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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Fri 11:30am–10:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–9:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


809 15th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 589-0060

1201 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 589-1504
Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
The porterhouse and creamed spinach are some of the city’s best—but beware the rest

The porterhouse for two at Bobby Van’s is one of the best pieces of meat in the city. The meat is dry-aged for six weeks—longer than most—and charred beautifully on the outside in the way that you don’t have at home, unless you happen to have a 100,000-BTU, 1500-degree radiant broiler in your kitchen. Don’t look for bistro-style quadrillage (grill marks) here; this is New York steakhouse cooking, and the whole crust of the meat is like one big grill mark. Scrape off a bit of meat between the bone and the inside edge of the sirloin (larger) side of the porterhouse, and swallow the dreamily fatty essence of the particular American corn-fed steak experience. But if you’re not ordering for two, you’re missing out. Sirloins and ribeyes—though dry-aged as well—are completely inferior to the porterhouse, and they’ve come under-charred on the outside.

Unless you’re ordering filet mignon (which you shouldn’t), be warned that this kitchen actually undershoots cooking times. Rare can mean barely seared. For ribeye and bone-in sirloin, this is insufficient; a Van’s medium-rare (which is like rare-plus elsewhere) brings out significantly more complexity in the meat by allowing some of its fat to melt.

An appetizer described only as “jumbo pepper shrimp broiled with white wine” is, surprisingly, a crowd-pleaser par excellence, with copious doses of salt, butter, and lemon, and the unusually sweet, enormous shrimp are cooked not a second too long. Rich, complex, oniony creamed spinach is probably the best in the city, and some of the best anywhere. Lumpy mashed potatoes are just okay, though.

The wine list is an embarrassment. At our last visit, all seven wines by the glass were New World. That’s right—you can’t drink even one French, Italian, or Spanish wine with your steak unless you plan on ordering a bottle. Better would be to stick with martinis from the legendary old-school bartenders. They’re Van’s real drinks program.

The branch of Bobby Van’s that opened in 2000, two blocks from the White House, is the third outpost of a minichain that began in Bridgehampton, Long Island, in 1969. There are now seven, but none of them are more than a couple of blocks from the traditional channels of money and power: midtown Manhattan, lower Manhattan, and DC. We like the laid-back bar area at the 15th Street branch. It has sidewalk seating, and even inside, it’s a less hands-on and less pretentious experience than the steakhouse. On the other hand, for some, maybe pretentious is the whole point. For us, it’s the porterhouse.

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