And why a tire company has the power to make or break restaurants.

It has been four years since Washington, D.C., was inducted into the elite list of four cities in America where restaurants are acknowledged by the most-coveted recognition in the industry. This year, only 18 restaurants in D.C. were judged worthy of a Michelin Star. The Michelin Stars range from 0 to 3, and here are the explicative criteria for these stars first published in 1936. 

* “A very good restaurant in its category” (Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie)

 ** “Worth a detour” (Table excellente, mérite un détour)

*** “Worth a special journey” (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage).

The little red guidebook was originally published in 1900 by Michelin car tire manufacturers and brothers Édouard and André Michelin. The idea was to give more reasons for motorists to be on the road, which would mean more demand for tires. They called it the Michelin Guide. The Michelin brothers were far ahead of their time as they had a keen sense of content marketing. They produced this guide with relevant substance for adventurous motorists who would love traveling. It included maps, information on how to change a tire, where to fill up on gas, and—for the traveler who would need a break from the exhausting drive—a listing of quality places to eat or take shelter for the night. Distributed free for the first 20 years, one incident changed the way they distributed it and ultimately changed the way restaurants would be deemed successful forever.

It shocked Andre Michelin to see his prized guides being used to prop up a workbench at a tire shop. He realized then, “Man only truly respects what he pays for.” He decided to sell the Michelin Guide for seven francs and ensured that it was worth every franc. He included a list of hotels and restaurants in Paris. The Michelin brothers later recruited a team of mystery diners—or restaurant inspectors, as we know them today—to visit and review restaurants anonymously. In 1926, the Michelin Stars were born and began to shine on the top restaurants in Paris. From the onset, the Michelin Guides became best-sellers and gradually became the benchmark for top dining experiences. Over 30 million Michelin Guides have been sold worldwide since. Today it rates over 30,000 establishments in over 30 cities.

Michelin Guide

Courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers

Michelin inspectors are the 007s of the culinary world. No one knows when they walk in or walk out. They pay their bills in full like any other patron and make return visits to continue the inspection process. The criteria they use to judge each restaurant is based on five principles: product quality, preparation and flavors, the chef's personality as revealed through his or her cuisine, value for money, and consistency over time and across the entire menu.

The 2020 Washington, D.C., Michelin Guide covers the most revered, innovative, and sought-after Michelin-starred restaurants, affordable dining experiences, and indispensable eating tips covering nearly 130 restaurants in the DMV region.

D.C. has always been a cradle for budding and experienced chefs. Its diversity makes it a not-to-be-missed culinary experience that is brimming with unique cuisine from around the world. People from all around the world look forward to devouring the fusion of flavors that only D.C. can offer. 

Here is the list of the chosen ones so you can make sure you have reservations for one of these this weekend.

*** Three Michelin Stars

Food at The Inn at Little Washington

Photo courtesy The Inn at Little Washington

The Inn at Little Washington

The region’s first three-star restaurant is definitely “worth a special journey.” Just 67 miles away from D.C., The Inn at Little Washington is known for its diverse-tasting menus and features Chef and Owner Patrick O’Connell's mouthwatering culinary creations.

309 Middle St., Washington, VA 22747 | 540-675-3800

** Two Michelin Stars

Food at minibar

Photo courtesy minibar by José Andrés

minibar by José Andrés

minibar by José Andrés is not just a restaurant; it is a study in avant-garde cooking where each bite is designed to thrill the senses by pushing the limits of what we have come to expect—and what is possible—from food. They describe their creations as a combination of art and science, tradition and technique, delivering an imaginative tasting menu. It can cost you $275 per person and $565 if you prefer private dining.

855 E St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004 | 202-393-4451

Food at Pineapple and pearls

Photo courtesy Pineapple and Pearls

Pineapple and Pearls

Nestled in the Barracks Row on Capitol Hill is Chef Aaron Silverman’s Pineapple and Pearls. This is more worth more than a detour and deserves a reservation for the weekend. Their tasting menu is composed of nine courses of elegant and playful creations.

715 8th St. SE, Washington, D.C., 20003 | 202-595-7375

* One Michelin Star

Photo courtesy Bresca


1906 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20009 | 202-518-7926

Tuesday–Thursday, and Sunday: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 5 p.m.–11 p.m.

Food at The Dabney

Photo courtesy The Dabney

The Dabney

122 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, D.C., | 202-450-1015

Tuesday–Thursday: 5:30–10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 5–11 p.m.
Sunday: 5–10 p.m.

Photo courtesy Fiola


601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 20004 | 202-525-1402

Monday–Thursday: 5–9 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 5–9:30 p.m.

Photo courtesy Gravitas

Gravitas (new)

1401 Okie St. NE, Washington, D.C., 20002 | 202-763-7942

Wednesday–Saturday: 5:30–11 p.m.
Sunday: 5:30–9 p.m.

Photo courtesy Kinship


1015 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C. | 202-737-7700

 Open daily at 5:30 p.m.


Photo courtesy The Washington Post Magazine


1509 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20036 | 202-332-9200

Tuesday–Saturday: Dinner Only

Photo courtesy Fortune

Little Pearl (new)

921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, D.C., 20003 | 202-618-1868

Tuesday–Saturday: 5:30–10 p.m.
Sunday: 5:30–9 p.m.

Photo courtesy Masseria


1340 4th Street, NE, Washington, D.C., 20002 | 202-608-1330

Tuesday–Thursday: 5:30–9:30 p.m.
Friday: 5:30–10 p.m.
Saturday: 5–10 p.m.

Photo courtesy Maydan

Maydan (new)

1346 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 20009 | 202-370-3696

Monday–Saturday: 5–11 p.m.
Sunday: 5–10 p.m.

Photo courtesy Metier


1015 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C., | 202-737-7700

 Open daily at 5:30 p.m. 

Photo courtesy Plume


1200 16th St. NW Washington, D.C., 20036 | 202-448-2300

Tuesday–Saturday: 5:30–9 p.m.

Photo courtesy Rose's Luxury

Rose’s Luxury

717 8th Street SE, Washington, D.C., 20003 | 202-580-8889

Monday–Saturday: 5–10 p.m.

Photo courtesy Sushi Nakazawa

Sushi Nakazawa (new)

1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004 | 202-289-3515

Monday–Saturday: 5–10 p.m.

Photo courtesy Sushi Taro

Sushi Taro

Monday–Saturday: 5:30–10 p.m.

Photo courtesy Washingtonian

Tail Up Goat

1827 Adams Mill Road NW, Washington, D.C., 20009 | 202-986-9600

Monday–Thursday: 5:30-10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 5–10 p.m.

What's your favorite Michelin-starred restaurant in D.C.? We'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments!