Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
In 1997, Michael Babin transitioned from lobbyist to restaurateur when he opened Evening Star Cafe in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. Since then, he’s turned his Neighborhood Restaurant Group into a powerhouse of top eateries, including Birch & Barley, Vermillion, Rustico, Tallula, and others. Setting NRG apart from other restaurant groups in town is the nonprofit farm Babin founded called Arcadia, which promotes locally sourced, sustainably grown food while supplying the group’s chefs with some seasonal produce. In addition, NRG’s restaurants feature some of the best breads and desserts in town, thanks to pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac. Its charcuterie operations are expanding with a new commissary and retail shops for Nate Anda’s Red Apron Butchery. The group’s beer program, headed by Greg Engert, rivals any in the city. As if all that wasn’t ambitious enough, Babin’s team has a new state-of-the-art brewery, Bluejacket, and is bringing Dupont Circle’s Iron Gate Inn back to life. Plus, he’s helping dethrone the cupcake with doughnuts and fried chicken at GBD.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, this pick originally misspelled the name of the Del Ray neighborhood.