felt by Washington Nationals fans after another postseason collapse was news in November that D.C.’s best Nats bar, Duffy’s Irish Pub, was closing for good. Where will we go to watch Grapefruit League games?

— Alex Baldinger

Most-local local beer

Flying Dog's Dead Rise Ale, made with Old Bay, will return in May 2015. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Marylanders love Old Bay. We put the salty seasoning on crabs, shrimp, french fries, Buffalo wings and chocolate. We even put Old Bay flavors in our beer: Witness Dead Rise from Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery, a lightly hopped saison with notes of black pepper, celery salt and garlic salt, perfect for pairing with a pile of crabs on a hot summer day. A supply the brewery thought would last five months sold out in 10 days, and the brewery shifted production to meet demand: At one point, 65 percent of Flying Dog’s total capacity was dedicated solely to producing Dead Rise. Production ended in September, but never fear: Dead Rise will rise again in May.

— Fritz Hahn

Best bar game

When Lyman's Tavern opened in June, it had four pinball machines. It now has six. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

There are bars with vintage board games, bars with Nintendo Wii and bars with three-foot-tall Connect Four games. Until this year, though, Washington didn’t have a single bar with more than one pinball machine. When Lyman’s Tavern arrived in 16th Street Heights in June, the four pinball machines were a bigger attraction than the killer jukebox, solid beer selection and free popcorn. Lyman’s has rotated new games into the lineup — hello, Judge Dredd and “The Walking Dead”! — and now has six, which are used during semi-regular tournaments. Last month, the Black Cat turned its Food for Thought Cafe into a game room called Lucky Cat, featuring four pinball machines, arcade consoles and a claw machine. Just don’t get so into your game that you miss the opening band.

— Fritz Hahn

Best meal for less than $20

Chicken (left), pork and tongue tacosat Taqueria Habanero in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

The District’s best taco joint is not some celebrity chef outpost that stuffs fried chicken inside a warmed tortilla that the kitchen can’t even be bothered to make itself. No, Taqueria Habanero ’s aim is at once more modest and more ambitious than that: Owner and chef Dio Montero wants to channel the flavors of his native Puebla, giving the dishes on his concise menu the respect (and fresh ingredients) they deserve. Start with his tacos, served on house-made tortillas, and don’t stop till you get enough. 3710 14th St. NW (Metro: Georgia Ave.). 202-722-7700.

— Tim Carman

Best meal for less than $10

Where the magic happens: Robert Sonderman, owner of DCity Smokehouse, and his Rebel smoker. (Photo by Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post)

At $9.25, the Brisket Champ at DCity Smokehouse is a sandwich that even Lone Star State barbecue fanatics could love. Pitmaster and co-owner Robert Sonderman layers his smoky, lip-smacking brisket between slices of Texas toast and tops the meat with crispy fried onions and house-made pickles. This unwieldy beast is Sonderman’s chef-driven tribute to the classic brisket sandwich found at any reputable Texas smokehouse. You might even call it an improvement on it. 8 Florida Ave. NW (Metro: NoMa). 202-733-1919.

— Tim Carman

The departed

We said farewell to some of Washington’s most beloved institutions this year.


(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Everyone from Cleveland Park neighbors to members of the city’s chef community came to the final night of service at Frank Ruta’s 13-year-old restaurant in April. Ruta was forced to close the restaurant because of unpaid rent, but Palenaphiles weren’t left wanting for long: Ruta, a former White House chef, popped back up at Bread Furst near Van Ness, where he cooked a series of weekly feasts. He’ll take over the kitchen of the Grill Room at the Capella Hotel in the new year.

The Passenger

(Photo by Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post).

We’ve always known this day would come, but time has finally run out after five years of amazing cocktails from the Passenger and its bar-within-a-bar, the Columbia Room. With redevelopment in store for their block of Seventh Street NW near the convention center, the bars will close on Jan. 1. What made the Passenger unique? The talented cast of award-winning bartenders who could conjure outstanding cocktails with vague directions like “something with gin and amaro” or “I’m in the mood for rye.” But while Alexandra Bookless, Tom Brown and Co. were making some of the best drinks in D.C., the Passenger was, at its heart, a comfortable dive, where an $8 Schlitz-and-whiskey-shot combo never left the chalkboard menu. Although the Columbia Room will resurface in Blagden Alley next year, the Passenger’s future is murkier. Let’s hope it’s up and running in Shaw again soon.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art

(Photo by Kate Patterson for The Washington Post)

Where to even begin? The Corcoran’s collapse had been rumored for years, but when it finally came, it landed like a punch to the gut. Last-minute attempts to block the museum’s absorption into the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University were valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful. The nearly 150-year-old institution, one of the oldest American art museums, closed in October after its former staff members threw it a grand performance-art funeral.

The Invertebrates Exhibit

(Photo by Yue Wu/The Washington Post)

Pandas are cute. Otters are adorable. But most of the animals on this planet are not, and that’s what made the National Zoo’s invertebrates exhibit special. Housing such species as the hissing cockroach, the bird-eating tarantula and the peppermint shrimp, among others, the exhibit closed in June after zoo officials determined that the cost of repairs and upkeep were too great. Though the building was seriously shabby, every visit felt like a secret discovery; without it, the zoo will be presenting a lopsided view of the animal kingdom.