On Sept. 13, Michelin will announce which Washington-area restaurants earned coveted star ratings in its 2019 Dining Guide. But before we get to the fancy dining rooms, the French tire company releases a list of winners of its secondary designation: the Bib Gourmand, named for the company's mascot Bibendum, who's also known as the rubbery Michelin Man. At these restaurants, approved by anonymous inspectors, a diner can get two courses and a glass of wine or a dessert for $40 or less, excluding tax and tip. (Of course, some critics gripe that a list of restaurants where entrees climb over $20 isn't exactly cheap.)
The Bib Gourmand list is ostensibly more useful for everyday dining than the more famous starred reviews, and this year, the number of honored D.C. restaurants jumped from 22 to 39. Here are some first impressions of the new list (or just keep scrolling to read it).
Why has the list doubled in just two years?
Nineteen restaurants earned the Bib Gourmand in Washington's first Michelin Guide, released in 2016. The number rose to 22 last year. This year, though, 19 new restaurants were added to the list, taking the total to 39. (Two restaurants, 2 Amys and Boqueria, have been dropped this year. More on that in a second.) Additionally, two of the 72 restaurants that earned “L'Assiette Michelin,” or the Michelin Plate, the guide's page-padding participation trophy, have stepped up to Bib Gourmand status this year. Has Washington's dining scene really rocketed that much in two years? More likely, the Michelin Guide's team of critics are finally catching up to all that the D.C. dining scene has to offer, as Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema suggested they needed to do after the release of last year's list full list.
Reading the tea leaves: Who will get stars?
Expect local foodies to make much of the fact that Himitsu, which many expected to earn a Bib Gourmand or even a full star last year, did not appeared on this year's Bib Gourmand list. Elle, which topped Tom Sietsema's Spring Dining Guide and was featured on Bon Appétit's 50 Best New Restaurants list, is also conspicuous by its absence, because it's easy to eat there for less than $40.
Was Maydan snubbed?
Maydan, a restaurant as hot as the flames in its kitchen's fire pit, has been racking up awards this year, being named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit and Eater, as well as one of Food and Wine's Restaurants of the Year. Michelin's reviewers, though, have decided it's more worthy of a Bib Gourmand than a full star.
What happened to 2 Amys?
The venerable Neapolitan pizzamaker has been featured as a Bib Gourmand selection in both previous Michelin Guides. The Cleveland Park restaurant has also been closed since mid-July, when a water pipe burst and flooded the kitchen. (Reopening is tentatively scheduled for “the second week in September.") Were they left out because the dining room is currently dark — or has the restaurant taken the next step and earned a full star?
Where are the Indian restaurants?
Washington is home to notable Indian restaurants, including Rasika and Rasika West End. All four Indian restaurants in last year's Michelin Guide received only the Michelin Plate. Does this mean that Rasika and/or Rasika West End will earn stars, or does Michelin just consider D.C.'s Indian dining — including plate-winners Indigo and Indique — to be less deserving than other cuisine?
Changes in the kitchen don't seem to matter.
A few of the restaurants that earned consecutive Bib Gourmand nods have undergone major turnover the kitchen this year: Chef Rob Rubba stepped down from Hazel, for example, and Doi Moi has experienced a number of changes, including the departures of its executive chef, general manager, and bar director, as well as the closure of cocktail bar 2 Birds 1 Stone. It seems like those back-of-house upheavals should be more reflected in the guide.
For the most part, there's no big news.
Many of Washington's widely praised new arrivals, such as Fancy Radish, Chloe and Spoken English, are included. Spark, led by chef Peter Prime, and Timber Pizza, helmed by chef and co-founder Daniela Moreira, are among the welcome additions, as female chefs and chefs of color continue to be underrepresented on the list.
2019 Bib Gourmand Restaurants (new additions are marked in bold):
Ivy City Smokehouse
Joselito’s Casa de Comidas
Napoli Pasta Bar
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
The Red Hen
Timber Pizza Co.