This post has been updated.
Michelin Guide inspectors added three D.C. restaurants to this year’s list of cheap-eats honorees, including Sfoglina, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s pasta house in Van Ness, where the pappardelle, rigatoni and other handmade noodles start at $22 a plate.
The other two additions to the Bib Gourmand list — named after Michelin’s once-chubby, now-middle-age-buff tire mascot, Bibendum — are Ivy City Smokehouse and Hazel, chef Rob Rubba’s worldly New American restaurant on V Street NW. Restaurants honored as Bib Gourmands receive no stars but are acknowledged in the Michelin Guide with the disembodied head of Bibendum, who is seen licking his chops (licking his tires?).
“I was really excited” at hearing the news this morning, Rubba said during a phone call from New Jersey, where he was visiting his parents.
“I’ve worked at a lot of Michelin-starred restaurants in the past,” added Rubba, who cooked at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas and the now-closed L2O in Chicago, among other starred places. “When I moved to D.C., there was no guide here, so it was never anything that was on my radar to even think I’d get. At Hazel, it was always just about cooking good food, having fun and being very casual, so I wasn’t really expecting it. I’m very surprised and very honored. I mean, it’s cool, and I’m happy for my staff, too. They’ve worked very hard.”
Ron Goodman, executive chef at the Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse, has been cooking in the D.C. area ever since he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1972. Goodman and Ivy City Smokehouse owner Greg Casten have collaborated, off and on, since they first worked together at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place in Georgetown in 1987. They never expected Michelin to honor their modest seafood tavern, which was basically an afterthought to the primary smokehouse on the ground floor.
The original tavern, Goodman said, was a simple concept with grilled fish, a burger and other basics. But it quickly grew into a more ambitious project, under chef de cuisine Alberto Baizano-Bollera, with the ability to smoke meats separately from the downstairs smokehouse.
Like Rubba, Goodman was surprised at the Bib nod. A colleague told Goodman about the recognition this morning, shortly after the Michelin announcement. “He came in and said, ‘Did you hear the good news?’ I said, ‘No,’ and then he told us. So we did a little jumping up and down in the office, hugging each other and feeling good.”
Other than the three new additions, the cheap-eats list remains exactly as it was last year, when the Michelin Guide made its debut in Washington. The 19 restaurants that graced the initial Bib Gourmand list have been recognized again this year, including Bad Saint, Thip Khao, 2Amys, CherCher and several restaurants under José Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup umbrella. (This full list is below.)
The Michelin Guide’s definition of a cheap-eats restaurant remains unchanged from last year. In order for a restaurant to qualify as a Bib Gourmand, anonymous inspectors must be able to order two courses and a glass of wine, or dessert, for $40 or less, excluding tax and tip. A handful of restaurants on the list specialize in tapas or small plates, which would technically meet Michelin’s criteria, even if two shareable plates and a glass of wine might not meet your expectations for dinner.
The inclusion of Sfoglina would seem to stretch the definition to its breaking point. Diners at the Trabocchis’ restaurant could pair a glass of vino or a dessert with a “nibble” and a small plate (or a soup), but they would find it next to impossible to cobble together a two-course meal with any of the restaurant’s singular pastas without crossing the $40 limit.
“We recognize that a lot of these menu offerings may go above that [price point],” says Lauren Davis, spokeswoman for Michelin. “But it is possible” to put together a meal under $40.
Fabio and Maria Trabocchi were not immediately available for comment.
As with the debut guide, Michelin apparently remains focused on D.C. restaurants only, save for the Inn at Little Washington, chef and owner Patrick O’Connell’s refined destination an hour and a half outside of the District. As such, no restaurants from the Virginia or Maryland suburbs are included among the Bib Gourmands.
Bib Gourmand restaurants can eventually earn stars — the ratings that some chefs spend a lifetime chasing — but none of Washington’s recipients from last year did, including Bad Saint, the no-reservations Filipino restaurant that has earned raves from The Post’s Tom Sietsema and the New York Times’s Pete Wells.
Washington’s starred Michelin restaurants will be announced on Oct. 17., along with those places that earned a L’Assiette Michelin, or the Michelin Plate, a new designation that singles out restaurants that don’t merit a star or a Bib Gourmand. No restaurant in last year’s D.C. guide earned the top rating of three stars from Michelin inspectors, but three — Minibar, Pineapple and Pearls and the Inn at Little Washington — received two.
The L’Assiette Michelin logo is new this year, designed to let diners know that the non-starred and non-Bibbed restaurants that have historically been included in the guide are not fillers to round out the book. The restaurants are actually recommended by inspectors.
The 2018 Michelin Guide for Washington goes on sale on Oct. 20.
The 2018 Bib Gourmand honorees:
Ivy City Smokehouse
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
The Red Hen