Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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Chef Ris Lacoste’s mentor, the Beard-winning Bob Kinkead, always pushed his prize pupil to open a diner. Kinkead wasn’t trying to suggest that Lacoste lacks the skills to lead her own fine-dining establishment. He was acknowledging something true about the woman who kept his restaurants humming for years: Lacoste always wanted her own diner—or, more precisely, her own “fine diner.” RIS, an elegant black-and-tan operation in the West End, may not fit anyone’s description of a diner, fine or otherwise, but it does have its simple pleasures. Such as Lacoste’s loosely formed cheeseburger with onion jam on a house-made potato roll. Or her grilled Portuguese skirt steak topped with a fried egg and served over rice blackened with reduced beer and beef stock. Or, best of all, her Wednesday special of spaghetti and meatballs. How good are her pork-and-beef meatballs, slathered in red sauce and served atop spaghetti tossed with olive oil and butter? When my dining companion and I decided to switch plates one Wednesday, she started putting the hurt on my pasta dish, to the point that I feared she might eat the whole damn thing right in front of me. I finally suggested we switch back. The disappointment in her eyes could have cleaved a serial killer’s heart.

2275 L St. NW (202) 730-2500