Five Montgomery Restaurants in Washington Post’s Fall Dining Guide
Longtime favorites Il Pizzico, Woodmont Grill make list
Braised oxtail at El Sapo Cuban Social Club, one of the Montgomery restaurants to earn a spot on the Washington Post's 2019 Fall Dining Guide.
Five Montgomery County restaurants earned spots on the Washington Post’s Fall Dining Guide, food critic Tom Sietsema’s directory of the best restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area.
This year’s guide is the biggest to date, with 77 restaurants on the list.
The guide includes restaurants as new as El Sapo and as established as Il Pizzico, a Rockville staple for almost 30 years. Woodmont Grill, another longtime favorite in Bethesda, earned a spot on the list with a two-star rating.
El Sapo Cuban Social Club
Sietsema awarded the Silver Spring restaurant two and a half stars for its salt-cod fritters and sugar-dusted churros with lemony whipped cream. Other star menu items included oxtails marinated with rum, hot peppers and soy sauce, and a crisp-skinned roast pork flavored with bitter orange.
The downside to the lively Cuban spot, Sietsema wrote, was its din. But with live music and cocktails served in coconut shells, the restaurant is meant to be celebratory. Chef Raynold Mendizábal said he finally opened a Cuban restaurant in 2018 after cutting his teeth with Urban Butcher, his first restaurant, also in Silver Spring.
“Il Pizzico gives diners what they want: simple, good cooking,” Sietsema wrote in the guide. A Rockville favorite, the restaurant opened 29 years ago as an Italian deli helmed by Sicialian native Enzo Livia. It earned two stars in the critic’s most recent write-up.
Sietsema applauded the restaurant’s neighborhood feel and down-to-earth menu items like warm bread and olive tapenade, sweet corvina kissed with lemon butter, and bucatini tossed with pancetta. Another plus: lemon cake with limoncello gelato.
The Cuban and Peruvian spot in Rockville earned two stars for its cumin-rubbed, charcoal grilled chicken and fried yucca with a fluffy center — both Peruvian specialties. Cuba is also well-represented by ropa vieja: shredded beef in a “winy, tomato-sweetened” braise, Sietsema wrote.
The critic didn’t love the black beans or the tilapia tiradito, described as a cross between sashimi and ceviche. But La Limeña makes up for it with frothy pisco sours, chicken croquettes, and “spirited rice pudding, swirled with port-swollen raisins,” Sietsema said in the guide.
Portuguese by way of Chevy Chase, Tavira earned two and a half stars for its “flavors of the Old World” and friendly service. Sietsema commended the prix fixe lunch and dinner options with grilled Cornish hen in a spicy peri peri sauce, caldo verde — a thick Portuguese soup — and flan in caramel sauce.
Other perks included free parking, a quiet dining room, and longtime employees treated well by the restaurant.
Sietsema described the longtime Bethesda eatery as “an all-American restaurant that’s all about pleasing.” The restaurant recently added a sushi bar with warm towel service and neatly pressed rolls.
Large portions and live musicians garnered a mention, too, along with accommodating service and lunch that runs until 5 p.m. Another item of note: the restaurant’s dress code, which forbids tank tops, flip flops, team athletic attire, and “provocative clothing.”
The Dining Guide listed the Arlington location of Buena Vida, a Mexican restaurant, which has another location in Silver Spring. The D.C. branch of Jaleo — Jose Andres’ casual tapas spot — also earned an entry with no specific mention of the restaurant’s location in Bethesda.