Photo of Inn at Little Washington by Laura Hayes
Photo of Inn at Little Washington by Laura Hayes

The little red book that breaks hearts and boosts confidence comes out on Sept. 17. As is tradition, the tire company sprung a leak and released its starred restaurants in advance just now. The following restaurants earned one, two, and *three* Michelin stars:

Three Stars

The Inn at Little Washington

Two Stars


Pineapple and Pearls

One Star

Blue Duck Tavern

Bresca (NEW)

The Dabney







Rose’s Luxury

Siren by RW (NEW)

Sushi Taro

Tail Up Goat

Anonymous inspectors deem a one-star restaurant “very good cooking in this category,” a two-star restaurant “excellent cooking,” and a three-star restaurant “exceptional cuisine worthy of a special journey.” Restaurants receiving stars are evaluated on cuisine alone, so ambiance and service, while important, are not considered. Inspectors look for quality products, consistency, and how much a chef is able to express himself or herself through food. 

When the 2017 D.C. Michelin Guide published, D.C. became one of four U.S. cities to have the prestigious albeit political guide. Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco have one too. The first year Michelin doled out stars to 12 restaurants. That number rose to 14 restaurants last year. The 2019 guide has 16 starred restaurants. D.C. saw much more significant gain with its Bib Gourmand selections.

The Inn at Little Washington seemed like an obvious choice for becoming the region’s first three-star Michelin restaurant, especially as the fine dining beast based in Washington, Virginia is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. When it initially received two stars, it raised eyebrows because Michelin higher-ups said the guide would be limited to D.C. proper. Somewhere the Inn’s chef, Patrick O’Connell, is doing a jig. 

Some dismiss the Michelin Guide, calling it more valuable to visitors with deep pockets than locals, but restaurants included in the 2019 guide are likely to see a bump in business. After the first guide came out, Plume reported a 15 percent increase in web traffic; The Dabney saw a 15 percent uptick in walk-in diners; and sales rose by 15 percent at Sushi Taro. Chefs also noticed that diners were more willing to splurge on expensive dishes once their restaurants had starred stamps of approval. Meanwhile, some wondered if the guide would pierce the collaborative nature of D.C.’s dining scene.