Best American Restaurant
Johnny’s Half Shell
400 North Capitol St. NW; (202) 737-0400
The impetus to re-invent yourself—and your restaurant—is strong in this down economy. You see it everywhere: eateries adding more comfort foods, adopting more informal approaches, or changing their concepts altogether. Amid this turbulence, Ann Cashion and John Fulchino have steered a steady ship at Johnny’s Half Shell, their Capitol Hill restaurant, which remains faithful to the utter deliciousness of Southern cooking, a liberal definition that stretches from the Gulf Coast all the way up to the Chesapeake. Neither Cashion nor Fulchino seem to have much interest in trends or fashion, nor do they seem caught up in the egotistical game of expanding their empire. In fact, they’ve done just the opposite: They dumped Cashion’s Eat Place in Adams Morgan in 2007. Their focus is pinpoint and their work ethic unimpeachable. Even after decades in the business, both are daily presences at the Shell, overseeing a restaurant that continues to turn out fresh, honest, and nurturing food, including the best chicken wings anywhere, hot and smoky, ready for a cooling dip in Cashion’s green-goddess dressing. Cashion’s respect for the mid-Atlantic region and for her ingredients can be felt in every dish, whether in the clear, clean flavors of her Maryland crab cakes or in the wealth of riches in her Chesapeake bouillabaisse in lobster broth. If you haven’t been to Johnny’s in a while, do yourself the favor.