Best Gastropub

Rustico
827 Slaters Ln, Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 224-5051

Former Zola chef Frank Morales will be the first to tell you that he knew little about America’s favorite carb combo—beer and pizza—when he accepted the gig at Rustico. His on-the-job training has been one of the most compelling storylines in the local dining scene. In relatively short order, Morales has not only developed a flavorful, far-too-underrated crust for his gourmet pies, but he’s also worked closely with Rustico’s suds director, Greg Engert, to make sure the food plays well with the region’s most adventurous beer menu. To stand up to Engert’s aggressive brews—from the standard hop monsters to a dark, alcoholic Harviestoun Ola Dubh ale, which is aged in malt whiskey casks—Morales has devised fatty, full-throated bites such as a duck confit pizza (with cracklin’s!) and stuffed porcini caps with Emmenthaler and smoked ham. The chef has also started making his own charcuterie, with terrines, dried beef, and even his own beer-based jellies to complement the cured meats. It all adds up to a restaurant that brings dignity to that ridiculous term “gastropub.”

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