On any given day, D.C.'s pickiest diners can characterize a place as "the best restaurant in D.C."
But now, as eateries open and reinvent themselves at a hyper-accelerated rate, "the best" of anything -- meal, drink, dessert -- would be fortunate to last a charitable 30 days, let alone 365. Just in the last two years, "the best" bounced from Barcelona to Le Diplomate, to Rose's Luxury, to Red Hen before circling back to perennial favorite Blue Duck Tavern.
Yet whatever complicated formula might be used to deem 2015's "best new restaurant in D.C., Shaw's Right Proper Brewing Company (624 T St. NW) stands head-and-shoulders above its competitors to provide a preternaturally full-grown dining experience.
On a recent Friday night, when the blistering snow/ice/cold mixture turned D.C. into frostville, Right Proper teemed with an inexhaustible stream of well-heeled young professionals. The wait? Ninety minutes.
I squeezed through the masses to find a friend -- no easy feat -- but the moment my lips touched the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout ($8), I forgot all but the taste of this strong yet incredibly smooth stout.
Brewed "using six varieties of black, chocolate and roasted malts," the stout yields "luscious dark chocolate and deep roast flavors with delicate hints of licorice," Right Proper Brewing Company says. I call it HEAVEN, like your favorite candy bar was melted and then finished with bubbles: sweet tinges of chocolate finished with the tang of hops.
All of Right Proper's beers evoke these same notes of joy. Offerings range from Jack's Hard Cider to nine house-made brews, and the beers are a master blend of accessible and mysterious.
But for a non-beer person such as myself, I have developed a fierce love of Right Proper's distinctive, crowd-pleasing menu, which balances the minimalistic elements of classic bar fare (french fries, burgers, etc.) with the fusion of edgy ingredients and relentlessly explosive tastes.
Take, for instance, the all-American classic of macaroni and cheese. Right Proper's version, with six cheeses, was dense in the best way possible. The cheeses seeped into the pasta like cement poured on a hot Texas day. Every turn of the fork reminded me more of a Chicago deep-dish pizza, and I loved every non-shared bite. (Yes. I hoarded it all.)
Equally compelling was the delicate mystery of the best main dish on the menu: the Eight-Hour Lamb French Dip ($14). "Sourdough bread with Gruyere cheese spread and red wine dipping sauce" is how Right Proper's menu describes it, but in reality, this sandwich is a celebration of all that makes a sandwich great. The bread was firm yet soft, with the sourdough providing a suffused saltiness enlivened by the beautiful Gruyere cheese spread. And the lamb could be instrumental in ending wars if it was served as a peace offering, so perfect was the texture, temperature and taste.
I could rave on and on about everything I tried -- Crystal's hot wings ($6/$12); the blueberry-jalapeno corn muffins ($7); the hand-cut fries ($5); the Brussels sprouts ($8) -- but just know that Right Proper is setting the literal and figurative bar for what all new D.C. restaurants should aspire to be.