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Seasons 52

Darden is the world’s largest full-service restaurant firm and owner of several middling chains, including Red Lobster and Olive Garden. But with Seasons 52, it has nailed the fresh grill and wine bar concept. The restaurant’s first Maryland location has been a hit since it opened in April, serving more than 3,000 diners a week, and making reservations a must.

“We got positive word of mouth from Day One,” says executive chef Benjamin Erjavec.

The restaurant’s signature flatbreads (most under $10) are among the area’s best starters, and it’s hard to go wrong with any of the main-course salads (under $15), entrées (most under $20) or “mini-indulgences” for dessert ($2.50 apiece). The chain promises that nothing on the menu exceeds 475 calories, an added attraction along with the enthusiastic staff, stunning setting and thoughtful touches.

Les Rosenthal, who lives in the adjacent North Bethesda Market apartments, considers it great food at the right price. “And it’s served by people who are very friendly. They believe in the product they’re putting in front of you.”

Rosenthal says that the very afternoon he and his wife, Debbie, moved in, they bumped into Erjavec in the building’s elevator. He invited them to give the restaurant a try after their long day. They did, and they’ve been coming two to three times a week ever since.

11414 Rockville Pike (across from White Flint Mall), North Bethesda, 301-984-5252, www.seasons52.com

Other Top Vote Getters: Cava Mezze Grill, Newton’s Table Food, Wine & Co., Freddy’s Lobster + Clams, Matchbox, American Tap Room, Wild Tomato

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